champaign toast

Here's to the little things.

Month in Review: March 2014

What a month!

I finished up my job with the publishing company (and said goodbye-for-now to many dear coworkers), enjoyed a week of fUnemployment, and started my new job (so far, so good!). And while all that change was happening, we managed to have a lot of new adventures. Let's see how it went:

1. A completely empty inbox on my last day of work. 2 Pup-sitting Torbin's biggest friend. 3. Green smoothies every day - you don't even taste the spinach when done right! 4. This is what fUnemployment looks like. 5. Stood in line for 40 minutes for a pop-up doughnut shop in town, that maple bacon apple fritter was worth every minute. 6. Our semi-regular board game night never lacks variety. 7. Pug socks! 8. Trying out some products from the Honest Company. 9. Flat Stanley enjoying my last intro yoga class.

1. A completely empty inbox on my last day of work. 2 Pup-sitting Torbin's biggest friend. 3. Green smoothies every day - you don't even taste the spinach when done right! 4. This is what fUnemployment looks like. 5. Stood in line for 40 minutes for a pop-up doughnut shop in town, that maple bacon apple fritter was worth every minute. 6. Our semi-regular board game night never lacks variety. 7. Pug socks! 8. Trying out some products from the Honest Company. 9. Flat Stanley enjoying my last intro yoga class.

Fun!

We went camping! And it was freezing - seriously, freezing rain fell from the sky onto my tent in which I was sleeping (shivering) on a deflated air mattress. And it was still fun! We might try to make this a monthy adventure. Adam loves camping more than most other activities, and I enjoy spending time outside especially when it involves toasted marshmallows and sleeping in a tent. I also enjoyed an entire week of fUnemployment and it was wonderful. I deep cleaned the house, I reaorganized, I painted my nails, I drank some wine, and I slept gloriously late. I started my new job energized and excited for what's to come.

Travel

Camping? Not much to report here, but we are less than 3 weeks away from New Orleans, so that's really holding me over for the time being.

Health

I finished my intro to yoga class and activated my Groupon for another local studio - looking forward to seeing where this journey takes me. I've also done a pretty good job training this month. Adam and I went for my longest run in the history of my life yesterday - more than 4 miles! And you know what? It was a lot of fun. We had one of the first real Spring days - warm and breezy with lots of sunshine - and we just ran through the neighborhood for 45 minutes. In the end, I was pretty tired, but not beat, so it gives me hope we'll be able to add another mile to the distance next week without sacrificing pace too much. Also, we've finally picked back up on being more health conscious food-wise. I've had more green smoothies than I can count in the last month and we're trying to eat as few processed grains as possible so that we really enjoy the splurges (like those donuts up there, and my friend E's amazing pies).

Projects

I have a new goals list! It feels great to have a new set of goals to look forward to and work toward. I also used some of my fUnemployment time to do some serious housework. We're simplifying around here so stay tuned for one heck of a yard sale this summer. Speaking of which, I think this blog is overdue for a few apartment updates... 

5 Years until 30: A Start

It's been a little more than 2 months since the wrap of my 25x25. I'd planned on taking some time after I finished to think about the project, my progress, and my plans for the future. During the first few weeks, not a single thought was devoted to the affair. Then, slowly, the goals started creeping back into my mind. I still didn't know what shape they'd take and a week or two ago, I decided that that's really okay. I didn't accomplish all of the goals on my 25x25 goals list and I'm okay with it, so I'm certainly not going to stress to make a list with a set number of goals on it.

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Instead, I'm going to set my sights on fun adventures and things that will make my daily life better. I'm going to take all the good parts of my 25x25 - the motivation, the accountability, and the fun - and apply it to a new, flexible, list of dreams. This list will grow and change with me as I grow and change. There's only one rule - once an item's on the list, it can't come off. This doesn't mean I'm honor-bound to do every single thing, but I don't want to add items without serious thought. It'll also enable me to look back on the items my 25-year-old self thought sounded great even if they turn out to be not-so-important to me at age 30.

And so we begin:

  1. Visit Italy with Adam
  2. Earn my Masters Degree
  3. Develop a regular yoga practice
  4. Do something really awesome for my parents
  5. Bike commute to work on a regular basis
  6. Put 3 Months expenses in our emergency fund
  7. Adopt a second dog
  8. Ride in a hot air balloon or go skydiving
  9. Southwest Road Trip
  10. Monthly dates nights to explore our city and the surrounding area
  11. Learn to drive stick
  12. White water rafting
  13. Travel the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
  14. Vacation on the Great Lakes
  15. Learn another language
  16. Go Red.
  17. Ride a Vespa/Moped
  18. Sleep in a castle
  19. Make French macarons
  20. Take a class in something new every year.
  21. Read my way through Amazon's 100 books to read in a lifetime (and then some!)
  22. Participate in a 365 challenge
  23. Learn to can food
  24. Host an anniversary celebration!

 

 

Sleep. Eat. Do.: 24 Hours in London

So about oh... two months ago, I found myself in London for a 24 hour layover on my way home from Croatia. Not one to miss out on spending as much time as possible in London Town, my coworker and I hit the city to enjoy the unexpectedly beautiful January day, some delicious food, and, of course, some of the famous sites. 

Buckingham Palace through the Cherry Blossoms

Buckingham Palace through the Cherry Blossoms

Sleep: Hotel ibis London Heathrow Airport

Image courtesy of ibis via Trip Advisor

Image courtesy of ibis via Trip Advisor

We flew into Heathrow and snagged a hotel room at the nearby ibis. The hotel was clean, convenient for the airport, and quite a deal (less than 50 pounds). They were in the middle of a remodel so the hallway and elevator smelled of fresh paint, but other than that, the stay was really enjoyable. I'd definitely recommend it for a layover hotel - we were able to take a free shuttle from the hotel to our terminal in the morning, which certainly beat trying to get out of the city center to catch a morning flight.

Eat: Pasties, Afternoon Tea, Indian Food

If you've been reading for a while, you know that when I travel, I eat - pretty much nonstop. London was no exception. We touched down and checked into our hotel a little before lunch and then took the tube into the city proper (a day pass was a good value - less than $15 person - and we definitely made use of it throughout the 24 hour period).

Pasties: Okay, this might sound silly, but I just love those little meat pies. You can pick them up for a quid or two at any convenience shop and they make the perfect warm, savory treat for long walks along the Thames.

Afternoon tea at Dean Street Townhouse in Soho.

Afternoon tea at Dean Street Townhouse in Soho.

Afternoon Tea: I've been to London several times in the past but never made time to sit down for afternoon tea. This time, I made it a priority. I reserved an afternoon tea time online about a week in advance since we'd be in town on a Saturday. Dean Street Townhouse (located in Soho) has a beautiful, charming bar and restaurant that serves the best priced tea I could find. At about 17 pounds, its not cheap, but you can split the tea sandwiches, scones, and desserts with a friend and it sure beats the 40 pound/person price I found at some places. The scones with clotted cream were absolutely perfect, the atmosphere was cozy, if a little loud, and the building had a ton of character. 

Indian Food: Oh Brick Lane. My boss wanted to meet up with us for supper so we decided to head over to Brick Lane to have our pick of the best Indian restaurants in London. I was definitely not prepared for this experience. As you walk down the street, men standing outside the restaurants try to tempt you in with made up deals, there's a lot of yelling and a lot of competition. It was definitely overwhelming! In the end, we ducked into a restaurant with some seriously questionable art on the walls (let's just say the paintings were in the fantasy-genre erotica realm). I can't even remember the name, but the food was great (a little on the sweet side). We ordered Chicken Kourma, Chicken Tikka, Garlic Naan, and two other dishes and ate until we couldn't move anymore. I get the feeling that any of the places you try on Brick Lane will serve up a meal infinitely better than the Indian food you can get in the states, so head over and try your luck!

Do: Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace

My coworker (a world traveler if ever there was one) had never actually spent time in London! I couldn't believe it either, so I resolved to show her as many of the big name sites as I could in our short time in the city. We got off the tube near Hyde Park and did a little walking around in the completely unexpected 50+ degree day (in London, in January!). We naturally progressed toward Buckingham Palace (a tourist destination I'd never seen) and then meandered toward Big Ben and Westminster. Because it was such a lovely day, the streets were packed with tourists (like us), so we crossed the Thames and decided to walk on the opposite bank for a while. Just getting a single block away from the foot of Big Ben was enough to leave the crowds behind. We felt like we had the whole river to ourselves and the view certainly didn't suffer from distance. En route to our tea time, we passed through Trafalgar Square (also swarming with tourists, but what can you do?) and hung out with the lions for a few minutes. 

Walking around a new city is one of my favorite things to do. Sure, I love museums and art galleries, but there's just something about getting off the tube and going wherever your own two feet take you that just excites me. We got lost; I always do. But that's part of the joy. When I'm traveling, I give myself the freedom to explore, to take chances, to try new things. I'm not penned in by my everyday routine, my obligations, and my familiarity with my surroundings. Every street provides new possibilities - restaurants, murals, graffiti, statues, architecture, cafes - and that's just pretty wonderful.

An Engagement Party: C + E

My lovely friends C + E are getting married this summer. I recently had the great pleasure of attending a party to celebrate their love for each other and the beginning of this exciting chapter of their lives. The party started as a classy cocktail affair complete with tiny pies, fine meats and cheeses, and a whole lot of homemade olive tapenade. By the end of the evening, some 10 hours later, shoes were discarded to better allow for dancing and games and we caved and ordered another round of pizza. It was quite the party.

Dress: Prabal Gurung for Target (last seen here with long hair!)

Dress: Prabal Gurung for Target (last seen here with long hair!)

 To C and E – Skål!

Croatia: Favorite Shots

I still have a bit to write about my time in Croatia as well as many, many photos to share to help document my adventures. But in the meantime, I wanted to share my five favorite from the trip (similar to this post about my Alaskan adventures).

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Those unreal sunsets over the Adriatic Sea. This shot was taken from my balcony at the Radisson Blu. I'm not sure what was better - leaning over the balcony to watch every last minute of the sunset or falling asleep with the door cracked so that I could hear the sounds of the sea in my dreams.

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Diocletian's Palace all lit up like a movie set at night. 

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Homemade prosciutto, grappas, wine, and fried dough with our delegates. This is a night I'd like to remember forever.

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Stone buildings, terracotta roofs, and mopeds. All that's missing is a little stray cat to complete this romantic portrait of a Mediterranean alley.

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And all that blue.

Month in Review: February 2014


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1. Kicking my feet up for the only football game I watch all year - and let's be serious, it's only for the appetizers. 2. Our monthly board game night featured Dirty Minds and Pictionary. 3. Replenishing my novelty earrings collection from F21. The mini fortune cookies make me so happy. 4. Our first trip to the dog park this year. It was still pretty cold (and very muddy) but still worth it.

February was a VERY social month. Looking back at my calendar and photos for the month makes me realize just how many things I said yes to - I'm exhausted just thinking about it. 

It would be remiss of me not to mention two very important changes that happened this month. First: I started using Mint.com to document my finances and have suddenly become a budget geek. It’s truly amazing just how excited I get when I play with the "Goals" tool - I think I finally get just how powerful compound interest can be! I logged on every day in February to categorize expenses and check our account balances. Safe to say I’m hooked.

And finally, after a lot of thought, (too) many tears, and a good dose of excitement, I accepted a new job offer. I’m incredibly sad to leave my company behind but very thankful for the opportunities I’ve had in the last year and a half. I’m also very glad I won’t be saying goodbye to most of my coworkers as we’ll see each other socially even after I start the new job, which should be next Monday!

Fun!

Started the month with a Superbowl Party and just kept going from there. Board game nights, DND, and Downton Abbey evenings with the Women’s Scouts have kept me hopping most nights of the week. It’s been a lot of fun and I feel like it’s strengthened my friendships with people in all of my friend groups.

As much as I hate to admit it, I might need to cut back a little bit in March. If I’m being completely honest, my laundry pile isn’t the only thing that’s gotten a little out of control in the last four weeks. A few more evenings spent at home getting things done or just relaxing on the sofa will help balance me in the coming month.

Travel

A whole lot of nothing happening on this front this month. But! I’m really looking forward to a long weekend in New Orleans with my family in April – it’s keeping my travel bug (mostly) at bay.

Health

Yoga continues to be challenging and rewarding. My class wraps up soon but I’ve already got a ten class pass lined up for another studio in town. I’m really excited to see where this journey takes me. I also managed to do a little bit of running this month, but we had more bitterly cold weather (and snow) so it was really hard to motivate myself to dig the car out and drive to the gym. Even though we spent a lot of time at parties and receptions, we also did a fairly good job of cooking good foods at home. Feeling good about this part of my life overall.

Projects

Though I haven’t spent a lot of time on hobbies this month, I have knocked a lot of big important things off my personal to-do list. First, I finally legally changed my name! And I filled our taxes by myself! And I negotiated with Comcast for cheaper internet! So many well-deserved exclamation points!!! These items have all been nagging me for a little while (or say… 2.5 years in the case of the name change) so it felt so good to finally accomplish them. Can’t wait to see what I manage to do next month.

 

Living Values: Riding the Bus

Today was one of those days; the snowy – no wait, icy – no wait, thunder-sleeting days where the snow drifts are officially up over the tops of your knee high boots and you just learned that yes, “freezing fog” is a forecast and yes, it is as horrible as it sounds. It’s one of those days where the bus is later than usual and that creepy guy on the bus is definitely leering at you and by the way, you got on the A bus, not the B bus so your commute just tripled and you won’t be home for an hour.

Sound familiar? I’m sorry.

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I live less than 3 miles from my work. On a normal day, my commute is only 25 minutes, door to door. It involves a short wait in the cold at the first stop and then a short walk to my job at the other end. It’s usually a pleasant, streamlined experience. Some days (particularly serene days), I even stop to enjoy the sunrise of the snowy fields or to ponder the curiously shaped bags and packages my fellow commuters are bringing to campus.

But today was not a normal day. Today was one of those days where you question whether living your values is really worth it when you are standing shivering in your rain boots on the side of the road. Because, can anything really be worth it when you are THAT cold?

You see, the thing is, I don’t have to ride the bus to work. I am incredibly fortunate to have a job that I enjoy and a reliable personal vehicle that I could use to get to my job. Instead, I choose to ride the bus to work. I choose public transportation because I believe that you should invest in the infrastructure of the city in which you live. I believe that single passenger vehicles are wasteful and should be avoided if possible. I believe that a little (or even a lot) of inconvenience is an acceptable trade-off for a smaller carbon footprint, less traffic on the roads and less consumption of fossil fuels. Riding the bus is a choice I make to live my values.

And it’s so easy to live your values when all you’ve got to go on is an idea of how life’s supposed to be. A sunlit, breezy bike ride or a quick, smooth bus ride and a walk through the tulips on the other side – reusable to-go mug in hand. It’s much harder when you are presented with reality. That’s really all today was. It was just an unlucky winter day. The weather was awful (again) and the bus was late (again) and the bus schedule was confusing and irregular (again), but it wasn’t extraordinary.

After spending the first 35 minutes of my ride on my erroneously-chosen bus glowering over my bad luck and poor choices, I decided that something needed to change. So I sat for the remaining half hour on that dark, mostly empty bus and made myself think of all the reasons I should be grateful that I was on that damn bus at all.

I thought of a lot of wonderful things in my life, but they all boil down to this: I have the luxury of choosing to live my values. On days like today, it’s especially important that I don’t forget that.

Whiskey and Cigars

This is super old news, but I wanted to post the photos from the Whiskey and Cigars party I organized for Adam's 25th birthday. I surprised him with a trip to the local tobacconist for cigars and then an evening of scotch tasting and appetizers at a great local restaurant.

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We don't smoke, but Adam very rarely enjoys a celebratory cigar. Turning 25 seemed like a pretty great reason to celebrate.

The icing on the cake from the surprise visit from our college friend, Rob. Adam had no idea that I'd included him on the (also secret) Paperless Post invitation, so when Rob walked through the door of the tobacconist's shop and Adam made out who it was through the cigar haze, he was shocked and I was feeling mighty proud of myself.

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To Adam and many, many more years of being the greatest partner I could ask for. Skål!



New Digs


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You might have noticed something new about this place. That's right! I finally finished my site redesign. It took a lot longer than I'd anticipated, but wasn't nearly as tough as I'd feared. We made the switch with only one minor service interruption. I missed one very important step in the process so my blog just didn't exist for a little while. Without hesitation, I turned to my good friend and computer magician for help and we were back in business (thanks Paul!).

I'm excited for the next phase for this blog and I hope you are too!

Croatia: A Walking Tour of Split

Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere.
— Isabelle Eberhardt, The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt
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It rained every day we were in Croatia and I loved every minute of the unseasonably warm 55 degree wet weather. I managed to fit my wellies into my new carry on bag and the decision to sacrifice that bag-space was perhaps my greatest packing choice yet. They proved particularly useful for plodding through puddles in Old Town Split. Diocletian's Palace - the 1700 year old heart of the city - is a beautiful maze of marble and limestone full of small passages, grand squares and secluded courtyards.

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I had several opportunities to wander its streets at night when the walls are light move-set orange and the dark sky is the perfect shade of inky navy, but I only visited once during the daytime. Our 3 hour walking tour with Nini tours provided the narrative for the views I'd seen during my evening walks and at the end of the tour I finally had some free time to climb to the top of the Cathedral Tower. This must-see attraction proved difficult to visit during the off-season. Hours posted online said things like "whenever it's open" and "hours vary." Turns out, it was open from about 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. during weekdays, and that's it. So if you are going outside tourist season, keep the very limited hours in mind because the view is certainly worth the effort.

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After my hike to the top of the tower, I wandered through the market just outside the Silver Gate. For less than $5, I picked up a small pizza, a container of gelato, and a kilo of tangerines for lunch. The food was great (as all of my meals in Croatia were), but even better was being mistaken for a Croatian by all of the locals... at least until I opened my mouth.