Monday, April 30, 2012

An Awesome Mail Day

I arrived home today to find a few treasures in our mailbox...

Besides the usual catalogs and bills, I also received:

1) My printed copy of Off Switch Magazine, which includes my piece, "Seasons of Change."

2) The March/April Chicago Women in Publishing Clips newsletter. The cover feature is my article, "A Guide to a Freelancer's First Year."

3) A pretty maxi dress my mom sent me.  She saw it at Marshall's and thought it looked like me.  Yep, the ruffles and the color combo are totally me.  And it fits perfectly.  I swear, my mom could be my long-distance personal shopper (ha!).

Nothing like fun mail to brighten a cloudy day.  And I'll admit it... seeing my writing in print is super cool too.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Club: One Day

It's been a crazy week, so let's all say it together: TGIF!  I've been running from one place to the next, one project to another, during the weeks and weekends recently. 

But I feel so blessed by all the support, positive feedback, and new opportunities coming my way.  It reaffirms that I'm on the right path, even on those occasional days when it feels like nothing is easy.

Back on Sunday, four of us met up at El Jardin for Mexican food (including chicken fajita quesadillas and a large order of guac!), margaritas and a little discussion of Jane Austen's Persuasion.  Okay, we talked about the book for about two minutes once the check arrived and we realized we'd been chatting about dogs, health, weddings, babies, and all kinds of things that were not the book.  But hey, isn't that sometimes what book club is about? 

Bottom line, we all enjoyed this selection!  The language took some time to get used to, given the book was written in the early 1800's, but once we got going, the story kept us engaged.  If you're looking for a great classic read, be sure to pick up Persuasion.

Our next choice is One Day by David Nicholls.  This is one of those books that I've picked up in the bookstore, but I never actually purchased or read it.  The plot sounds intriguing though, and it's been made into a movie starring Anne Hathaway (which I haven't seen yet either!).  A few months back, I borrowed a copy of the book from a friend and have been wanting to dive in since then.  Hopefully between reading books and stories for class, writing papers, nannying, and working on my business, I'll find time to read One Day too.
From Publisher's Weekly (via
The Hollywood-ready latest from Nicholls (The Understudy) makes a brief pit stop in book form before its inevitable film adaptation. (It's already in development.) The episodic story takes place during a single day each year for two decades in the lives of Dex and Em. Dexter, the louche public school boy, and Emma, the brainy Yorkshire lass, meet the day they graduate from university in 1988 and run circles around one another for the next 20 years. Dex becomes a TV presenter whose life of sex, booze, and drugs spins out of control, while Em dully slogs her way through awful jobs before becoming the author of young adult books. They each take other lovers and spouses, but they cannot really live without each other. Nicholls is a glib, clever writer, and while the formulaic feel and maudlin ending aren't ideal for a book, they'll play in the multiplex.

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Motto for this Weekend

... and next week... and maybe for all the time.  Lots of work and play on the agenda for me.
I love this little mantra from Jess (can we talk about how awesome this print is?  And it's produced in my hometown of Kansas City too).  I'm ridiculously excited to attend her Business with Intention workshop next weekend.

Great timing for the workshop too since Melrose Street Custom Content is gaining some major momentum right now.  In the past week or so, I've received three assignments!  It's exciting and a little nerve-wracking.  But I know business will ebb and flow, so I'm full of gratitudeenjoying this time, facing any anxieties and discovering just how much I learn with every single project.

Another quote that's been on my mind lately...

From Mary Oliver's poem "The Summer Day"
I read more of Mary Oliver's work after we studied some of her poetry in my writing workshop this past fall.  I've been thinking about this line, this question, this challenge lately. 

Maybe because we are in the midst of National Poetry Month,
maybe because my yoga teacher brought a book of Mary Oliver poems to class last night,
maybe because it's just so true that we have one life and it is wild and it is precious...
I had to share this piece of poetry with you.

Happy Friday!

P.S. If you want a lovely watercolor-and-ink print with the Mary Oliver quote, look no further than Bethany's Etsy shop, The Ripe Word.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tips for Shopping at Forever 21 - and My Recent Finds!

I admit, Forever 21 is crammed with clothes.  Cheap clothes.  But within that crazy mess, there are a few gems just waiting to be discovered.  It takes a bit of patience and persistence to find them.

After several years of our annual Easter shopping spree (care of our generous grandparents), I have learned a few things that help make the process easier and more successful.  Trust me, we've whittled down the trip from 4+ hours to 2 hours (I know this sounds ridiculous, but think about five girls selecting and trying on 15-20 pieces each and then deciding on five items each to take home).

The reward: trendy, fun pieces that can be worked into your wardrobe... at a very low price.

My EIGHT tips for a successful shopping trip to Forever 21:

1) Move through the store in an orderly fashion.  Shop by section or area, moving from front to back and side to side.  There are lots of hidden treasures that you don't want to miss!

2) Browse quickly and grab any patterns, colors or fabrics look appealing.  Pull out the hanger to get a good look and assess whether you want to try it on.  Keep an open mindsometimes something that looks blah on the hanger can look amazing once it's on a person's body.

3) Check the length of dresses (I often ask, is this a dress or a top?  Not sure if it's a tall girl problem or a Forever 21 thing).  Slide a hand inside tops to make sure they aren't completely sheer, another common issue with cheap clothesunless that's the look you want (maybe with a cute cami underneath?).  If it's too short or too see-through, don't even take it to the fitting room.

4) Choose the size that you think will fit you based on how it looks.  I could be a small, medium, or largeall in the same shopping trip.  It totally depends on the way a specific piece of clothing is made and how it fits my body.

5) Pick out a whole bunch of items to try on (I tried on 18 pieces this year... some were fabulous, some were okay, some were completely ill-fitting and gross once I tried them on).  You never truly know what will look good or how something will fit until it's on your body.  The line for the fitting rooms are usually long, so browse the whole store and load up so you'll only have to wait in line once.

6) They only allow 6 articles of clothing at a time in the fitting room, so the associate working the fitting room will place the rest of your selections on a rack.  Make sure to keep an eye on the rack and switch out your "no's" as you go.  (One heartbreaking year, the store associates had taken my additional items that I wanted to try on and accidentally started to redisplay them in the store... and we all know how long it takes to go through the big, busting-at-the-seams store).

7) Be critical.  Just because it's inexpensive and looks okay doesn't mean you have to buy it.  If you aren't sure or think maybe if this part could just be a little different, don't buy it.  Use the same criteria as you would for any other purchases: Do I love it?  Does it fit?  Will it work with the rest of my wardrobe?

8) Remember that Forever 21 allows returns for store credit or exchange, not for full refunds.  I believe accessories and jewelry are final sale.

And here are my five items from this year's shopping trip:


I wore this with my high-low skirt for Easter



Orange Maxi Dress
(not currently on the website)



Rory Beca for Forever21 Spring 2012 lookbook

Blue dress: second from left
It's not quite so sheer in real life!

Blue dress: far right

Monday, April 16, 2012

I'm an Aunt!

Scott and I are a proud uncle and aunt!  Baby Liam arrived on Friday afternoon, weighing 8 lb 1 oz and measuring 19.5 inches.  We got to meet him only an hour or two after he was born.

I already love my little nephew and am so excited to see him grow.  Congratulations to J. and W. on becoming parents to their beautiful baby boy!

Uncle Scott!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Liebster Award!

You know those unexpected little surprises that have the power to make your day?  One of those lovely moments came along last week when I found out that Sarah of Inspiration-Driven Life nominated me for the Liebster Award.

“This award we’ve discovered is given to bloggers who inspire you and have less than 200 followers. The Liebster Award takes its name from the German word meaning ‘Beloved, Dearest or Favorite.’”

Sarah and I first connected after she commented on one of my posts earlier this year.  I love how Sarah continually challenges herself and others to communicate, connect, and grow.  Besides sharing the word "inspiration" in our blogs' names, we also both have a passion for writing and connections to Kansas City and Chicago.  (Hopefully we can meet up sometime when she's in Chicago visiting family!) 

Thank you for the award, Sarah!

I'm thrilled to nominate three fabulous bloggers.  To be honest, I realized that I follow a good number of bigger blogs, but I am excited to share three "smaller" ones that are constant sources of inspiration and information. 

These ladies are super talented and creative... and they have been so supportive of my own little blog!  Please visit them and see what I'm talking about...

Bethany of She Writes and Rights

An amazing writer and artist, Bethany writes about her life, poetry, literature, and what inspires her. She's not afraid to address the tough stuff either, whether it's faith, grief, or the struggles of living out one's passion. Her Etsy shop features paintings and drawings inspired by her mother, who passed away earlier this year. I love Bethany's writing and how she brings it to life through her art. 

Cathy of Fiscally Chic

Cathy and I were connected through a mutual friend right around the time we both started blogging.  She's an accountant with a love of cupcakes, serving up a mix of financial advice, style and food inspiration, and ways to live life to the fullest, even while on a budget.  And she has a fabulous Etsy shop, which features fun pillow covers and cozy knitted scarves and hats.

AdeOla of JostWrite

AdeOla is a freelance writer and shares her goals for writing and life, her favorite things, travels, motivational quotes, success stories...and all the ups and downs along her journey.  I love how supportive she is of other people who are following their hearts and living their dreams, just as she is.

Winners, if you wish to participate, please keep the love going and refer to the instructions below.

1. Link back to the person who gave it to you and thank them.
2. Post the award to your blog.
3. Give the award to 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers that you appreciate and value (It’s a great way to get to word out there about other blogs!!)
4. Leave a comment on the 5 blogs to let them know that they have received this award.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We Don't Know

We don't always know what others are dealing with, what's going on under the surface. 

It happens online when we see the perfect pictures and positive posts... but we don't know what hardships and uncertainty may exist behind the scenes. 

It happens in our daily interactions when we get frustrated or are disappointed by other people, or when we think everyone else is together and happy and has life all figured out... but we don't know what difficulties or decisions others are facing.

So I try to be patient.  Patient with other people, with myself, with those little frustrations or pangs of jealousy.

I think of this quote: "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."

Let's encourage each other, be there for one another, help make life brighter and happier, regardless of how other people act or appear.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter at Home

It was so good to be home.  Dorothy was right... there's no place like it.

watched J. play at nationals with the Notre Dame club volleyball team
spent two hours in Forever21 on our (7th?) annual shopping spree
went to the Bristol for seafood (I had the special: crab-stuffed shrimp!)
enjoyed coffee and conversation with high school friends
dyed Easter eggs
did a little bit of homework
shared olives and wine with Scott on the screened-in porch
attended Easter Vigil Mass
found our baskets full of chocolate and jelly beans
ate lots of homemade food
drank coffee and wine and Bailey's (separately...usually)
celebrated J's 21st and my grandpa's 80th birthdays (Guinness cake with Bailey's icing for J. and rainbow cake in mason jars for Pop)
watched "The Help"
laughed and cried and laughed together.

My "floaty sping skirt"... with a brand new top from Forever21

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Floaty Spring Skirt

I had about 15 minutes to spare before my haircut last week, so I stopped into Zara.  It's crazy, but that was actually my first visit to a Zara store.  Part of the reason could be that I'm trying my best to stay out of stores so I won't be tempted... because I usually find something I love/want/end up buying.

In this case, I spotted a skirt that I swear I've seen on a blog somewhere recently (tried to track down where I saw it but couldn't find the post).  It is pretty, floaty, romantic with a touch of trendiness due to the funky hemline.  The front hits just under my knee and the back comes down to my ankles. 

And after a quick stop in the fitting room, I bought it.  (I told myself if I cleaned out some old clothes from my drawers and closet, it was okay.  And I actually did it... a whole big bag of donations and more closet space!)

I'm thinking about pairing it with neutral peeptoe heels from Ann Taylor and a tucked-in ivory top for Easter festivities with my family or for an upcoming shower (lots of babies and brides to celebrate!).  This skirt could also be "dressed down" a bit with a fun tank and little ballet flats.  (To be honest, I wouldn't style it like these pictures from the Zara site...) 

What do you think?

My Ann Taylor peeptoes look very similar to these pumps.  I got my pair on sale for about $50 back in fall 2010 on a trip to Vegas (awesome score!).

And this is the top I have in mind... I wore it to J's baby shower, which is why you see a hint of her baby bump in this picture.  (Today's her due date, so we're all getting excited to meet the new baby soon!)
top from Marshall's / necklace from J.Crew / skirt from Gap (awhile ago)

Happy Easter!  Enjoy the weekend, however you choose to celebrate it!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Drop 10: My Eating Experiment

I don't need to drop 10 pounds... but I could be taking better care of my body (and if that means losing a few pounds, I wouldn't complain!).  It hit me when my yoga teacher said to our class, This is your one body.  Considering that, I felt like my body deserved better.

So when I saw the Drop10 Challenge in SELF's April issue, which includes workout and eating plans, I was intrigued.  I'm always looking for new healthy foods.  The recipes seemed straightforward and incorporated various "superfoods" (and allowed for some "cheating"), so I decided to give it a try.

Some of the "trial" happened over my spring break from school and from nannying which gave me more time for planning and prep.  But I also told my perfectionist self that I would not follow it exactly, just try and make some of the meals and snacks over the next couple weeks, see what I liked and go from there.

I'd say I ate according to the plan about half the time over the past two weeks.  That's a win in my book.

What I learned...

- I don't love plain Greek yogurt but vanilla-flavored Greek yogurt is pretty good.
- Quinoa is so versatile (believe it or not, this was a new food for me!).
- Variety is the spice of life... meaning I spent about 45 minutes in the produce section picking out a million different fruits and veggies, but it was worth it.
- Portability is key.
- Flavor is a must (spicy salsa, a little fat-free cheese, onions, guacamole, etc).  Sometimes I added extra dressing or syrup or whatever, but hey, if it means I'm eating more veggies, that's fine.
- Some combinations just don't do it for me... and that's okay because there are endless healthy options out there.
- I am pretty addicted to/dependent on sugar and salt.  Chips and candy are my main downfalls these days.  Yikes.
- I love "everything in the fridge" salad, where I combine whatever random stuff I have left over and top it off with Ken's Lite Caesar dressing.  It helps that the toppings I had on hand were similar to the Potbelly's salad I talked about here.  (Scott even liked it!)

And one of the biggest things I learned...

Eating well makes you feel better and want to work out.

It was crazy how I craved exercise when I was eating healthy foods.  And once I started working out more often (3x a week, which hasn't happened in a long time!), I wanted to continue.  Let's hope this keeps up now that school started up again!

There are a lot of recipes included on the plan, but I just made some of them.  Here's a visual peek at my Drop10 eating experiment... (I starred my favorites of the group, but I would try any of them again.  All the recipes are available on or in the April issue.)

Tropical Treat (Greek yogurt, kiwi, granola, almonds)

Avocado Egg Salad Sandwich*

Honeyed Ricotta and Apple Wrap

Chicken and Quinoa Tossed Salad*

Chicken and Quinoa Tossed Salad*

Fruit Shake (strawberry-kiwi)

Baked Beef Taquitos* (I used ground turkey instead of beef, and yes, the sour cream and guac were my own additions!)

Sweet Potato with Almond Butter-Maple Sauce

Quinoa-Edamame Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing*

Cucumber Salad* (much tastier than this picture looks!)

Banana-Nut Pancakes (mine ended up more like a scramble!)

Fried Egg over Spinach Quinoa

Blueberry-Maple Hot Cereal (made with quinoa; I used strawberries instead of blueberries)

Salmon and Apple Salad Wrap* (I used a sandwich thin instead of a wrap)

Sweet potato "fries" and brussels sprouts (see below)

Stuffed Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries (I cut the "fries" into slices... didn't want to chop off a finger)


Related Posts with Thumbnails