Friday, June 29, 2012

Tell Me What You Want!

Hi friends,

I've been considering ways to share my love of writing with you all.  And I'd love to start a little e-newsletter series with tips and tricks about how to make your writing BETTER.

You see, I want to write for businesses and magazines and websites.  But I also want to help people discover the awesomeness of writing and develop their own love for it.  I know it sometimes seems intimidating or inflexible... so I plan to break down those mindsets with easy, actionable ideasthings to think about and try right away.

What I love (and don't love) about writing is that you can always improve.  It's a never-ending challenge, which is why I keep doing it.  And when you see your writing grow over time, when you finally get your thoughts perfectly expressed on paper (or screen), there's nothing like it.

So please, consider taking two minutes of your time to let me know what you think.  I put together a quick and painless survey, and based on the responses, I'll decide if and how I want to move forward.

Thanks in advance!  Have a fantastic weekend!


P.S. Here's the link to the survey again... in case you missed it in the midst of my little note :)

Or take it here:


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

White Wine in the Summertime

Cold white wine on a summer evening.  It's the perfect beverage for the porch, patio, BBQ or BYOB... (though I'd never turn down some champagne/prosecco or a margarita either).

Scott and I had an impromptu date night last Friday.  We grabbed sushi at a little BYOB place down the street and brought along a bottle of Duca D'Amalfi from our in-home wine tasting, then stopped for gelato and ate it on our back porch.  When the sun started to fade, we lit a candle and kept chatting.  So so nice.

Back to the wine...

Duca d’Amalfi Valdadige Bianco; Valdadige Italy
An off-dry blend based on Pinot Grigio with flavors of ripe pear and peach coupled with a breath of lemon zest in the nose. Pairs well with shellfish and other seafood complimented with citrus.

Love it.  Considering Pinot Grigio is my favorite type of wine, it's not too surprising.

Oh, and it's nicknamed the "patio pounder" because it goes down smooth, especially while you're relaxing outdoors with friends.

I'm tempted to order more (you can only get this wine through PRP Wine).  Anyone want to go in together on a case? :)

Cheers to the summer!  Stay cool in those hot hot hot temps.

*I wasn't compensated in any way for this post.  Just wanted to share a summer fave.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rejecting Perfection

It's been a bit quiet around here, but my mind has been full.  So full that it's been a little hard to pin down exactly what to think or what to do next.

I've been reading The Pursuit of Perfect lately and recognize the traits of a perfectionist in myself.  But in the realm of freelance writing and small business ownership, I have to let go of my idealistic ways in order to succeed... focus on learning, growing, the journey... reject the idea of perfection.

Perfection isn't possible and trying to achieve it will only make things worse.  Instead, I must learn to fail and face rejection, questions, uncertainty.  I can't reach my goals immediately, so I have to be patient, and perhaps along the way, I'll find a new path or idea that is even better than I imagined.

To help me focus a bit, I recently met with Jess for a business consult.  (As one of the first five people to sign up for Chicago's Business with Intention workshop, I received a free consultation!)  The main topics on my mind had to do with structuring my workday and solidifying my main projects and services.

Talking through what I was doing and what I wanted to be doing made things more clear. And Jess's summary put our discussion into a "next steps" format.  Now, when I am overwhelmed with all the to-do items and ideas in my head, I have a concrete list of things to work on and (at some point) accomplish.

When I think about it, things are going well. I'm bringing in new clients, sending out pitches, researching potential story ideas, and making plans for upcoming projects.

I am still working to be patient.  I want to get everything done, get it done right, and get it done right now. But businesses are built with baby steps and time and hard work.
If you want to see one of the "baby steps" I've been taking, check out my website.  I've added "my story" with an About Me page, as well as updated the home page and About MSCC services list.

Please know it's a work-in-progress.  I will likely make tweaks and changes tomorrow, next week, next month.  Someday, I plan to do a full redesign to turn it into a really fancy-schmancy site. 

For now, this step is about learning, growing, the journey.  It's about doing what I can where I am right now.  And that's what will get me to everything else that lies ahead.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our Hallway Photo Gallery

We have a hallway that runs through our condo from the main living space in the front to the kitchen and our bedroom in the back.  Along the way, there are doors to the second bedroom, bathroom and hall closet.  The hall is not straight; it has a little fork to the left.  We love it.

With all the blank walls and cool track lighting, the hallway was practically begging for us to create a gallery of framed photos... a little journey through our favorite memories, if you will.  But I didn't want it to be too matchy-matchy or... well, perfect.  I envisioned lots of different frames in golds and browns.  And I wanted it to look like it was built over time (which in reality, it was... we put most of the pictures up last year but we hung the rest just recently).

So we printed some fun photos in 4x6 and 8x10 sizes, popped them into frames from Michael's and Marshall's, and then laid them out and hung them without overthinking it.  It might be one of the few times in my life that I wasn't a total perfectionist.  And I think it turned out pretty okay!

To give you a little tour of our gallery, I took a few pictures (including the one above)... but they didn't really do it justice.  So I pulled out my Flip video camera from years ago, replaced the batteries, and captured a quick video for you all.  (FYI, the blank space to the right of the closet door is open for another larger portrait to balance out the black-and-white wedding photo on the left wall.)

Please don't mind our creaky floors making background noise.  And no, I didn't narrate because it's just weird to hear your voice recorded.  Maybe another time...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Club: Fifty Shades of Grey

Last week, E. hosted our book club meeting at her new place.  She and L. had just moved in, but E. made us feel at home, serving up a bunch of snacks from Trader Joe's (mac and cheese bites! fruit salsa and chips! flatbread!) and yummy raspberry lemonade.

Besides talking about grocery shopping, summer plans, and the responsibility involved in raising kids, we chatted about our selection, One Daythe characters, the plot, the shocking twist near the end (don't worry, I won't spoil anything here).  We thought that the premise was intriguing: the novel spans nearly two decades and moves through the events of Emma and Dexter's lives, whether separate or apart, by showing us their story on the same dayJuly 15of each year.

But most of us felt that the novel went on a little too long and that the characters weren't exactly likable.  Yes, it's enjoyable to read about characters who are different and unique and flawed, but they have to have sympathetic qualities to make me care and keep reading.  Since there is a movie based on the book, we were also curious about how they adapted the story to a film version and eager to check it out sometime.  I could appreciate the book was well-written (great dialogue!), but overall, it sounded like we all had higher expectations for it.

Next up, we're turning to a book with a lot of recent buzz: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. As a group, we've heard plenty of positive and negative reviews, so now it's time for us to see what all the gossip is about.  This pick sounds just right for summer reading!

via Description:
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

This book is intended for mature audiences.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Working from Home

It's been about three weeks since my last day of nannying.  Since then, I've been working from home... although it's only been one week since grad school wrapped up.  This whole working-from-home thing is still very new.

Today was a little different.  I had an in-person meeting at a marketing firm downtown this morning.  So I dressed in professional clothing and set off for the 'L' with my portfolio in hand.  It felt good.  And the meeting went well (from what I could tell!) so that's a plus.

I created a portfolio of my work this week in anticipation of today's meeting.  It's cool to flip through and see what I've written all in one place... hard copies that I can touch, not just click to read like the writing samples on my website.

That iced coffee looks gigantic, but it's normal-sized, I promise... just in the foreground :)

Lunchtime and the afternoon find me back at my desk.  I love to surround myself with pretty, colorful things.  Inspiration within reach at all times.

My sister A. gave me this cute pencil cup for graduation...
and the fun writing utensils were a gift from the family I nannied for.

Motivation + decoration... postcards from Kate Spade and Jess LC

I'm still adjusting to my new lifestyle... or "workstyle" if you will.  It's nice to have the flexibility, but with that freedom comes responsibility.  The success of my business is totally up to me.  I find myself thinking, Is this real life?  Is this really my job?!  It's exciting.  It's scary.  It feels right.

Those of you who work from home: any helpful tips to share?

Logos make everything look more legit... right?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tomato, Tomahto

When produce is fresh and ripe, it doesn't take much effort to assemble a flavorful meal.  I love the simplicity of a tomato sandwich. 

Easy and delicious...

Smear some mayo on two slices of toasted bread.
Layer on thick slices of tomato.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Hello, summer!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Party Time... Happy Graduation!

As of this weekend, I'm officially finished with grad school (!!!).  Since the actual ceremony was scheduled for Sunday morning at 8 am outside the city (ugh), I decided a party at our place would be a more fun way to celebrate.

Family and friends came over on Saturday.  The party was "BYOM" (bring your own meat)... so we fired up the grill and dished up dips, sides and desserts.  Thanks to everyone who brought food to share!

Our porch was full throughout the evening, we had a total of three babies and a puppy in attendance, and I sipped champagne most of the night.  (Those of you who gifted me with bottles of bubbly know me well... you're awesome.)  It was so great to hang out and celebrate with everyone who has supported me through the last two years.

A big thank you goes to the one guy who has dealt with all of my late nights of paper writing, weekends full of homework, evening classes, stacks of books, and stressed-out moments... my wonderful hubby.

Of course, here's a peek at our party spread...

Recipes: cheeseball, 7-layer dip, artichoke-jalapeno dip, oatmeal carmelitas, Reese's bars

Thanks to: my mom for baking and shipping the chocolate cake & to Scott's parents for bringing fruit, cheese, and cookies!

In case you were curious about the tray on our coffee table above, here's a close-up I snapped a week or two ago while we were savoring some margs.  This fun little item is from Target (only $24.99!)... and it was the inspiration for my feature on Glitter Guide today, a round-up of seven pretty trays that will instantly organize your home.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Navy and Neon = My New Running Shoes

I needed new running shoes.  Not for running exactly, more for power walking.  And I wanted something fun and colorful and bright.

Call me crazy, but these are the shoes I bought today.


This design is much sleeker and a lot less clunky than my old sneakers... a good thing, but it might take some time to get used to.  I couldn't quite go totally "minimal," so they do have some support and are a little less flexible than the super "lightweight" models out there these days.

I really considered the bright purple Nikes (my fave color!), but the laces didn't go far enough down towards the toe so they felt too wide for me.

As for these New Balance ones, the yellow soles and pink on the tongue are actually neon... like glow-in-the-dark bright.  They're so... happy.  I think the colors will give me an extra boost of motivation.  And this gorgeous weather doesn't hurt either.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Two Years of Marriage

Five years ago today, Scott and I went on our first date... an Italian dinner (BYOB but oops, we didn't bring wine) and ice cream and a walk along the lake.

Two years ago today, we celebrated our wedding day... with lots of love, dancing, and champagne.

To celebrate our anniversary, we've got a bottle of this chilling in the fridge right now.


To my loving, kind, hilarious husband,

Thank you for five wonderful years together... an amazing two years of marriage.  You never fail to make me smile.  You care so much about your family and friends... I think that's what I love most about you.  Being with you and taking on this adventure called life together... there's no one I'd rather have by my side.  I'm so excited for everything that lies ahead.

Love you,

And as the two of us remind one another from time to time, when life gets a little crazy, "Just Love"...

Wedding photos by Tydell Associates

Monday, June 4, 2012

Simple, Fresh Food - and My Glitter Guide Feature!

Let's start with the exciting stuff!  I wrote today's feature on Glitter Guide!

I love baking and entertaining, but when our oven is on, it heats the whole condo.  And no one likes a sweaty hostess.  So I was inspired to share a few no-bake dessert recipes as a way to celebrate summer and stay cool.  It was so fun to select these sweet treats and write the piece.  Check it out and let me know which recipe sounds most delicious!  (You may recognize a couple of my favorites...)

On the topic of food, I love having food in the house again.  I made it to the grocery last week and stocked up on fruits and veggies, meat and milk... and a few fun things too.  Packaged foods will always have a place in our busy household, but there is something so satisfying about fresh food.

Okay, and I couldn't resist making some butterscotch chip cookies.  Having baked goods on hand makes me feel like I'm at home :)

And one more thing... I am honored to be one of the ten people included in this article: "10 Creative People Share What Inspires Them" on Psych Central.  In the piece, I give insight into what inspires me as a writer...  I enjoyed reading the article as a whole, learning about other people's sources of inspiration and seeing the different types of creativity among the group.
Now, I'm off to paper writing.  It's finals week...  But at least I've got some caffeine and yummy food to keep me going.  (Starbucks tip: sign up for Starbucks Rewards and register any gift cards you receive... you'll earn free drinks in no time, which is the only way I'm picking up a venti skinny vanilla latte!)

Happy Monday!  Fingers crossed for a productive day....

Friday, June 1, 2012

Baking for Birthday BBQs

As we head into another weekend, I thought I'd give you a peek at the bars I made for last Saturday.  It was my BFF's birthday and she hosted a low-key BBQ.  (N. and I have known each other since 5th grade when we went to school together in Kansas!)

To kick off the summer season, we all relaxed on N. and M.'s deck from the afternoon into the evening.  M. grilled chicken, shrimp and corn-on-the-cob (seriously, amazing!).  Plus, they served a keg of Boulevard Wheat from the Kansas City brewery.

Adding to the spread of dips, chips, cheese, and sweets, I brought Peanut Butter M&M Blondies.  Nothing like a tasty bar topped with my favorite type of M&M.

Peanut Butter M&M Blondies

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups peanut butter M&Ms (from a medium sized bag)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease 9x13 inch baking pan.

2) In medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar, stirring until smooth.  When it is smooth, remove from heat and add peanut butter.  Allow to cool while combining the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Butter + brown sugar

Add the peanut butter...

Combine dry ingredients...
3) Add the eggs to the brown sugar and peanut butter mixture, mixing well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and stir to combine.  Pour the mixture into the mixed dry ingredients and stir until combined.  It will be a thick, smooth batter.
Add eggs... then vanilla

Pour into dry mixture
4) Pour into prepared baking dish and top with peanut butter M&M's, pressing them down into the batter.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes.  [My oven is "hot" so I could have pulled them out a few minutes earlier for softer, more gooey bars.]  Allow them to cool in pan before cutting into bars.
Ready for the oven...

After baking
We also celebrated the 1st birthday of Scott's cousin's daughter (the one I've been nannying for over the last few months).  She's gone from a baby to a toddler before my eyes... from not even crawling to almost walking. 

When her mom D. asked if I would make a giant cupcake cake, just for the birthday girl, I was honored.  And it felt like things had come full circle since I made this cake for her baby shower last year.  How much has happened and changed since then!

Happy weekend!  For us Chicago folks, let's hope the sun comes back after all this rain.  I'm off to an end-of-the-year reception at DePaul today and then dinner with my ND girls tonight.

Saturday and Sunday are wide open.  Looks like I'll be paper writing... maybe making dinner on the grill with Scott... and hopefully heading to my third yoga class this week (feels good to get back into it!).


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