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HOLY WHOA. I haven’t posted in awhile.

In the midst of moving, adulting, working on NEPA BlogCon and The Vintage Advisory Board, teaching, and host of other things, I forgot about you, Bloggy McBloggerson.

Photo By: Victoria Park

I’m so, so sorry.

Well, only kind of. I’m happy that while I was away from you, I was out living, doing great things, and really putting some of my new years resolutions to work.

But, I didn’t take the time to share. Or to hold myself accountable by hitting publish.

And for that, I really truly am sorry.

Because I missed you. I know, I know. You’re upset and feel neglected. I don’t blame you, I would feel that way too.

Let me make it up to you.

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Things, Things, Things

January was a month of things.

Big Things. Like buying our first house and all of the stuff that comes with it, like moving, DIYing, and unpacking.

Small Things. Like the pleasure of having a dishwasher (I’m seriously in love) and not having to have three blankets on the bed to stay warm because your new place is well-insulated and you control the heat.

Too Many Things. Like having to pack and move a monumental amount of crap. Living without it for the past few weeks has actually been refreshing. I think it’s made us even more aware of things we can cut back on and be happy with.

Odd Things. Like the sounds our new refrigerator makes. They’re not bad sounds, but just different.

Busy Things. Like getting back in the classroom and having 160,702,370,558 things to accomplish around the big move (along with life in general). Oh yes, and work was insane for most of this past month.

Happy Things. Like my now cheery yellow kitchen (it’s a joy to cook in) and FINALLY having our first couch, thanks to the generosity of Brent’s mama and papa bear.

So, if I’ve been out of reach, stressed, or shorter than usual, I’m sorry. It’s been crazy.

As for my new year’s points, I’m doing better than anticipated. Since moving into our first home, Brent and I have been more conscious than ever of money. This is a good thing because it’s encouraging us to save aggressively and one of the side effects of that is cooking a lot at home.

The weeks before moving were full of takeout, simply because most of our kitchen was packed or we were too tired/lazy/busy/overwhelmed to try to cook anything. By the end of it, all I wanted was a homecooked meal.

This week and last, we’ve gotten busy in our new kitchen, whipping up family meals for the visiting parents, as well as ourselves. I’ve cooked every day since moving here pretty much and it’s WONDERFUL. It’s working wonders toward my point of “Eating real food, in moderation.”

I’ve found my portions are more in check and I’m thinking strategically about what to buy. Although, we did just have a monster grocery bill but that had more to do with restocking our kitchen after moving. I’ll be interested to see how things go once we get on a regular schedule with cooking and such.

Moving has also gotten me focused on my “move more” point. I did a lot of painting, moving, shelving, cleaning, and whatnot over the past few weeks and I have to say that it feels really good. When things calm down, I want to head back to the gym and keep this momentum going. Also, having a house has had me more focused on general housework/upkeep tasks so that’s keeping me busy too.

February is going to be a good month – I just know it. Getting back to a normal pace will be lovely, and to top it off, I turn 26 this year, so I’m anxious to start my 26 random acts of kindness to celebrate. Last year, I did 25 and I loved every minute of it, so I want to make it a habit each year.

I’ll be sure to document them again!

Whew! I feel like I just ranted a lot. What have you been up to?

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Looking Forward to the Year Ahead

New year, big things, lots to think about and be grateful for.

I’ve always been fond of taking time to reflect on the past, revel in the present, and delight in the future on New Years. All too often, we find ourselves feeling like we need to be better, do better, and change so much in order to make the most of the year ahead. Looking at 2014 head on, I can honestly say that there aren’t many drastic changes or hardcore resolutions I’ll be making. 2013 was a hear of overwhelming joy, surprise, loss, laughter, challenge, stress, discovery, and so many other things. Each year is a new adventure and it’s what makes the start of it so exciting. There’s a blank canvas to be painted. And like all great artists, your technique gets cultivated with time.

I’ve learned a lot from the past year, and one of the biggest lessons was to focus on the small to get to the big. I’ve let myself down in the past by making promises – grand ones – to myself and then not living up to it. So, keeping that in mind and also taking into account what I’ve experienced in the last year, I’m thinking about small ways to take care of myself.

So, instead of making a New Year’s resolution, this year, I’ll be giving myself 14 reminders (it is 2014, after all!). When I’m feeling lost, out of balance, or unwell (like I am right now, presently nursing a hangover from a little overindulgence that came with one of the most fun and soul-warming NYE celebrations I’ve ever been part of), I can refer back to this list to keep me on the right path. There’s no one goal, just the promise of  feeling good and living, as Oprah would say, my best life.

Here are my 14 points I’ll be reminding myself of this year:

  1. Eat real food, in moderation. 
  2. Breathe deeply. 
  3. Move more. 
  4. Say “no” more often. 
  5. Make more time for relationships. 
  6. Tickle the brain.
  7. Remember to laugh.
  8. Get some fresh air.
  9. Be gracious and grateful.
  10. Align what I do with what I value.
  11. Decide.
  12. Learn from it all.
  13. Take breaks.
  14. Serve, both yourself and others.

Beyond these, I’m also excited about all of the things that will be happening in the coming year, like:

  • Returning to the Classroom: This time next week, I’ll be teaching again. Teaching is one of those things that I sort of fell into but enjoy, since I feel so strongly about having students learn things they can actually apply. It’s how I like to teach and it’s how I’ll approach my spring semester course in Web Presence Development. So, if I have any students reading this post, I just want to say that I’m very excited to be back – and I can’t wait for what this semester has in store. 
  • NEPA BlogCon 2014: SO MUCH AWESOME. That’s all I can say. We have BIG plans buzzing around in our brains for the next NEPA BlogCon. EEEK! More to come!
  • Writing a Play: I’m taking a stab at channeling my inner Moliere. I’ve never written a play before – most of my experience with theater is as an actor. I’m looking forward to trying something new and seeing what sort of characters I have hopping around in my head. But, I’ll give you a clue about what I’m writing: it’s a funeral and a comedy ala Death at a Funeral, but not quite.
  • The Vintage’s 5th Anniversary: The Vintage is truly one of my favorite places. I serve as the Chairperson on The Vintage advisory board and I’m thrilled to be in office during this time of celebration. The Vintage will have spent 5 years this January bringing art and culture to the region in ways I never would have dreamed possible.
  • Finding a Wedding Dress: Wedding planning is going well – I’ve got some post ideas cooking that will share my experience so far, but one of the biggest things I’m looking forward to in 2014 is hopefully finding a wedding dress. I’ve got my first appointment under my belt and I now know more about what I like and what I think looks best, so we’ve got progress!
  • Enjoying Another Season of Fresh Produce: Brent and I were generously gifted with another season of produce from our friend and favorite local farmer, Farmer Jon. His produce kept us rich in taste and nutrients all last summer and my mouth is watering just thinking about what might appear in this year’s harvest. YUM!
  • Taking on New Challenges at Work: I sometimes refer to my job on here, but if you’re not sure what I do, don’t worry – it’s a tough thing to explain. Let’s just keep it simple – I work with a team of internet marketers specifically geared toward helping small businesses succeed online. I enjoy my job and 2013 was a time of growth, change, and challenge. Looking ahead at the coming year, I’m excited at what plans we have in store and I’m so thankful and grateful for my coworkers, my team, who make coming to work each and every day wonderful.
  • Moving into Our First Home: Yes, indeed! Brent and I will be officially homeowners later this month. In a serendipitous turn of events, we’ll be making a family homestead our own. The house, which now belongs to my grandparents but will soon be Casa de Boyle-Pennington, has been in my family since 1946. It’s a cute Cape Cod with a lot of history and a lot of love. We’re so excited about this big leap, especially since this is happening so quickly, but it’s one of those moments that just sort of worked out for everyone in a way that can only be divine.

So, lots of good stuff going on! What’s on your plate for the upcoming year?

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Good Talk

Talking. It makes all the difference.

In the past two months, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had quite a few great talks.

One was with my Dad, as we traveled to New York City together on his first visit ever to Manhattan, where we would see a Broadway show (Pippin), eat good food, and take in some of the sights. All day, we kept the conversation flowing, and it was nice. I talk to my Dad often, but that’s the first time in quite some time that we’ve spent so much time together in a day – it was a good moment for father and daughter.

Another was with Brent. We went to our favorite local diner, ate breakfast at about 8:00 p.m. and talked through what we wanted for our wedding, which led into more talk of the future, specifically, what we’d want in a house. Both conversations left me feeling less stressed about everything that’s happening (i.e. wedding planning, growing up, and all that jazz) and looking forward to what’s ahead. We now know what we want – and that’s one of the biggest and best parts of planning a future. There’s no better feeling than when you want the same things and you’re on the same page and you’re both excited about making it happen.

A third one was with my friend Alli. We went to brunch together and just chatted about things going on in our lives. We dished, dined, and laughed our whole way through the conversation. Those types of talks restore our inner light. You can’t help but feel happy when you’ve laughed and shared soup with a dear friend.

And a fourth was with an amazing group of people motivated to change Northeastern Pennsylvania. It was at a networking event for TecBridge – and well beyond your average meet and greet. We all left feeling driven, inspired, and ready to do something big. We talked about things we wanted to change. We celebrated big ideas. We gave each other hope and encouragement – this is where all great things start.

Between these talks, there were several more, and they all left me feeling AWESOME. It’s amazing how just talking can change your entire outlook.

Have you ever noticed how people just don’t talk as much as they used to? I’m constantly bombarded with emails and texts, which can be great in their own right, but sometimes, you just need to unplug and engage one-on-one. Those types of conversations leave us feeling energized and motivated. They help us sort out the important things and take notice of the fact that, hey – we’re human!

I’d like to issue a challenge.

This week, turn off your electronic communication methods, whatever they may be, for a few hours. Then, call up a friend and invite her for coffee. Or  give your Mom a call just to talk. Or make time to go for a walk with your significant other to talk about something that’s been on your mind. Do something that will allow for you to have good talks of your own – and then take a moment to reflect and soak it in, because it’s a simple thing in life that makes it even better.

I know I’ll definitely be giving this challenge a try.

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The Wedding Vendor Dance

Photo By: petuliadanner

 

It starts off slow.

You scan for friendly faces, those who can be perfect partners.

You make a mental note of their names. What you like about them. What you think they can bring to the floor.

You take a deep breath. You approach and you ask.

A positive response! How exciting! You smile. It’s all falling into place.

You ask for more. Details. Details. Details.

Then it begins. One step forward, two steps back.

Now one to the side. And back the other way.

A spin, a twirl, and the sting of disappointment.

Then the burst of happiness when you’re perfectly in step.

Dancing through the wedding planning process sounds easy, right? What they didn’t tell you growing up or what you haven’t seen on Pinterest boards of all of your friends is the daunting task of choosing vendors. Above all, the negotiation. OH MY THE NEGOTIATION.

It’s overwhelming enough to be planning a wedding with so many choices, but when you’ve narrowed it down to a handful of vendors that you think you want to work with, it becomes a part-time job to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

From my own experience, I’m an exhaustive researcher. I look at everything from a hundred different angles before I make the decision. I have spreadsheets on my Google Drive that list all of the vendors I’ve looked at, those I’d consider working with, and those who I’m on the fence about. I read reviews. I dig for dirt. I check Facebook pages and Yelp pages and everything in between. I’m the bride who fixates on knowing every possible outcome, every possibility, before I make a decision.

It can be crippling.

Then there’s the sense of going back and forth between:

Yes, let’s be practical. Let’s just pick something and focus on what’s really important.

OR

Wait – do I really want this? Is this going to be right? What if it’s not right? TELL ME IT’S GOING TO BE RIGHT.

Sweet Jesus. I’ve never had trouble selecting flavors of ice cream, but when it comes to choosing wedding vendors, suddenly I’m pouring over countless cells of data in a frenzy. It’s like I’m a female-version, less moody, and cutting-cheekbone-less Sherlock.

I got engaged in May. It’s now November and I’ve finally picked a venue and a date (after much poking and prodding).

The date was the easy part – Brent and I went back and forth between May and October, but something about October felt right. Serendipity and subconscious sentimentality led me to October 10. I didn’t consciously select the date ahead of time – I looked at a calendar, saw 10 and said, “Yes, this is perfect.” My cousin’s 21st birthday and my recently passed on grandparents’ anniversary. Being the scatterbrain that I can sometimes be (I’m horrible with dates and birthdays), I forgot about both, so it was a happy and heartwarming surprise to find those out. It’s going to be a great day.

The venue journey I’ll save for another post. I promise it’s a good thing, but I did have my share of anxiety.

Ah, yes, anxiety. Which leads me into vendor negotiation. The dance that I started this post with. I’ve gotten my first few tastes and I can say that it’s definitely my least favorite part of wedding planning so far. The waiting, the back and forth, the lack of follow up or response that causes you to throw your hands in the air and say, “F*ck it. I’m eloping.”

Here are some things that have helped:

  • Studying up on some articles for helpful advice.
  • Having a firm idea of your budget and a rough idea of your guest list.
  • Asking for recommendations for vendors who have a reputation for being good to work with
  • Thinking rationally. Seriously – you have to keep yourself in check and remember to approach it from a logical point of view. Yes, it’s emotional – but you can’t make your decisions solely based on that.
  • Taking a breather before responding to emails.
  • Being patient.
  • Remembering that the peak of wedding season isn’t going to yield the fastest response times
  • Recognizing that you have time and this is not a fire drill
  • Being gracious and direct.
  • Knowing what you want before you start talking.

It gets better. No, really, it does. Once you get past the initial communication hurdles (I can write books on this, I swear), it gets easier. But if you want to be successful in the negotiation, you have to be prepared to negotiate. Don’t accept everything at face value. Come in with a plan. Compare and contrast. Be firm and decisive. It’s okay to ask questions – and don’t be afraid to. If you’re not happy with something or aren’t satisfied, voice that concern – it’s not going to help you to stay quiet. Be polite, but also don’t be a pushover. Remember – you and your vendor stand to have a mutually beneficial relationship. You can be emotional – but don’t let your emotions steer you toward a decision you’re not happy with.

What I’m trying to say with this one is that I need to remember to not fixate and obsess (and if any of you readers are brides, this one is for you too!). I’m in flux between sweating small stuff and throwing tradition to the wind in favor of practicality. It’s a dizzying mix, but it’s one that I know will get easier with time. I just have to remember my footing and keep repeating my mantras. It’s going to be okay.

And hey, spazzing happens. It does. If you’re by nature a worrier, it’s going to happen. And if not, congrats! You probably have a much longer lifespan than the rest of us!

Just stay cool, don’t obsess over details, and don’t feel the need to throw hours upon hours into vendor research. Having done it, I can say that I did waste time because I knew going in what I didn’t want in a wedding. I didn’t want a hotel reception. I didn’t want something ornate. I didn’t want something rigid and overly traditional. I also knew my budget. But, I still looked at those venues and vendors anyway because there was a sense that I had to – how could I not know ALL the options?

Knowing all the options doesn’t always mean that it’s going to be easier.

Forgive yourself for not knowing all the options – and go with your instincts from the start.

Stand your ground when you negotiate. Go in with a budget, a rough guest list, and an idea of what you want. Stick to it.

No matter what happens, the outcome is the same: you’re ending up married to someone wonderful and that’s what matters.

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