Finding My Way

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As many of you may know, your twenties are a time of great opportunity, adventure, excitement, self-exploration, and a couple of really freakin’ big decisions. We’re at the cusp of adulthood – college is over, careers have started (and maybe stopped, started again), locations change, friends are made, and still we somehow find time to go to the gym. This time in our lives has such an influence on what happens next that it’s hard to take any decision lightly.; example: “If I have yogurt for breakfast instead of cereal will that change the outcome of my morning, afternoon, evening?? OMG this is serious, which one should I eat? I’m freaking out!!!!!” Just a typical morning in the life of a 23 year old.

For reals though. Recently, I’ve been very hung up on the big questions of my future: what can I do (and where) that will make me happy? Should I stay in Boston, or move closer to family? Is graduate school a good idea right now? My possibilities are literally endless, which makes things a bit interesting. Yes, I have the option of going to Paris and falling in love with a beautiful Frenchman with a vineyard in the country, but is that the right thing to do? I’ve considered being a Zoomba instructor, patient advocate, meteorologist, personal shopper, a broadway singer – you name it, I thought about becoming one. My mind has been jumbled for some time now trying to make sense of all the options, and this week, I feel like I’ve made progress.

Me, Hannah, and Juli grubbing in Baltimore

Me, Hannah, and Juli grubbing in Baltimore

After seeing 2 of my wonderful college roommates Juli and Hannah last weekend, I told them my troubles. Juli emailed me this Monday with a very inspiring quote she found about living into your 3rd decade. (it’s a long quote, so I’m going to put my favorite take-away points here)

This season is about becoming…Ask yourself some good questions like: “Am I proud of the life I’m living? What have I tried this month?”…life is a grand adventure. Give today all the love and intensity and courage you can, and keep traveling honestly along life’s path.

Thems the troof! Take advantage of what you have at this point in life, see how lucky you are, and run with it. Be who you are, love and enjoy your friends, and take time out of the every day to go on adventures. It started to hit me that I’m not the only one with this lost feeling, and I can make my life path go in any direction. It’s all up to me :)

Then Tuesday, my current roommate Jane took me to an event at her job. She works for a non-profit organization called Year Up that gives less-fortunate 18-24 year olds the skills and opportunity to find a fulfilling job. It jumpstarts their lives. Tuesday night, a class of about 120 students graduated from the program, most with awesome jobs, or at least some great job experience under their belt. A couple of them gave speeches to an audience of almost 1000 about their struggles before they discovered Year Up, and how much it has turned their life around.

After hearing stories like Sean’s, it put my life into perspective and I started to see things differently. Things could always be worse, and I honestly have a wonderful life filled with amazing people and opportunities. It also lit a fire inside me that motivated me to search for something more, to “go hard or go home”, and find something inside of me that I can be proud of. I went to work on Wednesday feeling a little happier to have a great job at a great company in a great city. Great! But who knows how long this will last until I find my next endeavor. So until then, I’m going to fully take advantage of my youth and the endless possibilities that come with it. Maybe I’ll even take up French! ;)

Oh, and this video is all over my facebook, inspring everyone to “find your Space Jam”.

WARNING: Contains Nuts

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This is an optimistic blog, and I want it to stay that way, but man, I am having one of those days. Insert winey-voice here. I must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed this morning because my mood was sub-par all day. Work was blah and I didn’t have the energy to get myself to the gym come 6:00. I have always been the type that uses a good long gym session to make everything right in the world – there’s nothing like it to focus on what’s all jumbled up in your head and try to make sense of it. But it took a village to get me to the gym tonight. And to top it off, all the treadmills were taken (shocker – it’s still January) so I once again settled on the bike. I watched “King of Queens” to get me through the interval workout again, and just felt tired the whole time. Just goes to show how much my dad was right when he said “Attitude is everything”. Tomorrow, I will go to work a happier gal (albeit a colder gal ’cause Boston is expecting some snow tomorrow) and make the best out of any less-than-ideal situation that comes my way!

On my walk home from the gym, I started listening to Beyonce. She can really get me pumped up and out of any kind of terrible mood! I was walking to Whole Foods listening to “Countdown” and literally feeling like this with my sweaty hair, sneakers, and sweatpants under my big puffy jacket:

(source)

If I was braver, I would have belted out the words in the middle of the street! It was like I was her backup dancer in Single Ladies, Bootylicious, and Run the World all in one! Channeling my frustration into SMIZEing (thanks for the lessons Tyra) and stomping like a Diva is really quite effective! From there on, my night was looking up.

At Whole Foods, I got some ingredients to make this delicious dish I adapted from a recipe I found in Better Homes and Gardens. I just stir fried chicken sausage, onion, mushrooms, and spinach in a bit of olive oil while the pasta boiled, and voila! This was sooooo yummy!

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IMG_0992Yum.

Tomorrow, I’m having dinner with some very dear friends, and one new sister! (well sister-in-law-once-removed kinda). Anyways, I have salad duty, so my plan is to make a goat cheese, cranberry, and candied walnut salad. I couldn’t find any candied walnuts at Whole Food tonight, so I decided to make them myself. I found a really easy recipe using just 1/2 cup white sugar and 2 cups pecan halves. Combine them both in a pan on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts onto the nuts.

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They turned out great! Can’t wait to show off my skills at dinner tomorrow :)

Hope you’re looking at the good points in today, even though they may be small. A positive outlook can change the way your whole day goes. Find your Beyonce and get yourself happy!

Spirit Fingers!

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There should be a separate gym for people getting a membership on January 1. I get it, and I’m very happy that people make it a resolution to lose weight or get healthy in the new year, but it really crowds the gym for those of us that are there all year and I’m not big on waiting for machines. This messes up my work out plan, and I end up settling on something different than what I was looking forward to. Like today: I planned on a run but the treadmills were packed, so I decided on the bike. A little disheartened, I strapped in, lowered the seat to level “way shorter than average”, and switched the TV to “How I Met Your Mother” to keep me occupied during the next 30 minutes. Then I remembered a hardcore interval workout a friend at work had mentioned to me a while ago.

  1. Warm up for 5 minutes
  2. 8 seconds of giving it your all
  3. 12 seconds of resting pace
  4. 8 seconds at 100%
  5. 12 seconds recovering…

And so on….for 20 minutes. I did 7 minutes, and my thighs and butt were on fire! It’s such a good workout, and since the intervals are so short, the time goes by quickly. But it’s hard, my friend. HARD.

I finished up my workout Wednesday with an upper body workout I found on Pinterest. Oh Pinterest, how can you use up so much of my time with craft ideas I’ll never get to, wedding tips I’ll forget about, and 1001 ways to use a mason jar? Sometimes I actually go back to my pins and find workouts like this one. I want to “Tone it up girl!”

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A short bus ride later, I was back at home craving something healthy for dinner. I had some leftover tofu that I wanted to use, so I whipped up a simple marinade I found on Never Homemade and let the tofu chill in it while I showered. I steamed some broccoli, covered it in cheese, and after a little stir fry action with the tofu, had a meal!

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Marinade prep

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A little light reading during dinner :)

 

So easy, and so healthy! Feels good.

Now, after watching the classic Bring It On with Rosie, I’m just about cheered out and can’t wait to get to bed. Everyone seems to be getting sick, and I have a big weekend planned, so I’m drinking lots of water and sleeping as much as possible to keep the bug away. Stay healthy this winter!

Let’s Make This One Count!

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You should be proud of yourselves. You’ve made it through 2012, including the Patriots losing a Super Bowl, the birth of Snooki’s baby, another exciting and opinion-filled presidential election season, and record-breaking performances at the Olympics in London. Not to mention the apocalypse. Damn girl, you’re looking pretty good. Personally, I’m happy to have 2012 behind me. It was the most trying year of my life, as I know it was for so many others. Our nation sustained a great deal of injuries last year, so we’ve got to make a swift about face and tackle the ever present issues – big and small. I’m talking about cancer research, gun control, the almost 12 year war overseas, gay marriage, finding a career to make you happy, being self-sufficient, finding a bike safe route to and from work. It may seem intimidating, but as my always-right mother always says, just put one foot in front of the other and we’ll get there. We have to.

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(that is my attempt at symbolizing “the road ahead” and “one step at a time” but now I’m questioning that foot picture)

I don’t know if I have any New Year’s resolutions per se (other than the obvious ones of learning the Single Ladies dance, buying a horse, and marrying a man with an English accent), but I’m trying this new thing called “organization”. Over the holidays, I spent a few fire-sitting, wedding craft-making, tasty food-eating days at my sister’s house in Virginia where everything has its place, and in its place it lives. Now, she has been organized ever since her Crayola markers stayed in their original rainbow order, so it doesn’t surprise me that her house is in tip-top shape. Except now that I am officially in “adult” status, it makes me feel like a bum with a very low cleanliness threshold. Thus, I counteracted this unfriendly thought with a productive weekend cleaning out my room, hanging pictures that have been leaning on the wall behind my hamper for months, and finally bringing order to the pile of paid bills I kept because I think that’s what I’m supposed to do with them…In any case, it’s giving the new year a feeling of competency, something hard to come by at my point-in-time.

So far this year, I’ve gotten (and potentially already lost because it’s not in my wallet but we’re going to keep that one on the DL) a library card, updated my GPS maps, finally made it to the gym, had a great girls night this weekend, and even had time to watch the first episode of the Bachelor (oh Sean, Sean, Sean…). Yes, I am a bit easily amused and excited, but I’d say it is a success!

Hope you’re staying warm – my hands are in a constant state of mild frostbite. Happy Wednesday!

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Motivational Monday

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Happy lucky ’13 everyone! I’m starting this first Monday of the new year with an inspirational quote by Helen Keller:

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.” 

I think it’s pretty fitting to begin the new year (albeit 7 days late) with a new message. After a very tough year, I want to be more optimistic in life, start believing in myself, knowing that it will all turn out well.  

I rang in the new year in style – at my sister’s winter wonderland wedding! We had a great group of friends, lots of pairs of boots, and an exorbitant amount of beer to help us end 2012. I couldn’t be happier to welcome this shmo into my family, although he pretty much already has been his whole life! That’s right folks, their story is almost too cute to tell, so I’m going to sum it up but saying “they started sleeping together when they were 2” :)

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ImageImageImageThanks Meg for some of the pics!! Love you mean it

 

The First of Fall

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The First of Fall

Some good looking gourds

Let’s not even mention the amount of between now and my last post. It’s embarrassing.

Welcome, Autumn! It’s been a long ~9 months without you, and finally you return with crisp, cool air, a pumpkinspice smell coming from Starbucks, and opportunities to whip out the tall boots once again. Yes, I’d say this is my favorite time of year with spring and summer a close second and third. Winter is only good until January 5. Then I’m over it and I become jealous of a bear’s ability to hibernate.

Two weekends ago now, I kicked off the change of seasons in style, starting with a barbecue in our backyard. We were celebrating the arrival of our roommate Jane (almost a month late, but better now than never!) and we invited our friends from every corner of Boston. Jane, Rosie and I started the morning off with a workout because we knew how much eating/drinking was to follow. After a trip to the grocery store and a B double E double R U N, we cleaned the apartment from top to bottom. It looked good, lemme tell ya. And look at this spread!

The Christmas tree really adds to the appeal

We made salads galore  – pasta with pesto, quinoa/veggie salad, chips of every kind, and M&Ms to top it off. Later in the night, the men manned the grill for burgers and hot dogs.

Roomies :)

I was glad to see so many people there, including some friends from Canada who live so close to me now! It’s crazy how two of my worlds are colliding now :)

Beer pong was played on my fancy travel beer pong set that I won at a Christmas party last year – definitely the right Secret Santa present for me! We also played a game of Rosie’s called Spike Ball, a combination of four square and volleyball, where you and a teammate have to spike the ball on the net to the other team, trying to make them drop/lose control of the ball. It took us a while, but it turned out to be a really fun game! Disclaimer – this game takes both hands and lots of coordination. Not for drink-holding. A night spent outside with some good friends? I’ll take it!

Sunday, after cleaning up beer bottles and nursing a slight hangover, I made my way to Meg and Dave’s for some apple picking up in Stow, MA to a farm called Sherburne Farm. It was a beautiful morning, so as you may have guessed, the farm was PACKED! I have never seen so many kids, babies, and strollers in one place – it was crazy! But as soon as we got into the apple orchard, everyone cleared out, and Meg, Dave and I could pick our apples in peace. Apples as far as the eye could see! No granny smith apples which are one of my favorites, but we got plenty of McIntosh’s, Empires, Cortlands, and Macouns. We filled our 20 pound bag of apples pretty quickly, so we explored the rest of the farm. Some cute animals for the kids (read: Brita) and a hay maze for the kids (read: Dave).

Perfect apple picking weather 

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Presh little pony

To end the day right, we got some homemade apple cider donuts that didn’t last very long in my apartment. There’s nothing quite like fall :)

Sugar covered delights

Hard Days

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Sometimes, all you need to get you through a tough day is a good quote:

Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.

Days that seem to drag by, without any notable things to inspire you to keep moving until you can hit your face to the pillow, with unexpected plot twists that are unfairly distributed to the world, days where you see a bicyclist give a car the finger (I always thought bicyclists were a peace-loving bunch), when a good kickboxing session would solve a lot of your problems. Today was one of those days.

But then you see a quote like the above that makes you think about the small (albeit very, almost infinitesimally, small) things that you are grateful for. Seeing a friend at the gym, a leftover 1/2 sandwich for lunch that was just as good as it was yesterday, planning a birthday party, and that my hair looked better than normal today. These things can be overlooked by larger, more worse things, but we can’t forget about them and how they made even a minute of our days happier.

A preview to my weekend post, which will be posted when I’m not forcing my eyelids open….

To a much happier Tuesday!

Nature Calls

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As I sit here watching Project Runway wishing I could pull off a a peplum skirt, I’m thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve posted. Almost 2 weeks have gone by, filled with many things to be happy about, and I haven’t told you guys about even one!!! Shame shame shame, Brita. I shouldn’t keep these happy things to myself – it’ll never happen again.

Let’s start with 2 weeks ago Sunday – I was on a crafty kick and wanted to get inspired. What is more inspiring than an sunny afternoon at a crafts fair in the city? Pretty much nothing. It’s called SoWa, kinda like SoHo but it’s South Washington Street in south Boston. Morgan, Katherine, and I ventured there with ideas in mind, and we were welcomed by lots of fun booths. But first, the garage we parked in inspired us to take some hipster pics.

Hipster stance? Katherine’s got one…and a tire!

We didn’t make out as well as we had hoped. Katherine was looking for furniture at a reasonable price, I was looking for awesome jewelry and scarves (it’s almost fall, as we all know), and Morgan, well Morgan being the chef that she is, was interested in the food trucks. And for good reason! We tried popcorn, honey, the BEST gingersnap cookie I’ve ever had, and locally made sandwiches for lunch.

This is where the cookie was made – and how fun is the name “Rollin’ in the Dough” for a bakery???

I’ll take them all, thanks.

Lots of local produce.

I didn’t get much of anything that stayed with me more than the few hours (if you know what I mean….) but I know I want to go back to the SoWa market before it closes at the end of October! If only just to get another one of those gingersnaps.

Most of my happy times recently have taken place outside. I want to take advantage of the beautiful weather before the winter substitutes shorts with long underwear. The weather has been pretty darn perfect too, so spending 8 hours a day inside at work has pushed me outside on the nights and weekends. Last week, I went for a longish run around the Charles River after work. Well, me and 3/4 of all of Boston – it seemed like everyone was out that night! And with good reason….

This city has my favorite skyline. Sorry NYC.

Can you get more Boston than this?? Rowing and everything!

I could run forever with a view like this.

Let’s hear it for the iPhone camera! I probably stopped about 15 times to take pictures, and maybe once because I took a wrong turn and ended up on busy road. But that aside, I found my way back after being rejuvenated with a healthy run and perfect evening views from the river.

I went south of the city to SoWa, into the heart of the city on my run, so naturally I had to go north of the city for a hike. Anna, one of my oldest friends who I know from Canada, just moved to my neck of the woods, so we got together for a jaunt in the woods. It’s strange to see her outside of camp, but I’m willing to get used to it :) We took Blanche (my trusty Subaru) to the Blue Hills, about 30 minutes north of the city, to hike the Skyline Trail. Along with awesome conversation, we found some stellar views of the city from a far. Check these out!

The perfect day to be on top of a mountain.

Boston from the Blue Hills

Our trip was very impromptu and we didn’t plan it much, just followed the blue dashes on the trees until we got here which took about an hour. At the top, we asked a fellow hiker to take our picture for us and spent a good part of our time there sitting on a rock just chatting, not unlike how we spend our time in Canada. Because we didn’t know where the other side of the blue trail ended up, we decided to back track until we got back to the car. It was a good idea. I’m so glad Anna is here and that we now know a good spot to get out of the city and into the wilderness, even if only for the afternoon.

Found this along the way. John really knows how to use a knife in a tree…

There’s that kind outdoorsman now!

 

Old friends in new places :)

Forecast for this weekend is looking bright – I can already smell a barbecue on Saturday and potentially picking them apples on Sunday. The outdoors makes me feel productive and re-energized after a long week. With autumn palpable in the chilly air, a whole new array of activities will begin – can’t wait!!

Looking for the little things

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This week has been fairly unexciting to say the least. The 4 day weeks always seem to feel longer than a 5 day week – why is that??? Cruel torture. I’m pretty much on a post-vaca lull and don’t want be at work. Spending the whole weekend outside in the sun was too much fun, and sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day just isn’t cutting it right now. Luckily, Boston’s weather cooperated with that sentiment and rained on and off all week. That, plus a yucky muggy atmosphere, I guess I don’t mind the air conditioning too much (looking on the positive side).

I’m looking at the little things to make me happy:

I found this little token in my backpack while searching for my GRE flashcards (still studying!) and it brought a smile to my face:

Must be from Canada

There’s a small town near the small camp we go to in Canada with even smaller souvenir stores. This gem must have come from there. For those of you who don’t wish you were Canadian, the image on the left is an inukshuk – a structure originally built by the Inuits to mark trails, fishing spots, or good hunting places back in the day. We build them in Canada because they’re pretty (the one in my banner is on our little slice of heaven up in the wild North). I like having this in my bag all the time – it seems like the perfect token to guide my bike rides to safety :)

And speaking of art………….I miss art classes. Even in college, with the thousands of classes that Penn State offers, I didn’t take any art courses – not because I didn’t want to, but because I had used up all my general education classes freshman year on landscape architecture and horticulture classes (so much for my landscape architecture dreams…). My mom is an art teacher for kindegardeners (I know, how cute?) so I grew up with art projects out the wazoo. Every once in a while, I gotta get my art fix. In fact, I’m feeling crafty right now. My scouring of Morgan’s beach last weekend provided me with enough little pieces of sea glass to make something awesome.

Yes, even the brown ones are pretty!

Any ideas? I’m thinking of a picture frame, or simply filling a cool vase with it. I already have a lamp filled with sea glass, thanks to my mother. We’ve been sea glass collectors for decades now, so it’s in my blood to pick up any piece on the beach. This weekend, Katherine and I are planning on going to the SoWa market in Boston to get inspired and buy some local crafts. I’ve never been, and can’t wait to see the stuff (jewelry, paintings, photos, pillows, knick-knacks…but mainly jewelry) people have made!

I also made a new discovery today at the gym. Tonight, I attended an all-staff orientation at the gym (high fives for more than one job!) where we went over all the boring stuff most of us already knew. But we also got to test out a brand new not-so-little machine –  a water rower!

There is actually a tank full of water, so it’s like you’re actually rowing! And don’t worry about adjusting the tension like on those out of date “regular” rowers, the faster you row on these, the harder it gets. I saddled up thinking: whatevs, rowing is something I do at the gym to pass time, not my go-to machine for a hard workout. Two minutes on this water rower and I’m huffing like Michael Phelps after losing in the 400IM. I couldn’t believe how challenging it was – there was a two minute challenge to see who could row the farthest. After it started, I looked at the clock thinking “I’ve gotta be almost done…” and it had only been 40 seconds. I could feel it everywhere: back, legs, arms, pinky toes (?). But really, I’m going to have to try a fitness class using these! I love finding new ways to mix up my workout!

I’ve seriously been working for the weekends recently, and tomorrow is Friday, so that makes me a happy girl! Another bike ride to and from work on a gorgeous almost fall day? Check.