March Madness

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Hello world! It’s been ages since I lasted posted, but I promise for good reason – I spent the entire month of March finishing the draft of my first book!

Finishing this project is a huge deal for me. I started it in November 2014 (!) as a post-grad starter project, and promised myself I wouldn’t start anything else until I had finished this manuscript.


Fast forward two years, and I wasn’t very far on my draft. Every so often I’d work up the energy to take my computer to the library for an hour or so and jot some words down. After two years, though, I hadn’t made it past 80 pages. Yikes.

Then, I stumbled across a book recommendation for Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, and something clicked. I realized I was sick and tired of not making progress and just making excuses for not writing.

I purchased the book, and the rest is history!

Well…not quite. It was one of the most difficult tasks I’ve embarked on. I’d set a goal to write 3,000 words a day, which took me about an hour and a half. Doesn’t sound like much, but every day I struggled to stay motivated. The lure of relaxing after work in front of the TV was a constant, but in the end, I came through!

Here are some insights I gleaned while writing:

  1. You have to cater to your inner goddess. At first, I planned out that I would get up at 5:00 AM every day to get my writing out of the way. It took a week of oversleeping for me to finally cave in and admit that I’m not a 5 AM person. I also like being in comfortable clothing, having lots of water by my side, and using a legitimate keyboard, rather than a cheap travel one. Catering to these whims made the writing process so much more enjoyable.
  2. You have to rededicate yourself to your goal every. Single. Day. I wanted to give up every time I sat down to write, no lie. But I made it a priority to post sticky notes around my desk about why I wanted to achieve this goal in the first place. It was instrumental to helping me reenergize.
  3. You have to keep going no matter what. I realized my story had major plot holes / character holes / switching character names early on. There were also a handful of days where I had to either skip writing altogether or didn’t make my word count. There were many opportunities for me – the constant quitter – to stop the project altogether, but I persevered.
  4. You have to focus if you want to see this goal through. Normally, I’m trying to juggle fifteen thousand goals at once. New fitness routines, new recipes to try, new makeup techniques to perfect, etc. When March rolled around, though, I realized I could only put 100% into one thing, and I chose that thing to be writing. It made me sad to have to dial back on going out with friends and catching up on TV, but I kept reminding myself it was only for a month.
  5. At the end of the day, it comes down to your attitude. A book in a month – especially one guided by a book of the same title – sounded kind of silly when I started, and I was embarrassed to tell people. And every day I didn’t get to where I wanted was a total bummer. Nonetheless, I told myself repeatedly that I would get this done, no matter what. And I did!

There is still much, much work to be done, but I’m looking forward to it. If you’ve made it this far through this post, I hope you take away this single thought if nothing else: when you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything you want. Corny, but forgive me, I’m riding the high of following through with something for once in my life. Feels pretty good 🙂

 

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Yes, You Need a Selfie Stick

P.S. If you’re curious as to how I chose Copenhagen, this article will explain all. Beware, it’s addicting.

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Write Right

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If there’s anything I’ve learned from, well, life, it’s that communication is key. Key to getting things done (and done correctly), key to learning and sharing ideas, and key to one’s well being. I’ve lived in southern Cali for almost a year now, and the one thing that eases homesickness is keeping in touch withphoto 1 my loved ones back east.

Luckily, today we have websites and apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to keep us in the know how. I can text my mom and Skype my dad and Snapchat my cousins all from my phone. Technology has been key to keeping me and the loop, and alternatively reassuring my family that I am, indeed, surviving out here.

One of my absolute favorite ways to say hello, though, is through a good old fashioned letter. This dates back to my American Girl stationery days – in cleaning my room, I’ve come across dozens of half-finished letters to schoolmates and family members (hey, I never said I wasn’t a procrastinator!).

Even now, there’s something fun about writing a little diddy to someone, popping it in the mailbox, and waiting expectantly for them to receive it. Because who doesn’t like getting something besides spam in the mail? It’s a personalized, handwritten treat that I think has gotten the shaft with the advent of tech.

Lately, my letter writing has gone into a slump, so over the weekend I “created” my own stationery to write to my grandparents on. A quick life summary later and voila! A letter has been born.

photo 3If you’re not feeling that ambitious, regular old stores like Target carry a variety of blank notecard & envelope packs that range from adorable to chic. The Paper Source is another letter writing haven, packed with cards to stamps and everything in between.

Happy writing!

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Well, I Tried: Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken

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Well folks, it’s the weekend, and you know what that means! After a long week of some very non-clean eating, it’s time for another installation of “Well, I tried”. This week’s recipe is for slow cooker honey garlic chicken, from the blog Just a Taste. Here’s what I thought:

The Ingredients: For the most part, very easy to find grocery items. Once again, I tried to get everything at Target, and was successful EXCEPT for soy sauce, if you can believe it. The only thing I blinked an eye at was the hoisin sauce, but I figured it’d be a worthwhile investment if I was sure to use it again.

The gang [minus onion] is all here!

The Prep: Not too bad, actually. You whisk the main ingredients together, pour them over the chicken breasts, and voila! It’s ready to cook. The only thing that took some time for me was dicing the onion, but that’s because I don’t know how to properly do so.

** Note: I took some liberties with the recipe. Firstly, I used boneless breasts, simply because Target didn’t have any with bones. Secondly, I used coconut oil instead of olive oil – it was convenient, because I already had it. Third, I stacked some pieces of chicken on top of each other, even the recipe says this is a no-no. I had to because my crock pot is tiny, and I wanted enough to last me. Next (yikes, I didn’t think I made this many changes), I cooked it for two hours on high, rather than four hours on low. This is because I don’t know proper time management skills and wanted to eat at a decent hour. Lastly, I skipped the toppings because I ran out of money at the store.

Simmering the sauce with the slurry.

How’d It Come Out? Wow. Hands down a really delicious, flavorful recipe that yielded more than I expected it to. The chicken came out moist and tender and had really absorbed the marinade without having sat in it for too long. I promptly devoured it with some rather unhealthy potatoes from a box but hey, this is a step in the right direction!

I took this photo and then promptly inhaled the food.

The Verdict: SO DELICIOUS! A huge recommend for everyone except my poor mother, who is allergic to chicken.

Stay tuned for more recipe adventures!

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Standing Standing Everywhere, and Not a Place to Sit

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There have always been – and most likely, will always be – health crazes and fads. From early tonics that promised instant cures, to the Shake Weight, there are new trends starting every day. This time around, I’ve decided to board the bandwagon on one.

At work lately, there have been a string of my coworkers who have begun to use standing desks. It started with one guy in the creative department, M, who claimed that he preferred standing to sitting when he drew. He propped up his laptop and accouterments on some cardboard boxes and voila! A standing desk was born.

M’s desk remained homemade until work hired a new executive, who had back problems and couldn’t sit for long periods of time. And as an executive, there was no way he was going to be greeting clients with his desktop sitting on a Goldfish box. Several standing desks were purchased, along with some mats to ease the pressure on their feet.

The craze was moving along at a solid pace when my coworker, B, and I finally thought we wanted to give it a try. I

My homemade standing desk, don't mind the mess!

My homemade standing desk, don’t mind the mess!

actually prefer to stand to work – it makes it easier to dash out the door when anything arises (and let me tell you, a lot arises).

Because we were only testing the waters, we took the homemade route; my keyboard is resting on a paper holder, while my mouse is on a plastic drawer set. B’s setup involves several boxes at key heights. Luckily, the company had ordered some extra mats for us to stand on.

After a week of no-sitting, B and I agreed on a few things:

  1. Our legs weirdly feel more toned. Though in my case, I emphasized they were a little more stiff.
  2. It does make it easier to walk in and out of our office to do tasks.
  3. We don’t feel as sluggish and bloated in the afternoons following lunch

Screen shot 2015-04-08 at 6.34.45 AMSo far so good. Then B texted me the link to an article one night about the real health benefits of standing desks, versus the hype. It spells out that standing desks aren’t the magic antithesis to sitting. In reality, too much of anything will kill you, and standing too much can be painful and cause heart problems and varicose veins. Yikes.

Standing desks can be apart of a solution, though, when placed into a life routine that additionally include
low-intensity physical activity. The key is to make sure you’re doing it correctly! After reading the article, B and I adjusted our setups to make sure our standing – and sitting – positions were correct.

As she and I begin week two, we’ve begun to allow ourselves to sit whenever we feel uncomfortable or tired. The key is balance, balance, balance.

Until tomorrow, when B brings in her new weighted hula hoop for us to try. 😉

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Hostess with the Mostest


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Tonight, my apartment is a little too quiet. Maybe that’s because for the first time in about four weeks, it’s just my roommate and I again. We’ve – or rather, I’ve – had a constant stream of friends and family alike crashing anywhere they could find a spot and basking in the miracle that is Southern California weather.

Playing hostess can be a tough gig, especially if you find yourself doing it fairly frequently. That’s why I’ve compiled a quick guide of to opening your home (or teeny apartment) to others!

BEFORE THEY ARRIVE

  • Clear your guests’ stay with your housemates ahead of time if applicable, and be sure to ask, not tell them that you’re having someone over. It’s a courtesy that should always be extended, especially because this is their home too.
  • If your guests are vacationing with you, make sure you’ve taken the appropriate time off from work. Nothing will ruin a trip quicker than having to go in on your planned day off.
  • Determine whether you are picking them up from their chosen port of travel, or if your guests have alternative means of getting around.
  • Ready some clean sheets and towels ahead of time, or at least have your guests’ sleeping arrangements in order. Nobody likes to touch down after six hours of flying to be greeted by dirty linens, or worse – nowhere to crash.
  • Make sure you have an extra set of keys, just in case you need to split up at any time.
  • Throw a few snacks in the fridge. People often end up at your home hungry. You don’t need to go overboard, and don’t feel bad about asking them to pitch in for more groceries as the vacation goes on.

WHILE THEY’RE THERE

  • Establish house rules. Don’t be afraid to bring up topics like whether or not you like shoes left at the door, how you split dishes,

    Mom & I in Santa Monica on her recent visit!

    or whether drinking/smoking are OK in your home. Your guests will appreciate not having to guess and getting in trouble later.

  • Lay out your schedule, if your guests are just staying with you as opposed to vacationing with you. Talk about when you go to work, when you’ll be home, etc. That way, they know not to call you at 3AM for a ride home from the club.
  • Help your friends out by giving them a rough guide to your area. What public transit is available? Are there any local restaurants you like to eat at? What kinds of activities are there to do?
  • Don’t forget to enjoy some quality time together! Even if you can only do one meal, it’s better than nothing, and it pulls you out of your regular routine.

AFTER THEY’RE GONE

  • Be sure to thank your roommate for their support. I plan on treating mine with a gift basket full of his favorite goodies 🙂

 

Your apartment doesn’t need to be the Ritz for everyone to have a good time! For now, though, I’m going to enjoy having my room to myself again.

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Let’s Get Hired

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Recently, my company has begun hiring new interns for the spring, and I have been apart of the hiring process! In some ways, this type of interview process isn’t new for me. At Emerson, it was tradition that more experienced Resident Assistants helped choose the new batch of recruits. Here, though, it’s just myself, my boss, and the usually very nervous individual interviewing to be apart of our team for 10-12 weeks.

Before I was hired for my current company, I was temping there, subbing in for a friend who was pursuing other temporary work. I had been in LA only a few weeks, and was happy to be making an income. While I temped, I went for multiple job interviews. Some seemed to go better than others; some, I walked away unsure. Now, being on the other side of the table, I’ve been able to identify a lot of things interviewees do wrong, which I myself have definitely been guilty of. I’ve also seen a bunch of candidates pull out some very impressive stops.

So, in the spirit of making that career move or graduating and looking for your first real job, here are a few helpful hints I’ve accumulated. Note: this is by no means an exhaustive list, I am not an expert, and some of these tips will greatly depend on who is interviewing you.

1) When applying, follow all posted rules and don’t forget to spellcheck. One of the first things I look for in an application is whether or not the candidate has taken the time to look over the requirements I’ve requested. Their resume came as a Word document rather than a PDF? I toss their documents into the digital garbage can. It seems cruel, but when I’ve got fifty people applying a day, I need to get nit-picky.

Additionally, don’t forget to look your resume and cover letter over for comical errors. If you can’t take the time to put the effort into your application materials, I can’t take the time to read them.

2) Really do your research. I can tell from skimming a cover letter on whether or not someone actually knows what our company does, or what work we’re known for. This is true even for the in-person interview section; I’m always impressed by someone who can name our directors or some of our past projects, and discuss them.

3) When you apply, be persistent, but not annoying. If you don’t hear anything back after your initial application, it’s okay to fire off one follow up email. If there’s nothing after that – forget it. But if they respond and say, “We’ll get back to you,” don’t send a thing. The ball is in their court. Hopefully their decision will be swift, but do not pester them for an answer.

4) After scoring an interview, it’s usually a good idea to confirm your appointment time. You know, in case you’ve accidentally scribbled it down in your calendar for the wrong week.

5) Don’t just be prompt for your interview, be early. It gives you time to adjust yourself (especially if you sweat a lot like I do), go to the bathroom, grab a glass of water, chat up the receptionist. Just don’t be too early – I’ve had candidates come twenty to thirty minutes before we’re supposed to meet. Honestly, I’m busy right up until your appointment time, and having you sit there for eons makes me uncomfortable and rushed.

6) Remember, dress for the job you want, don’t just dress up. One girl walked in with full club makeup, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how out of place she seemed.

7) Bring extra copies of your resume, but if you see they already have a copy in their hands, don’t give them another one. We’ve killed enough trees as it is.

8) Just be yourself! Easier said than done, I know, but it’s important to take a deep breath and relax. Wow them with your personality, your passion, your know-how, and your confidence. Nothing is a bigger mood-killer than interviewing someone who is so terrified they can’t meet your eyes or get a word out. In a very short span of time, we’re trying to sum you up by your personality and your skill set. It’s now or never to dazzle!

9) You are a unique individual, so don’t hand me your resume in the same format your school’s career counselor chose for you. Give it some personality and pizzaz, but again, don’t go overboard, and try to match it for the career you’ve chosen. Check out this Buzzfeed post for some inspiration!

And while we’re on the subject of resume’s, don’t fill them with all of the projects and clubs you’ve done at school, unless they directly relate to 1) something you’re currently passionate about, 2) awards and recognitions, or 3) have a direct correlation to the job you’re pursuing. Otherwise, employers don’t care that you were in the band. Unless, of course, you’re interviewing for a symphony.

10) Lastly, follow up is always appreciated. Send a handwritten thank you, or even an email will do. It keeps your name fresh in an interviewer’s mind.

Let the hiring begin!

 

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Putting Your Pinterest to Work

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Let’s be honest here for a moment – we all have stuff. It might be a little, it might be a lot, but America is a nation of consumerism, and we are the ones doing the consuming. I try to be very conscious of how many possessions I have, and what purpose they are serving. In college, I even wrote my sophomore thesis on hoarding as a spectrum disorder (but more on that later). If I bring something into my house (new shoes, new decor, etc.), something also has to go out in its place. Does this always work? No, of course not – as any New England girl would know, you can’t have too many sweaters. Or pairs of riding boots. In general, though, this serves as my rule of thumb.

Which is why I am so flabbergasted at my own behavior when it comes to my Pinterest page. For those of you not currently obsessed with the website, it describes itself as “a visual discovery too that you can use unnamedto find ideas for all of your projects and interests”. Scrolling through, you can find hundreds upon
hundreds of ideas and inspirations for everything from fashion to DIY to cooking to tattoos. Should you ever see something you like, you “re-pin” the item into your own virtual collection, where it’s saved.

Admittedly, I hadn’t been overly rambunctious in recent months when it came to pinning things. Suddenly, though, I had an entire apartment to decorate and furnish! Pinterest was the go-to site for me to look up tutorials on building a bed frame and de-anting our kitchen.

Your first question is most likely, “How did that go, Aub?” Funny you ask, because it hasn’t! Interestingly enough, the rules I so strictly abide to in the “real” world in regards to accumulating things hasn’t translated well to the digital realm. Just yesterday, I observed that I have 40 pins on my recipes board. 40 pins, and I couldn’t tell you what kinds of recipes are stored there, nor have I even attempted to make any of them. I’ve become a digital hoarder, entranced by the idea that if I pin something, obviously I’ll make it at some point. And forget about deleting the pins – what if I needed one of them one day?

Enough was enough, I finally decided. Reluctantly, I chose to delete those pins I hadn’t looked at in months. Gone are the outdated outfits from My Style board that can no longer be found in stores. That tutorial about transferring images to wood? I’ve lost interest – deleted. As were the room inspiration pictures selected prior to my current apartment as a lot of them don’t match the space. I even deleted an entire BOARD that was dedicated to workouts I’ve never looked at and never will.

Obviously, there were things I didn’t and, quite frankly, wasn’t ready to get rid of yet. There are a lot of craft projects I have added there that I plan on doing for Christmas, and recipes I want to try for Thanksgiving. The trick will be to delete these pins if their allotted time frames come and go. Keeping everything current is my goal, in addition to actually taking the initiative to try these projects out. Otherwise, it’s sayonara, pins!

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Pulled directly from my Pinterest, this is a main inspiration for how I’d like my room laid out when finished!

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Healthy Makes It Happen

Monogram Every so often, I like to check in and make sure I’m on the right track health-wise. It can be easy to lose a little sleep here, forget your flu shot there, etc. As fall swings into full gear, I’m starting to put together a healthy checklist of everything I’d like to improve on. That way, I can spend more time sipping Pumpkin Spice Lattes and pretending it’s cold out, and less time hanging in bed with the sniffles!

  • More sleep. I’m a typical 20-something in that I don’t go to bed when I should. Forget about getting up early – I can barely get up in time to brush my hair into something manageable before work. Experts are still recommending 7-8 hours a night, but I’m barely averaging six. The Huffington Post recommends these tips for getting more shut-eye:
    • Make a rule to keep tech out of your bed, and turn off all devices at least an hour before bedtime. This means no last minute Facebook/Instagram checks.
    • Keep a worry journal. A lot of the time, I can’t sleep because I’m too busy trying to remember everything I have to do the next day. Writing down reminders, as well as things that are keeping you worried, can help put the mind at ease.
    • Stick to a regular routine. Getting ready for bed earlier in the evening – washing up, putting on PJs, unwinding with restful activities – can ready your body for sleep.
  • Health Calendar. Ever try to think back to your last doctor’s appointment, and realize it was over a year ago? Regular check ups of all sorts, from your eyes to your skin, are crucial to maintaining your health. I find it helpful to keep a running list of all the healthcare providers I should be seeing on a regular basis, along with when I last saw them and when I should probably see them next. Then I throw everything into my regular calendar with reminders.
  • Keeping up with Regular Exercise. I’ve been pretty good about making it to the gym, but lately I’ve been

    Farmer’s market berries are never a bad idea

    getting a little lax with my workouts. One day I arrived to find out that I’d forgotten to pack socks, earbuds, and a sports bra! Rather than sludge it out, I went home early. Being prepared is half the battle – the rest is up to me to create an engaging workout that’ll get me excited about exercising and wanting more.

  • Making the most of Meal Planning. My schedule is mostly consistent during the week, and because I eat two out of three meals at work, meal planning should be pretty easy. The trick for me is that when I am home to eat, I always seem to gravitate towards the less healthy options in sight. Planning what to eat in advance is a great way to make sure I’m getting a little bit of every food group – ice cream included
    • One blog I love to follow is Simply Taralynn. It’s all about healthy living, delicious recipes, and fitness. Check it out here!
  • Hydration, hydration, hydration! Drinking water is always important, but seeing as I now live in a desert, this is especially true.
    • While there are many differing opinions on how much you should be drinking a day, 8 8-oz glasses is the common recommendation. I find it easier to get a few out of the way by pairing a glass with each meal I eat.

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