Saturday, December 31, 2016

An Ode to 2016.


To be honest, 2016 had a lot to live up to after 2015, the year my whole life changed. 


In 2015, I moved in with my boyfriend, I quit my job, I went back to school, I started serving again. I went to California for the first time, got to visit one of my closest friends in Chicago, went on a bachelorette party in Key West, and had a quick overnight trip in Colorado. I was a bridesmaid in my best friend's wedding, and then got to photograph another great friend's engagement. 2015 was a year filled with travel, love, and so much joy.

2016 was a little...different. I got rejected from four graduate school programs. We had the presidential election from hell. One of our family horses died (to be fair, my horse passed away in 2015 as well). I've never been more stressed about money in my whole life. And while there was still a bit of travel, lots of love, and plenty of joy, something about this year felt weird. Maybe not bad, but certainly weird.

Having said all that, I think there's been enough negative chat about 2016. Because while there was so much crazy shit happening left and right, there was also a lot of good. I actually did get into graduate school, and I've met some wonderful lifelong friends along the way. We got to hike in the mountains, and visit NYC during Christmas time. I threw Ryan a surprise 30th birthday party, and had a giant group of friends come out to the beach for my 25th. There was plenty of laughter, and lots of growth. 

So with that, I'm closing out this year. I'm getting in one last workout, cleaning up the house, and getting ready for tonight. It's been real, 2016...but I have a feeling 2017 is going to be the real MVP.

Happy New Year, everyone! See you on the other side :)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Looking Back | 2016 Goals.


It's nearly the end of 2016, can you believe it?! It's been a really weird year, hasn't it? 2015 was a pretty eventful/life changing/challenging year for me, so I had a feeling that 2016 would have a lot to live up to. I'm still working on goals for the upcoming year, but I thought I'd take a look back at what I'd planned for myself for 2016 to see how I measured up (especially considering that I haven't even looked at this list in months...whoops!):
  1. Get into grad school  CHECK! And what a wild ride that has been. I was rejected from nearly every school I applied to...but got into the only one that really mattered to me. 
  2. Complete at least two rounds of Kayla Itsine's BBG program  I was really consistent about this and working out during the first half of 2016! I still continued to workout regularly for the rest of the year, but not seeing the same results.
  3. Start paying myself back  I took a lot of money out of my savings in 2015 to pay for my prerequisite classes without taking out loans. This year, I created a weekly automatic deposit into my savings of $20 a week (or $80 a month), plus $1 deposited per debit card transaction. While I still dipped into it here and there for trips and whatnot, I still saved a good amount.
  4. Take at least 3 trips Ryan and I traveled to Asheville, N.C. at the end of last spring, and just came back from NYC a couple weeks ago! My hope for this past fall was to visit my friend at Vanderbilt in Nashville, but that's going to have to wait until spring time 2017.
  5. Go on more adventures with Ryan (and the pups!) We actually did get to go kayaking/paddle boarding in Weeki Wachee this past summer! Even if it was only once, that counts as an adventure. We took all the hikes in North Carolina, made a conscious effort to go out with friends regularly, and even took a trip to the beach in the middle of the school/work week. While the pups didn't go out and experience much (they're a little crazy with other humans...), they still got all our lovin'.
  6. Drink at least 8 cups of water per day  I didn't keep an accurate count of this, but I used my Yeti tumbler on the regular, which I think counts for something! I'd say some days were better than others, but I definitely upped my water intake this year.

What goals did you set for 2016? Did you meet them? Or kinda forget about them but still achieve some of them like me?


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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Closing Out the Holidays.


Hello, friends! I hope everyone had a splendid Christmas, and I hope my Jewish friends are enjoying their celebrated nights of Hanukkah. I actually lit a few candles last night and attempted to sing the candle lighting prayer (in Hebrew...what a sight that was). My Christmas was spent with Ryan's family with two Christmas Eve dinners, eating prime rib at midnight, drinking strong sangria, watching silly movies, and simply relaxing. While Santa (ahem, Ryan) and I opted to stay humble with our presents this year, I received some very thoughtful gifts, so it's safe to say that I am one happy girl.

Something felt a little bit different about the holidays this year, and for awhile, I couldn't put my finger on what it was exactly. Now that all the hustle and bustle is over, I'm realizing it's because I'm actually looking forward to getting back into the swing of normal living, whereas in the past, I wanted to live in the magical world of the Holiday Season forever. This year, I don't feel like I need a "break" or "vacation" from real life (although I'm still loving on winter break!), because I'm genuinely happy with where I am, who I'm with, and where I'm going...and that's a great feeling. I am definitely looking forward to 2017.

And on that note, it's hard to believe that I head back to school in just 13 days. I plan on doing a whoooole lot of relaxing between now and then, and I hope to savor every waking (and sleeping) moment of it.

How was your holiday weekend? Any fun plans for NYE?

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas 2016 | My Holiday Menu Roundup.

For me, Christmas isn't about presents. It's hardly even about family and surrounding myself with the people I love most.

It's about FOOD.

Okay, kidding. Kind of. While I've never actually hosted my own Christmas (maybe one day when we live in something larger than an 800 square foot box!), I always try to contribute to holiday meals. Below you'll find some of what I plan to bring to the table (literally & figuratively) this year, or what I've made before:



DRANKS:

- La Marca prosecco. Hands down my favorite prosecco. This is the perfect drink to sip while chatting with the fam before dinner. I've tried a whole lotta sparkling wines, and this is by far the best in my opinion. PSA: it's cheapest at Total Wine & Costco. Like, $4-5 cheaper than you'd find it at a regular supermarket.
- Holiday sangria. I've never made this one before, but I'm excited to try it out on Christmas day. Since, you know, samgria is kind of my thing.

BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS:

- Sunday brunch casserole. I've been eyeing this recipe for awhile now, and what better time to try than Christmas morning! It only takes 20 minutes to prep, and 45 minutes to bake. Color me sold.
- Cinnamon french toast casserole. Another recipe I haven't made yet, but I obviously need it in my life. I can't remember the last time I've even had a regular cinnamon roll, so this sounds like the ultimate decadence. 

MAIN NOMS:

- Crock pot maple brown sugar ham. I've made this bad boy for three Thanksgivings in a row, and it never disappoints. Hint: after it cooks in the crock pot, plop him on a baking sheet and broil until the edges turn brown. 
- Stuffing. I feel like you either love or hate stuffing, and for me, it's love love love. This recipe may appear to be pretty "basic," but it's hands down the best I've ever had. 

DESSERTS:

- Sugar cookie truffles. My friend and I made these whilst watching Christmas movies earlier this week, and we were instantly thrown into the holiday spirit. Note - do not add a whole brick of cream cheese. But if you do, just add more cookies. A lot more cookies.
- Oreo truffles. If chocolate is more your thing, you'll die for these. I made these last Christmas and they were a huge hit. So rich, but so worth it. And the absolute easiest to make.

What's on your menu this weekend? Christmas is the day after tomorrow, guys! HOW?






Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Christmas Traditions | Past, Present, and Future.

Like many, I absolutely adore the holidays. I love the twinkling lights and decor, the excessive amounts of food to be consumed, the cheesy movies and classic carols - but most of all, I love the traditions, and that every family has different ones. Over the last few years, my holiday traditions have changed drastically. Because my grandparents don't come down for Christmas anymore (they drive down for Thanksgiving instead!) and because my parents aren't huge on holidays, and because my sister and brother-in-law live in Bulgaria, I've spent the last three Christmases in Fort Myers with Ryan's family. Let's get real...at this point, they're pretty much mine, too.

I love reading about everyone's holiday traditions, so I thought I'd share my own: past, present, and future!


Past Christmas Traditions

Setting up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Because my grandparents always came down for Thanksgiving, my parents would trade off by driving us all up to St. Augustine for Christmas celebrations every year. Immediately upon arrival on Christmas Eve, my grandparents would break out their fake tree (from the 1960s...which we still own, much to my grandad's dismay), and we would decorate the tree with our handmade ornaments and multicolor string lights.

Waking up in the middle of the night to see what Santa brought. Nothing brought more joy to me as a child than waking up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom, tip toeing into the living room instead, and picking up each and every present under the tree. I'd scan gift tags marked with my name, and marvel at the special wrapping paper Santa used, and then I'd just sit back and stare at the twinkling lights for just a few minutes more before heading back to sleep. 

Celebrating Hanukkah, too. I was supposed to be a Jewish baby, you know. I was supposed to grow up going to synagogue, reading the Torah, etc etc. My dad was (is?) Jewish, and used to be so religious that he even considered being a Rabbi once (for anyone who knows my dad, this is hilarious). Anyway, because my parents wanted me to grow up at the very least knowing about my Jewish heritage, I got to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. Presents under the tree and eight straight nights of gifts? What a life. 

Present Christmas Traditions

"Find the nut." Every Christmas Eve after dinner, Ryan's mom makes a small bowl of rice pudding for each member of the family. In one bowl, she hides a walnut, and distributes the bowls of pudding at random. Whoever finds the nut in their bowl wins a prize! Usually the prize is some kind of chocolate or yummy goodie. 

Opening presents on Christmas Eve, and stockings on Christmas Day. Rather than waking up early on the 25th and immediately opening gifts, we open ours after dinner (and finding the nut!) on Christmas Eve. Everything under the tree is revealed that night, while our stockings magically fill overnight. Ryan's mom is the cutest, and fills ours to the brim with random gifts and treats. 

Samgria. After Christmas morning shenanigans, Ryan's fam and I hop into the car and drive 45 minutes south to Naples to visit his dad's side of the family to eat, drink, and of course, be merry. Between his five cousins plus significant others, aunts and uncles, and family friends, it's a full house. My first Christmas with the Fredericks came about just a few weeks after me and Ryan "officially" started dating, so I wanted to impress the masses. Thus, I made sangria. They all loved it, and called it "Samgria." Needless to say, I can't disappoint the family, so I make some kind of sangria every year. 

Future Christmas Traditions

Buying a real Christmas tree most years (this year marked our first...check!)
Host a Christmas cookie exchange.
Learn more about my Jewish heritage so I can celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah with my future children, just like I was able to do.
Decorate our house with lights.
Volunteer at a shelter and/or "adopt" a family or child in need and buy presents for them.

And for your viewing pleasure, a little throwback of the last three Christmases as a couple. Because 'tis the season for a little mush.

2013 - Featuring bright blonde hair, a weird middle part, and no eyebrows. 

2014 - Featuring a good hair day, a cute outfit, and a boyfriend almost as tall as the rotating Christmas tree. Clearly a good year.


2015 - Featuring dark hair, blue lights for an ode to Hanukkah, and Ryan voluntarily showing me affection for a photo.

 

What are some of your family's Christmas traditions? Have you added any over the years?







Friday, December 16, 2016

2016 Holiday Reading List.

Right now, the strangest feeling is knowing that I have absolutely nothing that I should be working on. No required readings, no quizzes, no treatment planning. I am a free bird until January 9th, and I'm not entirely sure what to do with all this newfound freedom.

Just kidding, I do. I want to paint with my watercolors, hit up the gym five times a week, make all the monies at work, bake, catch up on all my TV shows, and of course....read for fun! It's been a hot minute since I've really gotten into a book, but I lugged my library copy of The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty to New York, and absolutely devoured it during every second of down time I had on the trip. Thus, the other night I felt inspired to fill my library request queue with 16 books!

In similar fashion to a post written by Lauren over at The Lauren Elizabeth a few weeks back, I thought I would share what's currently on my "to-read" list. I've already done extensive research via Good Reads reviews, so most of these are already 4+ star worthy. You can take a look at my Good Reads account here :)

This is what's on my list for the next month (or six!):




Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (HBO is also releasing a show based off this book next month!)

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

After You by Jojo Moyes (follow up to Me Before You)

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (also being turned into a movie produced by Reese Witherspoon next year!)

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (also turned into an Oscar winning movie!)

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (might have to bite the bullet and buy this one...I'm #96 out of 99 requests!)

Euphoria by Lilly King

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (I've heard this book is quite heavy, but worth the read)

Tony and Susan by Austin Wright (the book that the movie Nocturnal Animals was based on...with Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. Swoon.)

I already have four books ready for pick up tomorrow! AH. I'm still in the midst of reading Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, but I'm losing interest in it. Has anyone else read it? Should I abandon ship, or does it get better?


What's on your reading list? Have you read/loved/hated any of the books on mine?



Monday, December 12, 2016

Goodbye to my First Semester of Grad School!

FINALS ARE DONE.

MY FIRST SEMESTER OF GRADUATE SCHOOL IS IN THE BOOKS!

I can't believe I'm officially finished with my first semester. One down, five more to go. Totally not intimidating at all, right? Wrong. But I'm trekking through, and these last four-ish months flew by.

After turning in my last final (a two-case study assignment which had absolutely zero rubric posted until the day before it was due), Ryan and I hopped on a plane and made our way to New York over this past weekend to visit some of his family, to see all things Christmas, and to celebrate Ryan's 30th birthday! As usual, the city did not disappoint, although it was cold. Like, hovering around 25-35 degrees at any given point throughout the day cold. Our Floridian blood was put to the test, that's for sure.

I posted this photo over on Instagram, but in case you haven't seen it already:


Talk about my dream Christmas lights! I've heard some people look at these and think, "giant lipsticks?!" I do not get these people. There will be further photos to come, of course. Be sure to check out my Instagram, too!

Alas, it was a wonderful weekend spent with some of my favorite people. I can't speak for Ryan, but I would say spending a 30th birthday in NYC is the best way to do it.

How was your weekend? Have you ever been to NYC during Christmas time?


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Hello, December | Bits of Tips & Joy to Keep You Sane and Festive.

Hey hi helllooooo, December!

I know I'm a day late and a dollar short, but it's crazy to think Thanksgiving is already long gone (and it seems as though the majority of my Facebook & Instagram feed was more than happy to get past it and move on to Christmas). It's easy to get caught up in the hoopla of finding the perfect gift and participating in all the things, but for me, it's important to remember the small joys of the holidays.
These little bits and tips of joy keep me feeling both sane and festive:


- A little home decor can go a long way. Buy an evergreen or spiced apple scented candle, throw a wreath on the door, string multicolor lights on your patio, and of course...set up your tree (or your Menorah, if you celebrate Chrismukkah like myself!).
- Create your own traditions. My parents aren't giant holiday goers (although I did get to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas growing up!). When I was young, we drove up to my grandparents' place in St. Augustine on Christmas Eve, set up a fake tree the night of, and it was taken down by the 27th. Point of the story: I've never had a real tree. This year, Ryan and I decided to break the tradition...and we got ourselves a plump and precious real life Christmas tree!
- Turn on some holiday music...the kind you actually like. I love a good classical Christmas song, but Lady Antebellum & Jason Mraz covers are my favorite.
- Throw yourself into holiday related events. Have a cookie baking day with friends, head to a tree lighting, decorate ornaments, etc. Whatever tickles your fancy and makes you feel warm and fuzzy, do that!
- Remember that it isn't just about gifts. Receiving gifts is fun, and it's the best feeling when you know you've given someone the "perfect" present. But stressing out about what to get, standing in lines amongst anxiety ridden crowds in the mall, and spending a certain dollar amount isn't what the holiday season is about.


What are you doing to get into the holiday spirit?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 2016 | My Takeaway.


The months are flying by so quickly that I literally have to go back into my planner pages from the last few weeks to see what I did, where I went, and who I saw. Then I realize I did school, school, and a whole lot more school, with a liiiiittle bit of work & socialization sprinkled on top.

I have a tendency to get caught up in stress. Whenever someone asks me, "how's school going?!" I tell them that stress comes in waves. Right now, it's a tsunami wave: right after it's taken all the water from the shore, and just before it releases its fury. Hint: I am at the top of this wave and looking down and thinking, "what are my chances of survival here? Doesn't look so good from up here." But it will pass, and I will get through it. And I will be in NY in just seven days, so it can't be all bad.

Despite the craziness, if there's one "takeaway" I've had from November, it's an overwhelming sense of love and security. Even though it's far (far...) away, I see a light at the end of this academic tunnel. I look at my boyfriend, Ryan, and I see such a bright future for us. I look around at our little 815 square foot third floor apartment filled with pooches and trinkets and coziness and I feel thankful. It's finals week, and it's about to get a whole lot worse before it gets better, but I'm happy. In fact, even on my busiest, most stressful days, there is never a moment where I question my happiness, and I think that's something to be celebrated.

So with that, goodbye November 2016. You came and went entirely too quickly for my liking, but that's to be expected nowadays.

What's your takeaway from November? 


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Pressure Keeps Building...Introducing Freda James.

I'm not usually one to post about "songs you need to download ASAP!" simply because I feel like I listen to pretty generic, Top 40-esque songs nowadays. I think that as I've gotten older, my desire to hunt down new tracks and unknown artists has dwindled. Long gone are the days of typing "The O.C. season 2 episode 18 Marissa and Ryan scene song" into Google to find my latest song virus. Oh, good times.

Having said all that...

You must download this song, ASAP.

Introducing my boyfriend's sister, Freda James (A.K.A. Jamie Fredericks). Jamie moved to NYC in 2010 to pursue her dreams of singing and songwriting. She's worked so hard for so long, a few weeks back she had the opportunity to fly to California to record her first song...and I am so in love. Neon Gold Records (some of their signed artists include Ellie Goulding & Charlie XCX) released a quick blurb about her earlier in the month, and I have just been such a proud nearly-sister-in-law ever since! Seriously...talk about fighting to make a name for yourself in a giant city. This is such a gigantic step for her, and I'm so thrilled to share (unbeknownst to her, of course. Ha!).

So if you're someone who truly does like to hunt down new artists and tracks, give one of my favorite humans a listen. Soundcloud & Spotify links are attached, but if you love the song as much as I do, feel free to throw down 99 cents! I know I sure did.

iTunes (99 cents) - Buy here!
 

Monday, November 21, 2016

On Feeling Thankful.


I've been wanting to participate in a couple "Thankful Thursday" linkups I've been seeing around the blogosphere as of late, but as per usual, I'm behind the times...well, mostly just behind. But that's neither here nor there! Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and it's even starting to feel a little chilly down here in Tampa (for the next 48 hours, anyway). Nothing puts me in a better mood than time appropriate fall weather. So without further ado, I will join the masses and address exactly what I'm thankful for this year, this week, this moment:

This year: 
  • Getting into graduate school!
  • Having a flexible job that allows me to work as much or as little as I need to.
  • Having all around good health.
  • Making new lifelong friends.
  • My negotiation skills that landed me a beautiful new car with a killer monthly payment (& no down payment).
  • Finally knowing exactly what I want to do in life, while also realizing that there might be dreams out there that I don't even realize I have yet. 
This week:
  • Finding out I have an awesome supervisor for next semester...and I get to work with kiddos so soon!
  • Having an experienced, intelligent supervisor this semester to guide me through the whirlwind that is clinic.
  • Starbucks breaks & dinner dates.
  • A clean apartment.
  • New twinkly lights in the bedroom.
  • Egg + turkey bacon + basil + tomato + spinach sandwiches.
  • Realizing we have just 17 days until we go to NY! 
    This moment:
    • My hot soy chai tea latte.
    • Chilly weather and cozy cardigans.
    • Getting to love the best guy I know.


    What are you thankful for? And more importantly, HOW EXCITED ARE YOU FOR THANKSGIVING?! Gimme all da ham, plz. 




    Thursday, November 17, 2016

    Get Bitter or Get Better Byrd.


    If you live in the Tampa Bay area, you know that Ciccio Restaurant Group is no stranger to hitting the nail on the head when it comes to brilliant + innovative restaurant concepts. From a modern twist on Mexican food at Green Lemon, to health-centric inspired Fresh Kitchen and classic diner styled Daily Eats (+ Lodge, Ciccio Cali, & Ciccio/Water!), it seems there isn't anything CRG can't do.

    So when I heard about their newest concept, Better Byrd, I could have already told you they were on to something great.


    Better Byrd held its official grand opening this past Friday in St. Petersburg, Florida. But before the restaurant opened its doors to the public, my friend Kahla (from Keeping Up With Kahla) and I were invited to join several other Tampa Bay bloggers during their special preview event! We got to sip on chai cold brew & watermelon lemonade (and wine, of course) while gorging ourselves on copious amounts of chicken and mini donuts (YAAAAS, MINI DONUTS!), all while documenting the experience through hashtags: #BetterBloggerSP, specifically. Endless food & beverage, great company, and thousands of uninterrupted photo opportunities? Count. Me. In. 

    From sweet potato tots to fried chicken sandwiches and bacon sriracha queso fries, it's safe to say our taste buds were more than satisfied throughout the entirety of the evening. It's also safe to say I gained three pounds in three hours, but that was a risk I was more than willing to take. 



    Throw these babies on your "to try" list for your visit (because you must go):

    Bacon Sriracha Queso Fries: Um, hello. Bacon + spicy + cheese + a fried potato = literally everything my taste buds could ever dream of and then some.

    Cheesy Chick: "Buttermilk fried chicken, whipped goat cheese, and pepper jelly on a homemade English muffin or whole wheat wrap." I'm just going to let that one sink in. 

    Sweet Potato Tots: Think of your favorite sweet potato fry. Now think of it as a small, toasty, flavor rich popper. Then add some creamy maple dip to that mix. And then pick up your jaw.

    Mini Donuts: I'd specify one, but I simply can't narrow it down. Of all the ones I tried (borderline too embarrassed to admit the actual number), I can't stop thinking about maple bacon walnut, vanilla pebbles, and matcha ginger. 

    Not yet tasted by bound to be scrumptious: chicken noodle ramen sriracha soup, chicken bowls, and all-day brunch.





    Be the Better Byrd and fly, don't walk, to this exciting new quick service concept. I am 1000% certain that you and stomach will not regret it.  


    Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - Website - Menu


    Tuesday, November 15, 2016

    Tea Talk Tuesday | Volume 4.


    I can't stop watching How I Met Your Mother. I don't know what took me so long to hop on this train, but I am so glad I finally did. I love that the episodes are super short, which makes it a perfect study break show...although because they're so short, sometimes that "one episode break" turns into three. Sorry not sorry. This is the first show to make me actually laugh out loud in awhile. Plus I have a whole new appreciation for Jason Segel! Already a quarter through season two, can't stop won't stop.

    I went to my first hot yoga class! I took my first class at CAMP Tampa last night with a couple of my girlfriends and fell in love. The class was called hip hop flow, and it was an hour and fifteen minutes of yoga in a 95+ degree candle lit room with hip hop music playing throughout. I've never sweat so much in my life...and that's coming from someone who has lived only in Florida. I was literally soaking through my shirt & my braided hair looked more like a rat's nest by the end of class, but it felt so good. If you're in the Tampa Bay area, it's definitely worth checking out. Look into their Facebook page for updated information, but right now use code STMAG for a free class!

    We're three weeks away from New York...ah! Ryan and I booked a trip immediately following finals to NYC! We'll be staying with some of his family in Long Island the first two nights of the trip, and then head into the city/stay in Brooklyn with his sister the last two nights. We don't have a single thing planned yet, but I'm excited to see the city during Christmas time. The Rockerfeller tree + ice skating is definitely on our list of to-do's, but if you have any other suggestions about what to do in the city this time of year, please let me know!

    It's starting to get a little chilly down here in Florida. Chilly is a relative word, I suppose. But recent lows have been in the mid to upper 50s, and this weekend it's supposed to drop into the 40s. WHAT. Time to break out the sweaters! Or in my case, time to buy new sweaters...with the money I don't have. There goes reality biting me in the ass again. Ouch.

    I'm still not "over" this election yet, and I don't plan to be. And if you are, that's totally your prerogative. But I will continue to ask that you figure out a way to empathize with those individuals who might feel differently for reasons you might not fully understand. A little compassion isn't such a bad thing to have in a world that can be so filled with hatred, is it? Can we at least agree on that?


    So what's new in your life this week?



    Thursday, November 10, 2016

    Post-2016 Election: Words of Advice (...no matter who you voted for).

    If you know me personally (or even if you don't), you probably know how I feel about Tuesday evening, the morning after, and the four years to come. In a nutshell: I feel deflated. This was not the reality I anticipated, and to be honest, I am still processing the results.

    But that's not what I'm here to talk about. 

    I'm not here to change your opinion, but I am here to [try] and change your outlook...no matter which party you affiliate with. I've seen quite a bit of exchange over the last 48+ hours, and it'd be a Pinocchio sized lie if I said it's been peaceful pleasantries and modest elation. I've certainly learned a lot about my Facebook friends (oi vey), but I've also learned a lot about myself. The last 16 months have taught me a great deal, but most importantly, they have taught me to:


    Ditch opinions & adopt facts. Opinion by definition means, "a view or judgement formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge." Everyone has an opinion (about everything), but it is so important to stay properly informed. That means: check your facts. It is entirely okay to read, watch and share blogs/articles/news sources that reinforce what you believe in...only after you've done your research. Double check your information on npr.org, fact.org, etc. Know how to distinguish a legitimate, unbiased news source from a tilted one. Contrary to popular belief: opinion does not equal truth, no matter how passionate you might be about a topic.

    Be compassionate & stay humble. Acknowledge that someone's story might contrast from yours. We all come from different walks of life, and some of us are more privileged than others. Do not turn a blind eye simply because you're lucky enough to feel unaffected by radical discrimination. Remember that just because it isn't happening to you doesn't mean it isn't happening. Fight the urge to be boastful, to be hateful, to seek vengeance. Rise above the belittlers, and above all else, encourage kindness.

    Do not revel in ignorance. Take those facts I was just telling you all about and do something with them. You don't have to talk about politics with your friends, or your family, or a random Facebook political "expert," but you should be knowledgeable. Be well rounded. Read it all. Watch CNN, then Fox, then BBC, then John Oliver, then Bill O'Reilly. If you're going to watch one, watch it all. Learn it all. Don't be flippant. Don't be lazy. Challenge yourself to be better.

    "Be the change you wish to see in the world," and all that, right? All we can do in the meantime is stay informed, stay kind, stay alert, stay hopeful. Be better. Do better. Stand up for what you believe in, but also understand it...and do it peacefully.


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    Monday, November 7, 2016

    Embrace Who You Are.


    I've always been the kind of person who wishes they were more like somebody else. I know it's what every inspirational quote/blog post/magazine article tries to sway you against, and with good reason. We are all so different, and that's what makes the world so dynamic and interesting.

    Having said that, there are so many traits of others, be them friends or coworkers or acquaintances, that I wish I had for myself. I find myself thinking, 

    "I wish I was that genuinely nice, all the time...maybe people would like me more."

    "I wish I was able to keep my opinions to myself like her, to keep my mouth shut about controversial topics."

    "I wish I had her sunshine personality, lighting up every room as I walk in."

    "I wish I was that driven. If only I could become more focus and determined, I would be an overall better person."

    And I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing to want to want to emulate genuinely good people.


    But it's a better thing to become more secure with yourself first. I'm in the process of accepting that even though I'm not a walking ray of friendly sunshine 24/7, I consider myself to be a kind person. I may be an open book of opinions, but I am also well read and well informed of those opinions (with a firm understanding that I'm not always right), and I just want others to be, too. I might not be motivated to slay my schoolwork and run three miles every single day, but I've been determined enough to get to where I am now, and sometimes, that has to be good enough.

    So with that, let's start this week by embracing who we actually are, not who we think we want to be. Here's to another week of killin' it!






    Thursday, November 3, 2016

    Hello, November: A To-Do List for the Month.


    Here we are, a whopping three days into one of my favorite months of the year: November! I'm just a month out from my first finals week of graduate school, and 35 days away from our recently booked vacation to NYC! Ryan's 30th birthday is just around the corner, and before we know it, it will be Christmas. As they say, it's the most wonderful time of the year, and I'm not afraid to say that I plan to enjoy every moment of this holiday season. But before anything Christmas related begins, I could not be more excited to celebrate Thanksgiving! GIVE ME ALL THE HAM & TURKEY.

    With a new month comes a new to-do list, so let's get the ball rolling here:

    1. Have a Friendsgiving. Our downstairs neighbors invited us down for a little pre-Thanksgiving soiree later in the month, and I'm so excited! Any excuse to stuff myself with more stuffing, ya know?
    2. Plan out a baking day. Wake up late one Saturday morning, find the nearest blanket + a mug of coffee, sift through holiday magazines (and of course Pinterest!) and pick out new dessert recipes to try this season...and then designate a day to actually make them all.
    3. Make working out a part of my daily routine...again. Grad school is no joke, guys. Classes + group clinic + my individual client + SOAP note writing + treatment planning + homework, readings, video lectures, and papers...and clocking at least seven hours sleep? Working out has unfortunately fallen to the wayside, but I'd like to be back into the BBG swing of things this month...or at least running a couple miles x3 a week. With all the eating and drinking I plan to do in the next few months, it's all I can do to stay on track!
    4. Read at least three "fun" books. I'm in the midst of Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, and then onto The Husband's Secret by Lianne Moriarty. Once I finish those, I plan to delve back into Harry Potter, because what else screams "holiday season" besides Harry Potter?
    5. Start creating Christmas gifts. It's safe to say that I've been semi-successfully "ballin' on a budget" the last few months. Thus, I'll be working on homemade gifts throughout the next few weeks. Simple stretch bracelets, watercolor prints, etc. Just two more years until I can have a real life and real money again, right?!
    6. Organize our 815 square feet of craziness...and then add holiday decor! For some reason, breaking out the holiday decor makes me want to binge clean. Maybe it's the idea of adding more clutter to existing clutter that's giving me anxiety? Regardless, I want everything in every closet and every drawer to have a place, and in that place I want it all to stay.
    7. Make an apple cider inspired drink. Spiked hot apple cider with caramel vodka, apple cider sangria, apple cider mimosas...these are all ideas I'm more than willing to get behind.
    8. Plan a few date days/nights. This semester "just got real," and it's not slowing down any time soon. Spending quality time with Ryan when I can is so important to me.
    9. Binge watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life! INSERT HEART EYE EMOJIS HERE.


    What are your plans for the month?







    Monday, October 31, 2016

    One Year From Today.




    One year from today, I hope to have some semblance of direction. 

    Not that I don't have it now. I'm pretty sure I do, anyway. I'm in graduate school for a wonderful, fulfilling career. A career that is rapidly changing who I am and the way I perceive things and people, but in the best way. A career that I hope to excel in, even though excellence feels like the furthest describing word of my current clinical abilities. There's so many directions I can take here, so much I have the potential to do. I hope I have an idea of where I'd like to end up just 10 short months from one year from today. But I want to remember how exhilarating it can feel to be up in the air.

    One year from today, I hope to have a few more vacations under my belt.

    Saving money is vastly important right now, as I'm sure it will be in a year. Even at 25, I'm still adjusting to "being an adult," and I don't expect that to change at 26 (especially when I'm officially off my parents' health insurance). But I don't want that to stop me from booking trips and experiencing the word. One year from today, I hope to have made it across the Florida/Georgia line at least once or twice. But I want to remember that even if I don't, this too shall pass, and "being a broke college student" will not last forever.

    One year from today, I hope I'm making time for myself.

    I'm trying so hard right now to stay social with my girlfriends, to plan dates with my boyfriend, to make it home every once in awhile to visit my parents. I'm working a lot less while in school, so sometimes it feels "okay" to schedule friend dates during every available time slot in my planner. And sometimes, it is. But sometimes, I need to say no. Sometimes, an "available time slot" doesn't need to be filled with social shenanigans, but with chapter readings and note taking...or even just painting my toenails, a quick gym sesh, and a well deserved nap. One year from today, I hope I'm learning when and how to say "no." But I want to remember that creating new memories with good friends is pertinent to a happy, healthy quality of life.


    alyssagoesbang

    Saturday, October 29, 2016

    Getting Into the Halloween Spirit.


    October has simply flown by, and living without cable means that it's October 29th and I have yet watched Hocus Pocus this season. I'm hoping that will change in the next 48 hours!

    On that note, I've been making it a point in the last week or so to really delve into my Halloween spirit. It's easy to get caught up with all of life's "to-do's," and while being a broke college student translates into "I don't want to spend money on a costume," that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the season.

    This past Thursday, me and a few friends from grad school drove up to Universal Studio's Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando. We trekked through haunted houses inspired by movies and TV shows like American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, Krampus, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and let me just say...Universal knows how to put on a show. I hadn't been to HHN in four years, so it was fun to be back! Although waiting in two hour lines to walk through a five minute haunted house? Not so fun.

    To continue the holiday spirit, a couple of my girlfriends and I are putting on a "Witch's Brew Brunch" at the restaurant where I work. We're all dressing up in witch hats and fancy costumes, engaging in ghoulish conversations, and leaving our warlocks at home...witches only! We plan to throw back some mimosas, make choker necklaces, and go home with lots of candy. Here's hoping I feel better by then, as I've been feeling sick as a dog the last two days!

    It's hard to plan for Halloween night when it's on a Monday and I have class at 8 a.m. Tuesday. SO, we're heading to our friends' place in a cute little suburb of Tampa to walk around and look at Halloween lights...hopefully while sipping hot apple cider. A Halloween dream, indeed.


    What have you been doing to get into the Halloween spirit? And do you by chance know where I can stream Hocus Pocus?! Because I am in desperate need of the Sanderson sisters.

    Thursday, October 20, 2016

    On Traveling While in Grad School.


    I’ve always been a traveler.

    Ever since I was a little kid, my mom and I would accompany my dad on business trips. From mini road trips to Orlando’s Gaylord Palms Hotel to my first plane ride to Colorado Springs to stay at the Broadmoor, I was a natural at packing up a bag and embarking on a new adventure.

    I took my first solo plane ride when I was 19 years old to visit my sister when she lived in New York, and after that, I was constantly on the lookout for new places to visit. By the end of my undergrad, I’d traveled to NYC, Chicago, Las Vegas, Bulgaria, Italy, and England. Before starting grad school this past year, I added Asheville, Savannah, and Los Angeles to that list. Needless to say, I’ve always been a little travel bug…

    Until I went back to school and became a true “broke” college student.


    Now I have to think a little harder and longer about taking a trip, whether it’s a weeklong excursion or just a weekend getaway. Can I really spare $300 for a two-hour flight? What about going out to brunch and dinner every day? What if I have 30485 pounds of schoolwork to do that weekend? I only work one to two days a week as it is, can I afford to skip out on those shifts?

    Unfortunately, these are logical questions...and their logical answers have a tendency to outweigh my desire to be spontaneous and adventurous. Having said that, even though I'm a big advocate for saving money and only spending what I have, I'm also an advocate for making memories and gaining new experiences. I refuse to put my life on hold for the next two years just because I'm in school for my dream job. I don't want to resent this degree because I feel like it's "holding me back" in the meantime.

    Does this all make sense?

    In a nutshell, I'm in the mood for a trip, but I have to think very carefully about how to go on one. We're planning for a little NY getaway to visit Ryan's family in early December, and my mind is already on spring break. I'm feeling another nature trip. Right now, I have my heart set on Yosemite National Park, but depending on my financial situation, I'd be happy to "settle" for a smaller trip to Nashville or Charleston.

    Are you a travel bug? How do you decide when it's a better idea to save money and when to splurge on a fun trip?

    Monday, October 17, 2016

    What Brings Me Peace.


    Even though today's high temperature is 90 degrees, I know cooler days are coming. 
    Even though it's the Monday morning after a fun, family filled weekend, I know I have a girls' night planned for tomorrow night and Wednesday morning off with Ryan.
    Even though the idea of getting through the next two years of grad school feels daunting, I know in two years, I will have a career that I love.
    Even though I go through phases where I want to cry because I just want to buy a whole new wardrobe, skin regimen, and a week long vacation to Iceland, I know that my broke college student phase will not last forever.
    Even though today marks a whole week since the last time I stepped foot in the gym, causing me to feel weak and a little flabby, I know that can (and will) all change by this afternoon.
    Even though some mornings I wake up questioning every aspect of my life and every decision I've ever made, I know that in this moment, I am exactly where I am supposed to be. 


    These kinds of realizations bring me peace, even in my darkest moments.

    What makes you feel at peace?


    alyssagoesbang
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    Friday, October 14, 2016

    October 12th, 2013.

    Saturday, October 12th, 2013 was a big day for me.


    I'd met this guy at a bar eight days ago, and we'd been texting all day everyday since. He was tall (very tall) with dark hair, pretty eyes, and model cheekbones. I didn't know all that much about him; just that he was 26, had a poodle, and took five whole days to ask me out.

    And October 12th, 2013 was the day.

    We went for lunch at Bella Brava in downtown St. Petersburg. He lived about 45 minutes away from my parents' place, where I was living post-college, so I opted to drive us the extra 20 it would take to get downtown. It was a beautiful day - October in Florida generally means lots of sunshine, a tad less humidity, and midday temps hovering in the low 80s. I wore a black crop top and a striped high waisted skirt with flat sandals. I'd spent a whole two days looking for the perfect pair of wedges to wear out with my super tall date, but I had been a season late and a dollar short. I remember feeling funny having to hold my arm up just a little higher to hold his hand.

    He wore a light blue polo and navy shorts with boat shoes, because he "thinks it's weird when guys wear flip flops." For someone who'd been bantering with me back and forth over the past week, he was awfully shy. Conversation was easy, but I had to fight to get him to look me in the eyes until I finally said something.

    "You can look at me! I don't bite," I'd said to him when we sat down to order drinks. He laughed and took the hint. We spent the entire lunch getting to know each other. I thought I was being my usual calm, cool, collected (and obviously cute...) self, when he kindly mentioned I had spinach in my teeth.

    "Oh, no...it hasn't been there long has it?" I asked him.

    "Kind of...like the last 20 minutes."

    Now that my facade of sophistication had officially been put to rest, I knew I had a keeper on my hands. He got the check, and we hopped across Beach Drive to walk along the seawall where I snapped this beauty (IG won't show it, but the comment is him saying "looks fun." - ha!).







    We sat beside the bay, had our first kiss, and I guess you could say the rest is history...as we just celebrated three years since our first date on Wednesday.

    The years have had their ups and downs, but we've been there for each other every step of the way...and it's been phenomenally easy. I like to think it's because he's my best friend first, and boyfriend second. It's crazy to think how much we've both grown in the last few years, and how much has changed, but one thing never did: who we are together.



    And with that, I'll wrap up my cheesy post and move on to the weekend! FINALLY. I hope you all have big plans - we'll be in Fort Myers for the first time in four months to visit Ryan's parents and a few friends. Even though it's just a two hour trip, it'll be nice to get away for the weekend.

    What was your first date with your S/O like? Or what's your favorite first date story? (or worst...like spinach in your teeth. Ha!)





    Monday, October 10, 2016

    Undergrad vs. Graduate School.

    Somehow I'm already halfway through my first semester of grad school, and I'll tell you what: it's entirely different than anything I've done before, especially undergrad (or in my case, post-bacc classes). Obtaining an undergraduate degree is different for every major, but I would say taking classes as a communication sciences and disorders major is one of the most stressful majors out there. Grad school is insanely competitive to get into, and the amount of work to get done while maintaining a nearly flawless GPA is tremendous. But to all you CSD majors out there: grad school is so much better. My mentality has completely changed, and here's how:


    Exams

    Undergrad: Memorizing facts, statistics, diagrams, formulas, etc. to get a top score on a midterm. Start studying a day or two before the exam, spend the whole night before cramming.
    Graduate school: I start studying for exams two weeks in advance, not because I want a 100% (though it wouldn't hurt), but because not only do I need to know the information for a test - I need to actually learn the information. As an SLP, one needs to be knowledgable about the industry; I'm no longer studying for a certain score, I'm studying for my future job.

    Sleep

    Undergrad: Four hours of sleep the night before a final? #YOLO.
    Graduate school: Some days I have three hours of class starting at 8 a.m., followed by group therapy, immediately followed by a session with my individual client. I have to be on top of my game throughout the day, so sleep certainly matters. If it means I have to kick my ass into high gear earlier in the day to get to bed at a decent hour, so be it. Team ALL The Sleep.

    Work

    Undergrad: I will attend all the classes and get all the A's while also working four nights a week for 4-8 hours per shift! I can make time to study, go out socially, complete volunteer hours, rack up observation hours, and work 20 hours a week. No prob. I hate my life, but no prob.
    Graduate school: Working more than 10 hours a week is not recommended. In fact, it's borderline discouraged. I still work one to two days a week, depending what I have going on. I work enough to make ends meet (with the help of my student loans), but it feels so good to always know I have plenty of time to study for a midterm or finish a project without having to worry about someone picking up a shift.

    Relaxing

    Undergrad: I have zero chill because I'm in the midst of working on my letter of intent, asking for letters of recommendation, studying for three exams spread out over the course of two days, volunteering, tweaking my resume, and picking out where to apply for graduate school (this was literally me around this time last year). Free time? Is that a class, or...?
    Graduate school: I'm tired? Run down? Need a break? I'm taking an hour to watch Gilmore Girls, to catch up on reading a novel, to go for a quick run. I'm not letting the semester control me, and I'm going to make time for myself, even if that means setting myself back an hour on my productivity clock.



    Then again, this could be a particularly easy semester. Who knows - maybe I'll have zero time for sleep/me time in the coming weeks or next semester. It's still early in the game, but I feel like I have a good thing going on right now.

    Hope everyone had a fun filled weekend - here's to a killer Monday! 





    Monday, October 3, 2016

    Currently | October 2016.

    I'm sorry, what? Hey, hi, hello October! I barely noticed your arrival, partly because it's 90 degrees outside almost daily around here. But I'm elated to see you and all of the Hocus Pocus you have to offer us.

    And with a new month comes new "currentlys" --



    Reading | In honor of the movie coming out this weekend, I decided to finally pick up a copy of Girl on the Train. I've heard mixed reviews, but I'm excited to delve in...I figured a good thriller is the perfect way to hop into the Halloween season.

    Oh, and textbooks. Lots of textbooks.

    Listening | Happy to see The Veronicas are making a comeback with their newest "In My Blood." Great song for getting ready to go out and/or working out! Also, Spotify's Autumn Leaves is my new favorite study playlist, if you're in need.

    Wanting | Lululemon Align Pant II, every fall scented candle ever created, and for prices on flights to Nashville to miraculously drop. I've been trying to book a trip to visit my friend for nearly a month now, and these airlines don't seem to care for my graduate school budget. Seems to be a common trend, because I don't care for it either.

    Loving | Grad school. While it's a lot of work, it's a lot of fun work. And when it isn't fun work, I just remind myself how important it is for me to be learning as much as I can, and how lucky I am to have the opportunity to learn. That positive mentality usually lasts about 37 seconds, but it's the thought that counts.

    Watching | I just started season seven of Gilmore Girls, so I should be all caught up by the time their Netflix mini series is released on Black Friday! I'm pretty sure Ryan wants to take me out for a celebratory dinner & drinks soiree after I finish it...he absolutely hates it. But you know what they say: "don't care."Also still catching up on Veep, always keeping up with Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and decided to give American Horror Story another chance this season.

    What are you currently up to this week? 







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