The 5 Best Things I Did For Myself in 2019

Ahhh, a new year. So much promise, so much excitement, a brand new fresh start! I love it. I’m doing a lot of looking forward in the new year, but with resolutions also comes reflecting. 2019 was such a whirlwind of a year, it had so many ups and downs, but ultimately it was one of the best years of my life. So, I’m sharing the 5 best things I did for myself in 2019.

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***Also, yes. I know we’re already halfway through the month. I still haven’t sent my Christmas cards and honestly, it will happen when it happens. Doing my best people!

1. Aggressively Pursued my Professional Interests & Goals

I was busy af in 2019. I wanted this year to be the last one I spent feeling like I was waiting to choose a concrete path, so I worked tirelessly to make big moves in all of my professional interests. I worked 40 hours a week at a veterinary hospital, took a microbiology class to complete my pre-requisites toward vet school, and applied to veterinary school once more (and on the 31st I got notified I’ve been selected for an interview at one of my top choices – talk about a way to end the year!) On my days off, I worked as a freelance content creator, food stylist, and photographer. In whatever free time I had, I made content for this blog. More often than not in 2019 I did some form of work 7 days a week. Was it exhausting? Sometimes. But here’s the thing – I ended the year in a new role that’s honestly a dream come true in an industry that I’ve been wanting to enter for years. If I end up getting into vet school, that’s also a huge accomplishment whether I choose to go or not. I have options, and really good ones at that. Hard work pays off!

2. Laser Hair Removal

Everyone has things about their appearance they wish they could change. I know this, and I’ve worked hard to be more accepting and loving of the body I was given, imperfections and all. But I also believe there are certain things you simply don’t have to “just live with”. For me, the course, dark, Italian hair in unwanted areas was not something I wanted to fret about any longer. I was sick of constantly tweezing, waxing, checking in the mirror, and feeling generally self-conscious. So I got laser hair removal. After ONE visit, my problem areas are almost completely clear and I have a newfound confidence. Such a simple process with so much payoff.

3. Said “Yes” to Almost Every Single Invite

I made so many wonderful new friends, connections, and memories in 2019 and it’s because I pushed myself to say yes to almost every invite I received. I went to dinners, professional events, parties, out for drinks, to sporting events, first dates, you name it. Sometimes I really didn’t want to go. Sometimes I was feeling tired, or lazy, or I didn’t have anything to wear, or I was anxious about a new setting with new people. But I can’t name a time where I didn’t have a blast, and I feel like I’m really developing a solid community here in Raleigh.

4. Knew When To Say When

I said goodbye to a lot in 2019. I ended a 7 year relationship and exited a field I’ve been working in for 4 years. Change can be difficult, and letting go of certain hopes & plans for the future is not easy. But staying in jobs or relationships that aren’t right for you any longer is harder. When you’re honest with yourself about what you want, need, and deserve it allows you the chance to actually find those things. I didn’t settle, I knew when to identify if something wasn’t right any more, and I stepped away from things that weren’t serving me in building the life I want.

5. Stuck to a Budget

Budgeting is my favorite adult task, hands down. Some day soon I’ll do a post explaining what I use to budget and how it’s been so absolutely life changing. For now, I’ll just say this: sticking to a budget in 2019 made me a more intentional consumer, it made travel more fun (because I was less anxious about what it was setting me back), it allowed me the flexibility to go out and enjoy myself with friends, it enabled me to be more generous, allowed me to finally save up enough to upgrade my DSLR camera, and I was even able to considerably save for more long term goals (like buying a house and getting a dog)!

 

72 Hours in Chicago

Before autumn fades out for good, I wanted to take the time to recap on my recent trip to Chicago in case anyone was looking for ideas for an upcoming trip! While I’ve passed through the windy city many times throughout my life, this was my first trip (in memory, at least) where Chicago was the main destination. I was so excited! I’ve had a big hunch for a few years now that I would adore this city, and oh man, was I right.

In a nutshell, Chicago has that perfect balance of metropolitan bustle and small town coziness that I love so very much. There’s beautiful architecture, exciting food and drink options, a shockingly cool history and cultural identity, and some of the nicest people ever (midwesterners are the best).  The weather was also perfect – we went the first weekend of October so it was sunny but with a perfect fall crisp. It occurred to me more than once during my stay there that if it weren’t for the brutal winters, I’d move there in a heartbeat.

Going with my big sister (& travel soulmate) was crucial. We do trips together really well and tend to create itineraries that include a lot of food & coffee, a ton of walking/biking, some ticketed special/local experiences, and relaxing quality time spent together. We like to steer clear of most tourist traps, keep things pretty frugal, and try to really get the feel of the place. This trip did exactly all those things, so without further adieu…Our Perfect Chicago Itinerary! 

Day 1:

We started the day early (like 9:30-ish but we recommend even earlier!) at the Doughnut Vault. I love doughnuts, and saw this spot all over the ‘gram, so I made this one a non-negotiable. The aesthetics were so on point and the doughnuts were good, but we got there too late and the buttermilk old fashioned doughnuts had already sold out. Sad.

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Starting here was also ideal because it put us in the heart of downtown Chicago. We took our coffees to go and leisurely walked around the downtown area so that we could admire all the city sights, like the iconic Chicago Theater!

We also picked up our metro passes early in the day. This ended up being completely worth it – the subway and bus system in Chicago is really nice and got us everywhere we needed to go. No Ubers or renting cars required!

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Eventually we found our way to Millennium Park and The Bean. Our advice? Go early and go on a weekday. We were there when it was relatively empty, but just an hour later it was completely packed.

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Around noon we loaded onto a riverboat for an Architecture Boat Tour. Seeing the city from this perspective, on the river that winds through the middle of it, felt really unique. I learned a few cool facts about different styles of architecture, and my only complaint would be that I had hoped for more trivia about Chicago itself.

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By the time the tour was over we were starving, so we headed to Pequod’s Pizza for some Chicago style, deep dish pizza. Then it was off to explore the Lincoln Park area. This was definitely one of my favorite neighborhoods – it was beautiful, quaint, and almost London-esque. Doesn’t this house (below) look just like Hogwarts?!

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At around 7:30 we made our way to Second City Chicago for an improv show. Guys, I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard for so long in my entire life. One of my favorite activities of the whole trip and a total must!

To end the night, we stopped at the LondonHouse rooftop bar for a quick drink and some stunning sights of the city at night. Then it was off to bed.

DAY 2:

Our airbnb was a beautiful 15 minute walk to Wicker Park, so we headed that way for brunch at Etta. Talk about interior dreams.

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Wicker Park turned out to be my favorite area, so we spent a good amount of time exploring. We stopped into several shops, sat and chatted over coffee at Wormhole Coffee, did a lot of great people watching, and loved every second of it. From Wicker Park, we walked all the way over to Logan Square where we tried a few beers from a local brewery and where I picked up a “souvenir” candle from Diptyque.

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Around 5 p.m it started to rain, so we caught an early dinner at Beatnik. This was maybe my favorite place we ate the entire trip. The interior was so beautiful! There were plants everywhere, a glass ceiling, lots of middle eastern textures, big golden chandeliers, drippy candles, and fun patterns. The food was also so good. 

Since it was still raining and we wanted to give our feet some rest, we headed back to our airbnb to relax and watch a movie together. After refueling, we headed back out to Wicker Park to get drinks at The Up Room cocktail bar, then ended the night at a speakeasy called The Violet Hour. The speakeasy culture of Chicago is really cool, so don’t sleep on it. I wish we could have gone to more!

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Day 3:

We started out with another brunch in Wicker Park (can you tell it was our favorite area?) at Café Cancale. Then we headed back into the downtown area to visit the Chicago Cultural Center, which was stunning and so interesting. If you’re too crunched for time to do the Art Institute like we were, this is a great (and free!) alternative.

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Our last big activity for the trip was renting a couple of bikes and biking up and down the lakefront of Lake Michigan, past the Navy Pier, and through several parks. I was completely floored by how blue the water was, how the lake looked like an ocean, and how it came right up to the edge of the running path! I saw so many people just jump right in (not wade, jump!), from where we were biking. The weather couldn’t have been better, people were out doing all kinds of activities, and it was altogether just stunning.

We biked all the way up to Weiner’s Circle for a Chicago-style hot dog as our last meal. Then we returned our bikes, picked up our bags, and headed to the airport (which was so easy to get to on the subway!)

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That was it! I loved it there so much and can’t wait to go back. There were so many things we just couldn’t get to all in one weekend. Bravo, Chicago, you stole my heart.

 

 

 

Summer To-Do List

Happy Friday, everyone! Whew, it’s been a week. I’m so looking forward to the weekend and getting a little recharge in. It’s going to be a fun one with a girls night with my best friend, some easy baking projects, a trip to a new “croissanterie” opening, and preparing for my vacation to Wisconsin next week. I felt inspired by all the activity to put together a list of things I hope to do before the summer comes to an end. Enjoy!

Spend every opportunity by the pool.

This might come as a surprise, but the pool is my favorite form of water to play in/lounge at during the summer months. I have a lot of positive childhood memories of our neighborhood pool during the summer! My apartment building has it’s very own beautiful pool, and I figure it would be stupid not to take advantage of it (if you follow me on instagram, you know I already have been!)

Grill for almost every meal (or almost every dinner).

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Sorry, but it’s scientifically proven that grilled vegetables are better tasting. Also, kebabs are more fun to eat. And burgers. And brat wurst. Oooh, and don’t even get me started on grilling fruit to add to vanilla ice cream!

Go to an outdoor concert.

I bought tickets to see Thomas Rhett with my bff in early August at one of the outdoor venues here in Raleigh, and I’m so excited! I like country music (whatever, haters), but I love it in the summer, outside, with a cold drink in hand!

Visit the lake.

Ahhh, yes. The second best form of water! Going to my summer cabin with my family is always a highlight of the season. There are so many things I look forward to, waterskiing, swimming in the lake, reading on the hammock, biking in the woods, etc. I can’t wait!

Celebrate the Fourth of July.

My family goes all out with a visit to the local parade, a cookout, a bocce ball tournament, and fireworks. It’s the best!

Go to a baseball game at the Durham Bulls.

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I went last night with some friends and thought the park was so cute. It’s no MLB stadium, but it has a lot of good dining options, it’s well maintained, and in an area of Durham I’d love to explore a little more of!

Drink iced coffee on the balcony. 

A real no brainer. Ever since I finished my balcony, I’ve wanted to spend every opportunity out there. I start almost every day off of work with a leisurely coffee out there and it’s the very best!

Make homemade ice cream

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I’m thinking these 90 degree days call for really fun and refreshing ice cream flavors like cantaloupe or key lime pie. Yes?

Have a Harry Potter marathon.

Sure, this might be a to-do list item for every season for me. But the summer is when the new books would be released, it was usually when the movies were released, and it’s the season that holds J.K Rowling’s and Harry’s birthdays (I make it a point to celebrate, as you can see!) It’s time to re-read a book (or sevenand have a movie marathon, maybe on a rainy day?!

Go to a drive-in movie theater (and picnic in the car!)

There’s one in Raleigh I’ve wanted to check out for forever, here! Such a nostalgic activity, it would be fun to pack sandwiches, a cheese board and some wine, and load up on pillows and blankets in the trunk of an SUV!

Read at least 10 new books.

One of my favorite parts of summer is how much reading I get done! Sharp Objects just arrived in my kindle app, and I have loans out for seven other titles that I’m really excited for (I’ll be sharing a summer book review soon!) 

Visit a new spot to eat, drink, or play in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill every week

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I love this city (and it’s neighbors) so much. It seems like every week there is so much to do, something new is popping up or opening, fun events are all over the place! I love using my Offline membership to explore this town, and I want to make more of an effort to do so on a regular basis.

Go on a walk and listen to a really great podcast, at least weekly. 

I mentioned my love for both of these here! Lately the podcasts I’ve been enjoying are Armchair Expert, Asking for a Friend, The Daily, Coffeebreak Italian (see below!), Binge Mode, and The Goal Digger.

Work on learning a new language. 

Recently, I was completely inspired by a coworker who I watched seamlessly transition into speaking fluent Spanish to a client of ours. It was gorgeous and so cool. Mark can do this too, and I’ll admit I’m pretty jealous. I’ve started trying to learn a bit of Italian, since it’s closely related to Spanish (which I’ve studied for years) and because I really want to start planning a European vacation soon. Which brings me to…

Take a spontaneous weekend trip somewhere. 

I’ve had a bit of a travel bug lately, I kind of just want to pack up and fly to Europe and spend the next year there. Since I can’t do that, I figured maybe a semi-impromptu trip to a more adjacent destination might be a good compromise. There are a ton of good destinations in North Carolina alone.