Let’s face it, this past year has been… rough to say the least. Especially now, nearly a year after the pandemic has turned our world upside down, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all feeling the effects in one way or another. Despite the tumultuous times, I had so much to be thankful for: an engagement, a new house, a puppy, and a new sister-in-law, are just a few of the big life moments 2020 brought me.
Looking ahead in 2021, I have so much to be excited for with wedding planning in full swing, and starting a new job. When thinking about the goals I wanted to set for myself as we moved into the new year, I wanted to be gentle with myself and set attainable goals without becoming overwhelmed by several large goals on top of everything I want/need to accomplish this year. While wedding planning and prioritizing for the year ahead has predominately taken up my time (hence, the late blog post), I’m looking forward to holding myself accountable, and sharing my health journey and wedding planning stories, tips, & tricks on here this year!
Goals for 2021
Get my gut health in check — I’ve had stomach issues since I was 21, and am really working on taking the proper supplements and eating healthier to heal my gut this year.
Workout 3-5 days a week
Practice mindfulness daily
Make my mental health a priority
Read 50 books — this is a little less than I usually go for my reading goal, but with so much going on this year, I’m cutting myself some slack.
Drink more water
Create a better morning routine
I will control what I can control.
I accept myself as enough.
What are some goals you set for the new year, and how are they going?
I had to hop on here at least one more time this year to share one of my favorite posts to write annually: my top 10 favorite books of the year. In spite of all the craziness that 2020 threw at us, I surpassed my goal of 55 books and managed to read 57 books, exceeding the amount I read last year.
When it comes to picking these books, I take into account how well they are written, how captivated I am by the plot line, and – above all – how strongly the books made me feel. One of my reading goals this year was to go outside of my comfort zone genre-wise; based on my Goodreads list, I did a fairly good job of this tackling even some Sci-Fi reads — one of which even made my top ten!
10. The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan
This was an enthralling page-turner that follows the glitz, glamour, and corruption of working as a pop group in the music industry. Cassidy Holmes first gets a taste of the limelight at 17 as a contestant on the famed tv show Sing It, America, but her rise to fame comes when she joins the group Gloss. Though a heavy, heartbreaking read, I found myself infatuated with the behind the scenes look at the music industry, and could not put this down. It definitely gave me some “Daisy Jones” vibes and took my back to growing up in the late 90s/early 2000s watching TRL and VH1.
9. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
Riley Sager had me on the edge of my seat yet again. This is the type of book that you stay up reading until 1AM because it’s just that phenomenal. I totally got some “Haunting of Hill House” vibes throughout the book, but this story surpasses it by a landslide. I LOVE a good ghost story, and “Home Before Dark” has quickly shot to the top of my list as one of my favorites. Dare I say, this could very well be my new favorite thriller of all time😱
8. Majesty by Katharine McGee
Book 2 in the American Royals series was better than I could have imagined. Everyone is doing some growing up in this book — save for Jefferson **facepalm**. Beatrice is now queen and engaged to Teddy, while still trying to figure out herself and her role as the first female monarch. Meanwhile, Sam finds herself in a relationship with a new man as she’s learning how to properly be “the heir”, and Daphne is being the same old scheming Daphne. I’m so sad that this story is over, but I simply could not put this book down. I need book 3 ASAP!!
7. Beach Read by Emily Henry
If you know me, you know I’m not the biggest fan of romances; however Beach Read was the perfect escape I needed from the world right now and has to be one of my favorite love stories. I giggled, I scoffed at the cheesiness, and by the end, I was ugly crying.
6. Recursion by Blake Crouch
A mysterious disease known as “false memory syndrome” is driving its victims mad by giving them memories they never lived. Dark and trippy, “Recursion” left me on the edge of my seat from the very first page. I love the way Barry and Helena’s stories intertwined. I’m so glad I decided to step out of my usual book genres, and give this one a try!
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
In a time where Death is wreaking havoc on Nazi-occupied Germany, Liesel discovers a gravedigger’s handbook by her brother’s grave. Thus begins her streak of stealing books, and falling in love with words and literature. Wow. What a story. Books + WWII + an unlikely narrator= the perfect recipe for an outstanding book. I could have easily read this in 2 days, but I really wanted to savor this powerful story. I can’t believe it took me so long to read this
4. Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella
Cady Archer arrives at Harvard not only to follow in her schizophrenic brother Eric’s footsteps, but also to figure out what led him to his suicide his junior year. Cady struggles to find her way through the competitive academics and build a social life while trying to crack the cryptic clues her brother provided in a notebook. She eventually gets so swept up in figuring out her brother’s story that she ends up in a downward spiral in her own life – missing classes, ditching friends, and hearing voices from the ghosts that still roam the grounds of Harvard. She begins to think that the ghosts are somehow connected to her brother, but she finds that listening to them is contributing to her own demise. What she does find out about Eric is even bigger than she could have imagined.
“Ghosts of Harvard” had me hanging onto every word, and is another book I can add to my 2020 favorites. I adored the dark academia vibes with a touch of paranormal surrounding the mystery of Eric and what he got himself into. I eventually started to figure out where the story was going, but I was not expecting the final plot twist. I hope to read more from Serritella soon!
3. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
“What is a person if not for the marks they leave behind?” What a spectacular novel from V.E. Schwab! A young French girl makes a deal with the devil for eternal life, but the catch is that no one will be able to remember her for the rest of her days. When she finally meets the one person who can remember her, she’s bound and determined to leave her mark on history. Little did she know that she would find herself in a love triangle between a human boy and the devil himself. Beautifully poetic, I’m so glad I didn’t rush this so I could appreciate Schwab’s lyrical writing so much more. I loved following Addie’s story as she lived through poignant moments in history, and was left craving more.
2. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon
Anna Gallagher grew up yearning to travel to Ireland with her grandfather after hearing his stories about growing up there. Unfortunately, he passes away before they can go together, but his dying wish is to have Anna spread his ashes there. When Anna goes to his childhood home to make it his final resting place, she manages to stumble back in time to 1921 – a tumultuous time in Ireland’s history.
Harmon’s writing is exquisite and atmospheric; the story completely envelops the reader and takes them back in time to a tumultuous period of Ireland’s history. Though it has some fantastical elements, this historical fiction was exactly what I was looking for after I hit a slump in the genre. Anne’s story completely captivated me from beginning to end, and definitely had me shedding a few tears.
1. The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscanyby Lori Nelson Spielman
I’m going to try to do this book justice with my review, but I have so many feelings rushing through me. Emilia is a second-born daughter who believes in the family curse that she is unable to love or be loved. When her estranged Aunt Poppy writes to ask Emilia and her cousin Lucy on a trip to accompany her to Italy in order to break the family curse, it is an offer Emilia cannot refuse. Unfortunately, Emilia has lived under her strict Nonna’s rules her entire life, and she is livid with Emilia’s decision to travel with Poppy. Despite disobeying her grandmother’s wishes and ignoring her older sister’s advise, Emilia not only finds herself on the trip, but she learns so much more about her family history than she ever imagined.
Oh my gosh. This is my favorite book I’ve read in 2020. I simply adore Poppy with her tenacity, zest for life and love, and the wisdom. The imagery took me back to my time spent in Italy a few years ago, which was an excellent escape from reality in a time when we can’t travel. I laughed, I cried, but above all I did not want this story to end. It’s also an added bonus that the author is a fellow Michigander!
My TBR pile for 2021 is already massive, and I cannot wait to continue to share my reading list with you. To stay up to date on what I’m reading, check out my Goodreads page, or check out my Instagram stories. What was your favorite book you’ve read this year?
I’ll be honest, during quarantine, when I should have been creating content, I found it extremely hard to focus and my creativity just was not there. However, now that I’m back to work and my routine is finally going back to normal, I’m excited to share lots of content and some BIG news coming soon!
What better way to jump back into the blog than by bringing back my Week in Review series! A quick recap of what I’ve been up to: house hunting, getting my health and fitness in check, tackling my TBR list, and getting back into the swing of things at work.
I’ve been working more on my self care and getting my health in check now more than ever before. This The EveryGirl article is full of great new wellness trends to fit into your routine.
Whether conspiracy tiktok has you on the #FreeBritney train or you’re simply hearing the phrase everywhere, The Cut has some more information on the ordeal.
What I’m Reading
“The Shadows” by Alex North – Unfortunately I haven’t had a ton of time to dive into this one yet, but rumor has it that it’s the best thriller of the year so far! Learn more about it on its Goodreads page.
What I’m Watching
Ryan and I have been binging Designated Survivor on Netflix and we are OBSESSED!! We just finished the final season and are so sad it’s over. I’m still making my way through Handmaid’s Tale, and we recently started Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix, and it’s sooo good!
What I’m Listening To
Podcasts that make me giggle:
Absolutely Not / Heather McMahan
The Bitch Bible / Jackie Schimmel
Songs that are stuck in my head thanks to TikTok:
Wait a Minute! / WILLOW
Stunnin’ / Curtis Waters, Harm Franklin
Banana (feat. Shaggy) / Conkarah, DJ Fle
Savage Love (Laxed – Siren Beat) / Jawsh685, Jason Derulo
Watermelon Sugar / Harry Styles
Taylor Swift’s new album Folklore will be on repeat all day!
It’s no secret that one of my favorite methods of self care is skin care. There is nothing more relaxing than washing your face after a long day and applying your favorite moisturizers, masks, and serums as you prep for bed. I wrote a similar piece to this a little over a year ago, but low and behold, I’ve switched up my skin care routine yet again. Yes, we’re really doing this again… It’s a funny thing, really, this constant battle with sensitive skin. Just when I start to think that I’ve finally found my routine and my skin is looking better than ever, IT HAPPENS. Usually “it” is a rough bout of dry skin or a breakout, but this time, sh*t hit the fan — my eczema navigated to my face.
When I was around 7 years old, my mix of eczema and psoriasis was horrendous. Doctors told me that it was possible that I would grow out of it, and — for the most part — it has cleared up over the years to the point where I had not been to the dermatologist for over 10 years. Recently, I’ve noticed the psoriasis patches have been making a comeback on my ankles and behind my knees, which I’ve been managing by moisturizing consistently. Additionally, after utilizing the same Vitamin C products for a few months, I began to discover psoriasis-like patches on my face that wouldn’t go away regardless of how much I moisturized. After consulting my dermatologist for the first time in years, I made the decision switch to a totally different skin care routine and finally found the one that works for me and my sensitive skin.
Skin Care Routine: A.M.
Full disclosure: I only wash my face once a day at the end of the day and/or following my workout so that I don’t dry out my face. I will rinse off and dry my face first thing, especially if I wore a face mask or acne spot treatment overnight. I start my morning with a quick rinse of my face, patting it dry and then moisturizing it. One of my newest beauty obsessions is Drunk Elephant. I’ve heard about it for years and was finally influenced to try it after dealing with all of my recent issues. The best part about it is that you can easily mix the moisturizers and serums together to create a one step cocktail for your face. I always use Drunk Elephant’s Protini™ Polypeptide Moisturizer as the base, and combine it with B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum and D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops. I love that B-Hydra is a great addition to your morning routine to help give your skin an extra dose of hydration. Not only does D-Bronzi give your skin a beautiful glow, but it also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles all while protecting your skin from pollution/environmental stressors. My only complaint with these products is that you can’t tell when the product is running low to restock, so I will restock these items about a month into using the product to prepare. Once I apply everything, I allow it to soak into my soak prior to applying my makeup for the day.
Skin Care Routine: P.M.
I start my evening routine by removing my makeup with Garnier’s SkinActive Micellar Water and washing my face with Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser. These are two of my holy grail products that I swear by and have used for years. After I dry my face, depending on the day, I have three different options for how I’ll end the night:
One // On any normal night, I will use the Protini™ Polypeptide Moisturizer as a base and mix it with Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula Antioxidant Face Oilto help lock in moisture over night. The marula oil contains antioxidants and omega 6 and 9 to combat dryness, dullness, texture, fine lines and wrinkles. It is one of my absolute favorite Drunk Elephant products.
Three // If I’m having a break out (which is rare), I will simply put on Kate Somerville’s EradiKate™ Acne Treatment on my acne spots and sleep with it on. In the morning, I notice that there is a dramatic reduction in acne.
Regardless of which of these I choose, I will always put Glossier’s Bubble Wrap cream under my eyes and Vaseline on my lips for an extra bit of moisture.
Have any questions about my routine or the products I use? Leave a comment below!
First and foremost, I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during this scary, uncertain time. It’s incredibly overwhelming with the current circumstances of the world looming over our heads and always having it in our face with the news and social media. For a while, it didn’t exactly feel right to push out content at this time, but I’ve found that creating content and writing has been therapeutic for me. I, like many others across the globe, have found myself mentally and emotionally struggling during this time and this is the best way for me to deal with what’s been going on in my mind, so I’ve made the decision to continue to create and distribute my blog posts.
Today is the day that I thought I’d be returning to work and everything would start to shift back to our normal routine, but this is not the case. I’ll be honest, initially this didn’t seem like such a bad gig — a little more time to myself, a two-pace commute to my desk, having a consistent workout schedule. It all sounds pretty great! Now that we are about a month in, I’m finding that I’m having a much harder time with it all. My fiancé and I were in the middle of house hunting, and I was sure that we’d be in our future home within the next few months; however, with the mandatory shelter-in-place in effect in Michigan, our search has come to a screeching halt. Additionally, since he is a firefighter and can potentially be dealing with COVID patients on a daily basis, we have made the decision to socially distance from each other. After being long distance for four years, this should be a piece of cake, but I’m taking it a lot harder than I anticipated. Luckily, I’m safe at home with my immediate family, and we’re all safe and healthy with the exception of an increased feeling of cabin fever. I’ve been making a conscious effort to get some fresh air by going for walks a few times a week or just stepping out on our back patio, and trying to keep in touch with friends and family through texts, calls, FaceTime, and Zoom meetings.
I’m well aware that my own situation is peanuts compared to what others are going through. My heart aches for my little brother and the rest of the senior class of 2020 who are missing out on those final days of high school and college: sports seasons have been cut short, no prom, no spring break, missing out on those final days with their friends, and Lord knows about graduation or graduation parties to celebrate their achievements. My heart goes out to those who cannot gather for various milestones at this time — having to postpone their weddings, being unable to properly put on a funeral or celebration of life for those lives that are lost, and many more circumstances. Finally, my thoughts and prayers are constantly with those who are being directly affected by the virus — people who have and had the virus, their families, those on the frontlines: healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers (grocery workers, mail carriers, and many others) putting themselves at risk daily to help fight this and help others through this.
Despite everything, I’m making an effort to focus on many personal positives that have come out of this:
Working on my Health and Body: I now have a consistent daily workout routine with the help of two of my sorority sisters. Also, being at home has forced me to practice better eating habits and cook meals that are better for me (not including the chocolate croissant above — that is a special treat since it reminds me of happier times). In addition, I’ve developed a solid meditation routine. While I’m still not the best at turning my mind off, I notice that I’m getting better with every practice.
Wedding Planning: I have the time to start researching venues and vendors for our wedding. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve already found my dress (more to come on that later)! With everything so up in the air right now, we have yet to set a concrete date, but we’re aiming for Spring 2022, so getting a head start on planning has me super excited!
Blogging: As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been able to dedicate more time to working on my blog and creating more content. It has been very therapeutic to me to do something I’m passionate about.
Developing Personal and Professional Skills: I’ve allocated more time to improving myself on both a personal and professional level, utilizing platforms such as Coursera and LinkedIn Learning. This is something I’ve been trying to do for a long time, but time didn’t always allow for me to get through the course; now, I have zero excuse to not get through them!
Reading: Slowly but surely, I’m been working on my rather large to-be-read pile. Currently I’m working on The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, and I’m totally captivated by this story. To discover more books that I’m reading, have read, or what I’m looking to read next, check out my Goodreads profile. My goal this year is 55 books, but I’m always hoping to surpass that goal!
A Deeper Appreciation: As they say, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”. Boy, has that really hit home with me during this time. I’ve always thought that I appreciated the little things, but this has taught me not to take little joys for granted.
A Glimmer of Hope
At the end of all of this, I’m really hoping that people prioritize what’s really important in life, and don’t take our freedoms and privileges for granted. Hug your loved ones a tighter and cherish the time you have with them. We will persevere.
In the last week, I, like many others across the globe, have found myself working from home. While I’ve done this a number of times due to illness or bad road conditions, I’ve never been home for an extended period of time as I am now. Let me tell you, adjusting to this temporary “new normal” was a lot more difficult than I anticipated.
In the last couple weeks, I found what was supposed to be a hectic March rapidly slowing down. As events we were scheduled to attend began cancelling left and right due to COVID-19, I found my to do list decreasing exponentially; however, this has become the best time to discover new ways to get creative with my position.
Set a routine — I’ve found that sticking to my usual routine and having my usual work hours work best for me and how I work. I usually get up, and do my usual morning skincare routine, brush my teeth, and get dressed before I start my day. I also keep my usual work hours to help me keep that space between work life and personal life.
Get dressed — Even if I’m changing over from my pajamas to leggings and a sweatshirt, I feel so much more productive when I get dressed for the day. Plus, it’s that extra push to get out of bed and to my desk.
Create a workspace that is NOT your bed — When you realize that you’re working remotely, your first thought might be “wow I can’t wait to work from bed!” Right?? WRONG! Personally, I like to put on some chill, atmospheric music (Spotify has some great mood playlists), light some candles, and sit at my desk in my room away from distractions. I’m also one of those strange people who absolutely cannot have the tv on or I will get distracted from what I’m doing.
Use the Ivy Lee Method — I recently started using the Ivy Lee Method to enhance my productivity at work after hearing about it through Lauryn Evarts Bosstick of The Skinny Confidential. Often times, I get pulled away from what I’m working on or something urgent will come up in the middle of working on a project, and I find that my productivity wanes. I started using this method as a means of keeping me on track when these distractions happen and it really works! At the beginning of each day, write down the 6 main tasks you want to accomplish by the end of the day. Those tasks that aren’t complete are transferred to the top of your to-do list the next day, and so on and so forth.
Take short brain breaks — The same thing goes for being in the office. I know that I can’t have my eyes on my computer all day long, nor can I stay focused for that long, so I remember to get up and get moving to give my mind and body a break.
Check in with your colleagues — Working from home can get lonely, so make sure you check in with your co-workers just as you would if you were in the office.
Get active — We all know that sitting at your desk all day is not healthy. Make sure you get up and get moving several times a day, whether it’s taking a walk at lunch, ensuring that you’re getting up to stretch every so often, or scheduling in time to get in a good workout. Since working from home, I have a set a calendar notice every day at 5pm for my daily work out. This has helped immensely to integrate it into my routine. Additionally, there are so many benefits to staying active while staying in: improved focus and cognitive function, better sleep, boosts energy, combats health conditions and diseases, and much more.
These are just a few tips that I use to help keep me on track and productive while working from home. Do you have any WFH methods that aren’t on this list? Share them below!
Happy 2020! It only took me 3 months, but I’ve finally had the time to write out my first blog post of the year, and it’s an exciting one that I didn’t think I would be writing for at least another year. 2020 has been a whirlwind thus far — January seemed to take FOREVER and then February flew by and I feel like I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath lately as things are getting crazier because….
It was a complete and utter surprise. We’ve talked about getting married for a few years now, especially after being together for 6 years and doing long distance for 4; however, I didn’t anticipate anything happening for at least another year.
For years I’ve told Ryan that I had a list of rules for when he proposed:
1.) My nails needed to be done – not hard since I’ve been getting them done religiously for 2 years.
2.) He had to ask my dad for permission.
3.) Make sure that there is someone there to photograph it.
4.) Please do not stick the ring in food.
5.) Don’t do it at a sporting event.
Seems bratty, but I know what I want and I’m always sure to articulate it. Plus, luckily for me, he abided by all of these rules haha!
Now that I’ve had some time to digest it — mind you, it feels like a dream — I still can’t believe how well Ryan pulled everything off. Everything was absolutely flawless! I never knew what to expect from him, but it couldn’t have been more perfect and well thought out. Going back to the place where we had our first date and really started to fall for each other was the best way to jump start forever.
How it all went down…
It all started earlier in the week when my best friend reached out to us and asked if we wanted to go ice skating at Campus Martius in downtown Detroit with her and her husband. What a perfect way to throw me off, right?! When the plans were set, I had a fleeting thought of, “how awesome would it be to get engaged where it all began”, then I completely forgot about it until following the proposal.
When the day came, we met at their house to all drive down together. Everything seemed so normal on the car ride, aside from no one jumping on my suggestion of Shake Shack for dinner, which I thought was odd, but I didn’t think anything of it. During the ride I recounted a strange dream I had the night before about a wedding. Again, I didn’t think too far into this because it’s normal for me to have strange, vivid dreams. I mean, really, I could write a book on all of these dreams.
We headed to the rink, strapped on the skates, and began skating. Mind you, I cannot ice skate to save my life, so it’s more so Ryan pulling me around the rink as I attempt to stay upright. As we made our way around the rink, I couldn’t help but think about how grateful I am that Ryan is so patient with me when we go skating (he’s a hockey player, so he’s pretty darn good at it).
About an hour in, I was ready to be done when Ryan said, “come on, let’s just do one more lap”. Hungry, tired, and with aching feet, I obliged. Halfway through the lap, he turns to me and says, ” you know that dream you had about the wedding? I think you had the wrong person.” As Taylor Swift’s “Lover” played in background, he pulled the ring box out of his pocket, gets on one knee, and asks me to marry him. Of course, I said yes!! Well, more like nodded my head yes because I was so shocked that I could barely speak. He sweetly asked if I wanted to put the ring on because I couldn’t pull myself together or comprehend what was happening.
Afterwards, our friends snapped some photos of us and we went to 24 Grille where Ryan made reservations for us — hence the Shake Shack rejection — which was absolutely delicious. It was so special to have our best friends there to celebrate this milestone with us!
We have yet to start the planning process since we’re currently house hunting, but I’m so excited to share wedding content as we start our planning journey. In the meantime, please share any of your best wedding planning tips, tricks, or resources below or on my Instagram post!
I was not initially planning on doing a 2019 recap post; however, when I reflect on the year, I realize how big this year has been for me. 2019 has been a HUGE year of growth for me both personally and professionally. A few highlights:
I received my first promotion as the Brand and Events Coordinator for the company I work for in March. With this promotion comes a LOT more responsibility and much more traveling for work, which is why I have not been able to dedicate as much time as I would have liked to the blog this year. I’m working on a way to even it out for the upcoming year, as I have a ton of content planned for 2020 already!
My boyfriend and I officially conquered long distance, and he moved home for good this spring.
In June, I took a girls’ trip to France with my mom, her best friend, and her daughter. We had the best time navigating the country traveling all around from Paris to Bayeux, Normandy to Avignon, and finally Nice and Monaco. I’m still sharing photos on my Instagram from this incredible trip.
In July, Ry took me on a weekend getaway to Mackinac Island (I’ve always wanted to stay on the island). I also planned a successful destination joint bachelor/bachelorette party for my best friend and her husband.
In August, my best friend married the love of her life, and I had the honor of standing by her side as her maid of honor.
While this year brought about many highs, it was working through the lows that really taught me what I was capable of. 2019 also came with many tough lessons that have taken me years to acknowledge, but I will never forget. Between working hard and often, adjusting to no longer being long distance, reconnecting with old friends, this has been an overall fulfilling, successful year.
Not everyone wants you to be successful; in fact, most often have their own agenda. As someone who genuinely wants the best for others and will do anything to help them attain their goals, this was a hard pill for me to swallow. There were a number of times in my life where I’ve been burned from trusting people who I thought were helping me achieve my goals, but in reality, had their own selfish objectives at the forefront of their actions. Unfortunately, it took me this long to realize this.
In addition, I learned not to take advice from people who are not on the same path as you. I’ve always referred to myself as a knowledge sponge willing to soak up any and all information and advice I possibly can. However, I learned that this can often waste time, brain space, and energy when it comes to attaining my goals.
Work-life balance. To be honest, I completely thought this was a myth in corporate America when I started my job. However, when I was consistently getting sick for the better part of Q3-Q4 this year, I realized that I’d be “on” all the time and had my work phone attached to my hip. It was then that I truly realized that I needed to set some boundaries, including turning my phone off and leaving it at home when I’m out on vacation and saying no when my plate is overflowing with responsibility. This is still a work in progress, but I am determined to have a healthier balance in my life.
This is actually the first time I’m going into the new year with no idea of what lies ahead of me. I’ve always approached each new year with some pre-conceived notion of what’s to come. In 2020, I’m hoping to roll with the punches a bit more and tackle one challenge at a time. Ry and I are currently lining up our trips for the year, including my 26th birthday trip to Nashville! In regards to my career, I’m excited to return to work later this week with a rejuvenated mindset, ready to crush this year. In addition to my full-time job, I’m really looking forward to creating more content for the blog; whenever I found myself in a work-based funk this year, I realized it wasn’t because I was doing the creating that I was passionate about. Be on the watch for my 2020 goals coming soon!
As 2019 draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the goals I’ve set for myself this year. One such goal was to read more, as I’ve always been an avid reader, but have not always dedicated the time to it. this was the first year that I decided to take part in the Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge. I set my goal of 40 back in January, later changing it to 50 once I surpassed that goal in the fall. To my surprise, I have surpassed my goal of 50 just last week, and am ending the year having read a total of 53 books.
As my library continues to grow, I decided to compile my top 10 books of the year — a task that proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated. Since my to-read list continues to grow and I grow more ambitious, I’m thinking of doing a review of what I read each month, as opposed to a wrap up of the whole year in the coming years.
10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
After hearing nothing but wonderful things about this book, I just had to read it. I was not disappointed. Evelyn Hugo was a big star, oh, and she was married seven times. She is spending her days out of the spotlight when she finally decides to give her final interview recounting her story (which turns out to be a full-blown tell-all biography) to a young journalist. Why does she pick her of all people? Well, you’ll have to find out for yourself in this exquisite story of success, and the price that comes with the celebrity guise.
9. Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
This was my first Ruth Ware read, and I cannot wait to pick up more of her books. I love a good thriller, especially a creepy atmospheric novel that takes place in the middle of nowhere Scotland. The novel follows letters that the former nanny is writing to her lawyer from prison trying to clear her name after one of the children she was looking after winds up dead. What I found to be most unique about this story was that the main character is not all that likeable and untrustworthy, which helps keep the reader guessing until the very end.
8. Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson
I adored this book and was invested all the way through; it was heartwarming & heartbreaking all at the same time. My only qualm about the book is that I was left with a ton of questions at the end that left me wanting more. I felt like I really got to know each character, and would definitely be interested in a sequel since the three main characters all seemed to have more to their stories.
7. House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
What do you get when you combine a fairytale with horror and a dash of romance? “House of Salt and Sorrows” – the book with a genre that I never knew I needed. I was hooked when I discovered that it was the retelling of a Brothers Grimm fairytale, and I was not disappointed. I absolutely adore the haunting atmosphere of the Thaumas sisters’ world Craig created.
6. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
It is important that I preface this review with a warning: this book is certainly not for everyone and is chalk-full of content that can be triggering. Initially, this book started as a slow burn, languidly enveloping me into the atmospheric world of Yale – though, not the Yale we know today. This Yale is teeming with paranormal activity, secret societies, and occult magic. Before I knew it, I was completely captivated by this dark novel. Bardugo’s rich creativity kept me hooked with each turn of the page, and I look forward to seeing what she brings to the table with the next installment of this series.
5. American Royals by Katharine McGee
This novel follows the [fictional] descendants of George Washington as Beatrice prepares to ascend the throne as the first queen of the United States, and is narrated from 4 points of view – Beatrice, Samantha – her rebellious younger sister, Nina Gonzalez – Sam’s best friend, and Daphne Deighton – Sam’s twin brother Jefferson’s ex-girlfriend who believes she is destined to be a princess. I will read just about anything with a royal plot line, so when “American Royals” came out, I knew I had to read it immediately! Drama, deception, romance, this book has it all. I cannot wait for the next book to come out next fall.
4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This is not your typical murder mystery, in fact, it is one of the most magnificent books I’ve ever read. Set at a private college in New England, this book begins by exposing the reader to the fact that a group of elitist Classical scholars have killed one of their classmates. The plot is that of a dual timeline — the days leading up to the murder and the days following. It is a heavy read that left me both verklempt and bewildered for days.
3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
Literally everyone needs to read this book!! Manson presents a hilariously vulgar tough love approach to creating self-awareness and learning about what matters most in life. This book has been sitting on my “to-read” shelf for years, and now I wish I would have had the opportunity to read it at a younger age.
2. The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
“The Beautiful” is hands-down one of my absolute favorite books I’ve read this year. Placed in the haunting setting of 1800s New Orleans, Celine Rousseau finds herself constantly facing dangerous situations. Due to this, she surrounds herself with the mysterious members of La Coer des Lions. The problem? They seem inhuman. After being a Twilight fan in high school, I couldn’t help but be at least a bit leery on another series about vampires; however, this decadent read left me savoring every page – I did not want this story to end!
1. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
“There is a reason you glance up when you first hear a melody, or tap your foot to the sound of a drum. All humans are musical. Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?” The remarkably alluring story of Frankie Presto left me completely enchanted and tugged at my heartstrings. As a huge music fan, I loved the connection Albom wove between Frankie and the artists of yesteryear and today, creatively narrating the story by none other than music.
Honorable Mention: The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey
I’m including this because I JUST finished this before this post went live. Elegant, heart-achingly beautiful, and tragic, “The Glittering Hour” hooked me after the first few chapters. Grey seamlessly interconnects society girl Selina Lennox’s story with her daughter Alice’s in a dual timeline between the years of 1925 and 1936. I adored the thorough development of characters as Grey built the plot, though it did get a bit “wordy” at times. I didn’t love the additional forbidden love initially, as it felt overdone, but Selina and Lawrence’s romance moved me to tears in the last pages of the story.
I’m always looking for some new, challenging reads to add to my list. What was your favorite book you read this year?
One of the most fun aspects of planning a wedding is planning the bachelor/bachelorette party, but how does one go about planning a joint party for the bride and the groom?
I recently stood up as the Maid of Honor in my best friend’s wedding. It was my first time standing up in a wedding as a bridesmaid and I didn’t really know what to expect. One thing that I knew I would be responsible for is planning and executing the bachelorette party. My friend and her now husband decided that they wanted a joint party out of town, so I started to build my arsenal of ideas early on to make all of their bachelor-bachelorette party dreams come true.
When I started doing research for planning, I found that there were little to no posts about how to plan a joint bachelor-bachelorette party. So I decided to take the liberty to do it myself and bring you guys the hot tips and lessons learned during my time planning:
Talk to the bride and groom about their expectations. Before you do anything, ask the bride and groom: a.) What city they want to celebrate in. b.) What their must-do activities and must-see attractions are. c.) Any other must-haves to make the weekend the bachelor/bachelorette party of their dreams.
Start planning months in advance; DO NOT wait until the last minute. I started planning the party and gathering ideas immediately after the couple told me where they wanted to go. While the location changed as we got closer, I had both a Google document and Pinterest board going filled with ideas that could easily transfer. This also helps with budgeting; set a timeline for payments and purchasing decor, gifts, etcetera so you don’t blow all your money at once.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I admit it, I’m a total control freak and perfectionist; I get an idea in my head and need to follow through on it. However, between my full-time job, planning the party, and maintaining my sanity, I needed an extra set of hands or two. The bride’s brother and sister-in-law graciously offered their assistance and helped play a pivotal role in the success of the party.
Don’t worry about packing the schedule. It is not necessary (nor fun) to jam-pack the schedule so full of activities that you’re stressing out about making it to the activities on time and not having enough downtime. Remember: even though it is a bachelor-bachelorette party, people want to relax and enjoy their time, especially if they’re on vacation for it. I chose to leave at least one open day so that we could explore the town and do whatever it was we felt like doing at that time.
Spend a day of the trip — or at least a few hours — apart doing separate activities for the guys and ladies. It’s so important to give the bride and groom some time to focus on themselves with their guys or girls. Saturday morning of the weekend, the girls got massages at a local spa, while the guys went axe throwing. It was the perfect amount of time to focus on the bride and groom individually. Following these activities, we all met up at the hotel for a pool party prior to the evening festivities.
Do not sweat the minute details.I know — easier said than done and I may or may not have broken this rule myself since it comes with the territory of being a perfectionist, but should you forget something minor or anything go awry, chances are you’re the only one who realizes it. Don’t overthink what goes in the gift bags or whether or not you have enough decor these things do not make or break the event.
You absolutely CANNOT please everyone. There are only two people whose happiness matters: the bride and the groom. Double the attendees means double the opinions that do not matter. So long as the bride and groom are having fun and enjoying themselves, there’s no need to worry about anyone else.
Event planning 101: If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong. People will show up to reservations late and winging the night might not always go to plan, just roll with the punches. Use your best judgement to handle the situation, and move on. Remember that you need to enjoy yourself too after all of your hard work.
Do you have any more tips that you didn’t see here? Drop them in the comments!