Life

New Year, New Me

I already let my feelings about New Year’s resolutions known last year. You’re not going to automatically change who you are as a person because we are entering a new year. People who talk nonsense about “New Year, New Me” are dumb. I know that may sound harsh but it’s true.

However, I am all for setting goals for yourself. Sort of like a New Year’s bucket list. Every year there are new things that I want to try/accomplish. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes not so much. So this year I am going to hold myself accountable by putting it in writing. This means that you get to share this journey with me. (Aren’t you so lucky?)

This year I’ve decided to set several goals for myself. Some are things that I’ve started improving on this year and some are things that I’ve been thinking about for awhile. I am being realistic with these goals. That’s the problem with goals and resolutions. Many times people strive too high too fast. You’re not going to go from taking the elevator everywhere to running a mile. It just doesn’t work like that. I do not want to set myself up for failure. So you may scoff at some of these goals but they are big changes for me. (And if I happen to exceed any them then even better!)

  1. Hike at least 10 new trails.
  2. Go meatless at least 3 times a week.
  3. Walk 10,000 steps or more at least 4 times a week.
  4. Visit two places I’ve never been before.
  5. Successfully make a loaf of bread.
  6. Write at least 12 new blog posts.
  7. Try out 2 new recipes a month.
  8. Volunteer my time.
  9. Find a way to better manage my stress/anxiety.
  10. Unplug from my cellphone more often.

Now that this is written down and about to be broadcast to the world (AKA all five of you reading), I have to try my hardest to follow through. At the halfway mark, I’m going to follow up on the post and check on my progress. Wish me luck!

Happy New Year!

*Question: What are some goals you have for 2018?

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If Your Year Isn’t Filled with Ups and Downs, Then You’re Not Really Living

This may be a little pretentious of me but I want to dedicate this post to someone. I know this isn’t a book. But it’s my blog so I’ll do what I want. I want to dedicate this post to my sister Keri who had one of the hardest Christmases ever. On Christmas Eve, we had to put down her chocolate lab. Elvis was a member of the family for almost 12 years so it was hard for all of us to say goodbye. But it hit my sister the hardest as Elvis was her dog. Her baby. She was a mommy to Elvis way before my nephews came along. So this post is for her and all the tears she shed this past week.

And there were a lot of tears. I cried a lot on Christmas Eve. It was probably the saddest I had been the whole year. Watching Elvis be put down was the hardest thing I had to do the entire year of 2017.

All the tears got me thinking about all the times I cried this year. I cried A LOT. I am a crier. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I’m angry. I cry at all those ridiculous car commercials that show the timeline of a baby turning into a teenager getting her parent’s car. (It’s capitalism and all marketing but they are tugging at my heartstrings!)

Elvis was the saddest moment of 2017. But while I was reflecting on the events of Christmas Eve, I started thinking about the best moments of 2017. My trip to Europe was the best part of my year, particularly the visit to Switzerland. This June, I went to Switzerland, Germany and England. Switzerland was by far the best part and the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. I went to the Alps of Switzerland and went to the top of a glacier for viewing. I was nearly 13,000 feet above sea level. The highest I’ve ever been. It’s sounds corny but when I stepped out to see the view it literally took my breath away. I felt like I was on top of the world. The view and wonder of it brought tears to my eyes.

Life is filled with ups and downs. It’s always going to be. Your life has to be filled with ups and downs if you want to really experience life. I cried so much over the death of Elvis because I allowed myself to love and feel. I also took a chance this year and booked a two-week vacation to visit places I’ve never been before. Life is about experiences and relationships. Sometimes the experiences and relationships will hurt you. Sometimes they will make you cry happy tears and sometimes it will be sad tears. But whether those tears are from joy or pain, they’re important.

I cried a ton of tears in 2017 and I plan to continue the tears onto 2018. Cause a year without any ups and downs hasn’t really been lived.

Let’s end this by giving a proper farewell to the craziest yet most lovable dog to have ever lived.

Online Dating Is Not for the Weak

When I started dating my bf, first and foremost I was happy that I found someone that I genuinely liked and who actually liked me back. But right after that feeling was the relief that I was able to delete any and all online dating apps.

Dating in this day and age requires online dating. In my opinion, it’s a necessary evil. For some reason, online dating still has a stigma around it. Plenty of people are embarrassed to admit they met their SO by swiping right. But here’s the truth, plenty of relationships, plenty of marriages these days start with a match on an app.

I do not pretend to be an authority on anything. (I ate a pint of Halo Top ice cream for dinner last night so I would take anything I say with a grain of salt.) But I do know a few things about online dating. I spent a large portion of my twenties downloading apps, making profiles, swiping right, and doing all that other online dating nonsense. It’s tedious and can often feel like a second job, but sometimes it actually works. While I technically knew my bf in high school, we probably wouldn’t have found ourselves in each other’s lives again if it weren’t for the help of OK Cupid. I know of quite a few relationships that have started with both parties swiping right.

When you’re in the thick of the online dating scene, it can be exhausting and soul crushing. (I cannot even begin to count how many times I deleted an app just to redownload it a few days later.) I want to try to make things a little easier for you. Below are some tips that should help online dating go a little smoother.

Spend a little time on your profile. I know it’s tempting to put a fact or two and end it with, “If you want to know more, ask!” No one wants to spend a ton of time filling out their online profile but don’t leave it completely empty. Your profile is a chance to showcase your personality. You can use it as an outlet to let others know why you’re on the site and what you’re looking for. It doesn’t always work but doing this can help to weed out some of the people just looking for a hookup. Also, it’s always a good sign if a match messages you by referencing something you mentioned in your profile. This shows that they actually took the time to read what you have to say.

On the same end, take notice when someone puts effort in their profile. You’re not going to spend time filling out your profile if you’re not serious about online dating. Be weary of the profiles that have just a few sentences. This usually means the dude (or dudette) isn’t looking for anything too serious.

The block button is your friend. Coming across creeps on dating apps is inevitable. I hate to break it to you but it’s going to happen. You’re also going to come across people that will become hostile seemingly out of nowhere. The good news is that you do not have to deal with them. The block button is there for a reason. Do not waste your time responding to someone when they show signs of being a jerk. Block them and move on.

Don’t use an incredibly old photo. My motto when it comes to online pics is to use something where you look good but not TOO good. Your picture should look like you the way you look on a regular day. So don’t use a photo from your sister’s wedding when your hair and makeup were professionally done. Let your date be pleasantly surprised by how you look in person. And leave any photo that’s over two years out of the profile completely.

Don’t let it turn into a texting relationship. When you finally match with someone, I think there should be a time frame for when you actually meet in person. Of course, you don’t want to do it right away. You gotta give yourself some time to determine if the person’s a psycho. But don’t let it turn into a texting relationship. I had some guys who I’d speak to every day for months but we never actually met. Either they wouldn’t even initiate plans or plans would fall through at the last minute. If it’s been a month of talking but still no face-to-face meetups, drop it. Dating is time consuming as it is. Don’t waste your time with someone who doesn’t want to actually meet you.

Be cautious on where the first date is held. Do not get into a strangers car. Do not go somewhere unfamiliar with a stranger. NEVER go into a strangers house. I cannot stress this enough. The person you’re meeting online could potentially be the love of your life or they could be the next subject of America’s Most Wanted. Finding out which category they fit in will take some time. Until you’re convinced this person isn’t going to murder you, do not go anywhere with them alone. Even if they insist, travel to the date on your own. Make sure you’re meeting up at a place with other people and always let someone else know where you’re going. I may sound paranoid but as great as online dating can be, it can also be incredibly scary. You can never be too careful.

If you do not feel anything after the first date, move on. Dating is a numbers game. The more people who meet, the more likely you are to meet someone you have a connection with. This is why keeping someone around just for kicks or cause you sorta like them is a complete waste of your time and the other person’s.

Don’t take anything personally. People can be mean. They can especially be mean online. There is a lack of intimacy when you’re communicating through a screen. It’s hard for some people to remember that there’s an actual human being on the other end. I think that this is what makes some people meaner online than they would ever be in person. If someone is being mean to you, just block them and move on.

Do not get discouraged. Online dating can be exhausting. You will go on way more bad dates than good dates. Try not to let it get to you. Remember that you’re not alone and that the guy or girl for you is out there. It just may take a few more swipes to find them.

If you need a break, take one. If you’re a single person who wants to find someone, you have no choice but to put yourself out there. I know it’s tiring but you’re not going to meet the love of your life on the couch. However, with that being said, if you need a break, take it! I wasn’t kidding when I said online dating can be exhausting. If you feel that you’re getting burnt out, take some time to decompress.

Thirty Things I’m Thankful For

I am going to admit right now that I am a hater. Or at least I used to be one. Every November my social media feeds would become flooded with everyone sharing all the things they’re thankful for. My snarky self would sit back and think, “Really Judy? You’re thankful for your kids and your home? How original!” However, something happened this year. The ice around my heart melted and I started to enjoy the posts about why people are happy and thankful.

We spend SO much time focusing on the bad stuff that we often forget what makes us happy. I know that I spend a lot of time complaining about the things I’m unhappy about instead of focusing on the things in my life I do enjoy. And I don’t know about you but I’m tired of the negativity. My life isn’t perfect but I still have a ton to be thankful for. So in honor of the month of November and Thanksgiving, I present to you thirty things I’m thankful for. (Please keep your snarky comments and eye rolling to a minimum. This post is about to get real cheesy.)

*Just so you know, this list is in no particular order.

  1. My sisters – I wasn’t kidding when I said they were the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. I have no idea what I would do without them.
  2. My nephews – While my sisters are the greatest gift my parents gave me, my nephews are by far the greatest gift my older sister gave me. Doesn’t matter what mood I’m in, if I hang out with my nephews, I’m happy.
  3. My job – I have done some complaining about my job but I actually finally found a new one. Still at a library and it’s closer to home. I am still not 100% where I want to be but I have a job I enjoy and it pays me enough to afford the bare minimum and some splurging every so often.
  4. Cupcakes – There are so many sweets that I could put on this list. But to avoid being a complete glutton, I am going to limit it to just one. Cupcakes are my one true love.
  5. My apartment – It’s small but it’s home. I love the little place my bf and I built.
  6. My car – My car is old and sounds like an airplane taking off if I go over 50 mph, but I love it. It was my grandmother’s car and I took it over when she passed away. It gave me the ability to go to school and work a far distance from home without having to rely on public transportation.
  7. My relationship – I have encountered enough dating disasters to know that I am incredibly lucky. I have a bf who cares about me and is genuinely interested in what I care about.
  8. Books – Reading is the most amazing thing in the world. Books allow me free entertainment when I have nothing else to do. I have survived plenty of plane and train rides with the help of books.
  9. My kitchen – Yes, I am listing my kitchen separately from my apartment. This year, I have become more and more excited about cooking. My kitchen is small but it gives me the freedom to try out new recipes.
  10. Wine – Through good times and bad, wine has always been by my side. Whether I’m enjoying a night in with my sisters or trying to get over a horrible day at work, there aren’t many cases where a glass of wine or two won’t help.
  11. Health Insurance – Living in the United States, I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have health insurance. It’s nice to be able to go to the doctor without worrying that I’ll have to deplete my entire life’s savings.
  12. My health – While I do feel like every morning I wake up with a new muscle aching, I am relatively healthy. I am so thankful for my health and the freedom it allows me to pursue my dreams.
  13. Mountains – Whether they’re big or small, I love the mountains. When I am surrounded by mountains or hiking down one, I do not have a care in the world.
  14. Netflix – More nights than I can count, Netflix and reruns of The Office have saved me from boredom.
  15. Christmas Movies – The cheesier the better. I love my Hallmark Christmas movies no matter how predictable they are.
  16. My dad – My dad is the most selfless person I have ever known. I could call him at 3am in California and he would get up and drive cross country to come pick me up.
  17. This blog – I may not update this thing as much as I’d like but I am so happy I’ve stuck with it. When I first started this blog, I hadn’t even gone back to grad school yet. It’s awesome to have something I can look through and see how much things have changed.
  18. My friends – I do not have a lot of friends but the ones that I do have are amazing. We’ve been friends since before I can remember and I know I can count of them for anything.
  19. My family – This goes beyond just my sisters, nephews, and dad. I am incredibly lucky to have an amazing family.
  20. Education – I am fully aware of how lucky I am that I have had access to education since I was 4-years-old. Being able to go to grad school, allowed me the opportunity to get the job I really wanted. It may have stressed me out at times but I am incredibly indebted to school. (I swear that’s not a pun on student loans!)
  21. Cheese – There is a ton of food I can put on this list but once again I am avoiding being a glutton. So I have to go with my second greatest love: cheese. I have yet to meet a cheese I don’t like.
  22. Traveling – I am so happy that I have the ability and the means to travel. I haven’t been everywhere yet but it’s on my list.
  23. Growing up in NYC – As someone who lived in NYC my whole life, I look at it differently than those who have just visited or recently moved here. I don’t view it with rose tinted glasses. However, I realize I’m lucky to have grown up in such an amazing city surrounded by so much culture and diversity.
  24. Puppies – This includes puppies that are 13-years-old. They are all puppies and they are all adorable. I can’t see a puppy without excitedly pointing it out and smiling.
  25. Four seasons – I have a love/hate relationship with summer and winter. When the weather gets too extreme, I complain. However, I love the fact that I live in a place that experiences all four seasons.
  26. Inheriting my grandmother’s genes – Considering that cupcakes, wine, cheese, cooking, and my kitchen are all on this list, it’s safe to assume that I love food. I am incredibly thankful that I take after my grandmother and inherited her fast metabolism.
  27. Decorations – I’m not just talking about Christmas decorations. I love all decorations. Halloween, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day. If I had the time, I’d decorate for every holiday.
  28. My phone – Naysayers be damned! Smartphones do more good than harm. They can keep us connected to the world. They help direct me where I’m going. They let me know if I should pack an umbrella with me. There isn’t much my phone can’t help me with.
  29. Sleep – I like that no matter how dismal my day has been, I can sleep it away and wake up to a new day.
  30. You – I am beyond thankful for anyone who has ever read this blog (even if I forced you to). The comments, likes, shares, etc. mean so much to me and I couldn’t be more thankful.

*What are some things you are most thankful for?

Money Versus Happiness

When we’re younger, we are always told we can be whatever we want to be. You usually don’t hear young boys and girls list jobs like accountant, secretary, plumber, or retail manager. (I’m not knocking those jobs but they just aren’t as exciting as ballerina, superhero, or movie star.)

When you’re younger, you don’t envision yourself sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Even as old as college, this usually isn’t what we envision for ourselves.

We imagine that we’re going to have exciting jobs. Our passions will turn into careers. And these careers will provide us with enough money to travel, buy a home, and eat out to dinner whenever we want.

Somewhere along the way, usually when we spend months after graduation sending out our resume to every business within 100 miles of us, we realize that our passion does not always lead to money. We’re not all going to make it as YouTube stars reviewing cookies for a living. (I’m not hip to the latest YouTubers so I’m not sure if this is actually a thing but I wouldn’t be surprised.)

While the 9-5 jobs aren’t glamorous, they have their benefits. They provide a steady paycheck and health benefits. If you’re lucky, you may even land a job that will automatically set you up with a 401K or some other retirement fund.

I spent one long weekend in the summer going on 5 interviews in New Hampshire and Vermont. I was desperate to leave my current position. I spend at least an hour in traffic each way. I like less than half the people I work with. And I am not a huge fan of the patrons who frequent my library. There are a few nice ones but most are rude.

I wanted to get out of my current job and get out of New York City.

I had a goal in mind. I wanted to be the director of a small branch somewhere up in the mountains. I’d live in a small town where everyone knew each other and I could spend my weekends hiking and going to the local farm. Basically, I wanted the complete opposite of New York. I wasn’t happy where I was so I was determined to make a change.

I started applying for jobs in New England and soon began getting call backs. I was lucky enough to squeeze several interviews in a short span of time.

My last interview of a very long weekend was at this little branch in the middle of nowhere in Vermont. It was for a library director position and if hired, I’d be the only full-time employee. The rest of the library consisted of part-timers and volunteers.

When I was in library school, this library was where I imagined working. It was a small town. (I’m talking population of less than 5,000.) I would be the sole person in charge of this little library that needed a lot of help. The Trustees were working on a plan to expand the library and bring it to the 21st century. The library needed a lot of help. The bathroom was in the basement and the only way to get there was down very steep steps. No elevator. And there was no access to the building except for several steps leading to the front entrance. No ramp.

There were a whole slew of people in the town who couldn’t use the library simply because they had no way of entering. I instantly fell in love with the little town and the adorable old ladies who interviewed me. I was ready to take on the task of rebuilding this library.

So I was elated when they called me the day after the interview to offer me the job. Here was my chance to fulfill all my librarian goals. This  was what I went to school for.

Then I was given the full offer and my heart dropped.

You can imagine a library that cannot even afford a ramp does not have much of a budget. I knew that the salary wasn’t going to be great, I just wasn’t expecting it to be so bad.

They offered me $30,000/year with no health benefits and 5 sick days to kick in once I was working for a year. I knew it wasn’t them being cheap. They were offering me everything they possibly could, but sadly, it wasn’t enough.

I knew I would have been happy there. I definitely would have enjoyed that job a lot more than the library I work for now. And I would have loved working in rural Vermont much more than Brooklyn.

But in this case, I had to choose money over happiness. Sure the cost of housing is cheaper in Vermont than Brooklyn but not much else would be less. I’d still have to eat every day and pay my student loans every month. And now I’d have to add an additional bill of health insurance since the job didn’t cover it.

I had to reluctantly turn down the offer. I still haven’t given up hope that I’ll find my dream little library. I’m just hoping to find one that’s slightly better funded.

Maybe We’re Not Meant to Feel Settled

Depending on how you look at it, the word settled can either be a good thing or a bad thing. When it comes to relationships, hearing the word “settling” is never a good thing. You don’t want to be with someone who you’re just settling for. And even worse, you don’t want someone to just be settling for you in a relationship.

On the other side of the word settled, it evokes a sense of contentment. The official definition of settle is to “adopt a more steady or secure style of life, especially in a permanent job and home.”

While I wouldn’t say that I’m completely settled in life, I’m as close as I’ve ever been. Especially when it comes to my career. On paper, I make a decent living. (Although I question that after paying rent, car insurance, and student loans every month!) I am in the job I went to school for and have moved up quickly in my company.

I also have great friends, a loving family, an awesome bf, and a place of my own. Compared to my life even two years ago, I would consider myself settled. Or moving towards settled.  Hopefully, with a few more years in my company, I could save enough to buy my own property.

But just when all these things started falling into place is when I started to get the itch to move. I have wanted to move out of New York for a long time. It was going to happen after High School. Then it was going to happen after college. Then it was going to happen when I kept moving from one dead-end job to the next. Then it was going to happen after I graduated from grad school.

It was always going to happen until it wasn’t.

The last move didn’t happen because I was offered the exact job I wanted the day after my last class at grad school. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So once again, I put my dreams of moving out of NYC on the backburner.

And I’d probably let those dreams die out completely if it wasn’t for the overwhelming feeling of restlessness I’ve been experiencing. I don’t want to be settled. And I realized that I don’t want to ever feel settled.

There is so much in life to learn and explore that we should never feel truly settled. There’s always something new to experience.

The experiences will just be different for each person. Not everyone will feel the urge to pick up and move across the country. Maybe it’s always finding something new to talk about with your significant other. Maybe it’s mastering a new skill. Maybe it’s giving up YA books and making a goal to read more non-fiction.

No matter how big or small, don’t ever settle in life. There’s always something new to learn and fall in love with.

Cooking Tips from a Mediocre Chef

If I told you a few years ago that I wanted to cook you dinner, you’d think one of three things: 1. OMG I hope this idiot doesn’t burn the house down. 2. Let me put the pizza delivery guy on speed dial now. 3. I better not get food poisoning. In many cases, you’d usually think all three.

I was never as bad as the gif above. My family can make all the jokes they want, I never set the house on fire. (I did set the alarm this Easter for burning bacon in the oven but that was more the pans fault than mine.) But I was pretty bad. Thankfully, over the years I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable in the kitchen.

Now when I tell someone I’m going to cook for them, they usually think, “ok cool, there’s a chance this meal won’t be terrible and if I’m lucky and she’s on her game, it’ll actually be really tasty.”

The list of things I can make comfortably grows everyday (mashed potatoes, buttercream frosting, homemade cake, tacos, roasted veggies, and more). At a certain point, I realized that cooking is a necessity. I can’t rely on someone else to cook for me all the time and ordering from seamless is an expense I just do not need.

I have an oven, I have a fridge. I should be able to make things on my own. It didn’t come easy and there were plenty of mishaps along the way. This weekend I’m attempting bread for the first time so the list of mishaps will continue to grow. But I have gotten a lot better so I’d like to share some tips for a person afraid of the kitchen but who wants to get started.

  1. Start small. You’re not going to step into the kitchen and create a meal that Gordon Ramsay will love. That dude is picky so it ain’t going to happen. Try baking some chicken with roasted veggies and/or potatoes. This is a relatively easy meal that you can play around with. Choose different seasonings and sauces. Roast different vegetables. The possibilities are endless.
  2. Cooking is an art, baking is a science. When cooking something, it’s OK to tweak the recipe a bit. You can switch up spices. You can add a little less or a little more of something. However, this is not so easy with baking. Decide to decrease the amount of baking soda and there’s a good chance you’ll wind up with a lifeless cake. Wait till you’re really comfortable with baking before you start playing around with the recipe.
  3. The more you cook, the cheaper it will become. For awhile, I never cooked unless it was a special occasion. If I was going to a girl’s night, I’d decide to bake some cookies or bring some mac and cheese. Since this was the only time I cooked, I’d have to buy every single ingredient on the recipe list. As you start cooking, you’ll notice that there are plenty of staples found in many recipes. Once you buy these, they should last for several different recipes.
  4. You are enough to cook for. I love cooking for people. Cooking for people is fun. I love seeing the reactions of people when they enjoy what I’ve made. I also like getting critiqued on ways I could have made the meal better. However, you don’t always need an audience to whip up a yummy meal. I struggle with this a lot because I tend to only cook when my BF is going to be over. Don’t be like that. You deserve a home cooked meal even if it’s just a table of one.
  5. Take advantage of your freezer. Now here’s the downside of cooking for yourself or a small audience: Leftovers. Leftovers can be good for lunch the next day, but what if it’s just too much? Well, you’d be surprised at how many things you can freeze. I made a cake the other day and had way too much icing leftover. I packed it in an airtight container and put that bad boy in the freezer. Now, next time I make cake, I already have icing prepared.
  6. Freezers are also great for meal prepping. Cooking everyday can get tiring. No matter how much I enjoy it, sometimes I just want to come home and plop in front of the TV without touching the oven. That’s why I started making certain things in bulk. Soup freezes very well. I also usually make 2-3 batches of banana muffins at a time to freeze for later use. Instant breakfast on-the-go. Also, drop some chicken breast with salsa in the crockpot for a few hours and you can turn that into chicken avocado burritos for later use. Easy for lunch or dinner.
  7. Do not get discouraged! This is the biggest one of all. I have had so many mishaps in the kitchen. They are bound to happen. You will make meals that even your dog won’t eat. Don’t give up. The more you cook, the better you’ll become.
  8. Have fun! While 7 is the biggest thing, this is the most important. Cooking should be fun, almost as fun as the eating part.

Happy Cooking!