What I’ve Been Up To Lately

Long time no see, huh? I keep thinking of something interesting to write about that happened to me in the month of January, but the entire month was kind of a blur! So instead of focusing in on one big thing, I’m just going to talk about some of the little things I’ve been doing/thinking about this past month:

MARIE KONDO

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you probably know about Marie Kondo’s new show on Netflix. I admit that I haven’t gotten around to reading “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” yet but I did watch the whole show and I really enjoyed it! Marie Kondo is the cutest and I loved watching the participants’ growth throughout each episode, as well as Marie’s little tips on how to organize things sprinkled throughout. It inspired me to do some organizing of my own. I will say that I have always been VERY good about keeping my clothes organized, especially in my closet. I keep everything color coordinated and separated out by type. I also frequently purge my clothes- probably once every quarter or so. So I went into this thinking that I wouldn’t really have much to improve on as far as clothes go. Well, I surprised myself when I ended up getting rid of a whole entire trash bag full of clothes! Most of them were from my dresser, but there were certainly a few things in my closet that did not “spark joy” anymore. I also went ahead and folded all the clothes in my dresser using Marie’s method and I can’t even begin to say how much nicer all the drawers in the dresser look. The process only took a couple of hours for me but it made me really excited to start KonMari-ing other (more neglected) areas of our apartment. I’m dreading doing our spare bedroom (aka the catch all) but I’m also kind of excited to see how much we can donate!

IPHONE XR

This past weekend, I traded in my old, beaten up iPhone 6S Plus for a brand spanking new iPhone XR. I had had my old iPhone since October 2016 so I felt like it was time for an upgrade. I know I’m a little late to the iPhone X game but man, do I love my new phone! The main reason I wanted an iPhone X was because of the camera capabilities, especially since I am going to Europe this summer and want to be able to take ALL the pictures. However, we all know that iPhones in general are expensive, especially the latest models! Greg sweetly and graciously gifted me with an Apple gift card this weekend and I went to town. So shout out to him- I would not have been able to indulge in such a luxury without him! We had so much fun picking out the iPhone this weekend and spending time using portrait mode (mostly to take silly selfies/pictures of our cat). I can’t wait to become more familiar with the phone and eventually document my backpacking trip using it!

GRAD SCHOOL

It is finally, FINALLY my last semester! As of today, there are officially 102 days til graduation. Seems like a lot, but I know it will go by in a flash. I mean, the first 2 weeks of the semester are already over! This semester I’m taking 3 classes- Leadership in Student Affairs, Governance and Legal Issues in Student Affairs, and Capstone in Student Affairs (which is sort of like a case study course). I’m actually looking forward to learning more in all of them! The past 2 semesters before this one, I took 2 full length courses and did an internship each time. I definitely prefer this semester because there is no internship and I’m only working 20 hours a week at my assistantship, which means for the first time in the entire time I’ve been in grad school (if you don’t count last summer), I get a day off each week! I am truly savoring it. Of course I am so excited for graduation to be here but I’m also just really trying to embrace each day of this semester and spend as much time as possible with coworkers and my cohort. I’m going to miss all of them when this is over!

READING

I read 7 books in the month of January and just finished another last night, which I am super proud of! I know I won’t get through as many over the next few months so it was nice to get ahead on my reading goal for 2019 (55 books). Here are the books I’ve read thus far:

  • Whiskey in a Teacup- Reese Witherspoon (4/5)
  • Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte (4/5)
  • The Opposite of Loneliness- Marina Keegan (4/5)
  • The Moon and More- Sarah Dessen (4/5)
  • The Gilded Years- Karin Tanabe (5/5)
  • Everything, Everything- Nicola Yoon (3/5)
  • Commencement- J. Courtney Sullivan (3/5)
  • 1984- George Orwell (3/5)

Thinking back on these, the only book that really seems like a standout to me is The Gilded Years, which is about the first African American woman to attend Vassar College in the late 1800s (and she was only able to do so because she was white-passing). It’s based on a true story and was a super fascinating book! I would highly recommend it. Other than that, the books ranged from “meh” to “pretty good”. But even the ones I rated 4 stars at the time are feeling a bit unmemorable to me only a month later!

EXERCISE/NUTRITION

Saying I exercised less than usual would be an understatement…I completely neglected it! I also did not do the best at eating healthy. And all the progress I made at the beginning of last year (losing roughly 15 pounds) was undone. I’m not too mad about losing weight and then gaining some of it back. I’m actually pretty happy with my weight and body in general right now. But I did miss FEELING good. There were so many days when I just felt “bleh”. So I’m trying to slowly and steadily get back on the wellness train. I started doing Couch to 5k again and Greg and I signed up for a 5k that will happen in March, so there’s no turning back on training! I’m excited for it and I forgot how much I love running. I’ve also started going to hot yoga once a week. My friend Veronica teaches the class and she absolutely kills it! I always feel so amazing once it’s done (even if I’m dying while it’s going on). I haven’t started incorporating at-home yoga back into my routine yet but I’m hoping to do that once or twice a week coming up soon. As far as eating goes, I’ve started to get a lot more adventurous with my cooking. I bought a few cookbooks at the beginning of this year and I absolutely love them! Each week I try to make one or two new recipes and I’m surprised at how good they turn out. I made salmon with cauliflower “risotto” last week thinking it would be kind of a simple, bland recipe and it turned out to be one of the best damn things I’ve ever made. I’ve been getting my recipes off Pinterest for so long and I now realize that all the recipes I found on there were somewhat boring and kind of all used the same ingredients/flavors. The cookbook recipes are more unique and original and I’m making things I would have never thought about making before. So if you’ve found yourself in a cooking rut, I would highly recommend buying a couple of cookbooks. It’s been fun and it’s made me want to eat out less because I’ve found I can make really high quality recipes at home!

So that’s that! A glimpse into my wonderfully average life 🙂 Hopefully soon I will have something more interesting to write about!

Until next time,

Zoe

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Take a Compliment

This is going to be a short and sweet post, but I just felt like I had to share!

It’s easy for me to get caught up in an endless cycle of imposter syndrome and telling myself that I’m not good enough. It’s easy for me to start having irrational thoughts that people don’t like me and that everyone is only pretending to tolerate my presence.

Yeah, I’m sure there a couple of people in my life who I annoy and who would rather do without me. But for the most part, those thoughts I have are so not based in reality! I have some amazing people in my life who value me and are invested in me as a person.

Today, I was working the front desk at work and one of our sweet Career Counselors, Kate, walked in to get some more coffee. She came up to me and said, “Zoe, I just want you to know I think you’re amazing. I really appreciate your approach to life.”

It was such a sweet, sincere compliment. It really made my day. It made me realize that sometimes people say nice things about me and I brush them off or forget about them entirely. But I really wanted to soak this compliment in. And then I got an idea- what if I tried to write down and remember every compliment that I got?

So I immediately opened a new note on my phone and typed in Kate’s compliment. And I am going to try to do that with every compliment I receive from here on out (or at least all the ones I can).

I don’t write this post to make people think that I’m constantly receiving compliments or that I think I’m so great or anything. I write this because I think so many people, especially women, have a complicated relationship with compliments. We tend to get embarrassed when people compliment us or downplay the nice things that we get told. We shouldn’t! Of course we shouldn’t let things go to our head, but we should savor the compliments we get and take them to heart.

So I encourage everyone to practice this habit of writing down compliments, as well! I plan to revisit this little phone note often when I’m having a bad day, when I don’t feel good enough, or when I just need a pick me up. I hope others can do the same.

Until next time,

Zoe

European Vacation- Here I Come!

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(Ironically, this is the only “Vacation” series movie that I have not seen. I have been told that it is not worth a watch. I’ll just continue watching “Christmas Vacation” til I have it memorized).

So I’ve mentioned this a couple times here and there on my blog, but the biggest adventure I’m taking this year is a 6 week trip to Europe! Although it is certainly going to be a break from my normal life, I’m not sure if “vacation” is the right word I’d use to describe it since I know there will not be a lot of relaxing going on!

My plan right now is to visit 8-9 countries in 40 days. 3 of those days will be spent in one of my favorite places in the world, New York City, before I set off to Europe so really it’s more like 8-9 countries in 37 days.

No pressure on me or anything.

Here’s where I plan to go:

Paris, France

Belgium (this is a “maybe” right now but I would love to go to Bruges for a day or two!)

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Munich, Germany and perhaps another city in Germany…such a big country and so many places to go (so if you have suggestions, let me know!)

Prague, Czech Republic

Vienna and Salzburg, Austria

Somewhere in Switzerland (I’ve heard Zermatt is beautiful!)

Nice, France (and surrounding cities such as Marseille and Monaco)

Genoa, Pisa, and Venice, Italy

London, UK (just for a day on my way back…but still counts!)

Have I mentioned that I’ve only ever traveled overseas once before? I went to Italy during my junior year of college for 4 weeks. While it was an amazing experience, I was with my college choir and a tour company planned our entire itinerary out for us so I basically just showed up and let them take me everywhere without giving it a second thought. This trip? This is all on me.

Part of me is thinking that I’m biting off more than I can chew (and you’re probably thinking it too). But the other part of me, a larger part of me, has been wanting to do something like this for years and years. That part of me is thinking “Go big or go home”. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Currently, I have my flight there and back booked. Other than that? I still have LOTS of work to do to get all the details in order for this trip. I keep telling myself I have plenty of time, but realistically I only have about 4 months to book transportation and accommodations, as well as buy any items I need to take with me, do research on what I want to do in each city, and take care of pesky things like renewing my passport and buying travel insurance. I feel like I’ve basically added on another grad school class to my schedule (except I get legitimately excited thinking about preparing for this trip, unlike the feeling I often get when I think of grad school haha).

I’m doing most of it solo, although the Switzerland/South France/Italy portion of the trip will be with Greg, which I’m super excited about! And even though I’m a little anxious/nervous about the solo part, I’m more excited about it. I think this is going to be a great growing experience for me and a way to get out of my comfort zone. I’m so pumped to meet so many people while I’m roughing it out in those hostels!

I have so much more to say and explore, but what fun would it be if I just laid it all out in one post? Much, much more to come 🙂 And in the meantime, if you have suggestions/tips/ideas/questions, PLEASE share them with me!

Until next time

Zoe

Hello, 2019!

Hello everyone! I’m sorry it’s been such a long time since I’ve written on here. I had a full 2.5 weeks off from work over the break (I’m actually still off til next Monday) and I let myself take a true hiatus from a lot of things in life. I am so glad I still have a few days to get back in the swing of things, but I think at this point I finally feel refreshed enough to start being productive again 🙂

I’ll be honest, I don’t necessarily look forward to New Years. Because I’ve always been a student or worked in higher education, the start of the new school year in August feels a lot more like the “new year” to me than January 1 does. Also, January just seems like a gloomy month to me- it’s like a downer after all the holiday celebrations! However, this time around I could not have welcomed 2019 with more open arms. 2018, while not the worst year, was certainly not the best. The first half was rough as Greg was searching for a new job and we had to support ourselves on my laughable graduate assistant salary and our savings (side note everyone: save money when you can! I know it is not feasible for every single person but if you have the means to put aside money each month, do it. Our “emergency fund” saved our asses during those months). The second half of the year was rough for me as I dealt with a very stressful grad school semester and a lot of anxiety and self-doubt. While I am trying to embrace my grad school years, I also won’t lie and pretend like I want them to go on any longer than they need to- I have silently been counting down the days til they will be over.

So to say the least, I have a lot of expectations for 2019. I don’t necessarily want to put it on a pedestal, but I know I have a lot of good things coming up, including:

  • Going to California for the first time in March for a conference
  • Receiving my master’s degree on Friday, May 17 at 6:00 pm (yes, I have it down to the hour!)
  • Going on a 6 week trip to Europe in the summer (4 of those weeks I’m taking on completely by myself. I have a feeling I will be writing a lot about this experience on the blog this year!)
  • Starting a new job after I get back from Europe (knock on wood)

It’s going to be one of those transformative years for sure, kind of like 2017 was. Needless to say, I am super excited!

I have made a few goals/intentions for myself this year. I try not to get caught up too much in making huge resolutions that I know I can’t keep. But off the top of my head, here are a few things I hope to do this year:

  • Seriously cut down on my fast food consumption: Every month when Greg and I look at our budget, I cringe at how much money we spend on fast food. I’m constantly on campus and Greg has a long commute each day to work, so we find ourselves picking it up spontaneously when we know we shouldn’t. I’ve actually committed to going the entire month of January not eating anywhere that has a drive thru (that includes Starbucks, which really bums me out). I’m hoping this allows us to save money and also get a bit healthier in the process. I’m also hoping it will make me want to eat fast food less in the months thereafter.
  • Read 55 books: Last year I read a whopping 53 books, which, not gonna lie, makes me super proud of myself. Reading that many books for leisure while going to grad school full time is no small feat! I’ve upped my goal only marginally this year because I still have a semester of grad school left and I’m also not sure how much I’ll actually read while I’m on my trip to Europe. I’m doing the 2019 PopSugar Reading Challenge this year and I’m so excited- the one last year was so much fun and really got me out of my comfort zone! It’s only 50 books but I threw another 5 in there because I know I’ll inevitably start reading a few books that aren’t a part of the challenge 🙂
  • Spend more time being creative: Every year I tell myself I’m going to write more and work on my music more. Last year I failed miserably in this department. I did write a couple of songs which I’m proud of but once the fall semester rolled around, I barely touched my guitar. I would really love to get in touch with my creative side again this year and make music a priority.
  • Make a 4.0 in my last semester of grad school: So far I’m 4 for 4 in the semesters I’ve completed- I have not dipped below a 4.0. I’m ready to graduate with one! My undergrad self would be so proud.
  • Move to San Antonio: After I get my master’s I will stop at nothing until we move to San Antonio. I have been wanting to relocate to a city for years now (not just a big town…a BIG CITY). Greg and I have been looking at apartments and houses and I am counting down the days til we can make our big move!

One area that I noticeably have not set any goals for myself in is fitness. For years I’ve made fitness resolutions/goals and sometimes they work out and sometimes they don’t. Of course I want to incorporate it into my life and my routine this year but I’m not quite sure what that looks like yet and to be totally honest, I’m tired of putting pressure on myself to be perfect in this area. Fitness-wise, I hope to just do the best I can and give myself grace when I can’t.

That’s about it for now! What are your new year’s resolutions/goals/intentions?

Until next time,

Zoe

My Favorite Books This Year

Anyone that knows me knows that reading is one of my absolute favorite things in the world. I love curling up with a good book on a long afternoon. Each year I read dozens of books and I review (or at least rate) them all on Goodreads (see my Goodreads page here). I take my hobby very seriously!

However, I do find myself reading the same sorts of books all the time. My guilty pleasures are psychological thrillers (think Gone Girl) but I also enjoy historical fiction and “chick lit”. So this year I decided to mix things up and do the PopSugar Reading Challenge for the first time ever and I’m so glad I did! I won’t lie- it was definitely a challenge as the title suggests. There were some prompts in there that I absolutely dreaded. I made a list at the beginning of the year of all the books I wanted to read for each prompt and I ended up having to switch some books out several times because I just knew I wouldn’t be able to handle reading some of them (I was super ambitious at the beginning). But all in all, it was such a great way to get me out of my reading comfort zone! And I have already made my list for next year’s challenge!

There were definitely some duds this year but for the most part I read some really great books, and today I would like to share my favorites with you!

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Prompt: A Book Recommended by Someone Else Taking the Challenge)

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I really enjoy family saga type stories and this one was simply beautiful. Spanning decades, Pachinko centers around generations of a South Korean family as they go back and forth between South Korea and Japan. It was really interesting to learn about the history there- I never knew that throughout the 1900s, Japanese people were very prejudiced against South Koreans. It goes to show that, sadly, discrimination and racism happens everywhere. This wasn’t necessarily a happy story, but I found it to be very realistic and a great glimpse into the human experience.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Prompt: A Past Goodreads Choice Award Winner)

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I loved Ng’s first book Everything I Never Told You but I think I liked Little Fires Everywhere even more. There are few authors who can successfully get you to see a situation from several (oftentimes opposing) points of view, but this woman can do it. I think this book is most effective if you go into it with little knowledge of what it’s about, so I won’t give much away except that it is utterly heartbreaking and thought-provoking. Go read it.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Prompt: A Book by an Author of a Different Ethnicity Than You)

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This book has gotten so much buzz over the past couple years and for good reason. It’s very timely and extremely crucial. In this book, a young Black girl witnesses the murder of her friend by a police officer. Does this situation sound familiar? It should if you’re an American. Angie Thomas could not have produced a more relevant piece of literature if she tried. What I really like about The Hate U Give is that it’s an accessible, easy to read book despite its hard-hitting subject matter. Which is why I think no one should have any excuse not to read it. Of course, it’s being banned in schools everywhere. And that makes me think that she did something right 🙂

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Prompt: A Cyberpunk Book)

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While I fully recognize that this book isn’t the pinnacle of fine literature, I can’t help but put it among my top 5 books of the year. It was just so damn fun to read. This is an example of a book I would have never read had I not had the cyberpunk prompt for the challenge, as that is a genre I don’t even touch. I will admit that this is a pretty mainstream book, but I dare anyone to read it and not enjoy it. So. Much. Fun.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton (Prompt: A Book You Meant to Read in 2017 But Didn’t Get To)

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Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors and this book was certainly one of my favorites by her! She is a beautiful writer and if I had one word to describer her books it would be “enchanting”. They read almost like fairy tales! I also love books that flip back and forth between the past and present, which Kate Morton is a master at. Her books are perfect for cozying up on the couch with a fluffy blanket and tea! Highly recommend.

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (Prompt: A Novel Based on a Real Person)

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This is hands down my favorite book I read this year. It is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, a person I did not know much about before reading the book. Sittenfeld writes so well that I had to remind myself several times during reading that the book was not an autobiography. I’m not even sure what else I can say except that I truly cherished this book. I think anyone like me who is fed up with the super partisan way of our country right now would enjoy it too.

Just Kids by Patti Smith (Prompt: A Bestseller From the Year You Graduated High School)

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I knew nothing about Patti Smith before reading this book, but it was hard not to get drawn in and mesmerized by her lovely prose and storytelling. Her friendship with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe was special and rare. I love reading about their adventures in New York and their vagabond, free spirited ways. This was very inspiring!

 

I would love to know what books you read and loved this year! Tell me about them in the comments!

Until next time,

Zoe

Another Trip Around the Sun

Yesterday was my 27th birthday! It’s weird because I feel like my 26th birthday literally happened a week ago. I’m a little scared at how quickly time is passing, to be honest. But since I cannot control it, I guess I’ll just roll with it 🙂

Here are some highlights from the past year…

  1. Going on a Christmas cruise with Greg’s family (even though I got horribly sick for the last 2 days of it)
  2. Becoming better friends with some of the best people ever in my grad school cohort
  3. Greg persisting through the job search process and eventually getting a job that he freakin loves! (I know this didn’t really happen to me per se, but it was a big part of our year!)
  4. Going to New Orleans for our summer vacation
  5. Spending the rest of summer literally just chilling and taking care of myself- probably the last summer I’ll have “off” in a very long time!
  6. Getting to experience the weddings of some friends that I love dearly
  7. Discovering how much I love yoga (even if I’ve taken a bit of a break from it this semester)
  8. Celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary
  9. Going to my first ever music festival (which was a bust) and then my second ever music festival (which was amazing!)
  10. Seeing two of my favorite artists (Taylor Swift and Florence + the Machine) back to back during the same weekend
  11. Voting in my first midterm election (even if the results were extremely disappointing)
  12. Experiencing another year of learning, growing, and slowly figuring out who I am!

So what do I have in store for year 27 of life? I am most looking forward to going to California (for the first time!) for a conference, getting my master’s degree, backpacking through Europe for 6 weeks, and (hopefully) getting a new job. To say that this coming year is going to be an exciting one would be an understatement. I can’t wait to share more of my adventures with you!

Until next time,

Zoe

Some of my Favorite Cookie Recipes

Woof…it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. This semester is kicking my ass, so until it’s over I probably won’t be posting anything of real substance, unfortunately. However, I do want to maintain somewhat of a presence on my blog so today I would like to share with you all some my favorite tried and true cookie recipes!

Cookies are my absolute favorite things to bake. They spend much less time in the oven than a cake or pie (meaning I don’t have to wait as long to eat them) and they are great to take to work or school and share with friends (I have to do this so that I won’t eat all of them in one sitting). They’re the perfect little sweet treat to just grab and go!

Although I am not a good enough baker to have my own recipes that I’ve created, here are some from other sources that I’ve made in the past and thoroughly enjoyed. As you can see, a few of them of them are very holiday-esque because I find myself baking more and more this time of year. But don’t let people tell you otherwise- all of these cookies can be enjoyed at any time of year! Bon Appetit!

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies(via Eating on a Dime)- duh, who doesn’t love these! To me, these are the quintessential Christmas cookie. I’ve been making these every year with my mom and grandma since I can remember. They’re the perfect combination of 2 of my favorite flavors- peanut butter and chocolate! However, I have seen variations of these cookies using all sorts of flavors/types of kisses, so don’t be afraid to get creative!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cookies (via Ella Claire)- Let me tell you, I have won people over with these cookies time and time again. They’re extremely easy to make and they are so addictive, it’s unreal. I’ve also made these cookies with funfetti cake mix and sprinkles (instead of strawberry cake mix and chocolate chips)- also very good!

Hershey’s S’more Bars (via Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen)- Technically not a cookie, but I’m not going to let this sway me from sharing this amazing recipe with you. I LOVE s’mores but I find most s’mores “flavored” desserts to be underwhelming. Not so with these bars, which are so delicious. Pro tip- keep these in the fridge (or freezer!) as leftovers. They taste just as good cold.

Pumpkin Spice Cookies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (via Two Sisters Crafting)- Let’s be real here, I have about 500 pumpkin recipes I could share because pumpkin is my absolute fav, but this recipe takes the cake. The cookies are very moist and cake-like and the cream cheese frosting is divine. Although I always say I would literally eat cream cheese off cardboard, so any recipe incorporating it is sure to be a winner in my book.

Gingerbread Cookies (via Baking a Moment)- A classic recipe perfect for the holidays. It takes some time and energy so unfortunately I don’t get around to baking these every year, but I am hoping to make them this season!

So there you have it! I hope to try some new recipes this year, but let’s be real- I’ll probably find myself going back to these because they’re just so easy and reliable. If you have any cookie recipe recommendations, let me know because I’d love to try them!

Until next time

Zoe