Thursday, January 30, 2014

Asking Meaningful Questions

This week, I've been practicing on asking better questions. After reading Glennon Melton's piece on Momastery, I had to agree that sometimes asking generic questions only leads to throwaway answers. Questions like "how are you?" and "how was your day?" results in "fine, okay" when there might be so much more lying beyond that simple answer. It's up to us to ask questions that unravel those thoughts.

"We learned that if we really want to know our people, if we really care to know them - we need to ask them better questions and then really listen to their answers," Melton writes. "We need to ask questions that carry along with them this message: 'I'm not just checking the box here. I really care what you have to say and how you feel. I really want to know you.' If we don't want throwaway answers, we can't ask throwaway questions. A caring question is a key that will unlock a room inside the person you love."

When I first started asking A. more attentive questions when he came home from work, he pointed out that the downside is that it can sound a little patronizing. I admit it does feel a little silly in the beginning, but I assured him that it could turn up interesting answers for the both of us. Instead of asking how his day was (which, as Melton pointed out, is difficult to answer because a day holds so many things), I'll ask about specific moments he experienced: if he saw something interesting on the train ride home, how his bosses reacted to his web project, how the positive feedback made him feel, what he needs or wants at that moment. I'll try and remember to pause before asking follow-up questions to make sure they're not flippant either.

We're still getting used to asking intimate questions, but I like the fact that there's so much to glean from a person based off the answers they give you. In order for that window to open, you have to set the scene for them. Make it easier for them to unlock and share different facets of themselves with you. Hearing that the day was [insert vague emotion] for the umpteenth day in a row can get predictable - so much that we don't even hear or care too much about the answer because our mind just fills in the blank for them. How many times haven't I passed by someone in the office hallway who asked "How are you?" and kept walking right past me before I've even had a chance to answer?

The key also lies in how well you know the person as well as what's going in their lives. The potential for asking better questions grows as you become closer with someone and in turn, can improve the quality of that relationship.

"Questions are like gifts -- it's the thought behind them that the receiver really FEELS," Melton writes. "We have to know the receiver to give the right gift and to ask the right question. Generic gifts and questions are all right, but personal gifts and questions feel better. Love is specific, I think. It's an art. The more attention and time you give to your questions, the more beautiful the answers become."

To read her entire piece, click here.

P.S. Ten questions to ask your mother.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Who Do You Follow On Instagram?

Instagram has grown to become pretty much my favorite of all social media. I love that it's so visual and easy to maintain while providing a fun and simple way to engage with other members. While scrolling through the accounts I follow, I realized that my feed is filled with colorful posts, beautiful photography, soft lighting, whimsical treats, and a lot of creativity sparks. It's almost like Pinterest, but so much more digestible.

Below are some of my favorite follows in case you were looking to add a few more to your feed.

Are you on Instagram? If so, you can find me at See you there!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

War/Photography at the Brooklyn Museum

Last week, A. and I visited the Brooklyn Museum to see the War/Photography exhibition. I expected to be surrounded by gory images of death, but was instead lost in the walls of photos, article clips, and book pages showing the human race at its best and worst. I found myself wondering what on earth drives us to destroy each other, what motivates people to rip others of their rights and lives. When I entered the In Memoriam room, I just stood in front of the long list of journalists and photographers we've lost in combat. Men and women who were so dedicated to sharing these stories that they risked their lives for it. Sad thing is, while many might have died due to the dangerous nature of war, recent names are those of journalists who have been targeted, silenced. I felt like such a hack in front of that black wall. These were the people who chased those stories even if it came at such a high price.

The exhibition was not only a history lesson, but also a chance to show how photographers get up close and personal during some harrowing and inspiring moments, the stories behind iconic shots, and the role photography played in the art of war. It was a display of human emotion, compassion, how military men and women deal with the stresses of combat while trying to retain some sense of normality in their lives. The walls lead you through the experiences of recruitment, training, embarkation, daily routine, battle, death and destruction, homecoming, and remembrance. Some scenes and the accompanying stories were so heart-wrenching, difficult situations I couldn't imagine having to live through, but they were all someone's reality.

War/Photography: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath is on display at the Brooklyn Museum through Feb. 2nd.

P.S. If you need a place nearby to decompress after the exhibition and grab a bite to eat, Milk Bar (620 Vanderbilt Ave.) serves super tasty toasties that'll soothe you from the inside.


New York City Vocabulary Lesson

Now I don't really venture onto BuzzFeed unless I'm learning about my introverted self, eating up a comedian's live tweets of a rooftop breakup, discovering what city I should actually live in (London??), or trying to figure out which Game of Thrones character I'd be (Arya!). I blame my Facebook friends for sharing all of those distracting links when I should be working instead of procrastinating with useless personality quizzes. But! I actually enjoyed this illustrated NYC dictionary posted this week. As the daughter of a bodeguero, I especially liked the entry above. And since it's been way below freezing in the city and I remember being shocked when A. didn't know what the hell I was talking about when I once said it was brick outside, I wanted to share the below with you, too.

Brick [brik] adjective
1: really fucking cold
2: November through March

To read up on some other NYC terms and finally learn how to pronounce Houston Street so you don't sound like a damn tourist, click here, and check out illustrator Michael Perez's work here.


Monday, January 27, 2014

American Eagle Outfitters Campaign Gets Real

Have you seen American Eagle Outfitter's new aerie campaign? The brand's lingerie collection has launched its own "real women" movement à la Dove by featuring models without airbrushing away blemishes, stretch marks, tattoos, folds or other "imperfections. Granted, the young women they chose are still gorgeous, but at least the the company is featuring them just as they are without making them look even more unrealistic like the lingerie models we're used to seeing.

While I get that lingerie companies like Victoria's Secret and Agent Provocateur aren't just selling a product, but also an ideal sex image to go with it, when a company's target audience are teens still learning to love the skin they're in, it's important to show them the difference between what's natural and what's manufactured in ad campaigns. How powerful would it be if they could see the before and after images side by side? Even better: if society just moved past this need for perfection and the unrealistic expectations placed on women and their bodies altogether.

A few nights ago I stumbled upon Hungarian musician Boggie's music video for her latest song "Parfüm." You might not understand a word and she just sits in place through the entire piece, but watch as her video editor retouches her skin, eyes, and hair and gradually transforms the singer from what she normally looks like into a "picture perfect" star. It's crazy how retouching can make any imperfections disappear, leaving our young to believe that this is how some people wake up in the morning. And not just young women, but adults, too. According to a study conducted by cereal brand Special K for its Fight Fat Talk campaign, 93 percent of women participate in fat shaming and making negative remarks about their own bodies. Some do it because "they feel it's better to criticize themselves before others do so" while others admitted to engaging in fat talk when their friends do and not bothering to change the conversation when the shaming goes on.

So you have to think: when and how did we learn this? Why do we think it's okay to tear ourselves apart and convince ourselves we're just not pretty enough?

P.S. Dove debuts short film "Selfie."


{Challenge} Change Up Your Routine

Life can start to get a little rutty when you're doing the same thing day in and day out. Like you're fastened to some conveyor belt of wash, rinse, repeat until you feel you're about to burn out. That's usually when we go off on vacation, relax, and try something new for a few days only to come back to our regular lives and check right back into the monotony. Studies have shown that changing up your routine is a good way to keep your mind challenged with new stimuli, more engaged in the activities you're doing, and improves memory retention. There have been so many times when I'll be going through the motions only to be interrupted by something and then I'll either misplace an item I was holding or completely forget what I was doing because my mind was just not along for the ride.

So why don't we challenge ourselves to mix up our routine this week? It can be big or small, but you might find that breaking your routine will help your brain focus on the present moment rather than slipping into autopilot. You might even discover new sights, people, tastes, or sounds you like and new inspiration that spark your creativity. Regularly give your brain different input and who knows what ideas might pop out. Below are 15 ideas you can try out this week:

1. Brush your teeth while holding your toothbrush with the other hand.
2. Give yourself enough time to take and explore a different route to work.
3. Change up the order in which you do your tasks.
4. Try a new hairstyle or an outfit you wouldn't ordinarily choose.
5. Say yes more often if you always say no. Learn to say no if you always say yes.
6. If you're self-employed, change up your work hours or days.
7. Smile and say hello to a stranger.
8. Try a new recipe for dinner or order something new from a familiar menu.
9. Wake up earlier and go to sleep earlier or pull in a late night and sleep in the following morning.
10. Call a friend you have a text message relationship with or send some snail mail.
11. Unplug for an entire evening and nestle in with a book or a hot bath instead.
12. Do something that forces you out of your comfort zone.
13. Go to the gym before work instead of after or vice versa.
14. Block social media from your phone and computer during working hours.
15. Take a day off and do anything you want...or absolutely nothing.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Let People Change Without Bringing Up The Past

Changing is hard enough on its own without also having to deal with those who want to keep reminding you of who you were. How can we expect people to improve and be better if we keep digging up their past?

It's not an easy thing for me to change. Not only do I have to contend with 30+ years of conditioning and neuroses, but also my insecurities of how it would seem to others if I started acting differently. I like to seem like a smooth ride so even if I'm spiraling downward in the middle of some social situation and want desperately to snap out of it, I won't because I don't want to come out of left field with my sudden mood change. Yes, even if it's for the better.

This also goes for my personality in general. I've always felt like I've had these roles to play and continue do so even after I've grown out of them because I feel it's expected of me. With family, I'm the quiet, sensitive, brooding type who could get sad and/or frustrated at any moment. I hold things inside only to unleash it all when it finally bubbles over the edge. With friends, I'm the snarky, sarcastic one with a mean streak with grad school classmates going so far as to say that I was the girl without a soul. I laughed along because at least I was being noticed for something instead of sticking to the shadows.

Over the years I've realized that I'm happiest when I'm none of those things, but rather when I'm confident, silly, loving and carefree. Yes, I still have a mouth on me, but I'm also a mush ball. And it all feels quite nice.

The trouble comes when I hang out with people who met me during a certain phase and want to hold me to that Dorkys. How hard it is when I muster up the guts to let my new traits through - the one that now likes affection, experimenting and being open to new adventures - only to be met with incredulousness and teasing. No matter how playful the comments, my knee jerk reaction is to retreat, defend and hide that piece of my personality I dared let out. And immediately after I think, "Why the hell am I so defensive when I'm just trying to be myself?"

So instead of reminding someone of how they used to be back in the day, rehashing a past offense they committed or pointing out a time when they were so opposed to whatever it is they're loving now, just let them be. Encourage them, ask questions, be curious, nurture their exploration, be kind. Don't be a hindrance to someone's personal development or try to trap them in a bubble simply because you can't handle a tweak to your dynamic. We're all just trying to figure ourselves out because who honestly expects someone to grow older without their personality, habits and interests also changing over time?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hand Lettering and Watercolor Touches

I know this is super old because Christmas came and went ages ago, but I just came across Lauren Ledbetter's 2013 Year in Review on Pinterest this morning and have been swooning over the watercolor touches and hand lettering. Good gravy how gorgeous is this? I love the soft color palette and the little tidbits she highlights about her life, travels, and career like purchasing 29 new typefaces over the year. After stumbling upon this I'm getting the itch to go hunting for pretty new fonts to play with and breaking out the calligraphy kit once again.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Calm Life

When 2013 ended, A. wrote a Facebook status pointing out how his year wasn't incredibly interesting: he enjoyed working at his job, hardly traveled save for Los Angeles and a second trip to Burning Man, and then he moved into a new apartment with me.

"I'm settling down. Holy crap. I was never very interesting before, but now I am downright boring," he joked.

Now I don't think he's boring at all, but I understand where he's coming from. In fact, just days after we moved in together I started worrying that we'd become domesticated, get tired of each other, and lose the spark in our relationship, or that we'd start to see each other as roomies rather than boyfriend and girlfriend. I envisioned us doing the same things every day, cooking, cleaning, and tucking into bed early, you know, being Responsible Adults. It's crazy because I'd been wanting this for a long time and now that we had finally achieved it, I was suffering through a case of Fear of Missing Out, FOMO if you will. While I knew I'd enjoy this next phase, I was also thinking that our carefree days were behind us.

Now a month and a half in, I'm learning that it's okay if things have calmed down for a bit. It's nice to have the stability and less stress in my life. We might not be out and about every evening, but we're slowly creating our home and saving up for future adventures. We make time to hang out with friends both together and apart from each other and give each other space to breathe at home. I'm discovering new activities that bring me joy including those domestic chores that I always fought against. Just writing that sounded perfectly boring, but you know what? I'm content. I like getting my work done, keeping the house nice and tidy, and then tending to A. when he gets in from work. I'm not expected to do that last bit, but it just feels nice and he takes good care of me, too.

We're still navigating all this newness and how to nurture the relationship in this new light. I admit I was getting so consumed with fixing the apartment, holiday to dos with Porcupine Hugs, and my two jobs, that I was neglecting my boyfriend for a while. When you work from home, it's really easy to just work through the entire day, but last week we started powering down earlier to give each other time and affection before falling asleep. We'll cuddle, chat, play a game, or listen to music together, just something to reconnect at the end of each day. Besides, work will always be there ready to rile you up in the morning so it's nice to relish the calm whenever you can catch it.

How do you make sure to keep the spark alive while living with your significant other?


Friday, January 17, 2014

Thank You for Following + Giveaway

Dry As Toast's Facebook page reached 200 likes last week! To celebrate, I'm having a big giveaway to thank you guys for following through all these years. When I first started up the blog back in 2007, I had finished grad school and was having the toughest time landing a magazine job. During a networking session, one contact suggested I start a blog so that I could continue to write and learn how to edit myself. I was so shy and nervous about the idea that when I finally hit publish on my first post I didn't tell anyone other than my sister. Well fast-forward nearly seven years and 1,575 posts later and here we are. There have been quite a few times when I've had to back away for a bit because work + life + lack of inspiration, but I'm so thankful for those who've been reading all along. Whether you stumbled upon Dry As Toast in the early days or are a recent reader, I'm very grateful that you take any time out of your day to read the randomness that spews out my brain. I'm really looking forward to sharing the next year ahead with you.

As a token of my appreciation, I'm giving away a box filled with paper goodies to three readers. Over the years, I've realized that I'm quite the formidable paper hoarder. I have drawers and bags filled with greeting cards, notebooks, note sets, postcards, bookmarks, and other lovely items I've collected from stationery shows, PR reps, friends, and my own purchases. Silly thing is, they're just so pretty I've never been able to part with them or *gasp* actually write in these. Crazy, I know, but here's where you can help. Save me from myself (read: help me make room for my paper obsession). I hope the winners will share their goodies, use them to bring a smile to a friend, send snail mail, and jot down thoughts and dreams. Each box will be randomly filled with swag from my stash so it'll be a complete surprise, but a really fun one.

To gain multiple entries for the giveaway, just log into the Rafflecopter widget below and a winner will be announced Wednesday, Jan. 22.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CONGRATULATIONS: This week's giveaway winners are Jenelle, Cody, and Dariany!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Design Sponge's New Travel Series "24 Hours In" + Yard Sale

Design Sponge has just started a new travel series called "24 Hours In" in which creative folks share their ideal day in any given city. Design Sponge's own Grace Bonney kicked things off last week with a little tour of her 15 favorite spots in North Brooklyn, which is where her studio is located, and this week, prop stylist Ginny Branch shares her top picks in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.

While Design Sponge has a long list of more detailed city guides, I'm enjoying these mini snippets and the fun illustrations that accompany them. It's like having a host show you the neighborhood through their eyes. It's probably why I also enjoy The New York Times' 36 Hours series so much and love flipping through the book. It quickly breaks down an area, gives you suggested itineraries filled with spots both known and hidden, and presents it in a neat little package. Perfect for the person who hardly has time to travel, let alone plan for weeks in advance.

Now to go back to Brooklyn and artsy finds, Design Sponge is hosting a yard sale this Saturday in their Greenpoint studio. If you're searching for cool furniture, artwork, paper goods, accessories or just new goodies for your home, you'll have to drop in. I'll be popping over to see if I find anything interesting to dress up these walls.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Would You Have a Big or a Small Wedding?

Let me start out by saying that we're not engaged nor are there plans (that I know of) to do so anytime soon. A. and I can't even have a discussion about weddings without getting into an argument about money and whether spending so much on just one day is the responsible thing to do. See, I'd love to have a celebration with friends and family someday and while I know there are so many ways to keep expenses down (and I'd want a sweet and simple affair anyway), it'll still cost a few thousand to pull it off.

I agree with A. to a certain extent: I'd like to save money for a house, to raise a family, or travel the world, but it would be special to have this beautiful moment, too. I think he fears that I'll go Bridezilla on him, requesting some high-end details, inviting guests we hardly even know, a big fat rock, and this big to-do, but he has to admit that I'm not that kind of girl. I didn't grow up planning out my wedding day just waiting to plop the guy into the scene. I don't have a Pinterest board filled with décor and dress inspiration. Heck, I never even wanted to get married until just a few years ago. But lately I've been envisioning an autumn wedding in the park with DIY touches, colorful scenery, and a dessert table. When he argues that weddings are just money down the drain he assures me that he wants one, but would like to know how we could keep costs down. Present him a case, if you will.

So I'd love to know: did you have a big or a small wedding? How did you stay within your budget? Or did you blow it altogether?

And if you haven't tied the knot yet, what would your wedding be like? Or would you elope?! I have a close friend who ran off to marry her love and I remember being so shocked and thrilled for her when she told me what she planned to do. I think the older I get the less hoopla I need, but I'll still be wanting to walk down the aisle with my father, say some sweet words to my husband-to-be, and have a day that's all about us. How selfish does that sound?


Monday, January 13, 2014

Housewarming + 32

This weekend, A. and I had our first party in the new place to celebrate our housewarming and my 32nd birthday. It was so nice to finally have friends over to give them the grand tour and goof around. I even got to catch up with someone I hadn't seen in years and was really touched that he made the drive over for the evening.

Birthdays always leave me feeling sentimental and incredibly lucky. I have wonderful people in my life and I still get a little shocked when they come out to celebrate with me. Even though I was a bit nervous about how our separate social circles would mesh, our friends quickly connected and had a fun time playing games, listening to music, and eating snackies. Now we can't wait to host them again especially since we were left with a ton of food and wine that need to get consumed. Plus, it was nice to have the house full of people and chatter and buzz about the crowd.

Do you love hosting people or does it stress you out? I'm usually running around like a headless chicken up until it's go time and then everything I was worried about before is quickly forgotten about.

{Monday Inspiration} Stand Out

As someone who flips back and forth between being a wallflower and then wishing she were brave enough to dance in the spotlight, this poster from Striking Truths caught my attention. Sometimes it's easier to blend in with the crowd and go by unnoticed than to stand out and be recognized for something amazing especially if you cloak yourself in shyness. It takes risk, courage, comfort with vulnerability, and even a little shamelessness to just put it all out there - yourself, your work, your dreams - for the world to see.

I keep contemplating my career choices, my creative ventures, and how I engage with others in social settings. I'm so apprehensive that it keeps me from connecting with people and then I'm left feeling like others don't engage with me as much as I'd like because I don't open up. I observe, I hang around corners, and only when I feel slightly at ease is when little bursts of the real me shoot out. This year, I want to burst all the time, I want to be fearless in a crowd, feel more confident, and go above what could be expected of me both in my career and relationships.

What are your goals for the new year?


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Tour of our Home

Welcome to our new home! When A. and I first started looking into moving in together last spring, I checked out about 20-something apartments and each one got turned down by my super picky boyfriend. After presenting him with so many options, it turned out that he simply didn't want to move so far uptown regardless of how much more space you get for your money while still remaining in Manhattan. He might have been used to living in a shoe box for the sake of location, but I'm not about that life. If I was going to be living and working in the same space day in and day out, I wanted to be comfortable and not go broke in the process.

This second time around proved to be much easier. Not only did he have to move (after two years of trying, his landlord finally sold his apartment), but he'd come to terms with what our combined incomes could get us in the Washington Heights neighborhood. It happened quickly: the viewing, both of us being instantly smitten, and then jumping on the application process then and there. I have to say that it's better than anything I'd seen earlier this year so I guess things happen for a reason. We couldn't be happier with our new home so how about we show it off a bit, okay? I'll start with my favorite room, the kitchen.


I've never really had a dream kitchen because I don't do that much dabbling in there, but I love this space. Every morning, it's so bright and airy and we finally have room to prepare meals together without bumping into each other and knocking things over. While ordering take-out was practically a daily ritual for us, now I can't remember the last time we ordered in. Clean up time is also much easier now that we have a deep sink and a dishwasher. As for the details, I think the subway tile backsplash is such a pretty touch and the cabinetry definitely had me wanting to move right in.

Dining Area

When we saw apartments further downtown, the kitchens were always so damn depressing. You couldn't even call them kitchens, but rather little cubby holes to remove your take-out food from the bag. In the Upper West Side, there was one place that had, no joke, about two square feet of space to step into. Absolutely not for me. I might not cook that often, but you'd better believe I'm going to have some elbow room when I pour myself a bowl of cereal so I was happy to see that this apartment had an eat-in kitchen.

Shortly after signing the lease, A. and I started window shopping for furniture. We both fell in love with the Blox dining table from CB2, but agreed to hold off and search for a cheaper alternative. After a month of comparing every other dining table to this one (and receiving some help from Santa), we decided to go for it and it just arrived last week. We paired the dark mango wood with white Henriksdal chairs from IKEA.


For some reason I'd forgotten the size of our bedroom after our initial visit and worried that all of our furniture wouldn't fit in it. It did and there's still space to spare. The room gets some great sunlight which is really nice, but I can't say I spend much time in there during the day. Like I mentioned before, all our walls are currently bare so I'm looking forward to searching for art prints and picking which of our family and travel photos will be sent to print.


The bathroom is still in progress as I figure out how to inject more color into the room. A vibrant shower curtain is usually an easy way to do that, but if you recall my boyfriend started suffering from a random onset of claustrophobia and requested clear curtains. I compromised with a patterned translucent option from Bed, Bath and Beyond. I'm also planning on hanging some nice wall art eventually, but for now it's pretty bright and stark in there.


I like that our foyer/entryway area is still functional and opens into the living room, allowing the two spaces to pour into one another. We put in a super cushy Ektorp chaise, which was on sale at IKEA this past weekend, for sitting, lounging, the removal of shoes, and to serve as an extra bed for guests. It also makes a great reading nook when either one of us needs a little breather from the other, but doesn't want to completely retreat into the bedroom.

Living Room

I felt we were officially grown ups when A. and I went shopping for a couch. How adult of us, I thought! Then I was left to handle the chatterbox of a salesman at Bob's Discount Furniture on my own while he played with his cell phone and I realized that it was just me who'd crossed that checkpoint.

We wanted a couch that invited people to really get comfortable and a 2-piece set with a chaise was nice for that. Unfortunately, now I have to fight off sleep whenever A. and I are laying on the couch deep in conversation and admit that I've passed out on him a couple times. Bonus: there are drawers all along the base of the couch, which we use to store our games and throws.

Opposite the couch is where our future television will be mounted on the wall. When Santa blessed us with some funds, I pushed for a new TV, but then relented after realizing that a) a dining table is more important for entertaining guests and hosting dinner parties and b) neither one of us are fiends when it comes to watching TV so that could wait a little longer. As for that dream sound system A. had been wanting to build, I have to say that the Sonos wireless system is pretty amazing. The sound quality is crisp and we can browse and play our iTunes songs or stream music services and manage each individual speaker through the Sonos Controller App on our iPhones. He's slowly acquiring the various components at a discount through eBay and that "big ass subwoofer" I was worried about is actually pretty sleek.

By the way, A. bought those giant papasan cushions from Pier 1 last year and they're so deliciously comfy I might have also fallen asleep on those a few times. (What? I'm tired!)

Home Office

And finally, my other favorite room in the apartment and the one where I spend most of my time: the office. I really didn't expect us to land a place with an extra room and to be honest this isn't a true 2-bedroom apartment, but rather a junior 2-bedroom. This space was created by adding a wall and French doors to the living room and the previous tenants used it as a nursery. "Maybe you should keep it as one," said everyone but us. Since I can't conceive for several more years, an office space would be much more useful.

I'm so happy that I finally have space to not only do my writing, but also creative work for Porcupine Hugs. All my supplies are within reach and I have room to spread out, think, and create. Again, walls need a little oomph, but right now I'm loving the clean white space with pops of color. We went with IKEA Expedit bookcases in high gloss turquoise for both the office and the foyer and I tied it all together with these blue ombré curtains that can be seen from the entryway through the French doors.

So that's our new home! We still have a little bit of decorating to do and are considering painting an accent wall or two, but all of our major furniture is in, we've settled into our new routines, and can't wait to start hosting our friends. In fact, we're having our housewarming and my birthday party this weekend so I'm excited to celebrate these two milestones with the people I love. I'll be posting nesting updates and about my search for wall décor so please pop in with suggestions on where to search and what designs or artists you're loving these days.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Stay Cozy

It was seven degrees in New York City this morning (SEVEN DEGREES!) and all I can say is thank goodness I work from home. I had planned to swing by the post office this afternoon to drop off some Porcupine Hugs orders, but after seeing how everyone else was reacting to the frigid temperatures, I figured maaaybe it can wait until tomorrow instead.

I was also planning on writing about my search for wall art for our apartment (because our walls are looking hella bare), but then I thought maaaybe you'd like to see some pictures of our place first. So I spent the morning staging a little photoshoot in each room and can't wait to share them with you tomorrow!


Monday, January 6, 2014

{Monday Inspiration} Lesson Learned

The past year was a crazy one, there's no denying that. I found myself fighting battles I never even dreamed about and in spite of it all I managed to not only survive 2013, but accomplish some really wonderful things. Being diagnosed with breast cancer and then managing treatment, the emotions, and just life was more than I could handle sometimes. If I was complaining about juggling work and a social life before, this year turned made that struggle sound like a vacation. I was constantly exhausted and still, a year later, haven't fully recovered from surgery and radiation. Sharp shooting pains and sensitivity still occur and my medication gives me hot flashes that makes it hard to get a good night's rest.

I could have driven myself into a hole, but I had a life to continue living. It's funny, I handled cancer so much more calmly than I handled my breakup with Mr. First nearly six years ago. Maybe you do learn a thing or two as you grow older. Maybe I realized how silly it was to spend so much energy focusing on what went wrong rather than throw my hands up and reach for the next rung.

In the beginning, I was dead set against crediting my cancer to any good in my life. I didn't want to justify it or have anyone calling it a "blessing in disguise." I was too stubborn to let it change me even if it would be for my own good. In fact, a part of me would deliberately refuse to make changes (say to my diet, fitness, stress levels, etc.) just so that no one could say that cancer made my life better. Cancer sucks through and through, but it did turn out to be a giant lesson for me. I might have accomplished the things I did regardless of what my health was this past year, but the fact that I did the things I did while fighting cancer just proved that I can handle much more than I thought I could. I'm not really the sensitive weakling I keep portraying nor will every bump in the road throw me out of the race. I launched and grew Porcupine Hugs; traveled to the Dominican Republic, Burning Man, Cameroon; confronted the negative relationships in my life; had my income slashed in half just as the medical bills started piling up; struggled financially all year until I landed a new gig; worked on a struggling relationship over and over until we finally learned to live, let go, and love. It's an amazing realization to discover that you have this big capability to thrive in disaster when you've no other choice.

This past year might have been full of tears, but I think I still laughed more than I cried. I experienced some powerful moments, ones made all the more important to me because of the cloud looming over my head. I think it's because of that darkness poking about my life that I relished those rays of light even more. That's something I hope I never forget. And now when someone finds themselves in the same shoes I wore a year ago, my heart hurts in a way it couldn't before because it's a familiar terror.

In the next months, I want to keep carving new paths in my brain, ones that reinforce that I am strong, that I am capable of doing so much, that I don't have to succumb to the fears and the doubts that try to creep into my mind. I want to continue creating joyful moments for others and at the same time be okay with creating them for just myself. I'm important, I'm deserving, and I need to remind myself of that every day until it's no longer met with hesitance.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Minted Personalized Stationery + Giveaway

When it comes time to shop for the perfect announcement, birthday invitation, or wedding suite, it can be hard to navigate through all the choices available. Not only do you want to make sure the price is feasible, but that your personalized stationery truly represents who you are and the aesthetic you're seeking. Minted is just the marketplace for those looking to buy cards, art, and décor created by indie designers worldwide.

Designs are crowd-sourced through various graphic design challenges with the best selections then offered on the site. Both shoppers and designers help curate the site's offerings with their feedback and votes, which ensures that some really fantastic artists get added to the mix.
Now I'm nowhere near needing to shop for save-the-dates, but I have several friends who are tying the knot over the next year and this site offers such an easy way to make a beautiful statement. With their wide variety of styles including whimsical, rustic, modern, hand drawn and all out formal, there's really something for every bride.

Not walking down the aisle or birthing a little human? Minted still has plenty to offer that you can either keep for yourself or give as a thoughtful gift. You can personalize gift wrap, wall art, business cards, and pretty journals and customize bunting banners with photos and your own special message. And nurture that love of snail mail writing in your kids by treating them to their own stationery set with their name on it like mom and dad's collection.

GIVEAWAY: Minted is offering one Dry As Toast reader $50 to use in their shop! Just leave a comment letting us know what special moment you'd create personalized paper goods for and a winner will be announced Wednesday, Jan. 8. It's too late to send out proper invites for my own birthday (Jan. 11!), but I've been wanting to send out moving announcements and now that the holiday craziness is over and we're finally settled in, I think it's time to spread the word and our new address in a fun way.

CONGRATULATIONS: Vera Khule is this week's winner!