My Gratitude List: Thanksgiving 2018

My Gratitude List: Thanksgiving 2018

I hope all of my United States friends had a great Thanksgiving! I always take the time around this holiday to reflect on what I’m grateful for, and this year I’m happy to say I am thankful for a lot. It’s easy for me to get caught up in what I’m not happy with in my life, and what I wish was different. Writing this blog post has been a great exercise to remind myself of everything I am grateful for. I would encourage you all to write a gratitude list of your own after you read mine! 

  1. I’m thankful for my family, who supports me, inspires me, and loves me unconditionally. My family is so important to me. I know the holidays can be a stressful time for some people who may not get along well with their family, so I’m feeling grateful to have a family I genuinely love spending time with. 
  2. I’m thankful for my friends, both old and new, who I have shared so many fun memories with this year. My friends inspire me to get out of my comfort zone, open up and talk about my feelings, and just live life to the fullest. I have made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and kept existing friendships thriving this year. Friendships really are one of the most beautiful parts of life. 
  3. I’m thankful for a job that gives me opportunities and luxuries that not everyone has. This year I was able to travel to Costa Rica, Seattle, Laguna Beach, and Orlando. I moved into a house and am able to save my money and feel financially stable. No job is perfect, but there is a lot for me to be thankful for with this one.
  4. I’m thankful for my body. I went to a yoga class this morning for the first time in a while, and was reminded that my body is so strong and gives me so much. It’s easy to get wrapped up in how our body looks, but I was reminded this morning that how we feel is so much more important. 
  5. I’m thankful for my mind. I’ve worked hard over the past couple of years to maintain a healthy mind through therapy. Though mental health is always a work in progress, I feel lucky to be feeling relatively healthy in my mind and soul. 
  6. I’m thankful for the city I call home. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and I feel so lucky to still live here now. Every week there are new events going on, from live concerts, to pop ups like the FOMO Factory, to art installations like the Waller Creek Show
  7. I’m thankful for music. I started teaching myself to play the keyboard this year, and have gotten back into singing as well. Music has always been an important part of my life, and I’m happy I’ve found a way to keep up my passion.
  8. I’m grateful for travel. As I mentioned above, I was able to travel quite a bit this year. I’m so grateful for all of the memories, life lessons, and new friendships that have formed from my trips. I can’t wait to travel even more in 2019!
  9. I’m grateful for myself.  I am often my own harshest critic, but deep down I love myself and am so proud of everything I have accomplished, and the person I have become. I’ve heard people say you should be your own best friend, and this year I have really made that happen.
  10. I’m grateful for this blog, and for each and every person who takes the time to read what I write. A little cheesy, I know, but it’s true! I started this blog on a whim almost five years ago, and I am constantly grateful to have an outlet for my creativity, and people who care about what I have to say. 

What’s on your gratitude list this year? Leave a comment and let me know! 

Book Review: Commonwealth

Book Review: Commonwealth

“Isn’t that what everyone wants, just for a moment to be unencumbered?”

As I mentioned in my August Favorites blog post, I recently finished reading Ann Patchett‘s novel Commonwealth, and thoroughly enjoyed the read. Today I am going to give you all a glance at what the story is about, and what I liked about it.

In a nutshell, Commonwealth is the story of an unconventional blended family, including six step siblings who form a lasting bond with each other through shared summer vacations spent at their parents and step parents’ homes, and their shared resentment towards their often negligent parents. For a book that follows the lives of so many characters (the six children, four parents, and other family members and significant others that appear throughout the story), each character is surprisingly well-developed. The more you read, the more you get to know each of these people and understand who they are and where they’ve been.

The story spans a total of five decades of time, jumping between the present and the past with each chapter, sometimes jumping within a single chapter. For some, these jumps in time may be a bit too much. I will admit I was confused at times, and it was difficult to keep each character and storyline straight in my mind. (“Wait, whose parent is this again? Who is this person married to?”) However, for me this made the story more interesting, and I enjoyed the challenge of keeping track of everything in my head. It was also fun to read about the characters as children, and then find out where their life went as an adult.

Commonwealth really picks up pace when one of the daughters, Franny, begins an affair with a well-known author, and tells him the stories from her childhood, which he proceeds to use as the inspiration for his newest bestselling novel which he names “Commonwealth.” Though he always claims the story is not based on Franny’s life, it’s clear it is, and the book has a negative impact on her siblings, mainly her youngest step brother, Albie, who learns painful things about his childhood through reading the novel.

Overall I thought Patchett’s book was a sharp and realistic portrayal of family ties and the struggles people face throughout life. Though the story is fairly realistic, it still has the level of drama and slight exaggeration needed to make an enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys strong character development and intriguing life stories, as well as books that span multiple decades of time.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve read this book, or any of Ann Patchett’s other novels. If not, what was the last book you read and loved?

Explore With Me: Santa Fe and Crested Butte

Explore With Me: Santa Fe and Crested Butte

I just got back from an amazing road trip to Crested Butte, Colorado with a quick stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico! I’d been to Santa Fe once when I was younger, so I was looking forward returning. I’d never been to Crested Butte before, but my parents and my sister had and they told me how beautiful it was. I’m excited to share some of the photos I took, and talk about the adventures I had, which included zip lining, white water rafting, horseback riding, and a few long hikes.

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We started our journey by driving to Santa Fe on Friday, July 21st. We stayed overnight at a family friend’s house, then spent Saturday exploring the farmer’s market, which was a lot of fun. We got to try “healthy” donuts, and look around at all of the fruits, veggies, and other products being sold. I didn’t buy anything, but it was fun to window shop!

 

 

 

After the farmer’s market we headed to our next stop on the trip, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa. Ojo Caliente has a bunch of awesome natural mineral hot springs, as well as a pool and a mud bath. We spent Saturday night and Sunday morning enjoying the springs, going on walks, and eating at the delicious restaurant, the Artesian.  

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Sunday afternoon we made the drive up to our main destination: Crested Butte, Colorado. On my first day there I went on a long walk on the hike and bike trail, and not only got to take in the wonderful view, but also learned some fun facts about the town. Crested Butte and the surrounding area was originally home to the Ute Indians, and later became a coal mining town. Today, it’s more known for skiing and other outdoor activities like zip lining and horseback riding (both of which I did later in the week).

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The rest of the week was quite eventful and adventure-filled. Like I mentioned above, I went zip lining and horseback riding. But I also went white water rafting, which was my personal favorite activity! Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures from zip lining or rafting (it’s a little difficult to take a selfie whilst zipping through the mountains and avoiding rocks in a swift river).

But I did get this photo on my awesome horse, whose name was Cobra! He was pretty old and slow, but I was okay with that since I hadn’t ridden a horse since I was young. Cobra also didn’t like any horses riding behind him, so I had to ride in the back of the group.

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The final part of the vacation I wanted to mention was when we hiked to the top of Mount Crested Butte. The hike was quite strenuous, partly because of the high altitude which made it difficult to catch your breath. It was also a unique climb because the terrain changed quite a bit throughout the hike. Parts were like a normal hiking trail, but towards the end, it got super rocky and you had to use your hands to balance and climb to the top. Needless to say, my legs were quite sore for the next couple of days. But it was definitely worth it to see the exquisite view at the top!

 

 

 

Overall it was my ideal vacation – a good blend of adventures and relaxation. If you ever find yourself in Colorado, I would highly recommend checking out this town! And if you’ve never been to Santa Fe, I would 10/10 recommend that city as well.

Have you ever been to either of these places? Where are you headed on your next vacation? Let me know in the comments!

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July, August & September Recap

July, August & September Recap

I dropped the ball on my monthly recap posts since June, so I thought I would bundle the main highlights from the last few months into one blog post to catch you guys up on my life. Enjoy!

Family Beach Vacation
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Growing up, my family and I used to go to Port Aransas every summer. We hadn’t been in a few years, so we decided to take a trip for old time’s sake. I took three days off of work, and left my laptop at home so I could completely disconnect and have some much-needed relaxation time. (I’m thinking of writing a post about how to have a work-free vacation, so let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in that.)

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It was my ideal type of vacation, because it had the perfect mix of chill-out time and adventuring. We spent a good amount of time reading, swimming in the pool and ocean, and watching the Olympics, but we also went out and explored new places in Corpus Christie like the botanical gardens (where a parrot with no beak hung out on my shoulder) and the aquarium!

Elizabeth’s Wedding
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One of my first ever friends, literally from when I was an infant, got married in August! Although she and I haven’t stayed in touch very well in recent years, my mom and her mom have remained best friends, and I was really excited to be able to attend her wedding. It was cool to to witness such a big milestone in her life and to remember playing with her when we were kids. Time really does fly!

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This was the third wedding Brian and I have attended together, so it was fun having him there with me along with my parents. Their reception was in a really cool lounge area. It was decorated with beautiful flowers, and the lighting was perfect. They also had an adorable slideshow playing with baby pictures, and I made it into one of the pictures!

Lauren’s Visit
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Last month, my friend Lauren (who I wrote about in my June Recap post) came to visit me for the weekend! It was so much fun having her here, and we managed to fit a lot of fun into a few days. We went to the Blue Cat Cafe (mentioned in my May Recap post), and ate delicious food at VoodooSpun, and Gourdough’s.

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On Sunday we went to an awesome event put on by Aerie, where we got to take free yoga classes, and meet the very sweet and super inspirational model Iskra Lawrence! Aerie is a unique brand in that they don’t retouch or Photoshop any of their models, and they make an effort to promote body positivity for young girls. I love everything they stand for, and it was really great to meet Iskra and get to hear her talk about how she has managed to stay positive and love herself despite the media and people in the modeling industry making it difficult.

Family Time in Wimberley

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My parents recently rented a house in Wimberley, and they’ve been staying out there almost every weekend. It’s right on the creek, and they are walking distance from a coffee shop, some restaurants, and even a library which they are now members of.

My younger sister and her boyfriend went out to stay with them for a weekend in September, so Brian and I went out on Sunday and we all got to swim and have a nice lunch at The Leaning Pear (which I mentioned in my June Recap). It was really nice visiting with everyone and having a “triple date”, and I can definitely see why my parents are loving it out there so much. It’s so peaceful and quiet compared to the bustle of the city, which makes for a great escape on the weekends.

I hope you enjoyed reading about what I’ve been up to the past few months! I will definitely try to write a recap every month like I did in May and June, so be on the lookout for an October Recap next month.

Answer in the comments: What was your favorite memory from the last three months?

June Recap

June Recap
SD’s 5th Anniversary in Wimberly: June 1-2
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I kicked off June with a few exciting anniversaries, the first of which being my company’s five year anniversary! I remember when I was an intern and we celebrated two years, so it’s pretty cool to see how far we’ve come since then. Our founder, Kristen, planned a fun getaway for us in Wimberley. We all spent one night there and enjoyed the beautiful views, delicious food and drinks at The Leaning Pear, and good company of course. The picture above is Kristen standing on a bridge over the creek that was right by where we stayed.

Year and a Half Anniversary: June 5th
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The second anniversary I was lucky enough to celebrate was a year and a half with my boyfriend. He asked me to be his girlfriend on December 5, 2015, and I gotta say I am very glad I said yes! This is my first long-term relationship, so 18 months seems like a long time to me.

To celebrate our anniversary, we tried a new restaurant my mom suggested called Chez Zee’s and it was a great night. The ambiance is really cute and romantic, and the food certainly did not disappoint. We will definitely be going back again soon!

Houston Weekend Trip: June 10-12

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The following weekend I made a slightly spontaneous trip down to Houston to visit one of my best friends from college, Lauren. She just moved there from Chicago, and had been wanting me to visit since we live so much closer to each other now. The trip was a lot of fun! We spent a lot of the time playing with two adorable dogs, one of which is Lauren’s bulldog Daisy, and the other was a Rottweiler Lauren was watching named Brutus. In the picture above, Daisy and Brutus were play fighting on the couch. It was hilarious to watch! I don’t have a dog of my own, so I always enjoy playing with other people’s when I get the chance.

When we weren’t dog sitting, we spent our time at Lauren’s pool, trying new restaurants, and spending time with some of her new friends. It was a great weekend!

Plano Weekend Trip for Flag Day: June 17-19

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I had two weekends in a row of short road trips. This weekend my boyfriend and I drove up to Plano, TX for a family-reunion-of-sorts, which was centered around the often-forgotten holiday, Flag Day. Basically Brian’s uncle just built a pool in his backyard and was looking for an excuse to have a party, so he decided they should celebrate Flag Day and invite the entire extended family to join in on the fun. Each person (or couple) was tasked with representing a certain flag, and bringing the actual flag if possible. Brian found the Earth Flag on Amazon (above), so we brought that. I think ours was the most unique, if I do say so myself.

We spent all day Saturday spending time with his family, playing various games including pool volleyball, corn hole, and beer pong, and of course eating yummy snacks. I’d already met a lot of Brian’s family, but it was nice meeting more of them and putting a face to some names. Unfortunately we somehow left that weekend without a single photo, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was a blast!

Quantum Leap: June 24-26

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Last but not least, I ended the month attending Quantum Leap, which I mentioned in my last blog College Grad Ramblings: No More Classes. It was a three day event, beginning with a welcome reception at a hotel on Thursday night, where my sister and I met a few new people who were also attending the seminar the next day. The funniest thing that happened that night was when a guy asked if I had a business card, and when I actually pulled one out he seemed shocked and I realized he had been joking. He then asked if he could add us on Snapchat. I’ve never felt more old. Is Snapchat the new networking platform?

Friday we listened to Gary Keller talk all day, and it was very inspirational. He talked a lot about goal setting, and it really motivated me to set goals for my blog. I’d love to grow my audience on here!

The final day was a few hours on Saturday, where we discussed what we had learned on Friday, and got the opportunity to actually write down our goals and how we plan to achieve them. All in all it was a very informative and motivational few days, and I’m really glad I went!

 

That’s it for my June Recap. I hope you all enjoyed hearing about some of the highlights of the past month! On another note, I’m really close to hitting 400 followers on Twitter, so if you have an account go ahead and follow me! I mostly tweet random things I think are funny as well as live tweet The Bachelorette (no shame).

 

May Recap

May Recap

 

I was planning to write a May Favorites blog tonight, but then I was looking at my calendar to remind myself what all happened last month, and I felt inspired to just write about it instead! So I’m going to share some of the highlights from last month, and if you enjoy reading it, I will try to make it a monthly occurrence! I think it will be fun way for me to look back on everything I did each month.

Week One

I ended April and kicked off May driving up to Plano, TX for my boyfriend’s younger sister’s dance recital. It was a pretty short trip since we drove up Saturday morning and left Sunday afternoon, but it was a lot of fun and it was nice for my boyfriend to see his family for the first time since he moved down to Austin.

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Me, Brian and Meghan after Meghan’s show

Week Two

The second week of May brought Mother’s Day. I went to brunch with my parents at a restaurant we love called Bouldin Creek Cafe, and later that night I took my mom to the Pentatonix concert, which was so much fun! She’d never heard their music but she really enjoyed it and it was great bonding time.

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Me and my mom at Bouldin Creek Cafe

Week Three

May had a lot of special occasions to celebrate. We went from Mother’s Day right into my mom’s birthday the following week. We split the celebration into two nights, with a family dinner at Casa de Luz (her favorite restaurant) on Sunday, and dessert at Mozart’s on Monday.

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My family and I at Casa de Luz

Week Four

This week brought a scary but rewarding experience for me, which was my first showcase for my improv class! I was really nervous, as was the rest of my class, because we all invited our family and friends to come watch, and it’s just scary to perform in front of an audience! But as soon as we started and I heard the crowd laughing during the scenes, I knew it was going to be a fun time. I’m really proud of myself for getting outside my comfort zone!

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Being silly with my improv family

Week Five

Last but not least I had a great three day weekend celebrating my sister’s birthday, as well as Memorial Day! My family and I celebrated her birthday by going to the Blue Cat Cafe, which is basically a cafe/restaurant that has a bunch of cats wondering around for you to pet and play with. Yes, it’s just as strange as it sounds. But it was fun and definitely a new experience! After that my sister and I went shopping for a bit, and then later that night my grandma, her boyfriend and my parents met us at Mozart’s for dessert (can you tell we like that place?)

Monday was Memorial Day, and my boyfriend and I spent the day at a park playing bocce ball and enjoying the nice warm weather. I had never played before, and I unfortunately lost, but I still had a blast!

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Selfie outside the Blue Cat Cafe

Overall I would say that May was a great month for me. I had something going on every single weekend which is always nice, and I got to spend plenty of time with my family. So far June has been another awesome month, so stay tuned to hear all about it in a few weeks!