Feel Good Friday | Happy 2014 + The Power to Choose

Ladies Drinking Champagne

Well, it’s no secret: I haven’t been here in a while.

As I racked my brain for excuses to justify my absence, I was relieved when I landed on the one most obvious reason the blog has been neglected – namely because it’s a reason that sits well with me: I’ve been choosing relationships. Taking some time to put people ahead of writing, opt for a girls’ night and some quality catch-up time instead of staying up until midnight cranking out a half-hearted post. I’ve been consistently choosing to do what I needed to do for myself, rather than what I “felt like I should” do for the sake of the blog.

Don’t get me wrong, P&O is something I’m still so, so excited about and this is NOT my way of saying it’s a low priority. Quite the opposite, actually. I spent a lot of time around the holidays thinking about how I can really dive back into blogging in 2014, in a meaningful and sustainable way. I’ve given real thought to exactly what it is I want to do here, and I what I want to be offering you here that is of value to you, that you can’t find anywhere else… and I’m really excited about some of these ideas. (More on that later!)

However, in the spirit of sharing and honesty, the last few months have been very personally trying. In November, I ended the relationship I’d been in for over four years – my first real, meaningful, grown-up relationship – and with that comes the need for pause, repair, and reflection. I’m comfortable saying to you that I’ve been absent here because I’ve been busy taking care of myself and nurturing the relationships in my life that have gone a little too neglected for a little too long, with people who were by my side offering love and support faster than I could ask for it.

If there’s one little nugget of wisdom I’m taking away from this situation, it’s this: Choice is a powerful, empowering thing. Choosing to change course and pursue the life we want for ourselves, even when that choice seems incredibly difficult. Choosing to take a break from to do lists to focus on friends. Choosing which habits to keep, and which ones to kick. Choosing happiness.

With all that’s happening and with all that I’ve learned, 2014 will be the year I embrace – and celebrate! – what it means to have the power to choose what I want my life to look like. 

I’ll ask you to bear with me as I continue to get my thoughts together and rethink the direction of my content here over the next few days (weeks?), but I hope to start some further dialogue here about substantive, thought-provoking topics like resolutions, goals, change, identity, happiness, and choice very soon!

Is your 2014 off to a good start? What are some of your goals or mantras for the year?

Thanks for your patience, and know that I’m so glad you’re here!

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Feel Good Friday | Chasing Change

Woman Running

Let me make one thing clear: I don’t do running.

I’ll be more specific. If there’s a man chasing me in a dark alley with a machete, I’ll consider it… though if we’re being honest, I’d really prefer some good old fashioned sharp-tongued negotiation to settle our differences. But I digress. The point is this: there are few things in this world I enjoy doing less than running.

I think it’s safe to say I avoid running because the alternative — ahem, not running – just seems so much more pleasant. (Profound, I know… stay with me.) The thought of running is so nice, what with all that there is to be gained: being outside, all those feel-good endorphins, theoretically getting that much closer to a toned bod… but let’s be honest, that sofa is comfortable. Like, comfortable. And anticipating all the huffing and puffing, that stinging in my chest that happens, the energy it would take to get myself up and dressed and motivated and out the door is just. too. much. And so, more often than not, the couch wins – not because it’s the best choice, but because it’s the comfortable choice.

This is not unlike how I feel about change.

You could say I’m a fan of stability – the biggest of fans, even. That’s not to say I’m entirely risk-averse or that I’m totally content to be a bump on a log all day, but the fact is that if something isn’t blatantly broken, you will rarely find me trying to fix it. I’m the girl who routinely orders the same thing at my favorite restaurants; I can quote entire episodes of 30 Rock, and that won’t stop me from watching them again (and again); my 9-5 routine gives me a real sense of stability, even on its worst days.

Big change turns my world upside down, and letting the familiar slip away makes my stomach do the pretzel in a big way – but according to the almighty HuffPo, my fellow familiarity-clingers and I may be doing ourselves a real disservice. Last month, the Huffington Post published a Brené Brown-inspired article that examined the “9 Happiness Mistakes You’re Probably Making“, and among those mistakes is – you guessed it! – Resisting Change:

According to a study on the psychology of choices, the human brain naturally tries to avoid loss — but that resistance can cause a lot of stress. Just because you’re satisfied with how life is right now, doesn’t mean you should be resistant to change. Whether it’s fear of the unknown or fear of losing what you currently have, the pressure to hold on to the present can ultimately harm your future life satisfaction.

I’m at an age and in a place where change is imminent – I can feel it. This, my friends, is a really, really good thing – I just need to remind myself of that sometimes. Change is the spice of life, as they say, and without it, growth is impossible. Even when the trauma of shaking up my world in the name of change feels so much heavier than the potential gains, I need to remember to remind myself that change is necessary. Change is worth it. Change is often worth getting really excited about, even when it’s absolutely terrifying. And while we shouldn’t expect to tackle it all at once, being courageous enough to stare change in the face can be the toughest part.

So who knows – maybe you’ll catch me off the couch and struggling my way through a 5K in the not-too-distant future… but not before I re-watch a few more episodes of 30 Rock for the 27th time.

Have a lovely weekend – and go ahead, treat yourself to a little shake-up in your routine. You deserve it.

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Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy

Michaela DePrince

 

Oh hi there. Remember me?

I’m so sorry for that little MIA spurt there. To say the least, things around here have been turned on their head lately, and it’s amazing how tough it can be to keep the blogging constant when nothing else feels that way. Can you relate?

When things get crazy, I call my mom… and given that I’ve definitely fallen victim to The Overwhelm as of late, that’s exactly how I spent my Sunday night. (How do moms always know exactly what we need?!) So today, since it still feels a little like Hurricane Disarray up in here, I simply want to share with you the pearl of mama wisdom that’s carrying me through Monday:

Nothing worth having comes easy.

It’s a tough thing to know when to question the status quo, to rock the boat, to second guess… but even on the days we struggle to know what to do next or how to feel or if it’s time to take a leap, it’s strangely comforting to know that having the strength to ask the hard questions at all is something worth celebrating — even when we’re nowhere close to knowing all the answers.

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That’s My Style | The Perfect Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned

Being an only child means I am lucky enough to have crazy-amazing relationships with both my parents. Crazy-amazing, but very, very different.

My mom is my best friend, end of story. Were you a fellow Gilmore Girls geek like me? …that’s us. My dad continues to marvel at our regular 2+ hour phone conversations, and frankly, that’s when we’re showing restraint. My unending love for my mom can and will be another post for another time, so for now I’ll spare you the hours of yammering. Because she and I? We yammer. Big time.

My relationship with my dad, on the other hand, is equally special but a tougher thing to describe. While it’s in-your-face obvious to anyone who knows us that my mom and I are two giggling, bantering peas in a pod, I have this downright adoration for my dad that’s more…. mm, quiet. Understated. Not dulled or muted; just different. But so, so special. As I’ve really started to to learn about myself recently, it’s been so heartwarming and humbling to realize that there are so many fundamental things about me that are 100% my dad.

  • We need a plan.
  • When it comes to big issues, don’t expect quick answers – we need time to research, and to think.
  • We are processors, and we process quietly.
  • We are those people who read the instruction manual cover to cover before we so much as touch the whateveritiswejustbought. And you know what? We enjoy it.
  • Alone time is a must. 
  • We can often communicate with strictly our eyeballs, and maybe a smirk.
  • We appreciate routine, and respect tradition.

It was around this time a couple of years ago, when my parents were visiting DC for Thanksgiving, that I met my first old fashioned. I was in the midst of a ‘What’s my signature cocktail?” crisis after fleeting flings with rum and cokes (cough college cough), vodka cranberries, and gin and tonics. My dad is typically a gin martini man (Beefeater gin, lots of olives, and don’t you dare over-vermouth it) but he also has a soft spot for bourbon. At the risk of putting words in his mouth, I’ve always thought of gin martinis as his go-to, and bourbon as a sentimental alternative. Those smoky, soul-warming qualities seemed to win him over, and when he caught me pouring over the cocktail menu at our favorite DC restaurant in search of a new drink-of-choice, he suggested I give it a shot.

I’ll be honest: even before my very first old fashioned arrived, I think I had fallen so in love with the idea of loving my dad’s drink, I was determined to find a way to love the drink just as much. Luckily, it didn’t take much effort.

Michelle and Dad Collage

The Classic Old Fashioned
(Recipe modified from Esquire)

Ingredients:

  • A sugar cube
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 oz straight bourbon whiskey (these days, I’m loving Maker’s Mark)
  • 1-3 large ice cubes (Hint: bigger ice cubes = slower melting!)
  • Thinly cut swatch of lemon or orange peel
  • Splash of water

The Equipment:

  • A single Old-Fashioned glass, with a heavy bottom
  • A wooden muddler (read also: chopstick, strong spoon, lipstick, cartridge case…)
  • Stirring rod

Place your sugar cube (or 1/2 tsp of loose sugar) in the bottom of an Old-Fashioned glass. Add two or three healthy dashes of Angostura bitters and a tsp of water. Muddle until the sugar is dissolved. Add one to three large ice cubes to the glass, and stir. Add 2 oz straight rye or bourbon whiskey; stir again. Twist a thin-cut swatch of lemon or orange peel over the top. Add a stirring implement, and let sit for one minute before enjoying.

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Feel Good Friday | Imperfections Are Not Inadequacies

Woman in Tulle Skirt

 

This week did not feel perfect.

I missed a Wednesday post, and I felt like a let down. I felt chronically behind at work, like I could never catch up. I didn’t get things done that I’d planned to, which made me feel defeated.

But this is Feel Good Friday, dammit. And on Feel Good Friday, we cling to the silver lining.

To quote Brené Brown, a lady I admire endlessly, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.” How simple and comforting is that?

An imperfect week means I’m human, and I’ve alive. And you know? That ain’t so bad. So with that, I resolve not to wallow this weekend, and not to dwell on the things I didn’t or couldn’t or wish I had. I think instead, I’ll ride the wave of inspiration I felt earlier this week and see where it takes me. (As a side note, I may have found a space I can use for free, to treat myself to some dance and choreographic freedom on the regular! Huzzah!)

Have a very happy and imperfect weekend, friends!

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That’s My Style | Food for the Soul

Lauren of The Ballerina Project

This morning on my drive to work, out of the blue, I got swept up in a wave of nostalgia. That’s a thing that happens around here, so I wasn’t too concerned – but it still took me by surprise.

Do you know that feeling – the one where a song comes on that strikes a chord with you for one of a thousand reasons, and it stirs something inside you? It blows my mind how powerful music can be, as a reminder of the past, a mood changer, a time machine, a kindred spirit… the power of art is a very real thing, friends, and the proof is in the hundreds of striking ways we react to it. Me? I’m a big reactor. In those moments when feelings hit me like a Mack truck — feelings brought on by music, memories, the world around me —  it’s rarely enough for me to just ‘be.’ Movement has always been the answer.

I’ve danced my whole life. I was the four-year-old who went to ballet class with all her friends, and never outgrew it. Fast forward a few years, and suddenly dance was less of a hobby, and more of a vehicle for processing my experiences as they were happening. I didn’t just love it, I needed it. The demands of my ballet training presented a really beautiful dichotomy: there’s the intense inward-focus that forced me to intimately know every muscle in my body and which ones to call upon to execute those stunning classical lines, combined with the artistic elements that allowed me to connect with things larger than myself. By the time I was old enough to recognize my need for both of these things, I was hooked.

After college when I transitioned into semi adulthood, my daily routine and priorities started to change in a way that made dance more difficult to fit into my life. I’ve come up with a long list of excuses that justify moving dance to the back burner: it’s expensive. It’s hard to find time for classes with a full time job. Finding a studio that caters to adults beyond the ‘beginner’ level is really tough.

These are all true, and valid in their own right. But there’s a truth that trumps them all: dance feeds my soul. We all have those things that nourish us, things we choose to do that add to our lives in meaningful ways – for me, it’s movement. This morning, as I sat at a right light with goosebumps and an overwhelming need to channel that nostalgic churning in my stomach into movement, I remembered why I was so in love with dance for so long.

I’m a big believer in the need to play in active role in our own well-being. Self TLC, if you will. This morning, I was forced to remember that I’m a happier, more balanced person when I make time to dance, and that kind of nourishment is something I need to make time for once again… I owe it to myself.

What are the things that nourish you? Have you found ways to make time for them, even when life gets busy? Please, share!

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Feel Good Friday | List Love

Brilliant Ideas Notepad

You know what makes me feel inspired, in control, and extra motivated? LISTS. I’m not talkin’ grocery lists and Target lists (though I’m not knocking them either!) – rather, the kind of lists that prompt us to know ourselves better. The list that comes right after that moment when I can no longer handle the disarray of scattered thoughts swirling around upstairs. When I recognize I’m feeling scattered, and I treat myself to a break, in order to get it all on paper.

Depending on the subject matter, I often find that the act of putting pen to paper has a way of putting things in perspective. Lists force us to get specific, to think big, to think, to focus, and often times, they reveal things we don’t expect.

The internet has proven I’m not alone on this one. Here are just a few of my fellow list-makers doing what they do, asking themselves big questions, and inspiring me to do the same:

  • The 52 Lists Project by Moorea Seal is pure introspection gold. Sadly, the project is on a bit of a hiatus right now, but there are more than enough prompts to get you started.
  • I love Kathleen at Braid Creative & Consulting‘s reminder to aspiring creatives that, “If you can’t identify what your day of empowering and inspiring actually looks like, in very specific detail, than you’re setting yourself up for failure.This awesome PDF helps creatives answer the question, “what do you want to be doing all day?”
  • Nesha at Betty Red Design on setting 14 goals to reach before 2014 – a lovely reminder of the importance (and excitement!) of personal goal-setting
  • Emily of Cupcakes and Cashmere on 8 Things Every Woman Should Have, with the poignant commentary: “At first I felt like the questions trivialize what it means to be happy, overlooking larger concepts in favor of one’s favorite cocktail. But now I see that it’s more about knowing yourself; what you like, what you want.”

I definitely foresee some relaxing and list making in my future this weekend! How about you – what are you up to?

Happy weekend!

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6 Dinners So Quick & Easy, Even Post-Workday Michelle Can Handle Them

Roasted Mushrooms

Is it just me, or will this week just.not.quit?

That’s not to say things are going badly – but I spent most of Wednesday convinced it was Thursday (only slightly embarrassing) and frankly, I feel like I’ve earned the right for today to be Friday. So close, and yet so far.

Working late, enduring beltway traffic, and getting home after 6:30 inevitably means that cooking an ornate meal just isn’t gonna happen. But let me be clear: being short on time and energy does not mean your meal is doomed to be short on flavor. In fact, these kinds of weeks are the perfect excuse for me to reevaluate, utilize, and add to my go-to stash of quick and easy dinner recipes.

Rather that surrendering to quesadillas or noodles with marinara after a long day at work, I’ve been trying to get a little further outside-the-box lately when it comes to weeknight dinners. Having said that, god knows I won’t be abandoning my tried and true time-saver recipes any time soon.

Below is a mix of old favorites and new ideas when it comes to quick, satisfying dinners:

  1. Roasted Mushrooms via Cup of Jo  (pictured above) - to quote the author, “The original recipe is intended to serve four as an appetizer, but halving it makes for a perfectly satisfying and respectable solo dinner.” Um, sold. Add a glass of chilled white and some crusty baguette to sop up the deliciousness, and we have ourselves a meal.
  2. Sausage, Fennel, and Ricotta Pizza via Cooking Light – I’m a firm believer in time savers like pre-made pizza dough (cough Trader Joe’s cough). With that in mind, this recipe is nice and quick, and still manages to keep things interesting and delicious, with minimal prep.
  3. One Pot Pasta via Martha Stewart – This one is a go-to recipe for me, considering I always always always keep a stash of pasta in my pantry and broccoli in my freezer. These are all nice, simple ingredients I virtually always have on hand, and the preparation is lightening fast – plus, the presence of broccoli takes care of the guilty conscience factor. (Bonus!)
  4.  One Dish Tuscan Skillet via Our Family Eats - Sometimes, I just need to shake things up a bit. (Don’t we all?) I tend to get stuck in a pasta rut when I’m short on time and inspiration, and this provides a nice alternative while still featuring the lovely balance of lean protein, veggie, and, well, some starch for the soul. And one pot to wash? You stole my heart with that one.
  5. Prosciutto, Apple, and Hazelnut Dinner Salad via Real Simple - Generally speaking, I really, REALLY lack creativity when it comes to salads, which means I rarely make them. Having said that, this combination of salty, crunchy, a hint of sweet sounds like a winning combination to me. While I don’t generally have hazelnuts on hand, I keep a stash of pine nuts and/or walnuts in my freezer, which would also be delicious here.
  6. Meatballs with Garlic Bread via Martha Stewart – Need I say more? Nothing like a little comfort food to end a long day. I’ll be honest – I make this one a lot, though I rarely (if ever) make my own meatballs. Trader Joe’s carries frozen turkey meatballs, which are super flavorful, wallet friendly, and can be ready in no time. Throw in a slice of garlic bread with a hearty mixed green salad, and voila! Dinner is served.

What are your go-to weeknight meals? How do you mix things up when you’re in a creativity rut, and short on time?

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That’s My Style | Black Boots 3 Ways

Madden Girl Umpiree Boots

Behold! Boot season is upon us.

DC finally got the memo – leaves are turning, temperatures are dropping, and sundresses across the land are being shoved back into attics where they belong. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against summer. In fact, I’m a huge fan of BBQs, warm evenings, and pretending I’m capable of tanning. But I hit my humidity capacity a few weeks ago (said the Los Angeles native) and I’ve been pining for grab an oversized sweater/turn on the heater/mull some wine weather.

It’s embarrassingly novel to suddenly live in a place where you can grab a coat and throw on some boots without feeling like you’re faking it. I dare you to try and wear even the cutest of peacoats in the brutal San Diego temps without losing some respect for yourself.

My inner bargain shopper was tickled to score these Madden Girl beauties (pictured above) for an absolute steal on eBay recently, just in time for fall. Ever since, I’ve been methodically looking for inspiration when it comes to fun, versatile ways to style them. This was mainly a project to get the creative style juices flowing – would I love to swipe that plastic and buy just about everything pictured below? Mm, yes. But life on a budget means that instead, I’ll be using this as inspiration to dig through my closet, and find new uses for old items.

As I just explained to the Manfriend (as he stared at me blankly while I put together the board below), this is my version of his favorite challenge: cleaning out the fridge… hear me out. To avoid having to go out and buy all kinds of new things, the challenge is to combine things I already have in creative ways, and see what surprising combinations I can come up with. (Except clearly, this is way more fun than fridge cleaning, amIright?)

So without further ado, my new Madden boots, three ways:

Boot Style Board

Outfit #1: earrings/dress/belt/watch
Outfit #2: scarf/sweater/leggings
Outfit #3: necklace/dress/belt

Have you found other fun ways to style boots in the fall? What are your go-to pieces this time of year, and how do you style them for different occasions?

*Just a note: I was not compensated in any way for this post. Steve Madden has absolutely no idea who I am – but that won’t stop me from proclaiming my love for his shoes.

Feel Good Friday | My Girl Crush on Tina Fey

Liz Lemon

This lady… man, do I like her.

Have you read Tina Fey’s bestselling book Bossypants - or better yet, listened to Tina narrate Bossypants in audiobook form? I’ll be honest, my opinion is nowhere near ‘unbiased’ – I’ve been obsessed with 30 Rock and all-things-Tina for, oh, ever. But you guys … this book is a game-changer.

Around this time last year, I was in a big time reading funk. On top of not being much of a bookworm to begin with, the last book I’d read (The Time Traveler’s Wife … don’t judge me) had been so indulgent and mesmerizing that nothing since had managed to hold my attention. My dad brilliantly suggested that I switch gears entirely, away from fiction and instead toward something light and entertaining.

Bossypants

I opted to go the audio book route with Bossypants, and I’d highly recommend you do the same – Tina’s expert delivery really does take the already-genius writing to a whole new level. This book quickly became the thing that kept me sane on the roads during those long weekend afternoons of getting my Christmas shopping done last year. Sure, I may have wasted hours sitting in parking lots, waiting for the end of a chapter and trying to hide the fact that I was creepy-silently-shaky-laughing alone in my car like a crazy person… but that’s not the point.

Did I learn some valuable lessons, including Tina’s Twelve Tenants for Looking Amazing Forever and how not to blow an interview with Lorne Michaels? Absolutely. But even better than that? Every time I re-listen to even a snippet of that book, Tina makes me proud to be a woman.

She knows who she is – a Greek, flat footed badass with razor sharp wit, limitless ambition, an arsenal of awkward teenage stories, and a big ol’ heart – and she’s not sorry about it. And because of that, Bossypants has sort of become my Bad Day Bible. Sure, it goes great with Sunday mornings, a worn in tee shirt, an over-sized blanket, and a giant cup of coffee… but above all, it’s hard to read a book like this without feeling as though her strength and confidence are contagious. Plus, the hysterical laughter that comes with it is a nice little bonus.

Do you have go-to books on your bad days? I’d love to hear about them.

Happy weekend!

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