Garden Retreat

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People often ask me if I really do like living in New York City. I had some family passing through town yesterday (visiting from the Chicago area), and naturally, they commented on the hustle and bustle of the city. Then, one of my younger cousins asked that frequently asked question, and my response was “Yes, I do love it here.”

One thing I love about New York is that you can walk or take the subway to a different neighborhood, and suddenly it does feel like you’re in a completely different place. A couple of weekends ago, on a warm and sunny Sunday, I took the train uptown to the Conservatory Garden. I’ve been once before, and the garden was just as quiet and peaceful as I remember.

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It’d been quite a while since I took my camera out for a spin, and I wanted to get some practice in before my trips next month. For a while, I wandered around, snapping pictures of the various blooms. Then I just sat on a bench, watching people pass by, enjoying the feel of the sun on my skin, thinking, listening to the various sounds, and dreaming.

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Currently 05.

coffee, breakfast, lazy sunday, death to stock photo

I don’t know exactly why (although I wouldn’t be surprised if the recent bout of beautiful weather had something to do with it), but I’ve felt more motivated recently. I’ve noticed a pep in my step these last few days and I’ve been bitten by the blogging bug again. I want to roll along with this feeling while it lasts and take advantage of the motivation.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while and now I’m finally getting it together- I’m going to have a travel week on the blog. Starting tomorrow, I’ll recap and share recommendations from my last two trips (one in July 2016 to Seattle and Vancouver and the second to London in December 2016). I think we could all use a getaway right about now. Since I can’t jet off right this second, I’m doing the next best thing and reliving my last trips.

Before that kicks off though, I wanted to check in and give a bit of a life update. 2016 has been rough for a lot of people and so far, 2017 seems to be following in 2016’s footsteps. At the beginning of this year, I had to take a step back because everything just felt wrong wrong wrong. I stopped checking Instagram, Snapchat, and most of my usual social media haunts, except Twitter. I’d get home from work and trepidatiously open up Twitter to see what fresh horrors had happened during the day, because I wanted to stay informed. Believe me, staying informed and being aware was not one of my strong suits until last year. But now I have to pay attention, I don’t have a choice anymore. There are things going on that affect all of us as a nation, women, black women, and on the most personal level, people in my life that I care about.

It all felt extremely surreal and it continues to feel that way. I didn’t know what to say or think that I had anything important to say. I didn’t know what to do or how I could help. At the same time, I can’t ignore any of this, or pretend it’s not happening. As much as I want to curl up and hide sometimes, I can’t do that.

I’m not sure if I’m making any sense and I certainly don’t have any answers, but it’s always helped me to write about what I’m feeling. In the meantime, I’m continuing to pay attention, working on educating myself, making an effort, and trying to help in the small ways that I can. I don’t know that it’s enough, but at least it’s a start.

Now that you have a sense of how I’m currently feeling, let’s talk about some other things that have recently caught my attention. I’m currently:

Listening to Lemonade and A Seat at the Table a lot recently because they give me something hold on to when everything seems too overwhelming. At the moment though, as I type this, I’m listening to Tom Misch. His music is a great combination of upbeat and relaxed, perfect for background listening when you’re working on other things.

Watching Buffy. A few years ago, my roomie and I started to watch Buffy all the way through (I’d never watched it before), but then we trailed off somewhere around the end of season 2 or beginning of season 3. Fast forward to a month or so ago and I decided to start watching again. I couldn’t remember where we left off, so I started from the very beginning again. I’m in the middle of Season 4 now and so much is happening!

Reading The Sellout. I’ve been focusing on books by black authors for Black History Month and this is one that I’ve been meaning to read since it was first published in 2015. This book is wacky and funny and bananas, but not really that bananas in this current political and social climate.

Eating at home more often. This month, I’ve been trying not to eat out at all (except for last weekend when I was in Philly. I gave myself a pass for that weekend since I knew I’d be out and about with my friends). I’ve been pretty good about making my lunches for the last couple of years, but this month, I’ve been cooking more often so that I could eat better, home-cooked meals for lunch and dinner, and to cut back on spending. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve been getting groceries every week now, instead of every two weeks, and I like trying new recipes. I think I’ve also cut down my food expenses, which was the main goal, but I still have to check exactly what the difference is.

I think that’s it from me for now (until tomorrow)! In the meantime, let’s chat in the comments below- what’s going on in your life at the moment?

(image via Death to Stock Photo)

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

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Well, we made it. The clock has turned, the calendar’s been flipped, and it’s officially 2017. You know, I’ve been reflecting on 2016 and it wasn’t the worst year in regards to my personal life. I think 2016 was an absolutely terrible year for humanity in general, but personally, 2015 was much worse for me. So let’s just say that it’s been a rocky two years and I’m ready for better times to come around again.

Best of 2016

In the spirit of focusing on the good, here are some of my 2016 highlights:

Weddings: 2016 was the year of weddings for me (they were right when they said that the number of weddings really starts to pick up in your late twenties). I was able to see my cousin get married, as well as a close college friend, and best of all, I was a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding. Such good times and I have so much love for my friends and family that got married.

Family Vacation: I love traveling and exploring new cities and this year we decided to go to Seattle and Vancouver for our family vacation. It was my first time in Canada and my first visit to Seattle. I really enjoyed both cities and the time we spent there was a good mix of exploring and relaxing. I suppose it’s not too early to start planning our 2017 vacation!

Christmas: I spent Christmas in London with my immediate family and London fam and it was so much fun. I hadn’t seen some of my cousins in ages and I loved being able to spend time with them. And I’m so happy I got to see all of my immediate family. Before we’d figured out all of our plans, I wasn’t sure that I’d get to see everyone and it made me really, really sad. But it all worked out in the end and even for those I only saw briefly (my mom only had a layover in London), a little time spent together was certainly better than nothing. As you know, I absolutely love Christmas, but I’ll admit that Christmas 2015 was really, really rough (it was our first Christmas without him). This year was better though and reminded me that I’m so grateful for the family that I have.

Looking forward in 2017

I like to set goals at the beginning of the year and I usually post them on the blog (I missed last year, but here’s 2015 and 2014). I’ve tried to keep my resolutions short and sweet this year:

Creativity: Last year, my energy really faded when it came to my blog and booktube channel, but I’d like to get back into my creative mode. I still enjoy blogging so much (obviously, or I would have shut this down a long time ago) and whenever I’m not working on a creative project, I really miss it. So in 2017 I’d like to get back to pursuing my creative passions because they continue to be important to me.

Movement: I tend to settle into a routine and get stuck in it. This year, I want to break out those ruts and push myself out of my comfort zone a bit.

Travel: All of my 2016 highlights involved traveling and in 2017, I’d really like to take advantage of any opportunity I have to get out and explore the world. In particular, I’d love to go on a solo trip. This was one of my goals last year, but I didn’t get the chance to make it happen. This year, I’d love to save up some money and go somewhere. It doesn’t even have to be far away- I’d just love to plan and experience a solo trip.

What was one of your 2016 highlights? Do you have any goals for 2017?

(image via Death to Stock Photo)

9 Things I Love About the Holidays

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All of my friends know that I’m an absolute nut when it comes to the holidays. I can’t help it- I just love Christmas so much. As we’re getting into the holiday spirit, I thought it would be fun to share a few things that I love about this season.

1. Decorations: Being in the city during the holiday season is the best because it’s so festive everywhere. The city gets all dressed up for the holidays and I freakin’ love it. Some moments, when I’m strolling through the streets and see all of the lights and decorations, it really feels like there’s holiday magic in the air.

2. Holiday music: Give me all of the Christmas albums. Of course I love the classic songs, but I love a good pop Christmas album as well. My absolute favorite song though is The Christmas Song (the Nat King Cole version), which I’m listening to right now as I type up this post.

3. Holiday cards: I’ve been sending holiday cards for several years now and it’s one of my favorite traditions. I remember that the first year I sent holiday cards on my own (my first Christmas after college), I felt so adult. I’m a big fan of snail mail in general and I think it’s lovely to send a note to my friends to let them know that I’m thinking of them and wishing them a happy holiday season.

4. Christmas trees: Christmas trees line the streets all over the city and it definitely adds to the festive feeling (see item #1). Plus they smell so amazing…

5. Traditions: I’m someone who likes to have a routine and stick to it, so our family traditions make me feel very comforted. When we were younger, we’d spend a day decorating the house together as a family. My dad and brothers would tackle the lights outside, while my mom, sister, and I would pull the decorations out of storage and deck the inside of the house. My favorite family tradition is this one though: each year, my mom, sister, and I (and sometimes my brothers help too) have a baking extravaganza and make an assortment of cookies. We then package some of them up to give to our neighbors and friends. We also keep a reserve of cookies at home so that we have homemade cookies to offer when people come over to visit.

6. Baked goods: This ties in nicely with my previous point. I just feel like there’s an abundance of free baked goods during the holiday season. As someone who has a major sweet tooth, I’m not mad about it at all. Each year when I’m home in CA, people bring over cookies, fudge, and other sweet treats, and I sample it all. There’s this one pound cake that our family friend makes for us each year and my mom actually has to hide it and ration it out to the kids because we would devour it all in one sitting if given the chance (it’s that good).

7. Holiday parties: Let’s be honest: I’m a total homebody. But, even I enjoy getting gussied up from time to time and going out to socialize! There are the work parties and the parties hosted by friends, and even when my introvert self wants to stay at home, I typically have a lot more fun than I think I will.

8. Quality family time: I love my family and I’m always telling them that I wish California was not quite so far away from New York. I usually only make it home 1-2 times a year, so I always appreciate the time I’m able to spend with family. This year I get an extra special treat: I’m going to see my immediate family, as well as some of my cousins, because we’re traveling to London for Christmas (more on that soon)!

9. Rest and relaxation: I love doing nothing. I know some people get anxious or restless when they’re stuck at home, but give me hours and hours of free time to read, blog, watch TV, etc., and I’m a happy camper. When I go home, there’s not that much to do in my hometown, so most of my time is spent hanging out with family and friends. When I was in school, I remember that it felt amazing to have a mental break, and now it’s the same way with work. It’s so nice (and necessary) to not think about work for a little while, and to just rest and relax.

What’s your favorite thing about the holidays?

images via 1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 – my image // 9 – pajama set, slippers (similar)

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