Sunday, December 28, 2014

a hell LOVE a year, This 2014, Here

2014 was kind of a cloudy year for me. The beginning of my year was clouded by two huge exams I had to pass to keep my day job and my obscene stress-level related to them. The next few months were clouded with confusion regarding something that was beyond my control, no matter how hard I tried.

This year, I also felt a lot like Kristen Wiig's character in Bridesmaids, where everyone elses' lives were "going off and getting perfect and mine's just like..." (Kristen sticking her tongue out, dejectedly). Maybe it's weird to admit that in the public domain, and I promise, I am genuinely excited for you all, but I also couldn't help wondering when it would be my turn for my life to "get perfect". Not to say that I'm necessarily looking for everything that I see many people my age getting into, I can't even imagine having a dog right now or owning anything more expensive than my computer, but I'm not NOT looking for it either.

I've been awesome lately, but I'm still looking forward to this year ending because I could use a clean slate. I have a refreshed outlook and a new life plan - one that I'm as excited about as my life plan many years ago to move to New York. That has probably been the best decision of my life so far so I have a good feeling about this plan too. This one needs to remain close to me for now, but I'm sure I'll be advertising it soon enough.

Here are some of the things I'll remember about this year with a smile, in no particular order, and with relevant blogpost links:

  • Random weekend nights out with friends that started out as nothing and ended up as everything, by simply asking Brits in town to help with a crossword puzzle, or starting up a conversation with people from Arkansas as McSorley's is closing.

  • Three weekends of bachelorette party celebrations, starting with friends coming up to NYC to play Twister, eat pizza, and attend a drag show - continuing in Newport, Rhode Island with a mimosas and lighthouses tour, salad in jars, and tiaras - and ending in the Hamptons with a workout class, a trip to a farm to pick out a chicken, and multiple games of Celebrity.

  • A 29th birthday celebration that made me feel incredibly loved since it was the tenth rainiest day in NYC ever recorded but still there were tons of people who showed up to one of my favorite West Village bars after work on a Wednesday.

  • Becoming an adult about my health and starting to work out more, eat healthier, and actually make a point of drinking water (unlike on my hike in Hawaii).

  • Feeling like I'm on a team at work for the first time since 2009. Becoming real friends with the people I work near and with closely and genuinely getting excited for work trips.

  • Celebrating my mom's retirement from teaching and getting to see how much she enjoys it while continuing her yoga practice, relearning how to paint, and walking the boards along the ocean.

  • Joining the team at Trivia AD. Hosting and coming up with questions for our inaugural Girls HBO night and 1990s Nickelodeon night. Hosting and scorekeeping for several other fun themes over the months (Disney Movies, Friends, Sex & the City, Mean Girls). Getting third place in Game of Throne Trivia when I finally got my friends together to play. You really should come see me host sometime. Wink wink nudge nudge.

  • Dancing the night away at four weddings in Rye, NY, Basking Ridge & Jersey City, NJ, and Virginia Beach, VA. Being a bridesmaid in two of those weddings. Reuniting with old work friends, friends from growing up, and friends from UD. Losing my scarf at Ruby Tuesdays, getting Avril'ed after Dry Bar totally messed up my hair, being a witness, eating Ice Dream at Chick Fil-A, and playing with the most perfect dog in the universe, Riley.

  • Spending a weekend in Maryland visiting a two-year-old who may already be smarter than I am. Playing with Disney princesses, picking pumpkins, and eating clam chowder at a dairy.
  • Welcoming two adorable new babies to our growing family and hearing news of another one on the way. Frousins (Friends + Cousins), the Next Generation is in full swing.

  • Becoming more involved in the travel community by getting business cards, attending travel festivals and networking events, and becoming real-life friends with some of my favorite bloggers. Making plans for future travels.

  • A Thanksgiving for the history books, both with my own family and the after party with my second family down the street which involved a Mary Chapin Carpenter and Taylor Swift singalong that I think someone has digital proof of somewhere.
  • A smaller but more-extended-than-usual Christmas with some of the best folks I know. Live-tweeting "It's a Wonderful Life," walking the trail for 3.3 miles, splitting my jeans when getting into the car, bowling in NJ for $5.50 a person, a trip to Firkin, and hearing my cousins' compliments to me while hitting number 4 in "Cheers to the Gov'ner".
After writing this list, I'm starting to think that instead of waiting for my life to "get perfect", I need to recognize that my life is perfect just the way it is. Maybe 2015 will help me to feel that way. 

Thanks for another amazing year. A hell LOVE a lotta love to you and yours.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

a hell LOVE a Gift Guide for Travelers (or Anyone!)

If you're as bad at holiday shopping as I am, then you probably don't have a lot of yours done at this point and you'll scramble over the next few weeks and end up paying a lot more for express shipping than you would if you planned ahead. But, if you happen to have a traveler in your life, I have a list of great ideas for gifts, all tried and loved by yours truly!

~~~ Accessories ~~~

Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf

{via Lululemon}

I buy workout clothes more often than I work out, and Lululemon is one of my weaknesses. I purchased their Vinyasa Scarf this fall, thinking that it would be a great accessory when traveling. It is comfy, warm, and has snaps so you can wear it in a variety of ways, although my family has teased me because I only really know the one way. It's perfect as a blanket on a draft airplane or to cover up a little more if visiting a temple in Thailand. This scarf is so versatile that there is a video on all the different ways to wear it on the above link. I'm sure I'll figure it all out at some point. It'll set you back $48, but that's a steal for Lululemon.

Cuyana Travel Accessories

{via Cuyana}
{via Cuyana}

Another one of my major weaknesses is the website Cuyana, whose motto is "Fewer, Better." They source accessories that you'll want to own your whole life from different countries around the globe. For example, I have a leather tote from Argentina, a robe from Turkey, a ring from Bali, among lots of other things. It's an obsession.

If your traveler is anything like me, she'll want sophisticated leather travel toiletry and cosmetic bags as well as a matching passport holder to look cool while waiting in security lines and to keep track of boarding passes and itineraries. I have both in blue. The travel case set is $95 and the passport holder is $55. Oops.

~~~ Noms ~~~

I'm pretty well-known for snacking at my office and it is there where I get two snack subscriptions delivered. Not only do these subscriptions save me money and allow to me to snack smarter and healthier at work, they come in handy while I'm traveling too. I now always have healthy snacks on hand so that I'm less tempted to get a huge cinnamon bun or Twizzlers at the airport. Subscription boxes are great as gifts because everyone enjoys surprises in the mail months after the holidays.


{via Graze}
Graze is four individual servings of snacks which I receive weekly. You can also select the every-other-week option if you're not a glutton like me. Graze chooses which snacks to send, but you're able to evaluate each snack as "trash," "try," "like," or "love." You can also select certain types of snacks if you don't want any nuts or anything over 100 calories, for example. These snacks are the perfect size to bring along while you're sightseeing and have helped me postpone a lunch stop more than a few times.

Graze has a number of gift options, 1 box at a time, or vouchers for 3, 5, 10, and 50. All gift options are currently $6/box. If you'd like to try out the subscription for yourself, use this referral code: ERINF9XHP and get your 1st and 5th box for free.

Nature Box

{via Nature Box}
Nature Box is a monthly subscription where you can choose which healthy snacks in full-sized packages come to your door. Once in a while, the snacks in your "pantry" will be out of stock and you may receive a substitute or two, but I've had good luck with their customer service team if I haven't liked something. Boxes and prices vary, but I personally subscribe for $19.95/month for five full-sized snack bags.

Use this referral link for $10 off your first box.


Rick Steves' European Guidebooks

Me and "Rick" in Rome
My family and I are obsessed with Rick Steves. His European travel guides are the absolute best. If I hadn't known about him, I wouldn't have been as comfortable wandering around London and Amsterdam by myself. He writes kind of like me, like a human, and his guidebooks are so much more than just listings of places to see. Rick gets into what you're supposed to take in at every landmark, what you should skip, and has amazing walking tours. He guides you through different neighborhoods, places of interest, and even picks out the top 10 or 20 pieces of art so you don't become overwhelmed in a ginormous museum. I actually am a little annoyed when I travel outside of Europe and have to do research with other brands of guidebooks. I would love for Rick to expand into other areas of the world. HINT HINT RICKIE POO. Spoiler alert: I am receiving the Rick Steves Spain 2015 book for Christmas this year.

"Wild" by Cheryl Strayed

You probably already know how I feel about this book, if you've ever talked to me, read this post, or seen any of my recent tweets regarding the new movie adaptation with Reese Witherspoon. I plan on rereading this in the new year. This book is the ultimate inspiration for a solo journey, which I (and the author) think everyone should take at some point in their lives. Cheryl Strayed's beautifully written memoir of her solo hike of 1,000 miles up the Pacific Coast Trail at a harrowing point in her life will be meaningful to any traveler.


Walks of New York

While I do clearly love everything above, I'm a much bigger fan of experiences than things. If you need a gift for a traveler and you happen to be local to NYC, I'd recommend a tour with Walks of New York. I went on the Lower East Side tour in April and learned so much more about the neighborhood than I ever expected. I'm hoping to make it on their Mario Batali Greenwich Food Tour this winter, which includes exclusive visits to two of the Croc-wearer's restaurants. Tours are also available at the Met, on Broadway, and beyond. There are even some special Christmas-themed tours this month.

Email for gift voucher details.


Scratch-off Map

{via Urban Outfitters}

Anything with a map on it is a good gift for a traveler. A map where they can track where they've been is the ultimate. I received this scratch-off map from my sister two Christmases ago. It's up to you to decide if you should scratch off the entire country or just the region of the country you've been to. I felt a little guilty scratching off all of Brazil for just one weekend spent on the border of Argentina and Brazil at Iguazu Falls, but I do like seeing all that purple revealed. It makes me feel like I've conquered more of the world than I have. 


Here's to hoping the above items and the extreme motivation to travel more help me and the traveler in your life scratch off more of those countries soon.

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