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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

To knit or crochet: that is the question

As many of those close to me know, I am not a tough sell.

When a Sephora associate promises me the jar of beauty cream she's holding is the secret to blemish-free skin? I'm tossing that miracle moisturizer into my basket.

When a friend swears that a certain self-help book cured her anxiety? I'm requesting it from the library (or buying it from Amazon!) in a matter of moments.

When a coworker raves about a new television show on Netflix? You'd better believe I'm blocking out my evening to binge watch.

So while reading Jen Lancaster's Tao of Martha last night and coming across Jen's description of her loom and how calming she finds the process, I felt quite sure I also needed to buy myself a loom. Or take up some sort of textile hobby.

So my question is, do any of you knit or crochet? Which one should I choose?
via
I've heard varied opinions about which one I should pursue and figured additional feedback would be helpful.

I'd like to create cozy blankets and warm shawls.

I imagine myself knitting or crocheting these beautiful pieces while drinking a glass of red wine and watching my usual rotation of televisions shows (The Office, Parks and Recreation, The Mindy Project, and Sex and the City). Obviously both dogs will sit at my feet as Adam gazes lovingly at me from across the room.

All thoughts welcomed and appreciated!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pursuing a Big Dream

Ever since I can remember, I've loved to write and tell stories.

My parents would give me giant stacks of computer paper when I was little, and I'd pen (technically pencil) the romantic and harrowing tales of Princess Lisa and Prince Jimmy.

Lisa was my babysitter's name. Jimmy was the cute, shy boy who hung out in the art corner of my kindergarten classroom. He looked like a young Josh Hartnett and was my first crush following a summer spent swooning over Ben the Lifeguard at Shady Lane Swim Club.
This is me, right around age five, looking a little crazed.
Anyways.

I wrote my first full-length novel in high school. My heroine was the president's daughter (Remember when that was a big thing? I mean, there were two movies in the late 1990s and early 2000s with this very same heroine!) who fell in love with a boy "from the wrong side of the tracks."

As if I had any idea of what that meant.

"I noticed you had several sentences where you ended with a preposition. I'm not sure if that is an error or whether you did that on purpose to show that Maverick did not always use good grammar. I'm looking forward to the next book. You are very good at developing a story line."
—Email from my grandma, 08/22/06

"It really felt like it was coming from the point of view of a teenager (which it is) and in a novel such as this, one with a teenage main character, it is essential that the portrayal of the teenage experience is believable and realistic and I think you did a great job of this because, well, you are a teenager."
—Email from my friend Brandon, 11/11/06

As you can see, it received RAVE reviews!

Anyways. I circulated that book around friends and family and had a really fun time receiving feedback. I wish I could provide you with a few excerpts, but the novel was lost in its entirety the day my laptop was stolen from my Chicago dorm room.

So if you ever see any books out there about the president's daughter spending her summer in Cincinnati, Ohio? CALL ME!

The second novel I wrote took me the longest.

When I started it, I was one sad gal. My high school sweetheart had broken up with me for...wait for it...his fraternity brother.

He was gay. I was confused and devastated.

I turned to writing for comfort, beginning a chick lit book starring a heroine dealing with a very similar heartbreak to my own.

During the course of writing this novel, though, I changed quite a bit. My ex-boyfriend became my best friend. I met and dated new people. I didn't work on the novel very consistently, and thus, the writing process ended up dragging out over nearly five years!

Wowza! Five years!

By the time I wrapped it all up, I was a completely different person.

I self-published the book on Amazon (You can buy it here!) in December 2014. I'm proud of how it turned out, and I think it's a very fun read with a lot of heart, but I also learned a lot of writing lessons along the way.

Most important, I learned that while writing will always be therapeutic for me, I don't want to create another heroine that's so similar to myself. It's limiting for your writing process and really confuses things when you the writer are changing as you're penning the book. I mean, if you follow all of your own exact feelings and moods, your protagonist might look a bit schizophrenic.

Second, I learned that it's basically impossible to find an agent or publisher for a book you've already put out there on Amazon.

Amateur mistakes, but very valuable lessons learned.

All of this brings me to today, the present.

I finished my second novel at the end of July. This one only took me about seven months to write, and I am really, really proud of how it turned out.
Adam and I celebrated the night I finished with pink champagne and Moscow Mules
Many mornings, I would wake up at 5am and write for a few hours before work. I stayed in weekend nights and stayed awake much later than I should on work nights.

I feel like this latest novel is finally the point where talent and dedication came together, which is one spectacular combination.

My novel has...
  • quirky pop culture references
  • a great love story
  • wonderful friendships and family relationships
  • witty dialogue
  • A whole lot of heart
Can you tell I think it's totally lovely?

I am about six weeks into the querying process (the tip of the iceberg, really), and it's an experience that can be discouraging for the most optimistic and determined of writers. I have been reading other authors' publishing stories, and while each is different, I have a good perspective of how grueling this process can be.
I split my querying time between this book and the Literary Market Place
Everyone's taste is different; just because an agent passes on your book doesn't mean it isn't up to snuff.

Finding an agent can take years and years.

After you do find an agent, it can take a long time to find a publisher.

And then! Even if the stars align and all of this does happen...maybe your book won't sell well. 

I try to be realistic about what it takes to become a published author. But sometimes, I feel a little overwhelmed by the whole ordeal rather than staying positive and thinking of this all as a fun adventure.

I mean, I'm chasing my biggest dream! How awesome is that?

And I have enjoyed reaching out to agents. Even when passing on my work, many agents have sent along an encouraging note and positive feedback. And I'm definitely learning new things about the querying process and the publishing industry daily.

So today, I needed to write this all down and put it out there, out into the universe. I needed to remind myself of how far I've come and how determined I am to become a published author.

I love telling stories. I love making people laugh. I love the overly dramatic.

Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella, and Emily Giffin (among many, many other authors) have been sources of happiness, comfort, humor, and calm for me over the years. I want to publish these same sort of tales that help people escape the anxieties of everyday life for a bit.

If you've made it to the end of this post, you are #suchagoodblogfriend, and thank you for following along.

Any positive thoughts or vibes you'd like to send my way are much appreciated!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day, Labor Yay

Happy Labor Day, one and all!

Did you know it isn't even clear who the founder of Labor Day is? Some say it was Peter J. McGuire, who was the General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (I bet Aidan Shaw would have also been a member of this group) and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, while others argue that it was in fact Matthew Maguire, a machinist.

Either way, both men have eerily similar last names.

And no matter whose idea it was, the holiday was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City.

That's a long time ago!

What I really learned during my brief research is if you're a working guy or gal contributing to the American economy...this day is about you! So you'd better be celebrating yourself however you most like to celebrate.

Isn't it so luxurious having a Monday off from work?

I woke up around 7:45 this morning to the pitter-patter of Clementine's feet against the hardwood floors. Since she's used to going out at 6:15 on workday mornings, I applauded her patience.
This is from Saturday night. GAH IS SHE NOT THE CUTEST, WEIRDEST CREATURE?
I brewed a big pot of coffee and assembled a healthy breakfast starring a granola bar (homemade, with love, by Adam) and a quartet of blood orange wedges.
I have my new favorite candle scent going in the dining room (Weathered Oak from Target—when I discovered it last week, they were already sold out of the large sizes) and the sun is SO bright I had to close my happy, yellow curtains to preserve my already limited eyesight.
I plan on mapping out my week ahead before spending most of the day reading and writing and eating good foods.

My three favorite things, basically.

I hope you have a day of luxury and relaxation ahead, as well!

Thank you, Peter J. McGuire or Matthew Maguire, for giving us this Monday away from work! It is much appreciated.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Things I Did This Morning

I was out of bed by 8:30am, which may not sound especially impressive, but considering I can sleep until noon quite easily...this was good for me.

And then! I even made the bed.
I let the dogs outside and fed them. They were pleased.

I threw on yoga pants and a t-shirt and decided to head to the gym. I was proud of myself for not putting any makeup on. While I have no problem going into public with makeup-less eyes, I'm really self-conscious about my skin (which is red and splotchy). So choosing to go makeup-free was a good step forward for me!

The weather was absolutely perfect though, so instead of driving to the gym, I headed toward my neighborhood park.

I felt quite rugged hiking in the woods.
I forgot how much fun it is to jump over logs and shimmy through narrow paths. Plus, every hiker I passed was really friendly.

Well. Excluding one couple who was actually running through the forrest. I had to jump out of their way! That's how fast they came at me!

And they did not even apologize.

The woman did have the most stellar six-pack I'd ever seen, though. You probably have to run in a somewhat inconsiderate manner to maintain a physique like that.

She was likely thinking, "Get out of my way, Girl Moseying Through the Woods While Listening to the P.S. I Love You Soundtrack!"

And of course, right when I made it to the part of the trail that leads to the cliff overlook, I was blocked by employees of the park who were cutting down trees.

But that's okay. The fun is in the journey, not the destination, right?

After my outdoorsy endeavors, I ventured back to my comfort zone: shopping.

I picked up a photo order I've been letting sit for a bit too long (I swear, it's my easiest errands that I procrastinate the most!), and I walked through a resale shop and Michael's, admiring artwork and jewelry at the former and Halloween decorations at the latter.
This was one of the pictures I picked up today. It's from our Pacific Northwest trip, and THAT WATERFALL IS REAL!
I stopped into HomeGoods and smelled a bunch of soaps without buying any. I also found one of those glass dome/base pieces that I really loved. This glass dome sat on a copper base, and I daydreamed about all of the sweets I could bake and set inside.

Since I deep-cleaned the bathroom last night, I decided I deserved a long bath this afternoon, so off to Ulta I went for a calming face mask.

Not only did I found a good face mask, I also ended up with bubble bath and a cherry-shaped lip balm! How did I not know about this Tony Moly brand? Love, love, love!
And now, I am opening up my Whole Foods lunch from the hot bar and planning on watching some Sex and the City before sending out a few more query letters this afternoon.
I hope everyone's long weekend is off to a nice start!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

SEPTEMBER IS HERE!

Eeeeppp!!!

Happy September, guys and gals!

I always look forward to September 1st as I consider it the unofficial start of the autumn season.

And Cincinnati did not disappoint.

The weather was absolutely spectacular—we're talking temperatures in the mid-70s, low humidity, and blue skies.
Since Adam and I both work downtown, we met up at lunchtime at Smale Park.
We walked through the gardens and glided away on the swings, looking out on the river as steamboats paddled by.

It was really lovely.
After work, I popped by the UPS Store and shipped off my too-big Bean Boots and then visited Ulta for new foundation. After those two errands, I made a stop at Target to grab some deodorant, a new alarm clock (Adam says my current one is too bright, I say his eyes are too sensitive), and another fall-scented candle (because you can't ever be too stocked up, right?).

I came home and practically sprinted to the bathroom cabinet where my stockpile of candles lives. I pulled out one of my most favorite—Heirloom Pumpkin—and fired it up.

Oh, how I cannot wait for the weather to cool down and go apple picking and carve pumpkins and eat shepherd's pie and...

Well. You get the point.

I'm an autumn kind of girl.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Rock that Frock

This summer, I had a dress made by a very lovely seamstress.

My first piece of couture was completed just about a week and a half ago.
Isn't it pretty? It's so fun and flouncy and bouncy.

"Would you ever wear it to work?" One of my coworkers asked.

"Sure! Maybe!" I laughed, definitely not serious.

But last night, as I was choosing my outfit for today, I thought, Why not rock that frock? 

Since my seamstress made the dress two separate pieces, I decided to pair the purple, tulle skirt with a button-up shirt.

Fairy princess meets Meg Ryan à la Kate & Leopold meets Carrie Bradshaw meets career woman.

"Whoa! Heading to the prom?" Adam asked this morning.

"Is it too much?" I replied, beginning to have doubts as I stared at my giant, poufy skirt in the bedroom mirror.

He smiled and shook his head, "Nope. Not for you. You look very pretty."

I know I say it a lot, but Adam really is the greatest.

So I grabbed my lunch bag and car keys and headed out the door.

Driving to work was a little difficult as the tulle took up most of the front seat.

I sat in my car a few minutes once I arrived at work, suddenly anxious all over again.

Would people think I was a total weirdo? Or perhaps that I desperate for attention? Or a total weirdo desperate for attention?

Rock that frock, I reminded myself.

I took a deep breath and exited the Corolla, my gym bag slung over my shoulder and as much confidence as I could muster in my step.

An older woman was exiting the elevators, coming from the hotel next door, and she gasped.

"I love it!" she said, pointing to my skirt.

Her adult daughter smiled at me, "You look really pretty."

Those gals gave me the final bit of confidence I needed to walk into work.

And the day couldn't have gone better!
Coworkers I am friends with and coworkers who are total strangers alike all complimented my skirt.

No one was mean or made fun of me (at least not to my face). And no one seemed to think I was a total weirdo desperate for attention.

It actually ended up being a very fun day.

I mean, it's kind of hard to let anything at work get you too stressed out when you're wearing a huge, tulle skirt, you know?

So while I don't think I'll be wearing the ensemble again anytime soon (bathroom trips were a bit tricky and a tulle skirt isn't the most comfortable thing to wear for 10 hours), I'm happy I set aside my fears and rocked my frock.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tumultuous Tuesday

What a day of ups and downs!

This morning, I got to work from home for a few hours before my dentist appointment, which was total bliss.

At 7am, I sat down at my dining room table and opened my laptop. The sunshine was streaming through the windows, and my yellow curtains made the effect especially happy and bright. I brewed a pot of hazelnut cream coffee, and Clem nestled into her bed beside my feet.
Gus moseyed in around 8 o'clock.

"Well, well, well! Look who decided to show up for work," I pretended to scold him.

Except Gus is super sensitive and got really bashful and ashamed, so I had to remind him I was only teasing.
My morning glory was short-lived because at 9:45, it was time to venture to the dentist.

DAH DAH DUUUHMMM!

I hate, hate, hate the dentist.

I think and worry and dread going for days before my appointment.

Today, I had an appointment with a new dentist (Adam's family dentist), so I was hopeful but maybe even a little more anxious. For all I knew, this DDS would be worse than my previous one, who always found problems in my mouth and then would boast about all of the fancy things he was buying.

More than a little suspicious, if you ask me.

I'll bet my million fillings and crown funded some of those purchases, Dr. Distrustful.

Anyways.

I arrived a bit early for my appointment and filled out the new patient paperwork. Under the section where they ask about any medical conditions they should be aware of, I wrote all shouty, "I HAVE A CROWN!"

You see, one of my biggest fears is that dumb crown falling out, especially during the scraping part of a dental cleaning.

My dental hygienist came out and could not have been any friendlier.

"Are you from Cin—" she began to ask.

"IamsonervousbecauseIhatethedentist,andI'mjustreally,really,reallyanxiousrightnow!!!" I interrupted her, my voice hurried and panicked.

She smiled, "That's okay. I'll talk you through everything."

And she did!

She explained everything she was doing to my mouth along with a scientific explanation and why it was important. For the first time in years, I felt my anxiety in that dentist chair melt away.

Sure, the scraping part is still uncomfortable, but the hygienist was gentler and didn't make it feel as bad.

When the dentist came in to visit me, he said my teeth were beautiful and strong. He told me to floss more often and said they'd see me in six months.

How easy was that?*

I was practically walking on sunshine as I drove to work. I called my mom on the way and reported how my new DDS practice rocked and bragged about my cavity-free mouth.

My jolly good mood quickly faded when I pulled into the parking garage at work.

Every. Single. Spot. Was. Taken.

I circled around the garage for 25 MINUTES along with four other cars looking for a spot.

Finally, finally, we all found spots on the very bottom basement level. Which is incredibly scary and creepy since you have no cellphone service down there, and there is obviously no sunlight.

My workday continued without any further inconveniences, and I even fit in a workout at the end of the day. I wasn't in the gym for as long as I'd have liked, but I don't think I'm feeling quite back to 100% after yesterday's stomach troubles.

I drove home and warmed up some leftover P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps, which was mecca from the heavens, of course.

"This day is finishing off strong!" I declared to Gus and Clem and Adam. "Now you guys can watch me try on my Bean Boots."
Ah yes, did I mention how I finally pulled the trigger and ordered a pair of L.L. Bean Boots?

Giddily, I opened the cardboard box and beheld their hand-sewn-in-Maine beauty.

I slid my foot inside.

Too easily.

Despite my thorough sizing research, I had made the ultimate mistake and ordered my Bean Boots too big.

"Do they fit okay?" Adam asked, surely sensing the terror beginning to show in my eyes.

"I mean, boots are supposed to be a little big!" I said quickly. "To fit knit socks...right? RIGHT???"

"They shouldn't be too big. Or else you'll get blisters or hurt yourself," Adam said, reasonable as ever. "Do your feet slide in them?"

Oh, God, yes. They slid all over the place.

I wanted to sob.

So now I'll be returning these beautiful, beautiful boots and exchanging them for a smaller pair.

I believe it's time to pour myself a glass of wine and end this rollercoaster Tuesday on a relaxing note. My emotions could certainly use a break.

*God, I love Ina Garten.