Spring Must-Haves

Happy April, Friends! I couldn’t be happier that spring is finally here and the weather is getting warmer (kind of). I love being outside and being able to actually feel my extremities, so winter isn’t exactly the best season for me. Yet, I live in Chicago. Go figure. *rolls eyes*

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With the sun starting to shine on a (semi) regular basis, we’re all starting to show a bit more skin and if you’re anything like me, these last few weeks brought a huge shock and how neglected my skin was. When it’s cold out and we’re all bundled up, it’s easy to not notice, but everyone wants beautiful, glowing skin…especially when it’s time to show it off! I took it upon my-blogging-self to try quite a few new products to let you all know exactly which ones would be best to prep your skin for spring and summer!

Small disclaimer here, I have a bias towards Lush products so all if the ones below are from their inventory. First of all, and most importantly, they do not test any products on animals. Ever. Period. Second, all of their products are 100% natural. They mix oils and fruit/veggie butters with fragrances to make the best products. Almost all of the products are also vegan, so there will be no fillers or other chemicals to make you “feel” like you’re getting a better product. A great example of a filler would be in hair conditioner. Fillers in conditioner give you that slimy feeling of “moisturized” hair. However, ultimately, that filler dries your hair out more and a lot of times leads to dryness, breakage and frizz.

Below is a list of products that I have used regularly for the last month & my review of them. Enjoy!

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Angels on Bare Skin//Facial and Body Cleanser

Angels on Bare Skin is my morning facial cleanser. It comes in a clump, for lack of a better word, and you break a little piece off and rub it on your face. The little piece will break down, but will not have suds like normal soap. It has ground pistachios in it that act as a natural exfoliator, which is my favorite part because it is not as harsh as sugar or salt-based exfoliators. This makes a great cleanser for daily morning use because it gets the oils off your face that build up overnight. Angels on Bare Skin can also be used as a body cleanser. I don’t, but if you have an acne-prone chest or back, this is a great option for those areas as well because it is so soothing. My only complaint with this one is it is a bit difficult to actually use. When you break off a piece of it and mix it with water on your face sometimes it sticks together instead of breaking apart like it should or it falls in the sink instead of sticking on your face. Neither of those problems is terrible, and honestly, the outcome of using Angels on Bare Skin is worth the little bit of trouble it might give you.

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Vanishing Cream//Facial Moisturizer

Vanishing Cream is absolutely heaven-sent. I use this as my daily face lotion right after washing my face in the morning with Angels on Bare Skin. To use, first, spray any toner all over your face (I use Lush’s Breath of Fresh Air) and immediately rub a small amount of Vanishing Cream in with the toner and then continue with make-up routine as usual. Even after one use, you will notice that it evens our your skin tone and gives you glowing skin that lasts all day. This has quickly but surely become a staple of my daily routine.

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9 to 5//Cleansing Lotion

This one seems a bit strange when I tell you about it, I know, but hear me out. 9 to 5 is an amazing cleanser for right before bed and before whatever creams you sleep with at night (before your coconut oil sleep mask, mom). To use this, take off any make-up with remover, then rub 9 to 5 on your dry face and wipe it off with a cotton pad or ball. That’s it. No water, no scrubbing, no soap. When I first saw this, I didn’t believe it. I didn’t think there was possibly any way that you could not wash your face after having make up on all day and working or working out, anything, but then I tried it. My skin has never been more clear or brighter and I wake up in the morning just as clean as the day before, so it has to be doing something right!

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Oatifix//Face Mask

Meet your face’s new best friend. Oatifix is everyone’s dream face mask and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find it. First of all, the blend of vanilla, almonds, bananas and oats makes this mask smell like cookies. Not like sugary, funfetti crap. It smells like homemade, real cookies and I can’t get enough of it. It is a smaller mask (Lush has two sizes), but you only need small amount and you really only need to use it once a week, maybe even every other week if you want. I used to use Lush’s Mask of Magnamity. I didn’t hate it by any means, but I really wasn’t seeing much work from it. It would definitely clean my face, but that was really it. This mask gives you the best glow and the cleanest feeling (smelling) skin. The only trick with this one is not actually eating it…it’s not actually cookie dough…

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Ocean Salt//Face and Body Scrub

Literally the ocean in a little tub! I cannot rave about this one enough. I use Ocean Salt every other day in the shower before shaving. The actual “scrub” in this is sea salt, which makes it a bit harsher on the skin than Angels on Bare Skin because it is a scrub not a cleanser, so I would not recommend using this on a daily basis. My skin is still a bit dry from the winter so I’m sticking with every other day for now, but I’m hoping to get down to twice a week. I will say that Ocean Salt is the first scrub I have ever felt comfortable using on my face, though. It doesn’t leave you red from being too harsh or take off like an entire layer of skin, just the dead stuff causing your skin to look a little dull. The organic lime juice brightens, the avocado butter softens and the vodka (yes, you read that right. cheers!) tightens. It’s a light blue color and has a layer of sea salt on the top, so it really does look like and smell like the ocean! I really have nothing bad to say about Ocean Salt at all. I will definitely be buying this for a long time to come.

 

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The Olive Branch//Shower Gel

I know it seems silly to have a shower gel that you love because they all really do the same thing, but The Olive Branch is really something special. The olive oil in this shower gel moisturizes your skin on a level that a normal shower gel simply can’t. It does so without leaving you feeling too oily, while also leaving you feeling so clean and smelling absolutely amazing. It honestly doesn’t get any better than that in a shower gel!

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Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner//Skin Conditioner

Okay, this is the only one I have some mixed feelings about. Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner is exactly like a hair conditioner, but for your body. You rub it all over in the shower after washing with The Olive Branch and then rinse off. It is meant to replace your after-shower lotion. I think the best way to break this down is a list of pros and cons.

Pros: It does work. If you really rub it in and rinse it off, you really don’t need a lotion post-shower. If you have ever tried to put leggings on after putting lotion on after the shower, you know that this is a real blessing. It also smells great…like a rose garden, but not like an old lady’s perfume. You smell great afterwards, really.

Cons: It is really oily. Not like straight up oil that you’re going to look like a Greek god when you get out, don’t get carried away. I’m talking like the water will bead-off your skin afterwards and then it makes the shower floor all slippery and kind of gross when it dries (I have to wipe down the shower floor like every other shower now). When you towel off after, you pat dry, don’t rub, otherwise all those oils are going to go into the towel. However, once you go through all this, it does look great. Only other con, I usually shower at night before bed. By the time I wake up in the morning, my skin kind of lost all of the oils and butters from Ro’s in my sheets and I’m kind of in need of some lotion. I have used it in the morning, though, and my skin stays really soft all day, so that might just be timing.

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H’Suan Wen Hua//Hair Treatment

When I bought H’Suan Wen Hua, the girl that sold it to me said, “You don’t have to know how to say it, you just have to use it.” She could not have been more right. I still have no idea how to pronounce it, so if I tried to read this blog post out loud, you would all laugh, but I use it once every two weeks and my hair has never felt healthier. The cinnamon smell is a bit strong, but once you wash it all out, it’s not bad. It has so many vitamins and minerals in it, your hair literally just soaks it in. Apply H’Suan to your dry hair 20 minutes before your shower and then rinse out and shampoo/condition as normal and be amazed. I also love that it helps your scalp. Sometimes we don’t realize that our scalp needs love, too! Considering it’s where our hair grows from, how can we expect to have beautiful hair if we neglect our scalp?! Duh. I think everyone should do a hair treatment at least once a month, if not twice, and this one really takes the cake.

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Rehab//Shampoo

This shampoo makes me want to find the creator of Lush and just hug them…for like minimally two to three minutes. A long, tight, bear hug. Anyone who is trying to grow their hair out, or just make their hair healthier, without compromising their everyday volume and shine, this one is for you! Rehab has a minty scent (which goes great with the H’Suan hair mask!) and has seaweed in it to, again, help your scalp. I used to use Lush’s shampoo bars. Like I said about their Mask of Magnamity, I didn’t hate their shampoo bars at all. They’re very convenient and their Seanik one is really great for volume and shine as well, however rubbing a bar in my hair every day was making my hair a bit knotty and the bars weren’t lasting me as long as I would have liked, so I decided to give this a try and I am SO happy I did. My hair has never been healthier!

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Veganese//Hair Conditioner

“Next to every great man shampoo, is a great woman conditioner.” That’s how the quote goes, right? In all seriousness, Veganese is really something. As I mentioned in my intro, this conditioner is filler-free and completely vegan, so you will not have that slimy “moisturized” feeling that you do with other conditioners, but that doesn’t take away the moisture by any means. As a lot of you know, I used to have extensions, even though my hair was pretty long to start out with, it was more for the volume. I had every kind. Clip-in, tape-in, you name it, I had them and it took a toll on my hair for sure. About a year and a half ago, I cut my hair to about my collarbone because my hair was just so damaged and I’ve been on a journey ever since to get my hair back to it’s healthy state and this conditioner has been my #1 fan in doing so. It’s not a heavy conditioner at all, so I can get out of the shower, comb through it and let it air dry without feeling like my hair is oily, stiff or sticky (yes, I’ve had conditioners feel all three of those ways. gross.). I can’t speak highly enough of Veganese (and Rehab) because it goes beyond cosmetic appearance, it really makes your hair healthier.

Quite a few people lately have tried these with me and loved them just as much! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and let me know! If you have any products that you love, leave a note in the comments section. Happy (almost) Friday and Happy Spring!

Al

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I Think Valentine’s Day is the Best Holiday Ever…

Call me crazy, but Valentine’s Day is my absolute favorite day of the year. It’s a day that we can take just a little extra time to let the important people in our lives know just how much we love them. Plus everything is pink so I’m like on cloud nine. It doesn’t have to be about what we buy or do for them, but the meaning behind it and the words we say.

There is a cliché around the holiday revolving around flowers and cards, possibly a romantic dinner. I got to thinking, in the crazy world we live in today, there has to be a more creative way to go about this. Here are some ideas I came up with!

Flowers: The Bouqs Co.

I am absolutely in love with this company. Their flowers are so beautiful — Bouqs Co. cuts them the day you order and deliver them straight from the farm they are grown on. They deliver two to four days after being cut versus around a week and a half to two weeks at most other flower delivery services. When you get them, they are beautifully colorful and last for so long!

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The farm that the flowers come from practices sustainable, eco-friendly farming and they only cut what they sell, which means no flowers go to waste. Love that.

Bouqs Co. has experts on hand to help you pick the right flower bouquet and all the prices you see online are final (tax, shipping, handling, etc. included). There are 3 pricing options with each bouquet (small, medium, large) and price increases consistently with size. They offer next day delivery, a daily special and Valentine’s Day bouquets.

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They also have an optional concierge service, which allows you to save up to 25% per bouquet and never forget a special occasion. The concierge service reminds you before any special date, allows you to send weekly just because flowers or have regular blooms sent weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to your (or your significant other’s) door! They also have an app to make life even easier, as if they weren’t already perfect enough.

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As far as discounts, this place has quite a few. If you create an account with them, you will receive 10% off your first order. If you download and use the app, you get 20% off your first order. Their daily special bouquets are 15% off every day and their Valentine’s Day bouquets can be delivered as early as almost a week before! If you invite friends to use Bouq, you will get a free bouquet and occasionally they have buy one, get one free deals. Flowers for everyone!

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Cards: Shop Betches

I’ve worked with Betches in the past and I think they are just hilarious. The Betches are known for being sarcastic and “saying the thoughts in your head that you’re too afraid to say”…their Valentine’s Day cards are no exception.

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If you’re looking for a sweet, sentimental card for your valentine, you might want to try Papyrus cards. However, if you both keep up with what’s trending, these will be perfect a major key.

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Above are photos of their cards for this year and I seriously cannot stop laughing. They’re perfect and I want all of them. *hint, hint*

Date Night: Date Box

This is one of my favorite ideas in the world. Everyone’s lives get a little hectic and at one point or another, I think we’ve all said, “Where did this week go?!” The Date Box created a way to remind us to take time to nurture our relationships and not fall into the same daily routine of Netflix and (probably no) chill.

The Date Box delivers a box to your door with something new inside once a month. Some nights can be artsy, some have wine or food, some games. Some are at home; some are at a dance studio or a cooking class…the possibilities are really endless.

There are three options for subscriptions along with a $5 shipping fee (per month):

  • 1 month plan: $34.95 for a recurring monthly plan
  • 3 month plan: $31.45 for a recurring 3-month plan (paid in full at time of first purchase)
  • 6 month plan: $27.96 for a recurring 6-month plan (paid in full at time of first purchase)

*Date Box was generous enough to send Daniel and me a sample box. We will be anxiously awaiting its arrival and reviewing it in the next week. I will update this post after we fall in love with our Date Box!

Meal Box: PeachDish

I’m sure many of you have heard of meal delivery services, but this is one I’m really into. Their classically trained chefs develop Southern-infused and seasonally inspired recipes for dishes you might order at your favorite restaurant, but are surprisingly quick and easy to prepare at home. They source the freshest ingredients, pre-measure everything for you, pack it in a special insulated box and ship it to your doorstep. There is literally no excuse not to do this!

Kate Blohm, PeachDish

Kate Blohm, PeachDish

Every week, PeachDish offers four different seasonally inspired meals. Two are vegetarian, and two are animal protein-based. Each meal is packaged in increments of two servings, for $12.50 per serving. You can opt in and out of weekly deliveries as you need to — you’re in control of your delivery schedule. There are no membership fees, and you pay only when you receive a delivery!

Kate Blohm, PeachDish

Kate Blohm, PeachDish

Peach Dish is doing a special Valentine’s Day meal delivery for you to cook for your valentine, or cook together! They have three options, all starting with a cheese plate and ending with a bourbon brownie trifle. The first entreé includes a beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes and arugula salad with cider vinaigrette. The second option is a lobster risotto and ends with the bourbon brownie trifle and also includes 4 chocolate truffles. The last choice includes a ribeye with mashed potatoes and arugula salad with cider vinaigrette as the entrée and ends with the bourbon brownie trifle and 6 chocolate truffles. Find all the Valentine’s Day meal kits here.

Kate Blohm, PeachDish

Kate Blohm, PeachDish

Prices vary on the Valentine’s Day meal kits from $89-$109, but if you order before Sunday, February 7th at 11:59 EST, you can use my promo code for 10% off your first purchase: PDLOVE

Meal Box: Green Blender

This second meal box is for my healthy, green eaters. I, personally, only do smoothies when I’m cleansing (admittedly, not often…sorry, mom) and I’m not usually too happy about it. But these look so good, I’m going to have to stick with them for a while!

Chocolate Covered Pomegranate

Chocolate Covered Pomegranate

Each week, you’ll get 5 new smoothie recipes and all the pre-portioned ingredients you’ll need to make 10 smoothies. The recipes are hand crafted by leading nutritionists to ensure that they are packed with flavor and nutrients and they focus on working with organic and local farms to create a uniquely balanced menu.

Fine Apply

Fine Apple

Green Blender believes that you are what you drink. The smoothies are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins and fiber and their benefits are endless: clearer skin, heightened mental clarity, increased energy, and weight loss. Plus, their nutrients are known to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. You’re welcome, body!

Pepper Passion

Pepper Passion

Each recipe yields enough for two 12-ounce smoothie servings, so you both can have a very green Valentine’s Day! There are three different subscription options, all including delivery.

  • Fresh Start: $49/box, which includes a week-to-week subscription
  • Monthly Challenge: $44/box, which includes a 4-box subscription
  • Healthy Habit: $39/box, which includes a 12-box subscription

For an extra 20% off use my code KRISTINR : )

*Green Blender was generous enough to send me a sample box. I will be anxiously awaiting its arrival and reviewing it in the next week. I will update this post after I fall in love with our smoothies!

I hope these inspired you all to do something special for your valentines next week, and any other day, too! As every other year, I am so excited to celebrate. This year I will, of course, be with Daniel, but my parents will also be in Chicago to celebrate my mom’s birthday! I can’t wait to see how you all celebrate my favorite day. Feel free to post other great options in the comments below : )

*Disclaimer: I received some product before creating this post, however all opinions are my own. I did not receive payment for this post. All photo credit is to the company website from which the photos are filed under, unless specified.

You & the Moon & Neptune Got It Right

Everyone has been encouraging me to write a post about “living with a boy” lately. This whole thing makes me laugh. First of all, the fact that living with a boy is “post-worthy” is hilarious. Second, I had no idea what to talk about. It would be completely one-sided and awkward. But…

A few weeks ago, a reporter from a national magazine reached out (I can’t say which yet!) after hearing our story of how Daniel and I met. It is pretty hilarious. For those of you who don’t know, Daniel is from Southern California and I am from Chicago. We met at Whatever, USA, a town created by Bud Light for one weekend and contest winners get to go on the trip. Daniel won by auditioning and I won through a job I had in college. One of the events at Whatever, USA was Beer School, where you learn how Bud Light is made (and drink more beer). You can go any time, on the hour, on Friday or Saturday, and we happened to go to the same one. He saw me walk in with my roommate asked the hostess to seat us together…the rest is history. We spent the next 24 hours running around the island with impromptu concerts and watching the Blackhawks until it was time to head back to reality. Something inside both of us wouldn’t let this be the last time we saw each other, so not too long after, I was flying out to San Diego for a month to see where this could go.

Not long after getting home from California and Daniel visiting Chicago (for the first time in his life, I might add), he left the country for 7 weeks to travel in Asia. Between the distance and the difference in time zones, it was extremely tough, but we managed through, and the week after he got home from Asia, he moved in with me (and our puppy!) in Chicago.

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The questions below were from the reporter and Dan and I answered accordingly. The answers, of course, made me cry and I figured what better way to update everyone how “living with a boy” is going than from both of our own words.

Why did you two decide to start your life together in Chicago rather than both of you going to Southern California?
A: We decided on Chicago because I had a year lease signed here already and Dan was planning on looking for places in LA when he got back from his trip. But the more we talked while he was gone, the more we wanted to start a life together right away, so we decided on him coming here until my lease was up and then we would decide if we wanted to stay in Chicago or head back west.

D: Apart from her having the lease signed, I was also very interested in experiencing a new city. I had just spent nearly two months traveling around Asia, and going back home to San Diego seemed a bit too routine. When we had spent time together before, we couldn’t get enough of each other. When I was gone, these feelings only increased. As crazy as it was, moving to Chicago seemed like the natural next.

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Can you name two-three things that changed when you moved in together?
A: For us, since we met it was very fast-paced. We met at Whatever, USA and shortly after, I went to visit him and a few other friends in California and ended up essentially living with him for a month while I was there anyways. Immediately following our month together, he left for seven weeks for Asia and we dove right into 12-hour time differences and a major lack of wifi, so three things that I really noticed that changed when he got back were:
   – Our communication. I felt like it was so much easier to be able to talk in person, whether it was just deciding on dinner or where we were spending Thanksgiving. In today’s world, it’s so easy to hide behind texting, so us being able to sit down and talk was so nice.
   – Our comfortability. This was the biggest one for me. We have always been comfortable around each other, from day one. That’s how I knew it was different between us. But this was even more than that. I could be goofy or cry or I do this weird little snort when I laugh (ugh) but he loved everything about me and that has really become clear since we’ve been living together.
   – “Little things.” I think with Daniel traveling and I was starting a new job and helping my parents move, we kind of took what we could get with talking or Facetiming. There wasn’t much room for anything else. But once we moved in together, little things became so important for us. Like compromising on plans or when I come home and the apartment is cleaned, or he’ll make breakfast while I sleep in or get flowers from the place down the street. Stuff like that really started to mean something because we had so many days where we couldn’t do stuff like that for each other.

D: I couldn’t agree more with the things that she’s said, my answers add to that just a bit.
   – Our appreciation for each other. Living with each other allows us to show this so much more than being apart. Having someone around that is available and willing to help out with chores or errands is such a nice luxury. It makes me happy when I can do something to make her life easier, and I know she feels the same way. As we continue this journey, I know that I’ll have my biggest fan by my side.
   – Having a third body in the apartment. When we were together before my travels, it was just us. When I moved to Chicago, I wasn’t just moving in with her. We have an adorable little puppy to take care of as well. He’s only seven months old, so he’s quite the handful, but he’s my little buddy and I love taking care of him. It’s a little crazy to go from being apart, to moving in together, to essentially having a little family, but it’s all been nothing but great so far.

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Can you name two-three things you learned about each other?
A:
   – He’s so thoughtful. We were skeletons one day of Halloween and I did his face make up before mine. Naturally, it looked terrible (I’m not a makeup person!). He kept saying “Do you want me to keep it? I’ll keep it! It’s okay, it’s your first time!” It was so sweet. But I didn’t make him keep it. I re-did it…and we were late…haha!
   – He’s so smart. Every time we’re watching tv or walking around the city, anything, he will “quiz” me on different things about the world. Whether it’s watching rugby and he asks me “what country is that city in” (I never know) or something about politics, he always knows. I chalk it up to him traveling so much, but maybe he’s just played a lot of trivia crack? Who knows.
   – He has the best support system. I come from a pretty big Italian family, so I know support. No matter what it is, they’re there for me…and now us. But his family is the same. They are so sweet and I have gained some great people in my life just from knowing him and his family and friends. I’m just the luckiest.

D:
She is hilarious. I pride myself on being a jokester and making her laugh until she snorts (sorry), but she’s really funny as well. Every once in a while we’ll lie in bed and watch funny videos online until we’re in tears. We couldn’t be more on the same page when it comes to humor which is an amazing asset to me. We still laugh at some of the jokes she first made with me, and she’s kept them coming since. I even snorted once, and that’s saying something…
   – I’ve learned all about her life. The first night we met, we stayed up until six in the morning sharing stories about our past, and learning about one another. In the months that followed it continued, but now living together, it has escalated to a new level. I now know all about the special combination of events, people, and environment that makes her who she is. I’ve met the friends I’ve heard stories about, I’ve seen the house she grew up in, and I’ve spend time with the family that raised her. It’s done nothing but advance my feelings about how special of a girl I found. 

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What surprised you most about moving in together?
A: Mine is easy. What surprised me the most was how much my day-to-day life improved by him being there. If I had a bad day at work or I was crabby or anything, coming home to him made absolutely anything better. He’s always there to make me laugh. On the good days, he’s the first one I want to run home and tell everything to and he gets just as excited about the things that happen in my world as I am. My days are brighter simply because he’s a part of them.

D: I couldn’t agree more with her – just how exciting every day is, and how much I love having her around. I work from home and I literally cannot wait for her to get back from every day. It’s a pretty regular occurrence that I text her at 5:01 asking if she’s left the office yet, and maybe I’ve taken after the puppy, but we sit together each night counting down the minutes until we hear the keys in the front door.

As many of you have been following me on my journey on my blog, you know how much this means to me. To have someone who shows me what pure happiness is and makes every single day magical is something I’ve wanted for so long and I feel so lucky and blessed to have finally found that.

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Love you, b! Here’s to the last six crazy months and to many, many more.

xo,
“Your” Al

“When I grew up she showed me how to go downtown…”

It has been exactly one week on my own in Chicago…
and I am not planning on coming off Cloud Nine any time soon.

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I honestly surprised myself with how quickly I adjusted. The move itself could not have gone any smoother and while, me being me, there were a few anxiety filled moments of clothes all over the closet floor or the shower curtain not fitting exactly right, but anyway, I made it and I’m here. And I’m happy.

Every Wednesday, somewhere around 9:00pm, if I look directly out my bedroom window and just to the right of the clock on the Wrigley Building, I can see the entire Navy Pier fireworks show. As a little girl, I have extremely vivid memories of watching that same show and simply falling in love with Chicago. When I chose my building I had no idea I would be able to see the fireworks, but for me, it is so incredibly symbolic to have that view.

As I grew up, I came to the city almost every weekend over the summer and every year on my birthday. I would stare at the brownstones, the two flats and the towering apartment buildings and dream of the day I would be able to live in the city…in my city. That day came for me on July 21, 2015.

I had done the all too familiar drive eastbound down I-90 more times than I could count, but that morning was different. The butterflies were different. The air was different. The skyline was different. It was my home now and I was infused with a sense of pride that is unparalleled.

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The one “downer” I will say is the struggle of leaving my childhood home behind. Where most people move out and go back to visit every now and then, I do not have that luxury. The week that I moved out, my home went on the market and that broke my heart. I will forever cherish the memories, happy and sad, made in that house. The way I see it, it is just a closed chapter. This is all a part of the new life we are all starting and it’s part of the story.

When I wake up in the morning and I look around me, the Trump Tower, the Wrigley Building, the Tribune Building, the Sears Tower (do not “Willis Tower” me.), Lake Michigan, I realize how many people have been here before me and will be here after me. I am a part of this city’s history, its present and its future. My actions today will be part of Chicago forever. Chills.

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I’m sure I’ll be blogging plenty more of my adventures in Chicago. The people I meet, the things I do, the places I go…they will all be a page in my book. This is only week one. I am ecstatic of what’s to come and to share it with the people I love. Speaking of, special shoutout to my parents, my family and my friends for the outpouring of love, support, messages, phone calls and visits. You’ve made these days unforgettable and truly make me look forward to every one from here on out. I love you all!

Al

#UpForWhatever

My girl, Brittany, had an amazing post about being #UpForWhatever for the last 100 days of college and I just totally love this idea! She and I along with sixteen other lucky twenty-one year olds had the amazing experience of visiting Dallas this past week to train at The Marketing Arm for our new #UpForWhatever ambassador roles with Bud Light.

This experience was one that I will never forget. Traveling for work, receiving my first company credit card, being trained for a job…all of these experiences have really made me realize that I’m growing up and it’s time to really take control of my life. We are graduating in 100 days and we have those days to decide how we are going to live our lives.

The #UpForWhatever slogan began last year around the Superbowl and became the new catchphrase for Bud Light’s campaign. The idea behind it is to have spontaneous, random acts of fun. Anything goes. What better phrase to use for your last days in college!?

I am taking the pledge to be #UpForWhatever. I am going to take opportunities as they come to me and live each day to its highest potential. Some days, that might mean doing some crazy fun things. Other days, that might just be hanging out with my friends and possibly catching up on some sleep. No matter what kind of day it is, I will not miss out on what life has to throw at me because I am busy or because I have to catch up on The Bachelor. I will be #UpForWhatever for the next 100 days and could not be any more excited about it!

Thankful

I’ve been trying to think of a way to get back into blogging. Honestly, I just miss it. But finding something to write about, especially as a comeback post, isn’t always easy. Then I realized that writing why I am thankful would not only be appropriate for today, but also remind me to be extra grateful for those things…so here it is!

1. I am thankful for my health. I am thankful to be here after having some bumps in my “health road.” I am thankful for the way I was born and for the doctors that have ensured my safety in any situation since then.

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2. I am thankful for my family. My best friends in the world. My support system. I am so thankful for you. My parents, you have given me the world and shown me how to be the best person I can be. Even if you are far away now, I still feel your love. I am so thankful for my cousins, my papa and grandparents. I am thankful for my surrogate mom. I am thankful for my mom’s family for never making me feel like I didn’t belong. I am thankful for my guardian angels that have gone before me. I am thankful for my puppy, Khoya, and my friends who have become more like family.

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3. I am thankful for music. I am so in love with so many songs and the feelings that just one song can give you. I am so thankful to be able to hear the beautiful sounds created in our world. So many times in my life have had music in the center of them, whether it’s a concert, music playing while I’m getting ready with my friends or on while I’m driving in the car with Matt or sending a song to the people I love when it reminds me of them. These times make me especially grateful today.

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4. I am thankful for seasons. I hate the cold, as most people know, but the cold brings back my favorite season, spring. The cold reminds me how lovely the warmer months are. The warm months are ones of rebirth and change. Every year something new comes and reminds us how lucky we are to be alive. This makes me so grateful.

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Even just writing these things makes me smile. Seeing how many little things and people there are that make my world better every day and for those, I am truly thankful.

– Al

Say Yes and Figure It Out Afterwards.

Freaking out, but it’s official. I’m staying in Champaign for one more year…!

As I read over my post from October, “I’m So Anxious,” I realize I was just so angry and so shut off. I was needing to prove people wrong and show them that my decision to live my life my way was the best choice for me. Graduating early was the only thing I wanted to do because it was the only thing I had control over at the time. I have recently looked back on that period of my life and how much I have changed and grown since then and I’m honestly astonished. I never thought I could/would come this far.

I know everyone’s original question probably still remains: “What drove the decision to graduate early..?” I guess I could blame it on being “free spirited,” as my mom calls me, and my willingness to go against the social norm. I could say it has everything to do with the incredibly challenging first semester I had this year that went horribly wrong when I was so sick.  Along with that came the complications from my illness that left me with debilitating headaches, and severe anxiety and depression, so when my advisor said I could graduate early by just taking 21 credits (basically, one extra class) for my last semester I was like “ABSOLUTELY, get me out of here”…I was so ready to leave.  So ready to get out that graduating early was the only decision I would even consider at that time and I didn’t want anyone challenging me otherwise.

Maybe it was because I was the lucky one, the one with the amazing Public Relations summer internship that would turn into a full time opportunity after graduation. I was the one that was offered several other sales opportunities with really good sports teams and other companies. I was the one with the amazing support system that would be there after graduation. Everyone told me how lucky I was, so why not graduate, I mean, they wanted me and everyone told me they were amazing chances that I would be losing or passing up if I didn’t take them. I had a taste of the working world last summer and I LOVED it, I wanted to be in that environment and I thought I was ready to be every day.

I don’t really know all the reasons, all I know is that I just wanted to do it. More than anything.

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All of those reasons aside, I’m admitting it. 100%. I. Was. Wrong. I thought I was ready for the real world. I thought I knew what I wanted out of life and who would be there. I thought that if I graduated early, I would know exactly what I wanted because..well, because I was supposed to. But guess what, t-minus 1 month until graduation and I still have no idea.

Someone told me I have a “wild spirit” once; that I don’t like to be held down. Maybe this is why I don’t know what I want. I can’t decide on just one thing. Graduate. Work. Done. Ummm…no. I want to do everything. I want to live everywhere and experience everything and I know that I can’t do that quite yet. So one more year to decide couldn’t hurt, could it?

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Bottom line, I’m not ready to give up my life here. I’ve made such an astonishingly, spontaneously thrilling life in college and I’m just not ready to let it go. Staying in Champaign will let me experience college on an entirely different level. I’m getting to live with my best friends and spend another year with the people I love to be around. I get to graduate with some of them and experience our lasts together. I get to be an Alpha Phi for another year, work at the salon, blog for Panhellenic for Alpha Phi. This is what I want out of college..not to leave and have a life of regrets and what ifs. Everyone can make their own assumptions of why I’m staying now, but these are my reasons written out in black and white for everyone to see.

Also, my parents just found out that they are moving to Florida. Amazing, I know. So why would I leave here to go home to have my family leave? Or go with them with no job or any idea of what to do? None of what my plans were seem to be making as much sense as my idea to stay here, so I’ve made my decision…Champaign wins for one more year.

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Lastly, To My Friends and My Family: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for shutting you out, not listening and rebelling against you when you were just trying to help. I wish that I would have listened to your advice earlier, but I hear you loud and clear now and thank God it’s not too late. I can’t wait for another year with some of you and for the rest of you to come visit! Love you all, AAFNMW.

Al

“I Said I’d Never Let You Go & I Never Did…

…I said I’d never let you fall & I always meant it.”

I heard those lyrics the other day while I was running and I started thinking about how many people we make promises with. People make promises to always be there and then one day, they’re just not. (Okay, not so subtle of me. Sorry…)

But. How messed up is that? “I promise to always be there. I promise I’ll never leave.” Well, they aren’t always there and they do leave. Moral of the story: People lie. People are selfish. People suck.

“Just so we’re clear, it’s okay to miss people you no longer want in your life.”

So, what I learned is only to rely on myself. People in my life might come and go, but until I find people that are permanent, seriously permanent, I have to learn to rely on myself, just love, appreciate, nurture my relationship with myself. Not to say I don’t have permanent people now, I have many, but I have realized I have had to terminate a few toxic relationships in the past year and, although that was the best choice for me, it is still hard to deal with the aftermath of losing once valuable relationships. I’m not going to sit here and say “the grass is greener” and I’m so much happier, that would be attention-seeking and a blatant lie, but I do know that I’m headed in a healthy direction and that is something I didn’t think I could say a few months ago.

I’m the kind of person to never give up on anyone and that has caused me so much pain before. I have a very, very hard time letting go of the past. But today I decided that I’m going to do my best to let go. Let go of those people who have let go of me. Let go of people who have broke their promises to me. Let. Go.

“You are allowed to terminate toxic relationships.
You are allowed to walk away from people who hurt you.
You are allowed to be angry and selfish and unforgiving.
You don’t owe anyone and explanation for taking care of yourself.”

This post might seem negative, but I don’t mean it to be. I just want to feel more free. Free of the chains that bind me to the negative ties of the past.  I don’t want to feel regrets for things I cannot change or things that I know I did not do wrong, even if people may try to convince me that I did. I just want to learn from them. So today, I will let go. I will hold true to my beliefs. I will acknowledge my faults and the places where I am still growing, but I will not feel defeated or broken down. There are far better things ahead and I will let my heart search for them.

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Al

Happies.

Something I’ve been pondering lately is how we, as human beings, let other human beings make or break our day and it is so bizarre to me. Doing small things like opening a door for someone, smiling at someone walking past you or introducing yourself to someone new can make our entire day, but then on the other hand, ignoring someone, saying something hurtful or forgetting something important to another person can make us feel unimportant or let down.

But why can’t we make our own happiness? If you think about it, we’re the only ones who truly know how to make ourselves happy.  No one else in the world knows the things that make your soul rejoice or your heart smile, so why wouldn’t you do those things for yourself?  Start your morning with your favorite coffee, even if that means waking up five minutes earlier. Download the new music you’ve been wanting and listen to it while you’re on a walk or take an hour to do yoga or go workout. Whatever makes us happy, why don’t we just do it? Instead, we just let other people’s words and actions bear this heavy weight on our minds and waste our precious energy and a day goes by that we could have used on bettering ourselves.

I’m going to challenge myself to do at least one more thing each day that makes me happy. When someone does something that I think could have the potential to ruin my day, or a thought comes into my head that could possibly bring me down, I’m going to add another “happy.” My hope is that all the “happies” will just add up so the “sads” will be so small that I won’t even notice them anymore. Food for thought!

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Al

Your Opinion is Not My Reality.

“Your soul knows the geography of your destiny.
Your soul alone has the map of your future,
Therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself.
If you do, it will take you where you need to go,
But more importantly it will teach you a kindness
Of rhythm in your journey.”
-John O’Donohue

I saw this poem earlier and I thought I would just write a post about self-worth. So many of us get so caught up in our daily struggles or what other people say or think about us. I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m guilty of this. Read this next sentence very carefully. “Your opinion is not my reality.” No one else can tell you what you think of yourself; your opinion is the only one that matters. How do you want others to perceive you? What mark do you want to leave on the world? Think about those questions every morning when you wake up and start your day.

Like John O’Donohue’s poem above says, your soul knows the map of your future. It knows where to take you and it will not lead you astray. Trust your soul and your intuition. You will end exactly where you are supposed to, so do not stress. There will be bad days, but they are all leading you where you were meant to be. If there were no bad days, how would you know how good a great day feels? Follow yourself and let your heart light shine into the world and you will leave a beautiful imprint wherever you go.

I could read this post a hundred times over, but even then it might not be enough to cleanse my mind of the things the people who I thought were the closest to me have said to hurt me in my past, but I am healing. Every second and every day is part of that process. I need to make the conscious effort to push those people and those thoughts out of my mind and have a free spirit and a pure mind.  My aunt told me this today, I know the real me, God knows the real me, my family knows the real me. That is what matters. God would not have brought me this far to abandon me. Like the poem, I need to trust my soul and the path it is on to my destiny and know these trials and “happy accidents” are all a part of that beautiful journey.

One day, I will look back at the hard days and smile. So for now, I’m going to do my best to breathe and accept them for what they are. I will do my best to remember my self-worth and I will not let anyone tell me any negative thoughts.

Al