The one where what I’m into in January is not really about blogging.

The view from my office window as the sun begins to set over chilly Chicago.

The view from my office window as the sun begins to set over chilly Chicago.

My friends.

It’s been a while.

I think about you often.  Something ridiculous happens, or I hear a lame joke, or I snap a photo of something interesting and I think to myself, “you should remember to tell your blog readers about this.”

I read an interesting article, or something hilariously inappropriate but true-ish, and I save it on my phone’s notepad so I can share it with you on Friday.  The list of things to share is insanely long at this point.

I start to write to you — I make a note of these things I want to share, but then I remember that I have hours of work at my actual job ahead of me and that every moment I spend working late or away from home is a moment apart from my husband and my cat and my friends and there just hasn’t been time.

We spent a long weekend in New Orleans with two of our favorite people, and it was glorious -- sunny and warm and delicious.

We spent a long weekend in New Orleans with two of our favorite people, and it was glorious — sunny and warm and delicious.

I mean, maybe, honestly, there has been time.  But the time I would have given you would have depleted life accounts that couldn’t withstand any additional withdrawals.

Do you ever think of your life like that, in buckets and barrels and ledgers?  I have been thinking of that, lately.

My first Bulls game was perhaps the most entertaining sports-related event of my life.

My first Bulls game was perhaps the most entertaining sports-related event of my life.

My friend Emily and I were just talking about how, while some people feel drained from too much work, working makes us feel alive.  More working makes me feel more alive.

But when I take a breath during my full-of-life busy workday, even while I’m in that place where I feel the most alive and empowered and effective that I ever feel, there are moments where I can almost see the shiny bottom of the other buckets; the grain of the wood forming the edges of the other barrels, the warning messages that pop up when the other accounts are close to being overdrawn.

Side note: I never actually get those warning messages because I believe in scarcity so I always have an extra bit of funds tucked away for emergencies. The fear is real my friends.  

And I don’t want those other buckets or barrels or accounts to get too empty.  I’m putting all of my extra bits into the people in my life.

So, commuting is really fun in January.  Just saying.

So, commuting is really fun in January. Just saying.

The past few months, and maybe for the next four or five months, I am ALL IN at work.  I’m doing something important and I am proud of my work. I am proud of myself.  I’m not pulling back from that — I’m not here to say that you, my blog readers, are so important that I’ll take additional time out to update you regularly — but I do want you to know I think of you.

I’ve considered taking this site down while I’m away so it doesn’t linger unattended and become something dead and sad.  But that seems silly.  I love this creative outlet and I love connecting with you.  So it will stay, wilder and freer than normal.

I’ll be a bit hit-or-miss here while I’m finishing this amazing, incredibly hard thing.  When it’s done, I’ll be back with lots of stories.

 

Don’t go too far.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 1.11.2015

It’s been a while, my friends.  I have SO MANY links for you but I’ve tried to whittle it down to just five.  I’m going to schedule some tweets throughout the week to clear out all of the posts I saved for you over the past few weeks.  Click here to follow along.

Five Things New

The Sad Internet: 2014 in Review.  Could not stop laughing. (Also, can we just all agree that twitter can be kind of humiliating?  So many tweets, so few responses. . . )

What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Taught Me about being a Stay-at-Home Dad.  RBG is awesome and while there’s clearly a lot of privilege in this author’s experience, it made me feel optimistic about the future.

Depression is Not a Scandal from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary.  I don’t really understand why we have to have this conversation, but clearly we do, and Jamie does it so well.

Self-sufficiency is overrated from Penelope Trunk.  Penelope Trunk is so weird and awkward sometimes but SO AM I.  I love her.

An open letter to the Girl Scouts by Jenny Lawson (the Bloggess).  Looking for positive examples of women who live their lives with integrity and confidence?  Click here.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas Gift Swap

One thing I did in December that I neglected to include in my What I’m Into post was to join in a Chaotic Goddess gift swap.  Chaotic Goddess Swaps host internet swaps often (they have a book swap sign-up going on right now!) and I joined in for the Twelve Days of Christmas Swap because I thought it would be a fun thing to do over the holiday season.

It was.  The way a swap works is that you are matched up with another blogger, and you each send the other surprises in the mail.  CG Swaps sets guidelines and a budget so you know what to do.  For this Christmas swap, I sent twelve individually wrapped gifts to a travel blogger from Texas, Olya from The Siberian American.  You can see the gifts I chose for Olya here.  (Be sure to check out her blog — I really love her header design!)  Finding twelve desirable items for only $40-$50 was actually kind of hard.  I shopped at the Container Store, World Market, Home Goods, Whole Foods and a local pet store to fill Olya’s boxes.

I would have loved shopping for this swap even if I didn’t get anything in return (maybe more, actually, since I was a little stressed that my gift ethic might be too high or too low for my swap-buddy!), because it was so fun shopping for girly gifts for the home.  When my package arrived, Olya had sent me a dozen new beauty items I have never tried before.

christmas swap

A few beauty items — I’m most excited to try the different lip glosses.

Thanks Olya and CG Swaps for a fun December project!  It was great.

Have you ever done a blog swap?  Does it seem totally weird to send gifts to a random stranger?  For me, it was a fun experience but finding twelve appropriate gifts was a lot of work.  Two or three gifts would have been a lot less pressure! 

 

Friendship. It’s What I’m Into in December 2014.

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December was an unexpected month.  I mean, not that exactly — I absolutely knew that December would come after November, as did everyone else who uses the Gregorian calendar or is at least four years old and living in the Western hemisphere.  I mean more that this December wasn’t what I expected.

Going through the month, I felt like the days were passing too quickly and I couldn’t keep up.  I searched for “Christmas spirit” everywhere but couldn’t seem to find it.  I did not bake a single batch of cookies the entire month.  For a girl who likes to bake at least a half-dozen recipes, bring cookies and such into work or drop goodies off at friends’ homes, and save a sampler platter to bring to her Dad in Tennessee, that was a pretty low blow for everyone involved.

While it was happening, it didn’t feel like anything.  I didn’t really know what I was walking through.  I didn’t really blog (sorry readers), I didn’t really work out (sorry pants), and I didn’t read very much or complete any more of the awesome online classes I started.  I barely finished listening to Serial. Looking back, though, I can see that this past December was so good for me.  December was a month where my loneliness was met week after week by lovely new friends.

The thing about being career-minded and married and moving to a new city as an adult is that your friends are often very far away.  Instead of seeing them every other day, you see them just once or twice each year.  It’s natural to feel lonely in your new city.  But, if you are like me, you might not recognize that loneliness even when it is filling your life.  I apparently confuse it with things like work stress, seasonal allergies, or the crippling emotional blow that is entering another winter in Chicago.  (I mean, seriously.  It is cold.)  And then I convince myself that work stress, allergies, or cold weather are good reasons NOT to go out and spend time with new friends, which compounds the loneliness that I haven’t even noticed I have.

I can be such a dummy. 

The past six weeks my Chicago people and out of town guests totally rejuvenated me.  Thanks to Abby for visiting pre-Thanksgiving and reuniting me with some lovely ladies I hadn’t seen in too many months.  Thanks to the awesome book release party for connecting me with people I care about but haven’t seen in ages.  Thanks to little girls who take dance classes and brought me to my first-ever showing of the Nutcracker (FYI the Nutcracker is WEIRD!) — and to the awesome hosts of the post-performance shindig.  Thanks to the friend who came to stay with us for a week while attending a conference in the city.  Thanks to my awesome family and in-laws for fun activities and hang outs over the holidays, and thanks especially to the two couples that joined us here in our Chicago apartment for New Years’ Eve fireworks. I had forgotten how much fun it was to relax, sip on homemade cocktails, bake a cake, and just have fun.

I watched some TV and read a few books and went to some cool places over the last month, but I’ll catch you up on those things later.  For now, when I think about this December, I think about you.  Thanks, friends, for making this life more awesome.

As I usually do, today I’m linking up with the fabulous Leigh Kramer to share what I was into during the previous month.  For great shows to watch, books to read, recipes to try and internet things to click on, check out all of the posts here

The 2014 Pink-Briefcase Top Five

Setting aside the ridiculous number of hits from Tupperware sales-ladies on this post and the constant stream of support and awesome comments you provided during October’s 31 Days in the Pink-Briefcase Kitchen series, the following five posts were the most popular posts on the site this year.

2014 Wrap Up Five Things

This Year’s Pink-Briefcase Top Five

When I started reviewing the statistics to build this list for you, I wasn’t sure if the results would be either helpful or interesting.  I quickly discovered that the five most popular posts on the blog were among those of which I am most proud.  Here they are:

1.  I started off 2014 right with no more waiting.

2.  I said some things I’d never said before in This is about religion.  Sorry, not sorry.

3.  I told you how I felt about this year’s big professional risk in Living the Dream.

4.  I shared my silly obsession with the first Outlander book in Not Guilty Pleasures.  (True story: I still haven’t made it even half-way through the second book.  Hot fires burn quickly!)

5.  And, I said goodbye to a community I loved and wrote about healthy relationships and bridge building in Begin Real Reconciliation with a Conversation.

This year has been a lot of things — beautiful and exciting and hard and, well, a little weird.  Week by week, I’ve loved sharing this space with you. Thanks for a great year!  Here’s to many more.

 

 

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 12.12.2014

Five Things New

 

It’s been a while, my friends.  Here are five awesome things for your weekend reading.

  1. Austin Channing with Break the Silence.  And basically anything written by Austin Channing the last few weeks.  I’ve been reading and re-reading her words and soaking them in.
  2. Caris Adel with Where White People Should Start.
  3. Esther Emery’s 10 Ways a White Person Can Be Interrupted by the Ferguson Movement.
  4. The Daily Muse Editor for Mashable with 35 Things You Should Do for your Career By the Time You’re 35.
  5. The Comment Section of How to Turn Off Work Mode, from Corporette.

That’s my five!  What awesome things have you been reading?  

Last-Minute Party Food for the #POWAW Book Release Party!

This past weekend, my friend Emily and I co-hosted a book release party for our friend Rachel Haas.  And somehow I thought my role as co-host meant I would show up early to help out and bring a platter of bacon-wrapped dates.  And Emily thought it meant she would host and handle drinks and I would bring all the food.  We laughed about it all weekend because for two professional writers, we absolutely failed on the communication front!

I figured out what was going on Thursday afternoon, the day before the party.  I was on a conference call and I saw a text message pop up saying something like:  We have 20 people coming tomorrow night and I’ve got all the drinks covered — can’t wait to eat your delicious food!  (This is a paraphrase.  It actually took me a few messages to catch on because (a) sometimes I’m kind of dense and (b) my brain was focused on some awesome spreadsheets.)

If I’d realized what was going on a little earlier, I would have spent a lot of time planning an awesome menu for Rachel’s party — because she wrote an entire book and we are totally psyched for her huge accomplishment — but since I only had from 6 p.m. Thursday to when I went to sleep and from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. Friday when I had to leave for the party, we had to focus on easy, fast, tried-and-true favorites to get the party started.  Emily created the most beautiful party environment, and I think the food turned out pretty great too.

blog photo 2

Here’s what I did:

  1. Alton Brown’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese.  I doubled the version and when it was going into the oven it looked too soupy, but when it came out of the oven it was golden and delicious.  Macaroni and Cheese is vegetarian-friendly, super filling, and not too expensive on your party budget, so it’s a go-to for me when I need to feed a crowd.  I made and baked this Thursday night, and then reheated in the oven at Emily’s on Friday night.
  2. Bacon-wrapped Goat Cheese Dates.  You just put the tiniest bit of goat cheese inside the dates, wrap them up with raw bacon, skewer with a toothpick and bake at 375 until the bacon is crispy.  Super easy.  We prepped these on Thursday night and then baked them at Emily’s house while the party was getting started.  Bacon smells great while cooking, so it’s a win-win for everyone there.
  3. Barbecue Meatballs.  Grab freezer meatballs and throw them into the your crock pot with barbecue sauce.  I used a combination of Sweet Baby Ray’s, peach jam, apple cider vinegar, maybe a little Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and water.  I kept adding stuff until it tasted good to me.  Follow your heart here.
  4. Hummus Platter with Vegetables.  I used Sabra hummus but transferred it into a fancy container and topped it with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper.  I hate how raw broccoli feels dry and scratchy in your throat at parties, so I skipped it and went with baby carrots and sliced red and green bell peppers instead.  Since the mac-and-cheese and meatballs were a bit heavy, the lighter hummus and vegetables offered a healthier option.
  5. Peanut Butter Fudge and Chocolate Fudge.  Cupcakes, cookies, cakes — I would usually bake something lovely for such a huge moment in a friend’s life, but since time was limited (and honestly, so was our fridge space!) I went with an easy, quick dessert:  fudge.  I’m sure there are really delicious ways to make fudge that are not easy, but for both of my efforts, it involved pouring things into a bowl, microwaving that bowl, stirring the contents of the bowl, pouring the melted contents into another container, chilling, and chopping.  So easy!  The small bites are party-friendly.  But, since some have peanut allergies I’m really careful to keep the peanut butter fudge separate so if needed, it can be swept away and the party can be allergy-free.

And the reason for the party:  Rachel’s New Book!

If you’re interested in fairy-tales, new fiction writers, or just making someone feel awesome, click through here to purchase Rachel L. Haas’s new book, Portals of Water and Wine.  I’m so impressed with Rachel’s tenacity to get this book written and out into the world — I think we could all learn a lot from her commitment to her art.  Here she is on Friday night, talking about her writing process and reading a selection from her new release!

Catching you Up: What I’m Into November 2014

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I’ve started this post a number of times, but I haven’t been able to finish.  Maybe this time.

It’s been rough.  I am sad.  And angry.

– – –

Apparently people write things on the internet when they see bad things all around them.  A lot of people write mean things or stupid things or racist things or angry things — but I don’t really know how to do that. Right now I can only feel the feelings and ask the questions and read the books.

I don’t think the solutions to systemic injustices in our world are so straightforward that random people on the internet know what they are talking about.  I want to hear the real-life stories of pain and injustice from those who are experiencing it.  I want to hear about ways to fix our world or seek justice or reconcile communities from the people who actually study this kind of thing and work toward it regularly. And if you aren’t one of those people then I don’t really want to hear from you.  Instead, I’d like for you to stop talking, sit with me, and listen.  Then maybe you’ll feel sad and angry too, and we can learn about how to make things better without making them worse.

That’s not really a good thing for a blogger to say, is it?  Unfortunately it’s true right now.  I find Facebook incredibly depressing.

– – –

But this past month wasn’t all bad.  Even when the world is dark and sad, I strongly believe that being alive is baller.  Here’s a rundown of what I was up to last month:

What I’m Reading:

This month I’ve been reading about hopelessness and war and death and racism and American criminal law.  I’m three classes into this open course about American literature after World War I.  I’m three chapters into this book on race and American criminal law. I’m also reading Amy Poehler’s hilarious book Yes Please. Which I enjoy, but wish was more vulnerable and revealing.  It’s a bit of a shallow read.

What I’m Watching:

This month I’ve been watching all the television shows.  I don’t like the trend of shows taking winter breaks, not coming back with new episodes until January.  Do you guys remember back in the “good ole days” when Alias had 22 episodes per season?  We need to get that back.  What is up with HBO’s last season of The Newsroom having only seven episodes?  Not cool.

I still enjoy Madam Secretary the most of this year’s new shows, but State of Affairs has captured my interest — although it is too early to tell if it will be keeper.  It’s nice having Katherine Heigl back! Parenthood continues to be awesome, and I’m secretly loving Agents of Shield.  I’m not sure it’s cool to say that on the internet but it is true.

What I’m Listening To:

This month I’ve started listening to podcasts, and now I love them.  For blogging I like the How They Blog podcast.  For road trips I like Serial and This American Life.  What are your favorite podcasts?  Hook me up!

I’m also looking for some new music.  Do you have any favorite current bands or artists?  I haven’t bought a new album in probably a year.  I tend to forget that I’m allowed to do things like purchasing new music, and go for months at a time without even thinking “Hey, I’m allowed to choose music that I like and to listen to it just because I want to!”  And then I remember, but I don’t know what’s cool because my favorite band is still CAKE and I think they stopped being a band about ten years ago.  Help me out!

What I’ve Been Doing:

Voting.  This month I voted as a Chicago resident for the first time.  While the lines were honestly shorter than I expected, there was only one voting machine per precinct!  Each voter had to wait in line to vote electronically or vote on a paper ballot.  I used the electronic voting machine because there wasn’t a line when I arrived.

Getting a massage.  This month I had my first massage in two years, and it was fantastic!  I think it was perhaps the best massage I had in my entire life.  Thanks Shaney!

Painting.  My friend Lindsay and I wanted to try a painting night so we scheduled the November KD event at a nearby Bottle and Bottega location and — true story — it was so fun! Following instructions while painting and talking to friends is a little stressful, but if you try to stay loose you can make something really beautiful! (No photos here because I’m totally gifting my painting creation to my mom for Christmas.  Because there’s nothing more appreciated than hand-made crafts by your 28-year-old daughter.)

Working.  A lot.  I spent the week before Thanksgiving working in DC, and it was a great week.  My team was very productive and while I didn’t get the friend time I can normally squeeze into my evenings while there, I had a few professional firsts and headed home feeling great.  My work continues to be challenging and full of surprises and I absolutely love it. Most of the time.  :)

Hanging out with Accidental Devotional’s Abby Norman!  The weekend before Thanksgiving (and right after my work trip), Abby Norman and her husband showed up to spend the weekend hanging in my Chicago condo and attending a communications conference downtown.  It was so lovely to spend some time having awesome conversations with my friend. Our oven was broken all weekend so I didn’t do a lot of cooking for the Normans (sorry!), but we made up for it with a deep dish pizza taste-off.

Eating turkey and relaxing in Tennessee.  After just one workday and a day of medical appointments, H and I drove down to Tennessee (with Winston!) to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.  Our Thanksgiving was wonderful and I hope yours was too!  I loved seeing my family and friends and I also loved sitting by the fire and reading.  A lot.  It’s my favorite way to relax.  (Maybe if I had a yard with a fire pit I would watch less television and read more books?  Maybe we should just buy a house already so I can find out?  Great idea!)

I’m linking up today with Leigh Kramer to share What I’m Into.  It’s a great way to find shows to watch, bands to follow, books to read — all of the cool things that cool people are into right now.  Click through here to see all of the posts!

 

Thanks for sticking with me here during a month of very little posting.  Sorry about that.  Here’s to an excellent December.  Happy Holidays.  

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 11.15.2014

Five Things New

One day late but still just as awesome.  

Five Awesome Links

1. Kelley Nikondeha with The Rebel for Justice.  MUST READ.

2. Elizabeth of Ellie’s Aviary guest posting for Accidental Devotional with Learning to Swear: A Spiritual Discipline.

3. The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare, by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone.

4. Jonathon from Ponder Anew with 15 Reasons Why We Should Still Be Using Hymnals.  (This is an older article but I just stumbled across it this week and found the tone and discussion interesting and polite.  Rare, I know.)

5. Charles Barnitz, a historical fiction writer enjoyed by the writers of The Volokh Conspiracy (a law blog), provided a series of posts on writing historical fiction there which are interesting and educational.  If you’re a historical fiction fan like I am, or if you are considering writing historical fiction in the future, check them out: Choosing a Historical Period // Inventing a Plot // Creating a Character // Doing the Research // Platitudes and Problems.

 

That’s it!  What awesome things did you read this week?  

Fall Makeup Basics

It’s been a while since we talked about makeup, so I wanted to share a few items I’ve been using lately.

 

Drugstore Makeup Finds

 

Drugstore Makeup Finds

 

Foundation:

After a year or more of using Laura Gellar’s baked foundation, it started looking a little orange.  Perhaps I was using the wrong kind of brush, or should have tried a lighter color, but I got tired of looking orange and randomly grabbed Revlon’s ColorStay Makeup hoping it would do the job while I searched out a new favorite foundation to wear.  I was surprised when I liked it so much!  It does require sponge application — which I basically hate, because it’s so hard to keep a clean sponge on-hand — but it is smooth and it definitely lasts all day.  I’m wearing number 180 – Sand Beige.

Concealer:

Maybelline Instant Age Rewind is a modern classic, and I highly recommend it.  It feels nice going under your eyes and the bottle lasts for ages.  Jessica from How Sweet Eats also sings its praises, but I was wearing it even before she was!  (It makes me feel cool to say that.)  I’m wearing Fair — I typically purchase a shade lighter for under-eye concealer.

Eyeliner:

I’ve always used CoverGirl’s perfect point plus eyeliner, and I’ve always hated how easily it breaks and how rough it can feel along your eyelid.  Maybelline’s masterDRAMA eyeliner is fantastic.  It is smooth and soft. I’m wearing the slate gray color called “coal commander” and it is lovely.

Mascara:

My eyes are dry and a little sensitive, and I’m always rubbing them — which leaves mascara everywhere! Dry and flaky mascaras make this worse, leaving me itchy and uncomfortable. The Maybelline Full ‘N Soft mascara has been lovely.  I feel comfortable all day and much less itchy.  I’m wearing Very Black and I like how it looks with the dark gray eyeliner.

I have such a hard time choosing which products to purchase, finding the right shades for my skin tone — it always feels like it’s so easy for everyone else, but I’m sure that isn’t actually true.  If you’ve found some awesome products — drugstore or otherwise — I’d love to hear about them.  Share the wealth!