Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Little Things

I finally have ALL my Christmas shopping done. It's actually kind of sad for me because picking out gifts is just too much fun. I ended up finding (and winning!) Garrett's on eBay... I had gone back and forth on what to get him and it finally came down to the wire and I went with it. I'm flying to Florida on Sunday for a whole week and I am counting down the days. I love going home in general, but it's especially perfect around the holidays. We're pretty low-key about everything which means there's not a lot of stress or running around. So great!

Even though I put a lot of pressure on myself to get great gifts and I think watching people open their gifts is a thrill, it's the little things that really add up to make Christmastime Christmastime.

image via Affari

1. Going through the stack of holiday cards // Honestly, this is one of the first things I do the minute I get home. My mom keeps all the holiday cards in a basket in the kitchen. I normally set up shop at the table or on a bar stool and flip through the stack in its entirety. It's so fun to "see" all of our family friends and read snippets of their lives.

2. Eating fudge covered Oreos // Garrett and I love the Oreos and eat them straight from the freezer because, duh, they taste better frozen. I'm using "fudge covered Oreos" as a blanket term for all the delicious candies and desserts that come out for a limited time. My mom is pretty great about stocking the pantry with all of our favorite "winter" snacks. Even though it's cliche, I do love a good candy cane. 

3. Reading every night // With no real schedule to follow, everyone in the family can kind of just catch up on reading. We all love to read and tend to exchange favorites once everyone is home. I love to read in bed– I miss my bed!!!!– or out on the porch if it's a cooler night.

4. Eating on the porch // Speaking of the porch, winter is basically the only time when we can eat outdoors in Florida without worrying about (too many) bugs or sweltering heat. Growing up we always, always sat down to the kitchen table to eat dinner together every night. (I always assumed that's what everyone's family did, but apparently that's not the case.) We still keep up with that when everyone is in the house. Even though the table on the porch is directly behind our kitchen and only a few feet away from the regular table, it just feels extra special!

5. Driving around to look at Christmas lights // My mom loves to drive around and look at all the lights. It's fun to pile into the car and slowly wind up and down the streets around town. Last year we were at the beach and we went to this crazy park where every square inch was covered in lights.

6. Watching Eloise at Christmastime // We have to. Every. Single. Year. 

7. Game nights // At some point during the holidays, we end up playing games. Yahtzee, Taboo, and Mad Gab are our go-tos. We take Yahtzee really seriously, it's actually pretty embarrassing. And Mad Gab is hilarious to play... especially when my dad is up. (He makes the most ridiculous sounds when he's trying to figure it out.)

8. Fire pit and s'mores // My dad had a fire pit built in our backyard (when we finally took down the swing set). You can't sit out there without smelling like smoke for twenty-four hours, but even still it's always nice and cozy. My mom has a fun tray we keep all the graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate on; we sit out there for hours nibbling on the s'mores and burning more marshmallows. (And someone, aka my dad, always ends up throwing in pixie sticks because it changes the color of the flames.)

9. Baking cookies // The house is definitely a house for baking. With two ovens and a mom who literally bakes all the time, there's always delicious things being pulled in and out of the oven. One of the best recipes is my mom's friend's grandmother's (I think) recipe for sugar cookies. So. Good. And we decorate them and/or bring in some kids from the neighborhood to help!

10. Doing nothing // Is there anything better than just not having anywhere to be or anything to do?! We got a taste of it over Thanksgiving; one morning my mom, sister, and I sat on the couch just watching movies and eating doughnuts. I love sitting on the couch upstairs in the Ladies Lounge with my sister watching whatever marathon is playing on the TV. Simply, the best.

All the little things end up adding to the best time spent with family! What are some of your favorite "little things" to do?

xoxo
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

lately

I've been loving my Instagram feed lately. There's so much to work with when the city is this pretty and fun.



1 // I've had this vision of doing a photoshoot with Jess and our matching Santa hats. We love getting breakfast together, a fun little tradition, so we met up at Sarabeth's on Central Park South. Bekka joined us and we snapped the pictures in front of the fountain by the Plaza. The water is off for the winter, but it's filled with Christmas trees and twinkly lights!!!  

2 // Love love love the notecards Erisha sent me. They're PERFECT for holiday notes to my girlfriends!

3 // Who doesn't love a good red manicure in December. I have way too many red nail polishes, but they all look different to me... so I try to mix it up every few days.

4 // Snapped these trees the same night as the Into the Woods premier. The white/blue lights aren't typically my favorite, but there were so many of them that it really popped against the rest of midtown!

5 // Best. Decorated. House. Honestly, whoever was in charge of the garland and ornaments deserves a raise. I love how they wrapped the vine in front of the house too. Teddy and I took a longer than usual lunch walk the other day because I couldn't stop looking at all the houses!

6 // Furbish Studio sent me these adorable glasses and that incredible pillow. The glasses were promptly filled with sweets!

Just absolutely loving this season!

xoxo
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I'm Feeling 25

As I approach the six year mark of my blog, I've been doing a lot of reflecting. I was thinking about how blogging has changed, which led me to really start to recognize how much I have changed.

There are countless things I love about blogging and that I love about The College Prepster; one of those things is that it has turned into a sort of record (albeit public) of the ups and downs of my life over the past six years. I have never been consistent about writing diary entries, as much as I have attempted in the past. But there was something about this blog, something different, that kept me going and sticking with it.

Change is certainly one of those things that happens right under our noses. Occasionally, we have the moments where the rug is pulled out from under us or we have to make a defined decision or we embark on a very specific journey that signals change. For the most part, however, change is slow. A sneaky thing that lurks around in our lives as we go about, well, living.

I'm glad that at the beginning, no one was reading. I think it made me way more comfortable about the whole "public" element. As a result, I've shared a lot over the years. The archive of my blog can be an emotional place for me. I can go back and revisit so much of the roller coaster. Sometimes I'll stumble on an old post and be brought right back to that moment. There's just something about rereading my own writing; I can remember everything about that moment, including where I was when I wrote it and how I was feeling at the time.


An unflattering photo, but I've been documenting the growth of my grey hair– inadvertently– over the years. I promise I'm not totally fixated on my grey hair, I just happen to notice it and it makes me think about aging and almost always sends me down this path of reflection. Case in point, this 2012 post. 

25, so far, has been a good age so far. I feel 25. I used to always feel like I had one leg in childhood and another leg in my senior years; a grandma trapped in a prepubescent body. I think I was working so much right after college (that was a rough year), I didn't have time to really let adulthood catch up with me. Now I feel it. I feel responsible and youthful at 25. Enough responsibility (a business, a dog) without tons of responsibility (I can still play hooky for a day, no mortgage, no children).

I truly feel like I've found, or at least continually attempt, balance in my life. I think back to the way I used to view work, as an obsession, a distraction, at times a self-punishment. Now, I view work as my job. It's simply my job. I do my job... and I have a life. That release alone has brought me so much more happiness that I feel like I missed out on for quite some time.

There is, after all, a certain luxury of being 25. It's been years since (reluctantly) declaring independence from my parents, so the shock factor of that has worn off. The constraints of the educational path ("you have to get a good SAT scores, you have to maintain a good GPA, you have to get into a good college") have long been lifted. What felt like the end of a road, has been reevaluated as the beginning of a long one. I used to find decisions daunting and all-important, but with every choice I make, I realize it's only choosing my next adventure, not choosing my own self-destruction. Life goes on, often unexpectedly, but it goes on!

I hope this post is one I can reflect on when I'm, say, 35 and can smile at. To remember being 25 as a time when I dutifully paid my taxes and binge-watched Gilmore Girls in its entirety. A time when I was learned how to cook in a tiny kitchen and indulged in Nutella by the spoonful for breakfast. A time when I impossibly knew everything and still, of course, knew nothing.

xoxo
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Dress Tips with Tide #WashedtoImpress

I've been having fewer "nothing to wear" moments. My love for shopping is finally paying off, I guess. Even though my NYC apartment is short on closet space, I still keep all of my favorite dresses from years past on hand. I have an entire arsenal of dresses to fall back on in case of a last minute invitation or when I know I need to feel good.


Even though I love the thrill of getting a new dress, there is something to be said about wearing one that's tried and true. Especially if I'm going to an event or a party where I'm feeling anxious (new people, crowded spaces, etc.), I feel so much more comfortable wearing a dress that I know I love and look great in. Look good, feel good is my motto.

You can even wear the same dress to all your holiday parties this year by fixing your hair differently (a blowout, an updo, an Elsa braid), adding a statement accessory, or swapping in another pair of shoes.


If you are buying a new dress that you want to carry over for years on end, my major tip is to look for classic silhouettes in versatile colors with simple textures or detailing. These are some of my favorite dresses for parties: A surprise touch of gold sequins on the back, a warm floral print, ruffles, and lace. Black, navy, and cream tend to be my color of choice!



Most of the holiday parties I go to are with friends or are some kind of blogging event, so anything goes fashion-wise. But if you're heading to an office party, Youtuber Christina put together some fun, appropriate choices:



Thank you P& G for sponsoring this post for their #WashedtoImpress campaign.
xoxo
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Brownie Bake Off

I met Arielle this fall when we both took the same newsletter workshop downtown and ended up taking the six train uptown together to the exact same stop. Turns out we have a bunch of friends in common, too! Arielle is the queen of healthy living, but not in a granola-y way. One day we were chatting about brownies and she claimed to have a healthy version. I just couldn't believe that brownies could ever be healthy so we came up with the idea of doing a brownie bake off.

Last week, we both baked up a storm and then had firefighters from Engine 22, Ladder 13 be our official taste testers. Here's how it all played out:



2 avocados, ripe
1 cup coconut palm sugar
2 tsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup oats, ground
1/4 cup unsweetened raw cocoa powder
2 tsp  vanilla extract
1 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp sea salt

(optional) “Peppermint Candy Cane” Toppings:
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 raw or cooked beet, peeled and sliced
sprinkle peppermint extract

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside
3. In a large bowl, mash together avocados, coconut palm, and coconut oil.
4. Add ground oats (you can blend rolled oats in blender until powdery), cocoa powder, vanilla extract, peppermint extract and sea salt. Mix until creamy.
5. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes. Cool and then place in refrigerator
6. Cut out fun shapes and then put some toppings on.
7. To make Red and White Peppermint “Candy Cane” topping: in a baggie, shake up chocolate chips, beets and peppermint extract. Then place a towel over bag and use a hammer or knife and bang until chips are crushed. Sprinkle on top of brownie and Voila!


Baker's One Bowl Brownie
(from the back of the Baker's box!)

1 pkg.  (4 oz.) Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate
3/4 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
3  eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 13x9-inch baking pan.
2. Microwave chocolate and butter in large microwavable bowl for 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
3. Stir sugar into chocolate mixture until well blended. Mix in eggs and vanilla until well blended. Stir in flour until well blended. Pour into pan.
4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Do NOT overbake. Cool in pan. Cut into squares.

Whenever I watch the cooking competition shows on the Food Network, I always wonder how I would fare on a show like that. This was just my chance... turns out that I completely (unsurprisingly) crack under pressure. 

I went to the grocery store the night before to get more chocolate, but the store was completely out of all Baker's chocolate. I ended up going to another store in the morning, but they were also out. I had to go to a few more stores before I found unsweetened chocolate. By then, I'm cutting it close to being behind schedule. Of course, the brownies take longer than usual to cook. I ended up having to cut them while they were still warm, which made them crumble a bit. (Although, they were legitimately still warm when we got to the firehouse, so I'm sure it was appreciated.)



Our taste testers!!! The verdict? Mine won ;-) I mean, you can't say no to butter and sugar. 

Right after sampling the brownies, they got called to a fire at the American Museum of Natural History. Can't make this up.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

A Perfectionist's Guide to the Holidays

So Maxie wrote this guest post about the holidays. Of course, I was nodding my head the whole time I read it for the first time. And then! I realized that while it's great for the holidays, the whole list is basically applicable for the rest of the year, too.

A Perfectionist's Guide to the Holidays
Guest Post by Maxie McCoy

This time of year brings out the inner perfectionist in all of us, one that is wrapped in perfectly gold-and-white polka dotted paper and tastes like peppermint.

It’s intense. We want to buy the best gifts. We want to have the perfect, sparkly dress for that holiday party. We want our Christmas cards to be the most creative ones hanging on everyone’s kitchen door. Holiday decorations gotta’ be impeccable. And don’t even get me started on how creative the elf on the shelf must be.

We all end up on a perfectionist rager this time of year. It causes us to get tense, to act out, get overwhelmed, and judge ourselves, a lot. And by letting that version of ourselves take control, we miss out on the bigger picture by obsessing (like this) over the little things. Let’s just say, this is not a time when we’re our highest and best self, but it should be. 

I’m on a quest to tame that brat of a perfectionist that comes out and says “it’s not good enough. You’re not good enough, Maxie.” Like the one that came out screaming while searching for the absolute “perfect” holiday card to send to my brother. He can’t be with us this Christmas because he’s deployed, so I spent an absurd amount of time in the card aisle. Absurd. 

Sound familiar? It happens to the best of us. Here’s how we can help ourselves when the holiday perfectionist starts freaking out:

Allow Yourself One Thing
There are way too many things to do, to be perfect at all of them. If you need to let your perfectionist shine, pick one thing that she gets to be her crazy self at. Whether that’s holiday presents that literally took you seven hours to wrap, or the treats you slaved over. Pick one and go all out. But that’s it. The rest can be good enough. For me that is cards. I spent an entire night painting my own holiday cards, and I couldn’t be happier with how much time I spent in perfecting them... everything else can take the perfectionist back seat.

Ask Yourself What Really Matters
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to pause and ask what all of this is about. Is it about the love of your family? Well, they’re going to care about you no matter how cute your holiday dress is. Whatever is the real joy behind your holidays, either giving back or being filled with love, focus on that. The rest won’t matter as much. Perspective is such a beautiful thing.

Watch Brene
Brene Brown has one of my absolute favorite books and Ted Talks about the power of vulnerability. When we revel in our perfectionism, it’s actually a guard and inability to be vulnerable. We refuse to see ourself as enough. We keep on this armor of perfectionism to get more and to be likeable. But it won’t ever work. We must be vulnerable and thus OK with imperfection. But that starts with loving yourself first. This lady will so make you think twice about your perfectionism.

Indulge in Some Holiday Sweets
No seriously. Do it. And relaxxxxx.

However your perfectionist is showing up this season, do what you can to reconnect with the holiday spirit instead. Have any best tips for taming your perfection tendencies? Let us all know in the comments below, we overachievers need all the help we can get. 


xoxo
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