Photo Diary: Pittsburgh

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A week ago Christopher and I traveled to Pittsburgh. It was a perfectly timed escape from the norm. We planned this trip a few months ago to look at grad school at Carnegie Mellon University. We went during a visitor day to get a better understanding of what the program is like. That part was very informative, but my favorite part was getting aquatinted with the city. I had never visited Pittsburgh before and had no real expectations. The first thing that struck me were the amount of bridges and rivers that connected the city. Fortunately, we had great weather all weekend, which always makes travel better.

My favorite parts of the trip were seeing campus, eating, walking around taking photos of everything and visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Enjoy the quick trip to the city of steel.

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Car ridin’.

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Deciding what to do first.

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The Shipwrecked burger.

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Point State Park.

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Carnegie Mellon University.

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Magnolia trees.

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Hanging out with Andy Warhol.

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This activity was on the ‘must-do’ list.

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South Side Flats. Apparently this part of town is nuts, but I loved it.

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Ketchup holds a special place in my heart ;)

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German style beers at Penn Brewery!

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Total masterpiece.

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march favorites

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March kept me on my toes all month long. Most weekends were busy and work was rather insane leaving me exhausted upon arriving at home at night. For a little while it felt like March would never end, but I was able to keep it together and make it to April.

Here are some of the things I loved:

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The traveling yoga jam session duo (sounds like the best thing ever, right) known as ‘GO W/ THE FLOW‘ visited my neck of the woods last week. Their mission is all about the immersion of vinyasa yoga flow and live music. No session is ever the same, it is based on the energy of the crowd they’re visiting. Tori verbally leads the session and her partner, Ben, plays guitar. The rhythm of the practice is based on counts of 4 which creates a good tempo to internalize as you breathe, sweat and follow along.

I heard about this experience from my chiropractor who had gone to one of their practices a few months ago. Her description made it sound like a party on a yoga mat. Needless to say, from this hobbyist yogi, it basically was just that! My favorite parts of their act are the beatbox style breathing through out the event. This served as a great reminder so your breath can stay where it needs to be. Another favorite of mine was the interaction between you and your neighbor’s practice. Many times we were encouraged to physically support our neighbor. Something just as simple as having your neighbor support your leg. To me, this was another perfect cue to remind all of us that our practice shouldn’t be focused solely on the individual, like in life, we all must help each other to succeed. I know, full circle, life affirming stuff!

I feel like this group embodies so much of what I love: performance, live music, interaction and yoga. If you love those things too, check them out! And if they drop by your town, just sign up!

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Ok. ok. Let’s move on to food. I think I met my salad soul mate. I feel like I shouldn’t just throw that term out so loosely, but it has been a few weeks since I first had this salad and I just can’t get over it! I first had it with some of my gal pals at the Electric Cheetah in Grand Rapids and after that I made my own modified version. This little beauty consisted of spinach, roasted turkey, feta, quinoa, beets, red grapes, onion straws and a delicious light vinaigrette that I almost got on the side but was urged by the waiter to leave it on as is. That guy knew what he was talking about!

When I made it, this is what I did:

Salad-
baby spinach
honey roasted turkey breast
quinoa infused with pesto
feta
onion straws

Dressing-
raw honey
dijon mustard
zest from one lemon
juice from one lemon
olive oil
salt
pepper

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I look at NPR as my constant car companion. During the weekends their programing is at its best. A favorite show that Christopher and I both enjoy is ‘Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!‘ Many times during their broadcasts I laugh out loud. I don’t know about you, but I like the news much more in the form of limerick. When I heard that a recording of the show would take place in Kalamazoo I couldn’t resist.

It was very fun show, the crowd was lively and they interviewed Terry Crews. Think NFL star, Old Spice commercials, Brooklyn Nine-Nine actor, WMU alumni, that’s the guy.

Oddly enough I never did get around to hearing the broadcast of the show. I’ll have to look up the podcast soon.

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When I was visiting my mom after a doctors appointment I stopped by a really cute boutique called Spring Sweet and that’s when I saw this beautiful kimono style top. I tried it on, laid down my credit card and never looked back. This little baby is flowy and hits just the right place on my torso. This is one of those rare pieces that I’m excited to style for work and for the weekend. I’ve already worn it a few times to work and I can’t wait to style it this summer with a pair of cut off shorts or skirt.

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How did our friends want to celebrate their 30th birthdays? Oh you know, by having their friends gather together and tell them what horrible people they are :) We all got dressed up, liquored up and then let the insults fly during a Comedy Central style Roast. Even now, I still can’t believe how hilarious our friends are! It was mean, degrading and absolutely perfect. Christopher threw caution to the wind and performed some material that he wrote. It was fun to help him structure some of the jokes and to give feedback.

What I learned that night: my friends are all evil geniuses.

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up the wolves

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One of the best things in life is music. My relationship with music has always been full and changing. Sure, I have my go-to songs and musicians, but there are times when a song hits me across the face and it’s all I want to listen to because I feel the emotion of the song so acutely.

I have been replaying the song ‘Up the Wolves’ over and over since it aired on ‘The Walking Dead’ during the episode ‘Still’. The heart of the song is about overcoming the past and basically flipping it the bird (much like what was shown during the episode of the show). The angst-y nature of the songs lyrics is paired perfectly with the voice of lead singer, John Darnielle. I listened to the album ‘The Sunset Tree’ by The Mountain Goats not long after it debuted in 2005. It has been years since I gave it a listen so I more or less forgotten about this particular song.

Lately I have been in the process of overcoming personal roadblocks. This song came back to me at a time when I needed to be reminded to keep looking forward and to not let the past paralyze my future.

When drawing the end of the chorus for this song, I kept the look rough, primitive and dark. However I did keep some of the edges soft because there is an air of hopefulness that weaves through the music. This song is charged with confidence and instinct which is why I chose to keep the color pallet limited to black, white and grey.

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Green Ambitions

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I design and I blog. At my day job, there are times when I can do both. I recently blogged about a friendly St. Patrick’s Day t-shirt competition that took place in our office. I interviewed my co-workers (myself included) about how they came to their final t-shirt design. I thought it would be rather fitting to share it now. Read the full post here.

beerthirty I used this project as a way to exercise my hand drawn type and hand drawn image making skills. The only problem was that it made me constantly thirsty for a cold one.

Read more from my co-workers who are excellent designers and keep me inspired to do great work all of the time.

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January & February Favorites

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You are lucky enough to get a two-for-one special today! These past 2 months have been both cold and busy. Now that the daylight is lasting past 5:30pm I feel like we are Spring will loosen the grip of winter soon, even though we are still rocking the ‘polar vortex’ temperatures in Michigan. Now, let’s time travel, shall we?

JANUARY

1. Shipshewana - Some very good friends of Christopher and I headed to Amish Country for a getaway weekend in the middle of January and it was probably the best decision we made all month. During our cross country ski trip we were all reminiscing about when we were growing up and our families would take us on weekend trips to a hotel with a pool where we would swim, relax, and enjoy a change of scenery. Before long we booked a large room at the Farmstead Inn. This place had it all: a pool with hot tub, ping-pong tables, basketball court, breakfast included and many common areas with couches and fireplaces. We played games, swam, made stupid jokes, laughed at them and wore sweat pants the entire time. The big reason we went to the heart of Amish Country was for Essenhaus. We shared a family style chicken dinner that we all loved in the beginning and cursed as the plates were being cleared. And then we took pie back to the hotel to eat later. Yes, it was indulgent, but it was awesome. No regrets.

2. Puerto Rico – During our getaway weekend we were introduced to the game Puerto Rico. It is similar to Settlers of Catan but the element of chance is removed and there’s no bartering which I’ve never been very good at. The goal of the game is to develop the city of Puerto Rico with crops and buildings. The goal is to have the most victory points at the end. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes games like Settlers of Catan, though the flow of the game is pretty different.

3. When Harry Met Sally – The most beloved movie for Christopher and I came to the big screen at the Alamo during their ‘Cheap Date Night’ event. We didn’t hesitate to buy tickets when we heard that they were screening this movie. This movie is our favorite, both together and separately. It was my favorite movie from the time I first saw it in the 8th grade, same goes for Christopher. We didn’t know each other when we were young so this shared love was very interesting to both of us. I LOVED watching it on the big screen. I laughed at my favorite parts as if it was the first time I saw it.

4. Brazil – This was another movie that I loved at the Alamo. They have been featuring their Top 100 film picks and this was one of them. When I read the film’s description and after I saw the trailer it looked like very unique experience. Think dystopian movie from the 80′s with a little bit of film noir, while poking fun at the nature of bureaucracy. It is a hero centered story that follows average guy, Sam as he tries to correct an administrative error and then becomes an enemy of the government. I was captivated by the world that was created by director, Terry Gilliam, within the first 5 minutes. The use of sound editing, staging and lighting emphasized the strange beauty of the story being shown. Although the end of this movie dragged a little too long the power of the story and characters of Brazil stayed with me for days.

5. Cinderella Moscow Ballet – After binge watching this documentary on the NYC ballet I had the biggest desire to see a ballet. Lucky for me a production of Cinderella was coming to town in a few weeks. My mom joined me for brunch before we were whisked away into the world of ballet. The athleticism, grace and beauty of ballet never gets old to me. This was the first time that I had ever seen the story of Cinderella told through dance and it was beautiful.

FEBRUARY

1. Yoga – After getting some new yoga gear from my in-laws as a Christmas gift I have been trying some new poses at home and getting back into the hot yoga studio. I have some long term goals set for my practice such as introducing more inversions like bakasana, headstands and eventually pincha mayurasana. My ultimate balancing goal is natarajasana. All of these will poses take time, patience and determination on both flexibility and strength. I’m staying motivated by the large yoga community on Instagram. The videos help me to learn how to get in and out of poses to better avoid injury.

2. The Walking Dead – Not long after watching all of season 2 of House of Cards I was eager to start a new show. This urge also came from watching a little bit of a The Walking Dead marathon before the start of season 4 pt. 2. During this marathon they showed a trailer for the new season and some interviews with the cast about what you can expect, as far as the themes they will be exploring. The following weekend I started with season 1 and have been going full steam ahead ever since. I feel so invested in watching these characters that I have grown to love figure out how to survive these extreme circumstances.

3. Zero Personal Spending – Once I evaluated my personal bank account after the holiday season (that lasted through the month of January for me) I made the decision to not make any personal purchases in the month of February. This excludes spending on food. My financial situation is mostly back in tact but I intend on keeping this plan going for the month of March too. The only times I broke down was when I got my hair cut (Friday) and when I got new work pants and jeans last weekend (major sale, people!) What this exercise taught me was to be very intentional about what and when I buy new things.

4.  youarelistening.to – Talk about the best work-to-beat music ever! My job mostly consists of sitting at my desk pushing the pixels around, so having a good companion in my ears can make all of the difference. I usually jump between podcast stations, but when I want music I work the best to trance and electronic music. This music serves as a great pulse to keep me going at a good pace. This station layers music from soundcloud and police/fire dispatches from major cities. I realize this combination isn’t for everyone. Some call it boring, but I think it’s soothing and it keeps my mind focused, not on the music but it aids in my concentration of whatever else I am working on. I found this station via the podcast 99percentinvisible. Check them out! They have such thought provoking content.

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breathe deep

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Lately the snow drifts have turned into snow mountains. My best defense against temperatures that dip below zero has become sweaters, boots and huge coats. All of this can start to drive you a little crazy. So much so that on a day that reaches the 20 degree mark you can’t help but to prance outside for a brief moment, just brief enough to remember that it’s still damn cold outside.

I have decided to embrace the cold and take in some deep breaths when I’m outside and enjoy the crisp air. It can do amazing things for the lungs and it feels so much better than simply complaining.

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Hat: Banana Republic Outlet / Sweater: LOFT (thrifted) / Tank: J. Crew Outlet / Necklace: Vintage / Pants: Thrifted / Boots: Kohl’s

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December Favorites

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As I’m sure most of you have experienced, December was a really busy month with travel, gift giving and celebrating. Oh and the food! SO.MUCH.FOOD. I realize that we are almost through January at this point, but either way I’m ready to share my December recap of my favorite things. It was just too great to just forget about! Let’s get to it!

1. Falafel Pizza
I made this delicious Mediterranean inspired dish for a family Christmas party as an appetizer. I never made it before and was a little worried to give its world premier for so many people. At the last minute I almost changed my mind but I am glad I didn’t! I HIGHLY recommend this dish for a party. I baked the crust the night before and prepared the yogurt sauce, on the day of the party I brought it disassembled and topped it when I arrived. Doing it this way made it very travel friendly. I did make one adjustment to this recipe, I used greek yogurt instead of soy yogurt.

2. All I want for Christmas
During my family’s Christmas party I fell for this early 90′s Christmas movie. The premiss is a brother and sister asking Santa for their parents to get back together as their only Christmas wish. It’s pretty much everything you want in a feel good Christmas movie. My favorite scene is when little Thora Birch sings ‘Baby it’s cold outside’ with Lauren Bacall. Talk about heart warming!

3. Ice Skating
This was a great family outing that I almost opted out of. I haven’t ice skated in a very long time so thought I would just go to the rink and just hang out while my little cousin was taking a spin on the ice. When all of us got there we decided to rent skates and join in the fun. I’m very glad that we did. It was great to all help Ellie navigate the rink. I didn’t even fall so yeah! It was a total success.

4. Marc Jacobs Honey
This perfume was a birthday gift from my dad and his wife. I put it on my amazon wish list earlier this year and was so happy to receive it. A favorite perfume of mine is Marc Jacobs Daisy so when I first saw Honey I had a feeling that I would love it and I was right! It smells very light and floral but with a little bit of sweetness. As a nickname, my family calls be ‘Bee’ so getting this perfume seemed very fitting.

5. Bear necklace
My favorite birthday gift came from my husband. This little bear necklace serves as a reminder of my husband and everything I love about him. It is also a source of strength and reminds me to stay balanced even in tough situations. It’s pretty darn cute too!

One of my favorite moments from December were giving Christopher a Detroit Red Wings Danny DeKeyser hockey jersey. Seeing the look on his face was the best! The other favorite moment was giving my mom a photo book I made of our trip to France in 2012.

As much as the holidays run me down in the month of December it was a very good month. Now that I’m an adult, I’m learning how to appreciate this hectic time of year the best I can.

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Adventurous / 001

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Last weekend Christopher and I decided to join our friends on a trip to Indiana for some cross country skiing. Even though I had never been before I was really excited for the chance to spend some time outside during the winter and learn something new.

This trip was a very last minute decision for us. I usually like a few days of notice before we plan something so I can plan other things around it accordingly. Since I am trying to let go of that urge to analyze why we shouldn’t go (not sleeping in our own bed, the promise of bad weather and being surrounded by people, even though these people are friends, for too long of a period of time). I decided to just say yes and I’m very glad I did. All of the things that initially made me uncomfortable were the furthest things from my mind the whole time I was gone. After this experience I am more fired up about what is in store for 2014! In the meantime, enjoy some photos from the skii trip.

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New year & New goals

2014Hooray! It’s 2014! With the new year here I’m excited to announce my new goals. Particularly my goal of interjecting more adventure in my life. More saying ‘yes’ to things rather than saying ‘no’.

This goal has been a few months in the making spurred by several conversations with my husband regarding what we want to accomplish this year. A lot of what we want to do involves taking chances and relying on instinct. This goal will be both exciting and challenging, like most goals are. Things will start off slow, like saying ‘yes’ to things like trying a new pizza topping or a new game. Not exactly difficult things to do, but it’s the little stuff that sets a precedent for larger leaps of faith.

I will be showcasing this project on the blog as the year goes on. The ups, the downs and anything that I find valuable. Get ready! Adventure is on it’s way!

My other goals for the new year are more traditional and include saving some money, Christopher and I are doing the 52 week money challenge. I am also going to try to do a better job of managing my time.

Some of you have asked if the Stress Free Project will continue in 2014, and the answer is yes, sort of. My focus is changing but with this new focus I have a feeling I will need to learn ways to cope with this new way of thinking. I will still categorized these posts accordingly so they will be easy to find. And now for some inspiration to get us started for the new year!

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Successes in 2013

Before moving full throttle into 2014, I’m taking the time to remember all the good that was 2013. This past year was nowhere near as busy as 2012 but in many ways, it was just as useful. This year was just the breath of fresh air that I needed.

FINDING MY WAY IN THE KITCHEN
This year I pushed myself more in the kitchen and am now happy to say that I enjoy cooking more than I ever thought possible. I hope to carry this accomplishment over into 2014 and for the rest of my life. Read more about the story of my cooking past at my blogging pal, Krystal’s Fear Confessions series.

LEARNING TO RELAX
A big part of my 2013 goal was to stop the stress cycle I would get caught up in waaaaay too frequently. My Stress Free Project helped me to focus on this goal. Although I didn’t post as much as I thought I would on this topic, it did help! When I encountered my stress demons I thought of it as an opportunity for growth. Being more aware of myself helped me to better enjoy traveling, stay on top of it during the holiday season and find a better way to structure my weekends.

EXERCISING
My initial goal with exercise was to clear my head and eliminate anxiety. Once I started to feel stronger and regain my flexibility I was hooked! I enjoyed taking group exercise classes, attending yoga and running in 2013. On days where I was able to work out, I felt a great sense of accomplishment that lasted for the rest of the day.

EATING RIGHT
During this year I have been paying attention to how food makes me feel. With increased strength and the motivation of living more actively, correcting my diet became a priority. I have learned what foods make me feel the best and when I can treat myself. Finding that balance hasn’t been the easiest. I’m nowhere near perfect but in the course of 2013 I have learned to love more healthy diet staples. I have found that when I make good food choices the food seems to taste better, no matter if it’s a salad or pizza.



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