My Favorite Back to School Memory

When I was a senior in college two of my friends and I moved into off campus housing. We had technically lived off campus before in an apartment but that year we were getting a house. In Syracuse there are different areas of off campus housing, but the one most of our friends lived in is a neighborhood full of kit homes from the early 1900s. Most of the houses have been picked up by landlords making more than an ample living off of college kids living off of their parents. That year we knew things would be different because we had a real house.
 
Before school started we planned to come back early, that’s when parties started happening but no one had to get up for class. It was when we could hang out, see friends we hadn’t all summer, and get back into the groove of being in college after being at home and in internships for the past three months. Since we had tons of free time, and one of my friends is an amazing cook, we had a dinner party, which felt very adult at the time. It was awesome, people came to our house, we sat around, talked about how our summers were and what we were all signed up to do for the next 9 months.
 
The best thing about the party was that we felt like a family, all sitting around the table, the living room and on our porch later just hanging out. We all knew it was our last year together but at the time it hadn’t started yet and no one cared. That dinner party not only one of my favorite back to school memories, but one of my favorite college memories. Whenever I think of those friends, and that party, I get completely nostalgic. We all live around the country now, and aside from my wedding, most of us haven’t seen each other together since college; yet somehow I still think of them as my family, and they’ll always be my friends.

 

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This post is part of #TDCLBlogtober14. See my other posts here.

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Ten Things I’m Thankful For

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When I read that the post for #TDCLBlogtober14 on October 14th was Ten Things I’m Thankful For, I thought it would be easy to come up with a list. I feel thankful everyday, and despite the fact that I don’t talk about it with anyone, I pray every night. Therefore my list of things I’m thankful for seemed like it would be on the tip of my tongue, however it really only got me to the first five things. Those things are the general ones that I realize as an American with a job and a financially stable upbringing I was, and am blessed to have. It took me a while to come up with the other things as they’re really things I don’t think about as much, but those that I realize have been so important in my life.

1. Family and Friends

I’m always thankful for my family. As much as we fight and annoy each other, and sometimes even don’t speak, I’m thankful for them every day. I just figure it’s part of an adjustment to every one of us being an adult, and generally being very different from one another. Sometimes this causes a great number of problems, other times it’s the only reason we can get past those problems.

I feel the same way about my friends. Sometimes I wonder how I ever found the people that I consider my friends, and other times I think that if I hadn’t found them, I truly would not have made it.

2. Our Health

My family and most of my friends are generally healthy people. Not like run a marathon healthy, just survive every day, and go about our business without constant trips to the doctor, healthy. There are some of us who aren’t, and truly it makes me realize how much more I should be thankful. Every time I hear about a sickness or an unsolved ailment I’m thankful that I’m not sick, that my husband isn’t, and that the sickness that those I care about do have is solveable in the long term.

3. The Food on Our Table

I can honestly say that I’ve never gone hungry a day in my life. Despite running out of money, despite having to ask others for help, I have always been fed. I’ve always had enough to be choosy with my meals, to decide to eat less GMOs, to not have to live off of fast food, to shop at Whole Foods when I want to. That’s a blessing.

4. The Roof Over Our Heads

Another thing I’ve never lacked is shelter. I’ve always had a place to stay, even when I felt I needed to leave my home, I had another home to go to. And sometimes that’s the most important thing.

5. Time With the Elderly and the Young

I’ve grown up with old people, despite the fact that when I was born they weren’t actually that old. Looking back I’ve had a group of people who have always been above the age of 50 in my life. I cherish my time with them more than most other things in my life. Having people who see the world completely differently from me, and having time to spend with them, knowing how the world looks from that perspective, it’s made me who I am.

On the flip side of that, having sisters who are 9 and 12 years younger than me has also been an amazing experience. They’ve kept me young, helped me to realize how people younger than me look at life, and helped me to see things in people that I couldn’t have seen otherwise. They’ve taught me how to communicate with a generation so different from my own, while still allowing me to be my own age.

6. Creative Relationships

I truly believe that it is my creative relationships that have propelled me to where I am today, with the interests I have. I’m so excited when I become friends with another creative person. Having that relationship and that person to share ideas with, and to see those ideas from another creative perspective is an amazing experience. Those are my favorite friendships, ones where we have something to offer each other, and ones where we can help one another by inspiring one another.

7. The Road Less Traveled

When I was 23, right after I graduated from college, I was forcibly moved to Florida. It’s something I completely hate about my past, aside from the fact that without that move I wouldn’t be nearly as happy as I am today. I met my husband there, and I fell in love with him almost immediately. We dated in a bubble, something I recommend to anyone looking to sustain any kind of romantic relationship. Neither of us had friends there, and all of the things that friends would have told us to make us question how we felt was entirely absent from the picture. We knew ourselves well enough to know when we weren’t happy with the other person, and when we were, and that really dictated how things moved forward. By the time I was 24 I knew he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with (despite the fact that if a 24 year old told me that now I’d tell them they were crazy.) At the time I had been hurt in enough relationships to know what love meant for me, and he is older than me, and had been in enough relationships to know he was ready to be with someone forever.

Around the same time my best friend fell in love, and while she wasn’t exactly in a bubble, she was at a different place in her life than some of the friends she had that lived close by. Then she moved to California with her boyfriend and she also existed in this bubble. A life away from everyone who seems to know you so well, but hasn’t dated you. They got married a few years ago.

Every time we spoke (and to this day) we constantly told ourselves, we aren’t on the same path as everyone else. We had no friends that were in our boat. No one with the same determination, no one married, no one with the same disinterest in having children right away, no one in the same financial positions, no one but each other, and even we don’t have those aligned. But having someone else to share that with, who understands, is invaluable, and with everything that’s happened thus far, being on my own path, taking the road less traveled is something I’m thankful for, and really has made “all the difference.”

 

8. A Varied Education

Education to me is really a culmination of experiences. It isn’t just college, or grad school, it’s life. Having worked in several fields has taught me so many things, and how to deal with so many types of people, that it has helped shape my reactions to my experiences. I’ve worked in retail, office environments, sales environments, computer environments, and environments where you’re essentially talking to strangers constantly. Alongside that, dealing with friends and family in different fields has helped me as well. For instance, dealing with my dad, an engineer is much different than dealing with my sister-in-law who’s in human resources. The approach to a conversation, a disagreement or a concern, it needs to be different because people fall into thinking the way they do at work. I think it’s one of the reasons my reactions aren’t always what people expect. I’m more than just one background, more than just one set of expectations, and I see that as a very very good thing.

9. Passion

In the past year while starting DomiCile, I’ve realized that passion is not something many people have. That driving force behind getting something done, behind wanting to see an end result, and behind wanting to see something reach it’s potential is not something we’re all blessed with. Passion is something I notice little of in most people I meet. It’s one thing to have a hobby, but it’s another to turn that hobby into a career, and it’s another to represent that career as a real job and treat those who you interface with as you would real clients.

Passion means maybe not sleeping in on weekends, doing more work when you can, not taking full days off, and definitely not spending a whole day on the sofa. That little voice in my head that tells me that “something else can still get done”, that’s my passion, not letting me quit, not letting me rest. It’s that voice I hear at night when I put my head on my pillow that sometimes doesn’t let me fall right to sleep, but makes my sleep more sound.

10. An Original Idea

Lately I’ve been feeling like DomiCile is a blessing, like this idea I had over a year ago is something to be thankful for. I’ve met more amazing people than I can count, been more places where I live than I ever knew about, and learned more than I had in a long time. I also really love the fact that my little idea is helping people. It’s gaining more visibility for individuals, for small businesses, and helping those involved to feel appreciated. The feeling when someone compliments the magazine, or tells me they want to support it is one I’ll never get over. Knowing your idea is helping someone else feel happiness, or like their efforts are being seen, is definitely something I’m thankful for.
 
 
This post is part of #TDCLBlogtober14. See my other posts here.

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Five Tips for New Bloggers

Despite the fact that I’ve been blogging for a long time, I’m not sure I’m the right person to be giving advice to new bloggers. I tend to go through blogging spurts, which is why I thought the #TDCLBlogtober14 challenge would be great for me. I’ve been told 30 days is a habit. So I’m trying for 30 days… well aside from weekends.

 

While I haven’t been blogging constantly lately, it used to be something I looked forward to and found easy to do at least once a week. I used to feel like I was continually inspired to blog just from doing simple things like going shopping. I would talk about my trip, and the things I didn’t buy that I was still lusting after. I was inspired by everything I did and wanted to share it all. I wouldn’t say that’s changed, but I would say that the magazine has made me more conscious of what I share. Do I want to always talk about what I want from Target, or the new shoes I bought at Nordstrom Rack? Do I always want to make design inspiration boards for weddings I’m not planning just to make them? My priorities and my available time have definitely shifted and that’s changed my blogging habits.

 

For those just getting started with blogging I don’t feel fully equipped to offer advice regarding how to become a “successful” blogger. My blog doesn’t make me money and probably never will, but my blog isn’t for that. What I can offer is tips for how to be a conscious blogger and how to not become bogged down with the idea of being “successful”. My overall message: Embrace that which defines you.
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Tip #5: Whether you like it or not, the blog you create represents you, and you are your brand.

 

Be sure to figure out first what kind of blog you want to have. Do you want it to focus on one particular topic or is it a hodgepodge of whatever you’re thinking about lately? Whatever you want to write about on your blog is fine, just remember that you are handpicking your content, and that your readers are getting to know you through it. The blog is a representation of you as a person and everything you post makes up the person that your readers get to know. Represent yourself as the person you want your readers to know, which is hopefully who you really are.

 

On this blog I have discussed interior design, event design, gardening, tech, food and fashion—basically the things I’m interested in and am generally passionate about. For me sharing those things is fun, and my readers get to know who I am through the things I share. I in no way ever want to represent myself as being interested in something I’m not because I wouldn’t want to misrepresent myself. For instance while I love fashion, I could never write about making wardrobe choices. I’m not a stylist and I don’t claim to be. I can dress myself but dressing others is not my forte. Meanwhile I am an interior designer and would feel comfortable suggesting a concept for a room based on a prescribed starting point (an image, a color, a feeling the space should have).

 

Tip #4: Write about what you know or what you’d like to know more about.

 

One way for readers to get to know you is to tell them about information you have first hand, which is the obvious choice for most bloggers. However, another route you can go is to write about things you would like to know more about. This gives you an opportunity to learn something new or expand on something you know, and to share that knowledge with others.

 

When I started gardening things would happen that I couldn’t explain. I was photographing my garden almost daily and there would be strange developments that needed research. Instead of keeping the knowledge to myself I used that as something to share on my blog. While I was furthering my own understanding of what was happening in my garden, I also shared that with my readers giving them some new information as well.

 

Tip #3 Embrace Your Imperfections

 

Much like with the garden problem posts, a learning experience is an opportunity to share what you know. If you try something new document it as you go, and if it doesn’t turn out perfectly you can still share it.

 

One of the things I like sharing on my blog the most is furniture projects. I love renovating furniture. I say renovating because sometimes it’s refinishing, sometimes it’s creating new from old, and sometimes it’s a bit of both. Generally none of those projects come out perfect (there is one that’s pretty close though but it’s not on my blog yet). Every time I screw one of these projects up though I still try to push myself to share it because other people might have the same problems and I’d like to think that maybe my screw up might help someone else have a beautiful end result.

 

Tip #2: White a blog you would want to read.

 

Something i always do before I publish a post is a read it. Now most people look over their posts to make sure there aren’t any spelling errors, but I read my posts and try to pretend I didn’t write them. Coincidentally since I blog at night, by the time I’m finished I usually can’t remember what I wrote anyway so it works out well.

 

If you find your own blog interesting that’s a step in the right direction. I’m not talking about a rant you’re happy to have gotten out, I’m talking about when a post sounds good to you, when you’re happy to be sharing it, when you’re glad to be putting it out into the world. That’s when you should push that publish button. If you don’t enjoy reading your blog, how can you expect anyone else will?

 

Tip #1 Don’t forsake your real life for your online life.

 

One of the reasons I don’t tend to blog every day is because there’s so much going on between having a full time job and trying to run DomiCile, but there have been countless times when running DomiCile has gotten in the way of my real life. This is an especially large problem when it comes to weekends. Generally I tell myself that sometimes sacrifices need to be made in order to run a successful business. But other times people can just get too wrapped up in the online world causing them to end up missing the real world. The same thing can happen with blogging, especially when you’re trying to document something or blog just for blogging sake. Usually unless you’re doing projects alone, it’s noticeable to those working with you. It can be annoying to the people you’re spending time with, and you’re probably not enjoying whatever it is as much as if you weren’t documenting it. So learn to put down the gadgets once in a while.

 

Personally, I try to put my phone away when I’m spending quality time with my family. Especially when I visit my elderly relatives I rarely look at my phone. I know that the value I put on my time with them is much greater than that of the magazine or much else I could be doing. I also try to put my phone down while I eat dinner with the hub. Aside from the occasional photograph of our delicious meal, I try to not look at my phone wile we eat or while we watch TV together. Unless I need to post something at a specific time because of a deadline, I want to make sure that I get the most out of my with others. This is why on the weekends I don’t check much email, and I rarely blog. I do try to post on Instagram at least once, but I’m usually not on twitter. I value my non-work time, which is something that’s a part of who I am, but also something I had to learn. The balance of life and work is different for everyone, but finding it is essential and totally worth it.

This post is part of #TDCLBlogtober14. See my other posts here.

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My Favorite Fall Recipe

When it comes to food, fall means more to me (and most of America) than any other season. But while that’s mainly because of Thanksgiving, it’s also because most of my favorite foods are vegetables, and there are so many in season right now. Also the fact that you can basically make a pie out of anything and everything that’s in season is amazing!

 

I personally love apples, beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, eggplant, kale, lettuce, melons, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, spinach, squash, and tomatoes; and they’re all in season right now. Some of these are still growing in my garden right now, but they can all easily be found at farmers markets in our area during the fall.

 

Of the Thanksgiving recipes I love the most, I would definitely put my grandmother’s sweet potato pie, and my husband’s garlic mashed potatoes at the top of my list. But a few years ago while combing through the stacks of magazines I was purging during a move I found a recipe that has yet to disappoint any dinner table.

 

In one of the perfectly styled issues of Real Simple Magazine I (re)discovered a recipe for Broccoli and Gruyère Gratin that is completely delicious. Every year since then we have it for Thanksgiving, and every year it’s the first thing we run out of. I don’t know if it’s the Gruyère or the fact that the broccoli is always perfectly cooked, but it. is. delicious.

 

Trust me, this is awesome, but depending on your family size, you might want to make two.

 

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Broccoli and Gruyère Gratin

 

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

 

Ingredients

2 large bunches broccoli, roughly chopped (about 12 cups)
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups grated Gruyere (8 ounces)
kosher salt and black pepper

 

Directions

1. Heat oven to 375° F. Fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of water and fit with a steamer basket (or fill a large pot with ½ inch of water). Bring to a simmer. Place the broccoli in the steamer basket, cover, and steam until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.

2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes (do not let it darken). Whisk in the milk and simmer until slightly thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the cheese, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss with the broccoli.

3. Transfer the broccoli mixture to a shallow 3-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cup of cheese. Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8

 

Image via Real Simple and Jose Picayo

 

This post is part of #TDCLBlogtober14. See my other posts here.

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To My Younger Self

As part of #TDCLBlogtober14 I’ve been trying to think about what advice I would give my younger self. Despite the fact that I’ve actually done something like this before, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s actually the most important thing I could tell myself that might help me in the future.

Looking back I tried to identify a time when a decision I made might have changed who I turned out to be, and I thought about what about who I am today that I’d like to change. Honestly I have to say that there isn’t much about the person I am that I dislike. That’s not because I think I’m perfect, but more because I’m a person who’s a little too self-aware, constantly thinking about who I am. So basically at this point I’ve accepted the person I’ve become because it’s the person I’ve chosen to be.

One big hurdle for me, the thing I wish I could change, is my willingness to take risks. Sometimes that’s an emotional risk, and sometimes it’s a physical risk. I’m just not someone who’s willing to go all in, and I wish I was less afraid. That fear has kept me from many things in my life—switching my major one more time, taking a job in a city with no friends, moving to a place I had never been, and leaving people I know I should have left.

Many times when I’ve made a scary decision (when it was mine to make,) it’s turned out okay, meaning nothing has gone horribly. But the only time I’ve truly made scary decisions on my own were when my heart ached for me to do so. And those decisions are the ones that have made me who I really am.

So I would tell my younger self:

Don’t be so afraid to take risks when you’re following your heart. The are both the most important, and the scariest to take, but are the ones that will show you who you really are.

 

 

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This post is part of #TDCLBlogtober14. See my other posts here.

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