I’m currently approaching the “10 days until 30” mark in my life.  So far on the blog, I’ve referenced my ambitious 30 before 30 list in addition to my 2016 resolution to lighten up on myself.  These two things don’t exactly go hand in hand.  How does a girl gracefully embrace turning 30 while not putting additional pressure on herself to accomplish tasks that her 25-year-old self thought were important to happiness?  This post might be a little self-indulgent, but I have been working really hard to take pressure off of my own shoulders, and I want to celebrate that.  Let’s just say that my 25-year-old self had no idea what the late twenties were going to be like.

Here’s a few things I really think about turning 30, thanks to the whirlwind of ups, downs, cats, cuddles, jobs, names, and challenges that I’ve had in the past five years.  Disclaimer: this blog is in list post format, because no matter my age, I will always love lists.

1) I’m going to throw myself an epically awesome 30th birthday party.  I think my 25-year-old self would have been on board with this project, given that I have always loved celebrating my birthday.  However, I’m talking about decorations, actually mailing invitations, and doing some serious party prepping in my own home and yard.  I can’t WAIT!

2) Screw the classics. I will read as many Elin Hilderbrand books as I damn well please.  For the past two years, I’ve set a Reading Challenge for myself: 30 books in one year.  While this is ambitious among my other commitments and hobbies, I added on the additional stressor of reading 10 classic novels per year.  As of June, I’ve barely scratched the surface on one of them.  I’m going to drop the guilt about indulging in chick lit and accept that I’ll get to the classics in my own time, rather than forcing myself to do so.

3)  I will celebrate all of the things I’ve accomplished on my 30 Before 30 List, rather than focus on what hasn’t been completed.  I went to Norway.  I got promoted, was published, presented at national conferences, and supervised staff. I started a DIY blog and renovated several rooms in my own home.  I became a Jazzercise instructor.  There’s no need to focus on the fact that I never joined a kickball team or learned to crochet.  There’s time for those things too, of course, but now it’s time to celebrate what I have accomplished.

4) Meditation is everything.  Nowhere on my 30 before 30 list did I write, “do nothing” or “slow down”.  I’ve discovered in the past six months that taking time to actually press pause during my day is one of the best things I could have ever done for myself.  It’s actually made me calmer, happier, more well-rested, and a better partner and friend to the people I love most.

5) I’m committing to my health.  While I’ve been a fabulous fitness instructor for a few years, I haven’t exactly made any big changes to my eating habits.  My love for chicken nuggets knows no bounds.  However, I think it’s time to start getting a little more serious about being healthy and eating some greens.  The first step involves enjoying my brand new Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share from Von Thun Farms, so I’m already taking baby steps to get there.

6) I’m all about hobbies.  I’ve been on the DIY train for a while, but this blog has unfortunately started to feel more like a chore rather than a hobby.  Of course, cutting back on the weekly posts has made a big difference in this feeling.  Now I can post when I want to, as opposed to feeling like I have to.  I’ve also embraced a few new hobbies: I took a calligraphy writing class, I’m becoming quite the beer enthusiast, and I’ve decided that color-coordinating my outfits is a hobby (and a super fun one, at that).

7) “Good for her, not for me.”  For a long time, I turned to a great mantra from Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy”.  This is still one of my favorite quotes, but I’ve decided to modernize and personalize it even further with these words of wisdom from Amy Poehler in Yes Please: “Good for her, not for me.”  Amy advocates that instead of competing against each other, women can benefit from acknowledging each other’s successes. I love how Amy talks about her good friend Maya Rudolph being a childbirth warrior and giving birth to her children at home, which is something that she would never do.  To me, this quote shows that there’s no need to compare or feel jealous, and I can simply acknowledge that feat is someone else’s thing – not my own.  That’s a great way to live.  Oh, you started a brewery?  You got a salary increase? You wrote a novel? Good for you, not for me – there’s plenty of things I can enjoy about my own successes.

8) I’m eliminating “should” from my vocabulary.  I mentioned this earlier in the spring, but I am all about removing “should” from my vocabulary.  For me, this is a word tinged with guilt and shame, and it puts unnecessary pressure on my shoulders.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “I should probably be vacuuming instead of reading this book right now” or “I should stop comparing myself to others” (ugh, shame on shame right there).  Instead, I’m actively trying to use phrases like “it would be better if…” or “instead of this, I could do this…” to replace “should”.  It’s become a very angry word for me.

9) Embracing my inner fangirl.  Gone are the days of being “too cool”.  I remember when I was in fifth grade, I told my mom that I couldn’t wear a Mickey Mouse t-shirt because it wasn’t cool.  I was so concerned with what other people thought of me that I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of wearing a really cute Mickey shirt.  Granted, I was ten, but that moment has always stuck with me.  Since then, and especially now that I’m approaching 30, I’ve decided that it’s time to embrace my excitement or love for things and wear them directly on my sleeve.  For example, this past weekend, I went to an awesome New Jersey brewery called Jersey Girl Brewing Company and LOVED IT.  I promptly put on a t-shirt and asked if  I could stand up on the platform next to all of the brewing equipment.  I just about foamed over with excitement (or maybe that was my beer), and it made the experience even better.  I also bought two pint glasses.  Good thing I have money to help me embrace my inner fangirl.

10) Being okay with uneven numbers on lists.  See what I did there?  This will just be a top nine list. :)

I’m sure there are countless lessons I’ll learn as I embark on this new decade.  After all, it’s only a matter of time before I get cracking on the 40 before 40 list.  Today, I’m all about finding joy and letting go of the pressure.  Let’s see where this next decade takes me!



The Gift That Keeps On Giving

I’m just going to come out and say this: it’s been a rollercoaster week.  Thankfully, I’ve had time to reflect and recharge myself in preparation for the holiday season.  It’s also that time of year when goal setting becomes part of the conversation as one year ends and another begins.  Best of all, it’s a time of year when I can convince Dan to watch as many Christmas movies as possible (so far we’ve seen Elf and Scrooged – both for the first time!).  In that vein, I wanted to start off this post by tackling my biggest DIY demon: perfectionism.  Throughout the past ten months of DIY blogging, there have been tears, yelling matches, cat attacks, and completely ruined projects.  I’ve been reflecting on all of that lately through this particular Brene Brown quote:

It’s one thing to want to produce a high quality product, but it’s quite another to seek perfection.  I’m going to take my time when working on projects and realizing that the hard work we are doing is for us and our home, not for anyone else.  Perfectionism is all about pleasing others and is clouded in a fear of failure.  I’ll take an imperfect project with a tears, please, if it means that I learned something from the experience.  Here’s Exhibit A.

A few weeks ago, Dan and I embarked on a postcard shelf-making project.  We were planning to showcase all of our postcards, sentimental greeting cards, photos, and other lightweight art on two shelves to be hung in the guest room/office (similar to this shelf project).  I painted two shelves with two coats of paint, waiting two hours in between each coat.  Including the time it took Dan to make the shelves, this was about an eight hour, or full day, project.  I was so excited to hang the shelves and share the big reveal (see, perfectionism is driving me here) that I was crushed when Dan told me that sap had actually seeped through the paint job  and we’d have to start all over again.  Frustration filled my head, yelling and tears followed, until I realized that I wanted to have a quality final product – of course it was going to be worth the wait.  So I held my head high, and decided to lift my spirits by moving on to a smaller and more manageable project: a DIY birthday gift in a jar.

I’ve seen some adorable DIY-gift-in-a-jars on Pinterest, ranging from food recipes to date night ideas and relaxation kits in a jar.  My personal favorite roundup of these ideas is from Craftoholics Anonymous, featuring 51 Christmas gifts in a jar.  While I could have modified any of these gifts for my friend TJ’s 29th birthday, I had the perfect spin on a personalized gift: the New Jersey jar.  TJ and I met at Rutgers, both native New Jerseyans who are pretty proud of our home state.  He moved to New York a few years ago but recently decided to move back to the glorious Garden State, so I had to go with something special for the occasion.

First, I found a printable stencil of New Jersey and taped it to the back of a piece of cork I had lying around.  I cut out the outline carefully so that it could serve as a fun label for the New Jersey jar.  I actually found the jar at Michaels during a 75% off sale for $1.79 (YES, I know).  I may or may not have bought five jars at that time…

Next, I thought about the most New Jersey things I could find.  Since I work at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, I can often find an R magnet in my house or office, so I decided to throw that in to the jar.  I also found this sheet of adorable 3-D stickers featuring a Jersey license plate, images of Atlantic City, the Jersey Shore, and even Jersey City (where TJ just moved!).  I also bought a New Jersey cookie cutter for about $5.

At about $9 for the whole sheet of stickers, I decided to cut them into smaller pieces along their outlines.  This was definitely the most time consuming part of the project, but also the most fun.  I knew that these stickers would really personalize the entire jar.  The real showstopper was the Garden State signature snack: saltwater taffy.

I bought a bag of saltwater taffy to really fill up the jar and provide the extra sweetness for a friend with a definite sweet tooth.  To be honest, there’s really no better way to celebrate an amazing summer night than eating water ice and saltwater taffy on the boardwalk.  YUM.

I threw everything together in the jar, making sure that the Jersey-themed stickers were spread evenly throughout the saltwater taffy.  This is the back view, where you can really see the Rutgers magnet.

Here’s the front view one last time. I punched a hole in my New Jersey cork tag and tied some twine through it to attach to the lid of the jar.  I also made a Google maps notification to mark Jersey City and personalize it even more.  Now, I’m biased in my undying love for New Jersey, but I think this is a pretty darn cute gift for under $25 – plus I got to eat some salt water taffy.  How are you getting your craftiness on during the holiday season?