i’m still cookie dough.

So, I’ve been 30 for about three weeks now. And while turning 30 wasn’t a huge, life-altering thing to experience, saying “I’m 30” still feels strange and foreign on my tongue.

29 was a really good year. I got married, I traveled a lot, I did well at my job. For the most part, I felt like a functioning adult.

But there’s something about turning 30 that feels daunting for a lot of people, if not almost everyone. I know that it felt very much that way for me. It’s the end of a era, a notable transition from one decade of your life to the next. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that a lot of have a lot of preconceived notions about what you and/or your life should be like when you turn 30. We believe that we need to have achieved certain milestones or accomplishments before turning 30 or we’ve somehow failed ourselves.

I have friends who thought they needed to have done the following before turning 30: be married (or at least well on their way to being married), own a house or a car, understand how to create and maintain an investment portfolio, traveled internationally, climbed the corporate ladder, quit their 9-5 and chase their dreams, have a decent amount in their savings account… the list goes on and on and on. We all have a wide variety of intangible things we think we need to have done before beginning a new decade.

I know that my only stipulation for myself was “have your shit together by the time you’re 30.” And I honestly think I do. My marriage didn’t weigh into this, but traveling did. I own a car and hopefully next year, I’ll own a home. I have a savings account and I can pay off my bills with no issue or strain on my finances. I am doing well and, whether I like it or not, am now a 30 year old adult.

But, in the words of my favorite heroine*, I’m still cookie dough.

I think the fear of turning 30 also comes from the fear of being locked into who you are now or the life you currently have. As if it somehow can’t change once you leave your 20s behind.

I know that’s not true. I know that who I was at 25 isn’t who I am now. So who’s to say who I am now will be who I am when I’m 35? My life could look completely different then. There’s no real way of knowing but I learning to embrace the fact that the one constant will always be change.

Turning 30 is a milestone, just not to the extent I had dreaded it would be. If anything, I look forward to learning and growing and becoming whoever it is I’m meant to be. For this first year, and hopefully for a few more to come, I’ll try to live by this phrase:

bebrave

So, I’m still cooke dough. I’m not done baking yet. But one day, I’ll be cookies.

 

*Brownie points to you if you know this reference, but for this who don’t, it’s from the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

around the world and back again.

Somehow I blinked and all of my anticipated travel came and went. With the exception of two trips to NYC in the next couple of months, I’m officially done traveling for the year.

I wish I had made an effort to write about my trips in a timely manner. I’m only sitting down now to write something down because all of my trips over the last seven months have been so important to me. I’ve passed through countries I didn’t know I would ever see. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had so far and look forward to planning future trips, both locally and internationally.

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I loved Rome so much more than I thought I would. It’s big and beautiful and busy. The best gelato I will ever have is in Rome; it’s so good I went a total of three times in the span of a few days. We saw the sights you’re told to see, the structures that have stood the test of time. But I think my favorite moments in this city were just wandering around, lounging on steps in Trastevere or exploring Pigneto, where our Airbnb was. And it goes without saying that the food is amazing. Even on our first night, when we arrived late and went to a small cafe around the corner to get dinner, it was so, so good.

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Our time in Florence was unfortunately marred by a stomach bug that left us both incapacitated for a chunk of our trip. We managed to get over it after a day and a half, thankfully. If anything, it’s reason enough to return to Florence someday to make up for lost time. I’m glad we chose to go to the Amalfi coast last, as it was a really relaxing way to end our honeymoon. My favorite memory of our last couple of days was walking up a steep hill in search of dinner and stumbling upon a restaurant with a beautiful view of Positano down below.

I thought two weeks was the perfect amount of time for this trip, even though it still went by insanely fast. Italy is everything I thought it would be and I’m glad we picked it as our honeymoon destination.

Then in late May/early June, I was in Seoul for a work trip:

korea

While I was on-site working the majority of the time I was there, it didn’t stop me and my co-workers from heading out every night to explore. Koreans are really nice and helpful; I had people come to my rescue on at least two separate occasions due to the language barrier. I only knew how to say hello and thank you; while that was helpful, it didn’t exactly bridge the gap. I arrived to Seoul a couple of days early and stayed a couple of days after my work assignment, which helped immensely with getting used to the time difference (14 hours!) and relaxing before the long journey home. I ate amazing food and bought a hilarious amount of Korean beauty products. Korea has never been high on the list of places I want to travel to in Asia, but I really enjoyed my time there. Seoul is so huge that there was no way to see everything, so I know I could easily go back and see new things.

Now it’s summer here in Chicago and my 30th birthday is a mere 20ish days away. Not that I’m counting or anything. I’m really glad I was able to fit in so much international travel before the big 3-0; it was an important milestone I wanted to hit before I leave my 20s. And I’m already planning potential trips in my mind for the next couple of years.

playlist: winter blues 2016

Count on Chicago to still be dealing with snow and frigid temperatures in the early days of March. As I sit here, writing and working and waiting for spring, here are the songs that are still currently making up my playlist:

wintermix

[image via]

Michigan – The Milk Carton Kids
The Devil’s Tears – Angus & Julia Stone
First Floor People – Barcelona
The Mute (Acoustic) – Radical Face
Everything Starts Where It Ends – Lovedrug
Re: Stacks (Bon Iver Cover) – Oscar Isaac
Lost at Sea – Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s
Big Black Car – Gregory Alan Isakov
Meadows – Wild Child
Wait – M83

I’m hoping to make a concentrated effort to share something before leaving for Italy at the end of the month. I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be turn 30 this year and what I’d like to do before then. This might be the weekend to do it, considering that there are at least two more days of snowy weather headed our way.

saying yes to adventure: thailand

Last summer, I was on the cusp of turning 29. Getting that much closer to turning 30 didn’t bother me (at the time), but I had a realization that did: I have never traveled overseas.

Sure, I’ve traveled internationally. But only to Mexico and Central America, both of which are regions that speak a language I know and are in the same time zone as Chicago, give or take an hour.

I had never been on a plane for more than 4 hours. I had never experienced jet lag. I had never stepped foot in an airport where the majority of the signs were in a language I didn’t understand.

In college, while my friends went to study abroad, I stayed behind on campus. Given that I had already chosen to attend an out of state, private university, it was a luxury I couldn’t afford. After I graduated, I toyed with the idea of taking a trip for myself to Europe, or anywhere really. But I was ultimately more concerned with finding a full-time job and paying my bills to do anything so spontaneous.

Which brings us back to last summer. I have a full-time job, am paying my bills, on the verge of 29, and a few months away from getting married. Life seems on track, but the lack of overseas travel bothered me. By happenstance, my good friend Adrian mentioned casually that his friend was getting married in Phuket and due to a lack of vacation time, his girlfriend wouldn’t be able to go. I jokingly volunteered myself as his travel buddy, and then seriously volunteered myself.

There were a million reasons I could have used to talk myself out of this trip. But like I said before, it’s really easy to talk yourself out of doing some spontaneous, for the sake of being practical or responsible. I had no real reason to say no and ultimately, I knew it was something I really wanted to do.

Since all the traveling I did during this trip didn’t kill me, I can only assume it made me stronger. I met Adrian in NYC, since it was strangely cheaper to fly to Thailand via China from there than from Chicago, even with the flight to NYC and back on top. One small problem: I was flying into Newark, since our connection with Air China was supposed to be flying out of that airport. Until they decided it was going to fly out of JFK instead. So I spent the morning traveling from New Jersey to Queens, which isn’t exactly fun. Even less fun? Missing our connection to Thailand because our first flight left late, resulting in spending a couple of hours in the Beijing airport and arriving in Phuket about 10 hours later than we intended.

thailand1

Most people would assume this trip is already turning into a disaster. And considering that Adrian and I had never traveled together before, much less internationally, we could have easily turned on each other. Instead, in our delirium, we laughed it off, drank Chinese beer while we waited, eventually made it Thailand, stumbled into our hotel and checked in before promptly passing out for a few hours. We only spend two days in Phuket before moving on, but relaxing by the pool and the wedding itself were a solid way to start this vacation.

I don’t know what possessed us to fly out so early the next day after the wedding, but we did and headed to Bangkok for a couple of days. Bangkok was even more of a blur, filled with lots of walking, temples, good food, and markets. During our first day, we went to the Jim Thompson House, Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and the Grand Palace. We thought we could squeeze in more but exhaustion eventually got to us. We ended the day with dinner at Soul Food and grabbed beers at Mikkeller Bangkok.

jthompsonhouse

bangkok1

watpho

The 2nd day was a little more laid back, which a trip outside the city to two markets: the Maeklong Railway Market and the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. To make things easier, we ended up hiring a tour guide who essentially organized everything for us. He was really familiar with both markets and knew the locals, as well as the language of course. Tourists tend to flock to both of these markets, but for Maeklong, I only saw tourists outside on the railway section and not inside the larger market found in a neighboring building. Our guide helped us buy a few things, including fresh Thai chili peppers and dried fruit. Everything is so delicious and cheap, it’s kinda insane. I would have loved to have done a different floating market since Damnoen Saduak is very popular and crowded, but it was the only one open during the week. I did get to try mango and sticky rice, as well as coconut ice cream, which is my new favorite dessert.

railwaymarket

bangkok2

floatingmarket

We relaxed at our hotel before flying back to Phuket, where our trip be ending. I would go back to Bangkok in a heartbeat; there’s so much to see and do.

Back in Phuket, we stayed on a different beach and spent our first day back seeing elephants. Elephants are native to northern Thailand and I would have much preferred to see them in a sanctuary but I went with a local place that was well reviewed and recommended. The elephants were well taken care of, which is all that mattered to me. After that, it was an afternoon of hotel pool lounging. Note: all hotel pools should have a swim-up bar. It’s amazing.

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On our last day, we went snorkeling, which lasted all morning and well into the afternoon. It was my first time ever so it was a bit overwhelming for me; it didn’t help that the waters at our first location were choppy and difficult to navigate. By the 2nd stop, I felt comfortable and was really able to enjoy it. And of course, the amount of tropical fish I saw was awesome. We also stopped at a couple of different beaches, where I saw the bluest water I have seen in my life.

After some confusion about our flights, we made to the airport just by the skin of our teeth and actually got back to New York in time. I stayed in Brooklyn for a night with one of my best friends before finally heading back to Chicago.

The thing about going halfway across the world for only a week is that it passes by insanely fast. Even the 13 hour flights didn’t seem that long (although I did sleep quite a bit). I’m so glad I went. I’m glad I got to spend time with a friend I otherwise hardly see.

Alex and I are heading to Italy for our delayed honeymoon in late March, and I’m already beginning to plan that trip. From here on out, I’m looking forward to saying yes to more adventures.

getting back to writing again.

I am constantly writing. Almost every day, actually. I write letters, blog posts, emails, articles… you name it, I’ve probably done it in the last few months.

But all this writing has been for work, for others too busy to put together their own letters or speeches. So I do it for them.

I have been writing, just not for myself.

On both my laptop and on Google Drive, I have dozens of unfinished pieces, filled with half-formed thoughts. I’m almost afraid the same could happen to this blog post.

There’s things I want to say, but am afraid to share. So much of writing online these days is dealing with criticism. Some totally valid, but the majority can be harsh, or downright cruel. I struggle with the idea of putting my thoughts and ideals and values out there for a larger audience to read, only to have them tear me down for it.

I’ve always been expressive and open; when did I retreat into myself? Maybe it’s because I see how women are treated on social media and beyond, as well as minorities. I fall under both of those categories. Maybe it’s because I might react defensively whenever someone disagrees with me. Maybe it’s because for the first time in a long while, I’m concerned with what people–total strangers, in fact–think of me.

So maybe it’s more about treading water in the shallow end of the pool rather than forcing myself to dive in headfirst. In order to even extend slightly out of my comfort zone, I at least need to identify where my comfort zone begins and ends.

After my wedding, I cut off a significant chunk of my hair. More so than I thought I would, but I let my stylist coax me into it. She also suggested lightening up the ends, to create an ombre effect. She wanted to go dark blonde immediately and as someone who has only ever had dark brown hair (ok, and blue hair twice but that’s a totally different story), I panicked slightly at two drastic changes at once. I went with my gut and told her to not start with blonde, but a few shades darker so I could get used to it. A month later, I am and I kinda love it. I’ll be going back next week to let her finish the job.

So to dip my toe back in, I’m going to start looking for additional outlets outside this blog to write for. I haven’t pitched anything in, well, years actually. So it’ll be a learning process. And while I’m nervous, I’m also excited to re-establish my voice and write my thoughts down.

This is the first step of many to get to back to feeling like a writer again.

another life update.

So much can happen in just a few months. The last time I visited this space, I was a day away from my 29th birthday. Since then:

wedding1

I got married, for one. After a year’s worth of planning and stress eating, our wedding finally came and went. They’re not kidding when they say the day of goes by so quickly; it was over before I knew it. And while I had so much fun and was so grateful to be surrounded by family and friends, I’m kinda glad it’s over. Wedding planning was (in my humble opinion) not fun. Now it’s back to business as usual, since married life is essentially the same as non-married life.

wedding2

wedding4

We just got our proofs over the weekend and I absolutely love how they turned out. Our photographers are amazing and I completely recommend them for any in the Chicagoland area — or out of state, they love to travel!

And speaking of travel:

oceanfront-phuket-thailand-uhd-wallpapers-1280x1024

[image via]

This past summer, a good friend of mine jokingly said he needed a date for a wedding in Phuket because his girlfriend couldn’t make it. I jokingly said I would totally go with him. That eventually turned in a serious conversation about how I would actually go with him because well… why not? I’ve never left North America and suddenly an opportunity to travel to Thailand of all places had presented itself. So a few weeks ago, we bought our tickets and are officially headed out the first week of December.

I am equal amounts excited and nervous for this trip. I’m glad that despite the cost I agreed to go because one of my major goals before turning 30 is to travel a lot more. And also, I had no real reason to say no. It’s so easy to talk yourself out of doing some spontaneous, for the sake of being practical or responsible. I had some money set aside and I realized I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity. While it’s a shame I can’t share this adventure with Alex, I’m glad I’ll be with a good friend, even though we’ve never traveled together before.

I’m hoping to utilize this space a bit more. I sound like a broken record, but I’ve been itching to write for myself more. I have this tendency to draft things and let them sit, unfinished and forgotten. It’s a side effect of being a perfectionist and also being hesitant to put certain thoughts or feelings out there for everyone to read. But I’m hoping to break past that. With the end of 2015 coming up quickly and my 30th birthday looming next year, there’s plenty I want to accomplish and write out. So I’ll consider this a baby step in the right direction.

five things friday: on the verge of turning 29

So, I’m turning 29 tomorrow, which is pretty crazy to me. In celebration of getting older and hopefully also wiser, here are a few things I love at the moment:

I’m a huge fan of Daniela Andrade’s music. Gotta show some love for a fellow Daniela and Latina, after all. Her cover of Regina Spektor’s “Us” is so, so good:


I just recently discovered local jewelry studio, Mineralogy and I sorta obsessed with her pieces:

mineralogy

Theresa’s custom work is also really beautiful. These are a just a few pieces I would definitely splurge on and buy for myself (clockwise from left): white topaz teardrop ring, diamond solitaire necklace, chrysoprase and druzy cuff bangle, and grey druzy gold stud earrings. For those of us in Chicago, Mineralogy now has a a storefront in Ravenswood. Otherwise, you can check out the shop online.

Although I have plenty of artwork and a limited amount of wall space in my new apartment, I love Luke Gram’s art prints. If and when I’m in the market for more prints, he’ll be the first I buy from:

lukegramart
The weather in Chicago is FINALLY warming up, so I’m making the effort to try new paleta recipes. Mashable put together a great list of coffee-based paletas and I definitely need to make the ones with dulce de leche:

ice-coffee-pops

And last but certainly not least, I randomly stumbled onto this art project in Mexico and really, really love it:

germencrew

The Mexican government asked the Germen Crew, a youth organization that specializes in grafitti and street art, to revitalize the Palmitas neighborhood in Pachuca, a town northeast of Mexico City. There’s even more photos and a video of their work here. I think this such a beautiful, brilliant idea and the community has had such a positive response.

As turning 29 isn’t incredibly significant (other than this is my last year in my 20s), I’m keeping it low-key and doing dinner and drinks tomorrow night. Maybe the big 3-0 will call for an actual celebration. Have a good weekend!

mexico, lindo y quierdo

I knew since before I left for Mexico that I would want to sit down and write about my experience. It was only a matter of when and it’s sadly taken me a few months to finally sit down and collect my thoughts. But now that I finally have the time, I find myself struggling to really put it into words.

I knew that going to unfamiliar parts of my home country would be a great experience, but I didn’t really realize what a profound impact it would have on me. Much like my trip to Central America, I worked unbelievably hard. The days were long and hot and I almost always slept like the dead because of how tired I was. But when we weren’t working, we did manage to have some fun. We ate and drank and explored. I’ve always known that much like the States, Mexico is vastly different depending on what part of the country you’re in. I had just never seen it for myself.

volcano

puebla1

puebla2

Cuernavaca, while rather busy and crowded, had hidden oases in the form of beautiful gardens and pools. Puebla took me by surprise. As part of the project site we were visiting in Cuernavaca, we made the three hour journey with the local group to Puebla. Upon entering the city limits, I was taken aback by how modern the buildings were. Puebla is one of Mexico’s most historical cities that has been able to embrace both new and old. We worked and stayed in the colonial district, where old, colorful buildings make up the majority of the area surrounding the zocalo. We only had a day and a half in Puebla before driving to Mexico City for our flight to Monterrey. I already know that I have to go back someday.

monterrey1

salto

I also went back to Monterrey for the first time in about 7 years and it’s still very much the city I’ve always loved. It’s a city of industry but surrounded by a gorgeous mountain range. We traveled 6 hours outside of city to a remote region and stayed in cabins at a national park. After easily one of the longest work days of the trip, we were treated to BBQ and drinks by a waterfall. Definitely made the day worthwhile.

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chacala3

chacala2

The trip ended in coastal Mexico. We landed in Puerto Vallarta and traveled north to a small, sleepy beach town called Chacala. I’m grateful that the last leg of the trip was the most calm, serene place of the bunch. It’s probably also the region that I miss the most, but eating on the beach for several days, with fresh fish and fruit constantly at your disposal, it’s to be expected.

chacala1

I walked away from this trip with a renewed love for Mexico and a sudden need to travel more. Maybe it’s because I’m coming to end of my 20s and I’m realizing that I haven’t gone any further than Central America. We live in a vast, beautiful world and I have yet to even a see a fraction of it. That’s something I need to desperately change.

So, I’m hoping to make traveling a priority over the next year. I’m hoping that if an opportunity presents itself, I’ll seize it rather than talk myself out of it. Whether it be for work, or with Alex, or with friends, I’d like a few more stamps in my passport.

Here’s to making that happen before I hit the big 3-0.

currently, march edition

march_currently

March flew by and I’m not sad to see it go. We have dealt with wacky weather and the stress of apartment hunting all month and while I’m already done with one (yay new place!), I’m not so patiently waiting to be finished with the other.

I’ve got a lot going on, so I’ll attempt to break it down:

Listening to: I am loving all the tracks I’ve heard so far from Death Cab for Cutie’s upcoming album, Kintsugi. It’s a lot closer to their older stuff than the last two albums and while it’s sorta obvious that Ben Gibbard is referencing his relationship with Zooey Deschanel and his extreme hatred of LA in the lyrics, it makes for good music. My favorite track so far is Little Wanderer. Oh! And I can’t forget how obsessed I am with Florence and the Machine’s new track, What Kind of Man. Ugh, SO GOOD.

Thinking about: Moving at the end of April. Being gone for the majority of April on a work trip. How insane April is going to be, in general. Fortunately, Alex and I have already found a new place to move into (and we’re heading a little further north, to Andersonville) but I’ll be gone for the 2nd half while I travel to different parts of Mexico with the broadcast media team at work. I’m excited that I get to take part in this, similar to the Central America trip I took in 2013, but I know I’ll have to hit the ground running with cleaning and packing when I get back. I also feel pretty guilty that Alex has to do the majority of packing by himself. I hope April will fly by so that I’ll have at least half of my sanity intact by the time May rolls around.

Looking forward to: Flying home to Texas in June. Tickets have officially been purchased! I’m going to see my sister graduate from high school (THEY GROW UP SO FAST, YOU GUYS) and my family will be throwing Alex and I an engagement party, backyard BBQ style. Even though I don’t eat meat, these are the best kind of family gatherings and I can’t wait to see everyone. I haven’t been home since Christmas 2013, so it’ll be nice to head back and soak up some wonderfully hot weather.

Reading: Amy Poehler’s book is sitting on my nightstand, waiting patiently to be finished. I’M SORRY, AMY. I swear I will take you to Mexico with me so I have something to read on the plane.

Watching: Jane the Virgin. I had some serious doubts when they announced this show (an adaptation of a telenovela) but oh man, IT’S SO GOOD. The characters, the only slightly over the top storyline, the actors… seriously, it’s really great. Gina Rodriguez (aka Jane) won a Golden Globe for her performance in this show, which should is proof alone as to how good it is. And it just makes me so happy to see a show filled with Latinos.

Making me happy: Finalizing wedding plans, including picking out invitations and buying my wedding dress (!!!). Surprise flowers from my sweet fiancé. Random date nights at our favorite sushi restaurant. Girl Scout cookies (samoas are my jam).

[photo: death to photo stock]

a series of jumbled thoughts

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I was thinking about making this a Currently post but I have so many random thoughts I want to write down and that post format wouldn’t really work. So, here’s a bullet point list of all my unorganized thoughts:

* It was so unbelievably cold last week. I’ve found that once the cold weather really settles in, I can handle 20 degree weather fairly well. But sub-zero temperatures? With winds that cut through your clothing, down to your bones? I could live out the rest of my life in Chicago and NEVER get used to it.

* A little over a year ago, I started using MyFitnessPal, which has really been key to eating better and planning out meals. That combined with my heart rate monitor has been pivotal to losing 15 pounds in the last year. Could I have lost that weight faster? Sure, probably. But I work out four times a week (if possible), eat well during the week, and tend to have a few beers and pizza on the weekend. I’m just glad that I’ve been able to lose the weight and actually keep it off without any drastic changes.

* Wedding planning is still in full gear. I found my dress a few weekends ago at BHLDN. We’re meeting with our potential officiant on Sunday and I’m trying to figure out the flowers. But the bigger stuff, like our DJ and photographers, have been locked down. I feel like we’re doing pretty well. We’re still 7 months out (to the day!), but it does feel good to have so much ready to go.

* My little sister just turned 18 almost two weeks ago and in a matter of months, I’ll be going home for her high school graduation. Just last night we talked about her choosing a college (she didn’t get into her first choice unfortunately, but did get into a lot of other great schools). I am still processing this information, which just makes me think about my own mortality. Ok, being dramatic but still. Nothing makes you feel quite as old as a sibling you watched grow up before your eyes.

* It’s weird to think about how we’ll be moving (again) in a couple of months. We really were hoping that our current apartment would be a long-term living situation, but Alex and I have realized that for a bit more money (which we can afford), we could upgrade to a bigger place. We’ll definitely need the space after the wedding and to be honest, I’m kind over our neighbors. They party and drink and smoke a LOT. I just want to hang out on my couch on a Friday night without having to Febreeze the crap out of my living room because the weed smell keeps seeping in. So the hunt begins again! I hope we can stay in our current neighborhood, possibly another nearby area (I’m already looking at Edgewater/Andersonville even though I swore I would never live off the Red Line).

That’s all for now. February has always been one of my least favorite months, but thankfully it’s the shortest one of the year. I’m looking to forward to it coming to an end. I’m looking forward to having some fun this weekend, which includes seeing “What We Do in The Shadows” at the Musicbox and getting some amazing pizza at Piece with some friends.

What’s life like for you right now?

 

[image credit: death to photo stock]