Happy weekend! These life lately posts are some of my favorite to write and I realized it had been a while since I shared one—so sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and enjoy!
My best friend Emma and I were talking about the pandemic and our mental health recently. Even though we have been doing this for almost a year now, which is crazy to think about, things haven’t gotten easier. Sure, I definitely have gotten myself into a better day-to-day routine for working from home, and I know I am extremely lucky to have my health and a job. But I miss not having so many aspects of our world in free fall, I miss hanging out with a big group of people, I miss rushing to make happy hour after work on time, I miss going to the office every day, and hell, I even miss my daily Metro commutes. I think we’re all grieving in our own ways. (I’ve shared this article before, but it helped me name my feelings and feel less alone, so wanted to share it again: Your ‘Surge Capacity’ is Depleted—It’s Why You Feel Awful.)
I feel like my moods vacillate week to week—some weeks, like this past one, I am motivated, productive, and generally happy day-to-day. Then there are other weeks where it’s a struggle to get out of bed and find the energy to get through the workday. When those weeks happen, I try to take my breaks where I can get them by doing things like sleeping an extra 15 minutes if I don’t have a meeting first thing or going on a long walk at lunch if my meeting schedule allows. I also really have tried to make and keep exercise as a priority throughout the pandemic—even if it’s just a short 20-minute walk around the block—because it helps my mental health so much! Winter has always been my least favorite season, and I think it’s that much harder this year because it cut off the few lifelines we had during the pandemic, like sitting outside at a restaurant or comfortably going on a walk without 17 layers. Don’t even get me started on how early it gets dark! I’ve never counted down to Spring Forward in my life—but there’s a first time for everything. I say all this just in case you’re feeling the same way—you’re definitely not alone!
One of the nice things about having a blog is it is such a good way to document my life—and lately, I’ve really been trying to document a lot about these weird pandemic times we’re living in. I take pictures of all the social distancing signs and partitions that have become part of our daily lives. I try to write down notes about how I am feeling. I take a lot of selfies in my mask—and I am not a selfie person usually. Certain songs even take me back to the start of quarantine now. I know one day when the pandemic is over—and it will one day be over—I’ll want to remember what we went through even when the memories of this wild ride start to fade. (And, I want be able to answer my grandchildren’s homework assignments to the best of my ability, hah!) We’ve lived through so much history in the past year—it’s a lot to process.
Enough talk about the pandemic—here are a few of the brighter spots from my life lately:
THE FIRST SNOWFALL OF THE SEASON /
Last Sunday, we had our first significant snowfall of the season—and really, our first snow in two winters since it didn’t snow that much at all last year. I usually am not the biggest fan of winter or the snow, but this year, I was actually really looking forward to the white stuff because it was something different than the Groundhog Day we’ve all been living in. I honestly felt like a little kid when I woke up to see it snowing; I was so excited to go outside and enjoy it!
While I didn’t sled or build a snowman, I had the best time walking around the neighborhoods near my apartment and enjoying the winter wonderland. Snow transforms the landscape and it makes everything look so beautiful! I walked around for over an hour, but then it started snowing really hard, so I headed back home to warm up and snuggle up on the couch for the rest of our snowy Sunday. It actually snowed most of Monday and Tuesday, too—I feel like most snowstorms I’ve experienced move out of the area within 24 hours, so it was nice to have the snow around for an extended period of time.
Above are some of the photos I snapped on my walk last weekend on my walk—and much to my excitement, I woke up today to another snowy Sunday!
CAMERAN WIMBERLY’S VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR /
Last March and April, I absolutely loved all the virtual events that were going on—I watched so many Instagram Lives, would FaceTime with anyone who asked, and loved setting up virtual Zoom coffee dates with coworkers. Fast forward almost a year, and I pretty much avoid any virtual event or meeting that is not business critical. But, a couple of weeks ago, I was scrolling on Instagram and saw that Cameran from Southern Charm was going on a virtual book tour for her new memoir, One Day You’ll Thank Me, and one of my favorite bloggers, Grace Atwood, was hosting one of the talks. The cost of admission included a signed copy of the book, so I decided to snag a ticket—and I am so glad I did.
This past Tuesday, my sister came over, we ordered sweetgreen, and we watched the hour-long talk. Cameran talked all about her new book, life after Southern Charm, and what life has been like for her in the quarantine. It was a fun way to mix up a mundane weeknight! While I definitely won’t be scheduling virtual events every night of the week, this was a good reminder that they can be a fun thing to attend from time to time.
(A full review of Cameran’s book will be up as part of my February 2021 on my nightstand recap!)
iPHONE APPS I’M LOVING LATELY /
While I didn’t set any big goals for myself in 2021, this year, I’m really trying to drink less and save more money. These are things I’ve been working on for years, and I decided that I need to stop kicking the can down the road on both of these things and instead, make small changes over time so I can get to where I want to be.
On the drinking front, I started out with the goal of completing Dry January—I made it two full weeks and then really wanted to enjoy a glass of wine at dinner club, so I allowed myself to indulge. Even though my dry January quickly turned into damp January, I am so glad I cut alcohol out for the first two weeks of the month because it was such a good reminder that when I don’t drink, I sleep better, am more productive, have more energy, and am more creative. Why waste time tired or hungover from a night of drinking? So I decided to give myself a weekly limit on the number of drinks I can enjoy—I can “spend” them however I want, but I can’t go over that limit. I found a great iPhone app called Less that allows you to set a weekly drinking limit—the UX is so easy to follow, and it helps you see your consumption stats, track your drink-free streaks, and even estimates how many calories + dollars you spend on alcohol. It’s free, easy to set up, and has been so helpful the past couple of weeks I’ve been using it.
And also, it goes without saying—there is no shame in seeking professional help if you feel like you have a problem with alcohol and need to quit entirely. I read Quit Like a Woman last year and it was eye opening to learn about how big alcohol markets to women and understand more about the cycle of addiction.
On the money front, I feel like I’ve always been pretty fiscally well-managed—I save money for both emergencies and retirement, I don’t have credit card debt, and I don’t overspend my means. But, when it comes to day-to-day budgeting, I’ve always been pretty laissez-faire and wanted to get a better handle on where my disposable income each month is going so that I could save more.
So at the start of this year, I sat down and made a spreadsheet with my monthly income and all my monthly expenses and savings commitments. What was leftover, I divided by four and set that as my weekly budget. For a few weeks, I was tracking everything I spent on a note on my phone to make sure I didn’t exceed my weekly budget, but I knew there had to be a better way. I soon found Weekly, a budgeting app, that has been so helpful because it basically automates the manual tracking I was doing. You can link it to your bank accounts so your transactions are pulled in automatically, but I prefer to manually enter everything and then double-check I didn’t miss anything at the end of each week—manually entering my charges makes me pay more attention to what I am spending! It costs $7.99/month after the free trial, but I think in the long run it will help me save money, so I think it’s worth the money. Similar to Less, it’s also extremely well-designed and simple to use—the interface is gorgeous and doesn’t have any extra frills. My favorite kind of UX!
TV I AM LOVING LATELY /
Over the holidays, when I was spending time at my parents house, I realized they had HBOMax and I talked my dad into giving me the password to his account. It’s quickly become my favorite streaming service as I feel like they have so much great content—I’ve loved having access to Friends again, a show I’ve seen so many times, but never gets old. I also love that I can now stream The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; while I have seen most episodes over the years, I’ve never sat down and watched it from start to finish so it’s been a great weeknight watch. On HBOMax, I also enjoyed the two-part Tiger documentary, the eight-episode show Flight Attendant (even though thriller-type TV isn’t usually my thing), Selena and Chef is a really cute cooking show, and they have a great collection of movies. It is a little annoying that we now have to have five or six different streaming services to keep up with everything, but I would probably keep HBOMax over some of the other streaming platforms if push came to shove. What piqued my interest in HBOMax in the first place was Stylish with Jenna Lyons, but I just couldn’t get into it—I think I expected it to be more of a documentary about Jenna and less about all the other people she hires.
Outside of HBOMax’s content, some other shows I’ve loved lately are: Netflix’s Bridgerton, Southern Charm (I didn’t love the seventh season as much, but as long as they’re making episodes, I will probably watch), and the new Supermarket Sweep, which you can stream on Hulu. (For what it’s worth, I love the old Supermarket Sweep, too, which you can watch on Netflix—my sister and I loved that shows kids!) I tried to get into The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, but it was just too much drama and too much yelling for me, so I gave it up. (I’ve never been a big Housewives person, but am fascinated by Mormon culture, so I thought I’d give it another shot!)
I re-watched Friday Night Lights last year (it’s on Amazon Prime for free) and loved revisiting an old favorite. My mom recently started watching This Is Us from the beginning for the first time (it’s on Hulu), and since I’ve always watched it in real-time (and still do!), I’ve never had the thrill of sitting down and binge-watching a ton of episodes at once.
PODCASTS I’M LOVING LATELY /
I have a post about my favorite podcasts here that I updated around this time last year. The podcasts in that post are all still my go-tos and the ones I don’t miss week to week. However, since I am listening to all of those podcasts in real-time, I’m often looking for more podcasts to listen to throughout the week as I love to have one on while I am getting ready for the day, cooking a meal, or getting ready for bed. For the most part, I really enjoy living alone, but it can be really quiet, so background noise is key!
Here are a few of the podcasts outside of my go-tos that I have been loving lately:
- Girls Gotta Eat—I started listening to GGE in December and have since gone back and listened to nearly every episode! It’s a podcast about dating and relationships, and I find the hosts, Ashley and Rayna, give really good advice. They live a little bit more of a wild lifestyle compared to me, but I appreciate their insight and think they have some awesome guests.
- Very Presidential—this was a limited-series podcast with 15 episodes leading up to 2020 Election Day. In each episode, the host, Ashley Flowers, does a deep dive into a different US President. From torrid love affairs and contemptible corruption to shocking cover-ups and even murder, it was such an interesting look at American history. She narrates it in a “true crime” style that makes it super easy to listen to.
- The Kennedys—a limited-series podcast in celebration of the 60th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, each episode highlights some of the most important moments in the Kennedy dynasty—everything from JFK’s alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe to Rosemary Kennedy’s botched lobotomy.
- At the Bar—this was a limited-series podcast that came out over the summer that I just recently listened to. Co-hosts Lindsay Silberman and Kristin Smith get real about the topics they love—food, travel, fashion and beauty—and the ways in which diversity, inclusion, and racism plays a role in each industry.
If you’re looking for more podcast recommendations, I have a podcasts Instagram Story highlight over on Instagram where I share podcasts episodes I love in real-time.
THINGS I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO /
Besides the warm weather, I have been trying to fill my calendar with things to look forward to. It’s definitely harder during the pandemic, but I think having a road trip to look forward to or a special takeout night ahead on the horizon helps me keep going. I had so much fun on my trip to Charlottesville a few weekends ago that I made plans to go visit my best friend Molly there in March—it’s such an easy weekend trip and since she lives there, she keeps me really hip to all the new things Cville has to offer so it’s a good mix of visiting places we loved in undergrad and exploring new highlights.
I’ve also started day dreaming about the adventures that await me this summer—I think my sisters and I are going to kick off the season by heading to Asheville, North Carolina for Memorial Day Weekend. We’ve never been, but have always wanted to visit The Biltmore and explore the rest of the beautiful mountain town. If you have any recs for Asheville on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do, please let me know!
I also would love to spend another week at Ocean Isle Beach this summer…
That’s a little look at my life lately — I hope you all are staying safe & sane! x