Goals For the Season

“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands—your own.”

MARK VICTOR HANSEN

Four years ago today, I sat overlooking the Rocky Mountains on an afternoon trip to Estes, Colorado, with one of my best friends. We spent the day hiking around the lake, driving through Rocky Mountain National Park, touring the Stanley Hotel, and photographing our journey along the way. I held my mother’s film camera tightly—just like I had in London, Paris, and Italy, right before this trip to Colorado. I still didn’t understand aperture, f-stops, or what to set my lens speed to, but that didn’t stop me from snapping through a film roll. I had always wanted to understand the rawness that film captured, and at the time, I was learning to love the light leaks and imperfections my processed photos held.

Right before this trip, I had let go of my biggest goal of the season and focused on what would come of grad school and writing. Around this time, the idea for my first novel came to me in the parking lot of the Elementary school where the kids I nannied each day attended. That idea later manifested into my fascination with the love that hangs in the words of a handwritten letter and how that interest and prompt would then become the thesis for my master’s degree. When I spoke about grief this time in September four years ago, I had no idea that later I would experience my grief more than ever before.

At the time of this photo, I was in a brand new relationship with its issues. I struggled each day to see the longevity of that love. At the time, my trustfulness gave power to the process of just following what felt right. I knew little of my callowness, but I later would learn that I did know something—I was trying to navigate the same raw and imperfect emotions that I would one day learn to love. I did everything I could to make the view come into focus for photography, but I needed my personal view to focus on what I was experiencing.

What I needed to improve on in 2016 sometimes feels like the same thing that I need to improve on in 2020—allow myself to be imperfect. 

For the first half of 2020, I began setting goals and then painstakingly laid the foundation of who I want to be and where I want to see myself in 2021 and 2025, and 2030. These goals became my benchmarks for recognizing change within my life. This included goals like “make two new friends,” “get a job,” and “start paying down student loan debt.” I have kept track of these goals in my 2020 planner—something many believe was the worst purchase of 2020, but for me, it was one of the best investments because it set into motion the process of becoming the person I most wanted to be.

My planner allows space for me to track my goals and to feel productive with my time. I feel best when my day is full, where I am productive, and I am working towards who I want to be. I hold myself to this standard because I know how good I feel when I get up early and tackle the day. At the end of those days, I feel tired and sleep better than any other day. At the end of those days, I look back at all the little red checkmarks and believe I made something of myself.

But because of that, the biggest challenge I face is allowing myself the space to be imperfect and making room for error. I look at an empty week in August and wonder what happened? Where did the desire to be productive go? Why wasn’t I proactive for my future? 

My negative self-talk can be all-consuming. Sometimes, I get angry at the girl from 2016 who was learning to love raw and imperfect emotions. What happened? Where did your desire to be productive go? Why weren’t you more proactive? Why didn’t you think of me, our future, and how your impulsivity brought me heartache?

I knew I would curse that Hannah for years to come. How disappointed I was in her for just rolling over on one of our goals and forging through the warning signs that she ended up internalizing. But something I am learning to understand is just how important those decisions in 2016 were for a growing me.

What I was learning in September 2016 is the same goal I am setting for myself this autumn. The goals I have set for this season include focusing on how I spend my time and allowing myself the space to learn from the past and what I deem as “imperfect traits.” 

Journaling and tracking my days are just some ways where I feel like I can take control of what I want for my future. I have found that I lose track of time quickly—weather it is scrolling aimlessly, binging the next season of a Netflix series, or cleaning all day while I put off what I really should be doing. A goal is to spend shorter intervals of time on tasks and breaking them up into sprints instead of marathons. And with that goal comes the responsibility to allow room for rest days.

This trip to Estes feels like a lifetime ago, but it was one day that put my future into focus. When you overlook the world’s vast beauty, it changes the way you view how small the imperfections are in your life. At that moment, I didn’t think about what I should be doing to better myself for the future; I was thinking about how beautiful a moment could be. So here’s to finding the beauty in imperfections and setting ourselves up for futures we sit in awe of when we set out dreams in motion.

September Update

With the pandemic still looming like a black cloud over the United States, my life has stayed eerily the same since March. My phone alarm rings out at 7:00 am most days with me snoozing until the very last moment. Then at 8:00 am I open my laptop and begin my next day of work. Instead of in an office, I work from the couch, or from my new desk, or my green armchair pushed into the corner beneath the window overlooking Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Mornings for me are quiet. There’s no bubbling, drip coffee machine filling the room with the smell of roasted beans, or coworkers shuffling into their desks after a jam-packed morning commute. At home, I open the curtains, so light floods over me and my laptop screen. The only white noise comes from the tower fan in the corner blowing the air conditioner’s cold air in my direction. The only interruption to their motors’ sound is the patter of my fingers pressing hard against my keys while I type my early morning email replies. With all of this staying the same, I am still looking forward to change.

What a year whirlpool of eight months you’ve been, 2020. Spring lingered the same way an unsettling feeling of being watched stays with you when walking home alone. How that feeling never subsides until you’ve locked the door behind you—but we can’t just lockout time and the way 2020 has gone thus far no matter how much we would like to.

However, July & August blew past me like the last gust of wind from a powerful hurricane. I spent spring and June hunkered down, expecting this summer to be the gust that knocks me to the ground. I prayed that the walls would remain standing after the beating they took in spring. Surprisingly, they did. This summer faded away quickly like a storm not willing to hover long before moving on. There was destruction left in its shadows, there is no doubt about that, but I am hopeful for growth.

I don’t know what to expect for this autumn. If it is like the past decades of autumns that have come and gone, then 2020 will bring me some change to my life. 

With the pandemic still looming like a black cloud over the United States, my life has stayed eerily the same since March. My phone alarm rings out at 7:00 am most days with me snoozing until the very last moment. Then at 8:00 am I open my laptop and begin my next day of work. Instead of in an office, I work from the couch, or from my new desk, or my green armchair pushed into the corner beneath the window overlooking Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Mornings for me are quiet. There’s no bubbling, drip coffee machine filling the room with the smell of roasted beans, or coworkers shuffling into their desks after a jam-packed morning commute. At home, I open the curtains, so light floods over me and my laptop screen. The only white noise comes from the tower fan in the corner blowing the air conditioner’s cold air in my direction. The only interruption to their motors’ sound is the patter of my fingers pressing hard against my keys while I type my early morning email replies.

When the work is done for the day, I tie a surgical mask underneath my hair and lace up my pair of black Nikes whose soles are practically worn thru to my toes. I walk the same path to Central Park to meet my boyfriend after his day in the lab, passing by strangers cloaked in the same masks. When I am home, the evenings are filled with conversations, cooking a new dish for dinner, reading a new book, or binging the next Netflix series that caught my eye. Once midnight begins to creep closer, I tuck into bed and set both the 7:00 am & 7:15 am alarms, close my eyes, and start the loop over once more.

Sometimes I throw a wrench in my routine. I spend the day baking, exploring a new city in a rental car, or simply losing track of time reorganizing my bookshelves. I have started five new hobbies during quarantine: calligraphy, candle making, letter writing, graphic design, and gardening. At this point in time, I still think my calligraphy looks like a dolled-up version of my cursive, and I have practically gone through 10 pounds of wax. I gained seven new pen pals across the world and purchased an iPad to try my hand at Procreate fame. Lastly, I have killed all of my edible plants, but the remaining inedible ones are still *thriving*.

With all of that being said, it’s jarring to realize it’s already September.

Like many of you, I had so much planned for 2020. And as it continues to slips through the cracks, I wonder how and when I will catch my breath. I don’t know if I ever will have a chance to do just that this autumn, but I have dedicated this season to what matters in this ever-changing normalcy.

Ever since November 30, 2019, I have figuratively crossed off the days until I would be met by autumn’s change once more. And its finally here: the months that end in “-ber” have arrived and the last thing I want is for them to do is fall out of reach. 

This autumn, I am looking forward to debuting my writing and honing in on my craft. I have spent the summer diving into books, working on projects as a freelancer, and developing my publishing world experience. There are so many projects I would love to work on, places upstate that I have been itching to drive through, and just general self-building practices that I have put off during this quarantine. The one thing that I love about autumn is that no matter the change, both good or bad, it still sparks this light inside of me. For me, autumn is the physical embodiment of how the change is personified by the dusted firey-hues before winter comes to blanket the senses.

In opposition to popular demand, I am not ready for 2020 to be over. I think there is still so much we can do to help communities such as promote change systemically and within ourselves in the same way our seasons change. The way time can blur is the best reason for us to see that there are still four more months left in the year to do something. I hope all my readers, new and old, enjoy what I have prepared for this month.

I look forward to the change with myself and this platform, but also for whatever else may come from a new month. Plus, autumn would be a great time to arrest Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove.

A Lick of Golden Sunlight

It’s the way shimmering golden flecks dance on the world around you––the reflection of light, illuminating the spot you stand upon. Have you seen the way the sun shines down upon you? 

It’s a harmony of chords, being plucked and strummed delicately like a song you never knew you had waited your entire life to hear. A song that speaks the soft truths that resonate with feelings you’ve never spoken out loud, but are nonetheless surprised to hear. And I hear you. 

It’s home. It’s a glowing ember that survives the night and leaves a trail of heat even as the sunrise drenches it in the morning light. It’s the soft fleece that covers your shivering body until the warmth returns to your fingers and toes. It’s delicate, but it is a haven. 

I can feel it on my lips—smooth, tender, and soft. It’s like waiting for a piece of milk chocolate to melt in your mouth. It’s the silky notes of creamy flavors that soak into every tastebud. The feelings blend and are never fleeting.  

I can see it grow like a tendril sprouting from the fertile soil that was turned over for the new season. My feet fumble through the rocky surfaces, but they always carry me back to these moments. 

I heard a song yesterday evening that could only be described as a lick of golden sunlight filling my mind with nothing but inspiration. Her voice is light and airy, floating into my consciousness, bringing tears to my eyes. It’s so different from any other song I had ever felt emotionally attached to. It’s so essential for me to make that distinction. This is so different, and that is the best thing I discovered this week. 

I heard the song and felt my fingers itching for my keyboard and pen. I found myself getting lost in the curves of my handwriting, and the rhythmic sound of my typing. For once, I remember what I cherish and how I love to express those feelings through prose. Those impressions are the most powerful, brooding, and intense emotions to capture––like the gaze of a barn cat enjoying the sunlight on a warm winter day, the image is unforgettable.

Black Rum Spiced Pumpkin Cake

I like to think this recipe is a good stepping stone between people who like to bake, but haven’t yet stepped out of their comfort zone and away from the box desserts.

Sometimes, you are just craving a warm brownie, or are responsible for making a birthday cake for a friend, so you turn down the baking aisle at the store and stare down all the options that are out there. Do you want a chocolate cake, a dark chocolate cake, a german chocolate cake, a devil’s food cake, or vanilla? Do you want cookies, muffins, cake, or bread?

With so many options, it’s hard not to cut corners and pick up a premade mix that typically just requires a few eggs, oil, and some water. Sometimes you can fix them up, make them fancy, and no one knows the difference. Other times, it tastes like a box cake.

I want to say that’s okay, but sometimes it’s nice impressing your friends, and not letting them know you didn’t spend hours whipping up the batter.

So, this is a recipe that adds a little flavor to your typical, boxed vanilla cake mix. And it’s perfect for this time of the year! As far as cakes go, this an easy, and fun way to disguise the fact that part of it came from a box, and spicing up those pumpkin spice, boxed cakes vibes.

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Recipe:

Cake:

1/2 cup chopped pecans

15 ounces can pumpkin

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

1/4 cup water

1 package yellow cake mix

2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

GLAZE:

1 cup of sugar

1/2 cup butter, cubed

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup rum

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Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a bundt pan; roughly 10 inches. Sprinkle pecans onto the bottom of the pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat pumpkin, sugar, oil, eggs, and water until well blended. In another bowl, whisk cake mix and spices; gradually beat into pumpkin mixture until well combined. Transfer to the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and onto a wire rack.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, butter, cinnamon, and cloves; cook and stir over medium heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat. Stir in rum; cook and stir 2-3 minutes longer or until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Gradually brush glaze onto warm cake, about 1/4 cup at a time, allowing the glaze to soak into the cake before adding more. Cool completely. This takes a long time, and there seems to be a lot, but it is worth it!
  6. Serve with some homemade vanilla icecream and enjoy.

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Living in a World With Octobers

As the temperatures drop into the low sixties, and New Yorkers and tourists alike step out on the streets in light sweaters and zipped up jacket, I step out and feel overcome by the gratitude of living in a world where there are Octobers. And this October will be mine.

When I think back to October 2018, I see a smitten young girl trying her best to navigate toxic friendships, a new 9-5 job, a budding relationship, evening classes, and autumn activities. When the 20th rolled around, I wondered where all the days went and felt like I hadn’t spent my days loving everything that is to come with the changing of seasons.

I was struggling, at times to stay afloat in my creatively, demanding job while I was drowning under readings, research assignments, essays, and thesis pitches. It wasn’t until the second or third week in October when I even considered what I was going to be for Halloween, now that I had someone to finally have a couple’s costume with.

I felt stress more than I ever felt gratitude for my favorite time of the year, last year. So, this past week, I decided this October was going to be different. Sure my part-time job (oh yeah, I finally nailed down a job in a publishing house!) and my freelance editing gig is leaving me less financially stable compared to last year, but I am finding a way to do everything that I want to do to enjoy October.

I’ve applied my berry, matte lipstick, cooked pumpkin-rich treat, cracked out the autumnal decor, and enjoyed a few Halloween themed books, movies, and television shows–-and yes, it is only October 2nd. 

I have bought up all the seasonal beers, snacks, and treats. I have looked up all the spooky sights the City has to offer. I have lit candles to throw scents of fresh apples, spicy pumpkins, decadent desserts, and musky woods. And I have done all of this because I want to thoroughly enjoy my favorite time of the year.

I stressed most of the summer, and I don’t need to bring those feelings of self-doubt, fear, and anxiety into the autumn because I want to look forward to my events.

As of the 2nd, I am planning for road trips spent leaf-peeping, afternoons spent apple picking, evenings spent at haunted houses, and nights spent cozied under a blanket scaring my sock off during silly horror movies.

Do you have a time that makes you feel utterly at peace?

International Literacy Day

“International Literacy Day, celebrated annually on 8 September, is an opportunity for Governments, civil society and stakeholders to highlight improvements in world literacy rates, and reflect on the world’s remaining literacy challenges.”– UN.org

Literacy and Multilingualism is the theme of 2019 where the UN urges the peoples of the world to express solidarity with the linguistic diversity that is present in education and the development of literacy to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The reason why today is so essential is that literacy is for everyone, everywhere. My ability to read and write allows me to have this platform to express myself. I can pick up a book and get lost in another world that is unlike my own. I can pursue a career that I enjoy as well as further my future with the enrichment of my ancestors and diverse cultures.

I couldn’t imagine a world where I lack a way to communicate with the various cohorts I keep. I love my growing library and world of knowledge I have learned through the skills of literacy, but I understand how crucial maintaining diversity in our education systems is.

I keep a copy of Other-Wordly: words both strange and lovely from around the world on my coffee table to remind me how diverse languages can be and how some languages have words for feelings that the English language cannot sum up in a single phrase. I open it on occasions to familiarize myself not only with words but with emotions that I will then include in my writing.

Knowing there is a word like ‘querencia‘ which is a noun rooted in the Spanish language that means a place from which one’s strength is drawn, where one feels at home; the place where you are your most authentic self, means I not only am educating myself on new vocabulary from a language that was for a lot of my friends, their first language, but it’s reminding me about the places that I feel my most authentic self. 

I feel most at home with a blanket wrapped around my shoulder. I feel at home in the arms of my partner or with my toes dug into the warm sand. I feel most at home in Florida, London, Boulder, and New York City. I feel most at home with the crisp autumn air, crunching leaves, and an abundance of pumpkins.

The first time I truly felt like my authentic self, I couldn’t describe it. Still to this day when I recount my time in London, I say I “fell into what I wanted to be” “I changed into the person I felt like I have always was” because after feeling different for so long, it was great to feel the strength I always had at my core finally radiating a golden hue.

My native language isn’t going anywhere, but even if English is something many people know, that doesn’t mean we erase the languages that are so important to the histories of others. I’ve always appreciated that there is no national language of the United States because I never understood why others would say “you’re in America, speak English” to someone speaking a foreign language to their own. Irradicating someone’s culture isn’t necessary, but encouraging language diversity, education, and literacy are essential.

I urge my readers and followers to pick up a book today. I want you to read a page, a chapter, or the entire thing. I want to know what book you choose, what you learned from your moments reading, and how it made you feel.

I urge my readers to write something today for yourself. Write down your grocery list on paper, an encouraging quote on a Post-it note to place on your computer screen, or a letter to a loved one.

I want my readers and followers to take from the gift of literacy and do something positive with it today. Happy International Literacy Day!

 

Dairy-Free Carrot Cake

I am always on the lookout for alternative ingredients for baking. For a little bit of my life, I was fully committed to a vegan lifestyle when dairy products had my stomach doing somersaults until the aching pain began. After moving to New York City and dining on delicious Italian food and dollar pizza weekly, my stomach began to tolerate the dairy I slowly reintroduced it back into my diet. Since then, I would not consider myself vegan or vegetarian, but I do try my best to eat at least one meal a day that is either vegan or vegetarian; even if that meal is dessert!

With autumn in my sights, I am ready to celebrate with rich, spicy treats. This carrot cake is something I came across in my search for delicious desserts that I would love, and my vegan friends could enjoy with me. Below you will find the recipe, steps, and gifs that will guide you on experience this milk, butter, and egg-free cake yourself!

Also, stay tuned for the coming months as I use this recipe to make some autumn-themed treats as I finally pull out my flannels, put out my fall decor, begin binge-watching Hocus Pocus, and pinpoint all the orchards I want to visit over the next three months.

Full Disclosure, the frosting is not dairy-free, hence its absence from the post. I will include my cream cheese frosting for this final product at the end of the post, but I am currently experimenting with other dairy-free icing recipes! 

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Snapshot of the ingredients

Recipe

2 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar 1 tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon 
1 1/3 tsp. nutmeg 
2/3 tsp. salt
2 cups of almond milk 
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted or liquid state
1/2 cup maple syrup 
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 cups finely grated carrots 
1/3 cup raisin 
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts for decorating

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F and prep two 8-inch rough baking pans with spray oil, parchment paper, and flour. Spray the pan a bit, so the paper you cut to size sticks, and dust the pan with flour.
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Prepping the tins with spray oil, parchment paper, and a dusting of flour
2. Gather your ingredients. I have measured out all of my ingredients below to save some time trying to sort for what I need (although it makes extra dishes, it looks a bit more organized).
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The ingredients measured out and ready for mixing
3. Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
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Adding together the dry ingredients

4. Mix together the dry ingredients until they look well combined.

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Whisk, Baby, Whisk

5. Combine almond milk, applesauce, coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar in another mixing bowl.

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Whisk, Baby, Whisk

6. Whisk together the wet ingredients, so they are no longer separated and form a rich caramel color.

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The holy combined wet ingredients
7. Gradually add the liquid to the dry ingredients, mind you, I am using a 4-quart Pyrex mixing bowl for this recipe, a 2.5 quart is a tiny bit too small for the next whisking step.
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I wish I left the slopping noise on the gif
8. Thoroughly combine the ingredients together until you are sure there are no clumps of dry ingredients left. The batter should be slightly thick but on the runny side.
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Whisk, Baby, Whisk

9. Add in those finely shredded carrots. I left this process out because of how messy it can be. I used a tapered shredder that has a fine side and used about 2 VERY large carrots. Your hands will be orange, and you will be finding carrots for days after, but it’s worth it.

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Not Pictured: my orange fingertips
10. Raisin time! Add those babies in and stir it all up, at the end it will appear that everything has sunk to the bottom, but it’s there, don’t worry.
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Who knew vegetables and fruits belonged in a cake? 
11. Evenly pour the batter in your two pans, the batter should go about 2/3 of the way up the pan, and be mindful you don’t for all the raisins into one, we want those evenly distributed too!
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Looks a little lumpy, dealing with the oils can be hard, but I promise if it looks combined, it’s combined
12. Tap those babies down to loosen any air bubbles and put the pans in the oven for 35 minutes.
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Ready for the oven!
13. After the 30 minutes are up, take a fork and test to see if the middles are done by puncturing the middle and pulling it out; a clean fork is a happy cake!

14. Let the cakes rest in their cake tins for 10 minutes on a cooling rack, and then after ten minutes, they should just fall right out when you tip them over. I peeled off the parchment paper to help the steam release for an optimal cooling period.
15. Let the cakes completely cool before frosting with your favorite dairy-free or dairy-full cream cheese frosting; no one wants a melted frosting regardless if it has dairy or not. (See my recipe below!)
16. You can decorate with walnuts like I have, or not, the choice is yours! But you better cut & enjoy 😊
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Bonus Recipe

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
8 oz of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract 
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  1. With an electric beater, cream together butter and cream cheese until well combined.
  2. Add in vanilla, mix. 
  3. Sift in powdered sugar slowly, possibly a cup at a time at low speed with an electric beater, until the final cup is combined. If you want a richer vanilla flavor, and a touch more. 
  4. Frost away! 

Last Week of Summer

Well, it is the last week of August, which mean the “-ber” months are upon us; “-ber” meaning September, October, November, otherwise known as the best time of the year. I am ready for the days where morning mist pushes up against my rosy cheeks and causes me to tighten my layered jacket around my shoulders. I am looking forward to afternoons illuminated with a soft, golden light that cascades across the yellowing leaves in Central Park. I have waited all year for this time to great us, but we still have one last week of summer.

As summers go, this one has been relatively eventful and problematic. I officially have a degree, but as of today, I am still sending off my resume to jobs, I have little interest in because I am craving a job that seems to be on pause. I have traveled the most this summer out of many summers before, but I think I have lost chances to win over potential companies because of my travels. However, I did finally cross off Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon off my 50 State Countdown list, but I didn’t get a chance to visit my family or home. The last time I was in Florida was 2018, and I miss watching the sunset fade below the horizon as I dug my pedicured toes into the warm sand.

I anticipated having a job before August was over, but it looks like I will begin autumn the way I began summer; hunting. It is strange to think I have spent the majority of summer in front of this laptop typing away at cover letters and tailoring my resume for the various jobs, a task that seems tedious and boring, however, this summer has flown by regardless of the fact that I have been stationary for a lot of it.

Maybe its because I spent over a month traveling the country, or maybe its because although it has been a trying summer, I have done everything I can to sprinkle in activities that make me happy. I take breaks from applying to read, write, and cook. I have spent afternoons dreaming up new book ideas, autumn activities, and decorating ideas for the apartment. There were happy hour dates, movies on the pier, and picnics in the park. I spent afternoons sipping lemonade with my friends and evenings drinking frozé until our brains froze and our words slurred.

I am excited that autumn has come to an end, but it has been a long time since I had a summer like this, and these memories will always stay with me. I won’t miss the sauna that our apartment transformed into or the stench of the heated trash on the sidewalks, but I’ll miss the laughs fighting over the spot next to the A/C and the neighbors enjoying the brownstone stoops while children laugh and ride their scooters. With this being the last week of summer, I have made my list for the final stretch of the season.

To-Do

  • Purge the remnants of summer’s clutter and ready the apartment for the changing of seasons.
  • Get a meal prepping schedule down, so I can continue to enhance my cooking knowledge before I fall into an “I’m too busy to cook” mentality.
  • Grab a Mister Dips from an icecream truck, and enjoy it while the sun sets over midtown while the vanilla trails down the back of my hand and sprinkles fall to the sidewalk.
  • Take my bags to the Columbus Street Farmers Market, and locally source a summer meal.
  • Enjoy a meal on the patio of a new restaurant before all “outdoor” seating is stored away for the year.
  • Fill out my travel journal, or at least compile all the memories from this summer spent on the road, so I can look forward to what is to come.
  • Make a change to the apartment; paint a wall, put up wallpaper, or just make it a cozy place for the months spent snuggling indoors.
  • Keep up the momentum on job applications and nail a career that I would be proud to grow with.
  • Burn the last remaining “summer scents” and get the pumpkin candles ready.
  • Plan for the apple picking afternoons that are to come in the next month.

Tell me, what is on your final summer to-do list? 

I Wrote a Novel

For my Master’s thesis, I undertook 280+ pages of pure emotion that bleed throughout my first completed fiction piece. I only needed to write a 20-page academic paper to get my degree, but my advisor encouraged me to write a novel because it is what I want to do in life. It was hard, but I did it

Entering February, I only had a 1/4 of my book done and I needed it completed before the end of March. In April, I found myself trying to edit my book, but there was so much more I neede to accomplish, including actually writing that 20-page academic paper.

Although the novel isn’t where I wish I would be, I would love to share my site, some samples of my book, and where you can find it as I start the process of publishing my work. I look forward to blogging more about my process and the steps that are to come in the

Book Synopsis

Elizabeth Calhoun fantasizes about her child’s future, while her daughter, Annabelle, fights for her life after a devastating accident. The traumatizing sight of her daughter in pain spurs Elizabeth to gather her thoughts into letters for Annabelle to read. For two years, Elizabeth fills the letters with stories and advice while imagining a world where her daughter opens them after turning eighteen.

What remains on the page is a mother looking back on vulnerable teenage years, misguided decisions, and serendipitous first loves, all while reexamining who she is as a person. The letters tether the mother and daughter together through a collection of memories that Elizabeth uses to uncover who she is through the words of wisdom she aims to pass along to her daughter.

To face the harrowing details of love, anger, grief, and relationships, Elizabeth must come to terms with her daughter’s altered life journey and meet her darkest temptations. Through the process of Elizabeth’s passage through madness, depression, and pain, this evolving stack of letters collect on her desk and become a refuge that both heals and terrifies a mother.

About the Novel

I conceived the idea of Open When, my first self published novel, while reflecting ways I have tried to help my friends and family through trying times. During my time spent writing, I traveled to Leavenworth, Washinton to experience life in such a unique city. From there the idea of having letter writing tether two lives together inspired the epistolary form of the letters. The entirety of the novel is narrated by Elizabeth, the mother, as she encounters advice that her daughter may need in the future while still maintaining the form we have all come to know within letter writing. The novel had its first reading on May 10th, 2019 during “XE Thesis Symposium” where I presented on the Explorations of Form.

Enchantment Park, Leavenworth, Washington when I was on-site for research 

Sample of the Book

Purchasing a Copy

Within the immediate future, I will revisit the manuscript, initially prepared for my graduate thesis, and prep it for literary agents to manifest it across bookshelves in the future as a way to inspire more to understand life’s most difficult times. In the meantime, Open When is available for purchase on Lulu Publishing.

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Final Month of Autumn

Autumn is my happy time—I thrive for the overcast days that mist the fresh air and amber leaves. It is the perfect time for warm sweaters, tea, and cuddles under a flannel blanket. Outside of my cozy time, Autumn inspires me the most. It is when I head out to the park and just take in my surroundings. When my journals overflow with ideas and I can’t help but be happy.

By now, Autumn has slowly crept into to New York City. I remained patient for the month of September, filled my October with jackets, boots, and Hocus Pocus every day, and I am prepping for my first Thanksgiving this month. This time last year, I was still settling into the fast-paced lifestyle I found myself in. I could not fully enjoy my first fall in The City, because I was incredibly sick and a negative headspace. I still had fall films on repeat, but I was limited on what I felt up for. I did, however, get out of the city for a weekend, and it was my best decision yet.

To ring in autumn, I boarded an early train to Poughkeepsie, New York, to explore Dubois Farm. I was excited to explore their Annual Harvest Festival, and as a Florida girl, I had never experienced apple picking. I came home with pounds of apples, pumpkins, and yummy apple cider donuts. The remainder of October I prepped my home with decorations and lit every fall candle I could find.

My partner picked our outfits this year, based on my affinity for scary makeup and dead costumes. I have a feeling I make him watch Harry Potter a bit too often, but everyone at the bars and parties enjoyed our couple costumes as Moaning Myrtle and Cedric Diggory. I was sad to see October go, but now it is time for my first November in New York. 

I started walking to work this month — the wind kisses my cheeks and turns them a rosy-hue, while I wake up during my morning commute. I know the winter will be cold, but for now, the colors in Central Park make my morning a lot brighter.

This time of year inspires me to give and be thankful so I have decided to host Thanksgiving at my house for my friends, and have volunteered myself to make multiple gâteaus for my work’s potluck. Hopefully, I will find some time to capture everything as I take on this new endeavor, but I am excited for the coming weeks! For now, I am enjoying the final month of Autumn.