June 30, 2016

The End of an Era

I'm writing this just a few hours before we officially close on our house in Saint Paul. It's so exciting to have found a seller so quickly, but I'm a bundle of nerves because things happen at these appointments. We left this house a few years ago, but recently went back and put a ton of work into it. We are so proud of the work we did and the fact that we stuck to our 5-7 year plan. It's the perfect home for a young couple and we are excited for the next owner to make their memories here.

I saved some pictures from a few years ago so you could see the before and after shots. I was busy getting my hands dirty, so I didn't do as good as I should have, but it's better than nothing.



That's what it looked like when we bought it. That front yard had issues - the retaining walls were built with timbers and they were rotting and falling. The bright red kitchen walls inspired me to buy a bunch of horrible kitchen stuff that we sold in the garage sale when we moved out east. Don't even get me started on the vinyl selections. The rest of the house had old carpet and the bathrooms had huge orange cabinets that filled the space. But really, we loved every inch of it.

So now, some in progress photos from April (and some from earlier - my timeline is off a bit.)







Normally I don't endorse a product that probably has chemicals galore, but we needed something that would take care of a stain and this shit worked.


And for those of you that missed my snapchat coverage of the final walkthrough of the house, you don't need to worry anymore. I downloaded the whole video for your viewing pleasure. Also, you can follow me on snapchat: stephgregerson (I just realized that most of this is horizontal, but I'm leaving it.)


And there she is. The red door was a game changer in my opinion. My dad and company killed it on the front yard retaining walls (his website is here.) It was a lot of work, but worth every second.




I'm so grateful for the time we spent in this house, the things we learned, the memories we made. The nights playing dice on the patio, the blizzard parties with beer & friends, the movie nights in the theater room, the dogs sunbathing in the living room, walks around Como Lake and Creamy Cone, Christmas morning with my family, Easter Egg hunts with our nieces, poker nights in the garage. Then I started reading these old posts.

This was our first home that we owned. It was our first big purchase as a married couple. We had so many fun times there. It feels weird because we said goodbye to that house when we packed up and move out east, but this is more final. We won't be stepping across that threshold ever again. It's a crazy feeling, but life goes on.


June 17, 2016

Summertime To-Do's

The longest day of the year is about to happen which means summer has officially arrived. Although I'm in the camp that believes it starts Memorial Day, but whatever. Each year I share our list of to-do's for the summer. I reread last years list and realize I failed at 2 and they are back on the list this year. 


1. Get to Boston. It's our favorite city to visit and we haven't been since we moved to the east coast. We are 3 hours away and we haven't been back - it just seems wrong. Plus, it's Big Papi's last season and it would be fun to get back to Fenway.

2. See some live music (outdoors is preferable.) We don't have any on the list right now for the summer - just one concert in October. I'd like to get to at least one or two shows.

3. Pitch the tent. Even if it's in a backyard, I want to make sure we use our tent again this year. This post is the last time it happened and it's two years old.

4. Hike in NJ. Anywhere really. I just feel like we haven't spent enough time exploring the garden state.

5. Visit a new local brewery. We checked off the Bronx Brewery last week and I remember how much I like trying new beers. Plus, so many locations have food trucks, games and awesome outdoor spaces. Let me know if you have a favorite in the area.

6. Experience one new baseball park. Philly and DC - we are overdue. I'm coming for you.

7. See the National Parks Imax movie on a rainy day. It's a special year for the NPS as it celebrates a milestone birthday. We visited Shenandoah National Park over Memorial Day and since I might not check anymore off my list this summer, I would at least like to check out the movie.

8. Get to Governor's Island for the first time. Yep, still haven't been there.

9. Make a return trip to Steve's Key Lime Pies and share with friends. We visited this place for our birthdays last year with my mom and it did not disappoint, Key Lime is one of my favorites to have in dessert and this place in Red Hook is an institution. Now that I'm thinking about it, I might have to go this weekend.

10. Volunteer. We are officially City Harvest volunteers and want to get a few events on the calendar. Plus, I definitely want to do more beach clean ups throughout the summer.

11. Plan a fall trip.

12. Get rid of more stuff before we move. We are under the three month mark and I'm making Goodwill drop off runs at least twice a month. Moving is a bitch and I don't want to move anything that we won't be keeping at the new place - wherever you are.

Plus all the usual stuff. Phone free days, reading lots of book, continuing our no-waste kitchen goals, exploring with the dogs, exercising. These things don't have a season, they are just always on my list. So what's on your summer list? I hope whatever it is, it includes a lot of days like the one pictured below.




Life According to Steph

June 16, 2016

Filibuster: Not Just a Fun Word to Say

#filibuster
#holdthefloor
#enough
#disarmhate

This is how I spent my Wednesday evening. I went online to find some trending hashtags to write a twitter post and I discovered that a huge political moment was happening.

A FILIBUSTER!

I had to go backwards and do some research while tuning into this. It's been a while since I've studied the different events in the US Government. And yes, I'm a little embarrassed (and excited) about how much I learned.

The google definition of filibuster is an action such as prolonged speech that obstructs progress in a legislative assembly while not technically contravening the required procedures. Last night, this was led by Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut.

I've read about these in the news before. I've read stories of people reading nursery rhymes to take up time and all kinds of ridiculous tactics. But last night was pretty incredible to watch. My laptop was tuned into C-SPAN and Twitter from 5:30 until midnight.

I read so many tweets - some were encouraging, some were hilarious and some were completely off-putting. I felt pride for a few of the senators I have voted for in the past. Hearing these politicians speak and watch them hold the floor is pretty incredible.

These were speeches of passion and desire for change. They discussed lobbyists and the NRA and their impact on some of the people in the room. People were engaged on social media and I know Cory Booker's voicemail was full of people calling in. How often does that happen?

There was a lot of conversation about thoughts & prayers not being enough for these victims. Senator Booker quoted Frederick Douglass at one point saying "I prayed for freedom for twenty years, but received no answer until I prayed with my legs." 

Even though the vote didn't happen last night and the change hasn't been made, after spending that time watching these people in action, I felt a little hope. This election has made me sad and a little afraid - people's anger on the internet and their comments so filled with hate and discrimination. A democracy works when there is productive conversation - when both sides of an issue are willing to listen. The news shares images of people punching each other and violent protests breaking out at rallies. That isn't productive.

Last night was a welcomed display of our government in action, people having conversation, people saying things respectfully and factually to get things accomplished. Instead of spending our time on Facebook reposting memes and videos (although I love everything shared from John Oliver), let's have meaningful and productive conversations. Learn the facts, ask the questions. One of my favorite things said last night was that we don't have to be heroes, but we can't be bystanders.


Today, I urge you to contact your state representative and let them know where you stand. Know that you are heard when you reach out to them. Check out the highlights from the speeches last night. So many made me extremely emotional. Hearing a story about a Holocaust survivor that was killed at Virginia Tech and a health aide that died trying to protect a student at Sandy Hook. You can do something today to have your voice heard - even if you disagree with what they are trying to do (although I don't really know how that's possible.)

I don't get preachy here very often, but last night, I finally felt connected to some things happening in Washington and I couldn't sit quietly about it today. I kept thinking about Leslie Knope - I know that seems ridiculous while discussing something so important, but it was just because of her level of excitement about our government. I've been trying to learn more lately and be more informed about history and our past presidents as well as the current process and system. Last night was my first live filibuster viewing and I think that's pretty cool.


On a lighter note, I hate when Netflix judges me for "still watching" but now I have to hear it from C-SPAN too? This happened to me 4 times.











June 15, 2016

Pura Vida: Costa Rica Highlights

Even though it's been four months since our Costa Rica friends trip, the weather here is starting to remind me of those days by the pool or walking on the beach. Summer has arrived and my flamingo can't wait to get back out in the water.

I've shared my recap of senses, shared with you pictures of the house we stayed in, and showed you our favorite beaches here and again here. I finally got all of our video clips together and edited down, so I wanted to finish sharing pics with you on the other highlights of our trip.

Llanos de Cort├ęs Waterfall


Waterfalls are always high on my list when visiting new places. This one was about an hour drive from our house and it was pretty cool to see the cloud forest from the road. You have to pay a few dollars to park when you arrive and the parking lot is sandy and dirty. It's a little surprising when you climb down to the little oasis near the falls. 

The falls were pretty busy when we were there, even though the guide book said weekdays are quiet. We were lucky enough to run into a lady that told us to hike a little ways away from the main falls because there is a hidden pool not more than 100 yards away. We enjoyed that little area all to ourselves.






Serendipity Charters - Playa Flamingo


This was one of trip advisors most recommended tours, so we had to give it a shot. It books up quickly, so I'm happy one of our friends thought to book in advance. We did a half day private tour and it was perfection. There were 8 of us on the boat plus Captain Brad and one helper. He had fishing poles, drinks, food and snorkeling gear. He brought us to a beach area so we could swim and jump off the boat for a while. 

Check out their website for all their different options, but definitely try and make it happen if you're in the area.  Also, I took way more video than photos on the boat, so you'll see it more if you watch the vid.




ATV Tours of the Beach


This was one of our last days and I wish we would have done it sooner. It's one of those activities I wouldn't have ever booked for myself, but I'm not going to pass up a group thing. I was so surprised at how much fun it was. I'm so happy that we did it. We got to see all kinds of wildlife and little towns that we hadn't seen yet on our beach trips. We also took the trails up one of the near hills and got some beautiful views of the ocean. One thing is for sure - you definitely get dirty, but jumping in the ocean and having a cold margarita afterwards made it the perfect way to spend a day.





Pura Vida - A Final Word on Costa Rica


You will see that saying everywhere in the country. It's on bumper stickers, flags, t shirts and artwork. Most of the locals will greet you that way. After spending a week enjoying this beautiful country, it becomes clear that this is their way of life. The simple English translation is "pure life" but it has such a deeper meaning there. It will be hard to find a place in the world with people as friendly as the ones we met there. They are welcoming and helpful and every experience we had was wonderful. I can understand why my dad is ready to pick up and move there. 

Now, if you want more Costa Rica, here is the highlight reel:


Where is your favorite warm weather destination? 
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June 13, 2016

Focusing on the Sunshine

This weekend we were home. It was a nice change of pace. We had only fun plans and the weather was perfection. Here are my last 10 iPhone photos to help with a little recap of my weekend.


This little message is painted on the sidewalk near our apartment. I snapped this while walking the pups Friday morning. It's starting to fade a little, but I love it the same.


Working from home with dogs can be a bit noisy or distracting sometimes - they always like to bark loudly while I'm facilitating conference calls. But then there are many moments like this where they just want to quietly sit by you and my heart just melts.


Took a quick screenshot of this book announcement, because I had to inform my other Bravo watching friends. They aren't for everyone, but I find them insanely entertaining and I just might have signed copies of his other two.


Saturday afternoon, we went to a BBQ in our friends' backyard. This is Wally (follow him on Instagram for the cutest pictures and most hilarious hashtags.) We spent hours enjoying the sunshine, occasional breeze, some yard games and good food & drinks.


Our drive home from the BBQ gave us a pretty amazing view of Manhattan. I was in the passenger seat and took this while we were moving. I guess I thought I could get some Instagram worthy picture at this moment, but it's a little blurry and off center - still a beautiful setting.



Sunday AM, Justin went surfing super early and I took my iced coffee out to the pier to enjoy a sunrise. It wasn't quite as good as the one they saw from the beach, but it's nice to have that outdoor space to myself. A quiet sunrise is one of my favorite things - it helps reset, find peace and gratitude, plus your whole day is more enjoyable when you are up with the sun.


Once I came inside from the pier, I just sat on the couch and read for a few hours. The morning light in our apartment is one of my favorite things.


Sunday afternoon consisted of some exploration to some parts of the city that we don't visit too often. We are beginning our hunt for our next home and we want to make sure we are informed about options. We tried out the Bronx Brewery in SoBro. The brewery was hosting some crossfit competitions while we were there, so we sat in the sunshine, drank beers and watched a bunch of super strong people jump and lift big things over their heads. It was kind of like cheering on a marathon runner, but enough that both of us agreed that it probably wasn't our thing.


Our other stop of the day was the northern part of Manhattan called Inwood Hills. We enjoyed some awesome food at Park View Cafe and then just wandered the streets a little bit taking it all in.

New York City is big. To actually explore and spend time in all the neighborhoods would be a lifelong journey especially because of how quickly things change. I'm really looking forward to our weekend adventures this summer that lead us to new streets, parks, restaurants and areas than any we've previously explored.

I was lucky enough to be filled with lots of positive communities and people this weekend - sharing love and time together. After waking up to the horrible news about Orlando on Sunday, it feels wrong to talk about a weekend filled with sunshine, but I have to focus on love and light. We all do.


Linking up with Biana finally :)

June 10, 2016

How's It Going?

Friday has arrived. I'm blurting today.

I have so many things I want to share on the blog and NONE of them are SEO or traffic driven (although I have a post about what has happened to blogging that is in the draft folder.) I want to share my NOLA trip, our birthday weekend in Virginia and lots fun NYC things because I can do whatever I want here. Stay tuned for all these fun things:



This tweet has kicked off the beginning of the general election season. Looks like it will be like watching Celebrity Apprentice... eff. Don't worry, he also responded back to her - because Twitter arguments are for mature adults and wannabe leaders of the United States. Insert {face palm emoji} here.

If it's all becoming too much, go follow this hilarious Donny Trump account on Twitter and play my game of trying to figure out if it's the actual Donald or this guy when you first read the tweet. It's harder than you think it would be. Also, @pimpbillclinton is hilarious (aka Netflix and Bill.)

Do you follow our videos on youtube? I do those quarterly recaps and I never posted my winter video here. Click here to subscribe so you don't miss any that I forget to post on the blog in the future.

I hope all of you have a comfort zone like Quincy does. I snapped my airline pillow around his neck the other night while he was looking for a spot to lay down. 20 minutes, I came into the living room to find this:


Sorry, it's a little like dog porn, but seriously - this is his life.

I'm so excited that the weekend is almost here. It's our first weekend home in quite some time. I'm hoping for donuts, Sunday strolling, a BBQ with friends and book reading.

Also, wishing a very happy birthday to the only friend I know that references Unicorns and Flamingos in every conversation.


The title of this? I'm genuinely curious how everyone is feeling today? Are you even still reading? Will most of you skip commenting below? If I would have typed different words meaning vagina throughout this post, would you have noticed? Tell me - HOW ARE YOU and what are you doing this weekend?


June 7, 2016

My Favorite Podcasts

I feel like I was late to the podcast game. I didn't really understand what they were. Then I started seeing people talk about Serial and had to figure it out for myself. Now they are a staple on long road trips or bus/train commutes in the city. I used to listen to talk radio a lot because I liked hearing different people's thoughts on current events. This is similar with SO MANY OPTIONS. These are the 6 I currently subscribe to. 

iTunes


1. Presidential - This one has been one of my favorites for the last few weeks. With a big election happening later this year, the Washington Post decided to feature one president each Sunday until the election. The 30-45 minute podcast goes through some information that wasn't in your history books. They interview different experts on the presidents and even ask the weekly question about going on a blind date with them and how the expert would describe their personality. They share love letters, family background and other tidbits about their life and sometimes their death.  Since they have been going for a few months now, there are lots to binge listen to if you have a road trip coming up.

2. Beautiful/Anonymous - Comedian Chris Gerhart spends 60 minutes talking to an anonymous caller about whatever comes up in the conversation. The descriptions for each episode will give you a little bit of an idea, but sometimes you get shocked where the conversation leads. His only rule is that he hangs up at 60 minutes but not one second before if the caller is still talking to him.

3. The Bitch Bible - If you aren't a fan of swearing, drinking and Bravo - this is not a podcast for you. But since those things entertain me, I will tune into this one every once in a while. It's good for a public transportation commute when I can't get my book out.

4. Serial - I'm sure this comes as no surprise to anyone. This is on most lists. I think the popularity of this podcast is why a lot of people tuned into Making a Murderer on Netflix. The second season is definitely different, but we are still listening to it. It's interesting hearing to the current story. I remember hearing about it on the news, but this goes so much more in depth. Am I the only one that stayed with it for a second season?

5. This American Life - This one of the best podcasts. It covers so many different topics and tells stories that you didn't even know you wanted to hear. I've learned about so many different places, occupations and people through this podcast.

6. Anna Faris is Unqualified - If you love Anna Faris, this is just her talking to her friends and different guests about whatever they want. The episode with Olivia Munn was the first one I listened to. Things got a little gross when they started talking about having babies and I'm pretty sure Justin had nightmares, but I will tune into this one when in the car.

Special Mention: My friend, Steph, has a podcast that I've recently added to my list and will be catching up on as soon as I've done some of my reading :) If you are a book nerd, you can read more about their podcast here.

Tell me - which Podcasts do you listen to? I excited to add some news ones to my list.

June 6, 2016

Best Ways to Hit Reset

Part of growing up is getting to know yourself better. My sanity has been saved multiple times over the last few years because I've learned the signs when I'm starting to spin a little too fast and lost control. 

Waking up in the middle of the night worried about a million things, little desire to say yes to social outings, avoiding phone calls or emails, trouble concentrating, irritable... the list goes on.

These things can happen to me when there are big changes in my future, when I'm working on a big project for work or when I feel like things are going just fine. I've learned that a reset for me is necessary quite often and I've learned some of the best ways to accomplish that, even if I'm on a time crunch. 


If you have 5 Minutes:

Try a five minute meditation.

Find a new favorite quote. Pinterest is full of them.

Reread your goals.

Call your best friend.

Write things down. Get that pen to paper and make a list of something or write about your dreams. I have a small journal with one question each day and I love it. You can find it here.

Have a dance party to your favorite song. Currently, I recommend the newest Justin Timberlake song.

If you have 5 Hours:

Light a candle, pour your favorite hot drink and grab a book. Dive in. I love reading and napping back and forth for an entire afternoon if possible.

Take a long walk outside. Hike in a park near you.

Do a deep clean of your space. I know that can take longer than 5 hours, but if you work on for that long, you will feel a difference. If you live in a small apartment, it might only take 5 hours.

Host a game night with some of your favorite people. We love an intense game of Risk every few months or so (it can take hours.) Sometimes laughter, competition and maybe a little wine can help get you back on the happy train.

Plan your next vacation. Read some travel books or blogs. If you can't book it, figure out a savings plan and a budget and start making it a reality. Planning can be part of the fun.

If you have 5 Days:

Go somewhere without cell signal. Spend the time by a fire, in the woods, in a hammock... you can picture it.

Get in the car and head out on a road trip. Bring your tent and an atlas.

Take a few days off work and have a staycation. Visit all your favorite local haunts, sleep in and maybe cross something off your DIY Pinterest Board.

Go home. Sometimes going back to where you come from can help remind you how far you've come and what's important to you.

Take a social media break. If you can't shut off from work or don't have extra cash for a quick trip away, sometimes just shutting yourself off from the other people in your social network can actually help reset. Go visit them in person, send a letter in the mail - just take a break from Facebook, Instagram, etc.

***************

Hitting reset is good for the body and the mind. It's important to step back from the craziness sometimes and just make sure you are getting your happy fill. I know this summer is going to be a little crazy for us (currently: I'm on a plane flying to Minnesota for a 48 hour whirlwind) so I'll be checking in with this list often. Let me know what I'm missing. What do you do to reset?


June 3, 2016

5 Things for your Friday


Happy Friday. I am so grateful for short weeks. These last 4 days have seemed insanely long during the work hours and I'm excited to have a weekend rolling back around again. Here are a few things I wanted to share.

1. Today is National Doughnut Day. Prepare yourselves for an entire day of perfectly staged Instagram photos with colorful backgrounds. I'm refusing to celebrate today because I believe this day should happen whenever you want it to.

2. I'm super excited to make a quick trip back to Minnesota for a wedding this weekend. It's also my second time using Rent the Runway. I got a little too cocky on the sizes this time around and I'm hoping that the dress will zip up tomorrow.

3. I'm behind on my goal of 40 books this year, so I'm focusing on finding more time to read books by trying a few of these ideas from The Every Girl. I don't usually read before bed, but I love weekend mornings and a quiet hour after work each day to dive into a book.

4. The Head and the Heart finally has new music. It's just one song, but it's always a good day when one of our favorites put new things into the world.

5. We finally started watching Game of Thrones. We still have the old school Netflix account that sends DVD's via the mail and that's how we are going to watch it. It's healthy because we can only watch 2-3 episodes per session. I didn't think I'd like this show at all, but I realized I was wrong.

Now I'm off to pour a giant coffee and get after this work day. Tonight, we will be indulging in a few more GOT episodes so I'm hoping the hours fly by today. Enjoy your doughnuts.

June 1, 2016

Currently...


I'm currently...

Excited for a Minnesota wedding of a good college friend this weekend. It will be a super quick trip there and back, but it's fun to see a bunch of people in one place - especially when there's dancing involved.

Reading Holy Cow. It's been on my "to-read" list forever and I finally remembered to get it from the library. It's not the greatest book I've ever read, but it's always cool to read all about different travel experiences.

Catching up on videos from the last few months. You can check out our most recent video on our YouTube channel and let me know what you think. I'll have Costa Rica and New Orleans up soon.

Eating food that isn't good for me. It was birthday month and I ate a lot of bread and cheese and not enough vegetables. I'm making a comeback this month. Until I look at pictures like this one of mac & cheese and tots... it's hard to be healthy. We've been doing good at not wasting any food though so mission almost accomplished.


Planning our next life move. It's a little overwhelming, but mostly exciting. I probably won't be in the same mental state in two months though, so stay tuned.

Enjoying the summer weather that has arrived. The east coast had so much damn rain the last month and I'm so happy to see the sunshine finally show up. I can't wait for all the afternoons to hang out at places like the Rockaway Beach Surf Club.


Buying as little as possible right now. We will be packing up our belongings in a few months and the less we have to deal with, the better we will all feel.

Craving Sangria and all things Rose. Also, watermelon, strawberries, kiwis, veggie hot dogs, veggie burgers, cold beer. All things summer time.

Pinning all the things that I'm not buying. I've had a few Pinterest binge sessions lately. Follow me here so I can follow you back. I love seeing how other people organize their Pinterest boards. I feel like I'm a little behind the game and unorganized about it. I'm also happy this didn't exist when I was planning our wedding.

Shocked that my husband and I have been together for 11 years. He is my person and every adventure is amazing.


Missing my birthday buddies. We just spent the best weekend in Virginia exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains. There were sing alongs, amazing hikes, beautiful overlooks, lots of cheese and one giant waterfall. I'll be sharing some awesome photos we took in the next week or so because I miss our mountain house already and hope to get another trip on the books soon.

Linking up with Anne and Kristin because I love seeing posts like these.

Happy June! Hope Summer weather is happening where you are.