Where Have I Been? Life Update

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The last time you heard from me was late January. It’s now mid-April, and a lot has changed. I’m excited to get back to blogging on a regular basis, and to document this new life I’m leading. I was nervous to go all-in. Now, I’m just really excited.

For those of you who don’t know, April 9, 2019 was my last day as a health and wellness reporter for Elite Daily. I’ll admit, I wasn’t ready for my time at Elite to end just yet. I had been toying with the idea of going full-time freelance for some time; I would eventually make the transition, I just didn’t know when I’d commit to making that leap. Evidently, the universe did.

I am a firm believer in the notion that everything happens for a reason. Despite that fun fact though, when I got the call from HR that the health and wellness vertical was being shut down, and that, in a few weeks, my position would no longer be available, I was crushed. I’d never been laid off before, and even though I knew this kind of thing happens a lot in my industry, especially lately, I guess it’s true what they say about that “it’ll never happen to me,” mentality: We all have it, until it does happen to us. I cried for a day, talked it through for hours with Mark, and woke up the next morning with a fresh perspective (and a massive headache).

Flash forward to just over one month later, and my first week leading that full-time freelance life is coming to a close. Obviously it’s still early, but I’m loving the fact that, now, I’m not on anyone else’s schedule. I don’t have to write articles that don’t interest me. I can write for more than one outlet. I have time to pursue my next dream. The dream. The dream I’ve dreamt since I was 10 years old: To be a novelist.

In the months leading up to my leaving Elite Daily, I’d honestly felt stuck. Something was missing. I didn’t feel fulfilled. Which, by the way, I know isn’t always possible. Work isn’t necessarily meant to be fun all the time, and I’m not naive to that truth. However, I knew I wanted something a little different, and every conversation I had with Mark about this itching feeling came back to creative writing.

Up until mid-January, it had been six years since I’d written anything creative. I hadn’t even attempted to write a single poem in that time frame, let alone an entire manuscript. What’s even more jarring is that before writing my thriller novella junior year of college, I hadn’t written a story longer than a few pages since sophomore year of high school. What can I say? I guess inspiration strikes once every six years for me (I’m kidding, I hope).


When Mark came home from work the day I got laid off, we sat on our bed, talked things through, and he said something that changed my entire perspective. It was something along the lines of “You wanted to write articles for publications. You did that (and still are doing that). Maybe now is the time to pursue another dream. The dream of being a novelist.” (If you haven’t noticed, Mark is really good at saying the right thing, but the best part is, he’s 100% sincere every time.)

So that’s where I’ve been, and that’s what I’m now pursuing. Currently, I’m a freelance writer for Shape.com, MindBodyGreen, Eat This, Not That!, and INSIDER, with the flexibility of taking on new opportunities if they suit my lifestyle and interests. It’s taken me a while to build my reputation in this industry, and to know exactly what I’m worth feels amazing. It also feels amazing to set my own hours, and, while I’m working, be able to set aside a piece of content if I’m feeling blocked, and put in a load of laundry or wash dishes. I love being a wife and taking care of my husband and home, and the more time I’m allotted to do that, the better. To be honest, I was a little nervous to make this transition because I was afraid what people would think of me. The format of my job is untraditional, but it’s also pretty incredible and I love feeling like my time is mine now. I can do with it what I please.

My novel is my passion project, and I’m determined to finish my manuscript by the time we’re all ringing in the year 2020. So far, I’ve (hand)written over 100 pages, but have recently decided to go back to the drawing board and reconstruct some things. I’ve been dedicating these last few days to outline, and have 18 chapters planned out. It’s intimidating, and scary, because I am so passionate about writing, and becoming a published novelist. It’s what I’ve always wanted to pursue; now that I actually am, it’s a little daunting. But I have a great support system in my husband, my parents, family, and friends.

When I first launched Always, Julia Rose, I had intended for this platform to be yet another health and wellness blog to add to the pile. Health, wellness, food, and fitness are still topics I’m interested in (your girl loves a good sweat and loves a good donut even more), but I’m starting to revert back to my roots — reading and writing. So from here on out, the content of this blog is probably going to be centered around writing updates, maybe some book reviews of what I’m reading (mostly to keep me accountable, and it’s a great way for me to learn new tactics for my own writing), and some wellness content sprinkled into the mix. I’ll also be resuming my Sunday Surveys because, well, I just like answering questions.

Hopefully you’re still with me. I know that was a lot of writing and a few major points to catch up on. I’ll leave you with a quote that I believe sums up where I’m at in life right now:

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” - Stephen King

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Sunday Survey II

This past week flew on by, and even though I was technically off from Elite Daily, I was so incredibly productive. I dedicated a lot of time to my manuscript and to this blog, and I couldn't be happier with all the creative juices that have been flowing. That being said, I'm also thrilled to still have one day left of freedom because I'm kind of exhausted (in the best, most satisfying way possible). 

What better way to end off an only semi-lazy weekend than with a cup of tea and a survey, right? Well, the only thing that really could have made this moment even sweeter was if the Saints had won earlier today. Damn Rams. Needless to say I'll be rooting for the Patriots come February 3. Partially because I like Tom Brady, but mostly because I'm salty the Rams beat my Cowboys last weekend. On to next season. 

1. What is the closest red item to you?

A can of cherry Bubly sparkling water. It was the perfect beverage to sip with dinner — a hearty bowl of vegetarian chili.

2. What are you craving right now?

I've been craving pie for two weeks now. Apple, cherry, or chocolate will do. 

3. What comes to mind when you hear the word cabbage?

Those creepy dolls. 

4. Do you bite or lick ice cream?

A little bit of both, but it really depends on the consistency of the ice cream. If it's hard, then biting is acceptable I think. If it's soft serve and melting quickly, obviously licking would be my first line of defense to prevent mess, but sometimes you just want to take a huge bite off the top. 

5. Have you ever met a celebrity?

I've met a surprising amount of celebrities. Definitely more than I ever would have imagined I would. 

6. How many countries have you been to?

Four: Ireland, Sweden, Canada, and Costa Rica.

7. Are your parents strict?

My parents weren't strict, per se. That being said, they definitely didn't let me just up and do whatever I wanted. There were rules I had to follow, but I always thought they were fair. 

8. Do you own something from Hot Topic?

I do! A "Sleeping With Sirens" t-shirt. 

9. Are you sarcastic?

When I'm in a mood.

10. What is your favorite song at the moment?

Breathin' by Ariana Grande or Without Me by Halsey.

11. Have you ever been compared to a famous person?

Yes. A few people told me I looked like Demi Lovato in high school. These days I get compared to Emma Roberts a lot. I see it sometimes. Anyone else?

12. What's something you'd like to be for a day and why?

Carefree. I am always concerned about something, and I deal with a lot of anxiety. It would be nice to know what it feels like not to worry about anything for a day. 

13. What is your favorite item of clothing?

My wedding dress. Never have I ever felt more beautiful than I did in that fairytale of a dress on April 7, 2017. If we're talking about everyday clothes, I really love my v-neck tank tops from Express, and there are a few sweaters I could live in, given the option. 

14. How would you spend your ideal day?

Mark hit the nail on the head with this one on my 27th birthday. Bagels for breakfast, a Starbuck's coffee to sip on into the afternoon. Spending a few hours in Barnes and Noble, leisurely going through each bookshelf, a yummy dinner with wine, and something chocolate for dessert with a cup of tea all with my love by my side. I'd probably write, too. Have tea with my mom, visit with my sisters, talk to my dad about football. 

15. Favorite part of your daily routine?

My favorite time of day is the morning, especially my morning routine on the weekends when I'll get out of bed, practice yoga, and crawl back into bed with Mark for a little while, watching the sun come through the blinds while he sleeps and I read. During the week, though, I really enjoy our night routine: I cook us dinner, and we watch TV together for an hour or so before just relaxing with a book. 

16. What sounds help you sleep?

Cliche as it may be to say this, I love listening to rain pelting my window. I find it incredibly soothing. Sometimes if I'm feeling really restless, I'll actually listen to my wedding song, Circles by Jana Kramer, and that usually does the trick. 

17. Do you want to be a parent someday?

Yes, I very much do. 

18. Are you a good liar?

Absolutely not.

19. What has been your favorite place that you've traveled to?

I think my favorite country I've visited thus far has been Ireland, but my favorite place I've visited in the U.S. is either Washington D.C., Boston, or Vermont.

20. What's your favorite joke?

"Are you a Giant's fan?" "No, I'm an air conditioner." 

Let that soak in for a sec. Hint: It's a football joke. 

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My Top 5 Intentions For 2019: Where I See This Year Going

For me, 2018 ended with a stomach virus. It lasted from Dec. 30 through Jan. 3, rudely obstructing my goal to start off the new year on a healthy note. But even though 2018 obviously wanted to take one more shot at me — not to mention literally sh*t on the start of 2019 — I decided not to take it as an omen that the next 365 were going to crap off the bat. Instead, I took it as a sign that this was the universes way of telling my body to detox before what's going to be one of the best years yet. 

It's now just about halfway through January, and I have a slight cough, a stuffy nose, but other than that, I'm feeling pretty good. Physically, I feel strong and excited for what sorts of workouts I'll endure in the months ahead, the recipes I'll try, and how much more I will progress on my journey of self-love and acceptance. Of course I'm aware of how cheesy and cliche that all sounds (I work in health and wellness, friends, this is my life day in and day out), but I really do believe this year will continue to be a year of growth in that department for me. I made some great strides in 2018, and I have a lot of faith that it can only get better from here on out.

Mentally speaking, things are alright. I'm happy in pretty much every aspect of my life except one: creatively. Ever since college ended, I feel like I've just been trying to bulldoze through a wall because once I break it, there's a grass-is-always-greener type of creative world on the other side where writer's block is a non-issue and I'll be able to write whatever I want, whenever I want, full time. It's a nice dream, but I don't think it's too far out of reach anymore. I've decided to buckle down and finish a manuscript this year (for real this time, guys). 

I feel like there are three types of people in this world when it comes to New Year's resolutions: those who don't buy into the tradition, those who make resolutions with a grain of salt, and those who genuinely enjoy setting goals and coming up with game plans for how to achieve them. There's nothing wrong with falling into any of those categories, by the way. Personally, I've always fallen in between the last two. I'm all for brainstorming aspirations, making lists, and envisioning how I'll accomplish them by Jan. 1 of the following year. But, I'll be honest, many of them don't pan out.

Once December 2018 rolled around, I was not only in full-fledged holiday mode spirit-wise, but I also found myself daydreaming about 2019, and how I was going to make the most of the year ahead. Looking back now, it's likely that I was so unprepared for Christmas this year (think buying all the presents the Friday beforehand) because I was so wrapped up in the idea of the new year, and where I wanted to be be 2020. But I'm not naive (not all the time, anyway). I'm well aware that 80% of resolutions tank by the second week of February. So instead of putting pressure on myself to start putting in the work on Jan. 1, I decided that the entire month of January would be dedicated to planning what it was I truly wanted to set out to do. I could start putting feelers out, experiment with some stuff, brainstorm — you could think of it as a grace period, in a way. 

Really, the gist here is that, I'm sure I don't have to tell you Jan. 1 is not the end-all-be-all of resolutions. You can make a resolution tomorrow and start working towards it. I'm the type of person who thrives off lists and deadlines and schedules, but I also have a ton of anxiety issues, so putting more pressure on myself just wasn't appealing anymore. Ergo, I've been thinking a lot about the aspirations I want to set for 2019. I have a pretty good idea of the things I want to achieve, and thought I'd share them here. 

1. Finish My Manuscript

Rule number one of making new year's resolutions is typically to steer clear of lofty goals, but here's the thing: I've written a novel. I've written a novella. I've written countless short stories, poems, and articles. I know I can do this, and I've finally found the story I want to tell.

I wrote my first story when I was 10 years old, my first novel when I was 15, and my novella when I was 20. Aside from the articles I write on a daily basis, though, I have not committed to and finished a creative project all my own since college, and I've been itching to really dedicate my free time to my passion because before graduation, before undergrad, when my father asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer was a novelist. I wanted to be the published author of books, like Judy Blume or Ann M. Martin. These days, my taste in genres may have changed, but the end goal hasn't, and I'm ready to commit. 

As of now, my goal is to write a few chapters per month. I'd like to give myself the entire year, and have a first draft done by Dec. 31 of 2019. Hopefully it won't draw out that long, but knowing I have a full year to really develop the characters and craft the story is comforting. Doing it this way doesn't feel lofty or unreachable to me.

2. Take A Step Back From Social Media

I hate to admit it, but I'm just as obsessed with social media as the next person — maybe even more so because my day job revolves around media, and the news, and what's #trending. Even as an aspiring blogger, to an extent, social media is going to be a factor.  

But I think most of you can relate — I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I can't stand Facebook anymore because most of the time my feed is cluttered with political views and opinions no one asked for that I don't necessarily want to see. But I still keep my account because it's a way for me to share what I'm writing, and keep up with the kids in my family. I love photos of babies and dogs, so keep those coming, please. I absolutely adore Instagram because I like photography, but even that outlet is getting tired because there are so many influencers feeding you ads, and sometimes it feels like true authenticity is dead. Not that I'm not guilty of this; I've certainly posted photos #forthelikes, but I've stopped uploading as frequently as I used to. 

The bottom line here is that I want to live life more, and stop watching life being lived by other people less. I love being inspired, but I also want to be someone's inspiration. So less daydreaming, more doing in 2019. Starting with this blog, continuing with my manuscript. 

3. Aim To Stress Way Less 

My anxiety got the best of me in 2018. I'm not ashamed of it, but there are plenty of moments I'm not proud of because of the way I responded to what I was going through. There are many components that go into the times I lashed out, or felt lost, and though I'd like to keep those private, I will say that anxiety can bring out the worst in you, and it can also thrive on/highlight your weaknesses. I struggle with body dysmorphia and an eating disorder, and though I've been in recovery for years, there are still moments when things feel out of control externally, so I try to pull in the reins internally. It always starts with food, and an obsession with working out, losing weight, "getting lean." In 2019, I want to acknowledge my anxieties, honor them, and handle them with compassion rather than lean on my disorders to make myself feel better.

I'm a firm believer that the true meaning of "balance" is to know your body, know your mind, and be able to identify when something feels off. Yoga has helped me tremendously in recent months, and I'd like to start incorporating meditation back into my routine. There's going to be a strong focus on eating to fuel and nourish my body, not to control it, and to workout because it relieves my stress, and helps me get stronger both mentally and physically, not to lose weight. 

But aside from working out and food, I'd like to tap into the other creative sides of myself. I used to knit when I was a teenager, and I've always loved to color and paint. Doing more hands-on activities could be something I pick up again in 2019. I've already started getting back into video games (thanks to my brilliant husband). 

4. Less Material, More Memories

I am a true ambivert. I love being surrounded by my family and close friends, I love going out once I'm out, but getting me there can be a struggle. I'll admit, working from home has made me even more of a homebody. I've grown accustomed to keeping to myself, and staying in my bubble, but I have amazing people in my life that I would really like to make more time for in the new year.

In 2018, Mark and I traveled to Sweden, Texas, and Vermont. My family started doing more activities together, like apple picking, and walking around the boardwalk for my father's 60th birthday. I started reading more, and caring less about buying new clothes. Instead, I wanted to buy new stories. To read and explore my imagination, to develop new interests. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in 2019, I want to focus less on material things, and focus more on moments with my husband, my loved ones, my friends. I want to take care of my body and mind, and thrive off these things. 2018 had ups, downs, and overall, it was kind of a tough year. 2019 is going to be different. It already is. I can feel it. 

If you, like me, are obsessed with New Year's resolutions and setting goals, here are a few other resources I found helpful while planning my year ahead! 

1. Kalyn Nicholson's video on "How To Set & Achieve 2019 Goals"

2. Kristen Martin's video on planning weekly and monthly goals.

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Sunday Survey (The First Of Many)

At this moment, it's 7:56 p.m. The Eagles have just secured their spot in the second round of the NFL playoffs, and I'm wearing a hydrating, green tea sheet mask, relaxing on the couch with Mark.

I've been brainstorming ways to make this blog feel authentic to who I am and what I enjoy, and my mind wandered to the days of Myspace, and of Facebook notes, when people used to fill out surveys and post them for their friends and family to read, share, and answer themselves. Call me corny, but I have such a nostalgia for those middle and high school nights when I would log on to these platforms after finishing my homework, and answer questions that were mostly silly (those that were invasive got deleted).

Flash forward to this afternoon, and I thought to myself, why not take time out of my week to kick back, decompress, and fill out a survey for old times sake? Maybe I could even make this a mini series, or something I do on occasion just for kicks. 

So here we are. As much as I love doing these surveys, reading them is also a guilty pleasure of mine. I'd love to see your responses, too! Give it a go in the comments below! 

This or That

Mac or PC?

Mac for sure. 

"Life is great" or "life can be better"?

For the most part, life is great, but certain aspects of life could be better. But, isn't that always the way?

I help others or I help myself?

I guess it depends on the situation, no?

Friends or family?

Well, my family comes first always. I do have a handful of friends who've become like family to me, though.

Fast food or home-cooked meals?

Home-cooked meals for sure. (I don't count sit-down restaurants fast food, though.) 

Books or TV?

Books! 

Vacation or staycation?

Vacation! 

This or That Personality Traits

Book smart or street smart?

Ha! I am definitely more book smart than anything else. Though, I definitely think working in the city for a few years made me a tad more street smart than I ever was. 

Leader or follower?

Being a part-time freelancer, I'm forced to take a lot of initative in my work. So, in that sense, I'd say I'm a leader. However, I can definitely be a follower, too. Again, it depends on the situation. 

Organized or messy?

Mostly organized.

Introvert or extrovert?

I am a true ambivert. I like a lot of time to myself, and re-charge internally. Too much time by myself, however, and I crave company.

Night owl or early riser?

Early riser! The morning is my favorite time of day. 

Planner or spontaneous?

can be spontaneous, and have a lot of fun doing so once in awhile, but for the most part I thrive on a schedule. 

Chatty or quiet?

It depends on my surroundings. If I'm comfortable with you, and know you well, I can talk for hours. 

Focused or head in the clouds?

Focused.

Rebellious or responsible?

Psh, please. I'm not sure I have a rebellious bone in my body. Responsible.

Easy or hard to please?

Both. Hey, "a girl's gotta have her standards."

Clumsy or graceful?

So clumsy. 

Soft spoken or outspoken?

Outspoken, I think?

Mainstream or out of the ordinary?

Both, in different areas of life.

This or That Celebrity Edition

Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner?

I like them both for different reasons.

Pink or Ke$ha?

Pink. 100%.

Emma Watson or Emma Stone?

Ohh, I like both of them! But I feel like I grew up with Emma Watson, in a way

Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle?

My knowledge of Kate Middleton is extremely limited due to the fact that I'm not super interested in the royal family. I liked Meghan Markle when she was on Suits, and she seems to be doing well as a Duchess. Final answer? Meghan Markle.

Megan Fox or Angelina Jolie?

If I had to choose, Megan Fox. I'm not crazy about either one of them. 

Nicki Minaj or Cardi B?

I could take or leave either. 

David Beckham or Tom Brady?

I respect both of them! I think they're both extraordinary athletes. Plus, they have great taste in women. 

Jake Gyllenhaal or Ryan Reynolds?

I've seen more Gyllenhaal movies, which isn't saying a whole lot, but I guess I'd go with him.

 

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New Year, New Blog: Where I Want To Take This Project

2018 was a doozy for me, and I'm not sad to see it go. There were a lot of ups, but a select few, very significant downs, and I can honestly say that I couldn't have imagined in January of 2018 that I'd be going into January of 2019 breathing a sigh of relief to have a fresh, 365 days of clean slate ahead. A chance to try again. 

Don't get me wrong, 2018 had some amazing moments. I got to travel to so many amazing places with my very best friend (Sweden, Texas, Vermont), but these past 12 months were just a rough mental health ride. I muddled through, though, and I think I'm going into the new year with fresh perspective, and a lot of goals — both personal, and professional. One being this blog. 

I decided I really wanted to start a blog because I'm a workaholic, and my work just happens to be my passion (writing). My dilemma, however, and I'm sure this is the case for a lot of writers and artists, is that when your passion becomes your work, and as a result, fits into a mold that work requires it to, it becomes less of a passion, and more of a formatted chore. See, I started writing when I was 10 years old with dreams of becoming a novelist, a creative writer. Well, the last book I wrote, I wrote when I was 15. The last novella I'd written was a project for my senior capstone. I left college, got a job writing articles for websites, and now I'm a digital journalist. I'm published, but not a published book author.

I really miss the art of creative writing. I miss the freedom to write whatever I want, without needing approval from an editor each day. So, In the late summer of 2018, I had a thought, and that thought became a blog. Mark volunteered to make my website from scratch (he's a doll). While he constructed the site, I worked on content. I had planned to set it all live in October. 

As you can see, October came and went, and Always, Julia Rose wasn't released to the public. It's not that I'd given up, per say. The dream of being a blogger was very much still alive, but I didn't have a clear direction. I realized this one day when I sat down to create a content calendar, or a game plan of the types of articles I'd be writing in the upcoming months. Planning is good, and planning is something I know how to do well, but as I was brainstorming my content, I realized that I was doing so the same way I would map out pitches for Elite Daily. I wasn't thinking of my blog in terms of a blog. I was viewing it as a business, as a job

My original dream and hope for this platform was to have a place I could go to be creative and have fun, and if at some point in the future it were to become a profitable, cool. But I don't want to be researching SEO phrases, or obsessiong over how I rank on Google, or whether I have a million readers, or just a solid five.

Ergo, going into 2019, how I spend my time outside digital media, and how I hone in on my passions, has to be made a priority.  I absolutely have goals and hopes for Always, Julia Rose, but my vision for this site has changed dramatically over the past few months. I've had time to think, to re-evaluate, and the conclusion is this: I'm going to write this blog for me, and I hope you'll read along. 

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Hello, Fall: A Recap Of My Epic Start To Autumn

September 22, 2018 wasn’t just the beginning of a new season - it was the start of my favorite season, one I’ve recently coined the “falliday” season. It’s not the cookie-cutter definition of a quarter of the year, and you won’t find it written on a calendar (except, maybe mine). See, it starts on the first day of fall, and continues on through January 1, encompassing all of my favorite holidays, foliage, flavors, and foliage.

Over the past few years or so, it was almost like adulthood put up a wall that separated me from all the feel-good emotions that came with each season. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, and ever since graduation, I’ve been trying to channel that same warm and fuzzy back-to-school energy. Mark and I have given it a fair shot - apple picking one year, pumpkin picking the next, dressing up for Halloween, attending festivals.

The problem is, New Jersey doesn’t exactly get a fall - at least, not for more than two or three weeks. So, in an attempt to chase autumn, so to speak,  Mark and I decided to really go all in, and escape to a beyond ideal fall foliage wonderland: Vermont. But first, we had some autumnal festivities to attend here.

 

Saturday, September 22

 

 

 

 

On Saturday, we welcomed fall with a trip to Brook Hollow Winery in Columbia, New Jersey as an early birthday celebration for my mother-in-law. A sampling cost only $10, and that included about a shot glass worth of each of their six white wines, plus six red wines, plus three wine slushies, and, to top it all off, a chocolate wine milkshake. Needless to say, I was feeling a little tipsy by the time we made it to the slushies.

For only 10 bucks and all that wine, it was well worth the hike deep into the western part of the state. The staff was friendly, knowledgeable about the spirits they were serving, and the view of the vineyard was gorgeous. We’re already brainstorming excuses to go back.

Sunday, September 23

 

Sunday was a birthday celebration, too! This time, we were celebrating part one of six 60th birthday activities for my Daddy. Because the man loves his apples, my sisters and I thought what better excursion was there than to take Daddy apple picking to kick start his festivities?

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating around the area we originally planned to go to. Luckily I live in northern New Jersey, and even though the skies were a hazy grey in the morning, by mid-afternoon the sun was shining. So I invited anyone who wanted to make the trip to my neck of the woods.

We ended up going to a place called Demarest Farm - aka the busiest farm in Bergen county. Oops! But the long line to get on the hay ride was worth it in the end. My niece and nephews had a ball, and my dad filled his bag with a ton of apples. I wouldn’t be surprised if his surpassed the 10 lb. limit. I guess we can overlook that though, since it was for his birthday and all.

Monday, September 24

 

Despite Mark developing an irritating cold the night before (my poor babe), on Monday we set out on the five hour journey to Burlington, Vermont. We ended up leaving the apartment around noon, and arriving in Burlington around five o’clock. Because Mark and I both have sensitive stomachs, we’re generally pretty nit-picky about the snacks we eat in transit. In other words, by the time we checked into the hotel, we were starving, let alone exhausted.

Mark googled the best sandwich places in Burlington, picked up a veggie spinach wrap for me, a turkey sub for him with a side of fries to share, and set up a picnic on our hotel bed. Mark was in desperate need of a rest, and I wasn’t about to complain about lying in bed all night. The next day we’d officially begin our exploration.

Tuesday, September 25

On Tuesday, Mark designed a tour of Burlington fit for any junk foodie such as myself. We woke up around 10 and ate breakfast at a spot called the Pennycluse, and to start my vacation on a literal sweet note, I ordered the special: Apple bread french toast served with authentic Vermont maple syrup. It tasted as heavenly as it sounds. Mark ordered a scrambled egg platter that came with two thick biscuits, the entire plate drizzled with an equally as thick herb gravy. I didn’t ask for a bite this time around.

We then took a trip to Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory, where we sat through a presentation on how each chocolate treat was made, sampled all kinds of different chocolate, and, of course, bought some sweets for home.

Next on our list was Ben and Jerry’s, but in order to cleanse our palettes, Mark suggested we make a pit stop at the Green Mountain Coffee visitors cafe. We both ordered two large English breakfast teas, found a cozy spot at a corner table and settled in. One of my favorite ways to pass the time with Mark is when the two of us can just sip on a hot beverage and talk about life. This usually leads to deep conversations about work, our passions, getting rid of student loan debt, and the list goes on. It’s quite lovely to do life with this guy.

 

 

The tour of Ben and Jerry’s was really cool. I felt like I was walking through Willy Wonka’s factory except instead of being surrounded by chocolate, there were massive tanks full of ice cream everywhere. Though, I’ll admit, the best part was definitely the free sample of the brand’s Milk and Cookies flavor. I considered going for seconds, but I told myself it was probably smarter to save that room for dinner.

Leunig’s Bistro and Cafe off Church Street in Burlington was such high-quality food, it pained me not to have room in my stomach to fit more than half my meal. Mark and I are calamari connoisseurs, so naturally we had to order theirs as an appetizer. The squid was lightly breaded, and boasted the exact right amount of grease and spice. I sampled a few pieces, which were all delicious, but the real star of this show was my main course: Beyond Meat & Kohlrabi Alfredo. Hands down the best vegan dish I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.

The remainder of the night was spent exploring Church street in the shadows, heading back to our hotel room, and falling fast asleep.

Wednesday, September 26

 

 

Wednesday was our last full day in Burlington, and to do it big, Mark drove me to a massive museum where visitors could roam the grounds freely, stopping at different landmarks as they went. We saw artwork inspired by cowboys, walked around a ship, climbed a restored lighthouse, roamed the halls of the historic mansion that once housed the founders of the museum, and so much more. We also came across an exhibit where old fashioned toys were on displayed. Including multiple, dimly lit rooms of just dolls. It was my worst nightmare and my husband laughed. Tsk, tsk. He held my hand through it all, though.

In total, we roamed the museum for a good two to three hours. By the time we made our way back up the hill to the gift shop where we bought our tickets of entry, we were pretty pooped. To unwind a bit before heading back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner, we ended up at Zero Gravity, a casual bar with patio and indoor seating. Mark ordered a beer, I ordered a can of apple cider, and we sat outside until the rain came.

 

 

Dinner that night was epic. We’d finally have the chance to bite into an Impossible Burger. The restaurant we ate at was called the ArtRiot, and inside there was mood lighting, paintings and blown up record covers lined the walls. It was quick trip, mostly because we were starving and the kitchen was fast. The Impossible Burger was basically everything we’d hoped it would be. Now if only New Jersey would take a hint and start serving this delicacy around our area.

To end off the night, we settled back into our room and watched not only the season premier of Survivor, but, more importantly, the series finale of Big Brother. I’m a die-hard fan of the game, and thought this was one of the best played season. I was rooting for Tyler most of the summer, but in the end was glad KC took home the half million.

Thursday, September 27

 

On Thursday we woke up in Burlington, packed our bags, and were almost ready to make the hour trek up into the mountain towards Stowe. Beforehand, though (because there was a lot of time between checkout at The Best Western and check-in at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, we stopped for breakfast at a quirky place called The Friendly Toast. I had a loaded avocado toast, and Mark had oat bread french toast. The meals were hearty, and so, so delicious.

 

We walked along the dock of Lake Champlain, did a sweet of Church Street, and sat in a cute little park for a little while before settling into the car. The ride up the mountain was absolutely beautiful, full of changing leaves and boulders. It took less time than we’d expected to arrive, but thankfully our room was ready when we were.

Now, when I say The Stowe Mountain Lodge is fancy, I’m not exaggerating. Our suite was decked out with a kitchen stocked with appliances, coffee, and tea, the bathroom was the size of our living room with a walk in shower and luxurious bath, and the bedroom was furnished with queen-sized bed, sofa, and fireplace. The entire room was amazing, but my favorite part was the balcony overlooking the mountains.

 

 

We opted to take a relaxed approach to the rest of the day, watching television until dinner. We dined at the restaurant in the hotel, and though it was pretty expensive, it was well worth the dollars. I ate the best damn salmon I’d ever tasted that night.

Friday, September 28

On Friday we set our sights on a hiking adventure, but first I convinced Mark to take a gondola ride up the mountain with me. It took some convincing, but once we were in the air, my husband’s face lit up at the sight of our hotel growing smaller and smaller against an autumnal mountain backdrop. It was absolutely breathtaking, and I’m so glad we got to experience it together.

Our hike lasted about two hours, and boy was that an experience. I love to hike, but I definitely anticipated more people being on the trails. Which, now that I think about it, was probably silly, considering we ventured out in the middle of the day on a Friday. It’s no wonder the woods were empty.

 

 

There’s really nothing like the kinds of deep conversations you get into in the thick of nature. I loved the physical aspect of the hike, the challenge it was to exert all my energy into literally climbing up a mountain and dodging streams and slippery patches. But the best part was holding Mark’s hand through the whole thing, and getting lost in one subject after another.

Unfortunately, though, by the time we got back to our hotel room I was starting to catch Mark’s cold. I took a long shower, bundled in my pjs and the room’s complimentary robe, and we ordered room service. The remainder of the night was spent reading under the covers with my love, and I honestly couldn’t have asked for more.

Saturday, September 29

 

Saturday was bittersweet because I knew come morning we’d have to head home and back to reality. To make the most out of the time we had, we ate breakfast at the hotel, and set off on a mini road trip to a haunted bridge where, legend has it, a woman hanged herself years ago. When we arrived to the site though, there was a busload of senior citizens also taking a trip to the bridge, so it kind of lost its spooky effect.

Between our bridge escapade and dinner, I grabbed my book, a blanket, and read on the balcony. This kind of setup is forever on my fall bucket list — to read either a classic or thriller novel out on a deck, wrapped in a blanket with something hot to drink. Two out of three ain’t shabby.

We passed a lot of cute restaurants on our way into town, but decided to dine at the hotel restaurant on more time before we left because, honestly, the food was that good. Mark and I split four appetizers, even though we probably could have gotten along fine on just two. The plates were so interesting and exotic that we took it upon ourselves to play Chopped judges, and rank the chef on taste and presentation. We laughed the whole meal through.

 

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Writes About Reads: WomanCode by Alisa Vitti (Review)

You know those super trendy books on Instagram? The titles every influencer seems to have read, or are currently reading? WomanCode by Alisa Vitti is among the pile. 

I realize I'm a little late picking this one up — it published in 2013 — but when Lee From America started preaching about WomanCode, I was intrigued. I had to get my hands on a copy to find out for myself what, exactly, Vitti's "code" was, and how to crack it according to my own lifestyle. 

Unlike Girl Code, in which there are all sorts of unwritten rules to abide by in order to preserve the power of sisterhood and avoid unecessary drama (i.e. not dating your best friend's ex), Woman Code is a solo declaration of how to live based on one's menstrual cycle. Per Vitti's definition, Woman Code is a "five-step system" that targets your hormones in order to achieve the goal of living your best, most balanced life. 

To achieve this, Vitti has come up with a formula that not only addresses "the underlying reasons for hormonal imbalance," but one that does so naturally through "medicinal foods and lifestyle choices." According to Vitti, once you can set your Woman Code in motion, your period will be much more manageable, your fertility will be optimal, and your sex drive will be through the roof. 

I fully believe that timing is everything, and maybe that factors into at what point in your life you read specific books, too. I'd heard of Vitti's bible years ago, but never sat down with a tangible copy until now. Interestingly enough, I've been off hormonal birth control fo almost one year now and when I first opted out, my period stayed pretty regular. Over the last few months, however, I've noticed a pretty significant shift. 

Mother Nature has been taking her sweet time in between cycles, and to say that my PMS symptoms are rough, would be an understatement. Vitti made me realize the problem isn't my period, but my hormonal balance — or, rather, imbalance. Luckily, I have the power to correct these hormones and re-balance my cycle by making a few simple lifestyle changes. 

Women are taught from a young age that periods are personal, private, and I think, as a result of this, you and I might've started to think of our cycles as something that shouldn't be talked about. But if there's anything I've learned from Vitti's book, it's that everything affects your cycle, from the foods you eat, to the exercises you do (or don't do), and especially the wide range of stressors you're dealing with every day. In her book, Vitti explains how these parts of life can have a very real impact on your cycle, and how to combat them one phase at a time. 

Overall, I definitely think Vitti's book is a great read. Although I already knew a lot of what she was reporting, that might be because I work in women's health, and reading up on these types of facts is just another part of my day job. Still, I felt more at ease having a solid plan laid out for me, and see the book as an excellent guideline for any woman feeling uneasy about their cycle.

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