The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Duck

Recently I read Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. I practically inhaled the book in just a few short days, and honestly I’m shook. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what I read, because I devoured it like a bomb burrito – so quickly I didn’t even really comprehend what parts of the burrito were actually the game changers, what I should factor in to my next burrito creations.

(I’ve been on a burrito making kick recently, so bare with me on this analogy.)

But alas, some things clearly stick subconsciously. For example, when trying to recreate my bomb burrito, my hand reached for garlic powder out of reflex, and it was in that moment it clicked that I had put garlic powder in that burrito last time on accident… but it was bomb. And then today, I was scrolling on my Facebook timeline and some people from high school were getting too personal (again). It was so annoying, I was two seconds from sending screenshots to one of my friends so that we could essentially poke fun at these people… but then I took a pause and thought, “Who gives a duck. They want to post this, that’s their business – no need to make it mine.” I then went about my business, sans screenshots, sans gossip, sans ducks.

Hehehe GIF by memecandy - Find & Share on GIPHY

Here is when it clicked – the book did something! I’m actually listening to Mark Manson’s advice, whether I realized it or not – yay! Cheers to growth, motherduckers!

Ultimately, Mark’s book wasn’t about not giving a duck about anything and living a carefree life, it was quite the opposite. It centered around the fact that you have to give a duck about things, but you should be selective and thoughtful with your ducks. In turn, this thinking then enables you to think about problem solving differently – what do you truly give a duck about? Why do you give a duck? Does it make sense to give a duck?

Question every problem you have like you’re a child aka – “But why?” yourself into oblivion.

It’s stripping down a problem to such bare bones, that you can then face the root of the issue, the true reason why you’re giving a duck. Nine times out of ten, when you strip down a problem like that, you’ll realize how dumb it actually is and how you’re probably responsible for the problem itself. Actually, Mark will tell you that you are responsible for your problems – every single one of them… but that’s a whole other topic.

Anyway… when you start stripping down problems, a realignment of priorities and values can take place. This enables you to shift your outlook and erase pointless problems. Next thing you know, you’ll find yourself actively withholding your ducks from things that no longer align with you. And trust me when I say you will feel really good about that.

Overall, if you’re looking for a read that will give you a bit of a wakeup call, something that will challenge your comfortable way of thinking… You’ve gotta get your hands on this book ASAP.

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

. . .

PCH Road Trip: Seattle to San Diego

The Pacific Coast Highway, commonly known as the PCH, is a stretch of road that covers 656 miles along the Pacific Ocean.

And I want to drive that sucker from top to bottom.

A simple text from a friend ignited this specific trip planning. She merely said she wanted to travel somewhere together, but I got so excited at the thought of planning a vacay, I go into hypermode.

Immediately my mind is racing, “What can we do that is Covid Kosher?

Rooooad trip! Road trips are totally Covid Kosher, and if we travel somewhere that has consistently great weather, we have the option to camp (or glamp) to further minimize our impact.

Driving wise, I immediately think of the PCH.

I truly adore the West Coast. My first taste was a work trip to Seattle that lasted nearly three weeks, and I drank it all in. Mt. Rainier stole my heart, the Pacific Northwest Pine Trees gave every other tree I’ve ever seen in my life a run for their money. I was hooked and could easily see myself bouncing from NYC and shipping over to Seattle for a few years.

Then a few more work trips over the last few years have sent me to LA, Santa Monica, Malibu, & Santa Barbara causing me to get even more hooked on the West Coast. Basking in the beachy vibes, the views, but most importantly – the PCH drives through Malibu. Holy crap were these drives nothing short of enchanting. I often had a hard time focusing on the road and found myself distracted by the mountains to one side and the ocean to the other. It felt surreal, just to consistently be driving by such iconic views.

So in sorting out what made sense for this road trip, I took what I’ve seen, what I’ve learned from additional work-related research, and boom – the below locations were decided.

PRO TIP: make this trip international by making your start Vancouver and your end Baja

. . .

Now, here is where things get a bit different with this article. I’m not going to breakdown my personal plans for each city and give you insight on my research, blah, blah, blah. No, I’m going to ask you to come with me on this journey.

Whether it be metaphorically, or physically – I want you, curious reader, to help me plan out this trip.

I’ve started an excel document which you have full access to in order to make this a shared process. I encourage you to add in some links to must see spots in the cities we’re visiting – whether it’s tourist traps, hiking trails, cool shops, great bars, or hole in the wall restaurants… drop those links in! Maybe add in suggestions that some cities deserve a longer visit… it’s up to you!

You might be wondering, “Why would I meddle with her travel documents?” Guys, I have an original copy with my intended plans, but I want your recs too! Maybe this is the first step in your very own PCH road trip with friends or family and this can be a resource you guys use 😉

Click here to go to excel

**excel tip: in order to stay in the same box, but get text to drop (list like formatting) hit ALT+ENTER and it will start a new line within the same cell (best for if you want to add any notes to your recs)

Click here to go to google maps

Remembering Dreams: Why Some Do, But Others Don’t

I think my last article may have expressed it best – I’m obsessed with dreams. I love interpreting them, finding the hidden meanings, deciphering messages from my higher self, and sometimes even messages from family members who have passed. Very rarely, do I wake up and not have 1-3 dreams to recall, separate, and decipher.

Growing up, my friends and family had been the same. One of my aunts had a dream journal she kept, my nana gifted me a Dreamer’s Dictionary when I was young – essentially, I’ve always thought it to be normal that people always dream and remember most of their dreams. But of course, this isn’t the case. It wasn’t until college when my roommate casually mentioned she doesn’t dream – well she does, but she doesn’t remember them – ever. I remember being in shock and thinking, “What a boring night’s sleep you must have!”

It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized she wasn’t an anomaly.

Yesterday, I took a quick poll of our Instagram followers to see how many people remember their dreams – this was in an effort to send them to our post, and in the comments ask us what their dreams could mean. I had assumed most people would of course remember their dreams!

But nope.

Most of our followers don’t remember their dreams each night!

. . .

This sent me into a frenzy. I thought my college roommate was on the rare spectrum in terms of dream recollection, but it turns out I’m a bit more on the weird side of things. So how does this work? What sets “high recallers” like me, apart from the “low recallers” like my college roommate?

Factors that can play into dream recall:

  1. Amount of REM sleep

Mental Floss says, “People dream every 90 minutes during the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle. However, those REM periods get longer throughout the night, meaning that you’re doing the most dreaming toward the morning — generally right before you wake up. If you only sleep four hours instead of eight, you’re only getting about 20 percent of your dream time. For this reason, some people report remembering more of their dreams on the weekend, when they have the chance to catch up on sleep.”

2. Personality traits

Various studies show that people who are more psychologically-minded and prone to daydreaming, creative thinking, and introspection tend to more frequently remember their dreams compared to those people who are more practical and focused on what is outside themselves.

. . .

3. Brain activity

A study in 2014, demonstrated that high recallers and low recallers ultimately use their brain differently when in a resting state. More specifically, high recallers have increased activity in their TPJ and mPFC which could be shifting their attention towards external stimuli and promote intrasleep wakefulness. Making high recallers more apt to encode their dreams in memory.

  • What the heck is TPJ?
    • TPJ stands for temporoparietal junction, and it’s a brain region that is important for numerous aspects of social cognition; such as perspective taking, language, motor control, mental imagery, episodic memory retrieval, and attention orientation.
  • And mPFC?!?
    • mPFC stands for medial prefrontal cortex and it’s up in the air what exactly (exclusively) it does, but it is typically active during tasks of cognitive empathy and perspective-taking. Some additional functions of the mPFC include mediating decision making, it’s selectively involved in the retrieval of remote long-term memory, mind representations, evaluations, supports memory and consolidation on time-scales ranging from seconds to days.

. . .

4. Response to external stimuli

Since high recallers have increased activity in TPJ and mPFC, this leads to them waking up a bit more frequently throughout the night compared to low recallers. It’s perfectly normal to wakeup throughout the night and quickly fall back asleep, but low recallers typically only wake up 15 minutes total throughout the night, whereas high recallers will have anywhere from 30 minutes to a full hour of waking up and falling back asleep periodically.

Waking up throughout the night is typically as a response to external stimuli, such as a neighbor bumping your shared wall, a car horn blaring, or maybe even softer noises like the wind or snowfall. High recallers are more apt to respond to these noises throughout the night (knowingly or not) and when woken up mid-dream, the brain is able to better commit that dream to long-term memory in that moment.

In an interview with Mental Floss, Dr. Deirdre Leigh Barrett, a psychology professor at Harvard Medical School and author of The Committee of Sleep, says there could even be an evolutionary explanation for essentially being a light sleeper: “Evolution wants us to get restorative sleep but it also wanted us to wake up to danger and check it out and be able to go back to sleep quickly afterwards,” she says. Think of the all the dangers our prehistoric ancestors had to deal with, and it’s clear that this response is important for survival. In essence, high recallers are “probably just a little more aware and watching during their dream, and that helps make it a long-term memory.”

. . .

Dreams are fragile things that are born in your short term memory, the people who more frequently remember dreams are able to commit them to long-term memory simply because they want to.

Dreams are fragile, but the science behind all of it is even more fragile. Sure, brain imaging shows the different parts of the brain that are more active for some and less active for others, but if personality traits can play such a common (and large) role in remembering dreams… maybe if you set the intention before you sleep, that you wish to remember a dream… perhaps a dream will be remembered the next day. Ultimately, becoming more introspective and asking yourself, “Why don’t I remember my dreams?” could turn you into a high recaller 😉

. . .

Sources: Mental Floss, NCBI, Live Science, Healthline, Science Direct

How To Dissect A Dream

I had this absolutely terrifying dream the other night. Okay, since it was scary I guess that classifies it as a nightmare.

In the nightmare, I’m out with a friend and we’re having so much fun dancing the night away. When suddenly, she somehow gets hurt and we have to find her help. Next thing you know, there is some kind of shooter that shows up to this location, and bullets are flying everywhere. Someone pulls my friend from me and assures me they will find her help and I should gtfo asap, but before I can respond, this rando is running away with my friend. I’m petrified and attempt to take off after them, when I notice one of the gunmen pausing from his shooting escapade and taking some moments to look around – as if he’s looking for something specific. I quickly dash between some vehicles to hide (this location was a large indoor/outdoor open space with parking lot right there) and then the paused gunman ends up running just past me unleashing a spray of bullets in his path. I was certain I would get shot, but somehow I didn’t. After waiting a few moments, determining it was safe, I then take off on this journey to find my friend.

By the end of my dream, I had potentially found her? But the folks taking care of her wouldn’t let me in and were super rude (from what I remember) and then I woke up. With no resolution. I was pissed, confused, worried, and still terrified, to be honest. I hadn’t had a dream that intense in a while.

What could the dream mean? It had to mean something of significance. So, I begin breaking the dream up by asking myself the following questions:

1. Was I reading/watching anything just before going to sleep that echoed any part of the dream?

What you consume really does have effect on your psyche. I had finished reading an intense book that day, but nothing quite that level of intense. So I quickly ruled out literature as playing a part in my dream, and as for TV – I had been watching the BBC four-part rendition of Jane Austen’s Emma, so I knew that certainly had no play in my dream!

I also tried to remember if I ate anything weird before falling asleep, I had a friend growing up where whenever she ate a pop-tart before going to sleep, it almost locked in that she would have some weird dreams to chat about the next day. But I hadn’t eaten anything a couple of hours prior to sleeping, so I ruled out consumption of food as being a key player in this dream.

2. Who was in the dream?

With this dream, even though “my friend” was there – I never saw her face, it was always swirled, blurred, or distorted. And same goes for all of the other characters of the dream. Which means, this doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with a specific person/people in my life. I don’t need to psychoanalyze any relationships with people.

3. What was the most prominent feature of the dream?

The shooting – there were bullets flying everywhere, just being sprayed. I’ve only had one active shooter nightmare in my entire life, and I had been directly shot in the back during that one… but in this dream, I was somehow not hit with any of the flying bullets.

So now I need to look into the symbolism of shooting in dreams, if there is any.

I came across the Dream Bible’s shooting possible meanings, I won’t list them all, but the most relevant to my dream were: “To dream of seeing a shooting may reflect awareness of something in your life being cancelled, stopped, or purposely failed. A fight or conflict of interests in waking life. Feeling that people or life are working against you in some way. Feeling intentionally antagonized, attacked, or embarrassed. Feeling shocked by a sudden loss or setback. To dream of being shot at, but missed symbolizes people or situations that are attempting to control your decisions.

To further break this down, the prominent object in the dream was a gun, which according to a must-have dream interpretation book, “I Had The Strangest Dream…: The Dreamer’s Dictionary for the 21st Century” by Kelly Sullivan Walden, a gun in a dream symbolizes, “a desire for power over life and death, and that you are desperate about asserting boundaries to get what you need or want.

4. What were the most prominent feelings I experienced in my dream?

I was clearly terrified of being attacked, but I also felt territorial over my friend (I thought it was protective at first, but it was actually more territorial that I had felt), and I felt anxious.

5. Is there any correlation between those feelings/people from the dream into my waking life?

Right after I laid out my feelings, it clicked – just before bed that night I had an intense moment of fear. It was this past Sunday, we had an early morning call scheduled for work the next morning, and just as I was setting my alarm before bed, I instantly became worried that I needed to physically be in the office for the call, that we weren’t working from home and were expected to commute into the office. This was a totally bizarre anxiety flare up, I rationalized that if I were meant to go to the office, that it wouldn’t be a question and I would know for a fact… but either way, I went to bed anxious that I was meant to go in the next day, and terrified of being attacked for not being in the office for that early meeting.

Ultimately, the dream was a reflection of my just-before-bed work anxieties, Sunday Scaries literally trying to terrify me into a restless night’s sleep.

. . .

So, I solved the dream, right? It ended up being waking life anxieties that trickled into my dreams, I can disregard all of that abstract “gun and shooting” dream symbolism, right? Not necessarily, dreams aren’t math equations that are to be solved with only one answer. Dreams can have multiple meanings, it was by asking myself all of those questions above, that I was able to interpret my dream fully. I identified what triggered the dream, but I’m also able to pull from it additional info, or hidden messages if you will – such as “there are people or situations attempting to control my decisions” so I’m going to keep an eye out for those instances and stick to my *guns* and create boundaries in order to maintain my path and end goals.

While some people could say, “Oh, dreams are just dreams! Don’t look too much into it.” I don’t really buy that. A person on average has 4-6 dreams per night, most of the time waking up to remember none of them. So the ones you do remember? Ask yourself – why do you remember that one? It must have some significance.

I do believe that sometimes a butterfly is just a butterfly, but if you have some type of pull to that butterfly and suddenly it lands on your shoulder… that means something. That butterfly is just a pretty thing to me, but to you… that’s the message, or sign, that you’ve been waiting for. Listen to it, listen to the butterfly, and don’t let that message go unread.

. . .

It Bothers You More Than It Bothers Me

“Your bra strap is showing.”

“I can see your panty-lines.”

“Woah, is that a gray hair?”

Bra straps, panty-lines, and gray hair – oh, my!

How many times has someone made one of the above offhanded comments to you and suddenly you’re sent through an anxiety spiral? You’re now frantically rushing to the bathroom to pluck that stray gray hair you shouldn’t even have because you’re only 25 and what 25 year old has gray hair? You’re also trying to figure out if there’s a way to hide your bra strap and panty-lines… you’re only one “no f*cks given” away from freeing the titty and going commando to hide the lines and straps that society has forced you to wear but is somehow mortified to actually see evidence of on your body.

As your anxiety spiral continues at full force, all you want is to go back to your calm, cool, and collected vibe you had moments before that comment about your appearance was made. Now you’re in a position where you’re uncomfortable with your own body, wondering how you can fix it, or if it can even be fixed right in this moment.

Pro-Tip: If you want to say something about someone’s appearance in order to “help them out” – make sure it’s something they can fix immediately. If they can’t fix it immediately, don’t comment on it.

  • Tell someone:
    • They have something in their teeth
    • They have a visible booger or something on their face
    • They have toilet paper stuck to their shoe
    • Their makeup is smeared/lines are harsh (something they can quickly swipe and fix)
  • DON’T tell someone:
    • That you can see their gray hair, they probably know it’s there and are mildly self-conscious about it. What are you gaining in telling them you see it? They can’t dye their hair right this second…
    • That you can see panty-lines or bra straps – they’re just the visual constructs of society holding our shit together. Don’t hate the lady – HATE THE MAN!
    • That their lack of makeup makes them look tired/sick, “Are you ok?” not anymore homie…

Honestly, just don’t give unsolicited opinions about someone’s appearance – unless it’s something that will boost their self-esteem and make them smile. You’re not helping anyone by knocking down their physical appearance.

Even Regina George knew that…

. . .

The comments that get the most under my skin are about gray hair. Yes, yes – I am 25 years old with quite a few grays. I have rather dark brown hair, and I’ve been assured this is why it seems I have more than most of my friends, but it still makes me feel self-conscious. My lighter haired gal pals either get their hair dyed more frequently or their graying hair is maybe a lighter blonde?! We’ll never know 😉 (and that’s annoying)

Personally though, I’ve had several hairdressers assure me that I truly don’t have as much gray hair as I think and also that 25 isn’t super radical for grays to start showing face. Graying before you turn 20 is a bit early for grays, but after 20 is more in that “normal” sector. Whatever normal means anyway.

Through my frantic research of “is gray hair in your 20s normal?!” I found awesome terminology for the grays – some call them your “wisdoms” or “wisdom highlights” – and I’m obsessed with this. Gray hair confirming I am one of the wisest of them all? Yes, please.

“A little gray hair is a small price to pay for this much wisdom.”

. . .

As much as this article starts out by saying “DON’T RAIN ON SOMEONE’S PARADE BY MAKING UNSOLICITED REMARKS ON THEIR APPEARANCE!” People are still going to do it, they’re going to make a comment if you rapidly lose or gain weight, if they can see your gray hair, if your eyebrows need done, etc. People will always talk, always. You can’t control what they say, but you can control how you react. You have the power to decide if their opinion is of value and worthy of your stress, or if you completely disregard their remarks, maintain the headspace you had moments before the words left their mouths, and don’t let them live rent free in your head.

I think we can all agree the latter is the better option here.

Karen Smith Mean Girls Movie GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

. . .

Less than 5 Ingredient Holiday Treats

Who doesn’t love a good cookie?

Crazy people. Or boring people.

Who prefers the idea of baking cookies, to actually baking the cookies?

Most people.

Well friends, I like baking cookies but only if they’re quick and easy, and as long as I have most (preferably all) of the ingredients already in my cabinets. The past couple of years I’ve baked cookies for friends/family/work and each time I get the, “Woah you actually BAKED these cookies?” to which I respond with a, “Yeah but they’re super easy. Like genuinely easy, not Ina Garten easy.” Being the nice person I am, I also breakdown the recipes for everyone as proof that the cookies really are that easy.

So to spread some yummy cookie cheer, I’ll share my minimal ingredient secrets with you all!

Peanut Butter Cookies

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup of peanut butter
    • 1 cup of sugar
      • Regular white sugar for a smoother cookie, but if you like a crumblier cookie with a heartier texture use sugar in the raw – I personally prefer sugar in the raw’s cookie texture! Tastes grittier because the sugar doesn’t fully dissolve in the baking process.
    • 1 egg
  • Instructions:
    • Preheat oven to 350° F
    • Mix peanut butter, sugar, and egg together until completely combined
    • Use a small spoon to scoop out cookies onto baking sheet
      • I always roll them but other recipes say you can do a simple drop too, no roll
    • Pop cookies in the oven for just under 10 minutes
      • If you use sugar in the raw they take a bit longer to cook, right at that 10 minute mark, but if you use regular white sugar those things are done in like 6-8 mins depending on cookie size
      • It’s also best to take these guys out when they look like they need five more minutes. Once you take them out to cool, they’ll continue to cook on that scorching sheet anyway, and you don’t want a burnt bottom
  • Notes:
    • Turn these into “Peanut Butter Blossoms” by adding Hershey’s Kisses on top of the cookies immediately upon removal from the oven. You can use any of the Hershey’s Kisses – I personally prefer the dark chocolate Kisses!

Cool Whip Cookies

Click the photo for a more in-depth look at this recipe!

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 box of cake mix (literally any kind, red velvet keeps it festive though!)
    • 1 8oz container of cool whip (can be the low fat or reg)
    • 1 egg
    • Confectioner’s sugar (only a plate/bowl full will be needed)
  • Instructions:
    • Preheat oven to 350° F
    • Mix together the cake mix, egg, and cool whip until completely combined
    • Form mix into small balls and roll into the confectioner’s sugar until coated
      • The mixture is super gooey, so it’s easier to spoon a drop into the sugar and use the sugar as a barrier between your hands and the gooey mess
    • Bake for 10-12 mins
      • If these guys look like the need five more minutes, let them have their five more minutes. They do all of their cooking in the oven and won’t get much farther once taken out (unlike those peanut butter cookies)
  • Notes:
    • These cookies are soft and a tad gooey, but if they taste super gooey and can’t even easily be picked up without sagging… then they’re not cooked all the way.
    • These are also a bit of a blank canvas cookie and taste great with walnuts or pecans added – whatever you picture vibing with the cake box you’ve chosen! Walnuts and chocolate cake mix cookies go well together from my experience 🙂

Oreo Cookie Balls (no-bake)

Don’t want to bake? Click the photo to go to an Etsy page that sells those EXACT cookie balls 😉

  • Ingredients:
    • Pack of oreos (38 cookies)
    • 8 oz of cream cheese (room temp)
    • 1-2 cups of melting chocolate (either two cups of reg milk chocolate, or one cup white and one cup milk depending on preference/decor!)
  • Instructions:
    • Place Oreo’s into gallon ziploc bag and smash those suckers up. Get out all of your pent up anger from 2020, just take it all out on those Oreo’s
    • Mix together the now cookie crumbs and the cream cheese
    • Melt the chocolate in the microwave (or stove if you’re fancy)
    • Roll the cookie mixture into balls and dip into the chocolate using a fork, then place onto baking sheet to dry
      • The decorating/chocolate coating is easier to manage if you form the mix all into balls and place them in the freeze for 10-15 mins to harden and then coat in chocolate. But honestly it’s not super necessary, if you’re as impatient as me then don’t worry about it. But if you like to do things a bit more… “by the book” place them in the freezer for a bit.
      • The chocolate coating bit is where you can get fancy, dipping half the ball into the milk chocolate, half into the white, or drizzle…etc.
    • Once you’re done coating in chocolate, pop in the fridge for about an hour and they’re good to go!
  • Notes:
    • Other things you can do to make these more fun is coat in crushed candy cane pieces, sprinkles, nuts, etc – literally anything that you think could vibe with Oreo’s… go for it – they’re your cookies!

Sugar Cookies

Don’t want to bake? Click the photo to go to an Etsy page that sells those EXACT cookies 😉

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 cup of butter (softened)
    • 2/3 cup of sugar
    • 2 cups of flour
  • Instructions:
    • Preheat oven to 325° F
    • Mix together sugar and butter until completely combined
    • Add in flour
    • Mix all ingredients until perfectly combined – get your hands in there!
    • Option to roll out dough and use cookie cutters for fun shapes, or you can simply roll into balls and flatten into a round cookie
    • Add a sprinkle of sugar onto the top of the cookie for a lil sweet pizazz
    • Pop in oven for 14 – 16 mins or until golden brown
  • Notes:
    • These are fun to, of course, coat in icing or sprinkles, but honestly sometimes sugar cookies are best just as they are – simple and sweet.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

Don’t want to bake? Click the photo to go to an Etsy page that sells those EXACT pretzels 😉

  • Ingredients:
    • Pretzel sticks or regular pretzels
    • 16 oz of melting chocolate (dark, milk, white – whatever your preference)
    • Toppings of choice (sprinkles, candy cane pieces, nuts, M&Ms, etc.)
  • Instructions:
    • Prep a baking sheet with wax paper
    • Melt chocolate by filling a tall cup, mason jar, etc (something tall that the pretzel stick can be mostly dunked into) with the melting chocolate
      • If you doing smaller regular pretzels instead of rods, use a bowl instead of cup!
    • Heat cup in microwave in 10 sec intervals, stirring and heating until completely melted
    • Dip pretzels into the chocolate, lay out on the wax paper and then add your topping
  • Notes:
    • This can get real messy, real fast – but that’s okay. There are sinks in the kitchen for a reason 🙂
    • It’s also super preference based. Go with whatever your taste is, honestly if you don’t want toppings then don’t put toppings. Simple chocolate covered pretzels are nice too 🙂

. . .

Baking cookies shouldn’t be stressful, if anything it should be a way to put stressful things out of sight and out of mind for a little while. So if you’re someone who likes cookies, but doesn’t care for the whole extravaganza that some cookie recipes call for… try some of the above recipes. If you’re having a small get together or want to make some cookie boxes for friends and family, the above options make such a nice spread that everyone will think you went ham and did the whole grand cookie extravaganza – and it’s not a crime to let them think you made some intricate cookies 😉

. . .

Playlist Fiend: Diet Soda Society

More often than not, I’ll find a song that I love so much, right off the bat, that I need more of that kind of song. Spotify generally does an OK job of “song radios” where it’s like, “Oh, you like this song? Got it. The next several songs will be that vibe. Pinky Swear.” Then the next few songs are that vibe… then it flips and the algorithm glitches or something, and suddenly instead of some smooth R&B, I’m listening to a T-Swift song that someone sub-categorized as R&B.

There’s nothing wrong with T-Swift, I’m a shameless fan – but if I’m in the mood for some Giveon… don’t give me T-Swift. Just don’t. That ain’t the vibe.

Another con to the Spotify “song radios” is that they operate off of Wi-Fi/data. Which can be incredibly inconvenient if you’re not in the comforts of your home Wi-Fi. This con is pretty massive con for me.

So due to my Spotify trust issues and necessity for convenience, whenever I’m struck with a new-to-me song, I instantly deep dive and create my own playlist that echoes the vibes of that song. Another pro to me doing this is not only stumbling upon even more new-to-me songs, but also having the power to put some of my fave bops on there as well. In creating these playlists, it’s actually this insane scouring of Spotify that takes place…

  1. Whichever artist’s song started this manic-playlist-creation, I dive into their Spotify first.
  2. I tear apart their other songs from various albums to see if there are any similar to that one song I now love (usually there is only 1-2 additional songs that maintain the vibe, shockingly enough).
  3. Then I continue down the profile and go through the pre-made playlists that already feature their music, and from those I pluck music by various artists that fit the vibe just right.
  4. Last step is when I scroll down to the “fans also like” section and tear those artists apart… picking jams that fit best.

It’s a whole process to be honest, I can be in the zone for as little as thirty minutes or 2-3 hours, depending on how deep the rabbit hole is and how familiar I already am with the genre. This whole playlist process is almost therapeutic to me, it gives me a weird creative outlet to just dive into with results that keep me satisfied for ages.

The latest song that sent me down the rabbit hole, was Diet Soda Society by The Maine off of their album, American Candy. It came out in 2015, but I’m only just discovering it, five years later, courtesy of my roommate, Zoe!

Zoe and I have been friends for ages, but it was only upon moving in together this fall that we found out that we both have a comical obsession with Diet Coke. Together, we’ve began splitting 12 packs of DC, and finding out very quickly that Whole Foods brand DC is NO BUENO!! It tastes… smoky?

But anyway – back to the whole point of this article…

The other day Zoe had sent me this song (“because DC“), which I quickly became obsessed with. By quickly, I mean, the song hadn’t even finished before I was like, “PLAYLIST MUST BE MADE SO I CAN LIVE IN THIS ANGSTY VIBE FOREVER.

So, checkout my latest playlist: Diet Soda Society and let’s vibe together.

It’s OK To Be SAD

SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as Seasonal Depression.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — it begins and ends at about the same times every year. For most people, symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. Less often do people experience SAD in the warmer months, but it still happens!

Fall and Winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy

Spring and Summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety

The Mayo Clinic also firmly encourages, “Don’t brush off that yearly feeling as simply a case of the “winter blues” or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own.”

It’s always startling to me how controversial therapy is. Over the years I’ve heard so many people say, “No, therapy is not for me. Tried it once and nope.” or the quip of, “I don’t need therapy” or even therapy being labeled as liberal poppycock is another quip that has the eyes rolling to the back of my head.

I have a very firm belief that anyone who hates therapy simply hasn’t had a good therapist. It’s so important to find the right therapist for you, therapist shopping is a thing! A sucky tiresome thing, I’ve learned in my adult life, but necessary.

The concept of therapy has never been taboo for me, it’s always been a common party of life and conversation – talking about going to see a therapist is as casual as talking about a trip to the mall, or a more accurate comparison is saying you’re going to the doctor for just a checkup to make sure all the parts are running the way they should.

I’ve been seeing a therapist since I was seven or eight years old. My mom had started seeing Suzie shortly after my parents divorced, but my sister and I weren’t brought in for a family session until a few years into my mom’s therapy journey. After one visit with Suzie, we began yearly visits until sometime in high school when it became abundantly clear I wasn’t doing ok and needed more frequent visits. Essentially, I have a habit of bottling up emotions and carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I hate sharing or opening up, because I feel my problems are mine alone to bear, I don’t want to put them on anyone else.

But talking with Suzie became a such an outlet, and I will say – it was an incredible bonus that she was regularly seeing my mom, my sister, and even some other family members. This meant I never had to do a lot of the background family deep dive you usually do with a therapist – she already knew the deep rooted family problems and how they trickled into my psyche. Every visit with her was always this much needed cathartic release of emotion I had kept tightly sealed… she’s a blessing, honestly.

As I got older, moved away for school and what not, I still would hit a point about once a year where I’d be like, “DRIVING UP TO ANDERSON BECAUSE I NEED SUZIE!”

It took probably the second year of me only coming to see her in the dead of winter where she’s like, “Emily, I’m pretty sure you have seasonal depression.”

I was quick to respond, “No, no – I’m sad year round remember?

But she explained it, that yes overall I struggled with mental health, but my lowest points where I seem to be unable to take it anymore happen the same time every year – nearly without fail.

I still had a hard time agreeing with her, mainly because winter is my favorite time of the year, I love Christmas, I adore the snow (I swear I can smell it coming several hours before it actually snows), and I just love the coziness… there’s no way my favorite season would betray me so much. I couldn’t accept it.

But, she was right – it wasn’t really up to me to dispute the facts.

She also let me know that Indiana has some of the highest seasonal depression rates in the country, ranking number 3 overall!

Indiana 3rd in Google searches for seasonal depression | News Sun |  kpcnews.com
Source: KPCNews

Above is an image detailing states with the most google searches for seasonal depression – I think this graphic is most interesting because it shows how many people are wondering, “Do I have seasonal depression?” and looking into it; scouring WEB MD to see if their never-ending feeling of meh is normal. As you can imagine, seasonal depression, like clinical depression, often goes undiagnosed.

The ultimate “cause” of seasonal depression is unknown, but the Mayo Clinic says it could be:

  • Your biological clock (circadian rhythm). The reduced level of sunlight in fall and winter may cause winter-onset SAD. This decrease in sunlight may disrupt your body’s internal clock and lead to feelings of depression.
  • Serotonin levels. A drop in serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that affects mood, might play a role in SAD. Reduced sunlight can cause a drop in serotonin that may trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels. The change in season can disrupt the balance of the body’s level of melatonin, which plays a role in sleep patterns and mood.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, treatments for seasonal depression fall into four main categories that may be used alone or in combination:

  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy (this is talk therapy aimed to help develop coping mechanisms)
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Vitamin D

Light therapy may be the one to catch your eye (it certainly caught mine) and honestly it’s something that I had always been told about and it’s my mom and my aunt’s favorite form. The quick way to get some light therapy in high dosage is simply going tanning, which I know, I know, it’s not good for your skin. But I can tell you right now, when I excessively tanned throughout college, it always seemed to be the boost I needed that day.

That being said – there are non-harmful, safe for your skin, forms of light therapy available! Very Well Mind has compiled a list of the best light therapy lamps of 2020 – check those out and maybe invest, or ask for one for Christmas 😉

Over the years, the way that I’ve tried coping with SAD is to jam pack the winter months with activities. At work it’s the busiest time which helps, I try to make it where I get to see as many family and friends as possible, and then at the tail end of winter (that nasty February bit) is when it’s the absolute worst for me – so I always try to plan a trip abroad during that time. I find that for me the depression creeps in when I have idle hands and a dwelling mind, so I work hard to eliminate as many occasions as possible where the depression could take its hold.

Some days the depression still wins, making it hard for me to even leave my bed; but sometimes I do the winning and have great days – and that’s just the way it is. It’s a balancing act to get all those chemicals in your brain steady 🙂

. . .

Ultimately, Seasonal Depression is real and not something to be taken lightly. It’s serious, don’t ignore it or brush it off – and don’t brush off your friends and family when they tell you they suffer from it. SAD can lead to serious issues like school or work problems, social withdrawal, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or behavior, anxiety, eating disorders, and more.

Seasonal Depression is a real mental health issue, treat it like you would clinical depression, manic bipolar, bulimia, or literally any other mental health issue. Just because you don’t suffer the effects everyday, year round, does not invalidate the severity or the impact it has, or could have, on your life.

. . .

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger due to depression, contact 911. If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En Español 1-888-628-9454 or text “HELLO” to 741741 the Crisis Text Line.

The One Where She Went Skiing

Newsflash – Indiana is flat AF. Straight roads go on for miles and miles, the most exciting a road can get is if you hit a pothole that sends you flying.

Indiana is so flat you can watch your dog run away for two weeks.

Indiana is so flat

Okay, ok – done.

Indiana is flat, but something weird happens the farther south you go. The Earth begins to rise and these mounds of dirt begin to emerge. One of the more hilly towns of Indiana is that of Paoli – home of Paoli Peaks. Paoli Peaks is a ski resort in Orange County and built on a natural hill at a 900 ft. elevation with a vertical drop of 300 ft. For well traveled skiers, this may seem like a bunny hill of a feat, but for those who’d like to ski somewhere between Louisville and Indianapolis… I’d say Paoli is the Aspen of Indiana. If you want to get real fancy on this ski-escapade, you’d stay in the West Baden Springs Hotel and drink in that wealth before hopping over to the slopes – that hotel and its entire grounds are seriously impressive and sets the tone for a lush experience.

January 2014 is when I got my first taste of Paoli, and my one and only go at skiing – and my God, was that something to behold.

If I told you I excelled immediately and was a natural born skier, my pants would burst into flames because that would be one of the biggest lies of the century. The amount of times I fell, and cursed the children who were expertly skiing past me as I lie staring at the sky were insurmountable. The number of times I threatened the lives of others, both on purpose and accident, were shocking. But the amount of times I fell and got up either by myself, or with a helping hand… were impressive.

Clearly I learned some existential things during my time skiing in the Aspen of Indiana:

You can’t just waltz in somewhere and think you’ll be perfect right off the bat. Sometimes it happens, but a lot of the time… to be really good at something, it takes time. Not just several hours either, but days, weeks, months, years to be really good at something.

So don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect at something new. In fact, go in with the mindset of “I might suck now, but I’ll get better.”

I can’t emphasize enough how enraged I was, each time I fell to the snowy ground and saw these children just expertly skiing past me. It was unfair, I was older and supposed to inherently be better – it’s how it works.

But it’s actually not, is it?

Those children have been skiing as long as they could walk, maybe. But also the way young minds absorb new things is completely unparalleled to an older/adult brain.

In all walks of life, it is highly likely you will come across a younger person who simply knows more, or does something better, than you. Don’t be bitter about it, be better and maybe even ask them for help. Don’t let pride and ego stop you from being better.

I’m really, really terrible at asking for help. I’m an incredibly determined person and fairly confident in the fact that I can do anything. There’s not much I can’t do on my own, and I quite like it this way.

But do you know how much quicker something can get done if you invest in an extra hand? It took me a couple hours into skiing to just finally ask anyone and everyone for help on that slope. And it’s so crazy – the more people I asked, the more friends I made, and the more enjoyable the day went on to be.

It’s so important to try new things, but sometimes trying a bunch of new things all at once is too much. It sends your body into a bit of shock and can ruin the vibe pretty quick.

By the time I got the skiing “down”, down as in not falling every few minutes, I was quickly convinced by a friend to try snowboarding. I should’ve drawn the line and said, “No, thanks – I still want to focus on skiing and get this solidified before the days done.”

But no, I of course agreed and created this new obstacle for myself. Within moments of trying to snowboard, my body, well my mind really, was just like “Girl, you’re maxed out for the day. You’re done. Also, you now hate everyone.”

Setting goals is just as important as setting limits. Respect yourself enough to do both, and communicate your boundaries to those around you.

It really is as simple as that – don’t let one mistake keep you from trying again.

Epic fails = epic character building.

. . .

Emily at Paoli Peaks in 2014

My First Car, Mumford

To date, one of the most pinnacle moments in my life is the moment I got my license. When I turned 16, I got my learners permit, and six months later on the dot I walked out of the DMV with my license in hand, ready to hit the road. One could easily say that getting your license is important to everyone, but you don’t understand – my having a license, being in control of my own transportation… this was big.

Being raised by a single mother who works full time, meant that I was often shuffled around relying not on just one or two people to transfer me where I needed, but multiple family members would help, along with numerous family friends throughout the years. It takes a village to raise a child after all, and it takes a village and a half to get one across town to various sporting games, social festivities, and other extra curriculars.

But having to rely on multiple people to get me where I needed never bothered me, why should it? All of these people cared about me so much they willingly hauled my butt around Madison County.

The main reason I was eager to get my own car? Driving myself to school in the mornings.

No, no – I never had to take the bus, but my sister and I fought like cats and dogs every single morning. Not just screaming matches, but nearly every morning there would be a WWE match taking place in the kitchen. Mainly these resulted from a toxic mix of night owls being forced from their dens before 8AM and my incessant need to be on time, or early rather, to school.

I was the kid who would scream throughout the house, “It’s 7:15! WE NEED TO LEAVE!” then the following minute would pass and I’d release an exasperated growl while pacing in the kitchen, “7:16, PEOPLE, I REPEAT IT IS NOW 7:16! WE NEED TO LEAVE!!”

Now what’s hysterical, is anyone who knows me today knows I struggle to be on time. But what can I say, as I age priorities change!

But anyway, the minute I had my license I had all the control I could possible need at the time – I could leave whenever I wanted.

. . .

The story of how I got my first car, is quite standard (maybe?!) I worked a comically dramatic summer for my dad in Kentucky. It was a particularly dry and hot summer with the temperatures hitting over 100 degrees each day, and my daily duties were a mix of helping my step-mom with some admin stuff, cleaning around the houses that were in construction, shuttling my siblings between various sports. As you can imagine, there were also several dramatic instances of me “quitting” because it was too hot to function. I earned a hundred or so dollars here and there, enough for gas and to funnel $25 a week over to my papa. He had offered me his 1997 Chrysler Sebring Convertible for $500 plus the condition that I kept a job while I had the car.

So by the end of the summer of 2012, I had sent my papa the $500, road tripped to his house in Pennsylvania to pick it up, and secured a job at the glorious Waffle House in Anderson, Indiana.

A 16 year old with a convertible and unlimited access to Waffle House hashbrowns? I was livin’ the Hoosier Dream!

I got attached to my Sebring fast. It was an older car, that had a decent amount of miles on it, 100k or so, but it was well maintained and ran great. This might sound crazy, but it always seemed to run the best whenever I played any Mumford and Sons song, so naming it Mumford was a no brainer there.

Good ole’ Mumford got me through my senior year of high school and only a few weeks shy of getting me all through college. I ran him bone dry, his life ending at somewhere between 326-346k miles, but to be fair towards the end he ran me (and my parent’s bank accounts) dry too.

Notable Mumford Moments:

There was a point in time when my driver side door just decided not to open. The lock would jam and that was that. It lasted a few months before it decided to work like a normal door again, but those several months were a freaky mix of me either awkwardly climbing through the window or stealthily sliding in through the passenger side. This also happened in the winter months, so having the top down to easily hop in wasn’t a thing…

Speaking of the weird lock thing, it also somehow triggered the door into never fully shutting all of the way? And during those few months when the door was mysteriously locked forever, my car alarm would randomly decide to go off throughout the night. My neighbors loved me 😉

This may or may not be news to you, but convertibles are the ultimate getaway car. Mumford helped carry out the greatest heist of all time – the stealing of a massive shark from some poor boy’s graduation party. (don’t worry the hostage was returned safe and sound later that evening..)

Soft top convertibles are glitz and glam, until that thing happens. Soft top owners, you know what it is… the rear glass separates from the top *face palm* I found the glass had separated in the worst way possible – after it had snowed A LOT, then the snow melted… and caked the inside of my car in mildew. The rest of my car’s life was a one of a duct taped exterior and a ‘heavy duty febreeze before driving’ interior. This smell only enhanced that summer when my AC didn’t work… LOL

Ironically, this photo is from a few weeks before the car’s passing, just after I found a local place that replaced the glass for around $100, but if you look close you can still see the duct tape battle scars :’)

. . .

This car, Mumford, he held all of the peak memories from my teenage years. Mumford played such a vital part of my friend group, he was the friend you could always count on to provide a good time. When you grow up in the Crossroads of America, all you and your friends can really do when bored is just hop in a car and fly down some back roads screaming the lyrics to your favorite songs – which made a convertible with a brand new stereo (courtesy of a Papa who loves to rock n’ roll) the perfect car for a bunch of teens to feel wild and free.

It doesn’t matter how new your car is, it doesn’t matter how fancy or sleek it is, it doesn’t even really matter if the car is a bit quirky – not when you’re 16. When you’re 16, all you need is a fast car with damn good stereo.

. . .

Share your first car stories in the comments below!

Emily’s car Mumford: 1997 Chrysler Sebring Convertible

Playlist Fiend: Eclectic Christmas Vibes

~Hi, hello, I’m back with an eclectic playlist to fit the seasonal vibes~

My absolute favorite holiday in the entire world is just around the corner folks, it’s nearly Christmas! COVID may have squashed my Thanksgiving family time, but I’m not letting Miss Rona f with Christmas. I’ve rented a car and will be journeying to my mom’s in PA and then heading down south to KY to see dad and rest of the fam, so obvi with two six hour drives… a hefty Christmas playlist is more than necessary.

I can’t let the road dull my holiday cheer.

My playlist has notable classics along with some covers, and also original Christmas songs by various artists. Below are just a few of the songs that made the list:

Winter Wonderland covered by The Judds

Growing up, The Judds Christmas CD was always brought out. Every wintry drive with my mom and sister, one of these songs was nearly always in the background. This song just happens to be my favorite from that CD 😉

Little Drummer Boy covered by Lauren Daigle

This song in general, has always been one of my favorites, perhaps due to it being so different to the usual bravado typically chorused in Christmas music. Lauren Daigle’s cover captures the gentle mysterious vibes that I love so much~

We Three Kings covered by Alexander Jean, Casey Abrams

Okay, We Three Kings is fr fr my actual favorite Christmas song. It’s my number one, again because it has that mysterious vibe unique to Christmas music, and this cover is #sick.

Winter Song by Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareillis

Ugh this song just gives allllll the feels. Ingrid & Sara are queens – simple as that ❤

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland

When writing this article and choosing five tracks to highlight, I hadn’t planned to list any classics because everyone should know OF COURSE the classics are on this playlist. Not some of them, but like… all of them are on there I promise. But then I decided I needed to highlight this song, because if I could choose one song, and one song only, to listen to all season… it would be this one, without a doubt ❤

. . .

Okay guys, those are only a few songs that barely scratch the surface of my playlist! See the full playlist here and get into the Christmas spirit me…

How My Mom Prepared Me for the Covid Era

Standing in line at CVS, I glance down to ensure I’m perfectly placed on the red dot – maintaining adequate social distance from the person in front of me. I don’t know them, I don’t know their story, most importantly I don’t know when they last sanitized their hands.

After they’ve received their bag with the receipt inside, I patiently wait for the cashier to sanitize the surface before calling me forward. I drop down my items, which are an array of nail polish and a cute first aid kit – super handy to slip into my purse – and I watch as each item is scanned and tossed in a bag. Once all of the items are accounted for, the cashier asks for a phone number – which I quickly recite by heart.

Nicole?” they ask.

I pause for a moment before it sets in, if there’s ever been any week in my entire life where I can confidently say I am my mother.. it is certainly this one. I smile, not that it can be seen beneath my thick mask, and respond, “Yep, that’s me.

. . .

Recently I was in California for work, and this is where I got to put my Covid Officer certification to use. I was onsite to primarily enforce proper sanitization and go the extra mile to ensure we were doing all we could onsite to prevent the spread.

It was almost startling how natural it felt to me to enforce all of those little preventative actions. You know, the ones that are seemingly hard for most of the population? The cough in your elbow or shoulder, wash your hands, stay away from buffets or shared food in general, always have hand sanitizer on you… wipe down high contact surfaces repeatedly…

But these small things, I’ve realized, are just the tip of the iceberg on the little hacks my moderately-germophobic mother raised my sister and I on. I’ve now had two productions I’ve been a Covid Officer on, and each time I asked the person in charge, “How high do you want me to turn up the volume, because I can turn it up real high or be more moderate…” but what I was really asking is “How much of my mother do you want to see come out?

Some of my favorite mom highlights and rules growing up:

MOM RULE ONE:

DON’T SHARE DRINKS OR FOOD

MOM RULE TWO:

DON’T TOUCH HIGH CONTACT SURFACES WITH YOUR BAREHANDS UNLESS GIVEN NO OTHER CHOICE…

MOM RULE THREE:

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN ALWAYS

Honestly, what is most hysterical about my mom being such a germaphobe and coming off very… high strung up above, is that growing up she still maintained ‘cool mom’ status. My fave mom quote ever is, “What I cannot see, I cannot prevent…” and not to mention my mom always helped me throw the most fun and memorable parties growing up.

So this is to say – you can be fun, cool, and have all the party vibes in the world… but still practice being sanitized, being aware of how germs and sickness can so easily spread, and do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

. . .