phone a friend

The best kind of friendships are those that pick up right where they left off, no matter how much time has passed. Today, pick up the phone and call a friend you haven't spoken to for a while.

I get that thanks to Facebook, you know how cute their kids looked on their first day of school, how amazing his vacation looked, that she started a new job just last week...

Facebook is a wonderful thing that keeps us connected, but seriously - pick up the phone and call them to tell them how cute the kids looked. Listen to him talk about his wonderful vacation. And don't you want to know about how much she's loving (or hating) their new job?!

Even better: Wait until you're having a bad day. Until you're in a miserable mood that feels like you don't want to talk to anyone. Force yourself to do this. I guarantee you, you will get off the phone feeling 10x better.

Why? Because you just felt a connection with someone you care about. You just heard in their voice that you brightened their day, out of the blue. You caught up. You listened. You laughed.

It's a strange thing, really. It's hard to describe the power of relationships. It's part of the true essence of life. I get that there are bills to pay, bosses that suck, jeans that are too tight... but none of that really matters.

What matters is that there's someone out there who loves us and that we love back. No matter what comes our way in life.

Nurture that love. It's a beautiful thing.

the power of doing nothing

My brain is literally going a mile a minute right now. I should take more of my own advice and stop with the dang to-do lists... but I can't, because if I don't, my head will explode. Which leaves me with one very important thing to add to the list.

Nothing.

This is not a joke. The more crazy-busy you are, the more you need this. (Kind of like meditation for those of us who can't shut out minds off.)

Choose a day and literally block it out in your calendar. Take note: This is not a day for you to catch up on annoying errands and shit you have no desire to do. This is a day where you're only allowed to watch your favorite TV shows (or read a book),  lay in bed, and order room service. That's what I call takeout when you live in New York City and can order anything you want with the click of a button via Seamless. Depending on where you live, this could mean Chinese food or pizza. And that's good, too.

I realize it might sound absurd, but you must try it. Give yourself ONE DAY to just relax, recharge... to just be. It's kind of like a vacation, only it doesn't cost any money... And there's no, "I need a vacation from my vacation" situation. This is a real vacation.

A real vacation, from real-life.

Do it and enjoy!

rethink your spending habits

Money is a funny thing. We all have different quirks about money, many of them instilled upon us by the way our families spent and valued it - likely from a very young age. We all think that the way we view money is the right way, of course. It's either ridiculous to spend $4 (probably now more like $6) on a latte every morning, or it's perfectly normal. And chances are, you don't spend much time trying to convince yourself otherwise.

I know I have some pretty bad shopping habits... online shopping in particular. I was blessed with a wonderful grandmother who spoiled me rotten. And to this day, when I want something, I have a hard time telling myself no.

My family was not a traveling family. My family spent money on things like cars and country clubs. As a child, traveling meant riding in the car with Granny to Cincinnati or our summer house in Highlands, North Carolina each year. We sang along to our favorite Natalie Cole album in her Mercedes station-wagon (Route 66 was my song of choice) and stopped at Cracker Barrel for lunch (chicken and dumplings for me, vegetable plate for her). Good times.

Yesterday I said that I love to travel, but for some reason I haven't done enough of it. I think I've figured out that reason - and it's the way I value and spend money.

This might sounds incredibly stupid to some of you - and if so, you're ahead of the game. Bear with me.

The $400 I spent on my last pair of sunglasses... That $400 also purchases my plane ticket to Guatemala this winter.

I like my YSL aviators, sure... but they are disposable. Here today, gone tomorrow. They could be sat on, stolen, thrown out the window in a moment's notice. And who cares, really? I guess I thought I cared, at one point...

But now what I'm thinking about is a plane ticket. A trip. The chance to immerse myself into a new culture. To see beautiful, amazing things and learn from interesting people.

Now, those sunglasses feel ridiculous.

I understand that it takes more than just a plane ticket to travel. And maybe, travel isn't what you're after. As someone launching a new business, I am even moreso moved by this new thought process. I'm learning quickly that there are smarter ways to spend the dollars that I earn.

Dig deep into your bank statements. Look at how you're spending. Think about what it is you want - what really matters to you? Maybe cutting that daily latte can help you get the new MacBook you've been dreaming about. Or maybe, that latte adds enough joy to your days to make it worth the money. The point is, you've thought it through, and you're spending your money the way you truly want to spend it - and not just because it's the way you've been spending it for years.

As the wise man says... "Now double your money and make a stack!"

:)

see the world (or at least more of it)

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – The Dalai Lama

It’s great advice, don’t you think?

I love to travel, but for whatever reason I haven’t done enough of it. I did a month-long stint in Europe when I graduated college and other than that, it’s been cruises and a lot of lying on the beach in the Caribbean and Mexico.

That’s about to change, partially because I’m lucky enough to have an expert traveler for a best friend. He traveled the world for five years, and is currently back on the road down to South America on a motorcycle. Like the bad ass that he is.

He has inspired me to travel more this year because I now have the fantastic option to meet him along his way as often as I can. First on the agenda is Guatemala and/or El Salvador. My first trip to Central America! What. ;)

It’s always been a dream of mine to travel the world and cook with the locals, so I think I’ll try that out this trip. I hear tamales are a thing in Guatemala, and a quick Google search led me to learn of the El Salvador’s famed pupusas: corn tortillas stuffed with cheese and other goodness. Doesn't suck!

Of course, if leaving the country isn’t an option for you right now, there are lots of places closer-to-home to consider - I'm sure of it. Likely things you can discover in just a couple hours’ driving time. Think about it. I bet there are things in your own dang town that you've never even seen.

Such as ... Ready for something ridiculous? I’ve never been to the New York Public Library. Yep... straight-up embarrassing. Libraries are literally one of my favorite things (I have a Pinterest board dedicated to them, for Christ's sake), yet I’ve never even been to what might be considered the greatest one ever. There's just no excuse.

(On a sidenote, for anyone that’s never been to New York, I think you should make 2014 the year you do it.)

It's easy to let life get in the way... To wait until next year, or next month, or when you'll have more time...

Seriously? You know how ridiculous that sounds.

We have to remember this stuff. We have to make time for it. We've got one life to live...

Tomorrow, I’m excited to share with you a new thought process I've adopted that can help make traveling more of a reality. (Or at least, it’s what’s working for me.)

Ciao, bellas!

less talking, more doing: stay present in goal-setting

I love to make lists. Who's with me!? The problem is, sometimes we spend too much time on lists... talking about what we want to happen... and not enough actually doing.

Trust me, I make more lists than anyone. I run a private cooking business... I'm launching an apron line... I try to keep up with producing online content... I'm always trying to do a bunch of different things at the same time. It gets complicated. Sometimes, I can't see up from down. How to make time for one thing, how to shift focus to the next...

So I make lists. And lists do help me to organize my mind and schedule my life. And what I've learned is that it's more helpful for me to focus my goals on the present, i.e. shit I can do right now or in the near future, rather than long-term.

I would have wasted a lot of time had I spent hours setting 5-year, 7-year, and 10-year goals in the last decade. My life has taken many turns in directions I could have never predicted. I could have never said, I want to move to New York and start a private chef business where I get to entertain and throw parties for a living, and then start an apron line so that I can marry my love of fashion and food in a way that will inspire other women to feel positive in the kitchen. Why? Because I didn't even know it was possible! But you know what I did do... I made short-term goals in the present tense: to cook and blog and create YouTube videos as often as I could. Doing those actionable items led me to where I am today.

Here's a good article from a smart dude who's talking about the same stuff: We need to focus on the process of achieving our goals rather than the outcome. Say you want to lose 10 pounds. Instead of focusing your energy on that, focus on the daily goal of getting to the gym. Or eating more vegetables and whole foods. "Losing 10 pounds" isn't even really the goal, is it? Isn't it to be healthier, lose some weight, and feel good about yourself? Doing those actionable items will make that happen.

I snooped around on some more work from that author and he tells a great story that takes that point a step further. It's about a pottery teacher who splits his class in two, and tells one side that they will be graded on quantity, and the other on quality. At the end of the grading period, it was the students working toward quantity that actually ended up producing the pieces of the highest quality. They made more pieces, thus got more practice in, and ended up being better potters than the guys who sat there and agonized over making one perfect piece.

Talk less. Plan less. Do more. Happy 2014!