Category: life advice

Why You Should Read + Watch + Listen Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Stuck in a book/music/tv rut? Reading + watching + listening to things outside of YOUR personal norm is so good for you! Click through for tips on how to do that >>

With the piles of new things I’m always trying, it might surprise you know that I’m a creature of habit.

Does this song have a poppy hook?  I will download it immediately and listen to it 100 times.
Oh, is this a funny, self-deprecating memoir? I’m on the library waitlist yesterday.
Is this a documentary about some sort of subculture and/or an underdog?  NETFLIX GET OUT OF MY BRAIN.

I will search high and low for a solution/approach/writer/lipstick/pair of jeans that works and when I find it? I’ll ride it till the wheels fall off.

Last month my book club/dinner club read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. While I didn’t particularly like the book I was glad I read it because it was totally different than any book I would have chosen for myself. Left to my own devices I would never read anything involving codes, warlocks, or history. Super no.

But when I read this book – so far out of my comfort zone –  strange, wonderful things started happening in my brain.
I had new ideas for blog posts (like this one).
I thought of a different way to structure my business.
I remembered the pile of recipes in my desk drawer I’d been meaning to try.

As obvious as it probably seems, good things happen when you break out of your ruts – no matter how comfortable and well-written and funny those ruts are.

Reading different books, watching different movies and tv shows, listening to different types of music – they expose you to new ideas, new rhythms, new approaches, new people.  And you don’t even have to like those new ideas for them to have a positive effect on you!

So how can you go about finding good, useful, well-made things outside of your usual?

Ask for recommendations from your friends! I love music that has been mockingly called ‘Brooklyn elf music,’ so I’m going to ask for recommendations from my friends who love metal. And country. And punk.

The only shows I watch are half-hour comedies.  But I bet my friends who love dark hour-long dramas could recommend some stuff.  Or my people who like action movies.  Or war movies with largely male casts (uggggh, I hate those movies!)

And all those memoirs?  I’m going to give them a break in favor of some nonfiction, a few collections of essays, and (dare I say it?) sci-fi?

Stretching your brain + boundaries feels good. Opening yourself to new ideas fills you up. Click To Tweet

I might learn something from codes and warlocks yet.

Do you get into culture and media ruts?  How do you get out of them?  And (more importantly) what metal and country music would you recommend?  Are there any action movies I should see?

P.S. Why you need a New Things practice + How to start one

Photo by Alex Loup on Unsplash

15 Fresh Start Ideas For Your New Year

Want a fresh start this year? We all do! before you worry about resolutions, spend a few hours changing your screen saver and cleaning up social media! Click here for more ideas: //

New Year! It’s good to see you! You’re so shiny and new I’m checking my makeup in your reflection and parking you at the edge of the parking lot so no one dings you with their door.

Did you guys make heaps of New Year’s resolutions? I’m too much of a Virgo to limit goal making to just once a year (what.a.dork) but I do love a fresh start.

According to inspirational posters everywhere any old day can be ‘the first day of the rest of your life.’ Sure. Yes. But don’t you think the first day of a new decade is just a bit luckier than any other day? Let’s start fresh this year! How’s a human to do that?

1. Get rid of the clothes you don’t love and don’t wear

Now, you should know that getting rid of things? It’s, like, my second favorite hobby. But cleaning out your closet and getting rid of the things that don’t fit you, suit you or please you anymore – it’s a great thing. (Here’s how to pare down your closet without losing your mind.)

I promise you’ll feel so much better once your closet is pared down to things that look great on you and bring a smile to your face. You can even make a few bucks off your old clothes at a consignment shop!

2. Clean out your car

Goodbye, empty Cheetos bags, two extra ice scrapers and orphaned mitten. Vacuum out the sand left over from this summer, splash out on the $8 automated car wash that includes a wax and switch to a new air freshener. I did this after I went through a bad break up and, it was oddly cathartic. Well, that and getting rid of all his old mix cds that were still in the glove compartment.

3. Organize your email/photos/online profiles

Do you have email folders? Dude, you need to. Even if those folders just consist of ‘friends,’ ‘work,’ ‘misc. important’ and ‘funny pictures of cats’ I promise you will feel so clean and smug when your inbox is not 254 emails deep with spam and emails about Christmas presents.

Spend a bit of time organizing your various online haunts. Weed out a few Facebook friends you don’t recognize, adjust your privacy settings, delete your Vine account, print out your favorite Instagram photos. Again, you’ll feel all clean and smug, I promise.

4. Change up your fitness routine

I’m talking to you, self. Sure, 30 minutes on the stair climber listening to Beyonce is awesome – and better than nothing – but how about a ballet class? Or aqua aerobics? kettle balls? hot yoga? You’ll work different muscles, meet new people and probably have heaps of fun wearing that awesome flowered swimming cap.

Related: 9 fun activities that also happen to be exercise

5. Take stock of all the relationships in your life

This is something that I don’t think we do enough. Are you happy with your partner? Are you headed in the same direction? When you look at them, do you think “How’d I get the best one?

Is everything pretty good, but a bit boring? Take stock of what’s working and what’s not. Think about ways that you can spice things up and re-connect. Have adventures. Try something new together. Have Big Important conversations.

And what about your friends? Do they inspire you and support you? Are they full of life and fun? Do you look up to them and respect them? We all know people that drain us and suck the joy out of any interaction.

Maybe it’s time to let those friendships go? I’m not suggesting some epic break-up conversation, but maybe limit yourself to hanging out with them in groups, or allow them to initiate plans for once.

How about those people that you’ve met and would like to be better friends with? Make it happen! I’m totally the girl who will meet a person once, recognize a kindred spirit, and announce to them that we will now commence being friends. Really.

And you’d be amazed how often this works! If you meet someone you like – tell them! Friend them on Facebook and suggest an adventure! The worse they could do is ignore you.

6. Clean out your cupboards and fridge

Not unlike your closet, you surely have things wallowing in the depths of your fridge and cupboards that are never going to see the light of day. Canned beets, anyone?

Commit to eating them up, toss them or donate them to a food shelf. Give everything a good wipe down and then stock up on yummy, nutritious food that you love – feta! Nutella! mandarins!

And this would be a great time to take on a No Grocery Challenge. You’ll be AMAZED by how much time and money you’ll save!

7. Update your resume

When you have a job, it’s easy to let your resume rot in the depths of your hard drive, but why not spend a few hours spicing it up? Update it with new skills you’ve learned at your current job, experiment with different fonts and layouts, make sure that all the dates, emails and phone numbers are current. You never know when you’ll need it!

Related: 8 steps to take (finally) get serious about your professional life

8. Clean out your bathroom cabinet

I won’t bore you with those statistics about how makeup’s shelf life is supposedly three weeks or some such, but why not toss those old prescriptions, the frosted lipstick and that shampoo that makes your hair weird. Give everything a wipe down, wash out your makeup brushes and buy yourself a few new products you’ve been meaning to try.

10. Change out your ringtone/alarm/screen saver

Yes. Download something new and fun. Why not wake up to sound of Josh Ritter or Rhye? Wade through the gillions of gorgeous photos on Unsplash and find something new for your screen saver.

11. Try a new scent

Aromatherapy is for real. Why not try a completely new scent for your home? Or a perfume that’s completely outside of what you normally go for?

I’m usually all over what I call ‘cougar scents’ – musky, spicy things that make me smell like a 50-year-old woman who flies first class and drinks too many martinis. But I’m going to give something light and floral a try!

12. Switch up your surroundings

You don’t need to engage in an extreme home makeover to get the feeling of a new space. Switch out the shams on your pillow cases and put some different pictures in those frames.

Put something different in that decorative bowl, replace the Venetian blinds with some thrifted curtains, paint an accent wall a color you love. You don’t need to break the bank to see a huge difference.

13. Make a list of new things you want to try

I’m in the process of trying 25 new things, but you can try any number of new things. And they don’t need to be epic, expensive, life changing things. ‘Cook something with lemongrass,’ ‘Watch Citizen Kane,’ and ‘Try Hip Hop Karaoke’ are all equally valid. It’s just important to try new things!

14. Spend 15 minutes thinking about your finances

Check your credit score, see how much money you still owe on school loans and think about upping your automated payment. Even just $30 more a month can make a big difference over the course of 10 years!

Make sure you’re actually using all those monthly services you pay for – Hulu+, Netflix, the gym, etc. Could you do without them? Take a minute to look at your 401k – are you topping it out? And if you don’t have a 401k, get a Roth IRA. It’s soooo much less intimidating than you’d think!

15. Try something new with your appearance

I don’t know about you, but I’m inclined to stick with something when I know it works. And then keep doing it for a million years, well past its expiration date. These days that means actually styling my hair, NYX liquid liner, Revlon Lip Butter in Candy Apple, Old Navy Rockstar jeans and a pair of weird black boots I found at an antique store on my birthday.

Anyway! Let’s break out of the rut! New lipstick colors! New eyeliner! Hairstyles that are not a top knot or big, loose curls! (That last one’s a note-to-self). And if you try it and don’t like it? You can just go back to what was working.

What fresh starts are you making this year? Tell me all about it in the comments!

P.S. 11 end-of-year traditions that will make next year amazing

Photo by Daniel Lee on Unsplash

Reminder: you get to choose how your holidays look + feel

Do you want a minimalist Christmas? Or a calmer holiday season? It's easy to forget but we get to choose how we celebrate the holidays and if you want to opt out of a tradition or set of expectations, you can.


Are you stressed out yet?

Are you completely overwhelmed by the invites to one million white elephant parties/ugly sweater parties/cookie making parties? Are you looking at your bank account with fear as you calculate how many more gifts you need to buy? Have you maxed out on cookie dough yet?

(Just kidding. It’s impossible to max out on cookie dough!)

I just wanted to remind you (and myself) that we are totally in charge of how we choose to spend our holidays. We get to decide what our holidays look like.

If you don’t want to, you don’t have to:

buy presents for everyone you’ve ever met
get a real tree
get a fake tree
make any cookies – at all
send holiday cards
attend every party you’re invited to
spend your vacation days driving around the tri-state area visiting every person you share DNA with

You get to choose what your holiday looks like (even if it requires some tough conversations) Click To Tweet

If you enjoy doing those things, then you should totally, totally do them. I looooove helping my mom decorate the house for the holidays. I looooove helping her make lefse and eating my weight in cookie dough. I love purchasing carefully considered, verging-on-awkwardly-overly-generous gifts for a few very important people in my life. I love watching my nieces’ Christmas pageants.

I do not like (even a little bit) Secret Santa gift exchanges. Or office parties. Or driving many, many hours to stay in hotels. And I’m not really that into cookies (mostly I just like the dough).

It might require a few tough conversations. You might get called ‘the office Grinch’ because you’re not interested in swapping $5 gifts with Tom in Accounting. Great Aunt Marge might try to guilt trip you because you’re not driving five hours to stay in Motel 8 and tolerate her inquiries into your personal life.

Summon a bit of your personal holiday spirit and make this season your own – in whatever shape that looks like.

P.S. 11 minimalist gift ideas that add happiness, not clutter

photo by kris atomic // cc

11 Thoughtful, Customized Gifts That Will Make People Feel Loved

Looking for customized gifts? Or last-minute present ideas? These gift ideas are thoughtful, easy, and not particularly expensive ... and you print a lot of them right for your computer or purchase on Amazon Prime!

I’m pretty convinced I’m good at gift giving (here are my best tricks).

Oh, that really weird, expensive soap you mentioned that you loved but couldn’t justify buying?  I’M ON IT.

Your hilarious obsession with Gayle King’s column in O magazine?  I will scan a year’s worth of pages and have them made into a journal. You’re super stressed and working three jobs?  If I’ve got a key to your place I will secret clean it and then stock the fridge with groceries.

If you’d like to show the people in your life that you love them (or if you’re not a gift registry type) here are 11 things you can buy that a) aren’t insanely expensive b) are pretty stinking thoughtful.   

11 customized gifts that will help you win Christmas or Hanukkah

Hard cover or signed editions of their favorite books

If someone you love is a Reader, I’m sure you know their favorite books and authors. Wouldn’t they love a prettily designed hardcover version of Pride and Prejudice? Or Anne of Avonlea? If you want to get realllllly crazy, buy them a signed edition of their favorite book – use the ‘signed books’ option on Bookfinder.

Lessons or classes for something you know they want to do

If they’re always talking about how they’d like to take a Salsa class, or study French, or cook Thai food – buy them some classes!  And luckily for you, you can frequently find classes at very reasonable prices on Groupon and LivingSocial.
If you’re worried that a gift certificate makes for an uninspiring gift, buy something cute and little (a jar of peanut satay sauce or some brie) that is representative of the lessons and then wrap that.

A photo album of their best Facebook/Instagram photos from the last year

Most of us upload our photos to the internet and then let them sit there.  Stalk your friend’s Facebook albums or their Instagram feed and make some of the best photos into a sweet little album.
Shutterfly makes cute, affordable photo books and Prinstagram makes The Cutest teeny tiny photo albums – 3 for $10!

Make a cookbook of your family’s best recipes

When you live far from your family you miss the meals your mom made (I loved South of The Border casserole and pan-fried Sunfish as a kid.)
If you have access to the family recipe box, have a dig through and make your favorites into a cookbook. If you really want to go above and beyond, scan in the recipe cards with your grandma’s handwriting.

Have a custom painting made from their favorite photo

If she’s had the same Facebook profile photo of her and her dog forever or you know that she loves that photo of her and her grandma, have it made into something a little more fancy.  Etsy is filled with people who will make your photo into a painting. Watercolor! Acrylic! Silhouette!

Vintage toys or action figures from their childhood

For the record, I would love a Strawberry Shortcake doll or a She-Ra doll. Ebay is your answer for all things vintage-toy related.

Convert their old home videos to DVD or digital formats

Oh, goodness. When I was at my parents’ house this summer we unearthed some old home movies and I laughed so hard I cried/stopped making noise/hyperventilated a little bit.
There are lots of companies who will convert VHS to DVD and if you’ve already got them in DVD and it’s relatively easy to convert DVDs to mp4s. If you’re feeling fancy, use a video editing program to add music and text.

Something from their home town/state/country

When I lived abroad, I asked my mom to send me ranch dressing mix, vegetarian chili mix, Betty Crocker brownie mix, and the creepy orange Kraft mac’n cheese powder. If your friend is living far from home, they’d probably love a package of stuff they can only get in their home state or country. It could be local candy, preserves, coffee or cheese.

Make a donation in their name to a charity that means something to them 

If they really, really have everything make a donation to their favorite cause. You could ‘adopt’ their favorite animal (you can adopt this otter in my name, friends), sponsor a community garden in their neighborhood, or write a check to an NGO in a country they visited.

Pay someone else to do chores they don’t want to go

Give them a gift certificate (like, from an actual service provider – not a hand written gift certificate that says you’re going to do this stuff) for some of those things they hate to do. House cleaning! Pick up/drop off laundry! Snow removal! Mowing! Gutter cleaning!
Again, you can usually find discounts on these services through Groupon and Livingsocial or give Taskrabbit a try! If you want to be clever, attach the gift certificate to a cheap bottle of wine and tell them to drink it instead of shoveling snow.

A modern mixtape

No, sharing a Spotify playlist doesn’t count! This jumpdrive mixtape is adorable and a perfect mix of old school and high tech. Include songs from fun adventures you had this year and songs from your past. If you’re really ambitious, cut out pictures from magazines and glue them on the outside.
Tell me about the best, most thoughtful gifts you’ve ever received! And are you a good gift giver?
photo by annie spratt // cc

The Best Outfit For Thanksgiving Dinner

If you are a non-American Yes and Yes reader, I will assume that you don’t know eating Thanksgiving dinner is equal parts Olympic-level sport and nearly religious experience.

We take this business seriously.

White or dark meat? Fresh, fancy cranberry sauce or the canned kind that everybody likes better?  Cream cheese in the mashed potatoes?  Any kind of pie other than pumpkin?

And because we spend the better part of a day eat + sitting + watching football, it’s important to plan the correct outfit.

In addition to consuming 3,000+ calories, you also need to

  • look nice for your extended family
  • deal with someone else’s concept of climate control
  • potentially mask stains and spills
  • not feel like a sausage straining to escape its casing.

Behold, friends.

The Best Outfit For Thanksgiving Dinner.


best outfit Thanksgiving

Let’s dissect this, shall we?

Black peplum dress
It’s black so you can wear it all the time, for any occasion.  It’s knit, so it’s comfortable.  It’s got a peplum to disguise your ‘food baby’ post face-stuffing. It’s short sleeved so if your uncle insists on heating his house to near-boiling, you’re fine.  Also: it’s $27!

Grey over-the-knee socks
Pantyhose, tights, and leggings all mush your stomach in. Forget that! Over-the-knee socks keep you warm, disguise your questionable attempt at shaving and let you eat another helping of mashed potatoes. PRIORITIES. $10!

Black ankle boots
Unlike tall boots, these won’t cling to your calves and get sweaty. Also: these are only $37!

Colorful scarf
This can be strategically arranged to hide the spill that happened when you got too excited about the apple caramel pie. It’ll also keep your fratty cousin from making some sort of comment about how you’re ‘goth’ and you ‘hate color.’

Drapey cardigan
And if your uncle keeps the house at 62 degrees?  This will help.

Wishbone necklace
Festive!  Thematic!

What are you wearing to Thanksgiving dinner?  I’m making my grandma’s version of mashed potatoes and wearing a knit peplum dress I bought at Target two years ago!

Life Has Big Plans For You

Even if thing have been horrible, life has big plans for you. Somewhere, the clouds are gathering and forces are aligning to make life amazing for you. >>
We all know life can be less-than-easy.

We have stressful jobs that grate and chafe.
We go on first dates that don’t go anywhere. We stay in almost-right relationships that need to be ended.
We experience friendships that drain and showers that don’t.
Somewhere, the person you will be with and love foreverandeveramen is sitting down with a therapist to (finally) work through those issues. They’re starting to think about signing up for that online dating site.
They’re willing to actually listen when their friend tells them – for the fifth time – that they’ve got someone to set them up with. (You.)
Somewhere, the CEO of your dream company is thinking “You know, we really need to hire a few more people.” Someone is typing up a job description for your fantasy job – for which you are perfectly qualified. Someone is vacating a position that would be the right fit for you.

Somewhere, there’s an empty spot on a trivia team that only you can fill.

There’s a girls’ night out that needs someone who’s going shout “This is my jam!” and run onto an empty dance floor.

There’s a dreamy corner apartment that’s about to be vacated.

There’s a sweet little puppy that someone just found in a parking lot – and he’s waiting for you at the animal shelter.

Maybe these things aren’t quite ready.  Maybe it’ll be a few more weeks (or months or years) before they’re ripe.  But don’t worry.  They’re coming.

photo by anthony delanoix // cc