That Earthy-Crunchy Thing You Do


I feel fairly confident when I state that most people would not consider me the earthy-crunchy type. I wear far too much J. Crew and do too much split ticket voting to qualify. That being said, I certainly have a few earthy-crunchy/touchy-feely/getting-in-touch-with-my-inner-whatever tendencies. One of them I feel obliged to tell you about in the run-up to New Year's resolution season. Some background...

People say things like this to me...a lot:

  • "I wish I could do what you did and just pick up and move abroad."
  • "I'd really like to start my own business, but I just don't have the confidence."
  • "How can you be early 30s and figured out so much?"

First, I answer that I have most definitely not "figured things out." Second, I answer that I try to stay in touch with how I really want to feel. That's right -- not what I want to do or make or see, but how I want to feel about the day's work when the day is done.

For a long time, I did a lot of my own goal-setting. It was a once-a-year sort of thing, but it worked on setting me down a certain path. One thing I struggled with, however, was actually feeling good about certain goals when I reached them. Why did accomplishing my "goals" make me feel so ambivalent? Enter Danielle LaPorte and The Desire Map.

I initially discovered Danielle way back in about 2007 when she was featured in an issue of Domino magazine. I immediately scooped up her book Style Statement and found it incredibly valuable. I followed Danielle, read a ton of her stuff and latched on to The Desire Map the second it was released. I love the premise of the whole shebang: how do you want to feel?

For a few years, my core desired feelings (CDFs) were things like: engaged, active, bold, adventurous, deep experience, etc. I tried to wrap everything I did into those CDFs. The result? Serious happiness. Relocation, travel, business, baby, writing...serious activity and action. By thinking often about how I wanted to feel, it meant I didn't say "yes" to things -- work, social events, travel opportunities -- unless they were going to light my fire in the long run.

My current CDFs look like this:

I developed these CDFs about this time last year. After years of what I would consider pretty active CDFs, these words just felt different...almost alarmingly different. It helped me really focus on what I/my family needed as we pursued our move back to the U.S., I looked for a job and we set up our new house. No joke -- my CDFs infiltrate every fiber of what I do.

It's about time for me to go through the process again. My gut tells me that most, if not all of my CDFs, won't change, but it's always good to check in on these things.

Why am I sharing this all with you today? Because I really believe in this and if you're someone that likes to try for resolutions each year, this might be a good process for you to try before committing to whatever brave thing you might be attempting in 2015.

Here are some of my top recommendations of what Danielle has to offer:

^^I love my printed book, but the e-book is beautiful, too.

^^The workbooks are great for multi-year/process devotees like me.

^^I swore by my Desire Map planner in 2014 and will soon be scooping this beauty up for the New Year.

Do you have any things like this that you swear by? Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear your suggestions!

What I Learned About Food in Italy: Eat What's in Season

When people learn that you lived abroad in Italy for three years, they typically like to ask you about some fairly predictable things. After getting the basics, the conversation usually turns to food and wine. In regard to the former, it's amazing how quickly this question comes up: do you miss all the fresh food and produce? The answer is yes, but it's not quite that simple.

The fact of the matter is that fresh, amazing produce is available here, too. Particularly in Chapel Hill, between farmer's markets and local grocery co-ops, it's easy to find food grown and/or produced within a 100 mile radius that is delicious*.

What I really miss, however, is essentially being forced to eat seasonally.

I can't tell you how many times I would walk into a grocery store or the local veggie stand in Italy and mumble obscenities under my breath about just wanting an avocado or a pineapple or a decent eggplant -- damn the season! But, I would quickly get over it, buy whatever looked good (out-of-season produce in Italy could look scary-bad) and go on my merry way. We ate what was in season because it's what was primarily available to us.

And, you want to know something? We typically felt pretty darn good. We slept well, our skin looked great and we were rarely affected by the change-of-season cold and flus that are so common around here. We ate hearty foods in the fall and winter, and lighter fare in the spring and summer. We used our stale bread for pappa al pomodoro in the winter and for panzanella in the summer. It was the way of things.

So, when I find myself feeling sluggish or tired these days, I start to wonder if my return to all-season eating has gotten the better of me. Today, I grabbed out our stack of Mangiare di Stagione cookbooks -- a fantastic collection of recipes based on what's in season. Reading through the recipes immediately transported me back to for myself and also indulging at local eateries. A lot of seasonal dishes (particularly sweets) have tradition and history wrapped in them and I loved learning more about these regional-seasonal specialties.

Things will quiet down here ever so slightly in a few weeks around the holidays and I may set out on a mission to get us back on the seasonal eating path. A tall order, perhaps, but one worth trying.

*side note: I'm fairly convinced that eating North Carolina's Holly Grove Farms Jalapeno Goat cheese is part of the reason I was put on this planet.

3 Gift Ideas for Toddler Girls

It's the time of year when bloggers start sharing all of their "top picks" and "gift guides." Generally speaking, I find these types of posts annoying and self-serving (they usually include tons of affiliate links) and full of products that are way out of everyone's price range.

So, today I'm going to share three affordable gift ideas for toddler girls -- three things we love and actually own. No weird affiliate links. Just stuff we love.

These Mix & Match "dolls" from Petit Collage are so cute. My mother-in-law bought them for Livia and we have so much fun with them. They are actually flat, thick cards that you can mix and match to create fun characters.

This doll house from Melissa & Doug is a modern take on your typical little girl's doll house. You can move the furniture from room-to-room, it has an "elevator" and you can buy a little car for the garage. We have a lot of fun with this and it's great for stimulating the imagination.

To say that Livia has an obsession with music would be the understatement of the century. She loves it. We got this KidKraft guitar for her 2nd birthday thinking she would love it, but maybe not be ready for it right away. We were surprised just how quickly she figured out how to hold and support the guitar and strum away. It's easily the best $30 I've ever spent!

So, there you have it. Three solid gift ideas for toddler girls that I can almost guarantee will be a hit.

Thankful for: Nature Box

One of the first things I did when we moved back to the U.S. was start partaking in some serious consumer activity. The availability of stuff...everywhere...made me giddy. After 3.5 years of living with major convenience issues (that is, having nothing be convenient or easy), I was delighted to have options again.

Once we had a permanent address here in N.C., I decided to try out some of the straight-to-your-mailbox services that seem to have become all the rage while we were away. One of my favorites is without a doubt Nature Box. I'm not a person that likes to snack, but when I do snack I prefer it to be something that doesn't make me hate myself two seconds later.

Here's how Nature Box works: once a month they send you a package of at least five snacks. They can surprise you (which we tried the first time) or you can pick out each snack that is sent (what we do now). They have all different kinds of snacks and, from our experience, they are all stinkin' delicious. I always make sure that I have some variation of their sunflower seeds around. A handful of seeds is a great snack when I walk through the door after work and just need something to hold me over until dinner. Other favorites included watermelon chews, sweet potato fries and cheddar sticks.

My favorite part? The ingredient lists on all snacks have about five things listed. I've had some food sensitivities since being back in the U.S. (fully expected that), so it's nice to know things are made with care. It's also nice to be able to picture in my mind what ingredients look like unlike a lot of other processed food (Um, potassium bromate...can't picture it).

This is my way of saying that my monthly Nature Box -- at $20 a pop -- is totally worth it and feels like a downright treat when I find it in my mailbox at the start of each month.


6 months in America

It's been over six months since my last post -- six wonderful, exciting and fulfilling months. Up until a few weeks ago, I didn't even have my primary computer (my much-loved and ever-aging 27" iMac) in the house yet. I won't claim that I've spent the last six months "unplugged" by any stretch of the imagination, but they certainly were less-wired and for that I feel very thankful.


During the height of our blog popularity -- from mid-2011 to mid-2012 when we averaged about 6,500 unique visitors a day -- I found myself in a constant state of experiencing life through the lens of "how am I going to blog about this?" It's a strange existence to be thinking about how you are going to present an experience to an audience when you should actually be experiencing it for yourself. I'm not complaining, just simply stating out loud that it's an interesting way to live.

Our regular blogging worked for us. It gave me an outlet for my writing and a place to share our experiences. The blog also helped connect us to future friends and to future clients. Lots of winning there that outweighed the negatives.

This time last year, however, as we began to seriously consider returning back to the U.S., I found myself less interested in the responsibility of blogging. Once we made the official decision to move back, I wanted to fully and, to be honest, selfishly, experience my last few months in Italy. I wanted to eat gelato without taking a photo. I wanted to stop on the Ponte Vecchio to take a photo because I wanted it, and not because I needed a photo for tomorrow's post. I wanted to absorb everything I possible could during those months.

Then, a funny thing happened. When we got back to the U.S. I found myself feeling that same yearning for privacy and personal experience and decided to take a break from blogging. It's been a relief and rejuvenating. It's also allowed me to focus whole-heartedly on setting up our new life here in Chapel Hill, NC.


I've been reading blogs for the better part of a decade. I've been in that position before of following someone for years and then suddenly…poof…they disappear from the internet. I know that they aren't bound to me in any way, but it still feels like losing a friend without any explanation, in a weird way. It's not my intention to leave readers of this blog in that way, but I do have to tell you that our time apart has made my heart grow a little fonder.

I'm not sure what shape or form this blog will take as we go forward, but I do want to thank those of you that still come (a surprisingly large number of people) looking through the archives and, perhaps, hoping for a new update. I recognize that the experience my husband and I had from 2011 - 2014 was unique to say the least and that, yes, we were even "living the dream." Italy was a huge piece of that dream for a very long time and Florence is weaved into the fabric of my being at this point. But, to  be honest, I feel more so now than ever that I'm still living the dream. Life changes and dreams evolve along with it.

So, let's play catch-up. What's new in your lives?



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