Simplify.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

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There are so many words that I considered to represent the goals and ideas I have for the upcoming year, but no other word seemed to fit quite as well as simplify.

I'm sure over the past few years you've seen bloggers and friends choosing a word as their mantra for the upcoming new year. To me, it makes perfect sense. It's much easier to focus my attention on a single word than a list of goals that I'm bound to forget half way through January. As a natural list maker, I've always been drawn to resolutions, but I, like everyone else, fail to uphold them. Choosing a single word to guide the next 365 days makes the notion of change so much, well, simpler.

Simplify.

In stark contrast to previous years, my plans for 2017 aren't extensive. I have but a single goal - to simplify my life.

We laid some of the groundwork for this in 2016, but since I didn't choose a word last year, I'm hoping to gain more momentum and focus with simplifying our lives in 2017. And it applies to everything.

Our house. Our possessions. Our habits. Our meals. Our schedules. All of it.

Over the course of the last few months, we've fallen a little bit in love with the idea of minimalism, and while you won't see us living out of a backpack or buying any ultra modern furniture anytime soon, we feel that the backbone of minimalism falls in line with our goals and the lifestyle we desire.

It's not necessarily just about having less stuff.

It's about having more time and energy for the people we love. It's about stopping the vicious cycle of materialism and consumerism so that we can see the real value in the things we have. It's about eating real food and knowing what we're using to fuel our bodies. It's about stopping the glorification of busy and incorporating more focus into our lives. It's about slowing down and being more intentional with our time to eliminate unnecessary stress and the superficial boundaries we impose on ourselves.

But for me, it's mostly about happiness and I think we could all use a little more of that.

"I make myself rich by making my wants few."
-Henry David Thoreau

The Comeback Year

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Vik, Iceland

“Life will hit you hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up just so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.”
I've shared this quote before but I wanted to share it again, because ever since I first heard it in this beautiful TED talk on poetry given by Sarah Kay, it's been branded on my heart. The poem she recites is titled "If I should have a daughter..." where she explains the ways she would teach her future child to cope with life's tougher moments. It goes on...

“There is hurt. Here. That cannot be fixed by band-aids or poetry. So the first time she realizes that wonder woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal.  
Believe me, I’ve tried.”

I posted the above quote on Instagram on April 5th, 2016. Almost exactly one month after we had lost my grandfather to Parkinson's. At that time, his loss was just the latest point in a string of pain and loss we had been experiencing since early 2015. On April 5th, I heard Sarah Kay speak those words and I lost it. I broke down entirely. I had hit the end. I collapsed under the weight of all the hurt and actually allowed myself to believe those words. No matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal.

I pictured it. The pain. Coming down on me like drops of rain in a hurricane. Blowing at me from every angle. And then me. Standing there, drenched, with my hands outstretched hoping to catch them all. To fix them all. To stop them all from reaching the ground so that no one could see what was really going on. 

After nearly a year and a half of struggle topped off with a strong six months of suffocating anxiety, panic, and depression, I was done. I was done hurting. I was done crying. I was done carrying the burden and allowing it to control my happiness. From that moment on, I decided to let my hands hang heavy, let the rain fall where it may, and instead focus on moving forward. There were better, clearer, brighter days ahead and I was bound and determined to find them.

Then, it began.

I had been going to therapy for months, but I became more determined than ever to work on finding ways to heal. To rid myself of the burden I was feeling. To work through the guilt. To let go of the past. To focus on the future and the things I could control. Slowly but surely, I gained some traction and I noticed things changing in my life.

A month later, we adopted our puppy, Archie, who has brought an infinite amount of love into our home.


I kept working on myself, learning to identify negative energy in my life and also when I was the one supplying it. My prescription for happiness became: Focus on the positive. Go to therapy. Be grateful. Go to therapy. Do things that make me happy. Therapy. And the climb out of the hole became easier.

We started spending as much time with friends and family as we could. And the more we invested our time in the things that made us happy, the more we actually became happy. It sounds so stupid, but it really was that simple. Find what makes you happy, and do it. From there, our year took off.


In the second half of 2016 we visited five different countries...
{Iceland, Belgium, France, Netherlands, England}


Witnessed some truly majestic moments...


Saw nine epic concerts...
{The Clarks, Ellie Goulding, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, The Who, Roger Waters}


Crossed off my top bucket-list item...


Volunteered our time serving the people of Baltimore and learning more about the community around us...


And since that day in April, I haven't looked back.

2016 was a life-changing year for both me and Mike. Despite what everyone else is saying, it was one of the best years of my life. 2016 saved my life. Yes, there are lots and lots of negative things that happened in that time, and I could let them consume me or complain about them until I'm blue in the face, but I'd be no closer to changing them. Bad things happen. Good things happen. The best thing we can do in life is hang onto each other and work to find joy. That's why we've officially dubbed 2016 as our comeback year. While it started off in a dark place, we feel so lucky to have grown so much this year both individually and as a couple and I can only hope for more peace, clarity, and growth in 2017.

Happy New Year!

Dreaming of Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2016


After all these years I think I can finally say I've got the hang of this holiday prep thing.

When we moved into our house three years ago, although it was July and 500 degrees outside, I couldn't help but dream about decorating our first home for Christmas. In our apartment, there wasn't much we could do but hang a few stockings over our fireplace and put up a tree. We didn't even have a balcony in our first place so there was really nowhere to put lights. But after settling on a place of our own, I couldn't wait for the holidays to come so that I could really deck the halls.

I imagined decorating our front windows with little white lights and fresh Christmas wreaths, bringing home our very own tree and placing it in front of our living room bay window with all the ornaments we'd collected over the years. I pictured setting up a real dining room table with beautiful centerpieces made of holly and pine, lighting tall candles and having a big Christmas dinner with friends and family.

When that first December rolled around though, it didn't quite go as planned. We realized that since we had only lived in a shoe-box apartment, we had absolutely no Christmas decorations aside from our stockings and ornaments. Literally nothing else. And as newlyweds, we also didn't have the budget to buy all of the fancy decorations I had dreamed about for so long. While disappointed, we did the best we could with what we had.

Over the last couple of Christmases however, I've slowly but surely been collecting some pretty pieces, but also learning how to use more natural elements to decorate. I love being able to use fresh garland cut from pines in our back yard all around the house, the smell of simmering holiday scents on the stove, and white lights twinkling everywhere I can find a spot to hang them. Now, for our fourth Christmas in this house, I think I can finally say that I have our home's holiday decor nailed down, just like I've always wanted. Our wreaths are hung, lanterns in place, and presents are wrapped under the tree. I feel like I can finally say that I'm ready for Christmas to come! Bring on the cheer!

I won't be back here before the holiday so I hope everyone has a wonderfully magical Christmas with friends and family. Sending all our love and Christmas wishes to you and yours!

London, England

Friday, December 16, 2016


Next up on the travel re-cap list is London!

Before November, I had never been to London, so I was most excited for this part of our trip to Europe. We only got to spend a few nights here over the weekend and I quickly learned that it’s impossible to cover London in three days. But we tried! We hit all the big sights from Westminster Abbey and Big Ben to Buckingham Palace and Oxford Street in all its Christmas glory. 


On our first night there, we were exhausted from our journey since we had almost missed our train from Brussels to London. (Picture three crazy-eyed Americans sprinting through the station and rushing through customs, fumbling all of their luggage, only to hop on the train sixty seconds before it left.) We were so tired when we got to the hotel that we decided to do nothing but park ourselves in a local pub for the remainder of the day. We found the perfect spot right down the street at Three Tuns. It was so cozy and decked out in all kinds of holiday decor. We huddled up near the fireplace, downed the largest dish of fish and chips I’ve ever seen, and drank Elderflower Collins' like there was no tomorrow. Afterward, we took a stroll down Oxford Street, passing all the windows trimmed top to bottom in garland, lights, and sparkle. Between the ornaments and lights strung overhead, the classic black taxis zipping around, the doormen on every corner in their top hats and coats, and the music playing up and down the street, it felt like one big Christmas dream. 

The next day, we were up early to see as much of London as we could. We toured Westminster Abbey and got to see where Chaucer, Handel, Darwin, and Newton were buried. I was fascinated by both the Science and Poets’ corner with so many memorials and graves of some of the greatest scientific and literary minds in history. We couldn’t take photos inside the Abbey, but I was actually kind of thankful for this. It allowed me to focus solely on the experience instead of trying to capture the beauty of the building - which by the way would be impossible to do. You’ve really gotta see the inside of this place for yourself. It’s utterly breathtaking. 

Other notable stops that day were Hyde Park, Big Ben and Parliament, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace. We got to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace which was really neat. I’ve never seen a ceremony quite like it! Definitely a must-see if you’re ever in London!


We grabbed pints and lunch at The Clarence Pub on Whitehall where I devoured the tastiest wild boar sausage with bubble & squeak and bramley apple gravy. If there’s one thing London does right, it’s comfort food!

After lunch we ventured on to the Tower of London where we spent as much time as we could exploring, but the place was so big, we got tired before we could see it all. The sun was already starting to set by the time we were thinking of quitting (around 4:00PM mind you - I could never get used to that!) so we decided to venture across Tower Bridge at night on our way back to the hotel. My favorite part of Tower of London though was most definitely seeing the crown jewels. I almost bought a mini crown for Archie in the gift shop, but didn’t want to become one of those dog moms, so I decided against it. Ha! 


We dined that evening at the Maze Grill Mayfair (by Gordon Ramsay) and then started a bit of a pub crawl. Along the way, we met a bunch of people from Poland who had so many questions about the recent American election that they ended up following us to the next bar. Thankfully, we didn’t talk much politics after that, but it was a ton of fun getting to know them! We exchanged contact info so hopefully next year when Mike and I are in Munich, we can meet up at Oktoberfest!

Our third and last day in London was spent nursing hangovers from the night before (London pubs: 1 Laura: 0), shopping, and enjoying a proper afternoon tea. This was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. My mom and I love to do high tea in Annapolis back home, so it was really exciting for me to be able to have some extra fancy tea in England. 


There is no doubt that I’ll be back to London to continue exploring all this city has to offer. It's so much different than any of the other European cities I've been to, it definitely deserves more attention than a weekend can provide!