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Rebecca Collected

Some thoughts on shopping

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Popping on here again to share a couple thoughts on shopping I've been mulling over in the past week.

I haven't really made any conscious decisions to change my shopping habits, but in the last few year or so they've definitely changed. I've been shopping a lot less, there's way less in my wardrobe than there used to be, the pieces are all a lot more considered than before, and I only get something new after spending quite a bit of time considering it first.

Most markedly, I haven't been finding myself enjoying the actual activity of shopping as much. I get this idea to head out to the mall, and if I don't manage to talk myself out of it before I actually leave, I tend to get bored of it all after the first shop or two. I used to shop for hours on end. Maybe it's just because my best shopping buddy no longer lives near me, and the shops in my local malls aren't the places I want to be spending money at, but it seems to have lost it's fun.

I don't think I was entirely conscious of the change in my perception of shopping until I happened upon Leena Norms' 'Why I'm failing • no buy challenge update' video. She talks about her relationship with capitalism, how she did at buying nothing unnecessary for 6 months and what it means to live within a capitalist world while you're trying to cut back on shopping (amongst several other thought provoking and humorous topics). Her video was in response to Hannah Louise Poston's content about her no-buy year, so naturally I had a deep dive into her channel. About 5 hours and several videos later, my brain was firing on all cylinders. Watching Hannah's 'My First Shopping Trip After The No-Buy Year (Storytime)' video was like watching her explain my own thoughts on shopping to me. It was uncanny.

So. Here are some videos. I hope they resonate with you as much as they did with me!

It's been awhile...

Sunday, September 8, 2019
Back in April I wrote a long, meandering post about burnout and how overwhelmed I was feeling. Apparently that was the straw that broke the camel's back, because despite not planning on taking a break from posting I didn't write another word until right now -- 5 months later.


So I guess I did have a lot going on. Even though our ceremony and reception was a pretty low-key affair, wedding planning is no joke. Add to that already rather ominous load planning and organizing a honeymoon, fixing up and selling a house, moving and combining two lives, in all the big and small ways that entails. At the time I was definitely feeling the strain of it all, hence the post in the first place, but I think I thought I was able to keep a lot more juggling balls in the air than I probably should have been attempting.

Now that the dust has settled and I've given myself a bit of time to recoup there's finally a small space of time that I'm wanting to fill again with this little hobby, but only with a renewed outlook. This isn't my full time job. Hell, this isn't even earning me a single penny. Previously I gave myself a little challenge to post every week, which for the most-part was a nice, friendly little push to do something regularly and resist the urge to come home every night and waste away the evening. But eventually, when things really started piling on, I felt the pressure rising.

It was never the writing -- that was always the easiest part. Nor was it coming up with ideas. It was always the photos. For whatever reason, taking photos -- finding the light, a "cute" area of the home or subject of the photo, getting a suitable backdrop, etc -- just started to feel like a huge uphill battle that repeated week after week. When I was thinking about returning to this blog, I knew I needed to let that pressure go and find a new, sustainable approach.

So here's how this return is going to go. In order to make this a no-pressure space to just share what I'm feeling, what excites, intrigues or troubles me, I am not going to stick as closely to a schedule as I used to. I don't aim to turn this into anything big, so amassing a great following that eagerly awaits a scheduled post isn't a goal of mine. I'm fine being a little bit more loosey-goosey with it all. Secondly, I am not going to put pressure on myself to create picture perfect images for posts. I might even post quicker, more off the cuff posts with none at all. That might be a bit strange in this image-centric Instagram-devouring society we're all living in right now, but we'll see how it goes. In fact, I'll start with this post today. #yolo and whatnot.

If anyone out there is still reading, I appreciate you, I'm excited to be back at it again, and I hope you're onboard with this new plan. Be on the lookout for a few more rambles again shortly!


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Discussing burnout really seems to be in vogue at the moment, and maybe that's part of why it's on my mind, but boy oh boy have I been feeling it lately.

In fact, this is the first time in a year and half I haven't had a post for the week ready for Sunday morning's publishing time. I'm writing this from my couch the night before this will go up, and I have no real idea of what is going to come out or where I'm going with this train of thought.

I have spent every single night over the last week working on something for our upcoming wedding, doing some type of life admin thing or working on either my house or John's house. And despite the fact that it's Saturday night and there's a full day of the weekend ahead of me, it feels like tomorrow will be more of a chore than a day off because we'll be out of the house for about twelve hours for Easter related get togethers. The most time I'll have to fill as I wish from now until next Sunday is now, and I'm here working on this.

We drove past a park this afternoon. It was 80 degrees with sunny skies and a light breeze, so it was packed with people tossing a ball around, having picnics, reading in the sun or kayaking on the lake. I could smell the charcoal grills and the grilled food through our open windows. At that moment I wanted nothing more in my life than to have an afternoon with nothing to do. No nagging thoughts of a to-do list longer than classic novels. No scheduled fun time squeezed in between projects. I just wanted to be living a life where things or events weren't my main priority and instead it was my main goal to just sit in a moment and soak it in.

It all sounds incredibly privileged and cliched, and it is, but that doesn't stop me from wanting it.

Obviously when a person is planning a wedding it tends to be a stressful time, and is even going to be a pretty low key one. Soon that will be over, and then hopefully John's house will be finished and will sell quickly and then all will be back to normal.

But I just know I'll immediately start in on some new project, because some part of me is apparently hardwired to think that if I'm not working on something I'm wasting precious time.

Thanks, industrious immigrant farmer ancestors.

Even when I'm not feeling stressed, I'm just always moving. Oftentimes I'll tell John I need to run upstairs to grab some scissors or something and he'll come find me 30 minutes later scrubbing a toilet after having vacuumed the rugs and rearranged a closet. I still wouldn't have managed to grab the scissors. Needless to say, I'm not always very good at sitting around and doing the nothingness I say I crave.

My desire to always be doing something is a bit of how this blog even got started. I just wanted something to do. But when does a hobby turn into a responsibility, a commitment to something rather than fun? I feel guilty for not having something more than this made for this week, and yet it really doesn't matter. I'm not doing this for anyone but me, I'm certainly not making any money, so why do I feel like this too is turning into a chore? Do I need to take a break? Should I give it up entirely or just put it away for a few weeks, or until things calm down a bit more?

All this has me thinking a lot about what I actually prioritize. Right now I would say that's my house, fitness, food, living a lower impact life, my style and beauty routines, traveling and reading. It doesn't seem like a long list, but when I hold it up to the image in my mind of a serene, lazy day at a park, it suddenly seems lengthy and even a bit frivolous. I feel like I have to let some of those things fall back into the background so I can actually have time to fill up my own cup. As an introvert, that time to do one thing I really like is absolutely key to me staying sane so I better figure something out quick.

This has all been a huge ramble, with no real point or structure, but if nothing else I hope it's made you take a second to think about your priorities as well. Anything you want to reevaluate in your world right now? Let's chat about it below. In the meantime, I'm off to go do a face mask and take a few deep breaths. See you next time!

2019 Travel Plans

Sunday, April 14, 2019
Some of you might see the title of this post and feel the urge to remind me that a quarter of this year has already gone by and that maybe I'm a bit late to the game. Fair point, but I've been pretty busy with wedding-related tasks and fixing up John's house so for me the travel year yet has yet to begin! After this slow start to the year travel-wise, I plan to squeezing in some quality exploration in the next coming months. So where am I headed?

London & Copenhagen: After much hemming and hawing, we finally decided on honeymoon locations. While we originally thought about going to Greece, we conceded that we were just too close to the dates we wanted to go to book a hotel that had what we wanted, and the remaining places were just too expensive for what they offered. So we shifted gears, and now we're going back to London together a little more than a year after our previous trip! After three visits and living there for a semester, it's safe to say I love the city and John really enjoyed it when we went last year as well, so we're going back for more. This time it has the added bonus of being one of the top cities in the world for vegan restaurants and you can safely bet that our list of things to do there is mostly just a list of restaurants. We also wanted to go somewhere new together, so we book ourselves some cheap Ryanair flights to Copenhagen for a couple nights as well. I'm counting down the days until I can wander the halls of the danish design museum and hit up the free wine hour at our hotel. But first we just have to do that small thing of actually getting married...

Seattle: In late July my whole family will be heading to the west coast for a long weekend in Seattle. My brother-in-law grew up in Seattle and his parents still live there so we'll be staying with them in the suburbs of the city. I've never been to Seattle before so I'm super excited to see the city with locals and have a nice homey place to return to each night. My sister has talked up the meals she eats with their family whenever she visits too so that definitely doesn't hurt. I need to start working on a temporary nickname for the weekend however, because my brother-in-law's mom is also named Rebecca! Suggestions welcome. 

Portugal: One of the benefits of having a retired mom that loves to travel is that she's subscribed to every cheap flight email notification a person can be and she reads them all almost as soon as they hit her inbox. My family has been talking about taking a trip ever since we realized that our last non-camping family trip was in 2012 😳so when she saw cheap flights to Portugal, a country none of us have been to before, with availability right around Thanksgiving, we leapt on it. We'll be there for a week, starting in Lisbon. We haven't planned anything yet, but I imagine we'll be staying in an Airbnb together, spending some time in Lisbon and maybe renting a car so we can see a little more of the country. I'm looking forward to traveling with my family, especially since we don't speak the language. Having a group takes a bit of the stress of traveling away. At least if you get lost you're lost together!

A Weekend Getaway?: I am thrilled to be going to as many places as I've listed so far, but I'm also eager to squeeze as much travel in as possible so I'm still contemplating a weekend getaway to somewhere close to home if possible. I need to make an IKEA run, so perhaps Kansas City (if they ever reopen I-29) or Minneapolis, where several aunts and one of my best friends live? Denver is always nice for some hiking, but then again John hasn't been to the Snowy Range, a family camping favorite, so perhaps a Wyoming trip is in order. Even just a quick little camping trip to a nearby state recreational center or lake would do. Where ever it is, I want to get out of Lincoln and Omaha and explore some new places!

What are your travel plans for the rest of the year? Or do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know! Otherwise, see you next time!

March Highlights

Sunday, April 7, 2019
Every so often I have one of those days that makes me feel like I need to pinch myself. This March I think I had one of those days every single week and I'm feeling ridiculously lucky for it.

Booking our honeymoon: We started out the month strong by finalizing all our honeymoon plans and getting all our flights, hotels and Airbnbs booked. We're heading out this summer for two weeks and we'll be going to London yet again (we can't help ourselves) and taking a little jaunt over to Copenhagen as well. I can't wait to eat at as many vegan places in London as I possibly can fit in and to see the chair room at the design museum in Copenhagen! We're still finalizing what else we want to do with all our time over there but I'm sure I'll share it here at some point so watch this space.

A surprise bachelorette party: A few months back a friend asked if a couple of us wanted to come up to Omaha for a sleepover because her husband was going to be out of town. I thought nothing of it. It turns out it was all a ruse to get me in Omaha so my friends could surprise me with a pseudo bachelorette party. Most of my friends live out of town at this point so I was very surprised when my friend that currently lives in California opened the door of our hotel room. We had a great time going to dinner at Modern Love, drinks at Nosh and then back to Hotel Deco for some more rosé and snacks, including a cake emblazoned with the phrase "Same Penis Forever." My friends are great.

My bridal shower: There's a definite wedding theme to last month, but we're getting close so everything is really gearing up. In the last week of March a very organized, crafty and plan-loving family friend threw me a bridal shower. I knew nothing about the plan or theme -- I was simply told to show up at 11am. It turned out to be a travel themed shower which was perfect. She made a vegan brunch, we drank mimosas and got really competitive trying to see how many words can be made from the word "travel." (The answer is 72, by the way)

Visits from friends: With all these wedding related events happening, I ended up getting to see a lot of friends from out of town. Like I mentioned earlier, my friend Melissa from California was here, my friend Jade from Wisconsin came and my friend Nicole and her boyfriend from North Carolina that I've mentioned in my guest room makeover posts (here and here) stayed with me for a weekend. It was absolutely fantastic getting to see all of these people, especially when I wrangled them all up in one room for my bridal shower and dinner and drinks that same evening. I am so grateful I'll get to see them all again in a few months for the wedding!

Odds and ends: There were a lot of big events and milestones this month, but there were also some smaller things of note scattered throughout. We were lucky enough to use my parents' tickets to Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra at the Lied Center, which was a fantastic performance. My parents brought me up on jazz music and it's always really fun to see performances that can at once delight you, make you want to dance and cause an entire hall to get so intensely quiet in awe of a ballad that you can ear a pin drop. I highly recommend seeing them if they come near you. Another entertainment highlight was the return of Queer Eye. If you haven't watched season three yet, grab some tissues and go log into Netflix immediately. We can continue when you've finished.

Finally, if you've been following the news I'm sure you've seen the headlines about the flooding in the Midwest. In Lincoln we were lucky enough not to see any flooding, but other parts of Nebraska were and still are particularly badly hit. My friends flying in said they saw lakes where water should not have been and some of my coworkers have family whose homes were completely submerged and destroyed. A lot of this month was colored by mandatory and then voluntary water restrictions. We skipped workouts to avoid showering, switched to bottled water and used disposable plates and silverware. For someone who does her best to avoid using anything disposable or plastic, these swaps were the opposite of what I usually make, but sometimes it's important to remember that the plastic-free, waste-free option isn't always the right option. Despite all this, it's been an absolutely fantastic month and I feel so privileged, happy and loved. See you in the next one!

Guest Room Makeover: An Update

Sunday, March 31, 2019

You faithful readers might remember that about a month ago I started work on transforming this once almost empty room into a guest room, and I'm happy to report that as you're reading this it will finally be housing some guests! 

I don't consider this room done by any means, but it's got all the basic necessities to be considered a pretty comfortable setup. We've got a bed, actual bedding (minus a bed skirt), real life pillows, a lamp plus a light bulb (such luxury), plants, a giant TV and Xbox (boys will be boys and whatnot), a chair that you can't actually sit in yet (I really need to buy clamps and wood glue), and a semi-styled shelf! 

The miraculous part of all of this is that the only things I bought were the duvet and cover, the two throw pillows and blanket and the lamp. The rest I already had! No bad for conjuring a room out of nowhere if you ask me. I've definitely done up this room on a budget so it's not exactly how I would have styled things if I were starting from scratch (I'm looking at you, rug) and we've still got very bare walls and windows going on over here, but it works and will hopefully be a very comfy room for a long weekend (so long as you don't try to sit on the chair).

I'm calling that mission accomplished-well-enough-for-now on operation Guest Room Makeover. Until next time, have a great week!

A Little Earring Haul

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A few weeks ago I went shopping with my sister and boy did I need a good shop. There's just something about getting out of the house, hanging out with your favorite people and getting to nose around shops and see what's new and beautiful this season. I was on a mission for wedding related items at the time, but of course sometimes life happens and you end up with more earrings than you previously even owned. You know how it goes. So without further ado, let's take a look at my little earring haul and laugh together as I try to describe them!

Oh and please note, most of these are from H&M aka the fastest of fashion so 1) please don't judge me too hard for shopping there and 2) I did my best to find links for these but even though I bought them only a couple weeks ago, they're no longer online. I tried to find similar items where possible.

I think my obsession with everything tortoiseshell began spring of last year, especially with this post, and it hasn't slowed down since. These earrings are just another manifestation of that fixation, but they're perfect. Lightweight, not too flashy, and they kind of blend in with my hair so I could easily wear these at my very casual workplace and not feel overdressed.
Similar H&M $14.99
Similar H&M $12.99
Similar H&M $5.99

To be quite honest, I really liked these when I was in the store, and since coming home I like them less. I still think they're fun, but I'm struggling to come up with outfits I'd wear with them. Everything else I have is pretty organic feeling, and these are so very structured. At least they'll be fun to experiment with!
H&M $6.99

I think of these as little blobs of gold. If you find a better way to describe them, please let me know. They're super lightweight which my ears appreciate, but still pretty dressy so I'll likely be saving these for nights out. As you can see in the picture they're already a little scratched so I'll have to be pretty gentle with these, especially given how reflective they are.
Similar H&M $14.99

I think these will be the most wearable of all the earrings I picked up. They open from the middle and just snap close, so there's no stupid tiny back to wrestle with. The post is a bit thicker than most earrings I think so that was a little uncomfortable at first but my ears quickly got used to that. Much better than the time they put an earring into my rook piercing 2 sizes bigger than they had before, but that's a story for another time... Anyway, these are fun to wear, pretty easily dressed down for work and up for play and I love the chunky look.
Target $7.99

I am in love with these, but ironically I still haven't worn them yet. In my eyes they're the most dressy of the earrings I bought, so I'm waiting either for an actually dressy occasion or for it to warm up enough that I can dress up a white t-shirt, high rise blue jeans and casual shoes with these gorgeous things. Just look at the shape of those "pearls." And the "gold" posts that remind me of tree bark. I die.
Similar H&M $14.99
Similar H&M $12.99

I definitely have my work cut out for me getting wear out of all of these, especially when I've been religiously wearing my Mejuri mini hoops and some studs John got my for Christmas throughout this winter. Now that it's spring though maybe I'll actually go outside every so often and have an excuse to dress up a little. What a concept. Until next time, have a good week!

My Week in Workouts

Sunday, March 17, 2019
Guys. There's sunlight and warmth outside. It's a miracle! Spring is finally here, which is fantastic because my poor winter boots need a break from being worn every single day, but it also means that we're on the home stretch before our wedding. For the last few weeks we've been focusing on keeping a really consistent gym schedule so we can feel great for our wedding and honeymoon. Neither of us want to change a lot -- no major weight loss or gain goals, no bulking up or shredding, just good old fashioned maintenance and basic strength. I thought I'd take you guys along for the week to show you what we've been doing lately and talk a bit about what our gym plans are up until the big day!

Weekends have been active rest days for us for as long as I can remember. Some people like having the leisure of more time on the weekends to hit the gym, but I'd rather squeeze it in during the weekdays and then use my weekend time for delightful tasks like cooking, cleaning and running errands. Such fun. This Sunday we spent our morning batch cooking all our meals for the week.  (Batch cooking has seriously changed our weeks. More on that some other day perhaps.) That's about 3 hours of chopping, standing by the stove and over the sink doing dishes. Nothing to break a sweat, but it keeps you on your feet. The rest of our afternoon before dinner was running all kinds of errands -- wedding band shopping, a quick Target and Home Goods run and a trip to Trader Joes. All in all we were probably on our feet for 6 hours of the day. Not bad for active rest!

Today's workout:

Up at 5:50am today to head to the gym. This is only our second week of trying out morning workouts. We realized we'd only have to wake up 10 minutes earlier than we had been anyway in order for us to get to the gym, workout, shower off and get ready there instead, and then we'd be able to go home straight after work instead of losing an hour of our evening free time. All we have to do is make sure we prep our gym bags and lunches the night before, which is totally doable! I will say, waking up at 5:50am this week was harder than last week thanks to daylight savings time, but we made it work.

Today's workout:

Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide (BBG) Week 2 - Legs and Cardio

Circuit 1
10 burpees
20 jump lunges
24 knee ups
15 sumo squats

Circuit 2
100 jump rope skips (I don't use a jump rope, I just hop)
24 weighted walking lunges
30 reverse lunges + knee lift
15 jump squats

Two days a week we tend to do some low impact steady state (LISS) cardio. When the weather's nice we are planning on walking to work and back, which is about 2 miles each way, but alas, winter appears to never be going away so we hit the gym instead. I opted for the recumbent bike and 35 minutes of scrolling through Instagram and Facebook. Perhaps not the best use of my time, but sometimes that's all you can take at 6am. One thing I'm still trying to figure out is how to go from a sweaty betty to work appropriate within an hour. My face always gets really red, and even though we have showers to rinse off and cool down in, when I attempt to put on concealer it's almost comical how much it stands out from my beet red face. Today I had to wait and do my makeup in my work bathroom. The cleaning people that I ran into in the bathroom probably thought it was a morning after situation 😂

Today's workout:
10 miles (35 minutes) on the recumbent bike, medium resistance.

So just like Monday's workout, today is another workout from Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide. I've done both her first and second guides (her second one is no longer sold) several times through before and I always go back to them when I just want something quick, hard and all planned out for me. There are basically three workouts a week, with some recommended LISS or HIIT workouts on a few other days of the week. Each workout is 28 minutes plus some rest time and they're comprised of 2 circuits of 4 exercises each. You set a timer for 7 minutes and do the exercises from one circuit as many times through as you can. Then you rest for a minute or two and move onto the second circuit for another 7 minutes. Repeat both circuits again and then you're done! It's all exercises you can do with only some basic equipment so it's easy to do in any gym or even at home. Honestly, I torrented the guides back in 2015, but if I knew then how much I would use them and still be using them in 2019, I would have paid. They're definitely effective!

Today's workout:

BBG Week 2 - Arms & Abs

Circuit 1
15 dumbbell squat and press
15 tricep dips
24 commands
20 straight leg jackknifes

Circuit 2
20 situps
15 mountain climber (4) + pushup (1)
15 straight leg raises
15 lay down push ups

Another LISS day in the gym this morning. Even though I'd rather have been walking outside, at least I got in some extra reading time today. Currently reading The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan and it's starting to become a page turner so I'm grateful for the opportunity to really settle in with it. (I've got Goodreads if you want to be friends)

Today's workout:
9 miles (30 minutes) on the bike, medium resistance.

Today was tough. Five days of pre 6am wakeup calls is no joke, especially when the night before was spent going to dinner, grabbing a drink and dessert and then seeing Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra afterwards. I was not feeling motivated to do burpees. We still went to the gym, and we still did our planned workout, but perhaps it wasn't my best effort ever. I still left the gym as bright red as ever though! After work we spent the evening doing all our grocery shopping so we were up on our feet again for about 2 hours while in pursuit of the best bulk deals.

Today's workout:

BBG Week 2 - Full Body

Circuit 1
10 burpees
30 jump lunges
15 lay down pushups
15 sumo squats

Circuit 2
15 mountain climber (4) + pushup (1)
15 straight leg jackknifes
100 skips
24 commandos

Another active rest day today. And we can sleep in! What luxury! We were still up and at 'em at 8am so we could start another morning of wedding-related appointments and errands. (Seriously, planning a wedding sucks) The afternoon I spent deep cleaning the house. Last week was madness due to car troubles with BOTH CARS and honeymoon planning, so the house reaaaaally needs it this week. I was zipping around the house for a couple hours, but then I balanced it out with dinner at Chipotle with the future in-laws and binge watching the newest season of Queer Eye at night. Perfection.

Today's workout:

For the time being, we're still planning to carry on with these absurdly early workouts and I hope to finish another round of Kayla Itsines' 12 week guide before the wedding. Having a limited timeline is helping me stick with it and not give into the snooze button, but maybe we'll go back to evening workouts if we're feeling particularly tired some week. I'm just glad to be back on a workout routine! I'll be sure to keep you all posted. Until next time, have a great week!

Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles

Sunday, March 10, 2019
After I posted a few weeks ago about how long I've been wanting to read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, I finally managed to get my hands on a copy at the library. The fact that every copy has been checked out or on hold each time I've looked over the last year or so should have clued me in as to how fantastic this book is, and now that I've read it I can only confirm that indeed it is completely worth the wait.

A Gentleman in Moscow starts in 1922 as Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to permanent house arrest in the Metropol hotel for the crime of writing a poem. He must move from the grand suite had had been staying in to a small attic room, taking with him what few possessions he can. As the years go by we follow as the Count befriends Nina, a young girl also living in the hotel, learns all the back hallways and hotel secrets from her, watches as she grows up, starts school and falls in love. The Count also begins work as a waiter at the hotel restaurant and develops deep friendships with the maitre d', Andrey, the head chef, Emile, as well as other hotel staff like the seamstress, Mariana and Vasily the concierge. With other colorful characters popping in and out of the hotel over the years, like a beautiful movie star, an American ambassador, a high ranking government official and an old school friend, the Count builds himself a rich life all without setting foot outside. But when Nina returns and leaves her daughter to the Count's care, he must take on one challenge he's never faced -- parenting.

The story spans over 32 years and like we do in our own lives, we move from one little drama to the next, seemingly without a single overarching plot line until we can reach the very end, look back and pick out the themes and major turning points. Along the way I kept expecting something bad to happen, especially considering the political backdrop of the novel, but nothing really ever did. Instead Towles did a fantastic job adding little details throughout the story that while seemingly unimportant at the time do end up tying together in the end for a very satisfying conclusion. I was left feeling contented, proud of all the characters, and hopeful for their futures, but I wanted their stories to keep going. After following them for so long it's hard to leave them before it's all truly over.

The plot of this book is engaging, charming and heartwarming, but to me the best part of this book is the writing itself. I found myself lingering over sentences, marveling at the turn of phrase. The prose is a delight to read, slowly absorb, step back and admire and then re-read simply to go through it all again. It gives such a grandiose sense of the hotel, the Count himself and keeps the atmosphere of the novel as a whole floating in this charmed, almost artificially-preserved space full of old-world charm and manners while the world outside -- both of the hotel and the reader's world -- endures the pain and banality of everyday life. Even within this rose-tinted world, Towles is able to hit on little universal truths that are still relevant today and do so in a way that's at once beautiful to read, relatable and humorous. Here are a few quotes I loved:

"Surely, the span of time between the placing of an order and the arrival of appetizers is one of the most perilous in all human interaction. What young lovers have not found themselves at this juncture in a silence so sudden, so seemingly insurmountable that it threatens to cast doubt upon their chemistry as a couple What husband and wife have not found themselves suddenly unnerved by the fear that they might not ever have something urgent, impassioned, or surprising to say to each other again? So it is with good reason that most of us meet this dangerous interstice with a sense of foreboding."

"Furrowing his brow, the Count reviewed all of the conversations that he had ever had with his daughter in chronological order and could find no evidence of having told her the tale before."

"Like in a reel in which the dancers form two rows, so that one of their number can come skipping brightly down the aisle, a concern of the Count's would present itself for his consideration, bow with a flourish, and then take its place at the end of the line so that the next concern could come dancing to the fore."

By this point it should go without saying that I loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone. Next time however I'll be sure to brush up on my Russian 20th century politics a bit before reading so I can have an even greater context to the story. Having now loved two Amor Towles novels, I eagerly await his next book and will definitely be purchasing this book myself so I can reread it!


February Highlights

Sunday, March 3, 2019

I have officially reached my limit with winter. I am glad to be writing this post simply because it means February is over and maybe we can start inching toward spring. Knowing Nebraska though, we've probably got another dumping of snow or two before we'll be allowed to live in peace and maybe even feel the warmth of the sun. Regardless of all the horrible weather, February still managed to be a good and especially productive month!

We didn't do a lot of activities this month that involved having to leave the house, but we did manage to sneak one talk in at the Sheldon Art Museum. Just as a snow storm was blowing in, we were heading to "A Diverse Menu: Race, Class, Gender and the Things We Eat" with Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want To Talk About Race, and Soleil Ho, restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and producer of the podcast “Racist Sandwich.” The panel discussed how food can be a jumping off point, whether that be in reference to people's access to it, what dishes they're making, who's making it, etc, to explore the way those different social constructs affect people's experiences. It was a fantastic, thought-provoking panel which has caused me to think even more about the choices I make every time I sit down to a meal, and to really think about what white American food really entails, culturally. If you live in a town with an art museum, be sure to check out their events for high quality, often free, and very interesting learning opportunities to spice up an otherwise ordinary week night!

My other activities this month were on the complete other side of the cultural spectrum. We started the month with a Super Bowl watch party at my parents' house with my family. We tend to get together for this every year not because any of us are particularly into the game, but because it's a nice excuse to see each other and my parents have cable. This year was unique though because John and I made all the food so everything was vegan! We had the chili recipe I always make, buffalo cauliflower and peanut butter brownies, both from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook and it was all fantastic.

Later in the month I got to go on several shopping trips with my sister. The first trip was supposed to be for bridal shoes, but instead we ended up with way too many earrings from H&M, face mask sets, and a couple pairs of shoes between us, none of which were bridal related at all. The next trip was to get jeans for my sister, which we actually accomplished this time, but since we're overachievers we ended up with guest room decor, sunglasses, hats, sweatpants -- you know, a typical Target run. The things we bought were fun, but what I enjoyed most, cheesy at it sounds, was spending so much time with my sister. We live close to each other and we see each other fairly frequently, but that's usually with the rest of our family. This was just us two, laughing at our stupid jokes, spending way too much time in the candle aisle of TJ Maxx and catching up about work and friends and life. I always forget how much fun it is to spend time with her!

One load waiting to be donated
Other than those couple adventures, the rest of the month has been spent doing all kinds of (indoor) life admin. The wedding prep is really starting to come together -- we've ordered invites, had the first few alterations appointments, bought wedding shoes, ordered menswear, finalized shower details, started booking a honeymoon and began a registry. There's still a bit left yet to organize, but we're really starting to make progress. I've also spent a good portion of this month getting our house ready for guests, which I talked a bit about last week. We finally got around to donating all the stuff left after the great KonMari clear-out of 2017-2018 so we have our office back, plus we've cleared out 3 closets, turned our old yoga room into a guest room and rearranged our admittedly oversized book collection so that all our books squeeze onto our existing bookshelves with only a handful relegated to a temporary shelf. A lot is going on in our second floor and it's still a bit of disaster area, but we're making more progress than we have in years. Thanks for the kick up the butt future guests -- I'm really relishing my sudden penchant for making decisions, taking initiative and finally getting some shit done!

Our stray cat friend hanging out on our garage and chatting with Finn

Finn really wanted attention when I was working from home

Guest Room Makeover: And So It Begins

Sunday, February 24, 2019
We're 33 days away from the arrival of my first house guests since about 2017. Back then I actually had a dedicated spare bed for guests. These days? Well, as of last weekend I at least have a bed for the room again. But no sheets. Or pillows. Or a nightstand, etc, etc, etc. So time's a tickin' and I'm sure my friend is reading this and feeling a tad bit nervous about her arrival. (Hello Nicole! 👋). Since we're on this journey under a bit of a time crunch, I thought this would be fun to document here as this room goes from nonexistent to a cozy, welcoming and actually finished room!

Prior to last weekend, the room we've ended up using as the guest room was actually mostly empty, save for a jade plant soaking up the best light in the house, our yoga mats, a couple dumbbells and the hope chest my grandpa built me when I was a baby. My original plan was actually to stick the guest bed into the same room as my office, but when I started playing around with possible layouts, the room just didn't work. Oh the joys of an old house with large rooms, but only 2 inconveniently placed outlets and floor vents smack dab in the middle of every space that would otherwise be a perfect spot for furniture. Just as I was on the verge of a meltdown, John suggested we scrap the idea entirely and instead move everything from the workout room into the office, combining those two rooms and then use the old workout room as a guest room instead. He's brilliant.

With all the furniture moved out, we had ourselves a nice blank slate. We have the original oak floors throughout the whole house, and the room is painted with the same warm, almost pinkish white color featured in every other room of the house that I haven't bothered to repaint since moving in. (I really need to do some painting in this place...). After moving some things from John's house, we are starting this room makeover with a full sized bed and frame, a white secretary/hutch unit made by John's dad back as a high school project which features robin's egg blue shelves, a 55" TV complete with sound bar, subwoofer and Xbox, and a (much too large) cream and brown Moroccan-inspired rug that spent many years down in the living room. We're going to attempt to use as much of what we already own as possible to keep the costs down, but I ultimately want a room that feels "done," not just thrown together, so we'll see what we actually end up using.

My vision for this room has been heavily influenced by fashion right now: neutrals, neutrals, neutrals. It just so happens that the room already has a lot of warm neutrals thanks to the paint, wood floors, and the repurposed rug, so that works out nicely. As a child of the internet, I obviously couldn't begin any project without a slew of saved photos for inspiration, so naturally a Pinterest board was made and an Instagram collection started. It's very clear I have an obsession with pampas grass, rattan and wicker, warm neutrals, glass and ceramics.

I have only made one purchase so far -- a linen duvet cover and pillow shams from West Elm in the color "natural flax." It's the same bedding line that I've had in my bedroom for the last 5 years and I love it. I'm waiting for this to arrive as it's going to inform the rest of the choices I make. We'll have to see if it clashes too horribly with the rug or not, and if so the rug might get the boot in favor of something else. The next big purchases I'm hoping to make are the nightstand, potentially a different media console for the TV, and a small chair. I will check back in in a few weeks and let you know what progress we've made!