Месечни архиви: April 2016

Introducing My New Apartment!

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Living Room

You know, I wasn’t sure if this was the right time to reveal my apartment to the world. Originally, I wanted to wait until I got art on the walls, decorated it more, and had a completely staged apartment to reveal.

Then I remembered that you guys always enjoy seeing the process of things, the nitty-gritty, the aspects that aren’t 100% certain. You could see the place as it improves changes over time — and you would probably have a lot of suggestions for me!

Welcome to my place.

It’s a floor-through apartment in a brownstone on a quiet, tree-lined street in Hamilton Heights, the upper northwest corner of Harlem, in New York City.

Privacy can be a tricky thing to figure out when you live a public life. I’ve decided to be private about exactly where I live, even taking care never to so much as snap from my street. I’ve also decided to keep what I pay in rent private.

I will say, however, that Hamilton Heights is one of the best value neighborhoods in New York City. There are plenty of renovated, one-bedroom apartments with dishwasher and laundry in the building, often with elevators, for $1800 per month. And for New York City, that is a hell of a deal, especially once you consider that this neighborhood is on the express train and three stops from Times Square.

As for living in Harlem, it’s been two months and I am still so thrilled to be here! Moving here was absolutely the right decision, and I’m enjoying exploring this incredible neighborhood.

Living Room

Meet the Living/Dining Room

I love this room, and it’s where I spend most of my waking hours, either working or lounging. The couch was the first piece of furniture I bought — who can resist a big purple couch?

Pink rug

At first I had a gray patterned rug from West Elm that has since been discontinued, but then I found this fuchsia rug on One Kings Lane and FELL IN LOVE. It reminded me of something from a Wes Anderson film!

It would make a complete difference in my color scheme, but it was early enough that I could afford to make the switch. With the hot pink and purple, I want to add some teal accents to further pump up the room!

I’m thinking of putting the gray rug in my bedroom.

Dining Room

I want to have friends over for dinner on a regular basis, so it was a priority for me to get a dining table that could seat four.

This is the table with the leaf inserted — it can get a bit smaller. And you can’t tell in the photo, but the table is placed beneath the overhead light in the living room.

Living Room

The whole room gets plenty of light throughout the day thanks to those three large windows!

Living Room/Dining Room Next Steps

I need art! Absolutely nothing is on the walls yet. I’ve bought some art recently, but none of it is framed yet — that’s the next priority!

For the four years I lived in Boston, I only hung one item on the wall: my diploma. That’s it. Part of me always knew that I was going to go travel, and it wouldn’t make sense to buy anything temporary.

Now? I’m here for the long haul. Let’s get some ART.

Whatever hangs above the couch will probably be the biggest focal point in the apartment. Here are three pieces I’m considering right now:

Product_NER24210_Image_1

This amazing, carefree shot (taken in Croatia, which I love!) by photographer Natalie Obradavich on One Kings Lane.

map-of-the-world-ksc-prints

A funky map blending ancient and modern by artist Jbjart on Society6.

Dubrovnik Skyline

Or it could be this photo that I took of Dubrovnik two years ago. It’s always been one of my favorites.

What do you think? Which one would you choose?

I need a media cabinet or other kind of display for the TV. I’m thinking of using the bar cart for this purpose for now.

I need a desk, especially since I work at home. I thought of getting a mini desk — I love this one from West Elm — but now I’m thinking it would be smarter to get a treadmill with a desk attachment. Honestly, that would make such a difference in how sedentary I am. Though I hate how it would look. It’s something to think about.

That said, it’s a lower priority because I can work from my dining room table.

I’ll eventually need shades for the living room. The shade I got for the bedroom, which I adore, comes in a million different sizes.

A bookcase would be nice. I’ve gone mostly digital with my book collection, but it would be good for photos of family and friends in addition to the books I still own.

Kitchen

Meet the Kitchen

Jake: “He was so rich, he had a whole room in his house just to eat in.”

Gina: “You mean like a dining room?”

Jake: “Yeah, but in Manhattan.”

Gina: “Oh, dang.”

–Brooklyn Nine-Nine

One thing about Manhattan — kitchens are tiny. And if you have a detached dining room that doesn’t serve as a bedroom, then you’re definitely rich!

Kitchen

To my great shock when I arrived, my kitchen has exactly one drawer. And it’s tiny.

Because of that, I’ve had to get creative with storage. Lots of stuff is going in cabinets.

Kitchen

What really sold me on this apartment? The washer! I have been LOVING IT. It’s amazing just being able to do laundry when you need to, not to make a whole event out of it.

Kitchen

My favorite place in the kitchen is my coffee and tea nook. I have several cups of each per day. (Dentists love me!)

Interestingly, though, I filled up my sugar bowl right away and haven’t touched it in the two months since I’ve been living here. I prefer my coffee black and I drink plain herbal tea — that sugar is just for guests!

Kitchen

Little things give me such joy — like having a nook for my olive oil, salt, and pasta. (And now, currently, a bottle of red wine waiting to be opened when Dylan gets here Wednesday!)

Kitchen Next Steps

The kitchen is mostly done. Although I have a giant blank wall on the other side, I’m not sure I want to fill it with art just yet — or even at all. This one might be good to keep empty.

I’d like to buy a rice cooker (recommended by Kristin after I told her that I mess up quinoa almost every time I make it).

I’d also like to get an immersion blender for soup-making, but now that we’re getting into spring, I may hold off until soup weather returns (yes, Jodi, I know all weather is soup weather!).

Bedroom

Meet the Bedroom

I planned on having an all-white-and-gold bedroom. Then I got there and realized that it was far too one-dimensional. And while all-white bedding makes me feel like I’m sleeping in a giant marshmallow, I was surprised at how uncomfortable I felt waking up with all plain bright white walls.

So I’m now planning on having a neutral palette — white, ivory, cream, gray, gold, silver. Multi-dimensional, and feeling like a comfy place to crash on a rainy day. Coziness and relaxation are priorities.

The bedroom is pretty small, but it’s big enough to be able to get out on both sides of the bed.

Bedroom Curtain

My favorite thing in the bedroom? It’s actually my shade! It has no cord and you can raise and lower it with one finger.

Installing it was beyond my ability, so I hired someone from Taskrabbit to do it. I plan on getting more shades like this for the three windows in the living room.

Bedroom

To the left of the bed is an area for shelving. There used to be a huge metal grid to the left of the shelves, but I took it out so I could fit a dresser. Previous tenants hung a curtain over the whole area, but I plan to buy a screen to discreetly hide the shelving on the right.

Top of Dresser

At the moment, the dresser is at the ideal height for my 5’4″ self to do my makeup! That caddy, a Christmas gift from Mom, holds my day-to-day cosmetics.

Bedroom Closet

A glimpse of my closet. I rarely deviate from my clothing palette. Black, black and white, bright blue, bright pink, purple, and the occasional bit of teal or gold.

Bedroom Next Steps

I need art! I’d love to have a gallery wall on the large blank wall. I’ve already bought one piece that needs to be framed:

holding-on-to-love-prints

This beautiful photo is by artist Chelsea Victoria on Society6. I love the gray/gold/champagne color palette, I love its dreamy feeling, I love anything with hearts, and I love how it feels like New York. This photo is probably the best example of the color palette I eventually want for the bedroom.

I need more pillows and shams so that the bed looks made.

I’d like to get better sheets eventually. I went with microfiber sheets for now because they were cheap and had great reviews on Amazon…but they’re kind of weird. They’re super soft and comfy, but they pill easily and you can tell they’re not as high quality as good cotton.

I definitely need a folding screen to hide the shelving. I’m thinking something white and gold, or maybe just plain white. The selection out there isn’t great, so I’m on the lookout.

I need a jewelry box. And possibly also an earring tree.

I’d also like a long case for all my sunglasses to put on top of my dresser. My dad and I talked about him making me one! (My dad is basically Ron Swanson, only he lost his mustache in the mid-90s.)

Bathroom

Meet the Bathroom

When I first saw the bathroom, I loved the idea of it being in all black and white — but the walls were brown. Luckily, my landlady mentioned that the whole apartment needed to be painted, so I asked if she could paint the bathroom walls and the bedroom pure white. I’d have to pay for the paint, she told me, but it was no problem at all!

The bathroom is in great condition, but it isn’t renovated like many other Hamilton Heights places — so there are quirks. There is exactly one towel rack, which doesn’t make sense — don’t you need hand towels and at least one body towel?

Bathroom

The tiles feel very New York!

Bathroom

There’s also a huge shelf carved out of the shower wall, with more than enough room for all my toiletries (and several other people’s if need be).

Blue Bathroom Towels

I wanted only one pop of color — something bright and electric. These towels fit the bill!

Hallway to Bathroom

The hallway to the bathroom is the first thing you see when you walk in. I love that it’s on the complete opposite side of the living room — you don’t have to worry about people hearing while you pee! (Or poop. When you gotta go, you gotta go.)

  • Shower curtain: Room Essentials
  • Towels: Ralph Lauren in St. Tropez Blue (possibly discontinued?)

Bathroom Next Steps

Art, art, art. I’ve bought two large prints that need to be framed, then hung side by side on the big wall:

bear-3-printsbear-2-prints

This one and this one are the work of artist Jenny Liz Rome on Society6.

I have room for two more, one vertical and one horizontal. I really like this Bangkok map:

il_fullxfull.860074581_7zq2

This is the work of The Map Collection on Etsy.

And for the horizontal one, I’m leaning toward this one:

Copenhagen

This is the Superkilen in Copenhagen, a photo that I took last summer.

I need to buy an over-the-door hanger for multiple towels. Probably today, as I have my first guest coming Wednesday!

And a matching blue bathmat would be nice with the towels. I’ll see if I can track one down.

Elephant on Bar Cart

How I Saved Money on my Purchases

It looks like this was all a giant splurge, but this was all carefully planned over a long period of time. I was furnishing this place completely from scratch, as I had given all of my old furniture to my sister five years ago, and I started saving for furniture months in advance.

I spent months saving furnishings that I liked to private boards on Pinterest. As soon as I found the apartment in January, I began carefully choosing items that would fit and look good and watched carefully for any item to go on sale. I lucked out because January is a big month for furniture sales, so I made purchases early and arranged for them to be delivered once I moved in.

Yes, West Elm is expensive — but every single item I bought from there was on sale plus an extra discount added. You should never pay full price for anything from West Elm — it’s too easy to get multiple discounts, especially if you’re patient and can wait for a sale.

If you want to buy something from West Elm, I suggest you get on their mailing list and open every email they send you. They have constant sales and send out frequent coupons for 15% off, 20% off, and free shipping (non-furniture). I recommend creating a wishlist and double-checking it every time you get a coupon in your inbox.

The last time I got a 20% off coupon from West Elm, I went to my wishlist and saw that the dresser I wanted had been reduced by 30% already! With the 20% coupon on top of it I saved almost 50% off the sticker price!

I did the same thing with Anthropologie, signing up for emails, and bought the coasters as soon as a 15% off coupon came along (they send out coupons far less often and it took about six weeks).

You’ll have to pay full price at One Kings Lane. They never do sales.

I chose to invest in quality furniture, but virtually everything else was sourced on the cheap via Target, Amazon, and Homegoods.

Living Room

On Gratitude

I am humbled and grateful every single day that I’m able to live in a wonderful place like this. It took me a long time to get here and it was borne out of hard work, challenging times, and a good amount of luck that carried me forward.

I practice gratitude on what feels like an hourly basis. Just sitting on the couch with a mug of tea, or making a new recipe at the stove, or even something ridiculous like opening a closet and hanging my coat on a hanger instead of leaving it on the back of a chair — it fills me with so much happiness, my heart feels like it’s bursting.

I’m a different person now. I still love to travel, but now it’s important to me to have somewhere comforting to return to at the end of a trip. I think I’ve found that place.

What do you think? Any suggestions? How should I decorate?

Some of the links in this piece (only Amazon links, to be honest) are affiliate links. If you click them and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. These payments help reduce the ever-increasing costs of running this site, and I appreciate you being here today!

Also, special thanks to the many friends who helped me in my decorating so far!

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When the Photography Gods Don’t Smile Upon You

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Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

If I were a more professional photographer, my travels would be very different.

I’d do a lot more research beforehand, scoping out the best places to take the shots I wanted. I’d wake up before sunrise on a regular basis (the horror!) and plan my days around the sunsets. And in case of bad weather and bad light, I’d be completely sidelines, unless there was something inside I would want to photograph.

I’d be prepared to spend long stretches of time simply waiting for conditions to be perfect before pressing the shutter.

Making a living as a full-time travel blogger is hard enough; making a living as a travel photographer is arguably even more difficult and requires more hustle. And like I’ve said about freelance writing in the past, I hustle enough already that I don’t want to add hustling in another industry to my agenda.

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

That, and there’s the fact that sometimes you just have bad luck for photography.

Sometimes the light is bad. The weather is bad. You’ve got limited time. Or the place you intended to photograph is a lot more of a challenge than you thought it would be.

To my dismay, all four of those things happened to me in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Old San Juan is gorgeous — and well worth a visit. I loved exploring the old city and you should make it a priority of your own.

But I was shocked at how difficult it was to photograph. I didn’t expect that the streets would be so narrow and that virtually all of them would have street parking. The incoming bad weather made things far worse.

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

And our poor, sweet guide. He was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic, but I don’t think he quite got what we were doing as bloggers and not regular tourists.

“Listen,” I would tell him, “I’m nervous that we’re about to lose the sun. We need to get pictures of the colorful houses in Old San Juan before that storm rolls in.”

“It’s not going to rain!” he replied. “It’s just raining in the rainforest.” He gestured into the distance.

“Okay,” I told him, “but I need to get pictures with blue sky, not those dark clouds coming in. Can we go see the colorful houses now?”

“Yes!” he announced. Then he brought us into an underground fort.

Old San Juan Fort, Puerto Rico

Yes, it’s a good fort; yes, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But it killed me that we were inside when we could have been taking good photos in that beautiful light! By the time we emerged, the clouds had taken over.

He assured us we were going to see the colorful houses next…and then took us to a historic but largely unphotogenic area without any houses.

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

I think I gritted off half my teeth that day.

We did find the colorful houses eventually. But by that point, the sky was so dark that it made the colors come out much worse. I tried my best to salvage them; I’m not happy with the results.

Old San Juan, Puerto RicoOld San Juan, Puerto RicoOld San Juan, Puerto RicoOld San Juan, Puerto Rico

Honestly, I hate most of the photos I took this day. Not only were the conditions bad, but I also felt like I was so off my game. I’m usually much better than this.

Old San Juan Cat, Puerto Rico

It says a lot when you visit a beautiful city and the best picture you take all day is OF A CAT! (But that cat, though…)

It just goes to show — not every travel experience will be a home run. No matter how well you think you’ll an enjoy an activity, no matter how meticulously you plan in advance, not everything is going to line up. Make peace with that early and often.

That said, by the end of the day, I had one photo of Old San Juan that I actually liked.

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Perhaps all I needed to do was to stop fighting the city and just lean in and take what it gave me. That picture has cars. It has people. But it feels more like Old San Juan than any other photo I took that day.

Essential Info: In San Juan, I stayed at two properties: the Hilton Caribe and the Hilton Condado Plaza. Both are excellent choices but I much preferred the Caribe and would jump at the chance to stay there again. Low-season rates at both properties start at $179.

I visited Puerto Rico on a campaign with Puerto Rico Tourism. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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AK Monthly Recap: March 2016

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Kate's New Hair

March kicked off with a bang in Puerto Rico — then mellowed out considerably by the end of the month. Here are the best and worst moments of the month!

Destinations Visited

San Juan, Culebra, Fajardo, Orocovis, and Ponce, Puerto Rico

New York, New York

Shelton and Monroe, Connecticut

Reading, Lynn, and Andover, Massachusetts

Favorite Destinations

Puerto Rico was simply fabulous. I’ve got so much love for this island and I can’t wait to return.

Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico

Highlights

Discovering one of the beach beaches I’ve ever seen. Flamenco Beach on Culebra in Puerto Rico is no joke. I was skeptical before arriving, but after seeing it I can confirm that it’s just as special as everyone says.

Kicking back in Puerto Rico. From zip-lining to beach-hopping to partying downtown, I loved my time on this island. I really can’t wait to go back!

Charles Rangel Tweet

My Congressman welcomed me to the neighborhood! I couldn’t believe it when I saw a welcome from Rep. Charlie Rangel on Twitter, completely out of the blue, unsolicited, and linking to my post on moving to Harlem.

T2 Tea Shop Soho

A Harlem night out to remember. I’ve been wanting to have a proper night out in Harlem since moving here (not counting the recent hipstery nightlife additions to the neighborhood) and for my friend Maya’s birthday, we went out to Shrine, an amazing club. They feature live music seven nights a week, and we got to hear live Guinean jazz before it turned into an early 2000s hip-hop club, then blasted West African dance music, then finally some Justin Bieber and Rihanna to close out the night!

I’ve had a big goal of discovering cool places throughout Harlem, and I keep adding new ones whenever I can. Other recent cool spots: Sugar Hill Market, Fumo, Filtered Coffee, and Sweet Chef Bakery.

Matt & Ben. If you’ve read Mindy Kaling’s first memoir, Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me?, you know that before she was famous, she co-wrote a play called Matt & Ben about how Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting. It’s a strange and irreverent comedy, and both characters are played by women. I saw it in a tiny black box theater off Times Square (you can get $10 tickets on Gold Star Events).

Kate and Alexa at Janelle's Wedding

And finally, this month I got to watch my friend Janelle get married! You saw her shower in the November recap and her bachelorette in the February recap, but this month Janelle and Mike finally got married in Connecticut. It was a super fun wedding and everyone had a fabulous time.

Kate Wine Pockets

My first Rent the Runway experience. I’ve been wanting to try Rent the Runway forever! I love the idea of renting a designer dress instead of buying a dress you’ll only wear once, so Rent the Runway is ideal for weddings.

This Yoana Baraschi dress ($55 rental) would look great on so many different skin colors and body types — if it were stretchy, it would be the most universal dress ever. It’s gorgeous enough to be a standout but understated enough to work for a wedding. Plus, WINE POCKETS. I also rented a Badgely Mischka necklace ($15) and earrings ($10).

I also got a Pro membership at Rent the Runway, so I’m definitely going to be making some more rentals throughout the year! (Want to try Rent the Runway? Get $20 off your first order from me! I’ll get $20 credit too.)

I also got a new hair look. I tried balayage for the first time ever, and it is SO much better and more natural-looking than traditional highlights. This is the blondest I have ever been and it actually looks pretty natural and normal! The top photo in this post was taken right after my haircut.

Sugar hill Market

Challenges

I forgot TONS of stuff on my trip to Puerto Rico. Basic stuff. Sunscreen. Deodorant. Flip-flops. I managed to replace those three, plus a pack of gum, for a stunning $35 from the hotel gift shop…don’t make the same mistake I did! I’m seriously off my game.

Getting used to life in New York. After the initial high of moving to New York wore off, I started feeling overwhelmed by it all. Not just how expensive it is but also how busy you are and how hectic everything is, and how it’s not unusual to have plans seven nights a week and you always spend MONEY on those nights out and how sometimes you have to schedule to meet your friends weeks in advance! Everyone is crazy here!

I’ll get my footing. It’s just something new to get used to.

Chipped Cup Drumpf Sign

Most Popular Post

15 Ways to Leave the Country if Donald Trump Gets Elected — Well, that post had some unintended effects!

Other Posts

The Best Things I Ate in the San Francisco Bay Area — A very delicious post!

Inside Bushwick, the Weirdest Place in New York City — Not your typical New York post.

Puerto Rico Seriously Has It All — An island for every kind of traveler.

Is It Too Late to Make It As a Travel Blogger Now? — I say no.

Five Years Since the Shipwreck That Changed My Life — I can’t believe it’s been five years. That night changed everything.

Saveur Photo

News and Announcements

A few months ago, I sold my first photo to a magazine — and this month, the magazine came out. In the April 2016 issue of SAVEUR, you can find a photo of mine anchoring their piece on Little Corn Island, Nicaragua.

I was shocked — I expected it to be in a corner of the piece somewhere, not the main photo anchoring the entire feature!

Also, this month I’ll be appearing at NY Trav Fest, the New York Travel Festival! Check me out speaking on a few different topics. Hope to see you there!

Koolbaai

Most Popular Photo on Instagram

I’ve always loved this photo of Koolbaai in South Africa, on the road from Cape Town to Hermanus. Nothing better than a crashing coastline with mountains in the background!

For more of the best travel photos, follow me on Instagam or Snapchat (adventurouskate on both!).

14th Street NYC

What I Read This Month

Something interesting happened with my reading habits this month. You may have noticed that I’ve been reading a lot of heavy books about race in America. As a result, I’m not reading as many books as usual. Definitely not hitting my book-a-week challenge of last year.

And sometimes when I’ve turned to lighter fare, like Attachments listed below, I’ve felt guilty about it. These books are the equivalent of taco chips — they’re not changing my world or teaching me something or helping me see the world differently. I hate that, as they’re great books, but it’s the truth.

But you know what? Maybe quantity isn’t as important anymore. Maybe I should prioritize reading fewer, better books, and that way I won’t have to keep switching to light ones to hit my numbers.

Here is what I read this month:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley — This may be one of the most important books I have ever read. I recommend it for everyone. For every American. For every Harlemite. For every traveler. For everybody who believes in the power of education and travel to change your world view and create positive change in the world.

I knew so little about Malcolm X before reading this book, and it’s a crime that he doesn’t get more attention in schools. Even in A.P. U.S. history. He’s just a footnote — or at least he was back when I was in high school. We need to study the uglier parts of the Civil Rights Movement along with the more hopeful, easy-to-explain-to-kids figures like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell — Rainbow Rowell’s books are sweet, gentle, romantic. And I did want something lighter and easier to read after my recent streak of books. So I read it and felt guilty.

That said, this book is absolutely lovely and I recommend it. At the turn of the 21st century, a socially awkward man is hired to monitor the email at his office and he falls in love with a woman after reading all her emails to her friend. It reminded me a lot of The Pleasure Of My Company by Steve Martin.

Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capó Crucet — Now THIS was the book that perfectly balanced my heavier and lighter interests into a compelling, devourable novel. Lizet grew up in a poor Cuban-American neighborhood in Miami near the end of the 20th century.

She applies to a top liberal arts college on a whim, gets in, and has a hard time fitting in with the rich, privileged, white college students. But now she has an equally difficult time fitting in at home in Miami. And then a little boy named Ariel Hernandez (a.k.a. Elián Gonzalez) arrives in Miami and throws her world into further turmoil.

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis — I’ll be honest, I only read the first third of this. It was a book club pick and I wouldn’t have chosen it on my own. The movie was great but I just couldn’t follow the financial intricacies of this book and after 100 page of trying to figure out which guy Ryan Gosling was, wrote it off as a loss.

What I Watched This Month

House of Cards. I had a wonderful weekend binge-watching Season 4 in its entirety. How great was this season? I think Season 4 and Season 1 are the best seasons so far, and it more than made up for the quiet, restrained Season 3.

What I Listened To This Month

Remember that episode of Sex and the City when Miranda acts like TiVo is her new boyfriend? “He surprises me with things he thinks I’ll like, which is how I got hooked on Jules & Mimi!”

Well, I feel that way about Spotify. Some of their recommendations for me have been spot on lately. I’m a huge fan of genre-busting alternative R&B in particular, and Spotify has been awesome at finding me music in this genre.

This month Spotify introduced me to Sampha, a British electronic/R&B artist with a lot of piano. “Happens” is my favorite song of his so far.

Hamilton Heights

Coming Up in April 2016

Zero travel plans. How about that?

And I’m happy about it. Staying put has been good for me — I need to sink into my new home before going off on another trip. Especially another long trip. My worst points over the past five years where when I was traveling too often and stressing myself out; I don’t want that to happen again.

I’m also welcoming my first overnight guests to the city soon! Some blogger friends you’ve seen on here before, Dylan and Cailin, followed by my friends Lisa and Alexa from home. I have a LOT of karma to make up for how many couches I’ve crashed on over the years, so I’m looking forward to restoring the balance!

What are your plans for April? Share away!

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