OUR HAPPINESS PROJECT // Month 4 Recap: Family Traditions

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Hi friends! Are you feeling happy? I'm back again with the monthly update of Our Happiness Project, where Zach and I have been following along chapter-by-chapter with Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. Last month we worked on chapter four, which is all about family. I would certainly recommend this chapter to parents. It's loaded with simple and effective advice for communicating with your children. I especially loved the part about acknowledging the reality of others' feelings. But even if you don't have children, like us, I think a lot of the chapter's talking points can be applied to all relationships.

Zach and I were particularly interested in creating traditions and capturing memories, because it's an area in which we undoubtedly fail. To say we are "non-traditional" is an understatement. In fact, I don't even know our anniversary (I know! I'm the worst.) and thus we don't really have one. We have no holiday decorations. We take very few pictures. I've just never been horribly sentimental and it's like the core of my being wants to reject most aspects of tradition. At the same time, however, as we are becoming more and more of a family unit, I know if we put in the effort for some sense of tradition, even though it's not always my style, it would make us happier in the long-run. Here are a few ways we're trying in the hopes of adding some more sentiment into our lives.


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1. Take More Pictures

This one is hard, because it's always been my belief that if you're putting everything you're doing all over social media you're not really enjoying it in the moment. I do think that's true, I mean, who likes eating dinner with someone who's on Snapchat the whole time? I definitely do not. So I've been trying to find the happy medium. The Fourth of July, for instance, is my family's big get-together holiday, so Zach and I both made it a point to take more photos that weekend. I thought it was really fun getting behind-the-scenes shots, but I realized when I was back home that we had taken zero pictures of ourselves together. I also didn't get any pictures of my mom. Moral of the story, there is some progress to be made, but it's a step in the right direction.

*Sidenote: I think I avoided this for a long time because I don't particularly like photos of myself, but I'm really trying to focus more on the importance of preserving memories and less on the vanity aspect of it. If you are a fellow photo-avoider, I'll tell you it gets easier and better. My sister even told me after this weekend I've gotten more photogenic. She was obviously lying, of course, but it was still nice to hear. Maybe, if anything, with practice I have become a little less awkward, which I'll count as a win.


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2. Smashbooking

Have you heard of smashbooking? It's basically like scrapbooking but much simpler and a bit artsier/messier (right up my alley). Zach and I have been collecting concert tickets for years. It is, in fact, the only actual collection of anything we have. I'm very fond of the fact that we've kept all these stubs, especially since it's out of the ordinary for me (I tend to be a little trigger happy with getting rid of things). I've realized that I do love this little collection and it's not like it's taking up any real space in my life, so I started thinking about how to branch this idea out. I've started picking up mementos, like the program and my backstage pass from the Alternative Fashion Week show, and am really excited to continue collecting and start smashbooking. And by "smashbooking" I really mean taping things in a notebook and scribbling little extra notes. The goal is to keep it simple so that it's something I'll want to continue.

*Is smashbooking something you're interested in learning more about? Let me know if it is, and I'll share some ideas/progress in a future post.


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3. Mini-Anniversaries

I mentioned above that we don't have an anniversary, which is totally true. I've never been a calendar date person, even for events by which I was hugely affected. I remember the feelings, I remember the details, I simply don't care as much about the actual day it occurred. Because of this, I actually don't even know when we started dating. In fact, don't even agree on the year, so clearly this is not an area of strength for us. Somewhere down our relationship road, I began sort of wishing we had one, so we made up the idea of having monthly anniversaries. They were on the 7th of every month, just like both of our birthdays. It was really fun- I'd wake up and sing some made up song about it and we'd just be really nice to each other and have a little date. Simple yet, as far as the happiness meter is concerned, horribly effective. Somewhere along the way, our schedules got the best of us and that tradition fell off completely. So this past month we decided to reinstate it and I'm really happy about it.

*If you're thinking about something similar, I just want to throw it out there that we almost never spend very much money on these anniversary dates. It's basically like any other day as far as extravagances go. It's much more about the thought put into it and just the general feel of it being "your" day. So try not to let things like time or money get in the way. They're very real hindrances, but an occasion can be made special even when there isn't much of either.


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4. Holiday Traditions

If you're still with me at this point, you know what's coming: we don't have any real holiday traditions. And our entire holiday decor storage consists of two stockings. Literally. I have a friend that thinks this is a very sad thing but it's never really bothered me because we are always spending holidays out of town visiting our families and taking part in the larger, extended family traditions. But still, I got to thinking this past month that it might be nice to actually start making some traditions of our own. One tradition we started, really on accident, came from an only half-serious idea of Zach's. He wanted to eat giant drumsticks while we watched the Game of Thrones season finale and be like a barbarian (this is a common goal of his, with or without tv finales). I was a little less on board with the Renaissance Fair food, but we settled for rotisserie chicken. We had some ice cream for dessert, because "Winter is Coming," and the idea of themed season finale dinners was born. It's silly, but we love to watch series together, so it kind of just adds another element of fun. I'm already thinking of an all-A dinner for when I make him watch the Pretty Little Liars finale.


Do you have any weird/awesome family traditions?

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This month we're working on chapter five is all about being serious about play, finding time to have more fun, and appreciating silliness. If you want to read along with us, I'll be sharing our recap Monday, August 1st!

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Our Happiness Project // Month 2 Recap: All About the Love

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For those of you who have been keeping up around here, you know that Zach and I have been working our way through Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, doing one chapter each month. Last month we worked through chapter two, which was all about love and relationships, both romantic and with family and friends.

I'll admit, this month was really difficult for us. We have just both been so busy with work that thinking about things like a date night or leaving a little note to each other just really wasn't taking priority. But then that's part of the reason we're doing this in the first place, because we need more of a work/life balance. So while I can't say we hit every challenge out of the park, it was nice to have these topics in mind throughout the month. What we're sharing today are a few of the points that kind of changed our perspective, provided a little a-ha moment, and will hopefully stick with us for months to come.

 

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Hugs Powered by Science

Z:  One thing I thought was cool in this chapter was the concept of the seven-second hug. Rubin references research that says six seconds is the minimum necessary hug time "to promote the flow of oxytocin and serotonin, mood-boosting chemicals that promote bonding." Focusing the hug and actually counting the seconds adds another layer of tension release and helps me ease my mind. It's calming to take that time to connect, especially in moments of stress.

A:  I really liked that he grabbed onto this concept, because I actually didn't even remember reading this particular part. Then one day when I was stressed out, he just hugged me and was counting. When he was done he just said, "It's science." (He can be a man of few words.) I thought this was really funny so every time it's happened since I have a little happy memory to go along with it. That plus the legitimate power of the longer hug has actually really been a really helpful way to combat stress this month.

 

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No Dumping, No Snapping

A:  So I actually don't think we have any super serious problems when it comes to fighting. Not that we don't fight, but in my opinion, it's pretty normal relationship conflict. We also don't have kids yet, and I know that can really be a game-changer, so I'm prepared to eat my words when that day comes. One thing I didn't realize I already do with Zach is try to employ what Rubin refers to as "no dumping." Basically, I just can't expect Zach to be my partner, my best girlfriend, and my therapist. According to the book (and basic human observation), women have more empathy than men do and both men and women feel more intimate in relationships with women. So when I'm looking for an understanding ear, I try to go to Zach with only one very specific thing. If I do this (especially if I can do it calmly), he is always a big help. However, anything else and he gets overwhelmed, I end up hurt, and nothing is accomplished. And really, I can't blame him for that. After all, "It's science." ;)

Z:  It can feel overwhelming to get dumped on, so I definitely like it when we're focusing on just one problem at a time. For me, I chose to focus on not snapping at Ashley. I carry a lot of work-related stress, so I really tried to be mindful of how things like my tone of voice when I'm feeling overwhelmed can have an effect on both of our feelings.

 

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Be a Love Mirror

A:  This was my favorite part of the chapter and something I hope sticks with me in the future. The concept is simple but carries a lot of impact: in order to show love you need to understand how a person wants to be treated. To understand this, it is important to look to how they act rather than what they say. Rubin talks about planning a party for her mother-in-law, and to explain this point, I am also going to use my parents as examples. When asked what they would like for their birthdays, they always say (as most of us do) that they don't really care. However, if we're trying to do better than this, we should put a little thought into figuring out what they actually do want. My mom, for our birthdays, tends to keep celebrations simple, but also beautiful, thoughtful, and with a few extra-special treats. So this helps me to know what she would like for her own birthday. A small and relaxed gathering with beautiful touches and something a little indulgent, like a pretty cupcake and some new jewelry, would make her feel happy and loved. My dad, on the other hand, loves to surprise people with elaborate, well-planned gifts and has even thrown a few surprise parties for others. He's a "the more, the merrier" kind of guy. So I know that when it's his birthday, something with a surprise element is the way to make him feel appreciated. Something like a big cookout with friends and family he hasn't seen in years would really make his day. Everyone places value in different kinds of acts of love, and a great way to figure out where another's values lie is to look at how they show love to others. It's kind of obvious, but I'm going to make a special point to try and actively think about this when celebrating others in the future.

Z:  I'll be honest, I hadn't really ever put thought into "how" to show someone I care about them. It has been pretty eye-opening how this concept is so simple and doesn't necessarily require more work, but the result can be so much bigger and so much more thoughtful. I can see how this could be useful in all types of interpersonal relationships. I feel like it's also a good guide for men who might struggle with connecting with others because it's such a straightforward way to understand someone. You don't have to have the answers, you just have to pay close enough attention and be more observant. If you are will to be receptive, people will show you how they would like to be treated.

 

 

Have you read The Happiness Project? Did any of these tips resonate with you? Were there any we haven't covered that you particularly liked? Let's chat it out in the comments! :)

 

 

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For May, we're focusing on chapter three, which is all about "Aiming Higher" at work. Like I said earlier, this is pretty much always the main focus in our household these days. We also both are in transitioning periods with work, so I'm excited that it's coming at such an opportune time. Some topics covered include launching, embracing failure, asking for help, and working smarter. If you'd like to join in, grab your copy, read up, and check back in with us on the first Monday in June! (I also do a mid-month tip from the book, too, so make sure you're subscribed to receive new posts!)

 

Are there any areas in your professional life in which you would really like some tips? Let me know in the comments and I'll try to gear a future post around what I learn!

 

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Our Happiness Project // Tip #2: How to Stop Nagging

If you're a regular reader, you know now that Zach and I have been working through The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Chapter One was great for us as we worked on adding more routine into our lives and began tackling things that were weighing on us. Chapter Two is all about relationships and focuses on topics like fighting right, showing proofs of love, and, the one I felt I most needed to work on, quitting nagging.

Zach is a really wonderful partner. He's masculine but also very sensitive and romantic, a combination I know not to take for granted. He never judges me or asks me to change. He never sets expectations for me to live up to or thinks I should look or behave a certain way. This list is what matters most to me and why I know he's my perfect match. On the other hand there is another list of things he does that are a lot less perfect, such as not noticing messes around him and not doing any housework unless prompted, often many times. That list is obviously less important, but it can make managing a household with him incredibly frustrating, hence my transformation into the nag I never thought I would become. When he was sweeping me off my feet in the first few years, I never imagined having a full-on crying fight about the still unclean bathroom, but it has happened more than I'm proud to admit.

So what's one to do? Well, according to the book, on some degree, I should let it go. I should stop nagging, stop making demands, stop being let down when my expectations aren't met. After all, Zach doesn't do that to me, and that's one of my favorite things about him. To stop nagging is much easier said than done, though, isn't it? It's something I am most definitely not going to win at every single day, but I can try. If this is a topic that's been on your mind, too, I'm sharing a few tips from the book to help to ease up in the name of love.

 

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  • Find ways to suggest tasks without talking. When you think of nagging, you picture a shrill, annoying voice, am I right? And let's be honest, no one wants to deal with that. If you can find ways to communicate that involve less talking, or even no talking at all, the prompt is often better received. Rubin gives an example that she leaves mail that needs to be dropped off on the ground by the front door. Since her husband knows the system, he just picks it up and goes. No nagging, no problem. Zach usually takes out the trash for us, but he often lets it pile up for longer than I would like. By simply saying, "Trash!" as he's on his way out the door, it gets taken out and everyone is left unscathed.
  • Realize that tasks don't need to be done on your agenda. Just because I think the kitchen needs cleaned now doesn't mean Zach feels like sharing in the work right now. If he's agreeing to split the responsibilities, sometimes I need to accept that in whatever time frame it's going to happen. The same goes for how exactly a task gets done. For instance, I think cleaning the toilet involves making the entire thing sparkle, but Zach thinks it means cleaning the bowl and calling it a day. It's like this on a lot of tasks because he (and, frankly a lot of people) are not as obsessed with details as I am. If he's going to clean the toilet bowl, I need to take that as it is and not gripe to him that there's still dust on the tank lid.
  • Take responsibility for your own expectations. This one can be more simply summed up as, if you want something done, do it yourself. I knew about Zach's aversion to cleaning before we even started dating, so is it really fair to expect him to get up on Saturday morning and immediately start scrubbing? No, not really. He needs to help because we are a partnership, but as long as he's helping, anything more than that is my own responsibility. When we moved in, I hung his shirts in order by color and sleeve length. I then explained the system to him so he could maintain it himself and he literally laughed out loud. "You can't really expect me to keep my shirts color-coded," he said. And you know what? I can't. It makes me happy for the closet to be like that but he could care less. So I take it upon myself to hang up his shirts. I don't mind it, the closet stays neat, and at the end of the day we are all fine.

And because all of this talk about cleaning makes it sound like Zach doesn't carry his weight, I feel like I should take a moment to explain that he deals with a lot of the more horrifying aspects of our life, like the time there was a dead mouse in our kitchen and I hid until it was over. He also pumps our gas because I don't like to do it and he cooks at least half of the time. My point in all of this is not to point out his flaws but to give examples on picking your battles.

After all, I've started being more aware of nagging and trying to do it less of it, and I've had some interesting realizations. First of all, absolutely nothing is worse. Our household hasn't crumbled without me being on top of his every undone chore. A lot of it is the same. He is, after all, not going to become a completely different person, and I wouldn't even want that. And, most importantly, some things have really improved. We've both been overall much happier. He's even gotten up early and cleaned on a few occasions without prompting.

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What's your take on this topic? Is "stop nagging" a pipe dream or the path to romantic bliss?

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Friday Vibes // Kiss, Kiss

Nothing says Valentine's Day weekend like shots of classic couples kissing paired with works from one of my favorite collage artists, Eugenia Loli.

 

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Seriously, was there ever a more handsome man than Paul Newman? Old or new, share your Hollywood heartthrob with me in the comments!

 

Happy weekend, lovers!

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My Valentine's Day Wishlist + A Dude-Approved Romantic Playlist

With just one week until Valentine's Day, love is definitely in the air. But I really appreciate love-themed design all year round, don't you? I mean is their really a time when a graphic heart motif or a cheeky love print is not welcome? I don't think so. Check out a few of my favorite love-themed items and then keep reading for a dude-approved playlist perfect for a V-Day dinner night in!

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Zach and I started dating way back in the era of the mixed CD, and boy did he nail the romantic compilations. Anyone who knows him can attest to the fact that he probably knows more about music than 99% of the population, so I'd thought I'd tap into the master source for this month's playlist. I specifically asked him to come up with some romantic-themed songs that were also masculine, too. And maybe one of these is more about heroin than love (I'll let you figure that one out), but I think he really got the mood down. Here's what he came up with...

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You can listen to and follow this playlist, along with all the monthly mixes and my work/create playlist, via Spotify.

See anything here you love? Let's talk it out in the comments!

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Top 10 Tuesday... Stella & Dot + A Giveaway!

I recently made a decision that I'm really excited to tell you all about: I became a stylist with Stella & Dot! I went back and forth a lot on whether or not sharing this on the blog was the right thing to do. It was a tough decision because of a tug-of-war between two main points.

1. I know that if you read this you either really support fashion or really support me, so you'd likely be happy about the news either way. But...

2. I never want this space to feel like something I'm selling or shoving down anyone's throat. I've actually turned down some opportunities and free products in the past few months because I really want to make sure that anything I'm telling you is something I 100% believe.

But underneath my feelings against self-promotion, I realized that this is something I really believe in so I had to share!

First of all, I love direct sales. It will allow for me to continue building a freelance career but help ease the months on/months off stress of an irregular paycheck. It's also a fun and supportive community that has already given me such a positive welcome. But most of all, I'm just a million percent obsessed with the Stella & Dot brand. It's bold, fashion-forward, and high-quality. I loved it all online, but as soon as I saw it in person, I was a goner. I want every single piece!

But until I can dominate the entire collection one by one, I've put together my Top 10 Stella & Dot wishlist items. Enjoy!

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And as a supreme thank you to my lovely readers, I'm offering an exciting giveaway of my absolute favorite piece of the moment, the Rory Necklace.

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I keep telling people that I gasped out loud when I got my shipment in the mail and I'm telling you, if you think it's pretty online, it's literally breath-taking in person.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post and a winner will be chosen at random at midnight on Sunday, June 15th. (And it's not a requirement, but please feel free to subscribe to make sure you don't miss future giveaways! :) )

Alos, if you have any questions about Stella & Dot, any interest in hosting a trunk show or even becoming a stylist, please email me. You can also shop  the entire collection and order online here.

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And (as if I'm not throwing enough at you) there's a new feature to the blog today. My friend Miche from Buttons and Birdcages had an inspiring idea to start a linkup focused on saying the positive things about others that you might otherwise keep to yourself. (She's pretty awesome.)

So here's my Weekly Love...

I admire my future sister-in-law (it's her birthday today!) because she's always pushing herself to go outside of her comfort zone, putting herself out there and trying new things. It's really inspiring!

My Stella & Dot mentor (and new friend) has a really busy schedule, but every time I've seen her she looks so cute and perfectly put together.

Pretty much every time I think about my mom, I laugh about something she recently said or did. And I think that's about the best quality a person can have.

My grandma has the absolute prettiest skin. Every time I see her, she looks so lovely that she literally glows. It's kind of amazing.

And I could go on and on and on about all of my family, friends, and coworkers, but I'll save some for next week! :)

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**Update** Congratulations, Amanda! I know it will look beautiful on you!

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Eye It/Buy It/DIY It: Summer Romance

When the weather heats up and the air gets sticky, there are two general options when it comes to clothing tactics. 1- the clothes-to-skin ratio diminishes to near-nude proportions (not for me....not even down the street from me) or 2- the clothes get loosy-goosey and easy-breezy (now we're talking...). If you tend towards the more modest side, like myself, you're in luck, because comfort in the summer can be really beautiful. It's easy to get into a rut of t-shirts and flip-flops, but this year, I'm loving the idea of redirecting this comfort-centric train of thought towards the uber-romantic. With easy silhouettes and natural fabrics, this look is every bit as comfortable as your heat-wave rags, but undeniably prettier and more flattering.

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The romantic summer look is all about classic or vintage styles in modest and forgiving silhouettes. The color palette mimics nature, playing off of pastel garden colors grounded with lots of cream, taupe, and white. Fabrics should be soft, flowy, natural, and comfortable. Floral patterns are key, as are ombre and watercolor treatments for a dreamy, romantic vibe. Boho blouses, flowy dresses, maxi skirts, and delicate accessories will keep you looking sweet while you're fighting the heat.

And ps- are you loving the adorable, pink-haired cyclist above as much as I am? Well, it's Elle from Opium Poppies and if you haven't checked out her blog yet, I highly recommend you do so here.

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Here are some of my favorite pieces to put some summer lovin' into your wardrobe- 50 under $50.

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Lace is great and florals are fine, but my absolute favorite way to keep your summer romantic is with this sentimental DIY Message in a Bottle necklace. I put a sweet little note from my fiancé in mine (he's on a quotes kick lately), but so many mementos could work well. Riding solo? Put your favorite romantic song lyrics, a motivational or uplifting message, or better yet, make one with your best friend and give each other notes about why you're perfect for each other. :) And my absolute favorite thing about this project- it's super-easy and costs just around $10!

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A Breakdown of the Steps:

1. Roll up your message and place it in the bottle. (A few notes: I gave my message a quick brush with some brown watercolor to make it look vintage, but this is obviously optional. Tea staining would work as well or just some imperfect tears for added "authenticity". And if you're wondering where to find the bottles, you can get a package of 6 or so for about $5.99 in the scrapbooking section of any of the larger craft stores. I got mine at Michael's.)

2. Pierce the cork all the way through with the eye pin, trying to remain near the center.

3. Snip off about half of the tail-end of the eye pin using the wire cutters and then curl this end up towards the cork using the pliers (round nose works best).

4. Push the curled end of the eye pin up into the bottom of the cork so that it is generally flush with the bottom.

5. Dab a dot of super glue on the top and bottom of the eye pin where they meet the cork, for added security. Apply a line a glue of glue around the perimeter of the cork, near the middle, and insert it into the bottle.

6. Using the pliers, add a jump ring to the eye pin and thread the chain through. Add jump rings to the ends of the chain, using the final one to attach the lobster clasp.

7. Wipe away a sentimental tear from having made the most adorable necklace in the name of love. :)

I hope you liked this Summer Romance edition of Eye It/Buy It/DIY It! If you go for it and make the necklace, please feel encouraged to share your gushy, mushy message in the comments below! And if you hate crafts but love love, a "would-be" message is just as meaningful. Sidenote: hilarious and/or inappropriate messages also allowed. :)

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