March 2016 - Prep Essentials

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April Bucket List

Now that I've finally been making these lists for a few months, I can officially say that it is one of my favorite things to look forward to all month. Especially with the weather warming up, I'm loving it because I find myself turning to my list whenever I'm bored or looking for an idea of how to spend my weekend (plus I've gotten myself to do a lot more fun things!)

Last month was exhausting (and expensive) but so much fun. I got to head out to Breckenridge, CO to visit my brother and get some skiing in! I'm already mentally planning my trip out there for next winter, it was such a blast and went by way too quickly. My 250 book challenge for 2016 is still going strong, and my biggest problem is finding new books to read - please please send me your recommendations, I'm getting desperate!!

I stuck to my plan of spring cleaning all of my electronics, and then realized that I actually do a pretty good job of keeping everything in order (it only took me about an hour vs. the usual 2.5-4 hours it has taken me in years past). 

The weather is (starting to, fingers crossed) warm up here in Chicago, so this month's list was mostly inspired by optimistic warmer activities like bike riding, walking along the lakeshore, heading to the gym more often (yes - I admit, the cold weather got the best of me and I slipped on this in January/February), and of course continuing more books! No seriously...please send me book suggestions!

By far the most challenging this month will be the 4 days a week minimum at the gym, although I have gone the last 7 days straight and am really re-inspired by it! The only time this might be difficult is the week I am road-tripping it back to Oxford to visit friends and soak up the sunshine. I'm still brainstorming ways to surprise a friend/who it will be...


If anyone in Chicago has some favorite bike riding spots, please send them my way! I'm going to try out the Divvy bikes and I seriously can't wait!

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Step Into Spring: A Complete Spring Shoe Guide

Spring is definitely a short season (at least in the Midwest) and by far my favorite aspect of it is that it signals the end of winter. Time to tuck away those boots, hats and parkas and prepare to free your skin to sunlight and more importantly, free your feet! 

I always tend to be the last person to tuck away my sandals once summer ends, because I love the ease of slipping something on (plus it is so much easier/less expensive to have a variety of colorful & trendy shoes when it comes to things like sandals and heels!)


Everywhere you look, fashion bloggers are sporting tassels, fringe, & studs in their footwear this season which I am loving - but there is definitely something to be said for the old classics! I've put together a comprehensive list of all of the ways you can step into Spring this year, whether it's trendy, classic, made for walking, or adding a little bit of height!

Trending: One | Two | Three | Four
Classic: Five | Six | Seven | Eight
Sneakers: Nine | Ten | Eleven | Twelve
Wedge & Bootie: Thirteen | Fourteen | Fifteen | Sixteen

I can't wait to add a pair of color and style to my outfits this spring like these, but you can't go wrong with investing in some of those classics that go with absolutely everything!

The grey sneakers (number twelve) goes great with everything, but I've really got my eye on these eye-grabbing green sneakers from New Balance for American Eagle. With all of the walking I do in the city running errands, comfort is definitely a priority so converse and Toms are topping my list this year!

What are your go-to shoes for Spring? Anything new you can't wait to add to your collection this year?

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Preppy & Chic Tech Accessories for Spring

I have a tendency to get bored easily with some of the things that I use every single day - my phone, iPad, purse, wallet...those little things that are always there. Don't get me wrong, I always have my go-tos, but I like to mix things up to give them a little variety so I'm not always staring at the same thing!

One of the easiest ways to do this is changing up the accessories, cases and bags I use to store these items! I love changing up my phone case every couple of weeks - it kinda feels like changing up your nail color or trying a new outfit! 

Here are some of my favorite colorful and fun tech accessories that are perfect now that Spring is finally here!


Top Row: One | Two | Three | Four

Bottom Row: One | Two | Three

I love Society 6 - it's a great place to go for a lot of things, but it's my favorite place to find cheap but stylish new phone cases. They all hold up pretty well (my last one survived 20+ drops before it got a chip in it) and there are so. many. to choose from! If you're looking for protection, the OtterBox in the bottom right is definitely your best bet. Personally, I'm loving the sleek gold details on this one, and I've heard they're really durable too!

Top Row: One Two Three | Four 

Bottom Row: One | Two | Three

My favorite iPad Cases tend to be ones that will prop themselves up - I'm always watching shows while I cook or using my iPad to display the recipe, so this feature is pretty important to me! That's why the ice cream cone and the rosebud flowers are my favorites out of this bunch! Although that gold bike is super cute! Minnie & Emma always makes great products - those lemons with your name personalized on the cover are to die for!

Do you like changing up your tech accessories often, or do you stick with one tried and true case to keep things simple? 

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Easy & Healthy Honey Garlic Chicken

I'm always trying to find new recipes for quick, easy & healthy dinners and lunches to take to work. It turns out, repeating the same handful of recipes gets old very fast. Different summer salads were working well for me, but once it got colder the ingredients were just too pricy to justify (and some days you just really need something more substantial!)

Yesterday, I discovered an amazing recipe for Honey Garlic Chicken - and I truthfully thought it would be a bit of a pain and probably annoyingly costly to make, but I decided to give it a shot (and went on my *second* grocery run of the day...you could say I was bit bored...) I was not disappointed. Most of the ingredients I actually did already have, and the rest I'll have for next time now! It was incredibly easy to make and SO YUMMY! 


I've broken down the recipe for you here - I felt like I was making one of those "Tasty" recipe videos that are all over Facebook and always seem so tempting to try!

Serves 2-4 People. (I used half for dinner with rice, and kept half to bring to work for lunch!)

Ingredients You Need:
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used thinly sliced and it was perfect) - cut into 1 inch pieces
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups of Panko Breadcrumbs
Sesame Seeds (for seasoning)
Fresh Chopped Parsley (for seasoning)

For The Sauce:
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced (1.5 Teaspoons of Pre-Minced Garlic in a Jar = 1 Clove)
Salt & Pepper
Optional: 1 tbsp Sriracha Sauce (I can't handle spicy, so I opted out of this one!)


Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 and spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Spread the breadcrumbs evenly on a plate.
3. Beat the eggs and place in a bowl. Season with salt & pepper.
4. Add each piece of chicken to the eggs and toss them to coat evenly. 
5. Coat each piece of chicken with the breadcrumbs evenly and place on baking sheet.
6. Bake the chicken for 20 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked (breadcrumbs should appear slightly golden brown).

*When you have about 12 minutes left on your timer, I recommend starting the sauce!*

7. Add the sauce ingredients to a sauce pan and place on medium heat, bringing it to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and stir occasionally for a few more minutes or until chicken is ready.
8. Pour the sauce over the chicken in a bowl and toss the chicken to spread the sauce evenly. If you have leftover sauce, use it for dipping!
9. Garnish with sesame seeds and parsley. Add to rice and veggies to complete the meal!

Calories: 421      Fat: 11g      Carbohydrates: 42.1g        Sugar: 18.6g         Sodium: 1230mg       Fiber: 3.2g       Protein: 38.7g
I got this nutritional information from the original recipe






 Yum! Just looking at these pictures is making me excited to have it for lunch all over again today. Be on the lookout for more easy & healthy lunch ideas to take to work soon! With all of my traveling finally settling down, I'm trying to get back into my #healthy grind! Not to mention bikini season is just around the corner...

Let me know what you think if you try it! 

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Gift Guide for Her

It has been a birthday frenzy these last couple of weeks (including my own!) I feel like I've given more gifts than Christmas this March! I had a hard enough time coming up with things I wanted for myself - nonetheless coming up with good gift ideas for friends! It seems like the only time it's easy to come up with gift ideas is during the holiday season when gift guides are everywhere - but I certainly wish I'd had some to look through that work well year-round!

Whether it's coworkers, lifelong pals, or college besties you've stayed in touch with - coming up with a great idea (and staying in budget) is seriously hard to do. I've pulled together some of my top picks for presents that won't break the bank:


For the Early Riser - I just received one of these mugs as a birthday gift and I love it! It's personal, cute & thoughtful whether you're working late hours or pulling all-nighters at the library, and the best part is it's super affordable!

For the Instagram Queen - If you have that one friend who's thumbs have probably scrolled the distance around the world on social media and who can't seem to put her phone down - this one is perfect. I've tried out a lot of portable chargers and this is by far the best one. It holds three full charges, comes in a few stylish colors (naturally I chose gold) and it's also really cheap! Plus, it charges your phone super fast so she can be back & connected in no time!

For Your Bestie: a Blowout - Even if you don't have a drybar in your city, almost every city has popped up some version of a blowout bar by now - they have swept the nation! I received a certificate for a blowout at DryBar and I've been waiting for the perfect occasion to use it. This is a great gift for the Blair to your Serena so she can be looking fabulous in all those birthday pictures!

All In Good Taste - My parents got me this for my recent birthday as well, and I absolutely love it. I already have a small collection of coffee table books started from my Mom's collection, and I was thrilled to add one of my own to the mix (of course - it didn't leave my hands until I had read it practically cover to cover first!) So many things perfect for a girl who loves to throw a good party, decorate, or cook. Recipes, cocktails, table settings and party themes...what's not to love?

For the Friend in Need of Pampering - A great simple gift & always thoughtful and appreciated is two new nail polish bottles and a certificate to a mani/pedi. It's one of those things we often don't buy for ourselves - but love to enjoy the pampering when it's on someone else's dime! This is a great low-effort or last-minute gift.

For the Friend with Everything - Some people are just impossible to shop for - whether they seem like they have everything you can think of, or those that just don't really like to have a lot of stuff - little organizational/trinket dishes are a good way to go. You can always find a use for them, like setting your keys in by the door or holding those little tiny essentials that are always getting lost like bobby pins and hair ties.

For the Wine Lover - Not as if we don't all love a nice glass of wine after a long day...but some of us (myself included) love nothing more than a movie night in with friends accompanied by some wine & cheese. One of the first things I realized I was missing when I moved to Chicago was a serving tray & utensils for my monthly weekly wine nights with friends. 

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Breckenridge Ski Trip & Birthday Recap!

This past weekend, I headed out to Breckenridge, Colorado to visit my brother and get some skiing in for the first time in eight years! It has been a long time since the annual ski trips to Colorado & Utah that we used to take when I was growing up, and I felt like I was more than overdue, so with my brother moving out to Breckenridge in the fall and my birthday last week, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to get in some time on the slopes! (Luckily, I hadn't lost my skills as I had feared - I didn't even fall once!)

I had only been to Breckenridge in the summer, so I was so excited to see the adorable little mountain town in snowy winter - let me tell you, I was not disappointed! The whole town seems like something out of a Christmas fairytale, and anywhere that looks like Christmas all winter long is okay in my book!

Most of my time was spent on the slopes, but at night we got to wander down Main Street and look at all of the shops, twinkling lights, soak in the delicious-smelling food stands and pet the dozens of fluffy mountain dogs on their evening strolls with their owners (I swear, people probably think I am trying to kidnap their dogs I get so excited - I sense a dog of my own in my near-ish future!)


 Nothing like a make-your-own waffle bar to start off a morning on the slopes!


There were so many adorable shops & stores - it was like preppy clothes heaven! Luckily for me (and my wallet) I typically didn't make it onto Main Street until the stores were closed...this trip did enough damage to my bank account without adding a shopping spree to the mix! 

This Patagonia store was absolutely adorable...I may or may not have stared into the windows for 20 minutes while we waited for our crepes at the cart next door! 




The crepe cart line was about 45 minutes long - mostly because they make them in a tiny little shack and they take a little while to make, because they have every. single. topping. ever. No seriously - they have everything from sweet to savory - pizza crepes, s'mores crepes, Nutella & chocolate & nuts...talk about a sugar coma! The smell itself was enough to make you starving, and the end result certainly didn't disappoint. We got s'mores & chocolate...a little boring, but I get overwhelmed by choices easily! Definitely a must-hit spot if you go to Breckenridge!

One satisfied customer!



How cute is this little Starbucks?

The perk of having a brother who is a local is that he knew all the inside tricks and spots - he took me to this little hobbit hole buried in the side of the mountain in a huge patch of trees. It definitely wasn't easy to get to, but it was very cool! There were even benches made from old snowboards inside. 


On the last day, we skied up to the tallest peak and it was so windy and cold. Most of the weekend was fairly sunny and in the low 40s, so I wore Lululemon leggings for the majority of the time (tip: this is not recommended, but I got lucky and didn't fall or I would have had one freezing booty!) The views were totally worth it though.



I might be a tad bitter that his hair is longer than mine, considering I've been trying to grow mine out for years, but getting to see my brother is a rare occurrence for me since I started college & it was so amazing to have a whole weekend of hanging with him! Definitely already mentally planning my trip out there for next year...


As if a birthday ski trip wasn't enough, I was so incredibly lucky to once again spend a fabulous birthday filled with love, family & friends - but most importantly chocolate cake!





Has anyone else gone out to Breckenridge or planning to? Would love to hear other places you loved, or if you want dinner, drinks and activity recommendations I'd love to share!

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Fashion Finds: Frankie-Phoenix

My biggest love-hate relationship with Pinterest comes from dead links and the perpetual cycle of finding something you love and never being able to determine where you can actually find it. Luckily, that was not the case last week when I stumbled upon this adorable new website, Frankie-Phoenix!

At first, I was a little skeptical once I saw the prices..everything is so cute and so cheap! $17 for a cozy flowy sweater to me meant that it was likely either: A) horrible quality, B) a scam website, or C) magic. After pouring through the entire site and filling up my cart with about 7 different things, I decided to do a little research and check out if this website was for real. I just couldn't believe I'd never heard of it before!

I found nothing to indicate that it wasn't legit, but I decided to be safe I'd buy the cheapest item in my cart and see what happened. It just arrived last night and let me tell you...this is the softest shirt I have ever owned. I'm already obsessed! The quality is great, the shipping was super fast and their customer service was really helpful! Naturally I immediately returned to my favorite finds and re-filled my shopping cart.



Top Row: One | Two Three / Four

Middle Row: One Two / Three

Bottom Row: One / Two / Three

It was way too hard to choose just a few - so many cozy looking sweaters, cute knit tank tops for summer nights, and flowy t-shirts perfect for layering and lace bralettes. (They also have tons of cute bralettes...)

Always a good week when you find a new and affordable store that you love! 

PS - they also have a super cute blog featuring their items and ways to wear them here! Here are some of my favorites from their Instagram Feed @shopfrankiephoenix...


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Spring Break Essentials

Feeling a small twinge of jealousy at all of my beach-bound friends right now who are heading off to all of their tropical spring break locations - but also feeling conflicted because I'm in a totally different mindset hitting the slopes in Colorado all weekend! (More on that later!) 

In case you missed it, I pulled together all of my favorite finds of swimwear for 2016 - all shapes, colors, styles & budgets included!

It doesn't hurt to be thinking *warm* thoughts after a long day of powder and a few too many mugs of hot chocolate though, so at the urging of my friends I've put together a spring break essentials list for those lucky enough to be cruising to warmer temperatures! (And if you aren't, don't fret - I've been known to hit up the indoor pool at my gym and throw myself a little stay-cation and it's amazing how well you can trick your own mind into thinking you're in a sunnier place!)



It seems like everyone can't get enough of these funky-shaped pool floats this year...the pineapple is definitely my favorite but this one and this one are cute too! I'm never really a big one for getting in the water, but I do like to remain on dry land in style like with these beach towels by John Robshaw!

Believe me - I'm as much against selfie sticks as the next girl - but you've gotta do what you've gotta do to get those adorable group photos by the water! If you're in the market for a new beach/pool tote, you can't go wrong with this one or this one - both are super roomy, with bold colorful patterns that will really pop! (and look great up next to your new tan!)

Always a fan of Essie - Bikini So Teeny and In the Cab-Ana are perfect poolside, and you can show them off in your favorite pair of Jack Rogers Sandals! 

I always carry a little waterproof cosmetic bag to hold my phone, keys & wallet in - you never know when a high tide is going to wash away your bag and interrupt that nap you were taking! Meanwhile, sip on your drink in a cute tumbler, dress to impress in a new bikini and some high-waisted shorts - just don't forget the sunscreen!

Most importantly - safe travels, take a lot of pictures, and try not to rub it in how warm it is wherever you may be going...some of us are still shivering!

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Bikini-Ready Beach Finds: The Best Swimwear for 2016

One of my favorite ways to start inspiring myself to hit the gym once the weather warms up like this is the realization that bikini season is just around the corner! Normally, spring break is my reminder of this - but sadly there's no spring break in the real world. Luckily for me, I have had all my friends still in school texting me begging for a post about the cutest & most affordable swimwear this season as they all pack off to go on their various getaways...cue jealousy.

It's not all nostalgia and missing out for me though; after all, I do live in Chicago, and while we might be famous for brutal winters - we are also famous for incredible summers with endless activities and places to be. Last summer it seems like I lived in a bikini, whether it was on rooftops by the pool or cruising around the lake enjoying the skyline views.

Some of these finds I can't wait to add to my collection - they're all so different and adorable! I tried to make sure that there is a little something for everyone: a mix of styles, shapes, colors, & budgets to help you find the best swimwear for you this season!

1 | 2 | 3 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

There are so many cute options I seriously don't know where to start...I think I might be leaning towards trying out a trendy one-piece, and I love the way this one has a fun pattern to make it still seem young and flattering! I'm also loving this one...too many to choose! 

The Triangl bikinis seemed to come out of nowhere last year as insanely popular - suddenly everyone had to have one, and that whole 6-week shipping time from Australia did not bode well with short spring break timelines approaching. I ended up not buying one because of the timing, and I'm a little glad I did, because I later heard that the bottoms run small, so I definitely recommend trying on a friends if they have one before buying! Their customer service chat is also incredibly helpful on sizing. (A tad frustrating you can only buy them as a set, and not individual pieces...)

The good news is, plenty of other companies have stepped up and created eerily similar designs to the Triangl line in an effort to keep up with the epidemic. You can find them all over the place, like here and here and here!

What are your top picks for bikinis and swimwear this season? Is anyone else as ready to jump into the water and warm weather as I am?!

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March Bucket List

Still in total denial & shock that it is already March...but with birthdays, ski trips, friends coming to town and *hopefully* nicer weather on the horizon, I can't say I'm complaining too much! February flew by (even with the extra Leap Day) and I'm proud to say I accomplished almost everything on last month's bucket list! 

Mardi Gras was amazing - and we can all officially say that two times is enough, we will not be going back! After a few weeks of letting it grow on me (no pun intended), I absolutely love my balayage hair, I read nine new books (and re-read a few old ones) in my continued efforts to read over 250 books this year, and I surprisingly was successful at completely shutting off social media for an entire Sunday! 


This month has some more fun trips and activities on the horizon that I'm really looking forward to, and I've decided to try "Kindle Unlimited" monthly membership to ease the pain on my wallet of my efforts to read so many books. I'm definitely most excited to see my brother out in Colorado, as it's been almost a whole YEAR since I last saw him! I'm going to let my friends choose from 3 different pre-planned menus later this month and try my hand at cooking & hosting a small dinner party. Time to put my cooking skills to the test! My camera roll, storage space, and ridiculous amount of apps are ready for another deep cleaning, too. 

What else should be on my bucket list for this month?

Can't wait to give all of these a try!

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C. Wonder is Back!

Yes - that's correct...C. Wonder, the brand we all knew, love, and miss dearly has made a (somewhat) comeback and is currently available on QVC! For those of you who don't remember it, C. Wonder was an adorable & preppy brand that closed its doors and website a little over a year ago due to some controversial background history and some ugly divorce details between the brand owner Chris Burch & Tory Burch.

However...this morning, we got a little surprise from the loved-then-lost brand, because some of its items have appeared on QVC! Under the new creative leadership of Brad Goreski, co-host of Fashion Police, C.Wonder is attempting a comeback - with some slight changes. We're seeing less of the preppy embodiment we are used to, and more of a bohemian style, although some of those great preppy details like statement gold buttons, tassels, and monogram cuff bracelets are still there.

The jury is still out on whether or not former fans of the brand will love this new line or not (personally, I've been able to find a few really great pieces - but my love for the brand has not been even close to fully restored...bring back the amazing home decor pieces!) Nonetheless, here are some of my favorite finds so far!


Bottom Row: Crystal Toggle Link Bracelet | Rope Double Tassel "Y" Necklace | Enamel Bracelet

What do you think of the new C. Wonder?

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23!

When did it become March? I'm fairly certain that New Year's Eve was only a minute or two ago...Normally I'm counting down the seconds, because March 3rd (today) is my birthday! I've never been one of those crown & sash types of girls on my birthdays (really not a fan), but I do love to have a handful of celebrations so that I can cover all of my family, friends & loved ones.

This year just feels a little...different. My birthday really snuck up on me! I don't feel any different, or any older. There has been very little anticipation or build-up, and any sort of big celebration feels like such an unnecessary fuss. I would be content to have a home-cooked meal shared with the people closest to me, some wine & a good movie. (Sheesh...maybe I really am getting old!) 

Don't get me wrong, I love a good birthday party (or any party for that matter)...I just don't feel like 23 is something major to be celebrated. This has been one of the biggest years of my life change-wise though, so I've decided that fact in itself makes this new age and new year something worth mentioning! I've learned a lot, and experienced more life adjustments, accomplishments and emotions than any other year in my life so far. 

So this year, I'm raising a glass to getting through such a roller-coaster year, and having such an infinite list of things to be thankful for. I have precious little to complain about, few regrets and no major changes or goals I want to set for myself to "change my life" this year. I think being in my first year out of college, living in a new city on my own, tackling life's challenges head-on and coming out on top is more than enough reason to celebrate. 



23 Things I've Learned About Being 23:
1. My fears about succeeding in my career were unfounded - hard work & determination are all it takes!

2. Taking care of yourself, your mind and your body in your 20s is the most important thing you can do.

3. You don't have to feel the slightest bit of guilt at wanting to stay in with Netflix & a good book...all weekend.

4. No amount of planning will actually prepare you for how it feels to graduate college and take on the real world. 

5. You will be surprised which friends stay in your life, and which ones gradually fade. This is normal. 

6. You have to put in the effort to hang on to the friendships and relationships that are important to you. 

7. Having a place to escape and relax is one of the best things you can have. My bedroom is my sanctuary.

8. Sleeping is finally one of my favorite activities. Working full time is exhausting, and resting feels so damn good.

9. Saving money is rarely fun...but having that money is one of the best feelings ever. 

10. Your free time is much more valuable as you get older. Don't waste it on things you don't want to do.

11. Learning how to be alone and be okay with that is incredibly important, and the sooner you can do it, the better.

12. Traveling is one of the best and most rewarding ways that you can spend your time and money.

13. I have really enjoyed re-discovering my love for reading - and I hope to read over 250 books this year. 

14. I finally know the difference in wanting to do something that I'm old enough to do and knowing that just because I can, doesn't mean I should. I have finally learned how to tell myself, "No. Wait."

15. Always say I love you to your parents. Frequently, and for no reason at all. 

16. Feeling lonely at 23 is incredibly normal. No one talks about it - but it's there. It's the reason #2 is so important.

17. I've learned to love myself enough that when I have a bad day, or just really want to "treat myself", I can do it without feeling guilty or body-shaming myself. Zero regrets about eating an entire pizza or finishing a whole season on Netflix in one sitting.

18. I'm not in any rush to grow up...but I'm also not clinging to staying young or acting wild nearly as much as I anticipated.

19. I also still love to watch movies from my childhood, eat my favorite childhood snacks and pretend that I'm a kid for a day. I truthfully hope that I never feel too old for this. 

20. It is much more cleansing to have less things, rather than more. Quality has officially overtaken quantity - this applies to clothes, apartment decorations, possessions from my childhood...Not to mention it makes moving a lot easier!

21. Very few things will go how you expect them to - so the less expectations you have, the happier you tend to be!

22. The things that used to terrify me, aren't really so scary after all. I'm looking forward to more changes, more adventures and more growing up.

23. I'm incredibly thankful for my health, my happiness, my friends & family, and for the opportunity to continue to live another year of a life that I love - no matter what comes my way. 

Thank you to everyone who has made my birthday feel so special, and for making me feel so loved! 

Cheers to 23 - Bring it on!

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