Sunday, July 29, 2018

You Asked, I Answered. Q & A #1!

Having been back on the blog for just over a week now, it's come to my attention that there are a lot of open ends. Most of you are friends of mine on Facebook, and given that you know a lot about me and the things going on in my life, a lot of you have been asking me for clarification on a few things. So in addition to your questions, I posted this photo on Instagram and shared that I would be doing a Q & A post. I was pleasantly surprised with the responses I got, and tried to combine similar questions to answer everything as thoroughly as possible. There are still a few questions I can't answer just yet, but I will do my best! Here we go, starting with the most commonly asked question...
1. What happened with the Navy?
Oh you guys. Yes, I have been working with a recruiter since September to join the US Navy as an officer. I even went to MEPS in November. I wasn't enlisting as I have a four-year degree, in which case you can apply for an Officer Commission. I was told at the start that it is much more difficult to join this way, as it is a much smaller, much more competitive pool of candidates. But I was determined. I took a lengthy test, submitted an application with my results from MEPS, got several letters of recommendation, and wrote a 'personal statement', all of which were required to be considered. I even told my employer so that they were aware of the possibility. At first I was supposed to find out if I was accepted in March. Then, for complicated reasons out of my control, it was pushed to the end of May. Then the end of June. I played phone and email tag with my recruiter for results, but there was an enormous delay in their release. And I didn't hear until mid-July. Even typing this, it's hard admitting it: I did not get accepted into the Navy. Ten months of waiting and hoping, and I was not accepted. My recruiter couldn't go into much detail; he just assured me that I wasn't the only one who was delayed, then delayed again, then informed a week after the results actually came out. He said sometimes they need more officers, sometimes not so many. I just happened to be in a board where they didn't need so many. He suggested I forward my application to the next board (meeting in September, results to be out a month or two after), but I decided I had to move on with my life. I gave an honest effort to join the Navy, and the two boards (career areas) that I wanted to join didn't accept me. I couldn't keep my life on hold. It would have been an incredible experience to follow in the footsteps of my aunt and my grandfather, serving my country as part of the most powerful Navy in the world. But as my family pointed out, God just has other plans for me. Yes, I'm disappointed, and frustrated that I waited so long just to hear a 'no'. But at least I tried, and sometimes that's the best you can do.
2. What made you decide to switch from vegetarian to vegan?
I've been a vegetarian for roughly 8 years now. When I started, I wasn't incredibly strict: I still ate fish and chicken on occasion, especially at family gatherings where there weren't many other options. As I grew and learned more about animal agriculture, the hormones they put in meat, etc., I became a more strict vegetarian. In 2014, I did a summer internship in Dublin, Ireland and transitioned to a vegan lifestyle. The options in Dublin were endless: grocery stores labeled everything and it was easy to make the switch without feeling like I was giving up too much. When I returned home to the Midwest, things got complicated. Vegan food was far more expensive than it had been in Dublin, and I couldn't afford to buy everything I needed. As a result, I had a difficult time keeping weight on and it turned into an unhealthy situation. I switched back to a vegetarian diet, adding in things like eggs, Greek yogurt, Feta cheese, and whey/casein protein. For the next few years, I stuck with it, even getting into things like protein shakes and protein waffles as I started lifting and making more friends who were into fitness. At the beginning, it was wonderful, and I got back to a healthy weight with muscle (for the first time in my life). I was counting macros on a daily basis, spending quite a bit of money on protein and egg whites, and eating highly processed foods that claimed to be good for me. Quite frankly I got sick of everything being so fake and micro-managed. It was exhausting, weighing everything and making sure I hit an exact amount of carbs, proteins, and fats every day. If I missed a workout, it ruined my day. And then there was the occasional glass of wine, which - if you count macros - is understandably very hard to factor in. All the while, I knew it probably wasn't great to be getting so much protein from genetically modified sources. I spent a week visiting my family and taking a break from it all, and it was wonderful. So in coming home, I decided something had to change. All things considered, I decided to switch back to a vegan diet. Now, a few of you who have known me for years and saw what happened last time have voiced your concerns. I understand completely. But last time, I hadn't done my research. I existed mostly off cooked vegetables, salads, cereals, soy yogurt, and bread. I hadn't learned of the dense nutrition found in things like avocado, sweet potato, beans, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, or coconut milk. I didn't eat much fruit or nuts because I thought they had too much sugar and fat. I didn't want to try tofu, tempeh, seitan, or vegan cheese because I didn't have a kitchen to cook them in (living in a college dorm). This time however, I've expanded what I'll try. So far, I've had amazing vegan pizza, vegan cheeseburgers, southwest stuffed sweet potatoes, smoothie bowls, fried cauliflower rice, and even a vegan grilled cheese sandwich. The transition has been smooth and easy, and I'm loving trying new things along the way.
3. What is your favorite vegan food?
This is a hard question! If I'm making it at home, I'd have to say my southwest stuffed sweet potato. I do plan on doing a recipe post on it soon, but to give you an idea: cooked sweet potato, vegan refried beans, roasted peppers in chunky salsa, black beans, Daiya shreds, and olives. I love spicy food and this is a great way to make it! As far as eating out, there really isn't anywhere in my town to get vegan food. However, I recently visited a friend who introduced me to vegan pizza and it was the best deep-dish pizza I've ever had. Wondering where? There's a post coming!
4. What is your favorite/least favorite thing about living in Michigan?
I was born and raised in Michigan, spent four years in Minnesota for school, a few summers interning in different parts of the world, and ended up living in the Upper Peninsula. So I can honestly say that my favorite thing about living in Michigan has much more to do with the past than it does with the present. I have very fond memories of my family camping in the northernmost part of the Lower Peninsula, spending evenings around a campfire, riding our bikes to the ferry docks, and spending entire days on Mackinac Island. Fudge, ice cream, lunch packed in the two red paniers on either side of my mom's bicycle...it all just meant summer. I love that I have these memories with my family and spending time with them here in Michigan is hands down the best. However, many towns in Michigan - particularly northern Michigan and the UP - are very small. Very small. Everyone knows everything about everyone and if you aren't from there, you feel like you don't fit in. People come and go. And then there's driving 45 minutes to the grocery store, coffee house, and restaurants (that offer something other than white fish and beer). It's three hours to the nearest Target. I have to pay $4 every time I want to go below the bridge, so my options for weekends are limited. Even when I did live 'downstate' by my family, I still didn't love living in Michigan. You have to drive everywhere. There's no public transportation because the automotive industry drives the state (pun intended). And then there's winters. I could go on but I think you get the idea.

5. If you could live anywhere outside of Michigan, where would you go?
Take me south! I have been in the Midwest/northern part of the country for far too long, and I would love to be somewhere that stays warm year-round. I have dealt with snow and ice and cold winters for 25 years, and I would love to get away from it for awhile. Sure, there are people who say they love having all four seasons, but honestly I can't stand winter and spring. When I was in college, the temperature could get down to -40'F. One of my floormates my freshman year washed her hair one day before we left for class and didn't dry it. By the time we got across campus, it was breaking off because it had frozen. The belt in my car's engine cracked because I worked early mornings and it didn't have time to properly warm up before I got to work and shut it off again. I don't snowmobile, ski, or ice fish, so I really just get crabby for a few months until it's warm out again. And then spring comes and my allergies act up, giving me itchy eyes and major headaches. I would love to live somewhere where it stays warm year-round and just avoid the hassle of winter and spring. Maybe I would enjoy them more if it was just for a visit...
6. Was it hard to go minimalist? Is it better to sell or donate as you transition?
As with any big life change, you have to do what's right for you. For me, it was not hard to go minimalist because I did it at my own pace and on my own terms. I feel it would only be 'hard' if you felt deprived at the end. And to clarify, minimalism is not asceticism. It's just a way to clear out the clutter in order to adjust your focus and attention. It's not about severe deprivation or doing it for any sort of accolade or award. Some people take it to the max and live out of a suitcase, finding happiness and opportunity in writing and traveling. Some people do it slowly but surely, hanging onto things that let them live comfortably but not excessively. Some would say I'm not a 'true minimalist' (whatever that means) because I kept my Starbucks mug collection and have more than one plate, bowl, and spoon. It's very subjective to each person's needs, but in the end it's really just a way to simplify and move away from consumerism. In no way do I feel deprived, so it wasn't difficult at all. As far as selling vs. donating, I found that selling was better for 'big ticket' or 'current' items (think: furniture, video games, some books). I could have probably sold more of my movies, but I would have gotten pennies for them. I was glad to sell my furniture (cabinets I no longer needed, a side table, a shelf) because it allowed me to afford a few new pieces that I will actually use. For example, I made enough money to buy a new kitchen table and chairs, so when I do move I don't need to take my current, heavy, wooden one that has been passed through my family and gets sticky when its humid out. As for things that were still functional, though of little current value, I donated. Clothing, movies, books, dishes, etc. were all taken to the local donation store, where members of the community can now come and purchase them for a price they feel is fair. I also took some of my books and movies to the library, because they were all in great condition and the library in town really didn't have much for  current movies, English learning books, and foreign language books. Honestly it all comes down to what is easiest and works best for you, allowing you to make the transition as simple and smooth as possible.

7. When are you moving? Have you found an apartment yet?
This post is coming. 100% aware this is a major loose end....stay tuned!

And on that note, that's all for today! I hope I answered your questions and tied up at least a few loose ends for you. I'm aware that there are still quite a few things unanswered/undecided, so keep an eye out for updates as they come. I do appreciate everyone who sent me a question on Facebook or Instagram and would be happy to answer more as they come. I hope you've all had a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

A Different Kind of Breakfast.

Scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, it seems that smoothie bowls and açaí bowls are all the rage (especially among vegans and vegetarians). Of course I've always thought they look pretty and delicious, but there's the little voice in my head asking, 'Who actually has the time to make that every morning?' There's the smoothie part itself, and then cutting up the fruit, and then sprinkling on granola/coconut flakes/peanut butter/whatever in a way that's aesthetically pleasing. It's just too much work. Who can possibly do all that in the morning before the coffee even kicks in?

Well, I can now say happily, I do!

I made the revolutionary decision to upgrade from my 3-year-old Nutri Bullet to a shiny new Ninja about two weeks ago. I have never owned a proper blended, but wanting to start making more homemade comfort foods (tomato soup, cream of cauliflower, etc.) helped me finally make the switch. I found a Ninja with several different attachments - on sale, yet! - at Target. It arrived a few days later, and my life was forever changed. Making the actual smoothie/açaí bowls doesn't take as long as I thought, especially after a few trial runs. And I love having something so simple but so healthy in the morning. So today I thought I'd share two of my favorite new recipes: Pumpkin Chia/Banana and Chocolate-Covered Strawberry (+Protein). They take under 10 minutes to make, and the options are endless. As I'm new to this, I'm rather boring in my toppings (fruit, granola, peanut butter), but I definitely plan on expanding my horizons. Let me know what you think!

Peanut Butter/Banana Smoothie Bowl
For the Smoothie Bowl:
1 Banana (frozen)
1/2c Pumpkin puree
8-10 Standard ice cubes
3/4c Cashew milk
1 tbsp Chia seeds

Toppings:
Peanut Butter (I use 2 tbsp PB2)
Nature's Path Coconut Chia Granola (or any granola)
1/2 Banana
Cinnamon

1. If you use a Ninja or Nutri Bullet, always put the ice in first! Then add frozen banana, pumpkin puree, chia seeds, and cashew milk. Blend until smooth.
2. Pour into a bowl and add your toppings. I add more cinnamon as I go, because it's amazing.
3. Enjoy!

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry (+Protein)
(So much variance in toppings, I know - I wish I would have had fresh berries or cacao nibs. Next time!)
For the Smoothie Bowl:
8-10 Standard ice cubes
1 Scoop (33g) Vega Chocolate Protein + Greens 
1/2 Banana (unfrozen)
5 Strawberries (frozen)
3/4c Cashew milk

Toppings:
Peanut Butter (I use 2 tbsp PB2)
Nature's Path Coconut Chia Granola (or any granola)
1/2 Banana
Cinnamon
*Again, I would've loved to have fresh berries instead of the banana, and cacao nibs or cocoa powder instead of the peanut butter. But it was still delicious!

1. Add the ice first, then the frozen berries, unfrozen banana, cashew milk, and last the Vega or other chocolate-flavored protein powder. Do not add the powder first or it will just get stuck to the bottom of the blender cup! 
2. Blend until smooth and pour into a bowl.
3. Add your toppings and enjoy!

I hope you enjoy these recipes! I know I have been thoroughly enjoying them every morning and can't wait to try out different fruits/flavors over time. I will definitely be posting more as I get more practice and would love to try out açaí bowls at some point as well (I haven't been able to find açaí - even at Meijer, Walmart, and Kroger....any suggestions?). They really don't take long to put together, and it's great to know I'm starting the day with something healthy that keeps me going. Let me know your favorite recipes or if you give these a try!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Charlevoix.

I have lived in Michigan most of my life. I grew up in metro Detroit, moved back to a neighboring town after four years in Minnesota, and finally moved up to the U.P. (upper peninsula) last year. When I was growing up, my family spent summers camping near Mackinac and visiting the Island. School years were spent studying Michigan history and taking field trips to the Henry Ford Museum and the Morley Candy Factory. One year we even took a class trip to Lansing. I've been to many of Michigan's 'big' cities and have spent far too much time on I-75 and US-2. But this weekend I got to explore a completely new city, situated right on Lake Michigan: Charlevoix. (Say it with me: Shar-la-voy)
This weekend happened to be the start of Charlevoix's "Venetian Festival": a week-long event featuring live music, Aquapalooza (basically a big party on the boats in the harbor), sporting events, a farmer's market, activities for kids, a carnival, a parade...you get the idea. As a local to northern Michigan, my friend John told me about his experiences at the Venetian Festival in the past, and it sounded like fun. So yesterday around 10:00am, we headed down across the Mackinac Bridge to check it out. When I was growing up, we had something called the Peach Festival near my parents' house which sounded similar (minus the harbor). I went to the Peach Festival nearly every year, watching my three older siblings sweat in their marching band uniforms in the parade and grabbing as much candy as I could as it was thrown from the floats. For the adults, they had peach-flavored beer and cider, vendors sold snacks and trinkets, and kids of all ages enjoyed the carnival rides and face paintings. Despite the crowds and the heat, it was always a good time. So I will say, part of me wishes we would have gone to Charlevoix another day when there was more going on. Sunday afternoon didn't hold many activities aside from praise music later (around 7pm). Regardless, John was a fantastic guide and we found plenty to see and do. It turned out to be a pretty spectacular afternoon.

We started by finding lunch at Bridge Street Tap Room, a small bistro-style pub known for its 32 Michigan-made beers on tap. As we got there around 11:30am, it wasn't too crowded and our food came quickly. Great beer (Greenfield's Hefeweizen for me, Cheboygan Blood Orange Honey for John), great food (they had a vegan hummus wrap! Woo!), and a beautiful view. I would recommend it to anyone visiting Charlevoix. 
After lunch, we walked along the Pine River connecting Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan. It was beautiful, and rather busy with sailboats, yachts, and jet-skiers. John explained that the drawbridge (part of Bridge Street, where the downtown area is) opens every thirty minutes, so the traffic in the waterway could back up as boaters wait to pass through. I had never seen a live drawbridge before, and I have to say, it was pretty darn cool. 
After we reached the lighthouse, we turned and headed back into town to explore, popping in and out of the boutique-style stores as we went. People were everywhere, making it a fun, 'summer days' atmosphere. As John and I both live in an even more tourist-y town, it was fun to 'play fudgie' (local talk for 'be a tourist') somewhere else. We didn't actually buy any fudge or ice cream, but we did check out an old-fashioned candy shop, sampled Michigan-made jams and mustards, and stopped into a little cafe called Harwood Gold, known for their  pure maple syrup and homemade granola. We got orange cream soda and ginger kombucha, and sat for awhile to escape the heat. While I am not much for small towns (ironic, given I live in one of the smallest), I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed with Charlevoix and all it had to offer.
I'll admit, there are times when I underestimate Michigan. Most people love living in or visiting the northern part of the state, where they can go hiking, camping, and kayaking in the summer, hunting in the fall, and ice fishing or snowmobiling in the winter. But as I am not a particularly 'outdoorsy' person, I really have a love-hate relationship with living here. To be honest, I'd love to find some sort of "Michigan Native" pride, but I know deep down I'd rather get out and explore elsewhere. On one hand, it's hard once you've traveled to be content in one spot. It just seems so...stagnant. On the other hand, it's always good to come 'home' after you've been away for awhile (hence why I moved back to Michigan after spending four years in Minnesota). So...it goes around in circles. But this weekend - heading to Charlevoix and exploring a brand new town - was a good reminder of the neat things Michigan does have to offer. I got to enjoy great summer weather, have delicious local food and drinks, walk along the lake, and of course spend some time at the beach.
We hung around the beach for an hour or so, wading in up to our knees (it was chilly!), baking in the sun, and watching little kids throw sand at each other and chase around a family of ducks. It was nice to just relax, breathe some fresh air, and get out of [our] town for a bit. With all the changes going on lately and the busy weeks ahead, I definitely enjoyed the afternoon away. Sometimes that's all you need: an afternoon (or even just a few hours) to 'reset' and move ahead with a fresh mentality.

After leaving Charlevoix, John and I headed to Petoskey in search of dinner. We stopped into one of our favorite places, Mitchell Street Pub, a small pub downtown with a cozy atmosphere. Behind the bar, a giant moose head. All along the walls and ceiling, knick-knacks packed into every available space. It's a great place for food, drinks, and of course throwing copious amounts of peanut shells on the floor. They don't have much in the way of vegan food, but there are a few salads and a veggie sandwich on the menu. I would still recommend it to anyone.
Once we'd finished eating, we walked around downtown Petoskey and ended up heading out to the lighthouse there as well (another thing about Michigan: so many lighthouses!). The sky had grown cloudy, blocking the sunset, but we enjoyed walking and talking along the boardwalk. There were a few kids taking turns jumping off to one side while fishermen stood with their poles at the other. It just felt like summer. 

All in all, our visit Charlevoix was wonderful. If you're ever in northern Michigan, I would highly recommend stopping for a few hours to check out the restaurants/shops along Bridge Street and of course walk out to the lighthouse. We were only there for around 4 hours - a very quick trip - but it was a great way to end the weekend.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Simple Life.

In 2015, I spent a summer interning in Portland, Oregon. It was a completely eye-opening experience to me, not only for the displays of truly 'weird Portland' culture, but also because I was forced to live in a very unique way. Being from the Midwest, I would have had to drive nearly 35 hours to get there. So in an attempt to simplify things, I decided to fly instead. It was far easier and much less time consuming, but posed two major problems: one, I would have to spend the summer sans car, and two, I had to fit everything I needed for three months into my suitcase and carry-on. I was nervous, and my parents were hesitant. But...challenge accepted.

I rolled my clothing, packed one spoon, fork, knife, pan, bowl, and plate into my suitcase, and squeezed in a few other essentials where I could (hairdryer, toiletries, etc.). I decided to buy the rest when I arrived, including an air mattress for the unfurnished apartment I'd be renting. To my misfortune, they increased my rent tremendously due to the short 3-month lease I needed (they only offered 6- and 12-month leases), but it was within walking distance from work so the 'no-car' problem was solved. This was an internship for a great company, and I simply couldn't pass up the opportunity. So when the day came, I flew off to Oregon, navigated public transportation from the airport to my apartment, walked over a mile with my Mapquest directions in one hand and suitcase in the other (purse and carry-on over my shoulder), and settled in. I Ubered to Target for the air mattress, found a grocery store within walking distance, and made the best of the situation. While the air mattress didn't work out (I returned it after 2 weeks: as it turns out, the floor is much more comfortable in the long run), and my 'kitchen table' was a drawer from my kitchen I pulled out and flipped upside-down on the floor, it was the experience of a lifetime. I made incredible friends, spent every free moment outside of work making plans and adventuring in the city, and gained an incredible amount of experience on the job. I couldn't imagine the summer having gone any other way.

After my last few posts, I've had a lot of people asking me what it means when I say I "live simply" or that I "have adopted a minimalist lifestyle". To clarify, it is nowhere near as intense as it was when I lived in Portland (thought I would do that again in a heartbeat!). I thought I lived pretty simply in college (mostly because I was vegan and into stereotypically 'crunchy' things), but that couldn't be farther from the truth. My life was packed and often chaotic in college. I had bins of things I never used shoved into corners of my dorm room and kept the rest "stashed" at my parents' house. I had a ridiculous collection of coffee mugs and boxes of tea piled in one of my dresser drawers. But now, I'm trying to simplify. Everything. And while I'm not confining everything I own to a suitcase and carry-on, I have gone through an enormous overhaul of literally everything I own. The change started as one of my weekly cleaning sessions and evolved into an entire afternoon of de-cluttering. Then I got on Pinterest to search for organization/cleaning advice, which soon snowballed into the discovery of this wonderful concept called minimalism
I wouldn't say I was ever a fully-fledged 'pack rat', but I definitely liked my stuff. After working as a barista and sales associate at Target for so many years, I had amassed a lot of unnecessary items. For example, I had nearly 25 coffee mugs (not counting my collectible 'You Are Here' Starbucks mugs, pictured above). There were blankets and towels and bed sheets (oh my!) stacked floor to ceiling in my closet. I had loads of lotion, makeup, and nail polish bottles I hadn't used in years just taking up space in my bathroom. My pans and kitchenware were old and mismatched and chipped. And my wardrobe...don't even get me started. But with the knowledge that I'm going to be moving in the very near future, I thought there couldn't be a better time to really start de-cluttering. So I started by making piles of things to keep, things to sell, things to donate, and things to throw away. It seemed the 'keep' pile was always biggest (I could need that, I might use that again one day, etc.) and the throw-away pile was nearly nonexistent. So I went back to Pinterest and discovered blogs and Youtube channels dedicated to minimalism. I needed help.

I found the best advice from Muchelle B, Pick Up Limes, and Rachel Aust. In their videos, they talk about necessity, joy, and simplicity: the pursuit of a simpler life with fewer material things and more meaning. Their content ranges from determining wants and needs to decluttering your mind, your time, and your habits in addition to your possessions. I watched a documentary on Netflix (Minimalism, go figure) and gained some insight on the controversy of it and why it's so hard for people to just let go of the junk. "The Minimalists" (aka Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus) talked about our consumerist culture, 'fast fashion', and the harm its all inflicting on the environment. They shared their stories behind going minimal and as I watched, things just started to click. Before I knew it, I was going through not just my closet, but also my memory box, throwing out old birthday cards (from when I turned 5!). I took pictures out of picture frames, gutted my wardrobe, and even did a massive overhaul of my DVD collection. Not even my books were safe. My giant pink penguin stuffed animal (named Edwin) that I had bought one day on my lunch break for no particular reason was given away, along with a giant Rubbermaid bin full of Beanie Babies I'd been hanging onto since childhood. All in all, I finished with 12 bags of trash, 5 carloads to the donation center, and one very large box of gently used movies and books for the library. I sold quite a few of my other books, DVDs (mostly TV series), and old electronics, using services such as Decluttr and local garage sale pages on Facebook. My apartment emptied out quickly, and I was surprised at the relief I felt seeing everything I never used going to a better cause. Rather than feeling regret for giving away/throwing out/selling my old things, I felt somehow lighter. I followed these Youtubers' advice and focused on what I was keeping rather than what was going out the door. Out of nowhere, I started to have an incredible amount of gratitude for the things I did want to hang on to, realizing their worth and value. I kept a few precious memories but got rid of the rest. I can't (yet) part with my Starbucks mug collection (a shelf full of 38 unused coffee mugs from around the world....not very functional). But everything feels so much more open and clear, and I'm realizing how little 'things' actually mean. I was even able to part with my 12-cup Mr. Coffee pot that I've had since college, swapping it out for a much smaller, simpler French press. (Side note: if you want your coffee to taste good I would highly recommend you do the same.)
The Memory Box, pictured above. Once overflowing, now 'tidied up'.
 Bathroom took the longest...down to just two bins!
 Christmas tree tucked away on the left, and those are all of my books, movies, and Christmas decorations in the bins - packed up for when I move. The empty one is reserved for my Starbucks mugs!
Half of the gray and purple cubes are now empty, once full of clothes I never wore.
I'm still working on fully adapting the minimalist lifestyle. I don't think I'll ever get down to the point of living in a 'tiny house' or sleeping on the floor again (I love my comfy bed!), but I'm learning to live with a lot less and focus more on the important things. Even when I go shopping, I have a new mindset: I appreciate things for what they are, but if I don't need them, I don't buy them! (That adorable coffee mug at TJ Maxx with a French bulldog on it saying 'Oui oui'? And it's only $3.99? STOP, SAM. Self control here.) 

Another benefit of de-cluttering everything in my apartment is that I am now aware of everything I have. It sounds pathetic, but think of it: how many times have you bought something because you weren't sure you already had it, or you bought it 'just in case'? These purchases are a waste of money and just add to the clutter. It's amazing how much I forgot I had. Going through each and every item in my apartment was eye-opening. I found a few old shirts I used to love, re-discovered my books to study German, and started wearing some of the jewelry I forgot I owned. I created an "important documents" file case and tucked away the papers that I actually need to keep rather than having a drawer full of random packets and records. The concept of need vs. want has become so much clearer to me, and I've learned to let go of a lot of things I never thought I could. It's liberating.

My family doesn't quite understand, and neither do many of my friends, but then again neither did I until I actually started going through it myself. It's one of those things that you read about, watch a documentary on, and think 'that might be nice, for the right person', and never fully understand. It's like yoga, veganism, or golfing: you either get it or you don't. I'm not going to try and convince everyone to adopt a minimalist lifestyle - you do you. But this is me, doing me, and I'm loving it. There really is beauty in simplicity.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Creative Clarity. Vol. 1

When I blogged in college, I didn't follow any kind of posting schedule. Instead, I had certain types of posts that I would put up periodically because they were fun to do as alternatives to the usual "paragraphs and pictures" posts. One of these was called, "Tuesday Tops" and it was a weekly recap of everything I'd been enjoying that week; small joys that let me reflect on the good things in life. Now, I don't plan on starting "Tuesday Tops" again because honestly I couldn't always think of enough things to share to make it worth an entire post. In fact, one time I remember having such an awful week that I actually called it "Tuesday Bottoms" instead (cue tiny violin). So I've decided that in rekindling the blog, I'll follow in the footsteps of one of my very favorite bloggers, Oh Dear Drea. She posts what she calls, "Pictures of Recently Enjoyed Things," or collections of photos she takes over time of things she finds beautiful, thoroughly enjoys, and wants to share. It's a fantastic concept.

Switching to a minimalist lifestyle has definitely made me appreciate the small, beautiful things even more. The few books and coffee mugs I kept are special. The things I make space for or buy all have a function and a place. There's less clutter to get in the way of what's important, so small moments and things stick out to me much more than they used to. So...naturally I've started taking pictures as I go.  And because this change has so far brought me a great deal of focus, creativity, and clarity, I thought why not incorporate these things into a post? So here it is, the first of many: Creative Clarity. My 'recently enjoyed things':
 This quote in that book.
 Discovering smoothie bowls.
 Coffee from friends <3
Cheers with friends
Obsessed with these chips and this salsa (Meijer)
Visiting St. Julian tasting room with family
 This quote. Where all my overthinkers at?

And there we have it: short, sweet, and creative clarity. Some lovely things from the past few weeks that I have truly appreciated and that have made my heart happy. Let me know what you have been enjoying lately - books, snacks, places, people, etc. - down below. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 16, 2018

A Time of Change.

Happy Monday, friends! I hope you all had a great weekend. I'm currently sitting on my couch watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, learning about Quebec, Morocco, and Congo. It's an excellent way to spend a lunch break when you work from home, and kind of a nice escape from reality after a very tiring weekend.

Last week was spent at home, visiting my family in southern Michigan (where I was born and raised). It was a much-needed visit, and I got to spend time with two of my siblings and their families, my parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, which is always enjoyable given it doesn't happen very often. In fact, it's been years since I last saw my cousin (visiting from Texas), and I've never even met his wife. So there were good times with family, a few too many glasses of wine, and lots of catching up. I even checked out a new wine tasting room and went to Chili's for the first time in years (not a fan of chain restaurants). Our waiter found out I was vegan and thought he'd be funny, handing me this as he said 'Enjoy your appetizer'. I don't share his humor and was slightly more annoyed than impressed: 
Anyway, the week with family and friends was wonderful. I even got in some snuggle time with Coco (my parents' Australian cattle dog), met an old friend from elementary school, and found time to get my hair done. (Guys. This is a post in itself. What should have been a 1-visit ombre turned into a two-visit bleaching mess that has left my hair blonde, yes, but also extremely damaged because the hairstylist didn't listen to me or take any note of the picture I showed her. This is why I never get my hair done, not to mention all of the chemicals in their potions and sprays. Big, expensive regret.) Anyhoo. I left early on Saturday to head home, not feeling entirely well after a few days of dog-interrupted sleep. It took me about four hours to get home, then another 45 minutes to head up to the nearest grocery store for some essentials before finally heading home. There is nothing convenient about living in Michigan's upper peninsula, and yes - I am trying to move out as soon as possible.

After I got home and unloaded my car, I headed out for the evening. Very good friends of mine who have been with me through all the ups and downs of the past year are moving in the coming week, and Saturday evening was their going away party to celebrate. Sunday, I helped them scrub down their bathrooms, walls, and floors. Of course it was nice getting to spend the weekend with them, catching up after a week apart and reminiscing about the past year, but it was also bittersweet. I had great friends last summer who also moved away (to RV around America - thinking a collab might be coming) and it was incredibly hard to say goodbye after only knowing them for a few months. While I am looking forward to visiting these friends in their new home, goodbyes are always tough. I've come to realize that this place is a bit of a 'transition town'. People come for the idea and leave because of reality. I've met so many people here in the last year, tourists and temporary residents, and it seems no one stays for long. There's an initial excitement of the beautiful view, the hiking trails, and all of the outdoor activities throughout the year (kayaking, hunting, ice fishing). But then it sinks in: its isolated, there's the small town 'everybody-knows-everything' phenomenon, and the high prices of essentials. Of course there are the locals who were born and raised in this little harbor town and love it, but those who don't have roots don't stay put. And I can honestly say I'm right behind them. 
I'll be giving my notice at my apartment soon, and there are a lot of things up in the air, but I can honestly say I hope to be out by the end of August. The original reason I moved here - the coffee shop - is no longer part of my life. There's more encouraging me to move than there is to stay. I used to love this town and everything in it: it was a vacation spot for my family for years in my childhood.  We spent summers up here enjoying the sun, spending time on Mackinac, and enjoying all of the tourist attractions. But now, having lived here for just over a year, having made and lost valued friendships, and having realized that small town life definitely isn't for me, it's time to go. In fact, my motivation in adopting minimalism started with the idea that I wanted to be ready to move as soon as possible. (The less you have, the less you have to pack. Solid thought, yea?) I know that I'm in a transitional phase right now: a lot is changing. And as hard as it will be to say good-bye to the few friends I've made in town, I know that there are bigger, better things ahead. If you're wondering why I haven't moved yet, well...it's complicated (certainly a post for another day). I've wanted to since November, when my time at the coffee shop came to an end. It has now been nearly eight months of wondering, waiting, hoping, and hustling. If I let myself think too hard about the situation - knowing I'm moving but not having an exact plan in place - it can be overwhelming. But. There's also a great deal of excitement that change is coming. Finally. Change is good. Change is what makes us grow.

Sometimes that's exactly what we need: the chance to slow down, re-evaluate our situation, and allow ourselves to grow and evolve. We are constantly changing, whether it happens in baby steps or in big leaps. Moving forward and moving away from this town will definitely be a big leap: a fresh start. This morning started with a smoothie bowl, a walk, and a great cup of coffee before work. These are little things, but helped me feel somewhat refreshed and ready to tackle the week ahead. So friends, I hope you had a wonderful weekend and wish you a 'fresh start' this Monday as well!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Hi there.

Hi there.


My name is Samantha and I currently live and work in the lovely state of Michigan.

I love coffee, yoga, writing (naturally), and traveling. I've been fortunate enough to spend a summer in Dublin, Ireland, where I made amazing friends from all over Europe. I love to visit them and have so far been to France, Austria, Greece, Spain, and Germany (several times). I speak English and French fluently and study Spanish and German in my free time. If I'm not traveling or planning a trip, you can bet I'm writing about one. 

If you'd like to say hello or contact me for any reason, feel free to reach me at shegoessimply@gmail.com or find me on social media:

Instagram: @SheGoesSimply
Twitter: @She_Goes_Simply

Welcome to my blog! Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Clean Slate.

Here we go: clean slate.

Blogging round 2.

It was about a year ago today that I published my last blog post on Samsamcherie. It was something about hormones (I think). I'd posted a few times last summer, trying to revive the blog I started back in college. Needless to say, it was unsuccessful. There were a lot of things that happened in the last year that were unsuccessful. But that's how you learn in life, right? You try, and you fail, and you try again, and maybe you fail. Again. But every time it goes around, you learn something new about yourself, about the world, and about the people you've surrounded yourself with. That's just how it goes. And so here I am, deciding to try again. If I fail, I fail. But if not, then...that's something.
I loved blogging in college. I shared my decision to spend a summer interning in Dublin, posted about saving up for it, wrote the entire time I was there, covering everything from the culture to the friends I made to my decision to go vegan. Then I wrote about coming home, being a college student, being a vegan college student, and traveling back to Europe to visit friends I'd made in Dublin. Over the following months, I continued to share my life: a job I loved as a barista, companies I worked with as a plant-based individual, and my journey into fitness. I traveled more, visiting Germany, Austria, Greece, France, and Germany (again...twice). I moved. I started a new job. At one point I even got a dog. I blogged for nearly three years, sharing bits and pieces of my life. And then I moved to a new town, for a new opportunity, and that's it.

The blog was done.

It's been a year, guys. I don't even know where to begin. In April (last year), I left my well-paying corporate job to move to a very small town in the northern part of Michigan. I would be helping family friends open a mission church/coffee shop, which seemed like such a great idea at the time. As I had been a barista for 3+ years in college, it was a perfect fit: harbor town, management role, coffee shop life, a gym in walking distance. I couldn’t wait.

And so I gave my two weeks’ notice, packed up, and moved.

Now, it is necessary to mention that I had told the owners (very close friends of our family - I even babysat their grandchildren when I was in high school!) that I would be going to Berlin in November long before I started the new position. They thought it was a wonderful idea and told me repeatedly that they admired my passion for travel. And so I moved into a little apartment in the middle of the woods and worked throughout the summer, assisting the construction crews with everything from the counter tops and paint colors to the equipment and partner brands. Eventually, in August, the coffee shop opened. It was beyond exciting, and I felt ‘in my element’ again after working as a barista for so many years throughout college. Except this time was different: this place was my baby. People sat at the tables and chairs I had picked out and built myself. They relaxed on couches I had signed for. They chose items off the menu that I had created from scratch and the baristas that made them were employees I had hired and trained. I had so much pride in that coffee shop, and the fact that it doubled as a church made me feel like I was doing something right. I made some great friends in the small town, got to know our “regulars”, and even started dating. Things seemed pretty great. 

And then I went to Berlin.
Another story for another post, but Berlin was incredible. I flew off to Germany to spend some time with family and friends. I was there for nearly 10 days, during which time I tried to keep in touch with the second-in-command at the coffee shop. The owners had instructed me to “show her the ropes” before I left so that ordering and management duties could be properly performed in my absence, which I did. And I told them all that they could contact me at any time through Facebook if need be (we often communicated in group chats). But communication was lost on my trip. I messaged them from time to time to see how business was going, and every message went unanswered. And finally I received a very stiff, very frank response, “There’s a lot going on. Message me when you’re back in the States.”

So I did. 

Orders had been lost. Schedules I’d previously created had been changed: my schedule, as a matter of fact, had been extended so that I was working 50+ hours when other employees’ hours were being cut, even though I had previously planned everything to work out correctly. I didn’t understand. The owners stopped responding to me. Responsibilities were taken away. The second-in-command and the owners didn’t even make eye contact with me at church anymore. I was beyond confused at what was happening at my beloved coffee shop. And then one day, the axe fell, and with it - excuses.

"We just don’t feel like your heart is in the mission anymore."
"You have such a passion for travel, you should pursue that."
"There’s just no room in the budget for you anymore."

And that was it: I wasn’t even permitted to work the remainder of the week. I was done. I was so confused because yes - originally we had discussed that the position would be temporary and would come to an end as the coffee shop/church switched from paid employees to volunteer-based. I had helped them get everything up and running over the summer (as planned) and thought at least they would give me a few weeks' notice before that change came. So I returned home, to my little apartment in the middle of the woods, absolutely devastated. I called my mom in tears and tried to reason out what had just happened. The weeks leading up to my trip everyone was so excited for me and so supportive: they even gave me money to buy souvenirs and one who spoke German practiced speaking with me. Everything had changed in the blink of an eye. And then, I was out. I tried to continue my blog, wanting to share the amazing trip I'd just had in Germany, but I couldn't. My spark was out. My passion was gone.

Since then, I've pursued other goals. Some I've reached, some are at a standstill, and some I just can't share here (maybe eventually). But the truth is, I'm ready for a clean slate. I'm ready to start over, to start new, to get back to this hobby that I once loved. So I invite you to follow along while I figure out this next chapter of my life. I spent quite some time trying to decide the best time to restart my blog. When I was in the midst of packing? When certain decisions were made in my career? When I finally had an answer from a long-pursued endeavor? I finally decided that if I waited until the perfect moment, it would never happen.
So here I am, starting fresh. I'm definitely looking forward to being a blogger again and meeting all of you who blog or decide to follow along. I've missed sharing things with you and hearing your thoughts and ideas, and am optimistic about the future of this space. You'll notice that it's no longer Samsamcherie, but rather SheGoesSimply. The title change is a reflection of the person I've become in the past year: the more sophisticated, minimalist style and simple lifestyle I've adapted. We are constantly growing and evolving, learning from our past and maturing with time. In the past year, I've moved, I've loved, I've lost, I've had great triumphs, and I've had great regrets. I've traveled, I've written a novel, and I've met individuals that had huge influences on me. There's definitely been growth, and I'm a very different person than I was back then. And I can't wait to see where life takes me next.

Welcome to my blog.

Madrid, Part 2

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