A Failed Experiment

When I was in high school (or even middle school) and I would write a paper or essay that I was particularly proud of, I’d ask everyone if they wanted to read it. I would be bursting with pride and just needed to show people what I’d done. I’ve become pretty proud of my blog. While most of it is just story telling, it is something I put my time and energy into. So on Friday, wanting to get more exposure, I decided to buy a 5  dollar credit on StumbleUpon. The way it worked is that I entered information about my blog, picked a target demographic, and it calculated how much it would charge me for each view it guaranteed. All in all I think my five dollars provided about 30-40 views.

I was convinced that getting people to interact with me on my blog was simply a matter of exposure. More people needed to see my blog, and then more people would stop by to comment and give feedback. It turns out I was wrong. On Friday I had about the 2nd highest views for one day as I’ve ever had, and not one person commented, liked a single post, or decided to follow my blog. In my head all I see is the saying, “Money can’t buy you friends.”

One of my inspirations for this blog, Rebecca Kelsey (see her blog here), told me to blog for myself and then the rest would fall into place. I should have listened to her advice.  People are only going to follow your blog if they like your voice and your content. I just thought I’d share the little lesson I’d learned with everyone else so that you don’t take for granted the power in any blog is the voice of the author, not the views.

Gratitude Friday: August 16th, 2013

I’ve decided to start my first “regular” post here on “The Coffee Darling”, Gratitude Friday. Each Friday I will pick a handful of things from the past week to share my gratitude for. There won’t be a set number, because I feel like things lose their genuineness when you do that. Please let me know what you think of this idea!

1- This weather– I live in the midatlantic and for the past three or four days the weather here has been absolutely gorgeous. We had highs in the mid seventies, maybe up to eighty, with lows in the mid-fifties and low-sixties. It has been such a nice reprieve from these crazy humid days where the “feel real” temperature has been close to one hundred. They’ve been a great excuse to roll down the windows, and turn up the music. This weather reminds me that fall is on it’s way, arguably my favorite season of the year (I could write an entire blog series on why I love fall). It reminds me to just slow down and take a deep breath.

2- Support– I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it on here before, but a few years ago, probably three or four at this point, I used to make videos on YouTube. They were mostly beauty vlogs, and every day life vlogs. I made videos for probably about a year. I wasn’t super successful but I did get up to 1,500 subscribers which was an accomplishment to me. One of the girls who befriended me was Kim, or Rubenesquex3 At the time we were both starting out, but now she has almost 65,000 subscribers (although she deserves many more). And do you know what? She still follows me on twitter. She still responds to my tweets. She has even tweeted out my blog to her twitter followers, twice. I don’t think I can explain how much that means to me. I know the idea of social networking is you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours, but it still means so much to me that she takes the time for me. So many girls on YouTube let their success change them and wouldn’t still support me, so I can’t quite express how grateful I am for the support. It’s hard to find your place on the internet, so people supporting you and helping you really makes a difference.

3- My Gym Membership – When I first started my job I asked my Dad if he would talk to his friend at the gym, to see if I could get a lower than advertised rate. I’m never the type to do this, but my Dad offered and if I could get the membership for $35 dollars instead of fifty, I would take him up on it. He talked to his friend and his friend gave me the “corporate rate” even though I wasn’t part of a company. I paid that price for a year- even when there were entire months that I just couldn’t make it to the gym. About a year ago the company I work for decided to get a corporate rate for all the employees who wanted to sign up- I said I’d switch to the company plan so that we could get a lower rate as an office. Then it was announced that the company would pay half of our gym membership; so instead of paying $35 dollars a month I pay 17.50. I am so grateful for that. Gym memberships are pricey. I love my gym. They are right across the street from my work, and only about a ten minute drive for my house (which is partially because I actually go the speed limit). I’ve started taking yoga, pilates, and spin classes there and I really feel like I am getting a bang for my buck.

What are you grateful for this Friday? Is there anyone you want to thank? What do you think of these posts? Are there any other “regular” blog series that you would like to see?

Blog Haul: Pampering Trip to Target

Target Haul

For the last few weeks I have been wanting to treat myself to a nice little “treat” from Sephora. My mom got me a giftcard to Sephora back in February for my birthday. I tried to use it right away, but unfortunately I messed something up and ended up just charging everything to my debit card. I don’t buy from Sephora that frequently, so it’s just kind of been laying in wait since then.

This past Friday was my “half-birthday” and it got me thinking that I really should use it. I had been toying on the website for a while. I wanted something kind of luxurious, but still something that I trusted wouldn’t be gimmicky. I ended up ordering a Philosophy Kit with face wash, lotion, and a peel in it. I posted the picture on twitter really excited about my purchase. The kit was a tremendous value, and even better was the fact I’d used a gift card for part of it.

One of my best friends, who unfortunately I’ve never actually met, tweeted me back saying how crazy it was because she had just gotten a similar kit (although hers was from QVC) featuring several of the same products. She snapped a picture on her instagram. In her instragram post she showed these cool little bath gloves that she uses with her face wash and body wash and suggested I try them. I was itching to see the real world (as someone who spends most of their day in a cube sometimes does); so I decided to run out to Target on my lunch break.

Alas, I let myself do a little pampering. Nothing I got on its’ own was that exciting, but overall when I left I was pretty excited to take a shower that night. As you can see in the picture above I did end up getting the bath gloves and I LOVE them. Now, keep in mind, they are not exactly comforting, they are going to exfoliate your skin, but I loved the results. I don’t think my legs have felt that smooth in ages!

I also picked up some new razors I purchase the Bic Soleil. There is nothing super fantastic about these razors, but I am too cheap to splurge on the Venus razors, and these work just well enough for me that I keep buying them.

My body wash had been doing that thing where there is a good week’s worth of body wash left, but you can’t get to it. So I decided to try something new out. I grabbed the Olay Nourishing Body Wash in Soothing Cucumber. I used to use the Bath and Body Works Body Washes because I loved the scents (my favorite that they ever released was probably Dark Kiss) but the body washes always made me feel kind of dry and like my skin was tight, so I have had to leave those behind. I love this body wash. It definitely makes me skin feel moisturized. I can’t speak as to whether it is the exfoliating gloves, or this body wash, but the combination really has my skin feeling good. I also love the scent. That cucumber scent always just makes me feel fresh and clean. (So fresh and so clean, clean).

The last few things were more of my ‘splurge’ items. I grabbed a Dr. Teal’s lavender Epson salt bag (not pictured above), the Ponds Evening Sooth Facial Towelettes, and the August edition of “Self” Magazine. I’ve actually used the Ponds Facial Towelettes before, but it had been years since I’d last used them. I really like these for wiping off my face makeup after a workout at the gym. They have a really nice light lavender scent to them, and they just get rid of that skuzzy feeling on your face after the gym. I haven’t been wearing too much makeup lately, and half of what I have worn ends up on the towels at the gym. That being said, they do seem to do a good job at getting off what is left.

I picked up the Epson salts because I’ve been looking for more ways to relax in my life. The other day I saw both Nikki Phillippi and Rachel Talbott (who I mentioned in another post you can read here) talk about using them in one of their daily vlogs so I thought I’d give it a try. I decided on the lavender scent because it was the essential oil we received in yoga on Monday and she is right, the scent is the ultimate in evoking a sense of relaxation. I’ve taken two Epson salt baths (reading the August “Self” magazine) and I have to say, they really did relax me. I’ll do more research on the Epson Salt baths, and do another post in the future if people are interested. I am all about finding happy moments in a busy life.

All in all, I spent about $28 dollars at Target (since when are magazines four dollars?!) and I really think it was all worth it. I don’t get the opportunity to pick up lots of little treats for myself like this often, so I thought I would share. I will do another post when my Sephora order comes in. What are your favorite pampering products? Do you have any suggestions for me? Thanks for reading!

My Happiness Project

I’ve made mention in a few posts that I am working of letting go of anger, anxiety, and depression (feelings I feel like I’m naturally inclined towards) in an effort to create a happy life. I have heard so many maxims saying things like, “You are in charge of your own happiness”, or ,”Happiness isn’t a moment in time, it’s a state of mind.” I never really thought much of them until I realized a few months ago that I simply was not happy. I don’t know that “unhappy” was the word, but happy was something I didn’t feel.

The week we came back from vacation I said, “That is ENOUGH!” I was done with the feelings of constant stress/anxiety. I spent half of our vacation wandering around our beach house because I simply didn’t know what to do with myself, I felt like I needed to entertain someone, or be in a certain room, and like I owed other people things at the expense of my own happiness. And it simply was not that serious.

When I got home from vacation I started taking ten minutes a day to write down goals for the day and to write down good, or simply positive things that happened. I tried to write down everything. If I put the dishes away before work, I wrote that down. It might seem silly but putting those dishes away was something that I accomplished, and it is nice to not come home to a chore, so it went down on the list. The goals were things like, “Go to Pilates” or “Start One Load of Laundry”. Honesty- the goals were normally small things that I could accomplish that would make me feel good about myself. In some ways, it has kept me accountable for my exercising too.

Another thing that I have started to do it taking yoga and pilates classes (in addition to spinning and running). I have always been interested in yoga, but my gym didn’t offer it. I had ignored classes like Pilates and Yoga before because they weren’t “calorie burners” When I got home from vacation though, I told myself, if I am going to the gym 4 or 5 days a week, versus once or twice when I was only running, who cares if I do Pilates and Yoga?

I think Yoga has really “calmed” me. Sometimes I just need someone to tell me, just breath. The class is a vinyasa flow, so it’s pretty easy on me, and I am able to take it at 6:30 on Monday nights. I am able to go into the rest of the week just feeling at peace.

I am still a major work in progress. I have a lot of work to do towards becoming truly happy and at peace with my life, but I am working on it, and that is a huge step. Some days (especially weekends) I have trouble remembering to write down happy/positive things in my journal. But on Monday morning, I don’t say, “Screw it I haven’t written anything down in 2 days.”, I do it anyway.

Do you have any recommendations for my happiness project? Any books you can recommend (I do want to read “The Happiness Project”)? Any activities you can suggest? Any mantras or quotes that might help me? What about other blogs? Any advice here would be great!

13 Things in 2013

A few weeks or a month, or two, ago I was inspired to start a bucket list for things I wanted to accomplish by the end of 2013. Two other people I follow on the internet are doing similar things. Project Light to Life has established blog for her project and Rubenesquex3 classified hers as a summer bucket list.

As it is, it took me literally weeks to come up with thirteen items for mine. I wanted to make sure that the items on it were somewhat attainable. I know the point of a bucket list is to do things you wouldn’t normally do- but I know in the next four months my husband and I won’t have the money or time off to fly to England, so I am not going to set myself up to fail. That being said, please enjoy my 2013 Bucket List. Let me know what you would have put on yours!

2013 Bucket List 

1- Go to a wine or beer festival

2- Buy my blogs domain name (www.thecoffeedaring.com)

3- Visit the Museums in Philadelphia

4- Meet my friend Jill from out of state, who will be visited a near by town late this year. (We’ve been internet friends for probably 3 years now)

5- Finish 13 More Books (I might do a separate post on which books I hope to read)

6- Bake a batch of cookies and just show up at a friends house to deliver them

7- Run another 5k

8- Introduce myself to someone who could become a new friend

9- Master a new cookie recipe

10- Master tree pose

11- Learn to crochet

12- Start an herb garden indoors (I’m thinking Basil and Cilantro if anyone has any suggestions)

13- Try a zumba class at the gym

Deep Thoughts for a Jay-Z Concert

Last night I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland (home of the Ravens- but no I am not a fan!). It rained as soon as we got into town (read: down poured). Huge streaks of lightning, loud thunder, it was a legitimate summer storm. It passed pretty quickly though and we were able to grab a bite to eat before the show. The show was fantastic, even magical. I am not a concert-goer usually, but when we found out that Justin would be coming so close back in February- it seemed like a good exception to the rule.

When Jay-Z came out to do his part of the concert (they went back and forth) he sang “Hard Knock Life”.  For a little background on this next part, any time I encounter an absurd problem (example: not being able to find the right color pink to paint my nails), I always look at my husband and exasperatedly say “It’s so HARD to be an Emily!” When “Hard Knock Life” started playing I was about 5 seconds from leaning over to husband to say, “Hey maybe this can be my new jingle” when I really thought about what I was about to say. It’s silly but I thought about Annie, or a group of small children on the street of a city, singing this song. I thought about what it really meant to live a “hard knock life” and all the sudden I was immensely grateful, thankful, and aware of how blessed I am.

I grew up my whole life with two parents who loved me and worked hard every day to provide for me the best life they could. Every year until I was fourteen (when my own schedule became too busy) we took family vacations up and down the east coast. Every fall and spring my mother took us shopping for new clothes. I learned how to play flute, tried a handful of sports, and even more hobbies. I graduated from high school free of scars from bullying, free of stress from overbearing parents, free of harmful “habits”. I had friends, I had opportunities. I had the world at my feet. I got to go to college. I obtained a good degree. I found jobs quickly in college, never struggling or working somewhere I didn’t enjoy. I mentioned to a professor I was looking for a local internship and lucked into a fantastic opportunity that became a career. I bought a house, I got two dogs, and have a healthy relationship with my husband (which life has taught me is more of a blessing than I would ever have realized).

And then I realized where I was. Actually, it was a friends post on instagram that really made me appreciate it. I was sitting in a major league football stadium, mere hundreds of feet away from musical “superstars”. Sure, the stadium was packed, and thousands were having the same experience,  but I was experiencing something that other people might not ever dream of doing. I’ve always been so fortunate to get to experience life to it’s fullest, that some times it takes seeing someone whose never experienced it before (or just really good at appreciating their life) to make you see how truly great life is.

I’ve never really understood how gratitude and happiness worked together. For the past few weeks I’ve been really focusing on being happy. Writing down things that happen to me that are positive, and not giving negative things the attention. Last night I realized how much easier it is to be cheerful and happy when you don’t take everything in your life as a given. It is so easy to fall into a trap of thinking that you deserve things, but when you look at things as a blessing, or an opportunity, instead of something you’re entitled to everything in life seems so much more wonderful.

Let me know your thoughts. I try and ask questions to get people to leave feed-back on these blogs, and I’m not sure what to ask this time around. I just wanted to capture the feeling of pure gratitude and share it with anyone who reads this.

The Rainbow at The End

This is a story that has defined who I am. It’s a story I need to share.

I’ve always been the type of girl who seemed to only be able to maintain one close friend at a time. I’ve never been incredibly close with my sister, so I think I always seek a sister in my closest friend. From probably about the age of fifteen until about eight months ago I knew who that sister-friend was.

About eight months ago though, my husband got a call that ultimately changed our lives. My best friend was leaving his best friend literally months after we stood beside them at the alter saying their vows. What exactly transpired is not meant to be discussed over the internet, but the short of it is that my best friend had done something very wrong.

Looking back on it now, when everything was happening, I think I literally became depressed. I was hurt; someone I had considered unofficial family had been lying to me for months, who knows, maybe years. I was embarrassed; everyone knew we were incredibly close and I was sure they just assumed I had known all along what she had done and condoned it. I was confused; I felt like I owed her a chance to explain herself, I felt like I owed her  the respect of helping her, but at the same time I completely was shocked and disgusted by her actions.

At the time I told her that I was sorry that she was hurting but that I couldn’t be there for her at the time. I couldn’t, too many people I knew had been affected by her actions,  I felt awful, weak, but I just couldn’t be there for her.  I just kept seeing the quote in my head, “A true friend walks in when the rest of the world walks out.” I felt like I was the cliche horrible friend, but being around her, and hearing everything that had happened was making me sick. Not just figuratively, I was stressed, I couldn’t relax, I was unhappy.

The next few months were tough on me. Like I said, I’m a girl who has one good friend at a time. I was lonely, so incredibly lonely. If it weren’t for my supportive husband, I don’t know what might have happened to me. I knew that I had two choices; I could get over it, or I couldn’t. I chose to get over it, and let go of the anger. I’ve had people ask my since then, “How can you possibly be civil with her?”, like it was huge accomplishment. The truth was though, because it hurt me too much to be angry.

About two months ago, I asked on Facebook if anyone wanted to attend an event with me. Of course, she texted me right away and quickly guilted me into asking her to go. I told myself that I should go, that I should give it a try, we used to be best friends, surely we still had something in common and after all, it was only a couple of hours.

The day of the event came, and I was filled with kind of a nervous energy. I almost cancelled, calling my husband because our dog was sick, he told me to go ahead and go, he’d take care of the dog. Looking back from where I am now, I am very glad I went. I’m not sure that life would have presented another such opportunity, an opportunity for closure.

Looking back on everything that’s happened, I can finally see how everything that happened was genuinely a blessing in disguise.

If I am being honest, my friendship with this person was very far from perfect. I was always jealous. She had another friend who she had known longer than me. It always felt that even though I was the “better” friend, she was always the best friend- because after all- they’d known each other longer.

I always felt like she would bring me down, she wasn’t concerned about seeing me happy. When I got engaged in October 2010; my parents weren’t super excited because I was the baby, and at twenty, a little young. I called, or texted, her to tell her about it. Do you know she never even congratulated me? She didn’t fill the roll of best friend- with squeals of excitement- she wasn’t happy for me, she was jealous that I got engaged first.

There were many times where I felt like our friendship was all about her, about what would make her happy, about the places and things she wanted to do. At the time I was fine with it, but in hindsight I realize how destructive it was to me. Any sort of relationship should build you up- both people- not just one.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been really focusing my energy on being happy.  I’ve never been good at it. I’ve always been the type to throw myself pity parties and even when I wasn’t I just couldn’t truly embrace happiness. I’m learning more each day that happiness is means creating a state of mind where you build up the good and downgrade the bad. With that realization I’ve come to see just how horrible that friendship I had, was for my happiness. It was holding me back, it wasn’t nurturing me.

About ten days ago I got an email from my old friend. It was awkward. It felt like it had been written by someone else, to someone else. She told me things I already knew, and expressed sentiments that felt shallow and empty. It was then that I realized how much happier I was without the weight or her negativity bringing me down. I didn’t respond, and I don’t plan on it. As selfish as it is, I’ve learned that I need to put my happiness in front of others. It is my job to create a beautiful life for myself, and sometimes that means you need to weed out the negativity.

This post may seem disjointed, but it is something I needed to share. I needed to share how a great loss taught me to find my own happiness. I needed to share that after even the darkest storms, God will give you a rainbow. I truly believe that God gave me this trial to help me realize how strong I am, and to teach me how to be my own happiness.

Almsot every day I still miss having a best friend. I miss having someone to text silly comments to in the middle of the day, or to share my happy secrets with. I know God has a plan for me though, and so each day I work harder to put a genuine smile on my face. Hoping, beyond hope, that today is the day I’ll meet my new best friend.

If you’ve read this far, thank you so much. a you choose to comment, I’ll hope you will do so with kindness in your heart. This was a truly hard situation for me, but in the end, I know I made all the right decisions.

Are you there God, it’s me Emily?

Growing up my mom brought my sister and I to the Catholic Church (Dad came too, but only because he loves my mom that much!). On Sunday’s we attended “CCD”, which stood for something, but was pretty much Sunday School, really long Sunday School. I went because Mom made me and in 7th grade she stopped making me, so I stopped going. We never really talked about God in our family. We said our prayers at Sunday dinner but I feel like that was the extent of it.

In 9th grade my friend Cindy called and said, “Hey- you should come to youth group with me.” I’m pretty sure somebody put her up to it, but that’s how God works isn’t it? I was pretty active in the church and youth group from 9th through 11th grade, and then when my friends graduated and headed off to college my attendance dwindled. I do believe that church, like home, is where the heart is and without those friends the church didn’t feel the same.

When I met my husband around the end of my freshman year of college it turned out that he was active in the same church I had been in high school, he’d just come in right as I was finishing up there. Church was important to him so after I graduated college and we moved in together I started going to church with him again. But I’ve never really feel anything.

Fast forward to the last few months. I’ve been watching Nikki Phillippi and Rachel Talbott on youtube (Click their names for links to their videos)- and every time I watch their videos I am so astounded by their absolute faith and belief. I don’t understand, how do people reach the point where when someone asks “What’s the most important thing in your life?” they answer “My relationship with God.” so naturally? What am I missing? How do they have so much passion?

I’ve been working on finding happiness and I think a lot of finding happiness and letting go of worry is finding a feeling of safety in God’s arms but I just don’t feel anything, and I feel like I try. I go to church on Sundays because I want to not because I should. Hubby and I are even serving communion at some of the up coming services. I love that feeling when I come out of the gym after a good work-out, or especially after yoga, and a great song comes on K-Love (I’d say that they play “worship” music). So why don’t I feel anything more? Does anyone have any advice for me?

Summer Mornings Never Tasted So Good

If you don’t remember, one of my first posts here on The Coffee Darling, talked about how I like to take my time in the mornings and take a few minutes to just enjoy life, or read a book. Lately I’ve had to kind of give up some of my “morning” time so that I can get into work earlier, get my nine (or more) hour days in, and still be home to go to a class at the gym after work. As such, I’ve kind of been missing that nice “calm” feeling that comes with a quiet house and a cup of coffee. The other morning I was rushing around trying to feed the dogs and get myself ready for work when I decided I just wasn’t in the MOOD for hot coffee, plus all my carrier mugs were in my car, and would have needed to be washed. That’s when I came up with this beautiful concoction. (Actually that’s kind of a lie, nothing super hard or unique about this, just thought I’d share it with you.)

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Basically, I’ve only tried making iced coffee in my Keurig a few times and I was never that impressed. This time I felt like I had picked up an iced treat from some fancy coffee caffe. Here was what I did- I filled my 24oz tumbler about half full with ice and then I put in about a “shot” of caramel syrup (I picked up my bottle at SAMs for about 5 dollars, but I’ve seen them at other grocery stores too.) Then I poured in my half and half. I let my k-cup brew over all the ice/ingredients because it normally mixes better that way. I used an extra bold k-cup to try and maintain some coffee flavor.

After it brewed I put in more ice until my cup was absolutely full. This drink is delicious. I don’t think the coffee flavor is super strong, but it’s definitely still there. I love this drink and I’m so glad I thought to try it- I’m sure other flavors like vanilla or hazelnut would be yummy as well.

Let me know what you think. Is there an unique way you use your Keurig?