Monthly Archives: June 2014

Best + Worst // Puerto Rico

I know, I know, I live in paradise! It’s amazing! And, for the most part, it is.

But… there are some things that I can’t stand. And some things that I love more than others!
I thought it would be fun to share my favorite and least favorite things about living in Puerto Rico (so far).

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Best

5. Mangoes. Casey and I are totally obsessed with them and have at least one almost every night for dessert. They are so fresh and sweet and delicious!

4. The People. In general, Puerto Ricans are some of the friendliest, nicest, most open people I have ever met. I can’t tell you the number of times someone has stopped us – on the street, on the beach, at the store – just to strike up a conversation. They are so inclusive and joyful!

3. The Coffee. Admittedly, the coffee in restaurants here has not been the greatest (someone was telling us that it is made with condensed milk? Gross). But the beans! They are so fresh and local and gloriously inexpensive – we’ve been giving our french press a workout! I’ve also been cold-brewing iced coffee which is super delicious too. I barely even miss Starbucks – which is truly saying something.

2. The Beaches. Oh man, there is something about spending Sundays at the beach that is so relaxing and vacation-like. I love ending/starting the week in such a zen-like state of mind.

1. The Sun. We’ve been here for two months and it’s only rained maybe a handful of times – always in the afternoon and never more than an hour or two at a time. We can’t get over it! I’m soaking up as much vitamin D as possible – I’m sure I’ve been deficient most of my life. :) 


Worst

5. Driving. It’s the worst! Everyone is totally unpredictable and completely erratic. Brake lights and blinkers rarely work. No one drives the speed limit… and even those are not definitive as speed limits are changed for construction and then never changed back – so you’ll see signs that say 65, 50, and 40 within a mile or two of one another and have no idea which (if any!) is correct. There are no rules – the left lane is sometimes the slow lane, people pull off the highway unexpectedly and randomly gun back on without so much as a glance at oncoming traffic, you have to fight to merge when you enter the highway. If you have someplace to be, prepare to give your gas pedal a workout and weave like a NASCAR driver with a chip on his shoulder. 

4. Gas Stations. There’s no such thing as pay at the pump here. I didn’t realize exactly how convenient and amazing that tiny feature is until it was not an option. I guess I am showing just how spoiled/young I am – I never even remember my parents having to go inside to pay for gas! It’s like the dark ages! :) 

3. The Library. I’ve been reading like crazy (going to the beach every weekend demands a good novel or two!) and so procuring a library card seemed like an excellent idea (if for no other reason than the detrimental effects of Amazon’s horrible wonderful “One-Click Purchase” on our budget). However, after browsing the (admittedly and obviously limited) English book section at the library and bringing my books to the circulation desk to check them out, I was informed that, “Oh no, books can’t leave the library.” Um, what?!! 

2. Groceries. After reading a lot about other Caribbean islands, I don’t think that Puerto Rico is that bad. However, after living in Vermont, the Kale Capital of the East and all-around healthy/whole/non-GMO/all-natural/farm-fresh/CSA/Hug Your Farmer-land, I am shocked by the lack of green vegetables and “all-natural” options at the store. I didn’t think twice about having ketchup free of high fructose corn syrup or peanut butter made from only peanuts and salt or low-sodium chicken stock when I lived in Vermont (or even when I lived in CNY and had a Wegmans!), but now, now it’s like, pick the least evil of them all. Peanut butter with hydrogenated oils but no high-fructose? Perfect. Ketchup with high-fructose as the last ingredient? Well, at least it’s not the first. OMG THEY HAVE KALE TODAY BUY IT ALL!!! 

1. GPS/Google Maps… does not work here. Sometimes you’ll get lucky, but most of the time, Google tries to send me somewhere near San Juan. It’s like the rest of the island doesn’t exist. 

I’m Working On // Bookworm Bridal Shower Invites

It’s no big secret that I love to read. Books are my favorite. So when my friend Beth asked for help with some invitations for her sister’s book-themed bridal shower, I was like:

And then I got to work! This was a super fun project and the final design came out so sweet. 

Beth, this was a blast to work on – I hope your sister had a wonderful shower!

On Change

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In general, I am terrible with change. I need time to wrap my head around the next steps/possible outcomes and have to let the wheels spin for awhile before my equilibrium rights itself and I come to terms with what’s happening.

If big life changes are like cliff jumping, here’s how I roll: I climb up to the edge, fully enjoying the climb, loving every minute of getting there, psyched by the challenge and being able to prove that I CAN DO THIS. I toe the line, looking out over the water, and, realizing how high the drop is, I just… freeze. I can’t go back. I can’t go forward. I just have to hang out there a bit and psych myself up to actually jump. All the while my brain is spinning out of control – what if it’s not deep enough at the bottom and I break my neck? What if there’s a stick/log floating in the water and I smash into it? What if I forget how to swim? Are you sure I can’t turn back? No, climbing down would be way more dangerous (not to mention embarrassing!) than just jumping. Jump! Do it! Go! But what if.. what if… what if.

Finally, usually after rolling through every possible (and sometimes impossible) scenario, I just throw myself off the ledge, let out a huge whoop/girly scream, and plunge into the water. Once I kick my way to the surface, I feel exhilarated, invincible, incredible… ready to take on anything! Ready to do it again – maybe from higher up next time! 

This is how my brain works. I have to roll through all of the plausible outcomes, all the while knowing that jumping is the only option. I don’t know if it’s mostly stubbornness or fear, but I have somewhat come to terms with the way that I am. Armed with this knowledge, I can sometimes speed up or even ignore the process… or at least trick myself into thinking later. Other times though, I have to just let my brain work through all the noise. I have to be patient and sit tight and wait for that surge of energy to whoop with glee and fling myself off of the edge. 

Here’s where I am right now: I am on the ledge… actually I think in this case I wasn’t ready and got pushed off of it and am dangling over the precipice with one hand stubbornly holding on. This move, quitting a job I loved, leaving a place I loved, saying goodbye to dear friends… it’s a huge leap. And it happened so fast! One minute we were freezing our butts off in a never ending Vermont winter and the next we were getting sunburned and trying to learn Spanish. Needless to say, my brain is still trying to catch up. 

Working for myself is something that was always in the back of my mind (I think that most creatives dream or think of this) but never in a defined manner. I really did love working at Select – the pressures, the collaboration, the deadlines, the schedule, the work itself! So the idea of freelancing or starting a business was pushed completely out of my mind. Besides, it was drilled into us in college that we needed experience to be a successful freelancer – is three years enough? Will people hire me? How do I/should I present myself? Should I make things – like an Etsy shop or Big Cartel? Should I just put my work out there and do whatever people will hire me for? A combination of those things? 

All of those questions are swirling around, but the biggest one, the one that appears in big, shouty capitals is: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?

And that is the biggest adjustment of all. I am so used to people telling me what do – in college there were assignments and credits to earn and a portfolio to build, at work there were clients and deadlines and bosses and teams. Now there is just me.

So I’m removing one clenched finger at a time from the edge of that cliff. Loosening my hold bit by bit, learning to trust myself and my instincts, getting ready to fall. Because I know that once I do, it’s going to be awesome. 


PS Cliff jumping photo from Summer 2012, Lake Champlain, VT. Despite my hilarious tan lines, it was one of the best summers of my life. (Photo by my wonderful friend, Mega.)

EL Yunque // The Rainforest!

Our friend Brian came to visit last month. We love hanging out with him – he’s always up for an adventure. So we spent a lot of time driving around the island and exploring while he was in town.

One of the places we made a priority to visit was the rainforest – El Yunque. For a small(ish) island, Puerto Rico has insanely varied climates – deserts, rain forests and everything in between. It’s pretty wild. We were excited to check out El Yunque – none of us had ever been to a rain forest before! 

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The road into the forest is crazy, twisting, turning, and narrow (we were alternately impressed with the effort it must have taken to carve out and annoyed that they weren’t able to make it just a little bit wider – there were some sketchy parts!). As the car climbed deeper into the mountains, we began to glimpse some incredible vistas off the steep cliff to our left. We started to get really excited and pulled off the road at one of the first parking areas to explore a well-publicized waterfall and grab some lunch. It was really beautiful, and totally reminded me of camping in Ithaca in college (Ithaca is Gorge-ous, after all!). Isn’t it funny how despite the size of the world, certain landscapes inevitably remind you of other places you’ve been? 

We hung out by the waterfall and ate some sandwiches and took some pictures and climbed around on the rocks. Then we packed up, got back into the car, and continued further in – we wanted to hike! 

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We climbed the El Yunque trail – one of the most popular, I think – and were immediately transported into another world. Although the waterfall felt familiar, this hike felt like something otherworldly – like a scene from Jurassic Park. There were these huge oversized ferns and short leaning palm trees and trickling streams around every turn. We half expected dinosaurs to run out of the underbrush at us. 

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Although the scenery was really cool and different than anything we’d ever experienced before, there was an odd lack of wildlife. Sure, we could hear coqui frogs and every once in awhile catch a glimpse of a bird, but there were no wild, jungle-y animals that our childlike minds picture in a rainforest – no jaguars, toucans, monkeys, sloths, etc. I think we were all a little bit disappointed – especially Casey who apparently really wants to see a toucan? Must be all of those Froot Loops he ate as a kid :) 

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Near the top we took a little side trail to an exposed rock cliff and could see for miles – all the way to the coast. It was beautiful and amazing – the forest definitely looks more wild/jungle-y from above. You could tell it was different than the deciduous forests our New England eyes are used to. 

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After soaking up the views from the cliff, we continued up to the top of El Yunque peak. A little stone building – a church? – marked the end of the trail and offered more 360 views of the area. The air was cooler, like you would expect at the top of a mountain, but with much more humidity. It was almost like walking through fog, although it wasn’t exactly foggy. 

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We had an awesome time exploring the rainforest! Thanks for being up for an adventure, Bri! Casey and I can’t wait to go back and explore some more. 

I’m Working On // Do Your Best Banner

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Did your parents have catchphrases/mantras when you were growing up? You know, things they would say to you often, over and over? Like, little bits of wisdom that they would drill into your developing brain? Mine did. There are two phrases in particular that have stuck with me and have totally shaped my outlook on life. 

The first is, “It’s all in your presentation.” My mom would literally say, “You can have anything you want if you ask for it the right way.” They were imparting sales and marketing techniques on my siblings and I from a really young age – teaching us to frame wants/needs in a way so that the other person could truly understand your perspective and find it difficult to turn you down. I’m sure that my interest in the advertising/design industry stems from this!

The second, and most oft-repeated, is simply, “Do your best.” Mom and Dad wanted us to have goals and work hard towards them, but also didn’t want us to get caught up in the results. You want to get straight A’s but got a B in math? Well, did you do your best? As long as you left it all on the field, they were totally cool with the outcome. I think they also knew (kind of sneakily!) that inner guilt/shame is a much bigger motivator than anything they could have dumped on us. So by asking, “Did you do your best?” they forced us to look inside ourselves and figure out what we could have done better (if anything). On the flip side, Do Your Best also takes some of the pressure off – what more can you do than give your best effort? This phrase/mindset has totally stuck with me and during this time of crazy career/life change, I wanted a visible reminder that the only thing I CAN do as I navigate all this newness is my best. 

So I made this banner to hang in my office. It’s super simple. 

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First, I typed up my phrase in Illustrator (you could totally use Word or Photoshop too if you don’t have Illustrator). I made the letters about 4.5” high (which with this typeface was a point size of about 350). 

iwo-dyb-2Then I printed them out, using my inkjet printer, and cut out each letter with an x-acto knife.

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Once everything was cut out, I hot-glued each letter to a piece of black ribbon. I left about an inch between each letter and about five inches between each word. Lastly, I knotted the ends and hung it up! All in all, it took maybe 2 hours, and is an awesome daily reminder that my best is all that I can do. 

Currently

currently

Looking forward to my parents’ visit next week

Making lots of progress on my office

Trying out a new and improved scheduling/to-do list system

Enjoying the beach every weekend

Running (almost) everyday on my new favorite path

Listening to podcasts instead of music while running

Obsessing over peanut (mañi) ice cream from the little shop in town

Practicing my Spanish (Buenos dias! Dos cervezas, por favor. Muchas gracias!)

Eating SO MANY mangoes

Craving cold red Gatorade (it’s hot!)

Fighting a losing battle against a bunch of exceedingly annoying and extremely clever ants

Kicking a soccer ball around for the first time in years (and probably driving my downstairs neighbors crazy…oops)

Reading all of the books… twice

Cooking a ton of new recipes 

Dueling Casey in countless rounds of Mario Kart 64

Planning a couple of vacations around weddings we are attending this summer/fall

Wearing baseball hats 24/7

Thinking about my career/what’s next

Our Current Favorite Beach

guanica-1We’re about two months into our Puerto Rican adventure and easily the best part (besides the amazing weather!) is hitting the beach every weekend. Sitting by the ocean, reading a book, bodysurfing, snorkeling… these activities are so relaxing and totally make every weekend feel like a vacation.

guanica-7Although the island isn’t big (you can pretty much get anywhere within an hour or two), we haven’t done a ton of adventurous beach scoping. We fell hard for this amazing stretch of beaches in Guanica and that was that! I’m sure we’ll pick up the exploring again soon, but for  now, here’s the scoop on our favorite beach!

guanica-3Guanica is about a 30 minute drive from our house, to the west. There’s a large nature reserve that hugs the coast and is full of cacti forests, wild palm trees, rocky outcroppings, and many awesome beaches. Our two favorites are Palm Tree Beach and End Beach (nicknames are totally ours – I have no idea if they have official names).

guanica-2guanica-6Palm Tree Beach is a long, curved, untamed beach, ringed by (you guessed it!) tall, rattling palms. The sand is soft, and there is almost always a breeze. The waves are usually a fun size – perfect for bodysurfing – and because the beach is so long, it’s great for exploring. It’s also home to tons of adorable crabs – they are hilarious when they think you’re not paying attention to them.

guanica-4 guanica-8End Beach is – wait for it! – at the end of the road (we are so creative with beach names it’s not even funny) and boasts a calmer bay with an off-shore reef – perfect for snorkeling. It’s wider and brighter (less shade) than Palm Tree Beach, and boasts some rocky trails that end up at some very secluded beaches/outcroppings.

guanica-5Besides the vacation-like zen, the best part about these beaches is that they usually aren’t super crowded. Casey and I both suffer from minor loner tendencies, and these beaches offer plenty of peace and quiet. We love spending time here!