On Writing

Starting this blog has brought me many things I expected (an outlet for writing, a way to be creative) and many I had not expected (lots of new skills, confidence, breaking me of some of my Type A tendencies). One of the biggest gifts of this blog is the entrance it earned me into the tight knit blogger community. I have made some great friends who have shared technical tips and inspiration along the way.

My co-worker and friend Molly from the great blog Pop Bop Shop invited me to participate in “My Writing Process Blog Tour.” It’s a pay it forward initiative with bloggers answering the same four questions and sharing details of their writing style and inspiration each Monday. In her introduction of me last week she called me her bloggy hero, which is so flattering because she has had such amazing success with her blog, that I feel like chanting “I’m not worthy, I’m not worthy” whenever I’m with her. Pop Bop Shop has a little bit of everything: amazing restaurant reviews, especially for vegetarian foodies out there, shopping, details on her travels and a weekly Grey’s Anatomy recaps that keep her very loyal readers coming back. That is a longwinded way of saying that I respect Molly’s work—and enjoy her company—so much that it was easy to say yes to the Writing Process Blog Tour.

So let’s talk about one of my favorite things…Writing!

What am I working on?

A better question is what am I not working on? After a very busy winter of travel for my day job, I am excited to return to my regular weekly cadence of posting here on this blog. I felt pretty guilty when a week or two would go by without me posting, but I truly believe in quality over quantity. I have pretty high standards; you know that by now, so I will not post anything that is not worthy of you spending the time to read. So I’m planning an exciting summer of adventures and experiences for you (and me).

In additional to this blog, I also have a demanding day job that pays the rent. Thankfully I get to interview, write and edit as part of this job as well, plus I have the pleasure of working with some of the most intelligently creative people out there. I’m not that good with unstructured time, so I also take on freelance writing projects, some of which I am really excited to share with you once the deals are done. And as if that was not enough, I am forever toiling with what I hope is the next great American novel, or at the very least, a nice beach read.

How does my writing differ from others of its genre?

Honestly, I think this has been one of my biggest challenges in trying to grow this blog; The Great Wide Open does not fit into any existing blog genre so it’s hard to explain to people, particularly potential advertisers, what it is that I do. It’s not a fashion blog, although I have had fashion-focused posts, and it’s not a food blog although I have written about food and restaurants. For lack of a better way to describe it, I frequently fall back on calling it a lifestyle blog, although that’s really not accurate either.  Fencing, for example, is a tough thing to categorize.


But don’t think I’m complaining, I would prefer to have to explain my blog in a paragraph rather than a word. I wouldn’t, and couldn’t, write about the same thing day in and day out. What’s the fun in that? As I have learned, investigating and writing about new things keeps me on my toes, and hopefully keeps you coming back.

Why do I write what I do?

When I decided to start a blog, I didn’t want to just take pictures of what I was wearing that day (not judging fashionistas out there). And I didn’t want to write all about me. I wanted to go back to my roots as a journalist. I wanted to report, interview, take pictures and write. This was always going to be a reporting-driven blog. At the time all my ambitions and aspirations had been solidly focused on journalism, a profession, and passion, I had just left to move to Boston. I had just thrown my professional bucket list in the trash, so it seems only appropriate to start a new one, and try all sorts of new things to see what else I am passionate about.

How does your writing process work?

My process is multi-faceted. First I have to come up with a concept: an activity, job or adventure that I think will make for a good post. I consider how challenging or dangerous it will be, whether it will interest a wide variety of readers, and whether it has the potential for me to learn something new…maybe even about myself. Then I start outreach. I send tons of emails to businesses and individuals asking if they would be willing teach me about their passion. I am happy to report that a majority of people say yes. When you love something, you instinctively want to share that. Coordinating time and dates to do my adventures is what takes a while. As I mentioned above, I do have a day job, so my adventures have to happen at night, on weekends or on an occasional vacation day.


Writing doesn’t take me very long. Years of writing under tight deadlines for TV have given me the discipline to write quickly and efficiently, especially when I am writing about something I just had a great time doing. I will say that I re-write and edit for ever. I am always finding a way to tweak a phrase to make it “better.” And when I craft a line or paragraph that I think is particularly funny, poignant or strong, the sense of accomplishment I feel can’t be matched. Simply put: I love to write.

So there it is, my version of Stephen King’s “On Writing,” a must-read for all writers out there. I am passing the torch to two other Boston-bloggers, both of whom loyal readers of this blog will recognize:

Kelly from Gets Me Every Time is the brain, and hands behind Toyidermy, which was featured here last year. She is one of the craftiest people I know, in addition to her animal business card holders, she gifted me a framed needle pointed llama for my birthday. Not only is she crafty, but she knows me well. On her blog Kelly chronicles her DIY lifestyle, her gluten-free kitchen creations, her love of dancing (she is the grand-niece of Gene Kelly, so it’s in her blood) and her cat Louise.


Judging from the title, you would rightfully assume that Molly from Wicked Cheap Boston keeps Hub residents in the know about what to do around the city, while watching the bottom line. But Molly also doles out tips on the Paleo diet, and her journey to become a licensed massage therapist. You met Molly when she taught me how to be a masseuse (if only I felt more comfortable with rubbing oil on people’s backs). She is kind and thoughtful and super fun.


Please check out their blogs, and see how they approach writing next Monday. We will return to our regularly scheduled post next week!

My Winter in Pictures

So you may have noticed that I have been a little MIA recently. I apologize. I have been traveling basically non-stop since January—mostly for work, a little for fun –so I have not had the time for my usual adventures.

I’ve been beating myself up about this every week that I don’t post. But instead of feeling guilty about it again this week, I figures I should just come out and tell you why I have been absent and show you what I have been up to…even if it’s not exactly what I usually post about. So here it is…my last three months in pictures.

I hope you enjoy!

After a year of determination, hard work and a little benign stalking of some military officials, I finally was able to visit the Marine Mammal Unit of the United States Navy. This was work-related, not blog-related, but still a dream come true.


I spend some time in Denver, where I got up close to some fighter jets. If you ever get the same opportunity, one piece of advice: take the ear protection, whatever they offer you!


I managed so squeeze in some skiing  on a separate trip to Colorado, this one for fun.

vail Vail 2

I managed to escape most of the brutal winter that hit the northeast, but was able to enjoy some of the beauty that the snow brought with it.

Acorn Street, Beacon Hill

Acorn Street, Beacon Hill

In the middle of all this traveling, in addition to giving myself a concussion, I also gave myself a black eye. Yes, I am a total mess.

You should see the other guy!

You should see the other guy!

I went to Puerto Rico for a photo shoot, and learned about a great organization, Save a Gato that strives to fix and adopt the stray cats of San Juan. There are a lot of them.


San Juan

I also visited Las Vegas for the first time. Again, I went for work, so my time was not my own, but it was still quite an experience. As I ran down the strip at 6:30 a.m. (and sprinted up escalators, a higher tech interpretation of bleacher sprints I hated from college squash) and past people with beers still in their hands, I had the realization that they probably thought I was as crazy as I was thinking they were. While I may have been underwhelmed by Sin City, I did think the Bellagio fountain was worth the wait…and boy did I wait.


vergas 2

Best of all, on many of these trips I had the very talented photographer Jeff Allen as a travel buddy. I have featured Jeff on this blog in the past (here and here) so you may know his face and his work. If this post is your first introduction to Jeff, you should know two things: he is extremely talented, and he will climb just about anything to get “the” shot.

Jeff 1 jeff 2

And now I’m back in Boston, settling back into my routine, enjoying the slightly warmer weather, sunrise runs, and hopefully getting back to my adventures soon.  Thanks for your patience!





A New (More Personal) Era

The judges have spoken. Last week I wrote not about my latest adventure, but about me…getting older. I’ve written personal posts a few times over the past two years, and they’re always a challenge for me. Despite being a blogger, I’m a pretty private person; I don’t like talking about myself, and I don’t like writing about myself. But sometimes I’m going through something, or I have an epiphany, or just feel I’ve got something to say.

So I say it. And you love it.

When this happens, you all demonstrate—through page views and comments—that these are your favorite posts. I have known this for a while; the data backs it up. But I fought the idea of writing more about myself more often because it terrifies me. While I know some people start blogs to talk about themselves, want an outlet to vent, or to show off pictures of their outfits each day (I’m not judging, I swear), that’s not me and that’s not why I do this. I started this blog because I missed writing. I missed interviewing interesting people and learning new things. And most of all, I wanted to challenge myself.

I have never backed away from a challenge when it comes to this blog…except for this one. But after the emails, texts, comments and encouragement from you last week it dawned on me that I may be hiding behind my outlandish adventures as a way of keeping you all at arms’ length. You know a lot about what I do from week to week, but maybe not about how I feel. And maybe, just maybe, you are interested in learning a little more about me. Imagine that.

So as I embark on the third year of The Great Wide Open, I will let you in.

Don’t worry; I’m not going all self-involved on you. I’m still going to try new things and try to make you laugh, but I’m also going to feature more of the adventure that is the everyday life of this 30-something single gal, navigating life, work, writing and dating (there, I said it, it’s too late to take it back now)…who happens to also learn to break dance on the weekends (that’s a not-so-subtle plug for next week’s post, so be ready to get down).

Again, I want to stress that I’m not going to talk about me all the time—that would bore both you and me. I’m going to give you more of what you have grown to expect from me, but also more of what I know you want from me…and I’ll continue to do my best to entertain you in the process.

Let this new adventure begin.

My Birthday Breakthrough

This week I celebrated my birthday. Well, actually I’ve been celebrating my birthday since last Friday, but the actual day was Tuesday. I like to spread my birthday celebration out so that I’m too busy having fun, and don’t stop to ponder getting one year older. Don’t get me wrong, I love my birthday, I mean I really love my birthday. My family takes birthdays very seriously, or at least they take my birthday very seriously. This may be a result of my behavior on my birthday: I cry. I cry every year. And I’m not talking about shedding one or two sentimental tears. No, January 21st reduced me to a blubbering, weeping, basket case.

My mother says I have been this way from the beginning. Literally. But I was finally able to articulate the tremendous emotions I was feeling on my sixth birthday. She recalls (I swear I’m not making this up) that per usual, I was crying (probably right after she and my dad had gifted me whatever I had wanted, maybe a Cabbage Patch Kid) and when she asked what was wrong, I responded, “I’m not ready to be six. I was just getting comfortable with five.” Seriously, I said that. She should have taken me to a shrink that instant.

It’s been the same sad story every year since. My family and friends know that tears are inevitable, so they go to great lengths to make me happy on my birthday. And I always have an amazing time…and then I cry. It’s really rather ridiculous. Birthdays signify both the biggest change (one year—number-wise—older), and the smallest change (you feel the same way on Tuesday morning as you did Monday night) at the very same time.

This week I marked a milestone that sounds old to me, and the weeks leading up to it, I felt uneasy and a little blue. I certainly don’t feel old. And despite what others may think, I don’t (usually) feel that just because I’m a single, 30-something, that I’m somehow behind, or missing out (although I have my moments). I love my life! Is it what I thought it would be like as a teenager (read about that here)? No. But it’s this interesting, diverse, exciting life that I’ve created for myself. My mother often cites my Joie de vivre. I’m on this kooky journey and I can honestly say I have no idea where I will end up, but I know I will laugh and learn a lot along the way.

I was coy about my age when my mostly younger co-workers took me out Friday night (I was told I looked great for 30. I just smiled). I enjoyed the Patriots game, if not the outcome, on Sunday with some of my best friends. I unwrapped an amazing birthday gift from my parents on Monday and enjoyed a girl’s dinner out on Tuesday.

And then a funny thing happened, or didn’t happen, when I got home. With snow falling over Boston, my feet up on the aforementioned birthday gift, and a glass of Veuve in my hand, I went through all the lovely birthday texts, emails and messages I had received (thank goodness for Facebook)…and I didn’t cry…for the first time in 35 years. I didn’t feel sad, or behind, or old. Instead, I felt lucky for all that I have, and excited about all that is right around the corner for me.

A perfect way to end my birthday...not crying

A perfect way to end my birthday…not crying

I really feel more like myself in my 30’s. Oprah would say that I am becoming my “authentic self.” I’m more accepting of limitations, not afraid to show off my strengths, and overall, more comfortable in my skin. And it seems I’m more comfortable with my birthday as well. That’s what we call progress.


As the clock ticks down the waning hours of new year’s eves, we can’t help but reflect on the year that is about to be put to bed. A few days ago a friend asked me what my favorite adventure of the year was, and I had to think hard about it. Then I got nostalgic. It’s hard to choose just one; I have to assume it’s similar to choosing your favorite child.

2013 was a really busy year here at The Great Wide Open. And while I had a few lows, it was a year filled with highs…and high notes. Here is a rundown of my favorite adventures of the past year:

You all got the play-by-play of my stressful move (which maybe I was being a little dramatic about) and the real-life adventure of living alone for the first time. While I may have seemed like a crazy person last spring, the experience taught me a lot about my strengths, my limitations and how amazing my friends are. Who needs movers when you have BFFs with SUVs? The experience also made me very comfortable asking for help (which I used to be very bad about) from friends, family and “strangers on the internet,” as my father pointed out.

Empty Apartment

Empty Apartment



I embraced my long-dormant outdoorsy side by learning to rock climb in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with the fine folks at Northeast Mountaineering. What was so interesting about this was the fact that after trying so many things and being bad, I mean really bad, at many of them I assumed that I would fail at scaling a rock fifty feet in the air. But you know what? I was really good at it. Being lowered back down was another matter altogether, but we’ll focus on the positive!

Still smiling

Still smiling

I got to meet and eat Chinese take-out with the amazing jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane in his Manhattan studio. This was one of those moments when I literally had to pinch myself it was so surreal. I was sitting across the table from a person I admire a great deal, interviewing him and chatting about his old pal Jackie Kennedy. Who am I, and how did I get here?  When I started this blog I never imagined that an opportunity like this would be available to me. It truly was a dream come true.

Look at that smile, obviously I could not contain my excitement

Look at that smile, obviously I could not contain my excitement

From dreams to nightmares…Probably my most terrifying adventure of the year demonstrated how comfortable I have become with mass-scale public humiliation. I sang a duet, in public…in front of an audience years after being told that I was a bad singer. While I may not have sounded all that great, I did face a long-held fear and felt so much support during the rehearsal process, at the performance and afterwards in the comment section of this blog that it really did feel like a triumph and not a total humiliation (but judge for yourself below).

Yes, 2013 was a great year for me and this blog. Over the past two years I have slowly let go of my Type A ways, and have become well acquainted with that feeling we all get deep in the pit of our stomachs when we’re about to try something totally out of our comfort zones. I didn’t realize how much my fear of failure had been holding me back until I changed my reaction to that feeling. Instead of leaning back or walking away, I now jump in, head first, secure in the feeling that I may just surprise myself. And if I don’t, and I fail, big deal…at least I gave it a try. While I started this blog to try to find my next passion in life, it seems that maybe my passion is trying new things, unafraid of the outcome…and writing of course.

I have lots planned for the coming year and a lot not planned. Some of it I will make up as I go along, and how great is that? I will be trying tons of new things and experience. I have no idea where this whole adventure will take me, and that’s ok. It’s actually better than ok…it’s pretty exciting.

My Next Adventure

Drum roll please…this is my 100th post!  I know, where did the time go?

It’s been 100 adventures: some smaller in scale, some larger, some had me (and you) laughing, some made me cry. But one thing all my adventures have in common is that they all taught me something new, and usually that something was about myself. I have been surprised by what I’m capable of (remaining calm while bee keeping), and humbled by my very obvious limitations (of the vocal variety). But each week I put myself out there—comfortable with possible failure and potential public embarrassment on an ever-growing scale—all in an effort to find what I am truly passionate about.

I’m constantly developing, and soliciting, ideas for what to try next. Sometimes these ideas come from you, sometimes I come up with them myself after reading or watching someone incredibly interesting, and sometimes I’m inspired by my friends…some of whom you have met on this blog in the past.

A few weeks ago, while I pondered the milestone that this post represents–and what goals I want to set for the next 100 posts–I watched a documentary that was stunning, both visually and emotionally. The Other Side of the Ice is the story of one family’s adventure sailing the Northwest Passage, the icy route that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and which hugs the arctic. Full disclosure: my friend Chauncey Tanton not only field produced the film, he also takes on the role of moral compass during a critical part of the journey that he set off on with his siblings and stepfather. Having made documentaries myself, I know how challenging filmmaking can be. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to make a film while navigating one of the most dangerous waterways in the world.

This is a family of adventurers, and that is what inspired me most. I call my weekly escapades “adventures,” but I’m being very generous using that word to describe what I do. Watching The Other Side Of The Ice made me hungry for a real adventure. I spoke with him as I started brainstorming what I could and should do, to find out what a true adventurer thought of my novel plan. I was excited that Chauncey was full of ideas for me.

“When you step into the unknown, that’s where adventure begins,” he told me, and he’s right. An adventure for me, may not be an adventure for someone else, and certainly not for Chauncey. Whenever we as individuals step outside our comfort zone, whatever that may be, it’s an adventure.  It crystalized for me when Chauncey described adventures as “where itineraries don’t exist.”

Photo courtesy of Chauncey Tanton

Photo courtesy of Chauncey Tanton

Chauncey describes this trip as “the adventure of a lifetime,” not only because it was so grueling and so remote, but because they were blazing a trail in many ways. He and his family were under near constant stress. He said the stress manifested itself as the feeling you get right before riding a roller coaster…for six months straight. They were making critical decisions about icebergs and polar bears all day, every day. But for as difficult as it was, it was hugely rewarding both because it brought his family closer together (one of the most powerful story lines of the film in my opinion), but also because they went where only 24 other boats had ever been before. That is a spectacular accomplishment.

And in yet another example of how the biggest challenges lead to the biggest rewards, two weeks ago, The Other Side Of The Ice won an Emmy for best topical documentary.

Now let’s be honest, I don’t think I have a six-month-long arctic expedition in me. But I’m going to find something that truly pushes me past my limits…and for longer than just a day. So far I have one vote for climbing Kilimanjaro (a friend said he hiked it with a 13-year-old, so I should be able to survive), and Chauncey suggested I find someone to let me tag along on the seasonal boat migration from Newport to a warmer winter destinations (he did warn me that I would be considered “dead weight,” so this may require some sweet talking on my part), but I’m also looking for other suggestions. So bring the adventures on! This will take some planning, so this may not happen next week, or even next month, but I am pledging to do it…and write about it.

Chauncey, too, is embarking on his next adventure. This guy, who has already lived a very adventurous life (professional snowboarder, conqueror of the Northwest Passage, with a little high finance sprinkled in for good measure), is now poised to take on New York City. As a recovering New Yorker myself, I have no doubt that he will make his mark on the city where every day is an adventure in some way. After all, as he told me, he sets lofty goals, focuses, and doesn’t give up until he achieves them. Sounds like someone else I know…

Photo courtesy of Chauncey Tanton

Photo courtesy of Chauncey Tanton

Thank you to Chauncey Tanton for sharing his story with me. The Other Side Of The Ice is available on itunes and Amazon, and obviously, I highly recommend it. I was not compensated in any way for this post.

Who me? a Mentor?

Although I write about pre-meditated adventures each week, our every-day lives are already adventures aren’t they? Tuesday felt like one to me, or maybe metamorphosis is a more accurate word to use. I was asked to be a part of a panel discussion at a meeting of Young Women in Digital, a Boston-based networking organization of…yes, you guessed it, young women who are living or working in the digital space. The panel was focused on how to get to the next level in your career.

I wrote to the organizer asking if she was sure she wanted me? While I do work in the digital realm, I really consider myself a writer. But yes, she was sure that my diverse experience (journalism, digital, PR, blogging) would make me a great panelist. So I said yes, partially because, let’s be honest, I was pretty excited to know that I’m still considered a young woman.

I arrived at Communispace in Boston, and after some initial mingling, and a glass of liquid courage, I took my seat at the front of the room with my fellow panelists: Celie Hart of Hill Holiday, Tamrah Collins of the Intercontinental Hotel and Adri Cowan a Google alum, currently at Springpad. Talk about a great group of ladies representing a very diverse skill set.


Tuesday night’s panel

Photo Courtesy of Mary Mallard

Photos Courtesy of Mary Mallard and Young Women in Digital

The panel began and we spoke about our experience, our favorite social platforms, and what young women can do to get to the next level in their careers. This was the first time I have been seen as any sort of expert on a stage like this. It felt very adultish. It was particularly interesting to be doling out career advice because the majority of us under, let’s say 40, are all constantly trying to get to the next level in our career no matter what that next level is. Myself included. I didn’t prepare remarks, I spoke from my heart and from my experience, and it turns out I had some very unique words of wisdom (would you expect anything else from me?), judging from the audience members live tweeting during the event. Here’s a sample:

kooky skills

Yes, I advised these lovely ladies to figure out what they love to do, and what they are good at and try to marry those two into a career. That’s pretty good advice if I do say so myself! I went on to tell them to embrace their “kooky skills,” which while I probably could have said that in a slightly more articulate way, I stand behind. Working on this blog (not to mention at my day job) I meet people every day who have done just that and are making it work for them, whether as a career, or in their free time. And doing what they love, no matter how “kooky,” makes them feel fulfilled and happy.

Here are a few more:

Tweet writing and underwearunderwear 2

I also told the crowd that good writing is still important, whether it’s in 140 characters, 140 words or 140 pages. I have to believe that in today’s world of LOL and YOLO, it’s still important to be able to express yourself clearly and, at times, elegantly.  I also told these young ladies to carry themselves in a professional manner, no matter how casual their work environment is. I think this is essential, particularly for women in the workplace. Maybe I should not have told them that co-workers should not be able to see your underwear, but I wanted to give a clear example of what I was talking about.

It struck me that I sound like my mother circa 1996 telling a teenage me that I look like a “ragamuffin” when I would roll my kilt obscenely high, showing off the boxer shorts I was wearing underneath at school (don’t judge, this look was a Springside standard). Or maybe I just sound like a wiser, and only slightly older (but still very young) woman reminiscing on the lessons I learned that helped me get me to this interesting place in my career. I have described my career as a long strange trip (thank you Jerry): I am a former journalist, current blogger, marketer, and it seems some would say a digital professional. I would never have expected my career—not to mention my life—to take so many fascinating twists and turns, but it sure has been fun. And I’m soooo young, so there is tons more fun to come.

Long strange trip

Thank you to Melanie Cohn and Women In Digital. I had a blast sharing my experiences with you, thank you for having me. I think it is essential for women to reach back and help those coming up behind us, so it was a true pleasure to meet so many smart and talented women on Tuesday night. I was not compensated in any way for this post.

I Lost my Voice (And Found it Again)

There are several reasons I started this blog, the most important was that I wanted a vehicle to help me find my next passion in life. But I also saw it as a vehicle to get me writing again. Writing used to be my job. I wrote eight hours a day and I loved every minute of it. Now, as I’m searching for something I am passionate about, I often wonder if it hasn’t been right under my nose (or, more accurately, under my fingers) this whole time: Writing.

I am happiest when I am writing. Sometimes I crack myself up to the point of laughing out loud, and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I craft a turn of phrase that I am particularly pleased with. Maybe I’m wearing a pair of rose-colored glasses, but I can imagine nothing better than writing all day as I used to (although I wouldn’t mind an atmosphere a little less frenetic than a newsroom).

So about a month ago when I was asked to start writing posts for The Voice of Downtown Boston I was incredibly excited. It’s not Slate.com, (that would be a dream come true) but this unsolicited invitation was extremely flattering. And while this isn’t earning me a great deal of money, it will certainly help support my newly-acquired interior design habit.

I went into my first assignment with a fire in my belly. I felt as if I was returning to my journalistic roots by writing about weekly outdoor block parties held in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. I realized this was the first time in more than a year that I was being told what to write, instead of me dreaming up what I wanted to write about it. No one told me to try synchronized swimming; I wanted to see if I could do it.

This is where I got into trouble. After I submitted my first post, I received feedback that I needed to re-write it with “more personality.” More personality? The criticism affected me more than I wanted to admit. I have spent years, not to mention a great deal of my parents’ money (in the form of Columbia J School tuition) developing my writing style and voice. It’s something I’m immensely proud of. I think my personality shines through in my writing. Then I realized it shines through on this blog…a safe place of my own creation.  Reading the post again, yes, it was a little stiff…it read a bit like a press release. I re-wrote it, but refused to read it when it finally went live on the site.

I have always been confident in my writing ability; now that confidence was severely shaken. Maybe I just think I’m a good writer, and all of you really read this blog for the pictures and puns? Maybe the truth is that I’m just average (and as you all know by now, average is a four letter word for me) with my court jester-like adventures acting as a diversion.

I figured I wouldn’t be asked to write for them again, and that my little adventure as a freelance writer was over. So when a second assignment came in I was equal parts relieved and nervous. I was reminded that the Voice of Boston folks had asked me to write for them because they liked my blog, and this quirky literary voice of mine. This time, I would show them personality, I thought. My assignment was to write about Post Office Square, a public park in Boston’s Financial District. Not the sexiest topic, but I was determined to Emily-ize it! I framed the piece around a love affair that I was having…with the park. Yep, there’s Emily! You can read the finished product here. It was published without revisions, and I felt validated.

So now in addition to my very demanding and fulfilling full-time job, and the part-time job/passion project that is this blog, I have now acquired a third job writing for the Voice of Downtown Boston (and hopefully more outlets in the future). I hope I will be able to fit in time to sleep. Let the writing adventure begin!


My new home office


It’s My Apartment, And I’ll Cry If I Want To

In addition to my blog life being filled with adventures, my normal life seems to include a fare number of adventures (of varying degrees) these days as well. I’ve been in my new apartment for three months now, and most of the time I think I’ve adjusted well to living alone. But in the past few weeks, my limits (emotional and physical) have been tested.

In the past when I’ve run into a household problem, there has always been someone to tackle the issue with me, and in many cases for me. Whether it is yelling for my Dad, peering into a broken oven with a roommate next to me, or calling a boyfriend when I can’t find a fuse box, I always felt as if I had back-up. In the past few weeks I have felt painfully alone.

Let me set the stage: summer takes a while to arrive in New England. Memorial Day weekend for example, was windy, rainy and 45 degrees. So when a surprise—or at least it was a surprise to me—heat wave hit a week ago, I was ill prepared. I was that girl who went out looking to buy an air conditioner when it was already 95 degrees. After an introductory lesson on British Thermal Units (am I the only person who had no idea what a BTU was?) from dear old Dad and searching the aisles of half a dozen stores, I finally found an AC in the ‘burbs. I lugged it home, up my three flights of stairs and ripped it out of the box, desperate for instant relief.

It was at that moment that I realized while I had watched as an AC was put in, I had never actually done it myself. Yes, I’m thirty-something and never installed an air conditioner. I was overheated and exhausted from climbing the stairs and as I tried to balance the unit on the windowsill, I admit it, I started to cry…and I stripped off my clothes. I’m sure it was a pitiful sight, a hot, sweaty, half naked girl crying with an air condition precariously balanced on her knee, which was propped up on a window sill. In that moment I felt completely hopeless, and slightly embarrassed that I could not help myself.

I slept in my living room that night—overhead fan cranking, patio door open—next to the AC that I was not able to get in the window.

The following weekend, after the heat had subsided, I was to have patio furniture delivered, which I didn’t realize would come in approximately a bazillion pieces. It took over my entire apartment (true, this may say a great deal about the compact nature of my apartment, in addition to the copious number of pieces) and I was instantly overwhelmed. It literally could have taken me days to make sense of all of it.

I was serious, a bazillion pieces

I was serious, a bazillion pieces

As I looked at the pieces of metal and cushions that littered my floor, I had an epiphany: In every other aspect of my life–including work, and this blog—when I’m in need of help, I seek out an expert. Why should these household tasks be any different? If my Ikea hack experience taught me one thing it’s that time is money. I may not be resourceful with a hammer and nails, but I am resourceful enough to know whom to call to get these things done. Hadn’t I preached that sometimes you just need a handyman…or at the very least a handy man?

After a quick walk to Charles Street Supply, my local hardware store, I had booked their resident handyman to come over and install the air conditioner, and I created a taskrabbit account and posted a request for someone to “help me” put together my patio furniture for $50.

For those of you who are not familiar, Taskrabbit.com allows you to post tasks you need done, and members of the community—who have gone through background checks and interviews, so you can feel confident that an ax murderer won’t arrive on your doorstep—can claim and do them. My taskrabbit, Marc arrived Sunday afternoon and we quickly got to work, interrupted several times by my Dad who called to make sure this “stranger I found on the internet” had not chopped me up into little pieces.

Marc getting down to business

Marc getting down to business

And while Marc did do most of the work, I did keep him company, play DJ, hand him pieces, and arrange the cushions when he finished. A real team effort if you ask me! That hysterical, nearly naked girl from the weekend before had been replaced with a calm, even jovial, partner in furniture assembly.

Marc testing out his handywork

Marc testing out his handywork

Living alone is teaching me a lot about myself, most importantly that it’s ok, even essential at times, to ask (or pay) for help. Feeling helpless, or hopeless, is never good. But being able to find solutions to these problems—and those of greater consequence as well—is an important step in the right direction…in this adventure called life.

Who says I'm not resourceful?

Who says I’m not resourceful?

Apartment Update: Bedroom (& Brimfield)

Thank you for the tremendous response to last week’s post, the big reveal of my adventure in interior design. This week we move into the bedroom…cue the romantic music.

Here is the before:

Long and narrow, tough to work with

Long and narrow, tough to work with

As you can see the shape of my bedroom (not to mention the window and radiator) doesn’t allow for many variations in terms of furniture placement. My bed could only really go one place, so there it is. I’m using the same Serena and Lilly bedding that I had in my last place, although with these eggshell colored walls (which sadly I am not allowed to paint) the pink and green seems a little bit more in your face than before, so I may change my bedding in the coming months.

Because the room is an odd shape, I really didn’t want to invest a tremendous amount of money in bedroom furniture that fits in this small space, but may not be the right proportion for a larger room I inhabit in the future. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, I wanted to impress you all with my craftiness, so I decided to Ikea Hack!  I didn’t realize this was a thing until I stumbled upon this Apartment Therapy post and realized there was a lot I could do with a raw wood piece from the Swedish furniture maker. It’s a cottage industry.


I started out with the rast table (above, at an amazing $34, I’ve paid more for a lunch). Sitting in my living room with a dozen pieces of raw wood covering the floor gave me terrible flashbacks of college, but it was an easy piece to put together, and I quickly moved out to the patio to paint (high gloss Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore), stain (“Red Oak”) and varnish what would become my bedside table. After a few coats I added some brass pulls from Lee Valley Tools (I cannot get enough brass these days). I think it looks great and at this price if I throw it out in a year when I fall in love with a real beside table it won’t own me anything.



Buoyed by my success with the rast I braved the crowded maze that is Ikea again, determined to hack a matching dresser. I picked the “tarva” five-drawer chest. Things didn’t go as smoothly this time around. This piece really required a drill (which the instructions did not state, even if it did, I don’t own one), and after several hours I remembered why I stopped buying Ikea furniture: its assembly has the unique ability to make me feel stupid and weak at the same vulnerable moment. As an intelligent adult I should be able to follow the instructions that are laid out solely in pictures. But I couldn’t. After sitting on my floor crying for longer than I care to admit, I called in reinforcements in the form of my friend Chris, who saved me by putting the frame of the chest together.  I had to be rescued again a few days later by my dad who brought his drill up from Philadelphia to help me assemble the drawers. Sometimes you just need a handyman…or handy men.


While the finished product does look good, if time is money than this dresser is worth a fortune.

With my Ikea hacking behind me (thank goodness), it was time to turn my attention to the walls and attempt to make my room look a little less like a padded cell. I was on the hunt for some vintage illustrations on the website of the New York Public Library (a great resource), but I abandoned that effort when two friends and I started planning a trip to the Brimfield Antique Show this past weekend.

For those of you who don’t know, Brimfield is a HUGE outdoor antique fair with hundreds of vendors. It’s held three times a year in the town of…you guessed it…Brimfield! I had stopped by a few years ago while driving from Boston to New York, but didn’t spend much time because it’s so enormous and I quickly got overwhelmed. This time we were strategic: we discussed what we all were looking for so that we could keep our eyes open for each other and stay on track.

Brimfield is an experience, to say the least. We went on the last day when many vendors had discounted their items and were willing to haggle. Walking around looking at all the treasures I wished I had been able to go before I picked out all the pieces that now populate my tiny place. There were so many unique pieces, and so many items that I would love to upholster!! It was so easy to get overwhelmed by all these beautiful—and in some cases odd—things in every direction. I was glad the three of us had set priorities; they helped me stay the course.

I found an old illustration of Columbia’s first campus (an ode to my J School days) in a goldish frame. After bartering its seller down, and re-stringing some twine for hanging, it has filled in the missing piece in my living room’s gallery wall. I also found four vintage bird illustrations, each had touches of pink so I hoped they would work well in my bedroom. They are an odd size so I got crafty late last night (nothing like a blog post deadline to end procrastination) to make them work in the frames I picked out. I used pop dots (my favorite crafty go-to) as spacers so the illustration appeared to hover above white textured construction paper I picked out. It makes them look more polished and makes my at-home framing job look more deliberate.

Late night crafts

Late night crafts


My vintage prints securely in their new frames


The shape of the room still makes it feel a little bit like a psych ward, but the walls certainly look better.


I wish I could fit the entire room in the frame, but that says a lot about the size and shape of the room.

DSC_0009So now you have seen it; my new place! My adventure as an interior designer will continue, it’s a process and I still have some items to pick up (gradually, as my bank account replenishes itself I need to find a headboard, but the fact that my bed inches past the window is making my decision hard, I am thinking something like this) but I’m happy with it so far.

I have to thank you for all your wonderful comments, tweets and all the encouragement throughout this process. It was so nice to be able to share my handiwork with you!

I leave you now with some scenes from Brimfield:


If only I needed a door…


Inspiration for my next projects…


Clutter ceases to be clutter if it’s in gorgeous copper bins

Ready to head back to Boston with our treasurers!

Ready to head back to Boston with our treasurers!