Staying Informed

In today’s world, riddled with political battles, religious extremism and frequent natural disasters, it’s incredibly important to find news sources that present facts and challenge “truths.” In the past year, so much has changed the way I find and digest news. Most obviously, the election of President Trump, and the questionable statements and decisions he has made in his months as our country’s leader. Secondly, moving from the liberal oasis of Ithaca and the Ithaca College campus to rural upstate New York.

This year, I have more time to devote to finding news stories and comparing different sides of the story. Thank goodness, because news is more complicated and time consuming than ever.

My top news source is probably Twitter. I like how immediate both the original message and the feedback are. For current events and updates directly from politicans’ offices, this is a good source. Of course, anyone can say anything on Twitter (or any other social media), so vetting this information is important.

I recently subscribed to TheSkimm, another source for quick news. Everything is very easy to read and understand, which is good in a lot of cases. Sometimes though, I’m left wanting (a lot) more.

My household still subscribes to The Buffalo News’ print edition 7 days a week. Crazy, I know. This is how we keep up on local news. There’s also a varied collection of New York Times and Washington Post articles I wouldn’t otherwise read. Despite Buffalo being the second largest city in the state, it often feels like a small town, and sometimes The Buffalo News treads lightly so as not to step on any WNY toes, at the expense of in depth news coverage.

I also love NPR. Not necessarily for the factual news, but for the human interest they add to the headlines. On air interviews with activists, journalists, immigrants and witnesses are not only informative, but touching.

Where are you finding informative, balanced and factual news coverage? How has this year’s political climate changed the way you view news? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Inspiration Straight from Big Magic

I am not a genius. I have a genius.

This is a distinction that took me by storm when I was first introduced to Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Pieces of this book were required reading in Dance Composition, a class that demanded more creativity than any business course could even imagine. One thing about business classes is that they indulged my perfectionist nature. You can ace a marketing exam or put together a well-researched media strategy that will knock your professor’s socks off. Creating a work of art with your body and the landscape around you can never be “perfect.” And this scares me.

Being able to separate myself from my creative ideas was a relief. And this separation of self and “genius” was only one of the ideas that I found helpful as I created performance art throughout the semester.

Because I aim to be a lifelong creator, maybe not in dance, but in writing and photography and other pursuits I have not yet discovered, I added Big Magic to my Christmas list this year. My grandpa (who I always ask for all the books I want, because he gives the list to his local bookkeeper who will order everything on the list if it’s not already in stock) delivered, and I’ve been working on this book most days at lunch. I first mentioned the book when I named it one the things that was getting me through winter.

The differentiation between being a genius and having a genius is just the beginning. Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer, and a successful one at that as author of the smashing success Eat Pray Love. After this success, she gave two TED talks on what led to her critical and commercial acclaim. This book is a continuation of those TED talks, and it remains just as casual and mind blowing as TED talks tend to be. Big Magic reads like a conversation, delivering thought-provoking and reassuring passages throughout.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Review | Succulents and Sunnies

I have passages starred from beginning to end, and I find myself introducing ideas from it everywhere from Instagram to Bible Study. Just 40 pages in, Gilbert reaffirms that “You can support other people in their creative efforts, acknowledging the truth that there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.” The first piece of this statement is something that I’m finding especially true here in Buffalo. The support and collaboration in the blogging and entrepreneur communities here is something I love to see both in my social media feeds and at networking events. The second is more personal, and possibly more important. While a growing readership is always nice, I’m focusing on making my goals for this blog about regular blog posts that are me. And that’s important.

Do you struggle being “original” enough to stand out? If not, please let me know how you do it. For the rest of us, Gilbert reassures us, saying “Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.” If being yourself is good enough for her, it’s definitely good enough for me. I also love Big Magic‘s focus on creating for your own reasons. I write this blog for me, and that’s okay, because “Your own reasons to create are reason enough.”

Gilbert offers such practical advice for fighting those periods of time when you just don’t feel creative. She talks about the practicality of working through these times doing something, anything. This is beyond helpful, as my real job becomes more and more writing-focused. Add freelance social media content and creative partnerships, and sometimes I’m just not feeling it by the time I go to write here.

This leads to another great point; creative pursuits aren’t likely to be your full time job. Even Gilbert had a full time job until after Eat Pray Love. It would be great to be an Instagram influencer who lived off freelance content creation and affiliate marketing. But my personal digital footprint is a labor of love, one that takes time and doesn’t pay. “People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it.”

Putting in the time, writing regularly and sharing photos that are reflective of my thoughts and actions, is important, because that is all that is under my control. My success, as Gilbert points out rather directly, “[depends] upon three factors – talent, luck, and discipline – and I knew two of those three things would never be under my control.”

All of these gems, which are pushing me to work diligently on my creative pursuits, are sprinkled among personal anecdotes from the creative life Elizabeth Gilbert is living. She touches on the very real issue of depression among artists. She talks about how no work to too special to edit. There are times where writing could never describe real life, and times when writing is exactly what she needs to makes sense of reality.

While we should work and work and work towards exactly what we want, there are times when we are swept into furies of creativity. Those moments when you can’t write fast enough to get it all down, those huge waves of inspiration that come to you out of nowhere. They’re because of, Gilbert says, Big Magic. For those of us striving to live creatively, without fear or darkness, we must accept Big Magic when it comes to us, because we are not geniuses. We have geniuses.

27 Thoughts You Have While Watching Gilmore Girls for the First Time in 2017

I somehow escaped the first decade of the 2000s without watching a single episode of Gilmore Girls. With all the hype about Netflix’s revival this fall, I wanted to see what all the buzz was about, which meant I had to watch the seven seasons of the original series first. It was as good as everyone made it out to be, but watching the show in 2017 prompted some thoughts that definitely wouldn’t have occurred to me in 2005:

  1. Were bell sleeves really this popular? I haven’t seen a bell sleeve in a very long time.
  2. Same goes for sling back kitten heels.
  3. I almost forgot George W. was a president, until Rory’s “Give Bush a Wedgie” t-shirt. That brought back memories.
  4. How are alllll of Rory’s boyfriends so attractive? I probably would have had this thought in 2007 also, but still worth mentioning.
  5. On that note, watching both Gilmore Girls and This Is Us at the same time is weird. In the best way.
  6. I wish I could tell the high school Paris and Rory that Hillary Clinton is the powerhouse you look up to and more.
  7. A Drop it Like a it’s Hot reference. Wow.
  8. Oh, and a Wisteria Lane reference for Luke’s dramatics.
  9. The amount of food these people eat is incredible. I love it.
  10. How did people watch this one week at a time? Or wait between seasons?
  11. The 90s neon swishy suit disappeared for a reason.
  12. A skinny scarf for every outfit!
  13. If Rory knew she was supporting the future campaign of Donald Trump, she would never have went to his casino for her 21st birthday.
  14. Mental health jokes were wayyy more socially acceptable 10 years ago.
  15. Product placement was in its infancy 10 years ago.
  16. How do you survive college without social media?!
  17. Hurricane Katrina was a real doozy.
  18. Everyone had a Pontiac Sunfire, in Gilmore Girls and in real life.
  19. Also bangs. They’re everywhere in 2006.
  20. Melissa McCarthy is an absolute gem.
  21. A gem who wears Bonnie Bell Lip Smacker. You can’t get any better.
  22. Logan’s new website is like MySpace – that’s no longer a good thing.
  23. So many Britney Spears as a troubled mom references. She turns out okay guys!
  24. Snakes on a Plane was a movie people saw on dates. Why?
  25. Why are legwarmers part of Loreli’s outfit? That never should have been a thing.
  26. Logan’s belt is buckled on the side. I forgot we all did that, for years.
  27. Rory’s job on the campaign trail will take a while. Obama turns out pretty awesome.

The bonus of watching Gilmore Girls in 2017? I didn’t have to wait to watch A Year in the Life. Season 7, Episode 22 and all four episodes of the revival all in one night. And now:

Image courtesy of Spoiler TV.

9 Essentials for Surviving an Upstate Winter

Winter in Western New York can be unforgiving, to say the least. Weeks upon weeks of scraping ice off your car, wearing so many layers you’re mistaken for a snowman and being almost certain you’ll never feel your toes again. It’s slightly ironic to be writing this now, because it’s been 55° for two days in a row. But trust me, it was snowing four days ago.

Because winter is harsh, both physically and mentally, people here in colder climates have tricks to make it through. I want to share some of my favorite winter pick-me-ups that helped me through the season this year:

  1. A new loose leaf tea infuser and the amazing salted caramel pumpkin tea from Wegmans. My sister gifted me with the infuser and a wonderful collection of loose leaf tea that I’ve been savoring all winter. I never would have gotten this for myself, but I love it! Also, Wegmans for the win (as per usual), because this tea is just as delicious as the expensive specialty stores.
  2. Anyone who knows me knows that I wear my plaid Joy Susan blanket scarf daily from October to March. This thing is so cozy and makes me looked pulled together with minimal effort. And when the heat at work is making less effort than would be ideal, this scarf really is blanket-sized.
  3. My new Warby Parker glasses are cute, affordable and come with better customer service than my local eye doctor. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with the company, both via email and in person. In the dead of winter, a positive experience (especially when it has the potential to be not so great) is a wonderful thing.
  4. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is an inspiring read, even when you only have time for a chapter. I actually read a few excerpts for a class my last semester at Ithaca, which prompted me to add the book to my Christmas list this year. I’m not done yet, but I’ve been pairing a few pages with my eggs every morning, and I highly recommend it.
  5. For anyone who lives in the cold and doesn’t want to spend every weekend skating or skiing, getting out of the cold is a must. This is why my passport is a winter essential. This year Cody and I escaped to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, which I highly recommend. If you haven’t already, check out my travel diary of the trip!
  6. I almost never buy candles for myself, but my friend held a Yankee Candle fundraiser this fall so I splurged and bought “Autumn Wreath,” which smells exactly like you might imagine. Fall is my favorite season, so bringing the scent of apple, green leaf and cinnamon into the winter months makes me happy.
  7. My skin does not like the dry air of a Buffalo winter, so any product that makes it a little happier is a good investment. This year, I’m loving Lush’s Aqua Marina face and body cleanser. It’s a clay-based product that soothes skin with aloe, seaweed and calamine. One note of caution – the seaweed gets EVERYWHERE, so you might be washing your shower curtain more often than usual.
  8. Also from Lush is the alcohol-free Breath of Fresh Air toner, which includes sea water, aloe vera gel and rose absolute. It’s a great follow up to an exfoliating face wash and I feel like it gets that extra layer of grime off while also refreshing my wind-whipped face.
  9. Cody got me a subscription to Magnolia Journal for Christmas, which is further fueling my love for the work of Joanna Gaines. Politics aside, I think she is an incredibly talented designer who creates beautiful homes, businesses and publications. Plus, it’s already spring in Texas, and the latest issue is packed full of warm-weather plants, clothes, design and more.

 

My Favorite Things: Super Bowl 2017

  1. Born The Hard Way

This year’s Budweiser Super Bowl ad is a beautiful story of immigration and hard work. I’m slightly upset that this is not a true story, which I learned during the AAF Uber Bowl VII. Regardless of this, the imagery is a stunning collection of video that speaks volumes in the current political climate. And, I would have missed the Clydesdales, except for the fact that Budweiser WENT LIVE on Facebook with the famous horses. I do still miss the puppies though…

  1. #WeAccept

While many are unimpressed with this anti-discrimination messaging, stating that Airbnb is not practicing what they preach, I love the ad. The use of still black and white photography paints a beautiful picture that was visually very stunning and caught my eye immediately.

  1. Chicken Wing Dip

Is it a part without chicken wing dip? I think not. Something about this combination on chicken, blue cheese, ranch and hot sauce is so much greater than the sum of its parts.

  1. Blondie Ice Cream Sandwiches

I don’t know what goes into these, but they are incredible. Apparently they use tahini instead of peanut butter and it was very complimentary to the ice cream. 12/10 I need this recipe.

  1. Daughter

This year’s Audi Super Bowl commercial tugs at the heartstrings. As a woman who just joined the workforce I’m so sensitive to the fact that I probably won’t make as much the guy I sat next to at graduation last spring. Audi captured all the hope I feel for the future, while promising steps to get there. I respect the way Audi shared this story, and it was beautiful imagery too.

  1. Jentleman

This combination of Christopher Walken and Justin Timberlake monologuing Bye Bye Bye was by far the most hysterical commercial of the night. This commercial had everything: star power (with multi-generational appeal), 90s revival, humor and a health benefit. You can’t check more boxes than that!

  1. Ellicottville Blueberry Wheat Ale

This stuff is delicious! I could add it to any occasion and it would be perfect. A little blueberry, but not too much. And it goes great with chicken wing dip (see number 3).

  1. Julio Jones

And because you can’t write a blog post about football without one sentence about football, how about Julio Jones? Those catches were incredible!

Inspired by Coffee ☕

This image from Steamworks, which I first posted on Instagram, was picked to be part of last week’s Step Out Buffalo Project #HashtagStepOutBuffalo roundup. I love these roundups and I am so honored to be a part of this amazing collection of local photos!

This isn’t the first time I’m mentioning Steamworks, the new cafe in Lockport. I highly recommend a trip there for an afternoon of coffee and board games! Unfortunately, I can only recommend the pour over brews, because they’re so good I haven’t tried anything else.

Last week, I discovered #MoodBoardMonday, which I cannot believe I didn’t know existed before now. I love, love love mood boards, but I haven’t had a chance to work on any branding projects lately. The discovery of this hashtag made me miss the inspiration I always sense when putting together the perfect feel for a new project.

Who says you need a real project to get inspired? Not me! I’m using the cozy, steampunk feel of the coffee shop to guide this collection of images, colors and textures.

I love the comforting, homey textures of the wood grain and coffee stains paired with the edgier, technicolor rust that is at the same time natural and otherworldly. The burlap coffee bags and soothing watercolors add rustic touches. The smooth white coffee cups and carafes, along with the sleek keyboards and cameras of the shop’s patrons finish off the space into a symbiotic collection of textures and colors that leaves me inspired.

Let’s Do This

You know those hours, days, weeks where you’re feeling inspired by everything you see and hear and read? I’m having one of those weeks and I’m not going to let it go to waste!

Most importantly, I finally made this a real blog! While I was job hunting, I used this website as a platform to put my work in one place, while also including a blog (which I actually started for a class in college). Now that I’m employed, I’ve found that I really love sharing my thoughts and photos here, even if no one reads them. So, welcome to the new Succulents & Sunnies, a place I’ve dedicated for documenting my travels, thoughts and inspiration. Stay tuned for a logo!

I also recently signed up for Canva for work, because we’re (hopefully) starting to get serious about content marketing and the power of social sharing. An article from their blog by Jessica Safko about social media images landed in my inbox and got me seriously excited about some really incredible visuals for both my personal social channels as well as other projects I’m working on. Also, how did I not know #moodboardmondays existed? I’m in love!

The featured image on this post is thanks to Canva, which, if you’re looking for cool designs but aren’t an InDesign guru, could definitely be for you.

A few other wonderful things that are keeping me fired up this week:

  • I went to the gym EVERY DAY this week. It’s amazing how much just a half hour of moving around can improve your mood.
  • A bible study pearl of wisdom: Sometimes, we overlook or discount sources of wisdom, simply because of our personal biases. (Thanks Anna, not only for this nugget, but also always reading my posts!)
  • Yesterday, I took time to focus on me, drinking delicious coffee at Steamworks, one of my new favorite places, before a massage.

What has you inspired lately? I’m always looking for new creators, writers, photographers, marketers, activists and big thinkers for insight, encouragement and motivation!