Next, please.

Ok so I absolutely adore Google Reader. Mostly because I can never remember to check all the blogs I love so Google Reader keeps track of them for me. (Bt-dub, this is in no way a sponsored post. I am just that enamored.) Drawback though? I never clicked over to the original post so I missed out on all those lovely blog designs.

Ok enter "Next button" stage right. Best thing since Google Reader.

I found out about this glorious Next button via this tutorial over on Priceless Adventure. And it has changed my blogging life forever. Katie does an excellent job explaining how to install it.

So go, get yourself on Google Reader and then install the Next button. You'll never do anything productive again. I promise.
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Cilantro-lime goodness.

Happy Memorial Day, all! I just got back from spending a lovely weekend with a friend at her parents' incredible home on a lake. So now Adrian and I are headed out to enjoy the weather. 

Since Memorial Day is the official kick-off to summer, I wanted to leave you all with this refreshing summertime meal Adrian cooked up recently: Al pastor tostadas with cilantro, lime and queso fresco. So perfect for summer.
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The normal me.

Every time I visit other blogs, I always see these lovely little portraits of the author. And being the good follower that I am, I wanted lovely little portraits, too! The last time I had had a decent picture taken of me was when I got married. And while I love those pictures, I don't feel like they're capture the day-to-day Emily. I don't normally pull my hair back real tight with a big pouf on top. So I contemplated getting some new pictures that would help those of you who don't know me to picture me as Normal me, not as Wedding Me.

Since starting this blog, I've found I have quite a strong creative vision. I can look at an ugly piece of furniture and imagine what it could be with just a bit of paint and elbow-grease (my husband's, of course).  And I can see a terrible living room (such as my own), and know how I want it to look. The difficulty comes in communicating my vision and making it a reality. Generally, I am the photographer of my little family. With no tripod, I knew I'd have to find a way to get Adrian to catch my vision.

And I have to say, he did a wonderful job.
See? Oh and I have the smallest, squintiest eyes ever. Always. No matter what.

It was a little scary. Being in my city-sized backyard with a bunch of guys building a sidewalk next door and my landlord coming through and all. But we pushed through the awkwardness because I didn't know when we'd have a childless backyard on a sunny day in the near future.

Someday, when my confidence grows, I might start posting some outfit pictures. Seeing as my husband now knows how to take pictures and I've gotten over the awkwardness of backyard photos. Someday. Soon.
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Landlord love.

Adrian and I had a little heart-to-heart with our landlord yesterday. We laughed. We cried. We hugged. And then he agreed to put some new flooring in. And all that is true. Minus the laughing, crying and hugging.

So yes. New floors in the kitchen and the living room. And best? I get to choose it.

This should all be happening in the next month or so. In the meantime, I've created a little board on Pinterest to inspire our living room re-do.

So jump on over there and check it out. And then look at the other pins because they are my loves.

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The bar in the living room.

Adrian received an incredible birthday present this year: Adrian's parents will be coming to visit! We've been waiting for this for quite some time now so Adrian was and is beyond excited.

Adrian's mom and dad should be here within the next month or two. This means we have a lot of work to do in our little apartment to prepare for such highly anticipated visitors. And on my end, it means letting go a bit.

When Adrian and I got married and then moved in together, I had an over abundance of ideas on how I wanted our apartment to look. I felt strongly about making our little corner of Chicago feel like home. So we set to work, implementing my ideas. I think, generally, this is the trend in home decor. The wife presents an idea and then brings that idea to life herself or with the help of her husband. But Adrian actually has many of his own ideas and opinions on how our home ought to be. And for the most part, I've corralled those ideas on to a few shelves in the kitchen.

But now with Adrian's parents upcoming visit, we are making changes. I would hate for his parents to come into a home where he is only represented in the kitchen. So we're shifting things around and making this place feel a little less feminine and a little like both of us.

In short, Adrian's got his bar in the living room. And it has lights. That change colors. Curious?

And he absolutely loves his bar. And consequently, me.

He told me the other day that our living room is like his dream living room. I told him that as long as it feels more Mid Century Modern Modern and less Man Cave, it stays. As soon as it starts to slide to man cave, everything goes. But at this point, we're both happy.

As I've mentioned before, I had been going to counseling to address some anxiety issues. One point that my counselor made which has really stuck with me is the idea that the combination of Adrian and Emily is so very unique and that when we work together, the end results are always so very uniquely us. And I think this living room transformation is a stellar example.

We have a couple more projects in the works for the living room so I am going to sadly hold off on showing you the whole living room until it's all complete. But rest assured, it will be done in the next month or so. So please do check back in and I will share when it's ready!

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The Black and White Party.

Every time I throw a party, I vow to never throw another party. And then, inevitably, I get the itch to throw a party again. And I do. Then I vow to never do it again.

So after a long winter with no parties, I got the itch. Luckily, Adrian's birthday was approaching, providing the perfect opportunity to throw a fabulous party. Beginning with the invitations.

The party had a Black and White theme. I asked guests to come in fancy, black and/or white attire. On the left side of the above picture is the back of the envelope. I ran them through the printer and printed the phonograph and "Gee, that's swell!", which also became part of the theme of the party. I also incorporated elements of the invitation in other parts of the party, including signs.

I printed this onto glassine bags and my good friend Jenny (of Circus cake fame) baked Black and White cookies to go in the bags. And they were fantastic. Obviously.

We had originally planned/really hoped to have the party outside. We have a canopy and I was so excited at the possibility of decorating a blank slate. Unfortunately, weather never cooperates. 80+ degrees in March? Of course. 39 degrees at the end of April? Yep, thanks. Following a brief breakdown, we brainstormed ways to make our itty bitty apartment feel not so itty bitty. So into the guest room went the bar. With sheets as walls, covering the couch and other random furniture moved out of the living room in the name of more space.

Not as awesome as a bar in a canopy, but a little awesome nonetheless. This little bar we purchased on Craigslist and was an awful faux blonde wood laminate. We sanded it down and sprayed painted it white and now it is phenomenal. Spray paint win! Also, this bar has now made it's way into the living room. Permanently. We'll address that next time.

Each time we throw a party, we also vow to go easy on the food. It never happens. So this time, we (which of course means Adrian) made Tortitas (mini sandwiches), Flautitas (mini rolled tacos) and Rangoooooons. Such good food.

I covered the top of the dresser we have in the living room with black and white wrapping paper annnnnd sugary goodies.

Lastly, we covered the walls in the living room with white sheets to give the space the same look we would have had with a canopy. In the center, we hung paper lanterns in black and white. To finish off the look, we draped black table covers from the center out to the walls, covering the ceiling.

So there you have it. The black and white party. In awful pictures. I am so disappointed to not have taken better quality pictures to share. The reality is that we didn't finish setting up until just before the party started and by then there was zero natural light. Thus, terrible pictures. Normally, I just wouldn't share the pictures but I really wanted to give you all an idea of how it all looked.

P.S. Be sure to check back in soon to see how this party has made its way into our everyday home decor!

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A New Look.

Last month, Adrian and I went a bit wild. We painted white and teal stripes (which don't quite show up teal in this picture) on the bathroom wall. We've since attempted to tone it down a bit with some peach. Also, those little uneven wooden crates are the ones Adrian made for the Rio Party last year. We like to reuse things.

In short, I love it.

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The perfectionist and the slacker.

At work, we often discuss how to help the families we work with to build resilience. They face a wide range of struggles as they navigate life in a new country, complete with new systems and governments and cultural norms.

I think the more I work to build resilience in others, the more I am painfully aware of my own lack of resilience.

I am easily sidetracked. Easily deterred. Easily defeated.

A few years ago, I graduated from an excellent university. I moved out to Chicago, volunteered a year, and then was hired full-time. Though I had taken all the exams and done all the required work, I never officially obtained my teaching certificate. Mostly because it involved a bit of paperwork. My father had even paid for it. But it required trying to remember passwords to old accounts and tracking down my transcript and sending in a cover letter. To any normal adult, this should not seem daunting. To me, it seemed insurmountable. Particularly because I was not planning to use my certificate and thus had little interest in jumping through the hoops.

I graduated six years ago this month. And just today I finally mailed in my transcript in the last and final step of obtaining my teaching certificate. I can see my father's smile from half-a-country away.

Truth is, I give up at the first sign of difficulty. Sometimes it's the perfectionist in me. The part of me that says something worth doing is worth doing well. And if I think for just a moment that I might not do it well, I just give up. Sometimes nothing is better than something if that something is going to be painfully awful.

But most often, and in this case, it's the slacker in me. (Which, fyi, Webster defines as "an especially educated young person who is antimaterialistic, purposeless, apathetic, and usually works in a dead-end job." Harsh, Webster, harsh.) The slacker that would prefer a Scrubs marathon over spending time navigating the Mass DOE website or Chicago's no-help-ever system of starting a small business. Or researching for a grant. Or keeping the house clean.

While I love my job and my life outside of my job, many days, life is a struggle. To keep myself motivated. To make my checklists. To think through my goals. To push myself forward. And my victories come when I am able to stay on task or get myself one step closer to where I want to be.

So often when I write, I start with a question or a problem and as I write the answer I thought I was searching for suddenly becomes clear. Like it was there the whole time, waiting to be freed, my words unlocking each little chain.

Not this time.

Instead I'm left with questions. Will it always be this way? A struggle to keep myself motivated? A fight to move forward? And if I continue, winning some and inevitably losing more, is it enough to simply say that I made progress, no matter how small?

Someone must have the answers.

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