Category Archives: Lifestyle Design

All of these posts are about things I have done to intentionally design my life, and that other people could apply to their own lives.

Screen Time

I haven’t had a tv in my home for 6 years. I used to say it sheepishly or pretend like I knew what people were talking about when they referenced things on tv. Then I would say it proudly that I didn’t have a tv – I didn’t have a box with a screen that played mindless entertainment and advertisements to distract me for hours. In the last year or two, I realized I was wrong – my home does have that box, but it is in the form of 2 iPhones, an iPad, and 3 laptop computers.

Have you ever thought about how many hours you spend looking at a screen – either a tv, computer, or phone? Some days, at the end of the night, I confess, I am certain that it’s more than or close to 12 hours.  Work has been crazy, so I’ll spend 10 hours at my desk. If I take the bus/train, I look at my phone while waiting and riding. Then when I get home, my “reward” or wind down time is spacing out on my phone – checking Facebook or Instagram or the weather or email or the news. If I have any energy left in me, I do things from my to do list, which frequently involve using my computer. My phone sleeps next to my bed – the last thing I do before sleeping is look at it, then when I wake up in the morning, I pull it into bed and go back to checking through all those same websites in case I missed anything while sleeping and to prepare for the day.

There have been numerous interesting articles about our  society’s addiction to Facebook and other social media. I can’t say it as well as they can, but I can feel it – the impulse to just “check in”. Standing on the train platform, I can’t help but pull out my phone to browse through Facebook. Waiting to meet someone, I stare at my phone to keep myself busy.  It’s a need to see what other people are doing, a need to feel busy, and seeking approval (how many likes or comments can you get?).

I can’t remember enough to find the article, but I also read an article about how Facebook can make us feel sad and/or inadequate – everyone else’s life looks so awesome because we only post the good stuff. She has a great job. They are on a great adventure. His marriage is perfect. Life is all roses.  Or if we post the lousy stuff, it’s seen as a cry for attention. Maybe we need to get off-line all together?

Does anyone else feel this push? What do you do about it? I think just being more conscious of it helps. My phone is going to sleep in the living room and not go in the bedroom. I have deleted the Facebook app and will erase my saved password from Safari. I will not use looking at my phone as a reward or wind-down when I get home – I will read a book or stretch or go for a walk. I’d like to try to make Sunday’s as much as a screen-free day as possible. One thing I might do is turn my phone off more often so that I don’t just absent-mindedly pick it up and start flipping through it. If it’s off, I have to consciously turn it on and wait for it.

I don’t know the answer to this 21st problem, but I feel it. And we all see it. Just look around.

P.S. Don’t think that I don’t see the irony of the amount of time I spent looking at a screen to write this, as well as seeing what feedback comes in…


Posted by on April 20, 2015 in Lifestyle Design


The Power of Traveling Alone

Last weekend I traveled alone to Seattle for a conference. While I have flown to DC, Florida, and Wisconsin alone, there was always a friend waiting on the other end to visit and stay with. This time, I was mostly alone. And it was so empowering and confidence-building. Don’t get me wrong – I love traveling with David (home is wherever I am with him) – but this brought a different level of self awareness and push out of the comfort zone.


Upon arrival in Seattle, I got off the plane and navigated myself by train to my AirBnB – staying with Julian and his wife (who I dubbed as my Japanese parents). I headed to downtown to grab a shiny new green Pronto bikeshare bike.  And of course, the first street I went on was the biggest hill in the whole damn city – I could barely walk up it with the bike, nevermind ride. I rode around, went to a park and a bakery, then met up with a friend (ok, so I wasn’t completely alone) for happy hour.


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I had my revelation of empowerment on that first night. I was on my way back to my AirBnB, riding a bike down that giant ass hill, alone, at night, in a city I didn’t really know. The air rushed past my face as I sped down the hill and let out a “yeehaw!”. I didn’t feel anxious – I felt exhilarated. I had flown across the country and made my way around a new city. It felt good.

During the rest of the trip, I navigated bike share around the city, went out to lunch alone, and sat at a bar alone. I have always read things about how empowering it is (especially for a woman) to travel alone and be comfortable and confident in yourself to sit alone – and I was always like ‘yeah yeah ok, but I’d rather be with David instead’, not really comprehending the point. As I sat alone at a bar drinking a margarita snacking on tacos while drawing and watching gymnastics on the bar tv (I know, can you believe it?), I felt pretty proud of myself. Because, while I wished David was with me, I could do it on my own and be okay with it.

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Was I acutely aware of myself as a woman alone? Yes. Was I unsafe or reckless? Did I feel unsafe? The answer is mostly no to both of those. It was calculated risk. We were in Seattle for a day on our honeymoon, so it wasn’t completely unfamiliar. I had a detailed bike map of the city. And stayed on the roads with bike paths/lanes. I’m pretty city savvy and street smart. I had a formal conference and network of people. I knew people in the city, including some folks from Boston attending the conference.

I get the feeling my little trip is just the tip of the iceberg for what they they mean when they talk about women traveling solo, but I’ll take it. Has anyone had any similar experiences? I highly recommend for anyone to try traveling on your own. It doesn’t need to be a trip across the country. It might just be taking a trip on the train to a nearby city and spending the day there alone. You will learn and grow and become more comfortable with yourself.


Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Lifestyle Design, Travel


Looking back, looking forward: Goals

At the end of every year, I review the goals I set for myself for that year; and in that process, I also set new goals for the upcoming year. These are not to be confused with “New Years Resolutions”, which everyone forgets about by February (I’ve written about this here).  These are SMART goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and tangible.

I began setting yearly goals back in 2008, with that year being written on the back of an envelope and stuck on my bulletin board. It’s evolved now to a longer thinking process, spreadsheet, and regular check-ins. David (and Chris Guillebeau) got me thinking about and in the habit of setting goals. Why set goals? I have this fear that in life we often say “oh yeah, we should ______ sometime” but that ‘sometime’ just never happens because life is busy and we wake up 20 years from now and that opportunity passes us by. So each year, I intentionally think about, what is it I want to happen this year? What do I want to make sure I do this year? Then every month or two, I review the goals and make sure I am working toward them.

My goals are broken down into:
– Health & Fitness
– Creativity
– Finance
– Friends & Family
– Learning
– Outdoors & Travel
– Other
– Work

2014 Goals Review

I’m not going to list out and review all 37 goals (which is way too many); I fully met about 15 of them, vaguely met about 8 of them, and totally missed 14 of them. Some good ones that I met were bike to Attleboro, hike 2 new mountain, spend time with my parents, and max out my Roth IRA.  I fell just short of reading 15 books for the year, and totally missed playing guitar 5 days in a row 2-3x. But, it was a busy (that whole wedding thing) and good year.

2015 Goals

This year also ended up with 37 items listed out! Again, too many, but some are small, simple things, and some will take a lot more work. This year I will finish the blanket I have been knitting for the last 9 years; I will write at least 10 blog entries (get ready!), get my wedding pictures printed, and visit a National Park. There’s more, but I will spare you the long list.

What about you? What are your goals for the year? Even though it’s late January, it’s not too late. I challenge you to think about what you’ve been meaning to do, write it down, hold yourself accountable, and make it happen!


Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Lifestyle Design


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What if Money was No Object?

Some food for thought. What would YOU do if money was no object?

While everyone in our society doesn’t have the opportunity to just do what they’d like without regard to money, it’s still something to ponder and reflect on…If you were to die tomorrow, what regrets would you have?

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Posted by on January 30, 2013 in Lifestyle Design


Farewell Boston

This is a post by Jenny.

After a very busy, overwhelming 3 months back in Boston, we head out of the country again today. This time, we head to our ancestral roots – to Portugal, Italy, and Spain (neither of us have Spanish roots, but I speak Spanish, so that has to count for something!). We fly back into the U.S on September 6.

A lot of people have said “have a nice vacation” or “wow, that’s a long vacation!”. I might be arguing about semantics here, but I really don’t think of this trip, nor our trip to Asia, as a vacation. Granted, we are traveling and not working, which might be the definition of vacation, but it’s also about a mindset. If we were to spend these two months like a vacation (overindulging, splurging, being lazy), we’d come home fat and broke – which I guess might happen anyways! We more think of our trip as moving temporarily, or a leave of absence from our regular lives. When we discussed what our goals were for this trip, or why we were going, the top two that came from both of us was to meet local people and experience the local way of life, and eat a lot of good food. The second goal will be easy but the first will involve a lot more effort, since neither of us are particularly extroverted. We’re hoping to meet a lot of people through hostelling and CouchSurfing – either by staying with them, or just connecting through message boards and going out together. We’re not sure how, but we want to make this trip less about where we go and what we see, but about that we experience.

This trip will be a lot different than our Asia trip in that it’s not quite as exotic, and significantly more expensive. This trip also starts off with a week with my parents, my sister and her husband visiting extended family that we’ve never met. This should be exciting, but also adds another layer of anxiety and pressure (will they like me? will I have time to do what I want? will people judge me for wearing the same clothes all the time?). I’m hopeful to make some lifelong connections with extended relatives that allow many more follow up visits!

Thank you for your support, and look forward to more frequent, interesting updates. If you have any requests for posts you’d like to see, let us know. We enjoy hearing form readers. Lastly, if you have any connections to the areas we are in, please let us know – we love to meet up with people we “know”.


Reflection/Review of my 2011 Goals

Goals Met:

  1. Volunteer 3x: I lost track of how many times I volunteered, which was great! I became a semi-regular volunteer with the Livable Streets Alliance, supporting the development of a built environment friendly to all users. I also volunteered with Bikes Not Bombs, the Charles River Clean Up, Cradles to Crayons, and the Mass Service Alliance. While these were all one-off opportunities and I didn’t get to meet as many people through volunteering as I hoped, I supported some good causes and got my feet wet for the future.

  2. Make new friends (measure by: going out for drinks with 1-2 people I just met this year, signing up for something structured, climbing 1x/wk on a regular day): I met this goal because I went out with some new people and joined a temporary bowling league. By starting a few new jobs and volunteering more, I definitely met a lot of new people but still feel like I want to develop better friendships with more people in the Boston area.

  3. Ride a horse: Gloriously done (see earlier blog post), hoping to do more!

  4. Floss every other day: not sure if it was technically every other day or sometimes everyday and sometimes not for a few days, but I feel good about doing a better job of flossing this year!

  5. See Meghan (from NY) 1-2x: Victorious! I have seen Meghan enough times that I actually lost count! I think we saw each other at least 3 times, including a good time at a Zox concert, followed by a romantic date at Waterfire.

  6. Travel abroad/by plane 2x: While disappointed that I did not travel abroad in 2011, I did get in a fair amount of traveling, which included traveling by plane twice: visiting Colorado with David for Fishy’s wedding, and flying east after a road trip out west. Both great trips.

  7. Read 15 books: I cut it a bit close with this, but I ticked off exactly 15 books. Much of my reading time this year was spent looking at guidebooks/doing travel research, which for the most part, did not make it onto my “books I read this year” list. My top few though were A Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, One Week Job, and The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost.

  8. Drive car less than 9,700 miles: I started 2011 with 71,400 miles, and ended with 80,478, so I drove it about 9,078 miles. Victory again!

  9. Send 2-5 letters/cards by snail mail: I easily met this goal, sending random letters to Leslie, Meghan, Ed, Amy, and a few others. I love sending (and receiving, hint hint) snail mail

  10. Complete a triathlon/5k/athletic race of some sort: I would have liked to do a triathlon, but it just didn’t happen (not having a good enough bike being the first in a long line of excuses). However, I did run the B.A.A. 5k the day before the Boston Marathon and got to cross the marathon finish line. It felt good and I enjoyed it.

  11. Quit my job: Ho yeah did I meet this goal!! I spent the first quarter of 2011 reading and reflecting, and gave my notice to Girl Scouts in May. Quitting my job was not only liberating, it presented a lot of great opportunities, such as working to market the new bike share program in Boston, teaching bike safety classes as the lead Boston Bikes cycling instructor, and starting Infinity Crafts.

  12.  Move: Unfortunately, I think we actually overachieved this goal, and did a little too much moving in 2011! In September we moved out of the beloved Eulita Diner to avoid being locked into a 1 year least in a 3 bedroom apartment and into Englewood Estates (aka the Burke mansion). In October we moved into the “Beacon St Inn” while our friends enjoyed an extended honeymoon. And at the end of the year, we moved back to our parent’s in Attleboro. That’s 3 moves, living in 4 different places, in 4 months. Phew.

Goals Sorta Met:

  1. Weigh 145lbs: Well, I’m not exactly here yet, but I did lose about 15 pounds, and I feel pretty good about that.

  2. Learn a new language or practice the ones I know: It’s fuzzy if I was really successful at this – I did buy an Italian workbook and listen to Italian language pod casts, and I did start to learn some Thai, but I don’t think I can really say I am any better off than I was last year..

  3. Buy a new bike and ride more than 500 mi: I didn’t buy a new bike, due to analysis paralysis and wanting a bike that doesn’t really exist. I did however, definitely log over 500 miles, and most likely over 1,000 miles, as biking became integrated into my employment.

Goals I failed to Meet:

  1. Moisturize hands, feet/legs 2x wk: abysmal failure. I just don’t really like moisturizing.

  2. Learn 3 new songs on guitar: even bigger abysmal failure. I’m a guitar-playing disappointment and I didn’t learn a single new song, or even play that much.

  3. Finish knitting my dad’s blanket, or at least an additional 2 feet: Bah! I didn’t do a very good job L while the blanket does look great, I only added on 1 foot (from 3.5 ft long to 4.5 ft long).

  4. Get dog/cat: This was completely unrealistic and I knew it wouldn’t happen, but I just want one.

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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Lifestyle Design


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Setting (New) Year Goals

I don’t believe in New Year resolutions. You only think about them and try during the first half of January. I mean really, who really says, in August, “oh, I can’t eat that, my resolution was to lose weight”. Even just the name implies that you’ll really only think about it around New Years.

Instead, I (and I encourage you to) set goals for the year. Each year, I write out 10-15 goals of things I would like to do or see happen during the upcoming year. The goals are often hung on the wall, somewhere visible, and a notice on my reminder calendar tells me to do a monthly review of the goals – am I working toward the goal? Does a goal need to be readjusted? Do I need to add something to my to-do list in order to reach my goal?

As far as setting the goals in the first place, I think of what I want to accomplish and I set a SMART goal.  This means that the goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (or Tangible). Instead of setting the goal as “losing weight” (which isn’t specific, and questionably the others), the goal would be set as “weigh 145 lbs” – which is very specific, easily measured, can be attained realistically, and done in that one year time period (and it’s very tangible!).

This whole process ensures that my dreams, hopes, and plans don’t fall to the wayside as “I’d like to do that someday…”. Instead, I think of what those dreams are, and decide if I will do everything I can to make them happen this year, or if I will save them for another year! So, go ahead, set your goals for 2012! Think about your personal and professional lives, hobbies, personal wellness, dreams you’ve always had, and what you realistically want to see happen in 2012!

(my 2011 goals review to be posted soon – scrambling to meet a few of them in the last days of 2011! 2012 goals to be posted in first week of New Year)

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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Lifestyle Design


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