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I am an interactive designer/art director by trade and an adventure seeker, pop culture junkie, travel fanatic, avid reader and to-do list addict by nature. You can email me

Clearing Off the Nightstand

I’ve been very slowly getting back into the habit of posting again, but it’s definitely been a number of months since I’ve shared what I’ve been reading. Life got a little crazy over the holidays (doesn’t everyone’s?), but here are some books I’ve read over the past couple of months.

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1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: After a bout of serious books in my book club, we all voted unanimously for a “fun” read. The premise: on the morning of Nick and Amy’s 5th wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing. Nick is the main suspect — but is he really a killer? Gone Girl is a quick read and kept me pretty entertained and enthralled. (It’d be perfect for a plane ride!)

2. Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt: Set in NYC in 1987, fourteen year old June has just lost her best friend — her uncle Finn — to AIDS. The novel chronicles June’s loss and the friendship that blossoms with an unlikely stranger. It was a touching story and was interesting — and sometimes tough — to read about how AIDS was received in the 80’s.

3. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker:  In this story, the earth’s rotation has begun to slow and days are becoming longer and longer — more daylight and more night. It follows a young Californian girl as she comes to terms with not only the change in earth, but also changes in her personal life. The plot was pretty slow and uneventful, but I thought the premise was interesting — the impacts of such a global shift would be immense. Overall it was a quick, pleasant read.

4. How to Talk to A Widower by Jonathan Tropper: As mentioned before, I’m a fan of Tropper’s novels. I thought I’d read them all, but turns out HTWTAW was the last one on my list. Like Tropper’s other novels, there is the token downtrodden man trying to find redemption. This particular story is about a young widower, and how he grapples with the loss of his wife and starts to rebuild his life. Most of his novels are fairly similar and each feels a bit more cinematic than the last. I’m just waiting for the day when one of Tropper’s novels finally hits the big screen with Paul Rudd as the star.

5. The Red House by Mark Haddon: Written by the author of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time,” (which I enjoyed) I was looking forward to reading another book by Haddon. Unfortunately, this novel about a dysfunctional, estranged family who decides to vacation together in the English countryside didn’t really sit well with me. The premise sounded like it had promise, but each of the family members is so unhappy/angry in their own way throughout the entire novel that I felt the book never really wavered from being mostly depressing and frustrating to read.

6. The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: Another book club read, this was one of my favorite reads lately. Set in 1930’s Manhattan, ‘Rules’ tells the story of heroine Katey Kontent and how she traverses the NYC social scene over the course of a year. The stylish setting of retro-era NYC was very engaging and made me want to time-travel back to the 30’s, with a cocktail in hand.

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7. Primary Colors by Anonymous: This past fall, my husband and I got completely hooked on The West Wing and plowed through the 7 seasons, marathon-stye. (I know, I know, we’re almost 15 years late…) After we finished the series finale I was still hungry for more political drama, so I picked up Primary Colors. While not as witty or engaging as WW, it was an interesting look behind a presidential campaign… especially one loosely based on Clinton in 1992.

8. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz: I was a big fan of Diaz’s “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and was excited to read his latest novel. A collection of short stories mostly centered around the character of Yunior, this book explores a myriad of sad love stories — romantic and otherwise. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d hoped. I thought the stories were pretty raw and heartbreaking, but a bit too repetitive and I had a hard time connecting with the characters.

9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This book has been on my shelf for ages and I’m just now digging into it. The book is about a mysterious circus that only appears at night and dives behind the scenes to reveal the competitions between some of the top performers. I’ve heard rave reviews about this whimsical novel, so I’m looking forward to reading it.

10. The Known World by Edward P. Jones: Another book club choice, this novel tells the story of an educated black slave-owner in the south. While I thought it was an interesting angle, I had an extremely hard time getting into this book. The story kept switching from points in time (present, past, future) and it was difficult keeping track of what was happening. Interesting historical novel, but didn’t really capture my attention.

11. Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton: My first real foray into foodie non-fiction, “Blood, Bones and Butter” is a memoir from acclaimed chef Gabrielle Hamilton, the owner of popular NYC joint Prune. The memoir follows Gabrielle from childhood to the present and showcases her unconventional journey through numerous kitchens during her life. It was an interesting read and definitely made me appreciate some of the smaller restaurants I’ve frequented after finishing.

12. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout: A recipient of a Pulitzer, this book is a collection of 13 short stories, each with the presence of the novel’s namesake, Olive Kitteridge. Given the accolades, I wanted to enjoy this book but just had a hard time really enjoying it. Some of the stories were pretty touching and emotional, but since the book introduced so many characters in the 13 stories, I had a hard time really connecting with them, let alone really caring for Olive, herself.

Phew! That was a lot of catching up. I still have a bunch of books on deck to read, once I find the time. What have you been reading lately?

Love, Nik

Chasing Fascination

Whenever my dear friends Eric and Libby go on vacation they come back with fantastic video footage that Eric edits into a great little clip. They recently went on a vacation to Grand Cayman with their daughter, Sylvia, and this trip was no exception.

Eric is extremely talented and I’m positive Sylvia is going to have one of the most beautifully-documented childhoods, ever. They are going to have so many great videos for their family to treasure for years and years.

It’s fun to experience and explore the Caribbean paradise along with Sylvia in this video.

I wish Eric could come with us and document OUR vacations, too!

Love, Nik

Dancing In The Kitchen

To continue with my theme of slowing down this year, I thought I’d pause and reflect on some of my favorite everyday moments.

When life gets crazy and we just need a few moments to recharge, my husband and I ask each other if we can “dock” for a few minutes. This translates into a either long bear hug or, ultimately, a little slow-dance session in our apartment.

It’s incredible how just a few, sweet moments can really recharge you and transform a day.

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I think this cinemagraph by photographers Jamie Beck and Kevin Burg capture this moment perfectly. This tea towel by The Joy of Ex Foundation is adorable and would be a great proclamation of one of my favorite kitchen activities.

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Whether it’s a silly dance party or a slow-dancing snugglefest, busting a move with my guy always helps to improve my mood. What do you do when you need to recharge?

Love, Nik

A Fresh Start

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I am notorious for making lists. In fact, from where I am sitting in my apartment I can see 3 different To-Do lists that I have running, and there are countless more across different digital mediums. I’m a sucker for bucket lists and I have a penchant for piling on more New Years resolutions than I can chew.

This year, when the clock struck midnight on January 1st, I vowed to take a different approach. I summed up my major goals for 2013 into 4 words: Simplify and Slow Down.

I think this quote (above) by Jim Elliot is a good mantra. Too often I find myself feeling weighted down and distracted by all of the To-Do’s swimming around in my head and have a hard time just relaxing and enjoying the then-and-now. Or, conversely, I don’t know where to start (or try to do too many things at once) and end up feeling completely overwhelmed.

So, this year I am going to focus on Simplifying. Going to trim down those To-Do’s to the things that really matter. Learn how to say “no” to things I don’t want (or have) to do and focus on the ones I am really passionate about. (I’m hoping this will help me prioritize things — like this blog — that I’ve been neglecting because I don’t have time.)

I am also going to Slow Down. I tend to live my life at a constant pace of Mach One. I have never been good at relaxing and as a result, try to pile on too many things at once… which leaves me feeling stressed and exhausted. Slowing down and focusing on the important things will let me accomplish things more successfully versus rushing to finish numerous things at once, which usually leaves me unhappy with the results. Plus, slowing down will allow me to stop for long enough to really enjoy what I’m doing, who I am with and/or where I am.

Sure, I have plenty of other goals for 2013 (go on more hikes, improve my design skills, be more cognizant of my health, etc.) but I’m thinking that if I focus on the big picture, a lot of these smaller things will be able to fall into place more easily than if I tack them onto another endless To-Do list.

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What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Love, Nik

Reading List: October

I haven’t been able to read as much as I’d like to lately, but here are some books that I’ve read over the past month and/or have just started:

  • Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead: After some heavy reads, I needed something lighter. Maggie Shipstead’s first novel follows a disfunctional WASPy family during a whirlwind wedding weekend on a New England island. It’s witty chick lit meets social satire.
  • You’re Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black: If it hadn’t been on the list for book club, I probably wouldn’t have known that Michael Ian Black had written a number of books. I read Black’s novel, described as “Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations” and couldn’t put it down. Black has a very distinct sense of humor and while the “memoir” was definitely funny, it was also much more heartfelt and honest than I expected. He writes very openly about his wife and children with raw honesty and it makes him feel very relatable. My husband Nate read it too, and enjoyed it as well. (Side-note: I went to a reading at my fave local bookstore with book club and heard Michael speak. He was just as funny and honest in person, too.)
  • Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler: I’ve had this on my list for a while and finally got a chance to start it. Written by the author of Lemony Snicket with lovely illustrations by Maria Kalman, the book felt like somewhat of an art piece to me when I bought it. The story is written in the form of a letter that high school student Min writes to break up with her boyfriend, Ed. Reviews have told me that it’s a "heartbreaking but hopeful look at love"… with some lovely illustrations to go along with it.
  • My Detachment by Tracy Kidder: The latest choice for one of my book clubs, I was excited to read another book by Kidder. (I’m a big fan of his “Mountains Beyond Mountains” and would highly recommend it.) "My Detachment" is a memoir of Kidder’s time spent in Vietnam during the war. Described as an ‘unromanticized portrait of a young man coming of age in the controversial war that defined a generation’, "My Detachment" was a bit tough for me to get into. We’re discussing the book this week and I’m curious to hear how everyone else felt about it.

I already have a pile of books that I’m anxious to get into when I have more time. Have you read anything good recently?

Love, Nik

Spicing Up My Workspace

Over the weekend I was perusing my favorite local bookstore and stumbled upon this postcard by Hammerpress. I thought it’d make a nice addition to my desk at the office. Good mantra, eh?

We’re actually going to be re-arranging the layout of our desks at the office later this week and it got me thinking that perhaps my desk could use a little makeover. Here are some of the products I’ve had my eye on lately.

(1: Calendar / 2: Hello Notes / 3: Jotters Note Set / 4: Pencils / 5: Clear Desk Accessories / 6: To-Do List Stickies / 7: Phone Pouchette)

I’ve been really into clear acrylic accessories lately and think it’d be a chic way to organize my desktop. I’m thinking that perhaps a cute calendar, some fun notepads and colorful pencils might be nice additions to spice up my workspace as well. Plus, I’m a big fan of Russell + Hazel’s stuff so I definitely need to stock up on some more of my favorite to-do list stickies and perhaps this iPhone/notepad pouch for meetings outside of the office.

I have a feeling that just a few little touches could go a long way in terms of jazzing up my desk and making my workspace a more inviting place.

Love, Nik

Getting Back Into the Groove

This week I’ve been slowly overcoming jet lag and getting back into the swing of things after an almost two-week trip to Iceland. To help me get into the zone and focus on all of the work that I need to tackle, I’ve been playing music by Of Monsters and Men on repeat.

I’d heard their big hit "Little Talks" before but didn’t know anything about the band. It wasn’t until I started streaming some of the Icelandic music curated on our return flight aboard Icelandair that I realized the band was from Reykjavik. Formed in 2010, the indie-folk sound of Of Monsters and Men has been compared to Arcade Fire, Mumford and Sons and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes.

In addition to their breakout hit, I’ve been really likingMountain Song and Slow and Steady.”  If you haven’t heard music from the band before, I’d really recommend checking ‘em out!

Love, Nik

September in Snapshots

September for me went by in a blur! After two quick weeks filled with cat sitting and running last-minute errands, Nate and I packed our bags for an anniversary trip to Iceland. I definitely went a little Instagram-crazy during the 10 days we were there, but it was so hard to resist capturing snapshots of all of the fun moments and unique landscapes. There were many different things I wanted to ensure that I’ll remember!

We just got back to the states early yesterday morning and I’ve been battling jet lag and household chores ever since. I have a feeling that October is going to be much more low-key than September was, that’s for sure.

Love, Nik

My Greatest Adventure

One year ago today I walked down the aisle and married my best friend.

This year, we’re celebrating our one-year anniversary in Iceland. My life with Nate over the years has been a never-ending series of adventures and this is one of the best ones yet.

But, above all of our travels, marrying Nate has been my greatest adventure.

Love, Nik

(Wedding photo by Emily Steffen Photography)

Packing List: Bali

Later this week my husband and I are heading to Iceland to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We’ve spent the weekend running errands and stocking up on last-minute things we need to pack for our trip.

While preparing for our trip to Iceland, we’ve been reminiscing about our honeymoon this time last year to Bali. Indonesia was incredible - beautiful, relaxing and jam-packed with culture. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Bali, I would highly recommend it!

When traveling somewhere, Nate and I like staying in different places throughout the region to get a good taste of the culture and varying landscapes. Our honeymoon on the island of Bali was no different. Throughout our trip we stayed in three different areas: along the beach in bustling Seminyak, in a breathtaking villa on the cliffs of Uluwatu and tucked away in the jungle of central Ubud, Bali’s cultural heart.

Our honeymoon was full of monkey forests, ancient temples, lush rice paddies, amazing landscapes, street markets, colorful and fragrant offerings on every surface imaginable, sunset walks along the beach and even a traditional Balinese fire dance. (And plenty of R&R, of course…)

We actually chose Iceland as an anniversary destination because we thought it would be a stark contrast to some of our recent travels. In the past, Nate and I have found ourselves choosing tropical destinations for our vacations: Maui, The Big Island, Puerto Rico, and most recently, Bali.

I can’t wait to visit Iceland but our packing list is definitely a lot longer (and bulkier!) than the one we had for Southeast Asia. Here are some of the essential items I’d recommend to pack when traveling to Bali.

(Bali Essentials: 1:  Dress / 2: Tote / 3: Hat / 4:  Knit tunic coverup / 5: Sarong / 6: Earrings / 7: Hair Donut / 8: Canteen / 9: Tank / 10: Sandals / 11:  Linen Pants / 12: Bikini)

WHAT TO WEAR: The temperature in Bali stays consistently in the 80’s and 90’s with high humidity. This means: pack very light clothing! Cotton, sun dresses, linen pants, etc.  Also, the sun is extremely intense considering the proximity to the equator so a trip to Bali is the perfect excuse to bust out that big floppy sun hat. (And the highest SPF sunscreen you can find!) The roads are pretty sketchy in Bali and the sidewalks are uneven at best, if there are any at all. Needless to say, leave the heels at home and opt for sandals.

You’re not allowed into temples wearing shorts/dresses so you need to either wear a long sarong (#5) or pants/capris. Most of our hotels had sarongs for us to bring to the temples, but if yours doesn’t and you cannot rent one at the temple, there are plenty of vendors on the streets selling them to tourists for cheap.

Since it’s so humid, I’d bring a number of swimsuits since it takes a while for them to dry. In addition, definitely bring a water bottle around with you! (It’s not recommended to drink the tap water, so I’d buy a large gallon or pack and refill smaller, portable bottles for day trips. Otherwise, you can buy bottled water anywhere.)

Also, if you’re like me and have long, thick hair that can get unruly in humidity, I’d recommend throwing it up into a quick, easy bun. I’ve become a fan of the hair donut (ie: sock bun-style) and it feels so good to get hair off my neck in the sweltering heat.

Lastly, if you plan to go to a monkey forest or one of the (many) temples that is home to the little guys, be careful what you bring! They can be incredibly mischievous sometimes. I saw monkeys steal tourists’ flip flops, things right out of their hands and even one poor man’s eye glasses. (Thankfully a kind Balinese man got the glasses back just before the monkey dropped them off the cliff… yikes!) The monkeys are incredibly cute, but just be aware of your possessions and don’t wear anything too shiny to attract them!

Enjoy your trip to Bali! It really is paradise and I wish I could have stayed forever.

Love, Nik


Friends Are My Greatest Motivators

To meet my goals, I’ve really been trying to step up my game in both the gym and the kitchen. (Though admittedly my gym attendance has been down the past two weeks while I’ve been recovering from the flu… ugh.) It had been tough to get back into a solid workout routine over the past 1.5 years given my work/life balance, but the past few months I’ve been able to get into a better groove. (Turns out having a new gym membership literally next door to the office really helps!)

Although proximity to a good gym is definitely a big factor in my workout regime, one thing that really helps to motivate me is the encouragement and influence of my good friends. Somehow, over the years I have formed my closest relationships with some really bad ass, athletic and determined girlfriends. (Which, if you know me, is kind of ironic because I don’t exactly fall in that category.) For example, all of my bridesmaids have run a marathon or organized race, but I only ever run long distances when I have to sprint to another terminal at the airport so I don’t miss my connecting flight.

It’s really easy for me to justify skipping a workout after I’ve been working too late, have a mountain of to-do’s to get through or have been sleep deprived and need to spend that hour catching up on Z’s.

But lately, whenever I feel like being lazy or am tempted to cut my workout short I just picture my girlfriends kicking ass: Amanda waking up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday to run 15 miles for training, or Jesse running her first marathon up the SF hills in the pouring rain, or Kari climbing up mountains in Africa for days on end, or Samantha jogging through Central Park without breaking a sweat or Stephanie doing pretty much… anything. (And that doesn’t even scratch the surface on all of the wonderfully motivated + bad ass people in my life. You all are so inspiring to me!) 

My good friend Stephanie has a mantra that she calls The 3 F’s: "Friends, Fitness and Fiber." Of all of my friends, I can say without a doubt that Stephanie (and her husband Mike) are my most athletic buddies and they both definitely abide by The 3 F’s with their lifestyle. They - and so many of my incredible friends - are a big inspiration for me when it comes to accomplishing my fitness goals.

I may like to work out solo (I consider attending a class by myself “solo” since I don’t usually interact with the other gym members) but I never feel alone when it comes to keeping active and staying fit. While it definitely takes willpower on my part, my friends really do influence my fitness regime, whether they know it or not.

Unsolicited advice: surround yourself with people who challenge and inspire you. Their energy is incredibly infectious and motivating. So, thanks friends, for unknowingly helping to push me towards meeting my goals! 

Love, Nik

(Wedding photo by Emily Steffen Photography)

New Tunes: The xx

I was stuck at home almost all of the long holiday weekend nursing a brutal cold and unfortunately, it’s keeping me home on the couch again today. I’m doing everything in my power to just take it easy, rest and beat this sucker so I can get back to 100% asap!

So, it’s perfect timing that one of my current fave bands The xx are streaming their new album, "Coexist" before it’s released next week. (The website is pretty cool — you can see how the album has been shared across the internet!) The xx are an English ‘indie pop’ band but have a really unique, chill sound.

Today I plan to just curl up with copious amounts of tea, some hearty soup and this album as a soundtrack for taking it easy today. Down with the sickness!

Love, Nik

Essentials for a BBQ in the Park

Hope you all had a lovely Labor Day weekend! Who grilled out? Along with being an unofficial favorite national pastime for long holiday weekends, BBQing is officially one of my favorite activities… anytime. There are few things that make me happier than grabbing some food, drinks and meeting good friends in Golden Gate Park.

While the summer months are traditionally cooler here in San Francisco, September and October historically bring us warm weather for a belated summer. Which means, many more opportunities for grilling in the park!

Since our “summer” is technically just starting, I thought I’d round up some of my essentials for a BBQ in the park:

A BBQ or picnic is not complete, in my opinion, without some lawn games, tunes and good company. It doesn’t hurt to have some portable picnic gear, either. This roll-up picnic table was a wedding gift from some good friends and is incredibly handy. I’ve had my eye on these wine yard stakes and reusable/tear-off napkins and think I might have to track some down before our next BBQ.

Looking forward to another warm weekend so I can meet my buddies at the park!

Love, Nik

(Links for BBQ gear: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9)

My August in Snapshots

If you know me well (or honestly, even just a little bit), you’d know that I’m a big photo taker. When I’m on vacation or at an event, it’s highly likely that I am holding a camera or have one within arm’s reach. While I definitely still do take photos with both my trusty point-and-shoot and/or D-SLR, my iPhone has absolutely become my go-to camera for capturing quick snapshots.

Since Instagram launched in 2010, I’ve naturally become an avid user. I find that I use Instagram as a collection of miscellaneous moments that I want to remember. Something I spotted along the street on my walk to the train stop in the morning, a fun outing, a cool product…  you name it. I tend to save the candid shots of friends and family for my actual camera(s).

Every so often I like to scroll through all of the random photos I’ve captured. (What can I say? I’m hopelessly nostalgic.) I’ve found that it’s a fun thing to do monthly, so I can relive some of the moments from the past 30-odd days. August, for me, was filled with: a trip to Milwaukee spent with family and good friends + time at the Lake, celebrations, Designer’s & Geeks events, new traditions, leisurely walks around SF, a night out at the theater and misc. observations around the city.

I’m looking forward to what September has in store!

Love, Nik

Being Right vs. Being Happy


Last night I went to go see the movie Celeste and Jesse Forever with a group of girlfriends. Along with being a great way to break up the work week, it seemed like a no-brainer to have a girl’s night out watching a romantic comedy starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg. (I’m a fan of both actors. Plus, Rashida co-wrote the movie, so I was intrigued to see her work.)

As expected, neither the company nor movie disappointed. The movie was more of a romantic dramedy than comedy and I enjoyed it. A couple since high school, main characters Celeste and Jesse are now 30 years old and have decided to get a divorce. (Or, rather, Celeste has decided…) They’ve been separated for 6 months yet spend every day together and still consider each other their best friend. The movie follows the pair as they try to move on while maintaining their friendship.

It was one of those movies that was equal parts funny, heartbreaking, raw and relatable. (I mean, life isn’t always a fairytale like most blockbuster rom-coms make you believe, eh?) Sometimes those movies are tough to watch (Have you seen “The Break-Up" or "The Last Kiss”? Oof…) but I can definitely appreciate stories that are more true-to-life. Although admittedly I don’t mind some pure escapism from time to time… hence my weakness for B-list chick flicks.

One of the quotes in “Celeste and Jesse Forever” was the age old question: “Do you want to be right or happy?”  This ended up being a strong theme in the movie — as echoed by the vocal evangelistic movie theater employee as we were leaving the theater, ha! But, I think it’s a good notion to remember.

Relationships can be complicated sometimes. It is possible to be both right and happy in a situation, but I’d be foolish to think that was always the case, especially during an argument. Oftentimes the need to win or be right is not worth the stress and unhappiness and it’s better to bite your tongue and let it go. I’m very stubborn by nature and I’ll be the first to admit that my stubbornness doesn’t always lead to happiness. But, it’s important to be flexible and not let your ego get the best of you. (I may not always heed this advice, but I’m working on it!)

Anyway, that quote just stuck with me after the credits rolled and I thought it was good food for thought!

Love, Nik

(Image from Sony Classics)