Good Night and Good Luck

About 16 months ago, a bunch of PW-ers started this blog. It was a way of us to be able to do what we love (write) and have a way to stay connected to each other. We spent a lot of time reading each others’ work and giving feedback, which in turn made us better writers. I think it’s safe to say that we are all thankful we had this experience.

As I was the first to publish, I figured I would be the last as well. It is with a heavy heart and mind focused on the future that I say goodbye. Thank you to all of those who read, commented, and engaged with us on our journey. We hope that you enjoyed it and maybe even learned a thing or two.

Good Night and Good Luck

Good Night and Good Luck

Alexandra WhiteAlexandra is a WordPress & front-end developer who builds awesome things. She loves craft beer, apple cider cookies, and traveling to new places (especially when the trip is free). You should follow her on twitter and maybe you can become internet friends. Or maybe even IRL friends.
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Holiday Blues

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Our last trip to Asheville.

What do you do when you aren’t going home for the holidays?

I’m sure a lot of you have dealt with this before. Flights are far too expensive around Christmas time. I only have two days of vacation left because I took a trip to Paris back in April. Jacob and I can’t get our days off to line up. And so we are staying in Greenville for Christmas.

It’s weird. I’ve spent some holidays away from family, like New Years or Christmas one year, but I always saw them at one point or another, and this year, I won’t. I am part-relieved and part-disappointed. The relief comes from the stress of booking a ticket and trying to see everyone I know and love in only a few days. The disappointment is, of course, because I love my family and will miss them over the holidays.

It’s just going to be Jacob (a man who doesn’t much care for traditions) and I. I have some time off, but (obviously) not enough for a real out-of-town vacation. And so I ask you—if you weren’t with family for the holidays, what would you do?

I have a few plans. One is a day trip to Asheville, a neat city only an hour away (a trip that will include used bookstores, chocolate, and beer). Another is making some cool Asian dish on Christmas (because why the fuck not). I might even try my hand at a fancy, four-course meal, which will undoubtedly include duck and cocktails. There will be present exchanging, most likely (although that also stresses me out. Gift buying when it is expected and you don’t know who it’s expected from—I mean, why is that a thing?! Can’t I just get people stuff for birthdays, which are usually pretty spread out throughout the year?).

How do you deal with holiday blues? Other than eating all the food and drinking all the eggnog, because let me tell you, that will definitely also be a Thing.

Vanessa is a digital media coordinator by day and a writer, novelist, and badass cook by night. In her spare time she haunts used bookstores, gets serious about tea, and loves a good stout (Russian Imperial, please). Follow her on twitter and instagram if you wanna be buddies, and maybe check out her writing blog.

The Wow Moments

You know that feeling where everything has changed, but you’re not really sure anything has changed at all? Where 365+ days have passed and although you can point to specific days on the calendar and be like “See! A difference!” you look around your surroundings and you shrug and think same old-same old? Where you can feel yourself getting older (mysterious aches and pains, eating one cookie makes me gain 10 lbs), but are still so stuck in how young you are?

There are concrete things that have changed.

Can we all just take a moment to admire my mad wallpapering skills?

Can we all just take a moment to admire my mad wallpapering skills?

I moved once. From small town America to the capital of Michigan. I upgraded to a place that has a washer and a dryer, a pantry and a walk-in closet. It’s walking distance from really cool things, and a stone’s throw away from the holy place known as Spartan Stadium (Looking at you, Rose Bowl champs!).

I changed jobs twice. From working in academia to working in food safety to working in academia. I left one place because I thought the grass was greener, because of opportunity and more money. That was a mistake. And it was dumb and it caused me a lot of annoyance and grief that I could’ve avoided had I just been patient. But, it also got me to Lansing—and it got me to my next job: working back in academia, where everything feels a lot like home.

Man-in-my-life graduated from college. This was exciting and it made me teary-eyed because I’m sappy like that.

Then there’s everything that hasn’t changed.

The Graduate and The Girl

The Graduate and The Girl

In November 2013, I was Queen of the Ants in My Pants, ready for something cool to happen. I like when I can feel forward momentum in my life. Last year, I was revving my engines, thinking about getting a new job and wanting to move and waiting for man-in-my-life to (finally) graduate and all of this wow stuff to happen. It all felt so far away. Facebook showed me how exciting everyone else’s lives were—why couldn’t my life be the same?

And then all those things happened, and I’m sitting on the other side of it a year later wanting to rev my engines again. C’mon, world! Let’s go on an adventure and do something wow again! Let’s get a pet and let’s have man-in-my-life secure a post-grad job and let’s buy a car and let’s… I have a whole list of things I’m waiting to happen. I’m a perpetual think-ahead-er, never quite satisfied with the now. I’m so certain life could be better only if this or that happened.

Sometimes, I wish I could learn how to stop and smell the roses. I’m anxious and ready for new things, but I could also use a little time to sit still. A lot of life happens when you’re not looking, and maybe that’s my problem. I’m so focused on details and specific events that I’m not paying attention to all of the changes and those every-day wow moments. I’m getting stronger every day at the gym. I’m adding more writing projects to my resume. I’m getting really good at curling my hair. I need to cheer those kind of mundane things on too, because those are mini wow moments in their own way, too.

This time of year is often a time of thanks and remembrance. I’m a lot of the same person I was 365-ish days ago. I’m one year older and inching up on a half birthday and two and a half years with man-in-my-life and two years in the “real world.” It’s been quite a ride this past year. Lots of ups. Many downs. And I’m sure as November comes around in 2015, I’ll be sitting back and smiling on all of the wow moments I think are coming, and all of the wow moments—both big and small—that’ll astonish me.

Lauren is a social media professional, writer, and editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.

What’s On My Nightstand? (A Random Smattering Of Book Reviews)

I’ve written some posts here in the past that touched on different books that I’ve read and the impacts they’ve had on me. I thought it might be fun to examine what’s currently on my nightstand—some of them finished, some of them started, some of them just staring me in resentment at night when I choose a different volume over them (book guilt is a real thing and I defy anyone with a bookshelf to say otherwise).

Finished

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. I knew literally nothing about this book before I picked it up at a local bookstore—I thought the cover was intriguing and the mysterious bookstore setting sounded promising, and it delivered intrigue and mystery in spades. But it’s more than just a mystery—it’s also funny and smart, and part of the plot involves data visualization and learning different coding languages, and much more. Verdict: go out and read it, folks!

Currently Reading

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. Oh my goodness, Roxane Gay is fantastic. I’m not even halfway through this collection of essays, but I’m already adding her novel, An Untamed State, to my reading list. Her topics range from feminism to Scrabble to the Sweet Valley High book series, and that’s just the first couple of essays. I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I know, everyone has read this already, but I have not! And I figured it would be a good choice given the holiday season. I’m not far into it yet, but I have a feeling it’s going to be creepy, and it’s been a while since I’ve read something spooky (Bonus: it’s been adapted into a YouTube series a la the Lizzie Bennet Diaries!).

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. What can I say, I love me some Samuel Clemens. Again, only partially through this one but I’m already finding myself chuckling at his descriptions of the fellow passengers and European scenery.

I Give Up

Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I tried. Believe me, I really, really tried. And I’ve read (and enjoyed!) other Russian literature in the past, but this one is just not working for me. I can’t keep up with the names/nicknames/alternate spellings of names, and I don’t know enough about communism to keep up with the speeches. I do not admit defeat with books often, but I cannot do this.

Yet To Be Read

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Great Expectations: Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens by Robert Gottlieb

So, that’s my nightstand. What’s on yours?

Matilida Reading

 

Noelle is an email copywriter (yes, that is a thing) and occasional freelance writer. When she’s not typing or running, she can be found eating, sleeping, quoting a movie, or curled up in an easy chair with her nose stuck in a book. Sometimes she tweets too.

Why I Love Passion Projects

I’ve done a lot of freelance work in the past few years, but nothing has been more fun and more enjoyable than the work I did for free. I’ve built wedding websites for friends and a site for my roommate’s feature documentary, Sanskriti.

There are a number of reasons I think I enjoy this. Partly, I am giving it as a gift. I love giving gifts more than anything, finding that perfect item for a person I care about, and watching their eyes light up when they receive it. Sometimes, that’s homemade cookies. Once, it was a personal travel journal where I hand wrote best places to visit in the United Kingdom and printed subway maps. But one of the best gifts I can give someone is the time and effort to give a website that is better than any generic template they could find, or a free service provider with ads.

That makes me sound pretty selfless. I must admit, I don’t do it just for them. These projects, where I’m not being paid, are giving me a place to experiment and learn new things. I had never worked with parallax scrolling before Sanskriti, and it was a time I could try and fail. The site is currently in it’s third iteration, and will be redesigned again by the end of the year. When that’s up, it will probably be miles ahead of the current iteration.

Bre and Laz Get Married Homepage

I’m currently working on an engagement present, in the form of a website.

For the past several months, I’ve been designing a wedding website for my friends, Laz and Breanna. This has been an incredibly fun project, and not only because I’ve known them since the beginning of their relationship in our sophomore year of college. I wanted to give them something for their engagement that would also bridge the gap of our distance (they’re currently in North Carolina). Though we kept in touch post-graduation, this was something that would give us more of a reason to keep talking.

It’s pretty common nowadays for couples to have websites for their weddings. I spoke with Breanna and Laz about what was important to them, what sort of information should be featured. We went through the necessities (event logistics, wedding party bios, and guest information for hotels and directions to the ceremony). Because their relationship began on Facebook, I took note and decided to design a timeline reminiscent of Facebook’s earlier iteration of the timeline.

brelaz-timeline

My first project was actually for my friends Joanne and Tom back in 2011. I was just beginning to learn how to build websites, and I’ve come a long, long way since that project. At the time, it was the coolest thing I had ever built (and I even presented to my class, WRA 415 Digital Rhetoric, about the project and the process). Ever since that project, I had been seeking opportunities for myself to become a better web designer and web developer. That being said, I wasn’t interested in projects that weren’t fun. I didn’t want to slog through pro-bono cases where I couldn’t take the opportunity to learn something new.

In my heart of hearts, I’ve always been a nerd. I loved being in the front of class, asking questions, and challenging myself. I love learning more and becoming the best I can be at what I do. Passion projects are an opportunity for me to explore and learn, with less risk of being bored and giving up. If I were to just create something for myself for the sake of learning, I may not follow through. When I commit to an actual project and deadline, I force myself to keep going.

Breanna and Laz’s wedding website will launch in under a month. There’s still some content missing, and features to be added as the wedding gets closer. Hopefully, all of their guests will love it as much as we do. And hopefully, I’ll be given the chance to give future friends who get married this gift.

Alexandra WhiteAlexandra is a WordPress & front-end developer who builds awesome things. She loves craft beer, apple cider cookies, and traveling to new places (especially when the trip is free). You should follow her on twitter and maybe you can become internet friends. Or maybe even IRL friends.

Best Fall Recipes

IT’S FALL, GUYZ. YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. Pumpkin. Squash. Cinnamon. Spices. Hot tea and coffee. Soups. Stews. Deliciousness.

Fall cuisine is my favorite. Probably because I love the heartiness of stews, the comfort of a hot dish, and all of the different things I can do with soup. The leaves are turning and it’s getting cold outside and slaving over a hot stove is not nearly so terrible as it is in the summer.

So, without further adieu, here are a few of my favorite fall recipes!

untitled-8-3-620x775Caramelized onion and stout mac ‘n cheese
Seriously, how can you go wrong with this? The rich undertones of the stout (a bourbon barrel aged stout is my personal favorite with this dish) combine with the sweetness of the caramelized onions and creamy provolone cheese. Bake with bread crumbs on top to add the perfect crunch. Get the recipe.
12599306425_ed4bac5b06Dijon and cognac beef stew
A little more work, this baby is worth every last minute. It seems like a lot of mustard, but it really just adds the perfect flavor and tang, while you can’t help but bite all the round little mustard seeds. The beef falls apart in your mouth. Serve it over egg noodles—you won’t regret a single bite. Get the recipe.
french-onion-andmushroom-soup-recipe-mountain-mama-cooksFrench onion and mushroom soup
We all know that French onion soup is kickass. Now, add some mushrooms and barley. Now you have a kickass soup that’s a touch more filling. Tip: if you make slow-cooker beef at any point, SAVE ALL THE LIQUID. It can turn this soup from good into something your coworkers will moan over when you heat it up in the break room. Get the recipe.
158Butternut squash and leek soup
Easy, delicious, and comforting. The recipe says to swirl with sour cream, but I like some Greek yogurt on top. Don’t forget the cracked pepper! Get the recipe.
Chicken-Pumpkin-Soup-aboveChicken and pumpkin soup
You knew the pumpkin was coming. This one is hearty, easy, fairly cheap, and it has the addition of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, adding the perfect amount of kick. Don’t miss out on this soup. Get the recipe.
roasted-pumpkin-shallot-sage-soup-1Roasted pumpkin and sage soup
All right, all right, another pumpkin one. This is another favorite (it actually calls for A REAL PUMPKIN). Roast that pumpkin and then include  the delicious, fall-y flavor of fresh sage, one of my all-time favorite herbs. To be extra freaking cool, serve your pumpkin soup IN AN ACTUAL PUMPKIN (I won’t judge if you serve it in a plain ole bowl). Get the recipe.

What are your favorite fall recipes? I’m always looking for new, delicious things to cook.

Vanessa is a digital media coordinator by day and a writer, novelist, and badass cook by night. In her spare time she haunts used bookstores, gets serious about tea, and loves a good stout (Russian Imperial, please). Follow her on twitter and instagram if you wanna be buddies, and maybe check out her writing blog.

Step by Step, Word by Word

I have sought counsel from eight separate people regarding a fairly difficult situation in my life. Despite their words of “I’m sorry,” there are is always the saddening “I wish I could help,” which is exactly the opposite of what I wish I could hear.

When my parents were both diagnosed with cancer several years ago, I felt a similar sort of melancholy and loneliness. Despite friends and teachers and neighbors rallying around my brothers and I, all they could really say was “I wish I could help.” It wasn’t that their hugs and prayers weren’t welcome, it was that I was so desperate for a solution, for something better, and the people I relied on couldn’t provide me that.

I turned to writing, delving into fictional worlds in my head where I could control what happened. I didn’t have to wait around for doctors or on blipping heart monitors to tell me what was going on, I could simply write and choose what happened. Most of what I wrote didn’t deal with cancer. Most of what I wrote had nothing to do with my personal life at all, but it felt good to finally have a say in what came next. It didn’t fix anything with my parents’ health (which eventually got better, by the way, and they have both been cancer-free for several years), but it did help in a way that hugs never could. It let me shut off the depression that was my world for a few moments and transfer into a new one. It helped me get through to the other side of the time I affectionately call the Dark Years.

For my job now, I write all day long. I write tweets and news releases and snippets for an upcoming magazine. I spend my day typing away on a computer, stringing words together to tell a story (sometimes even if that means it’s only 140 characters).

So when I get home and open up my laptop, my fingers hesitate more than they did several years ago. My eyes and my hands are tired, and my brain could use a break from being creative. I want to shut off—and I do. Cue the binge-watching world of Netflix. It’s great for my work life, I come in renewed in the morning and ready to work. But as far as the conflict that’s occurring in my life that I’m continually wrestling with in my head, I’ve never really stepped away. In TV land, I can’t control what happens. I watch as tensions flare, and am seemingly more restless when I come out the other side.

I desperately need the reprieve of sinking my teeth—or fingers, rather—into a world commandeered by me. I want to be the maestro so that I can actually fix a problem instead of just living in one. And, as they have been known to do lately, my words are failing me.

When writing/life fails you, I think the best thing you can do is to take it as it comes. I can’t control everything, but I can control how much effort I put into solving things. I can sit down daily and try to write, even if I only ever muster a sentence or two. I can brainstorm of a peaceful solution to turmoil in my life, and actively pursue those options. I can try to remind myself that I won’t be on the struggle bus forever. Sometimes even that’s hard to remember, but then I just think of the words of John Lennon, who once said:

Everything will be okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. 

And so trying to march on and attempting to write I shall, one word at a time.

Lauren is a social media professional, writer, and editor. She spends too much time talking about Game of Thrones and the Oxford comma. To be insta-best friends, follow her on twitter.