100th Post!

Welcome to Ampersand’s 100th post! Crazy right? When I started this blog, I worried that I’d have nothing to write about (lol), so my 100th post is a pretty big deal to me. To celebrate, I’m reliving my top 10 favorite posts of all time. Enjoy!

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23 Things I Learned When I Was 22

Twenty two was a big year for me; A lot of things happened to say the least. I ended a serious long term relationship and started a new one. I graduated college. I landed a job. I rented an apartment, ended my barista career and sorta became a yogi. I travelled, learned, cried and grew. Ampersand became a legitimate thing while I was 22, as did my love of writing. 22 was a year of change. Despite that–or maybe because of it–22 was one of the best years of my life.

Last year on my birthday, I wrote a post of all the things I wanted to accomplish by the time I turned 23. Having completed most of the things on that list, I only thought it would be fitting to share some life lessons I’ve learned these past 365 days. Cheers to turning 23.

1. Yoga is a wonderful thing. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t done it enough. I first turned to yoga because I wanted to try something new. I turned back to it when I lost my way, and once again when I needed to feel grounded. Words cannot begin to describe the things I learned about myself on my yoga mat.{Shout out to Prana House Yoga for my beautiful birthday practice on Saturday!}

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2. Hang onto good friends. My life wouldn’t be as half as fun, happy or full without my best friends. I’m lucky enough to still be friends with my girls from childhood and to have gone to Villanova with some of the best people I will ever meet. All my favorite memories from this year have been because of the amazing people around me.

3. Brunch is always a good idea. What’s better than good friends, good coffee and french toast? There’s always time for brunch.

+1000 basic points.

4. Sometimes, you have to be spontaneous. Yes, you have to be responsible. But spontaneity makes you feel young. It makes you feel adventurous. It makes memories that you’ll tell you kids someday and then they’ll think you’re cool. Just do it because why not?

5. And other times, you just have to be patient. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not patient. But sometimes there’s nothing you can do but… wait. I learned this the hard way with looking for a job, but I ended up in a position that fits me so well, and I can’t imagine being anywhere else right now. Good things are always worth the wait.

6. Love comes in different forms. And they’re all beautiful. Love changes and grows, that’s why it’s amazing.

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7. Thank your familyThis past year, I won an award based on my leadership and academic achievements at college. My parents attended the ceremony and dinner and it was that night that I realized I couldn’t have achieved anything without them. If they hadn’t supported me, challenged me or encouraged me, I literally wouldn’t be the person I am today. Karen & Joe, I really do owe you everything.

Cheers to Joe & Karen.

8. Dreams change & that’s okay. For the longest time, I dreamt of becoming a magazine editor. I chased my editorial dreams with a fierce determination all year, only to realize that it might not be what I want to do. At first, I was disappointed and upset with myself that I gave up searching for an editorial position for a job in PR, but then I realized that it’s okay to change my mind. It’s part of being human.

9. Don’t get too comfortable. 1. Because things change, quickly and 2. The best things happen at the edge of your comfort zones. If you’re not a little scared or uncomfortable, then you’re not growing. Keep pushing yourself.

10. Joy & sorrow go hand-in-hand. “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain” –Kahil Gibran.

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11. There’s usually a silver lining. Some situations just suck. Sometimes you can’t figure out “the reason.” But sooner or later, you’ll realize the silver lining, no matter how small. Plus, a little positivity never hurt anyone.

12. Hang out with your siblings. Because they’re the best friends you’ll ever have. I’m not only lucky to have Krista, I’m even luckier that I can call her a friend.

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13. Save your money, but not all of it. The end of my 22nd year and beginning of my 23rd has been spent thinking A LOT about money. Adulting is expensive! While it’s good to save for your future, we can’t go around not doing things because we’re so terrified of spending money. Great conversations with friends are worth spending money on dinner. Get a manicure when you have a crappy day at work because it will make you feel better. Money is good for saving, but you make it so you can spend it, too.

14. Be goofy. Ryan is a goof-ball. Sorry for outing you babe, but it’s true. And honestly, it’s probably one of my favorite things about him. He brings out a silly, goofy, giggly side of me that I love. We laugh a lot which makes life more fun. He’s taught me to not take myself too seriously.

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15. Read good booksBecause bad books suck and kill you soul and ain’t nobody got time for them.

16. Networking does help…But so does just being a good friend. I’ve learned valuable professional skills from networking, but I ultimately landed my job because I kept in touch with a friend. Networking is necessary, but ultimately if you’re just a good person and are nice to people, you’ll be fine.

new friends!

17. Find a mentor. Or two. I’m lucky to have multiple intelligent, strong and kind women that I look up to. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have their help and guidance, professionally and personally. Role models can really make a difference (especially when you have no idea what you’re doing with your life).

18.  Throw away your checklists. This is surprising coming from the girl who makes a daily to-do list on a legal pad every day at work. What I mean is, don’t make a check list for everything. It’s probably healthy to have nothing to do some days or not pressuring yourself to get everything done, every single day. Do random stuff you didn’t write down with a box next to it.

19. Be kind. Because there’s no reason not to be.

20. Know your worth. In relationships, at work, in life. You don’t deserve to be disrespected, lead on or treated poorly, ever. It’s not worth it because you’re worth more than that.

21. Trust what got you here. This is one of my favorite things that I heard this year. We may not know where exactly what we’re doing or where we’re going, but you have a whole life of experience behind you and you’ve made it this far, right? Trust the same will help you in the future.

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22. Soak it all in. Aka be present. It’s probably one of the most challenging things to accomplish, but I’m determined to make a habit out of it.

23. All you have is time. Hearing this as a freshman at Villanova’s Orientation, my mind was blown. I don’t think I fully understood it until I became a senior when I felt like I was constantly running out of time. No time for relaxing, vacations, long conversations, family dinners, errands, coffee dates or catching up. But in reality, all we have is time. And we have the control of how we spend it.

Here’s to 22 being great & 23 being an adventure.

{Thank you to all the people who made 22 amazing!}

The Best Reads for Book Lovers (ft. Ryan)

I am a self proclaimed book snob. I live for thought-provoking, life-changing, insanely-addicting books hot off the bestseller list. Conversely, I die a little inside when I waste my time with mediocre plot lines and 2-dimensional characters (Read about my Sweet Spot theory here).

On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked for book recommendations. It might be because I am a book snob, but more likely it’s due to the fact that I’m an avid reader and devour books at a fairly impressive rate (my friends were amazed I finished 3 whole books over spring break alone). I’m also one of those weird people who re-read books constantly, and I’m more likely to cry at a book than during a movie (whatever, judge me for it). Regardless, I read a lot of books.

I’ve decided to compile a list of my all time favorite reads, some on the bestseller lists & some not, so you’ll always have something good to read. I’ve also recruited the help of my boyfriend, Ryan, because 1. he’s a huge book nerd like me and 2. it’ll help me round out my “girly” books with some more masculine reads for all you men (or women!) out there.

Let’s get cracking.

Kasia’s Picks

If you like Jodi Picoult but got tired of her old stuff… Her new stuff is awesome. Although I will always love Nineteen Minutes, My Sister’s Keeper and The Pact, they all have similar themes. However, I read her two most recent books, and they’re enthralling. The Storyteller is great if you like WW2, multiple plot lines and complex characters, while Leaving Time has such a subtle plot twist that you’ll almost miss it but won’t because your mind will be blown. Still craving some old Jodi classics? Salem Falls is a modern version of The Crucible but 100% more engaging.

If you liked Gone Girl You’ll like Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn even better. It’s cringe-worthy and disturbing and you’ll never guess who did it. Just don’t read it at night. (Ryan: I totally agree with this one.  I don’t know if I’ve ever cringed more while reading a book.  Some characters in particular are just downright creepy.  Highly recommend it.  My mom loved it as well if you needed anymore encouragement.)

If you’re interested in narrative non-fiction… I suggest you give it a try. Specifically, I think you should give Columbine by David Cullen a try. Cullen spent years researching the Columbine shooting to create a seamless narrative of the event. While I was reading it, I almost forgot it was non-fiction. I highly recommend this one.

If you want a girly, easy read that will remind you of high school… The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen is one of my all time faves. I think I’ve read it up to 5 times. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s a feel-good read.

If you’re a psych nerd and love the movie Black Swan You’ll love reading a psychological thriller, too. Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson is a mystery, psych thriller that will keep you guessing the whole way through. Forget The Girl On A Train (which is so overrated), Before I Go To Sleep is much, MUCH better.

If you’re craving some 9th grade English class staples… No? I’m the only one? Well in the off chance you’re looking for a classic novel similar to something you read in high school, I suggest Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (it’s going to be a movie soon!) or The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Far From The Madding Crowd is like a more entertaining version of Jane Eyre while The Joy Luck Club is perfect if you like multiple storylines with timeless, familial themes. (Side note, I would also recommend The Scarlet Letter but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in the world who likes it.)

If you want to see how much you’ve changed since you were 13… Re-read either The Great Gatsby or The Giver. Both were way too deep for my poor pubescent brain to comprehend but reading them post college finally made me realize why they’re classics.

If you hated all my suggestions thus far… Here are some honorable mentions: Gemini by Carol Cassella | Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah | Dark Places by Gillian Flynn | The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold | Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante | Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup

Now for the “guy” books.

Ryan’s Picks

What’s up ya’ll.  In case you’ve zoned out and are currently day dreaming about all of the unforgettable characters and jaw dropping plot twists you have in your future, I’m Kasia’s better half, and, as advertised above, am also a huge book nerd.  In case you doubt me, I read the entire Twilight series.  Of my own accord.  Yes, that means I willingly did this.  Yes, I get judged for that often.  Yes, I’m totally okay with that.  Haters gon’ hate.

Anyway, assuming you haven’t lost all respect for me and are still reading this, here are some of my personal favorite reads.

The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair: A Novel by Joel Dicker–Don’t let the annoyingly rhyming title deter you.  This is Dicker’s first novel, and boy is it an impressive one.  Essentially a whodunnit on steroids, this “book within a book” (yup, you heard me.  Bookception.) has so many twists and turns and surprise information thrown at you during the last 200 pages or so, it’ll leave your head spinning.

Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch–Pretty much every character in this book is a despicable person, and that’s what makes the story so interesting.  Morality is called into question all throughout the novel, and Koch does an excellent job of keeping the story going with an addictive mix of foreshadowing, wry humor, cynicism, and shock value.  I squirmed, I laughed, I pondered.  Definitely recommend it.

Defending Jacob by William Landay–Such a good book.  Assistant district attorney Andy Barber is horrified when a teenage boy is found murdered in their small Massachusetts town, and even more horrified when his teenage son Jacob is accused and arrested for the murder.  Being his father, Andy will do anything to protect him.  Absolutely heart breaking ending to this book that I still vividly remember over a year later.  Read it.

The Son by Jo Nesbo–Excellent, dark crime novel about a heroin addict who takes the fall for crimes he doesn’t commit just so he can score some more of the drug as payment for admitting his guilt and wasting his life away in a jail cell.  When he finds out that his father, whom he thought killed himself, was actually murdered, he escapes and sets out for revenge against everyone who played a part in the murder.  A lot of people die in this book, I’m just warning you, but they die in really spectacularly clever ways.  Containing its fair share of plot twists, Nesbo does a great job of crafting a gripping read.  I found myself rooting for “the son,” regardless of the moral dilemmas raised by his actions.

The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) by Stieg Larsson–I was told before making this list not to put any “basic” books on it that everyone has heard of, but to hell with that.  This is probably my favorite series of all time.  If you can get past the first few hundred pages of the first book, which are pretty slow, you’ll love this series.  It’s haunting, violent, sexy, and slightly far fetched at certain points (if you’ve read it, you know exactly what I mean), but impossible to put down.  I absolutely loved these three books, and highly, highly, highly recommend giving them a chance.  The movie is also worth watching, just make sure you’re by yourself.

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri–I wasn’t lying when I said I was a huge book nerd.  I only had to read the The Inferno for one of my classes my freshman year at Nova, but I liked it so much that I read Purgatorio and Paradiso too.  I found the different people Dante comes across in Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven to be really interesting, as I recognized many of them.  Not a very difficult read, but allows your imagination to run wild.  Plus, it makes Hell sound really, really terrible, in case you needed any more reason to avoid getting sent there.

There you have it.  My picks for great reads.  I’m not done yet, however.  I figured I would also mention some books that are on my to read list in the near future, just as a few extra suggestions for those of you especially book hungry.

Ok, I’m done with books now, I promise.  I hope there’s at least one book in all of those recommendations/future reads that I’m excited about that tickles your fancy.  If not, I’m sorry and hope to do better next time.  Until then, if somehow you’re still in need of some recommendations, I have an awesome little bookstore in my hometown (shout out to Madison, CT) called RJ Julia that has a staff recommendation section on their website, several books of which I’ve read as a result of checking it out.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page to staff suggestions, and click on “see more suggestions” to see the entire list yourself, which is updated periodically as the staff reads more amazing books.  Happy reading ya’ll, and hopefully I’ll be back soon for round two.

Liking having more time to read & favoriting dating a fellow book nerd.&.