to put it simply…

…it’s been a while.

2020 has turned out to be quite the year so far. Between a pandemic, adapting to working from home and trying to plan a wedding, I felt like I needed to take a break from simply gray to focus on the only positive aspect of the current global situation: extra time with my fiancé and my family.

Contributing to and maintaining a lifestyle blog over the past several months just did not feel right to me. Whenever I wanted to post something, I would second guess it because there was so much sadness, anger, hurt and fear in the world. I couldn’t justify posting about wedding planning, travel guides or home decor because I felt like people would not want to read about things like this in a time of such uncertainty and unrest.

As the months have gone by, I have realized just how much I have missed writing for simply gray. It was always a creative outlet for me, and I realize now that despite the fact that this year continues to be full of unknowns, simply gray has the potential to be an outlet for others as well. I am excited to be back and sharing content again, and I hope that you all continue on this journey with me!

simply local: board & brush

Yesterday, I took my first class at Board & Brush, and I have to say — I’m hooked.

I have never been much of a do-it-yourself-er, but I love the idea of it. I enjoy watching shows where people embark on DIY projects, and on several occasions, I have even tried to build things for my home — with a very low success rate.

So when my best friend suggested we go to a DIY wood sign workshop, I was slightly skeptical about what the outcome of this workshop would be, but regardless of my lack of skills in this department, it sounded like fun.

Prior to the class, we had to select the type of wood project that we wanted to create. Board & Brush has a variety of wood sign styles and customization options to choose from on its website. I chose an 18-inch round tray with the word “cheers” on it, accompanied by a floral design, and Deana chose a planter with the phrase “let love grow.”

On the day of the class, we walked into a studio filled with avid-DIY-ers. I walked up to our table expecting to see a round wooden board ready to be painted with my chosen stencil; but instead, I was greeted by a round piece of unfinished wood, hammers, meat tenderizers and chains.

I quickly learned that this was much more than a pick-your-project-and-paint-it type of class. We sanded our wood, and then weathered it with the tools on the table (I highly recommend using this part of the class as a stress reliever!). We then stained the wood, added as wash, applied the stencil and painted it to reveal the final product. I even got to convert my tray into a lazy Susan for my kitchen!

At the end of the class, I walked away with a finished product that I am proud to display and excited to use. The class was simple to follow, and the instructors give you all of the tools you need to create a wood project that is truly a reflection of your own personal style. I know that I will definitely be going back again soon, and who knows — maybe with a few more classes I will become the DIY-er I have always aspired to be!

Board & Brush has locations in more than 30 states, so if you are not a New Jersey native, not to worry! For more information about Board & Brush classes available near you, click here!

a simply wonderful new year

Isn’t it splendid to think of all of the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive — it’s such an interesting world.

— Lucy Maud Montgomery

When I was younger, my grandma always told me that when she would lay down at night to go to sleep, she would close her eyes and imagine a blank notebook. As she lay there, she would imagine filling the pages with words, doodles, pictures — wherever her mind would take her — and then she would slowly drift to sleep. Every time December 31st rolls around, I think of the new year in the same way.

To me, a new year is a blank notebook waiting to have its pages filled with memories, experiences and lessons learned. A new year is a clean slate with infinite possibilities of how it will be approached, shaped and carried out. It is entirely unknown what a new year will bring; however, each individual’s personal experience has the ability to be enhanced by making resolutions and goals.

Every New Year’s Eve, I look back on the year and reflect on all of the things that happened. All of my experiences, whether good or bad, shaped my year and brought me to where I am today. As I reflect on the previous year and look forward to the next, I think about everything I hope to accomplish. Whether it be to read one book a week, live a healthier lifestyle or travel more, I work to set realistic goals and expectations for myself.

No matter how much determination you have to accomplish your resolutions in the new year, sometimes it feels as if it is all much easier said than done. While sticking to your resolutions can always be difficult, there are some ways you can keep yourself accountable and work on achieving all of your goals. Here are my tips for staying on track and maintaining your goals in 2019:

Do it for yourself

The number one way to be successful with your resolutions is doing it because you want to. The minute you try to make changes in your own life because of others or for others, it becomes more of a chore than something you want to do, and it makes it much harder to implement those changes. Evaluate the goals that are important to you and focus on those. At the end of the day, you only have to answer to yourself!

Be specific about what you hope to accomplish

New goals are always inspiring, but they can also become overwhelming when they are too broad. Take a different approach to setting resolutions by being more specific about what you hope to accomplish. Not only does that make your goals feel more attainable and manageable, but it also leaves room for improvement or modifications to your goals.

Plan ahead

Talking about your goals for the new year is great, but writing them down will help hold you accountable. Try keeping track in a notebook, on your phone or on your computer, and update your progress toward your goals throughout the year. It will help you stay focused on what you want to accomplish, and it will also be fun to look over at the end of the year to remind yourself how much you can do when you set your mind to something.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.

— Theodore Roosevelt

Establishing goals can be tricky. Sometimes we set unattainable standards for ourselves, and it can be heartbreaking when we do not reach those goals. Do not be so hard on yourself if your year does not go the same way you planned it in January. There are an infinite number of factors you are not able to account for yet that will also influence how your year turns out. If you fall off track with your goals or they suddenly become unattainable, take a few steps back, re-evaluate what you have been doing, and modify how you approach these goals. Remember, at the end of the day, you are doing this for yourself, so continue to work toward your new goals at your own pace!

Whether you have a list of what you hope to accomplish this year or have yet to think about it, I do hope that 2019 brings you all happiness, health, love and success! Happy New Year!


how to maintain long-distance friendships

Growing up, one thing I always took for granted was just how close my friends and I all lived to each other. Almost all of my friends lived anywhere between a 5 to 20 minute drive from my home. As we have gotten older, those quick drives have turned into hour-long commutes, whether it be by car, bus, train or plane. Living far from friends can be difficult; however, the friendships are not impossible to maintain. Here are a few tips for keeping your long-distance friendships stronger than ever:

IMG_6104Find the halfway point between you and your friends
A long commute is not that bad all of the time, but now and then it can become tedious. Find the halfway point between all of you, and start researching the towns in that vicinity. Not only will it cut down the time it takes you to be reunited with your besties, but it also gives you an opportunity to explore new places together!  

Plan a trip
Visiting a place you have never been to before is a great way to be reunited with your friends and satisfy your travel bug. Whether it is a new city or a new state, vacation time with your friends gives you something to look forward to and plan out together.

Send a care package
If you have friends who moved far from home, they may be feeling homesick, especially at this time of year. If your besties cannot make it home for the holidays, send a care package with their holiday and hometown favorites to cheer them up!

Schedule time to see each other
With everyone having lives of their own, plus the distance between you all, the days of calling up your friends 15 minutes before you want to do something are long gone. Whether you meet for dinner and drinks or an afternoon of binge-watching Netflix in sweats, planning a day to get together in advance guarantees you and your friends will get to spend time with each other.

By far, this is the easiest way to get your best-friend-fix when you cannot see each other in person! While a spontaneous FaceTime call is always welcome from friends, setting aside planned time each month helps make sure you stay in touch and up-to-date on each other’s lives. FaceTime also now has a group chat option, but if you don’t have an iPhone, try using Snapchat’s video chatting feature!

I hope these suggestions help keep you and your friends closer than ever, despite the distance between you all! Do you have other ways you maintain long-distance friendships? Feel free to share them with me in the comments below!

motivation monday: how to stand out at work and advance your career

I truly believe in the phrase, “if you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.” While it can be difficult to discover what it is that you love to do, I am a firm believer in working hard and never settling. That mentality helped me land a job and advance my career with my dream company in under four years. If you find yourself needing some motivation at work, here are my five tips for ways you can stand out and advance your own career:

Be passionate about what you do: I have had a few jobs since I graduated college, and while I liked and did my best work at all of them, I have to admit that I did not have the same level of passion for those jobs as I do for my current job. My dedication to my work combined with my determination to do well fuels my passion, which helps me be a better leader and employee because I am truly invested in the outcome of my work and the work of my team. I love the industry I am in, and that makes going to work each day enjoyable — no matter how crazy the day can get! When you love what you do, people will notice; figuring out your passions and developing them into your career will always inspire you to work hard and do well.

Step out of your comfort zone: Pursuing opportunities that stray from your job requirements is a great way to stand out at work. It is so easy to slip into the routine of showing up for work each day, performing the same job, leaving and repeating this cycle for the rest of the week, so change it up! Search for new challenges that you otherwise would not encounter in your day-to-day duties, whether it be working with another department, taking on a new assignment or traveling for business. Stepping up and out of your comfort zone will help you network with other employees within your company and may open up doors to opportunities you did not realize existed.

Learn to say yes: Be willing to go the extra mile and put in more work than your daily job duties require. Show initiative at work by always helping others, being reliable, taking on new challenges or working on special projects. Sometimes saying yes all the time does not come with an immediate benefit; however, it will always pay off in the long run. Being the person that your boss, your team and other departments can rely on will help you go far in the workplace.

Find a mentor: We all need people to look up to in life, and the same goes for in the office. Find people who inspire you in your field and talk to them. Find out how they got into the industry you are in, what their career trajectory was and what their successes and their failures were. Ask for advice on how you can follow a similar path to them, and then act on it. Finding people whose work ethic you admire, who are well-respected by others and who do their jobs extraordinarily well is important when searching for mentors. Remember, do not look at those around you as your competition; instead, look to them for inspiration and motivation to become an even better employee.

Become an expert in something: While all aspects of your job should always get your full attention, dedicating a little extra time to learning more about a facet of your industry will be extremely beneficial. Communicate with individuals who are knowledgeable about your industry, study and learn as much as possible so that you can become a subject matter expert on something related to your job. Taking the time to learn more than what your job requires will help you stand out to your peers and leaders, and it will help prepare you for whatever your next step within your industry may be!

If you work hard, learn as much as you can and develop new skill sets, you will definitely stand out as a professional in your field. A strong work ethic combined with passion will take you far in any industry, and when you have the opportunity to do what you love every day, it is extremely rewarding.

I hope these tips help you find some motivation at work this Monday!