25 things you may not know about me

The Oxford Exchange in Tampa

Do you remember back in college when Facebook notes were introduced to share long-form writing? Most people only used them to participate in those viral exercises that asked you to answer questions only with song titles or list 25 random things about yourself. I’m not sure what made me think of them recently, but I dug into my Facebook archives to try to find them because I thought it would be fun to see how much I have changed over the last 10 years. But alas, they are gone forever. And then I saw a similar one pop up on my Facebook news feed! So because I’m feeling nostalgic, here are 25 things you may not know about me.

  1. Favorite Smell? Sandalwood & vanilla (also my favorite wallflower 🌸)
  2. Last time you cried? I honestly can’t remember… most likely the last time I had the stomach flu, which I believe was earlier this spring 🤢
  3. Favorite pizza? Plain cheese 🧀
  4. Favorite flower? Tulips 💐
  5. Did you go to college? SUNY Cortland for undergrad, Quinnipiac University for grad school 🤓
  6. Untie your shoes when taking them off? Nope! I’m lazy 👟
  7. Roller coasters? No, thank you 🙅🏻
  8. Favorite ice cream? It’s a tie between mint chocolate chip and cookie dough 🍨
  9. Favorite pastime? Going to concerts 🎵
  10. Shorts or jeans? Jeans 👖
  11. What are you watching? All of my favorite shows are Netflix originals: The Crown, Master of None, and Stranger Things 👻
  12. Favorite Color? Magenta 💖
  13. Tattoos? Not one 0️⃣
  14. Piercings? Just one set in my ears 👂🏻
  15. Color of hair? Dark brown 💁🏻
  16. Color of eyes? Dark brown 🕶
  17. Favorite food to eat? DESSERT! Bring me French macarons or Italian rainbow cookies and we’ll be friends for life 🍪
  18. Favorite holiday? Halloween 🎃
  19. Beer or wine? Wine 🍷
  20. Night owl or morning person? Definitely a morning person since I tweaked my work hours ⏰
  21. Favorite day of the week? Sunday ☀️
  22. Do you have a Nickname? Most commonly Cait or Moons 🌙
  23. Pictures on your wall? Me & MPR in our various homes: Long Island, Troy, and Charlotte 🏙
  24. What makes you most proud? That we built a brand new life for ourselves here in the Queen City 👑
  25. Favorite music? Pop-punk! 🎶

Your turn!


Vegetarian Recipes for Newbies

Honey sriracha tofu for meatless monday

MPR and I have been on quite the food journey this year. We started out by cutting all processed foods and carbs. Then I dabbled in paleo and used the spiralizer to turn veggies into noodles. Then we fell into a Netflix food documentary hole and discovered the benefits of a plant-based diet. We started incorporating more vegetarian and vegan meals into our weekly meal plans, and eventually cut out meat entirely. It has now been a little over three months and we’ve never felt better.

You’re probably wondering, “but why?” Once I dug in, I found that this is actually the simplest way to eat (at least to me). We buy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and tofu. We can eat any combination of them without worrying about counting calories and are still able to maintain our weight loss. I had to retrain my brain that carbs are not the enemy. In fact, whole grains are really good for you and an important part of a well-balanced diet – hello guilt-free pasta on Sundays once again! I missed you dearly!

Instead, I now do my best to avoid all added sugar and animal products. There’s quite a bit of research that ties animal proteins to just about every chronic disease, and since we cut it out, we never feel gross or bloated after any meal.

So in honor of World Vegetarian Day today, and Vegetarian Awareness Month this October, I thought I’d share some of our favorite vegetarian meals so far. Because if we can do it, anyone can do it!

  1. Slow Cooker Lentil Sloppy Joes from Simply Quinoa: These lentil sloppy joes are 100% better than traditional ones with ground beef, in my opinion! You could serve them on rolls or over brown rice – both are equally yummy.
  2. Southwestern Black Bean Pasta Salad: This is one of my favorite pasta dishes we’ve tried since lifting our ban on carbs. We make it with nutritious whole wheat pasta and the black beans provide protein to keep you feeling fuller longer.
  3. Roasted Chickpea Gyros: I could easily eat this meal every single week. The delicious seasonings on the roasted chickpeas are so much more flavorful than the chicken or lamb traditionally served in gyros. We pair it with this homemade tzatziki sauce! 💯
  4. Cowboy Caviar: This just replaced queso as my favorite dip. Seriously! It is so refreshing and the perfect side to bring to a BBQ.
  5. Spicy Sofritas Black Bean Bowls: This Chipotle copycat recipe is a game changer. It was the first tofu dish I tried and I am hooked!
  6. Sticky Sesame Cauliflower Bites: This is better than any Chinese takeout I’ve ever had. Their chicken always freaked me out 🙈
  7. Honey Sriracha Tofu: I love to pack this for lunch with brown rice and broccoli.
  8. Chickpea Salad Sandwich: Less stinky than tuna, but just as filling!

If you’re thinking about dipping your toe into the vegetarian/vegan pond, here are some of my favorite resources:

If you have any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes, please share! We’re always looking for new dishes to add to our weekly rotation.

Home Tour: Guest Room

Guest Room

Strangely, the first room we finished in our new house was the guest room. Mostly because we didn’t need to buy anything new to furnish it, but also because we slept there the first week while we waited for our new mattress to be delivered. To be honest, I just can’t sleep on an air mattress for more than one or two nights, so that room quickly became our top priority.

We got pretty lucky with our house. It’s only one year old, so we don’t need to do any renovations. We even like the paint colors the previous owner had picked out, so literally all we’ve had to do is move in furniture and hang things on the walls.

The room we decided to make the guest room has a bright blue accent wall that perfectly matches our bedding and curtains, so we have officially dubbed it “The Blue Room.” We can’t wait to have our first guests stay with us next weekend!

Guest Room 2

Complete with inspirational messages from Andrew McMahon and The Wonder Years 🎶

Guest Room 3

Guest Room 4

Now accepting reservations at #RyanBnB, so come visit!! 🏡

A moving announcement & moving announcements

We bought a house

Well, it finally happened. I left the city for a 3-bedroom in the suburbs.

And I don’t hate it.

In fact, I kind of love it. Our neighborhood has winding tree-lined sidewalks where I can walk Rufio (and I don’t need to worry about him hurting his little feet on broken beer bottles like when we lived in fratty South End). There’s a neighborhood pool and playground around the corner from us where I can hear kids splashing and laughing, trying to squeeze the most out of these last few nights of summer. I drive down pretty country roads to get here, yet we’re still close to Starbucks (priorities), our favorite South End restaurant (Pinky’s), and a picturesque outdoor mall. Rufio loves to run up and down the stairs (and bark at neighbors from the bay window). I’m still mastering pulling in and out of our 2-car garage, and we’re still getting photos hung on the walls, but this is our home.

New neighborhood

I would like to give a shoutout to my walking commute (RIP). For the last four years (two in Troy, two in South End) I had been able to walk to work, and I had become incredibly spoiled. I now drive 25-30 minutes each way (which I know isn’t terrible) and tweaked my schedule for Charlotte traffic. So these days the Ryan household wakes up at 5 am and is out cold by 9 pm. It’s an adjustment for sure, but I just pretend I’m one of those people in the new Delta commercial (hi-ho!)

If you know about my love of stationery, you can imagine that one of my favorite parts about buying a house was picking out new address labels and moving announcements. I searched for a long time (like before we even scooped up this house over the fourth of July holiday), but I had trouble finding one I loved because they all seemed a little too ostentatious versus informational. The Christmas/moving announcement cards were some of the worst offenders – “We’re celebrating Christmas in our new house” – and they don’t even wish the receiver a happy holiday! So I lucked out when I found these moving announcement postcards from Rifle Paper Co. Simple and to-the-point. And I picked up a 10-pack on sale for $5. Can’t beat that!

Moving Announcement Postcard

Rifle Paper Co. Moving Announcement

I’ve been sharing some sneak peeks of the house on Instagram stories as rooms start to come together, but I’ll start posting more here. The first room we completely finished was our guest room. We affectionately call it “the blue room,” and you’ll see why soon.

So there you have it. The Ryans are officially homeowners, and we are totally rocking this whole suburbs thing. I hung a Fall wreath on the door yesterday, and MPR just ordered an Islanders flag for the front flower bed. We got this 👫🐶🏡

I tossed 496 things in 1 month. Here’s how.

The Minimalism Game

Ever since I was a kid I felt overwhelmed by my own clutter. I held onto everything at risk of needing it again. But at 28 years old, I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things and something finally clicked. It kind of gave me permission to let go of the things I didn’t need or want, but kept out of guilt. Ever since watching the documentary on Netflix, MPR and I have been regularly cleaning out, making trips to Goodwill, and buying more consciously.

But in prep for our move, I wanted to kick it up a notch and really force myself to go through every drawer and cabinet. Enter The Minimalism Game, or #MinsGame for short. The way it works is on the first day you get rid of one thing, on the second day you get rid of two things, and so on for an entire month. You’re technically supposed to compete with a friend or significant other, but I posed it as a challenge to myself.

In the end, I got rid of 496 items this past month. Here are some things I learned about myself in the process, and the full list of items I got rid of.

  1. A lot of my clutter is just things I forgot to throw away.
    In my list you’ll see a lot of old toiletries, makeup, receipts, and packaging. I tend to use items until there’s only one or two squirts left, start a new bottle, and just leave the old one there. Why? I have no idea, but I’m making a conscious effort to stop that going forward. I also tend to hold onto receipts and packaging in case I want to return something. Good plan, but then months and years go by and I still have them, taking up space. I need to set up a system where I clear out these items at the end of every month.
  2. Another chunk of my clutter is things I’m holding onto “just in case.”
    One example is five pairs of prescription glasses (in varying prescriptions). FIVE. I wear contact lenses 95% of my days, but my mother always told me to keep extra glasses pairs around in case something happens to my current pair. But they’re not doing me any good and I’ve never touched them, so I sent them off to Goodwill where they’ll be donated to people who need them. Another example is stacks of extra envelopes from my wedding stationery and Christmas cards over the years. Guess what? A normal letter doesn’t fit in those size envelopes, so I’ve never found another use for them. In the trash they went. And the worst offender? Beauty samples and hotel room toiletries. I take them, but I don’t use them.
  3. I don’t reread books.
    I just don’t. So I got rid of all physical books, either by making trips to my local Little Free Library, bringing them to the lending library in my office, or donating them to Goodwill. I’ve also stopped buying new books and instead borrow them from the library to cut down on clutter and spending.
  4. I really need to channel Marie Kondo and clean out my purse.
    Days 11-13 were completed just by cleaning out my purse. I don’t think I need to go to Kondo’s extreme of completely emptying my purse every night, but I could aim for cleaning it out once a week. After all, why carry around stuff I don’t need?
  5. I held onto things because I didn’t know how to get rid of them properly.
    For example, old checkbooks from an account I don’t have anymore. That graphing calculator from high school math class. Bras that never fit right. The hard drive from my college computer. While it may seem overwhelming at first, I promise you all of your answers are just one Google search away. In the process, I stumbled upon this great article, 9 things you didn’t know you could donate to Goodwill.

So there you have it. After one month I am 496 items lighter, and I’ve never felt more organized. I’m getting to the point where I truly believe everything I own is something I love and use regularly. And when you think about it, if it doesn’t fit into one of those categories, why let it take up precious space – physically or mentally?

The Minimalism Game:
Day 1: necklace from 8th grade graduation
Day 2: two shauna niequist books
Day 3: one cookbook, one YA novel, one coffee table book
Day 4: two magazines, two empty toiletry bottles
Day 5: one well-loved bra, extra spatula, extra potholder, spiralizer, wine stopper
Day 6: 6 DVDs
Day 7: 2 calculators, 3 post-It pads, Hollywood boot straps, Rufio’s old name tag
Day 8: stack of old business cards, old postcard, left over envelopes from Christmas cards, stack of old receipts, junk mail, post-it notes, old notes about a doctors appt, Vera Bradley iPad case
Day 9: old mouth guard, 3 post-it pads, 5 old makeup samples
Day 10: 10 envelopes from old Christmas cards/wedding stationery
Day 11: 6 gum wrappers and 5 old light rail tickets
Day 12: 6 expired coupons, shopping list, Charlotte hounds ticket, old movie tickets, regal crown club receipt, parking pass, petco grooming receipt
Day 13: 11 receipts, appointment reminder card, twist tie
Day 14: One Lesportsac duffle bag, one lesportsac tote bag, one Victoria’s Secret tote bag, that curling wand I never quite got the hang of, a body wash that makes my skin itchy, 2 pieces of junk mail, 2 old lip glosses, 1 sample mascara, 1 old blush, 2 expired nasal sprays, 1 old prescription information sheet
Day 15: 8 skincare samples I never used, 1 shampoo and 1 heat protectant spray with only a tiny bit left, 1 hotel body lotion, 1 nail polish color I don’t like, 2 face moisturizers i don’t like, 1 almost empty perfume bottle
Day 16: Sock bun I ever use, 1 body lotion with only a squirt left, 1 face serum with only a squirt left, 1 makeup brush shampoo, 1 electric razor, 8 empty boxes/packages of stuff, 3 zip lock gallon bags I used for travel for my toiletries
Day 17: 17 old CD cases
Day 18: 18 old CD cases
Day 19: 3 old CD cases, 1 DVD, 15 old sauce/dressing packets
Day 20: 5 wet naps, 2 old cookie icing packs, 1 broken hanger, 1 hat, 1 pair of gloves, 7 text books from college/grad school, 2 license plate covers, my epic wedding planning binder
Day 21: 2 picture frames, 1 card game, 3 coasters, 2 champagne flutes, 6 mugs, 7 bras
Day 22: 5 pairs of shoes, 4 skirts, 1 bathing suit coverup, 7 shirts, 1 pair of jeans, 4 pairs of socks
Day 23: 15 pairs of underwear, 7 pairs of socks, 1 pair of tights
Day 24: 7 shirts, 3 expired antiseptic wipes, 2 tote bags, 1 wristlet, 1 pair of gloves, 4 belts, 1 pair of sweatpants, 3 sweaters, 1 Islander jersey, 1 bracelet
Day 25: 1 lap top case, 7 receipts, 1 map of Detroit, 3 lip glosses, 1 box plastic cutlery, 1 puppy blanket, 3 puppy poop bags, 1 runner, 1 set of sheets, 2 pillowcases, 3 hoodies, 1 wallet
Day 26: 2 purses, 1 wallet, 2 pairs of pants, 1 piggybank, 17 coins of foreign currency, 1 pair of shoes, 1 pair of glasses, 1 hair comb
Day 27: 19 necklaces, 6 rings, 2 watches
Day 28: 24 pairs of earrings, 4 bracelets
Day 29: 15 pendants, 14 pins
Day 30: 1 locket, 8 bracelets, 5 old CCs/IDs, 2 packs of old envelopes, 1 embosser with old address and maiden name, 1 pack of photo thank you cards, 4 pairs of glasses, 8 receipts from old prescriptions
Day 31: 3 receipts from our wedding, 2 shopping receipts, 4 old check books, 1 bag of extra buttons, 2 business cards, 1 old perfume bottle, 1 old compact mirror, 2 old lip glosses, 2 old foundations, 3 old eye shadows, 1 old eyeliner, 1 bronzer, 1 old mascara, 1 makeup brush, 1 old cuticle softener, 1 old pair of tanning goggles, 4 nail polishes

Everything in transit

Something Corporate North

I vividly remember riding in my family’s mini van to Coconuts to pick up Something Corporate’s “North” on release day. It was a typical October evening in upstate New York – dark, damp, and chilly. As soon as I got home I ran up to my room, put it in my Walkman, sank down to my pink carpeted floor, and devoured it from start to finish while following along in the lyric book.

That album was a constant companion during my early morning bus rides that fall. I remember scrawling on ripped loose leaf corners and passing notes in Spanish class that read, “give me just one inch I swear that’s all I need.” On Friday nights I talked to my friends about my big plans, places I was going, places that they hadn’t been. It was 2003, and no one understood me like Andrew McMahon.

And that’s why it was so hard to get rid of all of my CD cases and inserts while playing the Minimalism Game. Do I need them anymore? No. To be honest I hadn’t touched them in years, but it made me long for that ritual of picking up a new album and instantly sitting down to memorize every word and riff. Streaming music on Spotify just isn’t the same. But after a fun night of nostalgia (complete with a Fall Out Boy DVD), I went through each book, thanked them for the memories, and tossed them in the trash.

I saved just one lyric book that I couldn’t bear to part with: “Everything in Transit” by Jack’s Mannequin. The artwork alone evokes memories of high school heartbreak, turning 18, and my last summer at home. It was what my friends and I scream-sang in the car when we felt alone in a crowded room. It’s the lyrics I still recite every time I need caffeine in the bloodstream (AKA Starbucks). It was the soundtrack to my own personal coming of age story, and it was the perfect closure when I met my future husband on the first night of college, almost one year to its release date.

You can breathe now. We were made for each other.

Jack's Mannequin Everything in Transit

PR Girl Travels: Cuba

In prep for our trip to Cuba, MPR and I watched Papa: Hemingway in Cuba, on Netflix. It’s a movie about a young journalist who finds a father figure in legendary author Ernest Hemingway during the Cuban Revolution. What we didn’t know is that this movie was filmed entirely in Cuba, even at Ernest Hemingway’s real house, and we ended up following the footsteps of the film crew as we visited all of Hemingway’s favorite spots on our excursion that detailed his life there.

Our first stop was the old fishing village, Cojímar. Hemingway docked his fishing boat here and interviewed fishermen at La Terraza de Cojímar as research for his book, The Old Man and the Sea.

La Terraza de CojímarLa Terraza de CojímarCojímar, CubaCojímar, Cuba

The next stop on our tour was his house, which was donated as a museum and kept true to the time period. The walls were covered with hunting kills and the house had multiple grand writing desks. The most haunting discovery was the scribbles on the walls in his bathroom where he obsessively kept track of his weight. But the backdrop of his estate was absolutely gorgeous.

Ernest Hemingway's House, CubaErnest Hemingway's House, CubaErnest Hemingway's House, CubaErnest Hemingway's House, Cuba

Lastly, we headed down to Havana to see the hotels and bars where he drank with the locals, including the Floridita.

Havana, CubaHavana, Cuba

Cuba is a special place and it was definitely an eye-opening trip. I highly recommend it for history buffs and literature buffs, and for those who want to experience the Cuban culture. We only visited for one day, but we definitely squeezed a lot out of our time there 🇨🇺