Book Review Part One: The Confidence Effect by Grace Killelea

A little over a year ago my former company’s employee resource group brought Grace Killelea to the office to speak with a group of employees during a lunch and learn. She was coming to talk to us about her book, “The Confidence Effect” – Every Woman’s Guide to the Attitude That Attracts Success. I have to say that she was very motivating and I thought her message was important and spot on, however I don’t think the message was appropriate for me at the time. I was going through a rough spot at work – I had a couple of curve balls thrown my way at the time that were really stretching me as a professional and was helping me frame where I thought I needed to go next in my career. In all honesty, when I grabbed her book on my way out of the session with her, I tried to read it on the way home on the train that night and just couldn’t open my mind enough to absorb it. So, I shelved it and thought I would get back to it eventually.

Well, fast forward to about a month ago. I decided to pick it up, and wouldn’t you know…many things about my professional life had changed. I was in a different role – same company, but I was also in the process of interviewing with a new company for a position that would grow my experience exponentially. So, when I picked up the book to finally read it, while I had a lot going on (more than when I tried to pick it up the first time), my head space was somewhere very different.

I have enjoyed reading the book so much, and again found myself actively reading Killelea’s book, highlighting up a storm! So, similarly to how I reviewed All the Single Ladies, I will review the Confidence Effect by Grace Killelea – and have broken it into separate blog posts. Essentially, what The Confidence Effect aims to do is, “shatter this “good girl” conditioning, and provide the practical tools you need to showcase your qualities and skills – without being cocky or annoying. Instead, you’ll draw from your core of competence to build a professional brand that attracts attention, resources, and promotions.”

Killelea starts the book by discussing the idea of moving from competence to confidence. I think this is so important. As women we may have more competence than any other person in the room, but do you have the confidence that is just as important? According to Killelea, “In order to be truly confident, it’s critical to understand the delicate relationship between competence and confidence as they apply to your workplace brand as well as your leadership potential.” She emphasizes that both are equally important, but for too long women have relied on competence rather than confidence to show off their kills. This is important to think about because, similarly to my previous book review I did, we find ourselves at a point in time when there are more women in the workforce than ever, yet we remain woefully underrepresented in leadership positions at the top, or for that matter even NEAR the top. To reinforce this, according to the Center for American Progress, “Women…hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs…and since 2002, have outnumbered men in earning undergraduate business degrees. And yet, women have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in America at anywhere near the rate that they have based on their representation and early success in higher education and in the entry-level workforce.” This should not be news to any of you, and I have to say I have been fortunate enough to have strong, powerful women leaders that I have reported to or who have run the company or organization I was working in, but still we see this under representation year after year.

According to Killelea, what she has discovered along her own personal journey to authenticity, leadership, and career satisfaction is that competence is absolutely critical to success. You must be good at what you do. You must exceed expectations. I couldn’t agree with this more. If you can show someone you are competent and capable of doing a good job, that is the one thing that could end up mattering more to your boss than anything else. However, according to Killelea, competence is only half the equation. You need to combine it with confidence to truly crack the code.

So, what is confidence in this case? The definition is different to many people, but one of the best definitions Killelea shares is one that Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the book Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know (Harper-Business, 2014), provide a definition of confidence. “Confidence is not, as we once believed, just feeling good about yourself,” they write, “If women simply needed a few words of reassurance, they’d have commandeered the corner office a long time ago. Perhaps the clearest and most useful definition of confidence we came across was the one supplied by Richard Petty, a Psychology professor at Ohio State University, who has spent decades focused on the subject. ‘Confidence’ he told us, ‘is the stuff that turns thoughts into action.'”

So what does it mean to possess the Confidence Effect? I mean, it is the title of Killelea’s book after all. According to Killelea, it means confidence to the core – the place where we’re the most powerful, the most authentic, the most self-reliant, and the most connected to our skills and abilities. This is striking, because as she says, it is the place where you are the most powerful. I love this. Of course possessing the confidence effect is the place where you are the most powerful – when you are confident in your convictions and who you are there is no stopping you. It also means you are the most authentic (love this). Authenticity is so very important and in my experience it is the one characteristic  you can detect in someone immediately, which I also believe connects directly to whether you can trust someone.

Killelea developed the Confidence Effect over more than 30 years of experience working with women and found that we often question our own competence, feel like we are under a microscope, and perhaps even feel unable to meet the demands of leadership positions. I feel like this is equivalent to the way some of us look at ourselves in the mirror – criticizing and not confident about your hair, weight, skin etc. It’s unnecessary and can become completely debilitating in some ways. As a result, according to Killelea, we miss out on building the relationships and workplace brand that can put us where we want to go and give us the confidence we need to take risks, believe in ourselves and perform to our potential. However, confidence is not enough. You also have to have gravitas.

According to Killelea, gravitas is the presence we feel deep down inside. Without an air of gravitas – which is the sense of weight and “grit” deep in our guts – it’s hard to feel the confidence we need to lead: to lead ourselves, our teams, our divisions, and ultimately, our organizations. It lends an air of credibility – of gravity – to our actions. It adds weight, depth, and character to our personalities, and it allows us to temper our emotions with data, analysis, and proven delivered results. So, according to Killelea, if women are not showing up confidently, proudly, and ready and willing to lead, if we’re not raising our hands or stepping forward with that grit and power behind us, then typically, the organization overlooks us and promotes men. You might ask why, and hopefully this doesn’t offend any of my male readers – but it also shouldn’t come as any surprise – men tend to exhibit those traits even if they’re not as competent. Men just generally show up, stand out, raise their hands, take charge – even take command – regardless of whether they possess the skills such leadership positions demand.

How many of you have seen this? The male counterpart who enters the company as an analyst, and within a year is promoted to senior analyst, a year from that supervisor, then maybe a year or two from that to manager etc.? We’ve all seen it. But, was he actually qualified for it? In some cases no. He just made sure to always add something to the meeting, especially if there was a member of leadership in attendance, he raises his hand and asks questions – whether a good question or not, he still asked it – and  is always finding something to talk to your VP or Director about in the kitchen. This person may not even produce that much work but everyone knows him, thinks he is engaged because he always asks questions and takes the time to interact in the hallway. That guy gets promoted over the woman who keeps her head down and works ten hours a day, but isn’t known by name or face because she doesn’t ask questions or engage during meetings. I have to admit, I am at times guilty of this. I’m an observer by nature and I will never say something just to say something. I would rather have all of the information before I raise my hand or ask a question. It’s what makes me, me. BUT, occasionally you have to step out of that to be noticed.

To help with this hesitation that I know I’m not alone in possessing, is from Ines Temple, President and CEO of Lee Hecht Harrison, Peru, shares, “I learned some mantras years ago that I repeat to myself when I’m in certain situations. They are, ‘I am strong, I am able, and I am calm.'” This is spot on. Anything you can say to yourself or do that will reset or derail the negative train of thought or the hesitation of not feeling worthy enough is a must. Find a mantra, or borrow Ines’ and reset that train of thought.

According to Killelea, success is about striking the right balance between competence and confidence, and confidence alone won’t cut it. Bravado, bluster and popularity alone won’t get you where you want to go. So, remember that guy I mentioned earlier? He might begin climbing the ladder, but he won’t make it to the top. Those supremely confident men and women who, despite their gravitas, simply don’t execute. They don’t deliver, they don’t delegate, and most importantly they don’t meet deadlines. They use emotions rather than facts and logic and as a result, they are incompetent.

So, how do you “show up, stand out and take charge?” Killelea has the 4 Rs of success for this:

  1. Relationships: We can’t go it alone, nor should we try. Relationships are at the center of The Confidence Effect because they allow us to network in a way that accelerates both our personal and career growth.
  2. Reputation: How you perceive yourself has a huge influence on how others perceive you. Reputations, like respect are earned. The book shows you how to let what’s inside out so that you can show more of your true authentic self at work – and everyplace else.
  3. Results: If we are to believe in ourselves and allow others to believe in us, we must deliver results. Confidence is like a mirror we hold up to reflect our accomplishments; the more we deliver, the more confidence we have.
  4. Resilience: Finally, we must have the big picture in mind to weather the storms, rise to the challenges, and avoid the potholes and outright roadblocks that are part and parcel of our ultimate journey to success.

I want to break these down a tiny little bit because I agree with them so much. For example, relationships – this is so true. We really can’t do it alone because the ability to create and maintain relationships is at the heart of success. People who I have made good relationships and connections with, whether I consciously did or not, have proven to be beneficial in my career. If someone enjoys you and feels like they have a good connection with you, they will remember that forever and you will be the first person they think of when they need to fill a position or need a thought leader on a topic that maybe you know a lot about.

Reputation – isn’t this everything? Someone’s career can end because of a bad reputation, or in some cases not even start! Killelea says how you perceive yourself has a huge influence on how others perceive you. This is so true! If you respect yourself enough to be proud of who you are and what you do – i.e. your reputation – then that will radiate to your coworkers and leaders as well.

Results – I think this is important. I recently wrote a blog post for work on a topic that while I had a lot of notes on, I hadn’t quite become an expert on. But, my VP believed that I could write that blog post, she provided me feedback, and ultimately I was able to deliver a great result because she believed that I could deliver it. This meant everything to my confidence and my ability to jump feet first into a topic or project that I might not know EVERYTHING about.

Resilience – This is the part where you have to have the big picture in mind. If you can understand clearly what the end result of something is, you can get through the fire drills and roadblocks that might try to derail you. I think this is my biggest takeaway because sometimes we really can get bogged down in what we are trying to accomplish in the moment, and the things in the way of that, as opposed to looking at the big picture and realizing that despite the roadblocks you are still making progress toward the ultimate goal. This will help you rise to the challenge and ultimately succeed.

I hope you’ve enjoyed part one. The next installation will be about understanding and mastering relationships and how important that is to the confidence effect.

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Adulting: Leaving Behind a Place I’ve Called Home for Almost Eight Years

I am a very loyal person. I’m a loyal customer, friend, sibling, daughter, spouse (to someone eventually hah!), and employee, so making a decision to go, to break up, to do something different, go somewhere different is often an anxiety riddled thing for me.

I was presented with an opportunity that I really couldn’t turn a blind eye to. Someone I had worked with some years back reached out because there was an opening on his team. He said I was the first person he thought of and wanted to chat with me about the role, if I was interested. Now, I had been pretty actively toying with the idea of looking for a new position externally, but nothing was really moving in that direction for me – quite frankly folks, it is very competitive and cut throat out there these days – so, I thought “sure, might as well hear what the position is all about.” I have to admit, I wasn’t sold on it at first. I was really having a hard time understanding from our conversation what the role entailed, and I was coming to the conclusion that this would definitely be a growth role for me because, while I am fully capable of learning and doing the job, I also didn’t have some of what they were looking for on my resume.

So, feeling like I was probably not going to be that great of a fit, but still having a little part of my intuition telling me to at least talk to the hiring manager, I said sure – give my info to your boss, I would love to speak with her. Boy am I glad that I did! She really broke down the role for me, explained how the team worked, and outlined expectations for the role. Not to mention we just had a fantastic conversation. She too worked at my company for a number of years and we had many people in common. She told me that she likes to hire people that her current staff know well and have worked with in the past, and that she definitely wanted to have me come in for an in-person interview. She warned me she was moving fast, so the in-person was set up for the following week.

This all fell during the holidays, which are generally pretty quiet for me work-wise, so I was able to take advantage of some of the time I already planned off, to take the phone calls and have an in-person interview. It all seemed to fall into place almost too easily. Generally, in person interviews have me so anxious and nervous. I actually compare it to the build-up I feel before running a race – it’s like 2-4 hours of your life, you can do it. It may sound ridiculous, but it works for me, and applies just the same to psyching yourself up for a job interview.

Anyway, the in-person interview went really well, 3 hours total – 3 people, 1 hour each, and then I was on my way. Within a week I had a phone call from the hiring manager with what I think was seeking reassurance that I was indeed interested in the position, and if they were to make me an offer that was desirable and in my pay range (which I had previously given them), that I would accept. Another week later and I had a verbal offer, and a formal offer followed less than 24 hours later. Like I said, she wanted to move quickly, and quickly we were moving.

My anxiety was a mess leading up to waiting for an offer, then subsided for about 2.2 seconds and catapulted back up upon accepting because, now I’ve got to tell some of my best friends, and mentors that I’m leaving. I explained this to someone by comparing it to breaking up with someone who literally does not see it coming at all. The shock of a lifetime.

Making this decision was not easy for me. I will often put my feelings aside for someone else’s happiness, I will also often times sacrifice things for the better of a relationship, friendship or family, so making this decision felt oddly out of my comfort zone. I was about to say, “I’m going to do this for me. For the advancement of my career, for my savings and future investments…for me. Not for anyone else.” I ultimately accepted the offer and then promptly told my boss that I was giving him my two week notice. That was the whole “breaking up with someone who doesn’t see it coming thing.” He didn’t see it coming…poor guy. But he understood the offer I was getting and that it was a really amazing opportunity.

I have to say, everyone has been excited for me, sad – but also very excited for me. I’m letting go of a lot my daily routine: coffee every morning at about 9 a.m. with my co-worker, lunch a couple times a week with my group of buddies, the occasional check-in with my mentors, and the happy hours and vent sessions over bottles of wine that have come to be part of me and my social life. That is all going to be changing. I’m not just leaving the company I’ve been with for almost 8 years, but I’m leaving some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, I’m leaving San Francisco – which is with both enthusiasm and a bit of sadness – my commute in is absolutely awful on the train every morning. I’m trading in going into an office every day for working from home about 90% of the time. It’s going to be a VERY big change for me, but one I think is necessary, because as I have thought about making this big move and change, I realized that it’s been a very long time since I have really shaken up my life – for better or for worse. I’ve generally stayed in my bubble of friends, travel with the same people, go out with the same people – which don’t get me wrong is totally fine, but I would say I haven’t shaken life up in about 5 years so it’s definitely time.

I accepted a position at a different company on their digital grid marketing team. As some of you know, I have been in the energy industry for about 8 years, so in terms of jumping into a new industry, I at least won’t have that learning curve. But, this new role will really round out my experience and take me into the marketing field where I can be challenged and learn new things. I’ll be managing social media marketing and events management for the team. All things I know I am capable of doing and excited to embark on.

I had to realize that in both relationships and work, we can grow so complacent and not even realize it sometimes, so taking this leap is huge. It’s massively scary but also really exciting. I will miss everyone from my company, and many of those people I will see even after I leave – I have made some seriously awesome friends for life which is a priceless thing and something I will always be thankful for.

So, my words to you and words that I am borrowing from one of my favorite retail owners (Evy’s Tree), “do scary things.” You only regret the chances you didn’t take, so cheers to just going for it and I’m excited to share the journey with all of you!

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How do you know when it’s time to walk away?

I think this question haunts everyone. How do you know when it’s time to walk away from something? And, it could be anything: a bad job, a relationship, friendship, project, literally ANYTHING. And, most importantly, how do you know when it’s OK and you aren’t just throwing in the towel early? That is what I wrestle with the most…am I NOT giving it a fair shot? Or, am I giving it TOO much of a fair shot?

I’m definitely guilty of letting a relationship last too long, letting a friendship cross boundaries too many times before I say something, and letting a job dictate my mental and emotional state. So, when I began thinking about this I decided to do a little research and see what else was out there about this topic, and am I the only one who struggles with the, “give it a better shot,” or “you’ve given it enough, time to walk away.” My little Google search resulted in a list of 17 things (I had a list of 20, but upon reviewing realized I was repeating some of them in just a different way – so, for the sake of making this list easier to digest, I eliminated them). I think these 17 things are little bits of information everyone should consider before making that big decision to throw in the towel and go a separate way.

17 things to consider when trying to make the decision to walk away:

  1. Think about the situation:
    1. What do I want to get out of this situation?
    2. What am I actually getting out of this situation?
    3. What am I investing into this/ what is this situation costing me?
    4. What will happen if I keep investing these things into this situation?
    5. What will happen if I stay? (best and worst case scenarios)
    6. What will happen if leave? (best and worst case scenarios) – I’m a big “list” person so this is literally the best place for me to start.
  2. Remember, walking away doesn’t make you weak: Walking away from something that doesn’t add value doesn’t make you weak – it actually is one of the bravest things you can do, and also means that you are decidedly a strong person. I am a very loyal person, and definitely almost to a fault. I’m also non confrontational and want everyone to always get along so, walking away can sometimes feel like I’m taking the easy way out. In reality, it’s harder to recognize it’s time to go, and then to actually do it – it makes you stronger.
  3. You’re probably the most attached: Often, the first person to walk away is the one who is most attached – true story! My five year relationship ended because I chose to walk away…and as a result I realized that I was more attached to the relationship than he was – he moved on quicker, and just in general seemed to mourn and move on fast than I did.
  4. Acceptance: You’re able to accept that things aren’t going to workout how you wanted. Wow, this is the hardest realization, and usually the one that is the saddest. I’ve had friends who I thought would be in my wedding someday, or my kids would call him/her uncle/auntie so-and-so, and had to come to the realization that that probably wasn’t going to happen. It’s a really sad feeling, but also the quickest way to come to terms with it and move on.
  5. Before it gets worse: You know to walk away before things get worse. Often this is the hardest decision to make because quite frankly, you generally can’t imagine it getting any worse…until it does. And, when it does – you gotta pack your shit and run!
  6. Your gut! If your gut, or intuition, or whatever it may be, tells you that something feels off, it probably is. Really folks, our instincts are our best bullshit detectors.
  7. Going with the flow: Going through the motions instead of reaching the next level of the relationship, friendship or career. How many of us have found ourselves just going through the motions at work? You might be doing a great job and everyone is happy with your work performance, but it’s just easy, and almost takes no extra energy or thought so you just kinda stick with it? Yep, if you’re just going with the flow, you’re never going to get that promotion or find motivation to take that next step in your career, or the next step in your relationship.
  8. Loneliness: You feel lonely, even while in that relationship or friendship, or feel unsatisfied despite working hard at that job. If you have someone who loves you, wants to spend time with you, but you’re still feeling lonely – you are not happy and nothing should come at the cost of your happiness. Leave!
  9. No respect: I mean, this is for anything really. If there’s no respect, nothing else is really left. Walk away! And I would elaborate here, but everyone’s definition of “respect” is different so I’ll just let you interpret that in the way that works best for you.
  10. Desire for a change: The want and need to walk away should come from the desire to change something, not out of fear. I don’t think you are making a confident and well thought out decision when you’re doing it out of fear.
  11. Convenience or desire? Is the friendship, relationship or job more about convenience than desire? Are you staying in that relationship because you live together and have really good rent? Are you staying friends with that person because you’ve known them since you were 12 and have mutual friends so it just makes things easier? These aren’t good reasons to stay in that situation, though when trying to rationalize the choice to go, these will weigh heavily on your mind.
  12. Does the situation cause anxiety? I don’t particularly like this one but it’s so true, and maybe that’s why I don’t like it much. But, if someone’s presence puts your anxiety level through the roof, but you spend time with them anyway because you feel obligated, it’s time to go!
  13. Priorities folks! When you’re an option, not a priority. I, not so long ago, had someone who was trying very hard to get back into my life. I had a weak spot for him, cared about him a lot, and boy did he know the right things to say. My issue, and why we were no longer together, was that I was never a priority. Not ever, not once. So, while trying to get back into my good graces he promptly said, “I want to make this work, and I’ll start by putting you first and making you a priority.” Lasted a week folks…one week. But, I also knew it wouldn’t last long so I wasn’t as disappointed as I could have been. So, walking away was very easy.
  14. Are you still having fun? When it’s more work than fun. If everything is a drain and you’re not finding anything even remotely entertaining or fun about your relationship, friendship or job, then it’s definitely time to go. Nothing is worth your happiness. Wait, haven’t I already said that once in this list?
  15. Is it abusive? When abusive behaviors prevail – or continue. Look, I’m not one of those lucky people who can say that they’ve never been in an abusive relationship – or even friendship. It’s a little harder to identify in a friendship, but if your friend says mean things to you, it’s verbally abusive folks. However, it is often easier to identify abuse in your romantic relationships. But, it can take a while to come around to the reality of it all and actually decide to leave because of it. Inevitably what happens is the abuse becomes more and more frequent and more and more vicious. I wasn’t physically abused, but I was told some really awful things over and over, and they got increasingly hurtful until I worried it might get physical, upon which I left for good. But despite that, it was still one of the hardest decisions I’ve made (crazy, right?).
  16. The good old pros and cons list: Do the cons outweigh the pros? I mentioned that I love lists, and the pros and cons list is no exception. I mean, it’s not going to give you a definitive yes or no about walking away, but it will give you some serious things to think about. When everything is laid out there in front of you it’s hard to hide from it.
  17. What’s the best way to walk away? This is so important. You definitely don’t want to leave out of anger. Believe me, I know that in the moment there is nothing that would feel better than to do the most dramatic walk-out ever seen, but you will inevitably second guess yourself for a really long time. Did I get too worked up and just react? Did I not give myself time to think about it before I just flew off the handle? It’s just best to wait until you’re not so angry so that when you do walk out you are confident you are making the right decision. I even think that walking away sad instead of angry is better, because if you’re anything like me, once you’ve worked through the anger, you’ve probably moved into sadness, and eventually you’re moving into acceptance and ultimately moving on with your life.

I realized while writing this that I too still have relationships that I should be considering for this list, but ultimately you come to the decision in your own time. For some, you decide to end things confidently and swiftly, for others it takes time. For example, I give the benefit of the doubt and chance after chance, but when I’m done…I’m really done. There is no going back ever at any point once I’ve truly decided to walk away. Some folks may walk away and then years down the road decide to give that person a second chance. I don’t operate that way, and some may say that isn’t good either. But, whatever it is or how you’re feeling, I hope this list helps you realize that walking away is never easy, and can cause fear and anxiety because of the unknown, but know that it’s the bravest thing a person can do.

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Top 6 SF coffee shops: When you need more than Starbucks or Peet’s to Get by

So, I realize the title of this is a little provocative and may insinuate the need for something stronger than caffeine, but alas that is not the case. I just sometimes get bored of the same old coffee spots. I have an awesome group of buddies at work who are always down to try different places for lunch once or twice a month so I feel like I don’t get bored in the food arena as much (plus I try my best to bring my lunch most days of the week), but coffee…sometimes you need to mix it up a bit.

I am a creature of habit. The night before I pick out what I’m going to wear to work (yes, I do this because it actually saves me time in the morning), I wake up around 6:30 am, shower and either wash my hair or don’t wash my hair depending on how it’s looking/feeling, finish getting ready…makeup, hair and teeth are almost always done in the same order every morning, I make a cup of coffee (Keurig) and mosey on my way to the train. I drink that cup of coffee while on the train into the city and then once I get to work (around 8:30 am) my co-worker and I go grab another cup of coffee (usually a latte for me) and we usually go to Peet’s for that.

However, we began venturing out for other options recently. We probably only mix it up say once a week, or once every other week, but regardless it helps keeps things interesting. So, I decided that I would share with you my top 5 alternatives to our usual suspects – not that there’s anything wrong with Peet’s and Starbucks, it’s just they are on every corner, and the 6 listed below are not.

joe and the juice

Joe and the Juice – This is just as it sounds, coffee and juices. I was excited when a smaller version of one on Market street opened up and couldn’t wait to check it out. While their juice menu is bigger than their coffee menu, there is one latte in particular I am a HUGE fan of – the Ginger Latte. I mean, talk about heaven in a cup. I love ginger, and when the holidays roll around, a Gingerbread Latte from Starbucks is usually my weekly indulgence, so to have a healthier option anytime my heart desired was a definite plus! However, it’s an almost 5 dollar cup of coffee so I only let myself go once a week, but well worth it. So, how did Joe and Juice start? It all started with a little privately owned juice-bar inside an expensive furniture shop in central Copenhagen. The founder of Joe and The Juice is Kasper Basse. The vibe inside the coffee shop is super cool, the folks who work there always seem to have these amazing foreign accents and call you “love,” and you just generally leave there feeling really good about yourself, and with a ginger latte in hand. Win-win if you ask me! I haven’t tried the juices yet, as I’m still stuck on the ridiculousness of paying that much for juice. I guess I’m just not there yet.

Illy

Illy – The first time I ever tried Illy I was on a coffee date with someone I reconnected with on some dating app (eye roll). Anyway, I liked the vibe and the coffee was delicious. And now, I love going there because it reminds me of Italy. Illy coffee was everywhere in Italy! The company is known and admired on five continents for the high quality and unmistakable velvety taste of its coffee, an outstanding blend made up of nine types of pure Arabica.

bluestonelane

Bluestone Lane Coffee – This cafe is all over New York, and now in a couple of locations in SF (near me). The vibe of the cafe is pretty cool, and one of my buddies even said, “so this is where you come to see all the pretty people in SF.” Here is a little blurb about the style inspiration for the financial district location (taken from their website): The design of the store is inspired by the new locals of the Financial District neighborhood. The beautiful white minimal entry is lined with lush palms and outdoor benches where you can sit and enjoy your coffee. There is also plenty of seating and cushions from Australian designer KIP&CO inside with large windows creating a bright and airy space with lots of natural light, perfect for early mornings with the newspaper or a late breakfast with friends. Three brass pendant lights hang above the white oak bar and splashes of color are provided by our signature seafoam green tiles from Mercury Mosaics. Throughout the space, locals can sit at round marble tables under a sea of white shade pendants. The focal point of the space is a large community table with brass chairs framed by a large planter box housing two tall fiddle leaf plants. Bluestone Lane Coffee is influenced from the renowned coffee culture hub of Melbourne Australia, where premium coffee is a way of life.

Philz

Philz – OK so my first introduction to Philz, was funny enough, also on a coffee date! Haha I’m seeing a trend here. Anyway, the only one near my office was located a few blocks up and you had to quite literally carve out 30-45 minutes to get coffee there. The line was never less than 15-20 people ahead of you. They then opened a second location closer to my office. You don’t need to carve out as much time but you are guaranteed to have at least 5-8 people in front of you in line at any given time. Everyone RAVED about it, if you were a hipster this is all you would drink etc., etc., but I have to say I’ve tried a number of different coffees from there and have only found one or two that really hit my taste buds just right. I enjoy (when it’s not 55 degrees in SF – which is not that frequent) the iced “It’s the Best.” I mean, it really is. There is a cool vibe here and the baristas (I think you call them that here too?) are super cool and make your coffee just to your liking. They will even ask you to take a sip of it before you pay for it to ensure you’re happy with the cream, coffee, sugar ratio.

workshop cafe

Workshop Cafe – This place is super cool. The concept is that it is not just a coffee shop/cafe, but also a place to work. The way it works is like this: Walk in and choose your seat, look at the real-time seat map and pick a spot. They have work space for individuals and groups. Prices to reserve space start at $2 an hour, and you can order food or bring your own, they are super flexible. I only had a latte while I was there, but was extremely tempted by their yummy looking menu which included cheesy popcorn, and then right below that “healthy popcorn.” I’ll take the cheesy please! Anyway, I’m excited to go back there and check it out – definitely wish these existed while I was in college, they would have been nice to use for group projects or for when you really had to crank some stuff out and work.

blue bottle

Blue Bottle – Blue Bottle was introduced to me by my boss at the time, who is self-admittedly a coffee snob. For example, we were on a work trip up in the Napa area, and after a long day of doing some volunteer work he just HAD to detour to downtown Napa to a hipster little coffee shop for an iced something-or-other. Anyway, I credit him for introducing me to something other than Starbucks and Peet’s, and broadening my horizons on what “good coffee” actually is. It was also the first time I spent 4 bucks on a cup of coffee. Blue Bottle also has these AMAZING waffles. I mean, quite literally the biggest sugar splurge you can have for breakfast, but with moderation I think it’s well worth it! Here is a little background on Blue Bottle – I also like that it started in my backyard (Oakland, CA). In the early 2000s, in Oakland, California, a slightly disaffected freelance musician and coffee lunatic, weary of the commercial coffee enterprise and stale, overly roasted beans, decided to open a roaster for people who were clamoring for the actual taste of fresh coffee. Using a minuscule six-pound batch roaster, he made a historic vow: “I will only sell coffee less than 48 hours out of the roaster to my guests, so they may enjoy coffee at peak flavor. I will only use the finest, most delicious, and responsibly sourced beans.”

Well, I hope this gives some of my local readers some inspiration and motivation to try something new, and for my non-local SF readers to check and see if any of these places are located in your area so you can try them yourself! Either way, happy coffee sipping!

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Namaste and Brunch – Silent Disco Yoga

OK, so have any of you ever been to a music festival and walked past a group of people with headphones on, dancing around, all out of sync, having a great time grooving to something you can’t hear? Yeah, that’s a silent disco. And, I’m one of those people who wouldn’t be caught dead looking that foolish – regardless of whether it’s a lot of fun or an awesome experience (no offense to those readers who enjoy silent discos). So, when my friend sent me a text asking if I would like to participate in a 75 minute silent disco yoga class I was like, huh?

But, I was also very intrigued. This friend of mine is a yogi – she practices it frequently so I feel like this invite was coming from a knowledgeable place, so I said sure! It was $25, held at True Food Kitchen in Walnut Creek, CA, and you got 15% off your brunch order for participating in the yoga class that morning – yoga AND food – thumbs up!

Check-in and set-up began at 7:45 and class started at 8:15. Some of you may not know this about me, but I like my sleep. I’m a 8 or 9 hour  sleep minimum kinda gal, so getting up early and driving 30 minutes outside of  town on a Sunday is important to be noted. Upon checking in we were given noise cancelling headphones. The intention here is that I won’t be able to hear anything around me other than the instructors voice and the music. Therefore, that meant everyone who was preparing the restaurant to open at 10am would be able to observe us moving through the instructors flow, ohhmming and breathing but wouldn’t hear anything the instructor was saying or the music that was playing – hence the silent disco part.

I know I said earlier I wouldn’t be caught dead looking foolish, and some might argue that I probably looked foolish doing this, however since we were all literally doing the same flow at the same time, I don’t think it looked as foolish as a group of people on a dance floor swaying to music you can’t hear. But, if you worked in the restaurant that day and witnessed us it probably looked a little weird.

Anyway, the class was intended for all levels, and the instructor was fantastic at instructing at the beginner level and then offering variations depending on experience so that you could really get out of the class what you were looking for. For me, I hadn’t gone to a yoga class in a while, so you weren’t going to catch me doing the crow pose, or doing a head stand. I have to say though, that having those headphones on wasn’t as distracting as I initially thought it would be. They weren’t too heavy, and really cancelled out some of the usual noise you might hear while in a yoga class, like someone’s breathing noises, coughing etc. You were really able to focus on the music and the instruction.

Also, I’d like to mention that I was ravishingly hungry for brunch, which was 15% off since I had participated in the class…AND I think I had burned so many calories that I was hungry almost all day long – even after brunch! Great work out!

With all of this said, it was a lot of fun and I highly recommend checking it out. I’m still not sold on an actual Silent Disco, but silent disco yoga is a win. Check out Eventbrite and see if there are any scheduled in your area!

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A Favorite Recipe: Crispy Cheddar Chicken

So, I have this recipe that I found on Pinterest. I’ve made it probably close to a dozen times for my family (i.e. my parents, siblings and nieces) – and it has become the meal we eat on Christmas Eve – my nieces are very much into tradition and expect it now. I will caution you now in saying that it isn’t exactly the healthiest, though it might be a good alternative to fried chicken and it sure is mighty tasty! While I got this recipe off of Pinterest, I did get the details from keyingredient.com – and the photo associated to this post came from there as well – unfortunately I don’t have any photos from the numerous times I’ve made this.

Ingredients

  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 2 sleeves of Ritz crackers
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt – though I find that the salt from the crackers is sometimes enough
  • 1/8 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1/2 cup of whole milk
  • 3 cups of cheddar cheese, grated – little note here, don’t be lazy and buy the pre-shredded cheese. When you use cheese you grated yourself it sticks to the chicken better
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley – this is really just a recommendation, as I don’t normally use the parsley

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 (10-ounce) can of cream of chicken soup
  • 2 tablespoons of sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons of butter

Directions

  • Crush the Ritz crackers – I generally open the 2 sleeves of crackers and place them in a Ziploc bag and run a rolling pin over the crackers.
  • Cut each chicken breast into 2 or 3 large pieces – depending on the size of the chicken breasts
  • Pour the milk, cheese, and cracker crumbs into 3 bowls
  • Toss the salt and pepper into the cracker crumbs and stir the mixture around to combine
  • Dip each piece of chicken into the milk and then the cheese
  • Press the cheese into the chicken with your fingers – this is where having freshly grated cheese is a plus!
  • Then press the cheesy coated chicken into the cracker crumbs and press it in firmly
  • Spray a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray – especially important because the cheese will run onto the pan causing major stickage
  • Lay the chicken inside the pan
  • If using parsley – sprinkle over the chicken
  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes
  • Remove the aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the edges of the chicken are golden brown and crispy

The Sauce

  • In a medium sized sauce pan, combine the cream of chicken soup, sour cream and butter with a whisk.
  • Stir it over medium high heat until the sauce is nice and hot – this won’t take long, so definitely do this part during the last 10-15 minutes the chicken is cooking
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken and dinner is served! (I put the sauce on the side for nieces so they dip their chicken in it).

chicken

Hope you enjoy!

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All the Single Ladies and My Thoughts on What This All Means: Part Two

I left the last entry in a place of questioning whether treating online dating with the mantra of “dick is abundant and low value,” a term created by Madeleine Holden and further used by Alana Massey, was indeed the best way to treat online dating. I still don’t have the answer to that, and could probably be debated until we are blue in the face. But I do want to continue talking about Rebecca Traister’s “All the Single Ladies, Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation.”

Let’s get into the notion of marriage. I would say about ten years ago that was all I wanted. I was even in a five year relationship that, had he asked me, I would have said yes (thank god he never did, as I would surely be in one of two circumstances now: divorced, or in a miserable marriage). Something shifted for me. It’s probably a confluence of things…the five year relationship was gut wrenchingly hard to recover from, I then spent a year or so dating the same type of person – clearly taking the slow route to observing the poor choices in men I was making – then I spent a significant amount of time not dating at all because I was just so over it and couldn’t be bothered with any of it, to then embarking on the online dating world. The online dating world is like seeing a piece of cake and knowing that it won’t be good for you, but it will be satisfying at the time, then choosing to go for it and indulge, only to feel sick after the fact. SO, I started to think that if that path isn’t meant for me then that’s OK. I had to tell myself that I can still have everything else if I don’t get married. I could even still be in a healthy and committed relationship – better than most marriages – without a wedding ring and piece of paper.

So, when reading Traister’s book, it made me realize that I’m not alone in these thoughts and feelings. According to Traister, “Cohabitating couples in Sweden are less likely than Americans to break up, and as sociologist Andrew Cherlin has pointed out, a child living with an unmarried pair of parents in Sweden, ‘has a lower chance that his family will disrupt than does an American kid living with married parents.'” That’s it, I’m moving to Sweden (kidding, kind of).

According to Traister, “In part, when we delay marriage, it’s not just women who become independent. It’s also men who, like women, learn to clothe and feed themselves, to clean their homes and iron their shirts and pack their own suitcases.” I once had a guy tell me to pick out his clothes for a night out with some friends. We didn’t last much longer after that (and don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t the only reason – BUT I knew he wasn’t asking me to pick out his clothes because of my good sense of style, it was because he didn’t want to be torn away from his video game – this was when I was still making the same bad decisions in men and hadn’t learned my lesson yet). But, here’s the thing, and something that Traister points out so poignantly, “Our old partners don’t cease to matter or to exist in our memories or in our makeup just because we don’t marry them.” Journalist Jen Doll summed it up in her Village Voice piece on single women in New York: “The man who introduced you to really good bourbon; the guy with kids who helped you remember why you do, or don’t want them for yourself; the bisexual coworker; the “poonhound;” the one that got away; and the one you let get away on purpose – they all have a place in your dating life. Don’t regret them.” And, that’s just it. I don’t regret any of them, the good, the bad, or the ugly (believe there were a couple of those…). What I take away from this part of the book is that you learn something from everyone you date, and you don’t have to settle and marry a single one of them if you don’t want to.

One of the my favorite parts of Traister’s book is when she discusses Gloria Steinem. “Steinem was sixty-six, the feminist leader who said that she didn’t want to marry because she couldn’t mate in captivity, who said, ‘we are becoming the men we wanted to marry,’ who once called marriage a union of one-and-a-half people and ran away from her collegiate fiance, got married. As Steinem tells the story of her long single life before David Bale, ‘I had realized at about the time that feminism entered my life that a. I didn’t have to be married,’ and ‘people (even women) could choose different lives and b. I couldn’t marry anyway because I would be giving up my civil rights (credit rating, legal residence, name etc. etc.'” Here is the thing, even Steinem eventually got married – despite the criticism she faced upon doing so. So, if it feels right then do it! But if there is any hesitation or uncertainty, don’t marry someone just because “it’s time,” or “we’ve been together for two years,” or “I’m almost thirty-five, it’s either now or never.” STOP! These are the worst reasons to get married. My brother and sister-in-law have been together for over a decade, they have two children together, and just got married this past September. They definitely didn’t jump into anything, and didn’t let any outside pressure make them marry sooner than they felt necessary.

So, let’s think about this, and try not to go down too morbid of a road, but women out-live men. So, when we finally do make the decision to marry, we will inevitably probably find ourselves alone again toward the later part of our lives. According to Traister, “The average age of widowhood for women in the United States is around fifty-nine, and 2009 figures showed that over 50 percent of women over seventy were widowed, more than double the percentage of men who are widowers. For the happiest wives, that means both suffering through the passing of our beloved and then, once again, facing the world – and our own ends – on our own.” By the way, that’s exactly what happened to Steinem. She was single for sixty-six years, finally married, only to see her husband through cancer and find herself single, yet again. So, is it really worth it then?

Of course it is! That’s the tiny percentage of hopeless romantic that lives within me. It’s worth it if you really truly love each other and if it’s the right person. See, I have a heart? *wink, wink* But in all seriousness there was a Newsweek article published that highlighted researchers who asserted that, “an unmarried thirty-year-old, college-educated woman had a 20 percent chance of marriage and, by forty, no more than 2.6 percent shot.” According to Traister, this was “part of a panicky news cycle catalogued scrupulously by journalist Susan Faludi in her 1991 best-seller, Backlash, in which the message sent to independent women was that they faced a purported shortage of men to marry.” I read Backlash when I was in college taking a women’s studies class, and I have to say I don’t remember much from the book and should probably revisit it. With that said, I looked it up to remind myself about the context of the book.

Susan Faludi’s 1991 book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women argued that the 1980s saw a backlash against feminism, especially due to the spread of negative stereotypes against career-minded women. The book has become a classic feminist text, warning women of every generation that the gains of feminism should not be taken for granted. Faludi argues for the existence of a media driven “backlash” against the feminist advances in the 1970s, and argues that many of these problems are illusory, constructed by the media without reliable evidence – hence the Newsweek article that Traister mentions in her book, “The message that high-achieving women will be punished by spinsterhood has not abated in the past three decades, despite the evidence that high-achieving women are increasingly most likely to marry.”

Here’s the bottom line, contemporary women are redefining when women get married which also naturally bleeds into how contemporary women are also redefining whether, when, and how they become mothers. According to to Traister, “easy alternatives to the cold equations of child-bearing are not plentiful. Here is the math: there are a limited number of years during which most women’s bodies can easily bear children.” Back in the day, most women got married and started families in their late teens and early twenties so the window of reproductive opportunity matched the window of marital expectation. However, those windows no longer overlap as neatly as they once did.

One would think that this would just be a natural progression that we all accept and understand. There are lots of factors that create this delay in marriage and having children (women attending college and wanting to establish their career first, waiting to find the right person as opposed to settling, saving to buy a house – which in some states is almost impossible eh em…California). However, society still thinks that if you aren’t having kids by thirty, you’re now on a time clock that is ticking very LOUDLY. But here are some statistics for you, taken from Traister’s book: The average age of first motherhood in the United States shot from 21.4 in 1970 to 26 in 2013. More than four in ten births in 2010 were to women over the age of thirty, and one in seven was to women over thirty-five. More than that: of first births, eight percent in 2009 were to women over thirty-five, compared to just on percent in 1970. This is the one that makes me feel better, the number of women giving birth after age thirty-five rose by 64 percent between just 1990 and 2008. So, here is my question – why the heck is there so much pressure from society to hurry up and have kids sooner rather than later?

“The postponement of parenthood has brought its own set of challenges and peculiarities, among them the likelihood that if you are an unmarried woman over the age of twenty-four, you’ve read, heard, or been told something that has made you quite certain that your ovaries are withering, and your eggs are going bad. Right now. This second. As you’re reading this and still not doing anything about getting pregnant.” Yup! I’ve heard almost that exact thing, “your eggs are dying.” But, according to Traister, “It is a testament to how committed professional women were to the new kinds of lives they were living, that the terrifying threats of egg decline did not set off a wave of early marriage and dramatically lower the age of first birth.” Maybe single women didn’t want to listen to the warnings, and more than likely even if these warnings provoke anxiety within women, there really isn’t much they can do about it. It’s not like being single is, according the Traiser, “some outfit you could simply change out of when someone pointed out that it wasn’t keeping you warm enough; the husband-free existences women were living couldn’t change course with a snap of the fingers. These were lives. What were they going to do?”

In a part of the book that has become my favorite, and prompted me to look up the clip, is when Traister shares a Saturday Night Live sketch from 2002 where Sylvia Hewlett, who is an economist, consultant, lecturer, and expert on gender and workplace issues, and the media tell career women to have babies sooner in life. In the weekend update. It goes something like this:

Tina Fey: “According  to Sylvia Hewlett, career women shouldn’t wait to have babies, because our fertility takes a steep drop-off after age twenty-seven. And Sylvia’s right. I definitely should have had a baby when I was twenty-seven, living in Chicago over a biker bar, pulling down a cool $12,000 a year. That would have worked out great.”

Rachel Dratch: “Yeah, Sylvia. Thanks for reminding me that I have to hurry up and have a baby. Uh, me and my four cats will get right on that.”

Maya Rudolph: “Yeah, Sylvia, maybe your next book should tell men our age to stop playing Grand Theft Auto III and holding out for the chick from Alias.”

Amy Poehler: “My neighbor has this adorable, cute little Chinese baby that speaks Italian…so, you know, I’ll just buy one of those.”

According to Traister, “At the time of this sketch, none of these four comedians had children. Today…they have nine between them, all but one born after they were thirty-five.” This clip is from 2002 – fifteen years ago! And here we are, still dealing with the same criticisms and pressure.

So, what do you do if you want to have children but probably won’t get to it until you’re in your mid-to late-thirties? Well, there’s always freezing your eggs. According to Traister, “Sarah Richards reported in the Wall Street Journal in 2013 that the age of egg-freezing candidates ‘is slowly coming down,’ one study of the 240 women showed that the average age of women who got fertility consultations at a reproductive organization in New York between 2005 and 2011 dropped from thirty-nine to thirty-seven, and, Richard writes, ‘Several doctors say they are seeing a trickle of women under thirty-five – the turning point when a woman’s fertility goes downhill and she is labeled ‘advanced maternal age’ on medical charts.'” It’s an option, though not a cheap one. I did some quick research for this blog entry, and the cost of medication associated with retrieving eggs for one cycle is roughly $10,000-12,000 and storing eggs will cost about $800 per year. But, freezing eggs may save thousands of dollars in fertility treatment down the road and offers immediate peace of mind. So, there’s that…

I can’t help but wonder though, when society’s unrealistic outlook on the appropriate age of motherhood will shift. It’s happening, albeit slowly. According to Traister, “During the election cycles in the early part of the twenty-first century, much attention was paid, by both Democrats and Republicans, to single female voters, largely because of the dawning realization that they wield enormous electoral power. In 2012, Barack Obama’s campaign released a bit of campaign propaganda that featured a cartoon character woman named Julia. It illustrated how Julia was born, got a college degree, had a career and a child thanks, in part, to the aid of government sponsored programs. According to Julia’s bare-bones timeline, her life did not include marriage.” OK, so I’m not going to get political on this, nor am I going to embark on “government sponsored programs,” what is important to outline here is that Julia wasn’t shown getting married. Interesting right?

This gives me hope that the status quo is changing. Not just for myself – although it’s a little too late for me – but hopefully for my two nieces. I want my nieces to know that being smart, fostering the want and need to educate themselves and learn about life and relationships before settling down, is an important and normal part of growing up.

Recently, my oldest niece (who is nine), told me that she wanted to be just like me when she grows up. I asked her why and thought for sure she was going to say “because she was going to go to college and get a good job.” Instead, she said she was going to be just like me and not get married or have any kids. This stunned me. I still want those things – whether in that order or not – so I told her just that. I told her that at some point I want to get married and have babies. After talking to her a bit more about it I realized that she was really referencing the want to be like me because I travel and go and do really cool things – and I think she associates having children with impeding on that ability. I told her that’s why you do all the super cool and fun traveling BEFORE you settle down and get married and have kids.

The perception is changing folks, one little girl at a time. This book clearly struck a nerve in me and prompted me to share my perspective and personal stories on the topics Traister wrote about. Putting unnecessary pressure on women about their fertility is completely asinine. As a thirty-something woman, I am completely aware of what putting marriage and pregnancy off means, and it doesn’t scare me. If anything, I will come out on the other side of this with a really awesome, well-traveled and fun life before I decided to settle down, and that folks is what is important.

Check out the book – it’s worth the read!

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