2015 Year in Review

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Well here it is, the end of 2015. I feel as though I've lived so many different lives during this crazy year; it couldn't possibly have all happened in only twelve months. I've experienced so many amazing things and learned so much about myself this year.

I always like to write a little year-end roundup on my blog, but bear with me if this one's a bit all over the place. I have loved going back through my posts from this year and remembering these experiences; it reminds me why I started blogging in the first place.

So here goes!

My 5 Most Popular Posts:

My 5 Favorite Posts:

A Few Stats

By Month...

It's been a wild ride, 2015! I'm so thankful for our experiences and the crazy life story we've been writing for ourselves. 2015 has taught me that while planning things for our future is a great idea in theory, we can never really plan exactly how things will go or what choices will have the best outcomes. I'm heading into 2016 with an open mind, ready to take on anything this crazy life throws at us next, whatever that may be!

And before I go... I'm so thankful for the great friends I've made this year through this blog. I've met and followed along with so many amazing people online and I'm still shocked when anyone is as interested in my life as I am in theirs. I'm really looking forward to what 2016 has in store for everyone and excited for the many friendships to come.

>> Read my list of 2016 Goals here!


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

I think everyone likes looking back on memories and remembering some of the best times of their year. After seeing a ton of these little collages on Instagram, created by the (very sketchy*) site 2015bestnine, I wanted to go through and see which photos I posted on Insta this year were my most popular, according to followers and other users. It's interesting to see what others see and like in your life and while this sort of thing is incredibly superficial, it's fun. I say superficial because these specific photos were probably liked the most and found easiest because of their respective hashtags and most likely by people who don't even actually follow me.

*Be careful using that website, for real. It's super sketchy, constantly opening pop-ups and other windows that take you to weird sites. Users beware.

Anyways...here are my nine most popular photos this year on Instagram. I think it shows an interesting collection of things I've seen and done this year!

And while you're at it, follow me on Instagram @embusyliving!

1) A flight of cones from Hammond's Ice Cream in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego. Dan and I met up with Esther and Jacob of Local Adventurer and had lunch and ice cream with them one afternoon and had a lovely time.
Related Post: Lovely Letters - May & June
2) VJ Day Kiss mural as seen from the High Line in New York City. I'm not shocked at all by how many of my most popular photos this year are of NYC.
Related Post: Walking the High Line in NYC
3) Downtown Manhattan view from the Brooklyn Bridge.
Related Post: City Scenes
4) Postcards as souvenirs from my travels.
Related Post: California Souvenirs
5) Brooklyn Bridge. Self explanatory haha.
Related Post: City Scenes
6) Dan getting ready to eat some of the best chicken and waffles we've ever had, surprisingly in California and not the south! This delicious meal can be found at The Iron Press at The Anaheim Packing House in Anaheim, California.
Related Post: My 10 Favorite Restaurants in Orange County
7) "Moonshine" mural by Etam Cru, seen on West Grace Street in Richmond, Virginia. Cru created this work as part of the annual Richmond Mural Project, something I'm excited to share more about after we get settled in Richmond next year!
Related Post: Why We Left New York
8) NYC Skyline as seen from Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center.
Related Post: Weekly Roundup: Exploring by Night
9) Books! I took this photo while packing in California. I can't wait to get settled so I can put all of my books back out on a shelf!
Related Post: Weekly Roundup: Packed Too Fast

Why We Left New York

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

When Daniel and I unloaded our rental car in central Virginia the Saturday before Thanksgiving we had all of the things we had taken with us to New York City. My parents were confused but very excited to find out why. Very few people knew of our plans to come home for Thanksgiving and not go back to the city afterwards, partially to enjoy the look on our family members’ faces when they found out we’d decided to come home and partially because it has been a very difficult decision to explain.

Isn’t it weird that when you don’t talk about something, for whatever reason, it can come off as though you’re avoiding talking about that thing? It seems the longer I have not talked about this major change in our life, the more it could come off as something we’re ashamed of for some reason. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

After weeks of changing our minds and going back and forth several times, Dan and I finally decided together that the life we wanted to create for ourselves at this time was not a lifestyle we could put together the way we wanted to in New York City. When we talked about what we wanted⎯when we thought about how and with whom we wanted to be spending our valuable time⎯everything pointed to us finding what we wanted closer to home. While the moments we shared and the adventures we had in New York were irreplaceable, something felt very missing from our lives…especially after two wonderful months back home with everyone in the fall.

I love New York. We love New York. We had a wonderful time there and I am so thankful for that time for helping to show us exactly what we wanted next. The good thing about the way that Dan and I do things is that if we decide we want something we work really hard together to make that thing a reality. Our new “something” is a life surrounded those we love and the time and ability to live a slower, happier, and more creative life.

I’ll probably share more about the difficulties we I faced in coming to this decision in later posts, along with other posts on things we did during our time in NYC. I also hope to share a few guides on how to visit and explore the city, because nothing gives me more joy than helping others explore. (It helps that I’m a walking GPS; I know New York City like the back of my hand!) I do hope you will continue to follow along on our adventures. I am more than the fact that I’ve lived in exciting places.

Next stop? The vibrant and creative small city of Richmond, Virginia! Dan and I have visited several times over the past few weeks for interviews and to look for apartments. Dan was offered and accepted a new position on Tuesday this week! I’ve already looked into different art classes to dive into and Dan has already been looking into the climbing gym there. We’ve bought tickets to three upcoming concerts. We’ll be two hours from my parents’ home, three from Dan’s family in Roanoke, and two from my brother and sister-in-law in Harrisonburg. We can unpack boxes and suitcases and use things that we haven’t seen or used in several months (or even several years!) Everything has fallen into place and feels so right.

We’re so thankful for the ability we’ve had to do this, financially and otherwise. I’m thrilled for the time we’ve been spending at home with our families. Being home for Thanksgiving—and now being here for Christmas—without having to rush around and travel too far has been wonderful. I probably won’t be around here much until after the holidays, or maybe until after the end of the year, but this is the first time in a long time that I’ve been this excited to start a new year!

Weekly Roundup | Three Weeks Later...

Friday, December 18, 2015

It has been a very, very long time since I stepped away from this blog as long as I just did. I've been blogging (mostly) consistently since April and was very proud that I would at least pop in for a Weekly Roundup on Fridays. Where did the time go?

Dan and I have had a lifetime's worth of life changes since we left California just five months ago, including our crazy two-month layover in Virginia and our drawn-out move to New York City. But now we've made another change, and that has a lot to do with why I've been so absent. Long story short: we're back in Virginia right now. I plan on writing a proper post explaining what all has happened over the past few weeks, but just know that we have amazing things happening in our lives and I'm the happiest I have been in a really long time!

If I owe you an email, it's coming soon, promise! You've read here before that I have very little cell service and almost non-existent internet where my parents live, so I'll happily report that I've loved being disconnected from the world on and off for the past few weeks.

So yes... a post about what the heck we're up to now, coming next week!



Blog Love

On the Internets

10 Apps I've Found Most Useful in NYC

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

10 Phone Apps I've Found Most Useful in NYC | EmBusyLiving.com

I'm always a little behind the times. My current Android phone is over 2.5 years old and I'm never the first in line to buy the newest model of anything. Because of this, I've been hesitant to download too many things onto my already-slow phone, but I've changed this habit since we moved to New York. With access to more local services and entertainment than ever before, I'm tempted to buy a new phone that can handle all of the other apps I've been missing out on.

Location-based apps aren't very useful when you live in places where there aren't a lot of modern services, but in New York City there is an app for almost everything. Whether you're moving in or just visiting for a weekend, here are ten apps that can help make your time in NYC a little easier.

Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that may result in my earning of a small commission or rewards if you click through and sign up. All opinions and suggestions are 100% mine.


New York MTA Subway Map by Mapway
There are a lot of different subway map apps out there, but I went with this one for simplicity and I'm glad I did. I don't often find myself needed a subway map since I've been very familiar with the NYC subway system for years, but everyone needs assurance sometimes! This app allows me to check a stop or line while I'm on the go, even when I'm already underground with no signal or Wi-Fi. It's also officially licensed by the Manhattan Transit Authority (MTA) so I know I'm getting the same info you'd find on a map at a kiosk or on the wall.

MTA Weekender
Subway travel on weekdays and weekends can be two very different experiences. Most subway maintenance and construction projects are scheduled for weekends, so it's not uncommon to find that lines have been rerouted, express lines suddenly make all local stops, or that some stops are skipped altogether. Don't let that intimidate you though, because the MTA has provided this app with up-to-date info on exactly how to navigate these abrupt changes.

Hailing taxies in New York is pretty easy at most times of the day in most neighborhoods, but if you don't want to take any chances to make it to a show or would like to show up to dinner in a sleek Uber Black ride, definitely call up an Uber driver! When we had to move from our AirBnB into our next temporary apartment, using Uber was much easier than dragging all of our luggage to the closest busy intersection. Click here to save up to $15 off your first Uber ride.


I am addicted to Seamless! I never dreamed I'd work in an office where people don't have time for lunch breaks, so I was thrilled to find out that I could order lunch on my phone—with no delivery charge or fee—and have it brought to my desk within half an hour (usually less)! You can even tip through the app when ordering. With hundreds of participating restaurants in New York, my biggest problem is deciding what I want. Most restaurants have a minimum order (average $10-15) but I haven't had a problem reaching that; adding a drink or other small item will do it, and usually the tip and tax go towards the minimum. I've also found that Seamless is available in over 450 cities, so I'm pretty much set wherever I go. Use my referral code and save $10 on your first order of $15 or more!

Nothing is worse than making plans to eat somewhere and then finding that there's a two hour wait. This can unfortunately be a frequent occurrence in New York City, where a ton of other people have also heard just how great that trendy new restaurant is and also want to check it out on a Friday night. I've even used OpenTable to reserve a spot at places that have turned out to not be crowded at all, but at least I was safer than sorry! Even if there's only a ten minute wait, now you're at the front of the line.

Speaking of skipping lines...the lines at Starbucks can sometimes be unbelievable. Thanks to Starbucks' new ordering feature on their app I never wait in line anymore. I've been treating myself to a white mocha at least once a week since we've moved here (...okay, sometimes more than once...) and I love walking in the door and passing everyone in line to pick it up at the counter. Just be sure to tell the barista you had a mobile order...I stood and waited over ten minutes the first time I used this app because I was waiting for them to call my name, while my mocha sat and cooled on the counter behind them. It's also too easy to reload my card from the app using PayPal...I might have a very expensive new habit.


Who hasn't heard of AirBnB, right? When we first moved to New York we didn't have a place to live, so we began by booking a week in a spare room through AirBnB. Our experience couldn't have been better, and cost us an average of $150 per night less than a hotel! This app allowed us to keep in touch with our host through messaging and convenient to use to manage our booking. If you're visiting and want the true feeling of living like a New Yorker, stay in a New Yorker's home! Click here to save $20 on your first booking through AirBnB.

Hotel Tonight
If you still want the hotel experience, using Hotel Tonight can score you some awesome deals. You can only search for offers that are within a seven day range, so this is for someone who has a sudden change of plans or is okay with a bit of spontaneity. I used Hotel Tonight when we suddenly had to be in New York for my interview back in September, and I loved that I could tell the app which days to keep an eye on and it notified me when rates dropped for those dates. We also found this really helpful on our cross-country move this summer!


If you're heading to New York City anytime soon, you've probably already thought about the possibility of seeing a Broadway show. Instead of paying high prices or spending several hours in line at the TKTS stand, just download the TodayTix app and order away. Some savings are as much as 50% and some shows offer online lotteries for day-of shows. (No more standing in line at 7am for a chance at cheap tickets!) I've made it a habit to enter the lottery for Thérèse Raquin every day for a chance at $19 tickets, but no luck yet. One day! Use promo code "MBGQG" when you sign up for $10 off your first ticket purchase.


Amazon Prime Now
I've had an Amazon Prime account for the past couple of years and the perks definitely outweigh the cost, in my opinion. Imagine my joy when I discovered that I could have my orders delivered here in only an hour! For larger items, like packs of bottled water (yes, I'm ashamed we've been buying bottled water...our filter is in a box in VA,) it's so much easier to fire up the Prime Now app and have someone deliver it in a truck than try to carry it several blocks from the store myself. Call me lazy, but these conveniences exist for a reason! You can try Prime for free for 30 days, so you really have no excuse not to try it. After all, the list of cities where one-hour delivery is now available is growing like crazy.

I'm sure there are plenty of apps I could add to this list in time. For example, most museums and major attractions have apps to help you explore more in depth while you visit, so be sure to look up anything you'd like to visit to see if they have an extra feature like this!