Book Recommendations: For the Recent Grad

by Katie Lyons in ,

I don’t know about you but for me post graduate life was rough! The plans I thought I had for after college didn’t pan out and I had no plan b. What I thought would just be six months to a year turned into two and a half years of me navigating what I wanted to do for a job, finding and maintaining adult friendships outside of college, and so much more.

I learned so much about what I wanted in life during those couple of years and parts of that I learned from several books that I read. If you have a friend or family member graduating soon or you yourself are a recent grad, I would definitely suggest taking some time to read these books and see if it helps you in your post-college life.

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if you find this letter by Hannah brencher

This book really made an imprint on me. The memoir traces the author’s time right after college in New York City working at a low paying program in the inner city. During her time there, she struggles with finding purpose, connection to others, and God in the fray of it all. After an introspective subway ride she starts leaving love letters around the city for struggling souls, like herself, to find and through that discovers her true passion of encouraging others. It really inspired me to find out what drove me and to think if that motivation could be turned into more. I also felt extremely known as she too struggled with the deep loneliness one can feel after leaving college and losing that accessible community.

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Why work by Dorothy Sayers

I have gleaned so much prospective on what God honoring work means and the type of attitude I strive for when it comes to balancing work and life from this short essay. Written during World War II, Sayers promotes that a society that wishes to prosper economically must strive to see that the work it produces serves God and that the worker serve the work. While some of her thoughts might not be possible unless we lived in a Utopia, her premise of making sure you do good work and produce quality work because it is pleasing to God is applicable regardless and something I strive for in my own work.

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English lessons by Andrea lucado

I can not recommend this book enough - it completely captured my heart. Another memoir, this one follows the author’s time during her graduate program in Oxford, England. Not only is it the first time she is away from home, but it also the first time she is completely surrounded by people outside of her own faith and ideology. She grapples with interpersonal relationships, the evolution of friendships, different ideologies, love, loneliness, and her own belief system. Beyond all of that, she perfectly paints a beautiful description of Oxford, so well that it’s like you don’t even need to visit (who am I kidding, you’re definitely going to want to take a trip across the pond after reading this one).

After reading each of these books, I wished I had read them sooner. I can’t help but wonder if having the lessons and insights from each of these perspectives before I had graduated might have allowed me to avoid some of the same mistakes or pains that the authors shared. But then again, maybe if I didn’t find those commonalities between our stories, the books wouldn’t have captured my attention so well.

I would love to hear from you! Have you read any of these? Did you feel the same way? Any other book recommendations you would give to someone who is a recent graduate?

2018 UK Trip

by Katie Lyons

Last March I got to do something I’ve been dreaming of - visit the UK again. I was really fortunate to study abroad there the summer before my senior year of college and ever since I’ve been dying to go back. It was two summers ago, that I realized I needed to stop holding off on doing things I wanted to do just because I had no one to do them with. I decided it was time to make a trip back and told some of my friends of my plans. It just so happened that my roommate, Bec and friend, Abby said they wanted to join!

We started planning in January. Abby hadn’t been to the UK at all, Bec had been to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London, and I had been all over England. We found cheap round trip tickets to Dublin so we decided to start the journey there. Sunday we’d be in Dublin, half of Monday in Belfast and the other half in Glasgow, then Tuesday in Edinburgh, Wednesday in Newcastle on Tyne, and then Thursday and Friday in London, leaving from Dublin to go back home on Saturday. It was a very short trip for how many stops we planned, looking back I’m not sure I would cram so much into so little time, but we definitely made the most of it in each city. We took a total of four flights, six trains, and who knows how many rides on the tube those two days in London. We also had a bit of a travel mishap getting back because of a bus fire in Gatwick Airport (NEVER FLY OUT OF GATWICK!) which made our trip home miserable being awake for 40 hours and traveling for 36.

However, the travel mishaps did not keep us from having a great time. We got very lucky in Dublin and Glasgow with some sunshine (that’s shocking for the UK in the winter/spring), seemed to encounter all four seasons in Newcastle on Tyne, and had the typical rainy cold of a UK winter for everywhere else. We definitely did the tourist sites in many cities but got the chance to see Newcastle on Tyne as locals with a friend of Bec’s, who showed us all of the local favs including the best fish shack on the beach where we ate lunch. If you want to know more, check out a few of my favorite spots we stopped at in each city below.

Even a short stay in Dublin is like walking into literary history, accompanied by music.

Places to Eat/drink

  1. SoMa at the Spire - The first thing we did once we got off the plane was eat and I’m glad we ended up here. It was such a good breakfast and really started the day off right.

  2. Porterhouse Central - This is a great place to get a traditional Irish meal and has a really great vibe with the walls covered in vintage beer bottles.

things to do/see

  1. Hop On Hop Off Tour - Best way to see the city hands down. It was really a blessing since we were running on very little to no sleep from the flight over. This made it so easy to get around the city without having to walk the whole thing.

  2. The Little Museum of Dublin - This cute, small museum is a a great way to learn a little bit about the history of Dublin and see how the city has changed over the years. It even has a cool little room dedicated to U2!

  3. St. Patrick’s Cathedral - There are several churches to stop at on the tour, but I’m really glad we stopped at this one. This Gothic cathedral is rich with history and has a beautiful garden surrounding it with memorials to iconic Irish authors.

  4. Guinness Storehouse - What a way to end the day! Who knew there was so much to making beer? Apparently the taste of a Guinness brewed in Dublin is extremely different than anywhere else in the world. I even go to pour my own pint!

Glasgow is less polite than Edinburgh, but that’s a good thing – they keep it very real.
— Nik Kershaw

things to eat/drink

  1. beGIN - Apparently Gin is a big deal in Scotland so there is no shortage of a good Gin joints in Glasgow. This one was definitely an A+ in my book for their unique cocktails and their Gin focused menu.

  2. Òran Mór - We finished off the night at this cool church turned pub/bar/music venue/anything else you can imagine. We kept it simple with the drinks but the bar and atmosphere was really cool and unique.

things to do/see

  1. West End - This is where we stayed and did most of our sight seeing and dining. There is no limit on places to eat and drink and it’s also where you can find the Glasgow Botanical Gardens.

  2. Glasgow Botanical Gardens - Unfortunately it wasn’t late enough in the spring for a lot of flowers or wildlife to be seen other than a couple patches of wildflowers. By the time we got to the park the glasshouse was closed for the day, but it is a beautiful park to walk around and from the windows, the plants and flowers inside the glasshouse looked amazing.

Coming back to Edinburgh is to me like coming home.
— Charles Dickens

things to eat/drink

  1. The Malt Shovel Inn | Belhaven Pub - This is the perfect place for a traditional Scottish meal of haggis which was really quite tasty!

  2. Clarinda’s Tea Room - We escaped the cold and rain in this cute, small tea room just off the end of the Royal Mile. The tea and scones were delicious and who knew whipped cream tasted so good on scones?

  3. Patisserie Valerie - We not only got the best dessert here but also had a really good breakfast the next morning before moving on to Newcastle.

things to see/do

  1. Old Town Chambers - If you’re visiting Edinburgh you MUST STAY HERE! They are wonderful apartments right in the heart of Old Town Edinburgh and it the best place we stayed the entire trip. In fact if I could do it all over again, Edinburgh would be our central location each night with day trips to other cities just to be able to stay here every night.

  2. Edinburgh Castle - Amazing and incredible views of the city. They do free tours around the grounds every hour or so and we got in just in time for one to start and then continued exploring ourselves.

  3. Scottish Parliament Building - We found ourselves here after we tried to go see Holyrood Palace and it was closed for the day. It’s right across the street and is free to the public. We even got to sit in on a parliament session.

  4. Cranachan & Crowdie - Walking back up the Royal Mile, we discovered this amazing gift shop with a wonderful selection of “Made in Scotland” pieces. The owner also has quiet the Gin selection in store and even lets you taste before purchasing (I came home with a lot of goodies from here).

Its party reputation is still well-deserved, but Newcastle is more than just a night out – it’s a breeding ground for avant-garde art and cutting edge culture too.
— TNT Magazine

things to eat/drink

  1. Riley’s Fish Shack - This hole-in-the-wall fish shack on King Edwards Bay will be the BEST meal you ever have! No joke. With fresh fish, beautiful views, and a local experience, this is the perfect place to eat in the seaside town of Tynemouth.

  2. Mister Woods - We stopped in here to pick up some waters and while we didn’t actually eat anything here, this really cute restaurant in the heart of Tynemouth smelled great and had quite the pastry cabinet.

  3. Kiln - Once we headed back into the city, Caris took us to this wonderful coffee, bakery, AND pottery house. The coffee and cake was delicious and it was a great setting to sit down and get lost in conversation for a couple of hours. It took all within me to not come home with all of the tea cups and saucers.

  4. The Botanist Newcastle - We finished off our evening at this experience of a bar. It’s kind of like a woodlands themed Opryland, stuffed into a multi-level bar. The drinks were ok but the atmosphere definitely made up for them and makes it worth a quick visit.

things to see/do

  1. King Edwards Bay - The first place Caris took us was to the beach at King Edwards Bay and it was so nice to get away from the city and enjoy a typical English seaside town.

  2. Tynemouth Pier Lighthouse - Really cool walkway out to the lighthouse right by the mouth of Tyne. Watch out though, because the farther along you get down the jetty, the easier it is to get soaked by the waves crashing over the rocks around you. You have to run or you’ll get soaked like we did.

  3. Hadrian’s Wall Path - In order to show us proper downtown Newcastle, Caris took us to the walking path along the River Tyne. It was a great way to see the Swinging Bridge and the High Level Bridge - quite the contrast between modern and old town Newcastle.


A bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else.

things to eat/drink

  1. All Bar One Leicester Square - This stylish bar was a nice way to get out of the rain and get in some small plates and a good drink. Very busy though with many working Londoners who wanted to grab a drink after work.

  2. Eggbreak - Best breakfast of my life! This adorable house turned into a restaurant, is a great cozy place to get the best breakfast in town. I highly recommend the crab cake with the poached egg!

things to see/do

  1. Walk the Sites - You can find the Buckingham Palace, Westminister Cathedral, Big Ben, the London Eye, Hyde Park, and Kensington Palace all within a good walking distance of each other. Find a map of the city and take an afternoon to walk around and see all the sites.

  2. Sky Garden - Want to see the whole city without walking anywhere? This high rise has 360 views of the city and you can take it all in while having a great cocktail or delicious meal. They even have a live band that plays in the evening if you want a view of the city all lit up.

  3. Piccadilly Circus - This is London’s main theater district. You can find a kiosk where you can purchase discounted tickets to shows in Golden Square and find plenty of food to eat.

  4. Notting Hill/ Portobello Road Market - Notting Hill is a neighborhood not quite like anything you’ve ever seen. Between the colorful pastel houses of Westbourne Park Road and the grungy street fair of the Portobello Market, I could have spent way more time than just the morning visit we had there. I would love to go back and explore this area more.

This was definitely different from my last trip - I knew it would, but I just didn’t realize how different it would be. I still had the same love affair with the culture and the scenery as I had before, but even the look of the UK in the winter/spring is much different than that of the summer (I really missed all of the flowers). I missed the familiar places I had visited the last trip - traipsing around the streets of Oxford, walking the Moors, and climbing the ruins of Tintagel - but at the same time there was too much to explore of the places I had never been before to even consider going back to where I had already visited. Bottom line is, I don’t think I’m done with my trips to the UK and I really hope another one is in my future so I can continue to explore. This trip was really a great start to a really awesome 2018!

October Playlist

by Katie Lyons

I never feel ready for summer to end, but once fall has arrived - leaves changing, brisk cool air, and clear blue skies - I’m all in. I’ve actually come to realize October is one of my favorite months. Much like people and their affinity to start listening to Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, I feel this compulsion to listen to certain albums as soon as October 1st rolls around. So park yourself on the couch with a blanket and a warm cup of tea and take a listen to a few below. I promise they won’t disappoint.



Alison Krauss + Union Station

Unlike the following albums, I have been listening to this one since I was a little girl. I actually got to see Alison Krauss & Union Station live when I was about 12 and to this day it is still one of the best concerts I have ever been to. With world class musicians playing the fiddle, banjo, and dobro, and Krauss’ effortless vocals, it doesn’t get much better. I remember a lot of car rides through western Maryland and Virginia listening to this album and the warmth of the instruments and her voice always makes me think of the rolling hills of Maryland covered in the colors of fall.



Native Dreamer Kin


ALL THE HARMONIES. That’s what killed me the first time I heard these three sisters. The strong yet effortless nature of their voices paired with gorgeous lyrics is mesmerizing. Outside of the a amazing music, the lyrics are captivating - full of loss and longing. Those topics resonate heavily with me during this season where things are slowly yet beautifully dying.




Noah Gundersen

This album starts off perfectly with “Poor Man’s Son” which first, starts off a cappella and second, incorporates the African American spiritual, “Down in the River to Pray" perfectly accenting Gundersen's greatest asset, his voice. The rest of the album fluctuates between slower ballads drowning in sorrow of lost love and just slightly upbeat folk songs reminiscing and moving on from that love lost. While most of the album is driven by acoustic guitar and Gundersen's voice, several songs also incorporate violin and harmonies by his sister, Abby Gundersen, which adds a richness and warmth, making it the perfect album for fall.  



This Empty Northern Hemisphere

Gregory Alan Isakov

Another acoustically driven album, Gregory Alan Isokov’s deep sultry voice and beautiful story telling separates this one from the rest. It’s not as sad and depressing lyrically compared to the others. Instead, each song is rather hopeful and upbeat, offering a little vignette of a story through elaborately metaphors and imagery. Adding a little slide guitar, some drums, and a bit of fiddle, and it’s a magical album from start to finish.


Ten Boom

Penny & Sparrow

When my brother got back from a fall tour with Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors and Penny & Sparrow, he handed me this CD. I don’t think he ever thought it would end up being one of my favorite albums. Kyle & Andy’s amazing harmonies and guitar driven songs are gut-wrenchingly beautiful on this album. It’s definitely not a cheery one - most songs tackle betrayal, lost love, and being left behind - but it’s that combination that once again so perfectly accompanies this change of season when everything that was alive is slowly and beautifully dying away.




Ruston Kelly

I’ve saved the best for last. I could listen to this album all the time, but it seems most appropriate during October. I first heard Ruston Kelly when I went to see Joseph in concert last fall, and I immediately fell in love. Tackling themes of loss, regret, and moving on, his rough deep voice accompanied by guitar and harmonica is heaven. From the gut-wrenching lyrics, his voice, and the roughly recorded monologues interspersed throughout, the whole album is perfectly raw. I always feel like I need to have a whiskey in hand while listening, which makes me love it even more.



I would encourage you to listen to each of these albums individually. While they definitely have common themes lyrically and musically, they each bring something different to the table. However, if you just want a snippet of each, I've created a special playlist with some of my favorites. Perfect for car rides on back roads at dusk.

I would also love to know what you all think. Any albums I should add to my October list?

All Things Natural

by Katie Lyons

If you didn't see my collab with Sampled on the blog last month, you missed out on some globally inspired DIY's. The huge trend this summer is all things natural: woven rugs and placemats, unfinished pottery, and all the tassels you could ever want. It's a great way to give your living space some texture and warmth and add some fun color. Summer might be winding down but that doesn't mean you have to move on from this trend. I've rounded up some of my favorite natural finds at Target (no this post is not sponsored though I wish it was - that would be a DREAM!) and most of them on sale right now! So don't walk, RUN,  and grab your favorites from below. 

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You Are Awesome

by Katie Lyons

Have you seen those t-shirts and prints that say "you are enough"? I love them so much and there are so many times that I see one of them online just when I need to see those words. Being enough is definitely something I grapple with, especially since I am a people pleaser and desperately crave everyone to like me. However, a big thing I've learned post college though is that that's not always possible. Not everyone will like you and your goal should be instead to find those that accept you. And I mean really accept you, for the whole you, not just the you you post about on Instagram or Facebook.

As Kacey Musgraves so accurately puts it, "You can't be everyone's cup of tea" and to be perfectly honest you shouldn't be! We are all so unique and those unique qualities are what makes us awesome. Sometimes I have to give myself a little pep talk because it's hard to not see those unique qualities as disadvantages. I am very loud when I get excited, extremely forward and decisive, I laugh a lot - sometimes at very inappropriate times, I have a tendency to say things without thinking about them, I am very tall which makes me intimidating to some, and I have quite a personality to go with all that. It's hard when a relationship or friendship ends, or doesn't even work out, to not go through my list of unique qualities and think about what it was this time that they didn't like or found off-putting. But all of that stops here. It's sad but I actually have to remind myself sometimes that I do in fact have some pretty amazing friends, and they seem to have no problem with any of the qualities I listed above. They truly love me for me and will call me out on my shit if there really is something I should fix or change. But even those things they might call me out on, do not deter them from being with me or loving me.

So with the start of the new year, I am making more of an effort to recognize that I AM AWESOME and everyone is just going to have to deal with it. I don't say this to be haughty or pretentious, in fact I think this is something everyone needs to declare for themselves, no matter how cliche and ridiculous it sounds. Those unique qualities mean you have gifts and talents to offer that no one else can, a way of looking at the world that only you posses - this is never something to be ashamed of. And that means you should never have to convince someone to love you, to spend time with you, or to invest in a relationship with you. If you do, that relationship is not worth it, and you should move on. Because..... You Are Awesome and those that are worth it will not only learn to deal with your awesomeness, but will love you for it!

If you need a way to remind yourself of your awesomeness, please feel free to save the image below and use it as your phone or tablet background. 

All Things: Copper

by Katie Lyons

I am currently OBSESSED with anything copper/rose gold,  especially when it comes to home accents. I think it is the best way to add some color and sophistication to your space, especially if you are sticking with more neutral tones. I feel even more vindicated in my obsession because Oh Joy for Target's new release has a lot of copper/rose gold accents and I decided on this post before she ever released the previews. *Great minds think alike Joy, want to be friends? It was hard to narrow it down to just the items listed below so if you see something that you like thru one of the links be sure to see related items below that item or try typing in "copper" into the shop's search engine. What are your favorites from below? 

1. MYMO Lamp Shade - Ikea

2. Oh Joy! Bar Ware Set - Target

3. Pineapple Shot Glass - Bando

4. Pineapple Tumbler - Bando

5. Vanity Organizer - Target

6. Scarf Organizer - The Container Store

7. Metal Candle Holder - Target

8. Redsmith Dining Chair - Anthropologie

9. Ceiling Light - Target

10. Wire Drawer Organizers - The Container Store

11. Wall Lamp - Target

Dating App Adventure - Six Lessons Learned from Online Dating

by Katie Lyons

Back in March, feeling a little discouraged that by the age of 25 I had only been on a handful of dates, I decided to jump into the wonderful world of dating apps. I joined Coffee Meets Bagel after a friend suggested it, then decided to also try the very popular Bumble app, but I stayed FAR FAR away from dating apps that I think are notorious for hooking up, like Tinder, since I was not interested in a one night stand. I did it for six months and then the other day I deleted all my accounts. I'm glad I tried it and I would encourage others to do the same for some time. So if you are interested in trying out some dating apps or maybe you already use one or two, here are some lessons that I learned from my six-month stint in the dating app world.


1. Don't give your number to a guy before meeting him in person.

I decided this from the beginning but then broke it a couple of times for guys that I thought would be worth it. WRONG. I don't say this one necessarily for security reasons, even though that is something to consider. But because I gave a couple of guys my number, they didn't seem to feel the need to do anything further to get it. We would go on texting for a little bit but in the end it just fizzled out and they never made a move. It was in part because they weren't going to, but I also didn't give them any incentive to do so either. If they don't respect your policy when it's brought up, or never respond after that, you have your answer to whether or not they are even worth communicating with any further.

2. If they just want to talk, that's all they'll do.

One of the things I really liked about Coffee Meets Bagel is that it gave time limits on connections. The chat line through the app is only open for a limited time because Coffee Meets Bagel is trying to get people to go on dates and actually move past the chatting. I thought because that was part of their mission statement, that people that were on it wanted the same thing. WRONG. If I guy just wants to waste his time chatting away, and never make a move, he will, no matter how the app tries to fight against it. This also has to do with what I was talking about above. By giving out my number, I facilitated their "pen pal" mindset and in the end just got really frustrated. The same though goes for apps that don't have chat restrictions, like Bumble.  I would definitely make sure you set your own time limits and no matter how nice the guy seems, if he can't ask you out after a couple of weeks but you talk a lot, ask him out yourself or unmatch. There is no reason to waste your time.

3. It doesn't matter what your profile looks like, sooner or later, you will get propositioned.

Ever seen feminist tinder on Instagram? I am ashamed to say that even after seeing some of their posts, I used to think that when girls got propositioned by a guy, especially on a dating app, that she must have said something that would make them believe that that line of questioning was ok. WRONG. I am apparently very religious from my profile, I specifically say in my bio that I am NOT interested in hooking up, and I do not have any pictures of me in scantily clad clothing. And yet I still got asked what my favorite position is. I was still sent a dick pic. It doesn't matter; they will go there if they are an immature ass of a man. Plain and simple.

4. All jackasses are not as apparent as they seem.

I had a pretty rigorous "liking" system on all the apps I used. Coffee Meets Bagel allows you to be very specific in what you are looking for (religion, age, height, etc), which is great if you have some non-negotiables like I did. Bumble is more like Tinder, in that you swipe right if you like the person and you're only given the info the user has decided to give, which can be from everything to nothing. Because Bumble was more of a guessing game I had some things that I looked out for. I stayed far away from guys with a lot of shirtless selfies, ones that didn't have a lot of personal information, etc. I naively thought that all the guys I picked were pretty good quality. WRONG AGAIN. That guy that asked me what my favorite position is, looked like a nice unassuming guy and had some cute anecdote about being great at meeting parents. Yeah, he would NOT have done well meeting my dad, that's for sure.

5. Casual dating can be exhausting.

I was sure my displeasure with my romantic life was that I wasn't getting asked out enough. That if I only went on more dates, I would feel better about my situation. Besides, who doesn't like a free drink or meal every once in awhile. Unfortunately, it can be really exhausting spending so much time talking with guys that never ask you out OR going out on date after date, never making that connection you’re searching for. I realized from all of this that casual dating is not my thing; I want to invest too much to make it worthwhile for me. If you have the same type of personality, just be warned, you could get drained quickly.

6. There are great guys out there.

While I seem to be pointing out a lot of issues with dating apps, there are some great guys out there who do actually ask you out and are the real deal. I met a couple and had some really nice dates; unfortunately in the end it just didn't work out with any of them. However, just because I didn't, doesn't mean it's not possible for you to meet that special someone on a dating app.

Again, I'm glad I tried it, and while it gave me tons of interesting dating stories, in the end it wasn't for me. There is something organic about meeting someone for the first time and feeling that initial attraction that most of the time was missing for me.  Dating apps try to imitate this through profiles and while a good looking picture and a nice written bio is intriguing, it's just not the same. So for right now I think I'm done, but I hope the few lessons I have learned can help you have a more successful time in the dating app world than I did. 

Also, it amazes me how much recently released music can so easily become the soundtrack to my life. If you can relate, check out this playlist I've created. If listened to in order, it gives a pretty accurate depiction of a relationship from start to end. *And just in case you were wondering, yes I purposefully placed Selena and Justin's songs back to back.

Would you add any songs to the playlist?