Alyssa J Freitas

May 15, 2019

Etiquette of Spending Time with Friends

A while back I wrote a blog post about the etiquette of going out with friends. I covered points like how to choose where to go and how to split the bill, and today I want to delve into the soft skills aspect of spending time with friends.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Make sure you are treating your friends well with these etiquette tips in mind
As we get older, we have less and less time to dedicate to friendships. Not because they aren’t incredibly important or valuable, but because we have careers to grow and romantic relationships to nurture and family to spend our time with. Therefore, it is even more essential to bring your best self to all of your interactions with friends. Whether it’s phone calls or (how exciting!) in person meet ups, you have an obligation to yourself and to your friend to make your time well spent!


In my post on going out with friends I make brief mention of staying off your phone. Let me make a bigger deal of it here: AVOID USING YOUR PHONE. Normally I don’t use all caps because Joe once said to me that good writers don’t need to rely on punctuation like that to make a point, but I want to doubly make my point, so there. Unless you’re showing pictures to accompany the story you’re telling or looking up a resource you want to recommend, please respect each other enough to really focus on your conversation.

I use the word “focus” instead of just the phrase “stay off your phone” because there can be distractions that aren’t electronic. If you’re catching up with a friend on the phone and want to multitask (do the dishes, dust, pretty much mindless cleaning is the only exception here), make sure to give the person the heads up and ensure that it doesn’t take away from you listening to the conversation.

Ask questions (and follow up questions) 

When you’re having a conversation, make sure to split time equally as best as you can. If you find yourself an hour in to a lunch date and you’ve yet to ask the other person about a single thing that’s going on with them, you’re not on the right track. That’s not to say that sometimes a conversation won’t be more about one person than the other (things go on in people’s lives that need attention!), but if this is happening on a consistent basis you’re not building or developing your relationship.

I mention follow up questions because this is what shows you truly care. Anyone can ask “how are things going at work?” Great friends will listen to your response carefully and then ask a question based on what you said and progress the conversation to a deeper level. Getting past the surface level catch up is key.

Also, once you learn more about the things that are important to your friend (her upcoming job interview, the party she's planning for her mother), check in with her when it happens! Remembering what a friend tells you and following up afterwards shows how well you listen and how much you care. I unabashedly put my friends' important events into my calendar so I am sure to send them a text or make a quick call.

Smile, laugh, have fun! 

Try to do things and talk about things that are amusing and up-lifting. While friends are a great support and sounding board, it’s not fair or healthy to make every interaction a complaining/vent session. A friend is a person you should have fun with and leave each other’s company happier than before. Do activities that are enjoyable (if you’re competitive, go to an arcade, if you’re creative, take photos together) and make an effort to have at least one solid belly laugh per hang out.

With these foundational skills in mind, you can make the most of your time with friends and have a greater appreciation for your friendship (that’s another one! Thank your friends often for all they do for you and tell them how much they mean to you).

How do you make sure you’re cultivating your relationships and keeping etiquette in mind?

Check out more friendship posts here:
How to Stay Close with Friends Post-Grad
3 Ways to Strengthen Your Friendships


May 8, 2019

Influencers To Brighten Up Your Feed

I've been writing about minimalism for a long time. Back in 2015 I did an entire series on digital minimalism and what I shared then still holds true today. While it's great to be intentional about how you consume content and go for the "less is more" mindset, I've recently found that it's even more important to get joy from what you're looking at.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Here's a roundup of positive influencers you can follow to brighten up your feed!
I love personal development and organization inspiration as much as the next go-getter, but when it comes to social media I've been intentionally following more of what I call "happy influencers." Those people who have a positive, bright attitude and consistently make your day better. I'm going to share my favorites and I would love if you would comment and let me know who you like to follow!

Minnie Mouse

Minnie Mouse recently got an Instagram and I am obsessed. She is so adorable and they come up with the cutest captions.

A post shared by Minnie Mouse (@minniemouse) on

Mickey Mouse

And how can you follow Minnie without Mickey? It's so fun to see what Mickey and his friends are up to!

Allison Bickerstaff

Allison works at Disney (are you seeing a theme here?) and has the most lovely, positive, happy spirit! Her Instagram is great, and I especially love her YouTube channel.

Michel Janse Smith

Michel is an actress, waitress, and all around charming person who makes YouTube videos about living in a small space, weddings, nutrition, and other lifestyle topics. I love her personality and get excited whenever she posts a new video. 

Caroline Jordan

I discovered Caroline when I injured my sesamoid bone (a bone in your foot). She has a YouTube channel where she posts helpful videos about recovering from foot injury and workouts that don't require you to put weight on your foot. Even though I am thankfully so much better and don't need those tips as much, I still love to follow her Instagram for the positive quotes and her updates on all the great work she is doing with others recovering from injury. 

Morgan Yates

I appreciate that Morgan is a tell-it-like-it-is personality! She is down to earth, laughs a lot, and I am always excited to click on her videos.

Whitney Saxon

My favorite place to follow Whitney is on her blog. I absolutely love her vulnerable and relatable posts and her baby is adorable! She has a nonprofit called The Letter Project, which I've participated in, that you can also check out. 

Like I said at the start, I would love to know who you follow for positive vibes? Hope you enjoyed this roundup!

-Alyssa J

May 1, 2019

April 2019 Monthly Recap

Happy spring! The first weekend of the month was absolutely beautiful out. Joe and I were walking around outside and talked about what a huge difference the weather makes in our enjoyment of the city. Rather than struggling to find free/affordable things to entertain ourselves indoors, we can just grab our books, head to a park, and have a perfect weekend. This month gave a little taste of that blissful life, and I can't wait to increase time spent outdoors.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Check out what I was up to in the month of April
We went out for a great brunch that first weekend and absolutely basked in the sunshine!

I headed up to Boston for a client meeting and got to see Tina. It's always wonderful when I can incorporate a visit when I travel for work, and we had a great time walking around the city and eating a yummy Italian dinner.

A big milestone on my foot injury recovery was reached this month - I did yoga for the first time since September! It felt so good to get back on the mat. While I have to make modifications for my foot and knee, I'm learning to be more understanding and gentle with my body, and appreciative of what I can do.

Since Addison is in his senior year (still can't believe we'll be celebrating his graduation in a couple of months) he had to choreograph a number at his school for his senior project. It was so exciting to see and I can't wait to go to many more performances as he enters the real world of being a working dancer and choreographer.

A big event for me this month was my research trip to the NYPL! I wrote a follow up post to one of my Back In Time posts and it was so exciting for me to get my hands on a rare primary source. You can read all about the most recent historical topic I'm obsessing over here.

That same beautiful day Joe and I had a double date with John and Christina that included walking all around Central Park and going out for a delicious dinner.

I went to a very cool event for the Women's Bond Club that I am part of through IBM. It's the oldest and most prestigious organization for women in the financial services industry in New York and this month was our annual awards banquet. It's held in the National History Museum and we ate dinner in the Hall of Ocean Life under the whale!

Kajal and I went out for dinner and realized we hadn't seen each other since around Thanksgiving. It's pretty crazy how many months can go by between seeing friends, and it's wonderful when we can get schedules to align. She treated me to dinner as a belated birthday gift and I had the most scrumptious apple dessert!

The night before Easter my family went to a concert of Coldplay and U2 tribute bands. We had an awesome time, and I was surprised by how many Coldplay songs I recognized and didn't originally realize were theirs.

I FINALLY updated my profile picture this month after more than a year of the same photo from Italy. Addison got a new phone and I am obsessed with the camera. Mama and Addison are great at photo shoots, so it took hardly any time for them to set up the right shot and capture a whole bunch of great options. Seriously, go check out Addison's Instagram where they post all of their great photos. I can't wait to upgrade my phone and be able to take better pictures.

Well, that pretty much covers it! April was a lovely month, and I can't wait for more sunny days to come.

What were you up to this month? You can check out my other monthly recap posts here.


April 24, 2019

Mindset Shift To Increase Positivity

I just got together with Kajal this past week and we realized it had been months since we'd seen one another. We launched into our life updates. How's your work/schooling? How's your health? How're your friends and family? There's always a few areas that we're working on or that we're currently challenged by, and we share those with one another and ask for advice. These catch up conversations, in addition to texting and phone calls, happen with all of my friends and can be so helpful!
Click to read now or pin to save for later! This adjustment in how I interact with friends helped me to dramatically increase my positivity. Learn more here
However (you knew that was coming, didn't you?), this also means I have to bring up the things that aren't perfect in my life over and over again with each friend. And because my friends are wonderful, they'll follow up and ask for updates and find out if there's anything else I need to talk through...which leads to me having to relive it all again.

I wasn't really aware of how this "reliving" was making me feel until I read this article from The Everygirl (I'm also pretty sure I read something similar on A Cup of Jo, but I can't find the article now). The author describes how she used to vent her daily frustrations and thought that it was a great release, but realized that the rehashing of every day wasn't really necessary and actually made her keep her negativity around for longer.

While I don't vent about my day on a regular basis, I do find myself updating each friend and brining up negative emotions when I really don't need to. What on the surface was my intention to keep everyone on the same page in actuality was me getting myself worked up again without even realizing it.

Now that I am aware of this, I've been much more intentional about how many people I talk to about issues on a regular basis, and when I am doing a longer catch up with a friend I focus more on the present and future. 

Did you read my post about missing the past? This shift in what I talk about has been a great way to address those feelings. It's a bit like that song "Turn it Off" from Book of Mormon where it talks about not feeling your feelings. I'm not suggesting that you ignore things that are bothering you, rather I'm saying that we should acknowledge and talk about it with a limited number of people, address it, and move forward with all future conversations. I've found that this is a great way to be positive and to get your friend's perspective on what is really important - what's happening in the future/what you're working towards!

How do you decide what to talk about with friends? Would love to hear how you have positive conversations and keep your mindset on track. 


April 17, 2019

Back In Time (Bonus!): Forney In Europe

This week should be an etiquette post. Instead, it's your lucky day and I'm doing a bonus Back In Time post instead! Last week we talked about the Centennial Exhibition in Philly in 1876. I mentioned that John Weiss Forney went to Europe for two years to get people pumped for the exhibition and how I thought there must be some good stories there.
Click to read now or pin to save for later! This week's post is a bonus Back In Time follow up from last week. Find out about what our friend Forney was up to in Europe when he was promoting the Centennial Exhibition
When I was writing the other post, I did my research and wasn't able to find any information about what went on during his time in Europe. I told Joe, and he proceeded to go hunting for a primary source and found that there was a book called A Centennial Commissioner in Europe that is a collection of Forney's letters from 1874-1876. Jackpot.

There is not a digital copy of the book (nor experts from what we could find), however, they had it at the New York Public Library! Using Joe's card, I requested to view it and this weekend we went to the research section of the library and I got to explore what was going on with Forney during his mission. The book itself was falling apart and they had it tied up (you can see in the picture the string around it), and I really felt like I was going back in time.

First of all, let me give you a quick background on Forney so you can understand just how big of a deal he was and why it's even more amazing that he put his life in the U.S. on hold to go promote the exhibition in Europe. Forney served as both the Clerk of the United States House of Representatives and as the Secretary of the United States Senate. At 16 years old he started working in newspapers and at 20 he bought his own publication. He was instrumental in helping James Buchanan get the presidential nomination and ran his successful campaign for president. Forney later became a republican and ran a daily newspaper throughout the years of the Civil War.

Ok, now on to what I found in the book. It was over 300 pages long and I only had a few hours, so my method of research was to look at the table of contents and flip to parts that appeared to be the most interesting. Since the other blog post started with a painting, I thought it only appropriate to begin with a painting here as well. In 1874 Forney visited Paris and spoke with Imogene Robinson Morrell who was a painter who wanted to contribute her work to the exhibition. Below is Provision Train, showing Washington and his troops.

Forney spent less than $15 per week while in Paris, but he was very concerned about getting ripped off. He tells a story where he and his friend were taking a cab and the driver was going very slow and they thought he was trying to rip them off. They had agreed the ride would take a certain amount of time and when it took longer they tried to get out of the car and start walking. The cab driver flipped out and since neither of the two men spoke French very well, they got back in and paid the extra fare.

Forney also spent time in England, where he observed that the food was not nearly as good as in America, comparing it against Augustin's in Philly and Delmonico's in New York. While in England he stayed with Lord North, Minister of George III and there was casually a Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington in the bedroom he stayed in.

My favorite story involved Captain Boyton (go check out his Wikipedia page), an adventurer and waterman. In 1875 he performed his famous English Channel stunt, swimming across in 24 hours. After a night's rest, Forney went to see Boyton who proudly showed Forney the Centennial banner hanging outside his window. He told Forney that he wore it tied to his back during the crossing because he was so excited about the upcoming occasion.

Along Forney's way, he visited with Lafayette's grandson and with the Belgians, who were so psyched for the Centennial that they formed their own commission to prepare.

Two other little interesting facts. Around this time the U.S. was having great success in exporting folding chairs - American ingenuity at its finest. In 1875 Forney heard about the England National Cat Show that was put on at the Crystal Palace. I don't know if he went, but cat shows used to be a big thing in London.

Like I said, I wish I would have had more time with the book to read cover to cover, but I was so glad to get even a little bit more information about what went on in the two years that Forney was in Europe. It never ceases to fascinate me how people (of any day and age) can get an idea in their head, drop everything, and go after it.