268. What It's Like to Be Self-Employed.

My first day as a self-employed gal was all I dreamed... until it wasn't.

My first day as a self-employed gal was all I dreamed... until it wasn't.

Last Thursday marked my first day as self-employed person! I've dreamed about what this might feel like for a long time. Not that I was desperate for it or anything, but you know, after working full-time for over seven years, a girl's gotta wonder!

What would I do? Oh man, the possibilities! 

I had the most perfect day, ever.

I woke up at 6:30 and had coffee and breakfast with my guy.

I worked on my website until 9 am.

I then took Patsy, my sweet puppy, for a walk. We went to the Apple store and returned our wireless router (it was pretty crappy) and exchanged it for a more powerful one. They let dogs in the store, so it was especially fab.

Did I mention it was 70 degrees, sunny with fall colors exploding everywhere?!

Next, I brought Patsy home and went to daytime yoga. 

Who goes to daytime yoga?! I do! At noon! It was neat!

Afterward, I didn't even take a shower. I went right to Macy's where I returned the three duplicate wedding gifts that had been just sitting in our guest bedroom, burning a hole in my brain/eyes.

Who has time to return stuff when they're working full-time?!

Then, I went to JCrew and bought a puffy vest. I know I'm "technically not making any money," but I'm sure my husband will never read this, so shhh!

My next move? I went to Crate & Barrel to pick up a gift card. 

I was feeling pretty great about my accomplishments. Look at all of the things I just checked off my to-do list. Stuff that I'd been meaning to do for literally months!

And then exiting via Crate & Barrel's revolving door, it hit me:

Oh my god, what if I'm lonely (#268!)?


Will every day be like this? Me, darting around from task to task, only hanging out with my dog? Social interactions limited to sales people and some guy heavy-breathing next to me in a hot yoga class? 

I've never done this work-for-myself thing. I've always worked with others. Specifically, I've always worked with people I like. And for the past seven years, I've worked with Dusti, who has become more of a bestie/sister to me than a coworker. 

Is this a mistake?

I still don't think it is, but with big life changes, it's not all upside. You have to take the good with the bad. Change is hard. That's why we hardly ever do it unless it's absolutely necessary. 

This will not be the last time I second-guess my choice. But I'm prepared for it. For now anyway. Nothing happens overnight.

And as for loneliness? 

Well, I guess that's why God invented coffee meetings, lingering midweek lunches and happy hour.


267. Why I Quit My Really Awesome Job.

Just getting paid to go to South Beach Wine & Food Festival... nbd! 

Just getting paid to go to South Beach Wine & Food Festival... nbd! 

Last Wednesday marked the scariest things I've done in the past year. No, I didn't swim with white sharks or vacation in that town overrun with maniacal clowns.

I quit my job. 

But let me back up a sec.

Following college, I landed an absolutely terrible job where I got paid next to nothing to hand out fliers and other pointless crap to strangers, often while wearing a costume. A great use of my journalism degree!

It was awful.

So after a year, I did something perfectly naive: I put in my two weeks notice with zero plan. 

I spent the next month celebrating my own personal Summer of George, doing awesome stuff like going to the farmers' market on Thursday afternoons and laying by the pool.

There were also many, many margaritas.

The day I quit my crappy marketing job/my 25th birthday!

The day I quit my crappy marketing job/my 25th birthday!

But I knew I had to figure out my life. As cheesy as this seems in retrospect, I watched the movie version of The Secret (didn't read the book.. who has time for that?!). It made me realize the importance of goals. So, I set one: 

Get paid to eat, travel and tell people about it. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even more naive talk here, right? Who wouldn't want that job?

But during my summer of freedom, I focused on it. I thought about it all the time. I pictured what my life would look like. I even took an online class on how to be a travel writer.

And then I had an epiphany.

There was this guy named Andrew Zimmern. He had this new show on Travel Channel called Bizarre Foods & I loved it. As it turned out, he also lived in the Twin Cities. I decided to ask Andrew Zimmern how he ended up getting paid to eat, travel and tell people about it. Then, I could just do the same!

On July 26, 2007, I cold-called (more specifically, cold-emailed) him, asking how he had achieved my dream job. I also attached this photo of me from a recent flight:

I think this pic sealed the deal.

I think this pic sealed the deal.

Instead of ignoring me or sending some canned response, Andrew took a risk and hired me. 

Yes, you heard me right: I emailed Andrew Zimmern and he hired me.

I've spent the last 7+ years immersed in the world of food, travel and journalism. 

Together, Andrew and I have written three books (this one, this one and MY FAVORITE, this one!). We've traveled to Miami, Wisconsin (exotic!), visited New York a lot, once even getting trapped at the W Hotel during Hurricane Sandy.

I was literally eating, traveling and telling people about it.

My first-ever book signing! 

My first-ever book signing! 

I can't even explain the fantastical nature of this job.

I've met so many amazing people and honed all sorts of skills (Twitter wasn't even a thing when I started; now I'm a whiz!). 

However, there comes a time in every career when your gut starts talking.

The moment you realize you need to move on to make your life happen is bittersweet. It's especially difficult when your job is really good. Not only does it pay the bills, but you love your coworkers (loveloveLOVE!), the work is exciting, you're having fun.

The time we destroyed a table at DQ to get the perfect photo for our holiday card.

The time we destroyed a table at DQ to get the perfect photo for our holiday card.

Sometimes you need to let go of good

I just got married. We're not starting a family any time soon-soon, but you know, probably in the next few years. I've realized my next two years are pivotal. My time, energy and creativity are finite and so valuable. Since starting Hey Eleanor, I've spent every morning and night writing. In between, I go to the office and write and write some more.

It's exhausting.

I absolutely love everything I'm doing with Hey Eleanor, but simply haven't had the time to make it into my vision. I had to make a big decision.

Last month, with butterflies in my stomach, I asked Andrew if we could change our working relationship.

He said yes. 

Andrew and I will continue being our snarky selves on the Go Fork Yourself podcast, and I'll still be pitching in on a few projects here and there. I'm devoting 90 percent of my time to building Hey Eleanor, working on a book proposal (!) and freelance writing.

The Go Fork Yourself podcast art... It sorta looks like Andrew & I! 

The Go Fork Yourself podcast art... It sorta looks like Andrew & I! 

Without a doubt, leaving my job is scariest thing I've done to date.

(Yes, even scarier than going to Costco on a Saturday).

But quitting that stupid marketing job seven years ago was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

I'm trusting my gut and leaping again.  It's a lot harder this time, but I'm ready.

Just another day at the office.

Just another day at the office.

AZ & I at lumberjack camp. No, really.

AZ & I at lumberjack camp. No, really.

I am thankful for the love and support of my coworkers, friends, family, and of course, Andrew. I'll be forever grateful for him taking a chance on me, and for not only being a great boss, but amazing mentor and friend. 

I gotta give a huge shout out to my amazing husband, too.

I don't think I'd have the courage to make this leap without his love, support and faith in me (and, on a practical note, his company's health insurance plan). I promise I won't be a freeloader forever! 

* * *

Any advice for a newly self-employed freelancer/book writer/not-exactly-sure-what-they-wanna-be-er? Comment away; I need all the help I can get! EEEEEEEK!

P.S. Some scary work-related things from this year? The time I interviewed this Queen of Country Music and nearly cried; and that one time I ate this & liked it.

Links I Love: Halloween Edition

Halloween is the best! Here's a few reasons why. 

Halloween is the best! Here's a few reasons why. 

Guess what holiday I love more than Halloween?

Trick question! There is no better holiday than Halloween!

Halloween is one of the only places in my life where I absolutely, 100-percent refuse to cut corners. 

For example: I never, ever, EVER rent or buy a pre-packaged costume. In my opinion, putting the costume together is way more fun than wearing it.

Expect a post on some of my fave costumes later this week. 'Til then, here's some Halloweenie treats. 

* * *

Halloween treats for your ears!

Halloween treats for your ears!

Hosting a Halloween party (or carving pumpkins... or maybe just cleaning the house/cooking)? I made a Halloweenie Spotify playlist, including obvious favorites (Thriller, Monster Mash) and some legitimately spooky tunes (Red Right Hand by Nick Cave gives me nightmares!). Crank it!


Think Halloween candy is special? Errr, not really. A short and sweet post (puns!) that resonated with me. 

But... if there was one candy that's special, this is it! So good & you can barely ever find it outside of trick-or-treating season.


I'm assembling my annual scary movie round-up, but can't resist telling you that American Horror Story: Freak Show is by far the scariest thing I have watched all year. It's beautifully shot with great acting. But so creepy! Dare ya to watch it. Until then, the video above is one of the least creepy 12 second teasers I could find. 


Check out this list of awesome halloweenie stuff. Costumes, ghost stories & more!


When it comes to recipes, Food & Wine can do no wrong. Here's their Halloween recipe round up.


You know what's scary?

That anyone would care this much about candles. You know what's scarier? I watched this 11-minute video twice... and wanted more. Damn you Jen from Bath & Bodyworks in Appleton, Wisconsin! By the way, Angela's rant video would be a great Halloween costume. Green Bay shirt, blue zip-up and of course, B&BW candles (if you can find them!).

* * *

If you like these links, you might like following me on Twitter & Instagram, where I'm always sharing the coolest, scariest, funnest stuff I find on the web. See ya there & Happy Halloween!

Everyday Eleanor: Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty in her natural habitat. Photo by Anthony Chiappetta. 

Caitlin Doughty in her natural habitat. Photo by Anthony Chiappetta. 

Caitlin Doughty has great hair. She’s a whip-smart writer and beloved YouTube personality. Oh, and she’s also a mortician. I talk to her about death, dying with dignity, plus why she thinks we don't even need morticians.

Have you always been more comfortable around death than most people?

I don’t think so. I think because I had all this discomfort around death, I was more interested in knowing… I thought if I just saw what was going on, maybe some of that would go away.

And it has?

Oh yeah, certainly. The existential stuff never goes away. The whole, I don’t know what anything means or Do I want to live or do I want to die, those things never totally go away, at least in my experience. But any fear of dead bodies or the physical processes of death don’t scare me much at all. It seems like the most natural thing in the world to me to be afraid of your own death, but the least natural thing to be afraid of a corpse. 

Are you afraid of your own death?

Um, yes and no. I’m not this fully-realized Buddhist monk who has transcended to the point that I don’t have any attachment to things in my normal life. I have a partner who I love very much and I have this thing that I’m doing, this public advocacy, that I value very much and don’t want to have it die with me. I mean, there’s a lot of people who are doing it, but there is this fear that the world can’t go on without you. Each day brings me a new reason to fear death or to engage with your own mortality, so you have to keep checking in. You can reach a day when you’re like, I’m totally cool with death. I could die right now. And then the next day brings a whole new set of problems.

Are you currently a mortician?

Well, I am and I am not. I quit my job and started my own company. My business partner and I are both morticians. We started a company that’s trying to teach people that they don’t need us. It’s showing people all of the things that you are legally able to do yourself.

Not looking mortician-y at all. Photo by Darren Blackburn. 

Not looking mortician-y at all. Photo by Darren Blackburn. 

You talk a lot about a Good Death. What do you mean by that?

There are a lot of definitions of a good death. To me, it’s one that is engaged with and expected in a way. Especially if someone is elderly or dying, [a good death] is really discussed. What does that person want? Not only for their body and funeral, but how they want to die. How much medical intervention do they want? How long do they want to be kept alive past the point that they no longer have a good quality of life? A good death is a death that’s taken really seriously as a process and a ritual. So many deaths especially now in America are ignored on every level. Ignored on the emotional and physical level before the person dies and then ignored as a ritual when the person dies.

In what ways do you think people are ignoring it?

Well, I think first of all people are not willing or are afraid to have the conversation before they die because they are so afraid of their own death. And then after someone dies, there’s the perception that we should just have the body cremated. So we’ll just call the funeral home from the hospital. They’ll come take the body away and then they’ll get the ashes in a week and won’t have anything to do with the body or the cremation. Maybe they’ll just have a memorial in a month.

You talk a lot about natural burial and taking care of your loved ones in the home. What does that mean?

The idea of taking care of the body at home is based on the premise that they’re not dangerous to the living except in a few very specific instances, like the person dies of Ebola. But for the most part, the corpse is not dangerous. You are just as qualified as me, a licensed mortician, to wash the body, dress the body and have it in your home for a day or two. You can have a wake at home that’s perhaps more meaningful than one you would have in a funeral home. And then, the idea behind the natural burial is to really accept that when you die, your parts can go back into the universe. We shouldn’t be trying so hard to preserve bodies as we do with embalming and preservation and the big sealed casket and vault. Maybe we could do it like people have been for thousands of year and dig a hole and put a body in it.

 Right. People have been doing exactly that for thousands of years and yet today, I suspect many would find that practice in someway disrespectful.

It’s a narrow, late 20th Century version of death. It’s not how humanity has done it. In fact, it’s a real departure from how humanity has done it.

Caitlin's new book! Get it before it's cremated.

Caitlin's new book! Get it before it's cremated.

If you could change one thing about the western mindset about death, what would it be?

I think it would be the idea that we can completely hide death and the actual dead bodies and it’s going to be okay for our culture. We can say, Oh, if we don’t see them or interact with them and we don’t have any real sense of our death, I’m sure that won’t have any negative effect on how we understand the world. Or how we interact with our own life or mortality. That’s just not true.

If I wanted to provide a natural burial, what would I do? Is that that even legal?

Natural burial is legal absolutely everywhere. The reason it’s not available absolutely everywhere is because the individual cemeteries don’t like it. It’s cemetery policy. It’s not legislative policy. The reason cemeteries don’t like it is because one, they can’t sell the vault and things like that. And two, if you have a natural burial, they don’t have all those big cement things below ground and the ground creates a mound above the grave. That makes it a lot harder to landscape. S cemeteries don’t like natural burials. However, a lot of cemeteries are realizing that there is a demand for them, so they’ll open a small section for it.

Caitlin talks natural vs traditional burial. 

People don’t stop dying because it’s Christmas, midnight or you’re sunning yourself in the Caribbean. What’s your schedule like?

Yeah, it depends on when you work. I spent a lot nights on call. In fact, I would say that there’s more deaths around Christmas or the holidays because people get depressed, or maybe because they were hanging on to see their families one last time. And their family comes and they let go or their family doesn’t come and they’re like, fuck it. One year, I had to pick up 11 bodies on Christmas Eve and drive them from San Diego to LA. People do not stop dying because you’d like to have Christmas with your family.

Us food nerd folks like to discuss what our own “last supper” would be. What’s yours?

I think it would probably end with a lemon tart that was actually really tart and sour. The greatest disappointment has often been a lemon tart or pie that’s more sweet or sugary than tart. I think before I die, I’d want that to be rectified so I don’t have to go out in this blaze of disappointment that I’ve never gotten my tart lemon tart. Maybe for dinner, a really good moules frites with a really thick white wine sauce. And fries that are extra absorbent.

I really respect what you do. I think that it’s a huge responsibility to care of another human being like that. What’s that like?

I hope more people find out what that’s like. I hope more people take that responsibility for their loved ones.

* * * 

Follow Caitlin Doughty on Twitter & YouTube. Her new book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, is now available and the perfect gift for someone you love. 

You can check out my other Everyday Eleanor interviews in the archives. You know you want to.

I want to hear your Everyday Eleanor story. Email me at heyeleanorproject@gmail.com.

#264 - 266. I Try 3 Fashion Trends So You Don't Have To.

Ready or not, here I come... in a sequin hat.

Ready or not, here I come... in a sequin hat.

Fashion challenges are perfect Hey Eleanor fodder. A) They're reasonably easy to accomplish. B) They can't kill you. 

However, despite their safety, wearing something that's not you can be debilitating, horribly embarrassing and day ruining. Sure, maybe you're just wearing high waisted jeans for the first time since 1979, but if you don't feel comfortable, you lose your mojo.

It's stupid and dumb, but when you spend the entire day thinking that everyone is looking at you in a bad way, it sucks.

Precisely why I tried these three trends for myself.

1. The flashy sequined hat. 

Ready or not, here I come in my woo girl hat!

Ready or not, here I come in my woo girl hat!

My dad knows how much I love baseball.

He does, too. In fact, when the All Star Game exploded all over Minneapolis this summer, he hit up fan fest to meet players, mingle with fellow baseball nerds and shell out the big bucks for ASG merch. He saw this blue sequin ASG cap and knew his daughter had to have it.

When I think about my dad buying this hat for me, my heart almost explodes with happiness. It's so, so nice and so, so sweet.

The problem is that I so, so would never wear something like this. 

I tend to stick to neutrals. Denim. Plain tees. If I'm wearing jewelry, it's something delicate and kind of boring, but pretty. Sequins are so not me. I associate hats like this with, I dunno, Real Housewives wannabes who pretend to like sports, but are actually just interested in getting drunk on chardonnay and woo-ing from the third inning on. 

I attended three All Star events & vowed to wear this hat to every single one.

The first day, I couldn't have felt more awkward, especially because I ran into so many people that I knew! However, I promised myself that I wouldn't say a damn thing. There would be no, "I'm wearing this as a Hey Eleanor challenge," or "Do I look ridiculous?"

I owned it.

Apparently, people love sequined hats.  

I love him even though he's a Brewers fan. 

I love him even though he's a Brewers fan. 

I had no less than 10 women ask OMG where'd you get that hat?! and tons of men commented on it, too. Even the 70-year-old man taking my ticket made a point to tell me how great my hat was. My favorite moment occurred in a Target Field ladies' room, where a completely hammered blonde named Mandy (she introduced herself), bedecked in rhinestone covered jeans, stumbled up to me and said, "I've beeeeeen lohking at yer hat all night and Ieeee luuuuuhhhhhv it. Wurrred you-ah git it?"

Woooooooooo! Nailed it! 

By the end of the ASG weekend, I actually had grown pretty fond of my hat. Aside for the fact that the sequins cut into the tops of my ears (ouch!), I mostly forgot I was wearing the darn thing. 

Trend summary: Recommended if you like to par-tay!

2. The Hot Pink Jumpsuit.

Are you even ready for this stylish broad, Sun Country Airlines?!

Are you even ready for this stylish broad, Sun Country Airlines?!

Last summer, I scored this hot pink jumpsuit from Forever21 (more accurately, my friend Margie bought it online and it didn't fit her, so she gave it to me because their return policy sucks).

This jumpsuit is fun, but so not me.  

Ready or not, here I come... in a hot pink jumpsuit. Source: Forever21.com

Ready or not, here I come... in a hot pink jumpsuit. Source: Forever21.com

I decided to wear it to my friend Rebecca's rehearsal dinner in Chicago.

There was one minor hitch: the dinner started at approximately the same time my flight landed, so my best bet was to head directly to the party from the airport. Therefore, I wore the jumpsuit on the plane. 

At first glance, this seemed perfect. Jumpsuit = basically pajamas, but in a very put together way, right?

Au contraire. 

The first issue: said jumpsuit was too long. I remedied this by cuffing the pant legs. My friend Liz is a legit stylist and gave the look her blessing.

The problem arose when I realized the jumpsuit's [probably highly flammable] material did not want to stay cuffed. There I was, running through the airport (because of course, I was late), with one pant leg slightly rolled and the other pooling around my foot. A nice look. 

Problem number two? The tiny snap designed to keep my cleavage under wraps quit. My bra was basically hanging out for all to see, most notably the baby-faced college freshman sitting next to me. I re-snapped my top a few times, but mostly spent the entire flight with my arms crossed.

This was not going well.  

Adding insult to injury, I spilled half of my drink on my crotch. 

I swear it's not pee. 

I swear it's not pee. 

By the time I landed in Chicago, I'd HAD IT with this outfit. And even if the jumpsuit had cooperated, I should've known better.

Any outfit feels disgusting after you've worn it on an airplane. 

Especially one that's fighting you and covered in kalimotxo (the best airplane drink, btw!).

I made it to the dinner, wore the jumpsuit all night and got a few compliments. However, I didn't feel like a million bucks; more like the measly $19.80 this jumpsuit cost in the first place.

Trend summary: Not recommended for airline travel; Wear one that fits/doesn't have a faulty design.

3. The Ugly Floral Sweatshirt.

Ready or not, here I come... in an ugly floral sweatshirt. Even I look skeptical.

Ready or not, here I come... in an ugly floral sweatshirt. Even I look skeptical.

You know how you aren't supposed to grocery shop when hungry? That rule applies to clothes shopping when you're freezing cold. Precisely what made me purchase this over-sized sweatshirt that looks like I killed your grandma's davenport, skinned it and made a shirt. 

While in the dressing room, I was like LOVE IT! Warm, cozy and not my regular boring neutrals. When I got home, my husband was like, WTF is that?! 

Errrr.... a big, billowy sweatshirt covered in flowers.

Total man repellant. Oopsies. 

It was a complete impulse buy, but I was determined to wear it. Last Friday, I did. The first three people I saw (all women, btw), enthusiastically told me, Great shirt!  I'll take it!

Trend summary: Ladies love the floral sweatshirt! Do it.

* * *

Have a fashion dare for me? Comment below & I'll give it a whirl!

P.S. Two other fashion things: this 80s throwback, plus the lengths we'll go to score overpriced yoga clothes

3 Fall-ish Things I Can't Stop Thinking About

3 fall things I can't stop thinking about... And no, it's not pumpkin spice lattes. 

3 fall things I can't stop thinking about... And no, it's not pumpkin spice lattes. 

I'm finally ready to admit summer is donezo.

The trees are ablaze, nights temps are atumblin' into the 30s and nobody can seem to STFU about pumpkin flavored everything. I'll admit I'm like every basic broad in that I am obsessed with fall. It's the best time of year in Minnesota-- no bugs, beautiful colors, and fashion is all about sweaters/scarves/boots combos. This time of year makes me simultaneously want to get outside and do stuff (cause winter is coming!) and prepare my house and self for the next six month (cause winter is coming!).  

So with that in mind, here's the stuff I can't stop thinking about. 

1. This Article about Madewell. 

The interesting story behind one of my favorite brands. 

The interesting story behind one of my favorite brands. 

If I were rich and famous, I'd own every single thing from Madewell (especially for fall... best sweaters/scarves/boots! #PSL), which is precisely why I felt icky when I stumbled upon this article

Essentially, J.Crew bought the rights to the Madewell's name and logo-- a workwear company founded in 1937. The article intended to expose the fakey-fake of this "heritage" brand. J.Crew is using another entity's story as their own. 

I expected to agree with the piece. I didn't.

Madewell's former iteration lost touch with the market's trends/needs and shuttered. Nearly two decades later, J.Crew made the brand relevant again. I don't know how they secured the brand and logo, but they saw value in it and did it.

It's not unlike selling a property that's been in the family for generations.

Maybe it's a cabin that's too much work, too expensive or simply impractical to own. The property is sold and new owners take over.... and they change everything and it breaks your heart. Those emotions are totally understandable and normal.

But the fact of the matter is, you gave it up. Someone else saw potential in something you'd let go. They made it their own. It happens. Am I way off the mark here?

I understand current Madewell has nothing to do with the one founded in 1937 (a lot of brands do this... pssst Abercrombie & Fitch), but I think it's fine to build something new out of something old. I never assumed Madewell as it stands today has much to do with whatever they were doing in 1937; I mean, an alleged 80-year-old store just appearing out of nowhere in every American mall selling stylish womens clothing? C'mon, we all know that reeks of something fishy. They're making beautiful clothes that are in the spirit of the original company's workwear. I'm okay with that. 

Especially 'cause I want all of their clothes in my closet.  

2. This Box of Crackers from Trader Joe's.

Why can't I quit you, Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps?!

Why can't I quit you, Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps?!

I bought these for my future sister-in-law's bachelorette party. We had so many other snacks that we never even opened them. I did, however, open them when I got home from the party and basically ate 80 percent of the box. I am so over the pumpkin flavored everything (it has jumped the shark!), but I can't stop and won't stop eating these. UGH.

3. Voluspa Candles

Voluspa = the best candles ever. 

Voluspa = the best candles ever. 

As the temperatures dip, I'm obsessed with finding ways to make our place cozier. A Voluspa candle is easily my number one pick (well, after having the hubs bring our AC window units to the basement, but who wants to read about that?!). My future sister-in-law Shari introduced me to these a few year ago and I am hooked.

They don't come cheap ($26.95, to be exact), but they smell amazing, look gorgeous in your house and make a home cozier than drinking a pumpkin spiced latte while wearing Uggs, leggings and a comfy sweater while cuddling with a cat and watching The Bachelor. Not that I would know, because I have never done that. 

What's your biggest fall obsession?

And P.S. to further fuel your fall obsession, here's a post about one of the scariest things I did last October.