Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hipster-Approved Painted Mason Jars in 5 Easy Steps

I’m a DIY sort of girl. Are any of you? I loved doing craft projects as a kid, and now I get my crafty fix by personalizing the odds-and-ends that decorate my room. Not only do I find these sorts of projects fun and therapeutic, but they save me a bit of money along the way.

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a beautiful bar-cart that I’ve now set out to stock and style. I’ve been scouring the internet for gold and turquoise accessories but have either found things I like that aren’t in the right shade or things that I like that are too rich for my blood. I knew I wanted something that could hold those adorable striped straws I’ve been eying on Etsy as well as cocktail stirrers and other little bar tools, but it wasn’t until I discovered painted mason jars on Etsy that I found exactly what I was looking for. Instead of buying them though, I figured I could save a few dollars by painting some jars myself.  I'd also end up with the colors that worked best for me, so I didn't see any drawbacks.

You’ll Need...

  • Clear Bell Mason Jars (I got mine from AC Moore)
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Piece of Cardboard

And The Steps...

  1. Empty your small bottle of acrylic paint into the bottom of your clean mason jar.
  2. Slowly spin the mason jar to coat the inside completely with the acrylic paint.
  3. Once the entire inside of the jar is coated, set it upside down on a piece of cardboard. This will help drain out any excess paint.
  4. Move the jar to another spot on the cardboard every 15 minutes until there is no longer excess paint leaving rings on the cardboard.
  5. Stand jar upright and let the paint dry overnight.
I thought this was a quick and easy DIY project, and I was happy with the results. I painted two jars—one in turquoise and another in metallic gold—and the acrylic paint gave both jars a vibrant and opaque finish while still showing off the Bell logo and design. How very hipster of me! As an added bonus the whole project cost me under $5.

Although I’m using my jars for storage and decoration on my bar, these would be wonderful as vases, make-up brush holders, party décor, and whatever other uses you can think of.  A lot of people use these painted jars for centerpieces at weddings and bridal showers, which I think is a lovely take on a traditional floral centerpieces.

If anyone gives this a try, I'd love to hear how it turned out! Pictures would be lovely too.  xx

Thursday, January 29, 2015

#TBT: Town-hopping on the Amalfi Coast

While in Rome, I took a little detour to the Amalfi Coast. It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day for it weather-wise and escaping the city was just what the doctor ordered. The drive along the coast was basically one Kodak moment after the other, I kid you not. On one side of the road there were majestic mountains, all craggy and imposing; on the other side, the clearest blue (Amalfi blue) water I've ever seen. And all along the way there were these lovely lemon orchards (limoncello anyone?).

I stopped in two coastal towns before heading back to Rome—Amalfi and Positano. Amalfi was a busy little town that crept uphill from the beach. Quaint, pigeon-hole stores lined both sides of the main road, and most of the items you could buy consisted of three things: hand-painted ceramics, lemon everything (specifically, the Sorrento Lemon), and billowing cheesecloth clothing. Positano was a beautiful town built into the side of the cliff. It was a leisurely stroll down the mountain to the beach, but then a pretty steep hike back to the top. And like Amalfi, there were ceramics and lemons everywhere.

I was sad to leave the coast behind after only a few hours and even sadder that I didn’t have an opportunity to take a swim in that gorgeous water. If I ever When I go back, the Amalfi Coast certainly requires more than just a few hours of a day.  I could see myself laying out on a beach there for a week or two without a worry in the world.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Winter is Coming

Winter in the Northeast can be more than a little bit unpredictable, and this year is no exception. One day it can be unseasonably warm (50°F), and the next it can feel like I have relocated to Antarctica (at least I’d have penguins for neighbors? I do love penguins). Some years, we’ve gotten hardly any snow; then others, we’ll have snowstorm after snowstorm after snowstorm that dump close to a foot of that powdery white stuff on our lawns.

This year has been light on the snow (I say that despite the fact that we are expecting over 20-30 inches of snow in the next 24 hours...), but we did have a nice little snowstorm over the weekend. I would’ve considered it a waste of a good snowstorm as a kid since the chance of a snow day would've been zero but, as an adult who commutes into New York City, I was relieved that it snowed over the weekend. New-fallen snow is lovely to look at…when you don’t have to go anywhere. It gave me a perfectly good reason to stay in my pajamas all day and binge-watch shows on Netflix (currently watching Death Comes to Pemberley and Law & Order: SVU).

I did venture outside (briefly) Saturday morning to take some photos before plows, salt spreaders, pollution, and Mother Nature made the scenery less photogenic. No one wants pictures of blackened or trampled through snow, do they? It turned out to be great snow for packing, which means I would’ve loved it as a little one. I could’ve built one serious igloo or snowman, and would’ve enjoyed pelting my parents with snowballs while they tried to shovel our driveway. Nowadays though, I just like looking at from the safety of my warm house with a cup of hot chocolate in my hands.

With this new storm (Juno) coming tonight, I'm hoping that I'll be able to hold up in my house in my pajamas once again. You know it's bad when even New York City is preparing for a storm and there is talk of public transportation (trains, subways, and buses) services being shut down at some point.  As much as I'd love an adult snow day, I'm really hoping that we don't get 2-3 feet of snow.  If we do, that stuff will still be on the ground in April...

Did anyone else get snow over the weekend? And are any of you battening down the hatches like me? What are your favorite snow day activities?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Haul #1: January Sales

I have to admit that I wasn’t blown away by the New Year’s Day Sales online this year. After recovering (somewhat) from a bottle of champagne on New Year’s, I curled up with my laptop to do some 2015 shopping. I was just about to give up on sales hunting when I struck literary gold on With up to 90% off former best-selling titles, I couldn’t resist the temptation and ended up buying six books for under $30. Some steal or what?

Let's pretend the "bargained price" stickers aren't there, shall we?

Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon

Played out against the bazaars and mosques and faded mansions of this knowing, ancient Ottoman city, Istanbul Passage is the unforgettable story of a man swept up in the dawn of the Cold War, of an unexpected love affair, and of a city as deceptive as the calm surface waters of the Bosphorus that divides it.

I’d never heard of the author or the book before seeing it on and  only ended up with this novel because I thought it had a gorgeous cover. But considering how hardcore a 007 fan I am, this seemed right up my alley. I mean, who doesn’t love a good spy novel?

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by Jennifer Laam

A compelling alternate history of the Romanov family in which a secret fifth daughter—smuggled out of Russia before the revolution—continues the royal lineage to dramatic consequences.

I studied history in college and most of my classes ended being about Russia, but the Romanovs have intrigued me ever since I heard their tragic story and the mystery of Anastasia as a child. I’m not reading this for a history lesson, but I can’t resist a novel about the Romanovs. I’m kind of expecting to derive some guilty pleasure out of this book. Stay tuned.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

On Writing Well is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet.

I’ve had my eye on Zinsser’s book for a while now and honestly don’t know why I only just bought it. I have a thing for good reference books, and this book is supposed to be up there with E.B. White’s Writing with Style. I don’t exactly expect this to have me at the edge of my seat, but I’m always interested in learning about how to improve my writing.

400 Healthy Recipes by Good Housekeeping

Three great favorites from Good Housekeeping are now collected here in one must-have volume. Enjoy vegetarian and whole-grain dishes as well as low-calorie meals that won't leave you hungry. Thanks to triple-tested-for-perfection recipes plus invaluable tips throughout, this cookbook makes eating well simple and satisfying.

I knew that I was going to need a cookbook if I was ever going to manage to make healthy, low calorie meals for myself. And since I’m not a great cook, I needed recipes that I’d actually be able to pull off. Then I saw this book with the words “healthy,” “easy,” “delicious,” and “low-calorie” right on the cover. It was fate!

I’m really looking forward to trying out some of these recipes and letting you know which ones are my favorite!

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

I am a disgrace to Tudor history buffs everywhere. While I have Wolf Hall, I still haven’t read it…and now I just bought this, its sequel. I really have to get through the massive tome that is Wolf Hall before I can even look at this.

Z by Therese Anne Fowler

When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is seventeen years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to Scribner’s, Zelda optimistically boards a train north, to marry him in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and take the rest as it comes.

I’ve heard many great things about this novel, so I hope it lives up to my expectations. I know very little about Zelda Fitzgerald except for what I saw in Midnight in Paris starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, but F. Scott Fitzgerald is F. Scott Fitzgerald.


I hope to read all of these at some point this year, and I'll let you know what I think of them when I'm done.  Have you bought any books or read anything you absolutely love yet this year?

*Synopses are taken from

Thursday, January 22, 2015

#TBT: When in Rome

I’ve already alluded to my trip to Italy last summer a few times, so I figured that it was about time that I stop being cute and blog about it already.  I hope you don’t mind the trip down memory lane!

My Italy trip was only for 10 days at the end of August, but I managed to cover a lot of territory while there and see everything (well, almost everything) that I wanted to see. The first leg of my trip was spent in Rome and, unfortunately, Trevi Fountain was being restored at the time (so it was hidden behind by scaffolds) and I somehow missed out on seeing La Pietà while I was wandering around Saint Peter’s Basilica.  That’s just another reason to go back though, right?


Some of the best views of Rome are from the top of the dome at St. Peter’s but, be warned, you have to climb up 500 steps to get there—and then climb all the way back down. The view is worth the workout but it’s an ascent that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’re claustrophobic, you might have issues with the trek too. If you are going to make the climb, go there first thing in the morning to avoid never-ending queues.

Carry a shawl, carry a shawl, carry a shawl. I found the Romans to be strict when it came to enforcing the dress code in churches.  If your shoulders, knees, and back aren’t covered, you may not be permitted entry (or you may be given the dreaded paper shawl).

When you’re in Rome, you’ll probably notice Romans drinking from little fountains (or spouts) that dot the streets, especially in the summer heat. The water from these fountains is perfectly clean and absolutely refreshing. You can save yourself some of money if you just refill your water bottle whenever you pass one!  When in Rome, right?

One thing to be wary of are the street vendors selling knock-off designer handbags. If you’re caught purchasing one, you—not the seller—will be fined upwards of €300.

Rome is a city of cobblestoned streets, ancient history on every corner, and the gastronomic wonder that is gelato. But if I’m going to be honest with you, Rome was probably the least favorite of my Italian destinations. It was wretchedly hot, the cobblestones killed my feet, and I felt that the city was dirty, especially in comparison to Florence and Venice later on.  There were many wonderful things to see and do in Rome, but I couldn’t get over seeing graffiti defacing old buildings as well as all over the windows and doors of shops outside of the touristy areas. I was also surprised by the blighted neighborhoods I passed through on the way into Rome from the airport and when I hopped a bus from Via Appia Antica.  To be fair, we have that sort of thing in New York too, but I guess I'm accustomed to seeing it here.  I had totally different expectations for Rome though (from movies, books, tv, etc.), so I was more than a bit shocked to see it in that light.  But it just made me remember that Rome is not a museum set behind glass but a living, breathing metropolis that has survived for centuries.  It's lived in and there's something beautiful about that too. 


But when Rome shines, she really does shine. There are really few things in the world that can compare to the grandeur of Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, or Piazza Navona (especially at night when everything is lit up).

I lived on Margherita Pizza and gelato while I was there, partly because they were amazing and partly because I may have forgotten to set aside time to have a real sit-down meal. Oops! For classic movie fans like me, you definitely need to get gelato from Giolitti, the gelateria from Audrey Hepburn’s Roman Holiday. For foodies though, you really can’t miss gelato from Gelateria de Teatro, a quaint little gelateria across the river from Castel Sant’Angelo. I had a sage and raspberry scoop that I still dream about today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January Cliché

“To lose weight” is such a January cliché, but I’m one of those poor souls attempting it. Is anyone else doing the same? After all that lovely holiday feasting, I had a moment of weakness and stepped on the scale…and it was not pretty. Shock and horror. Picture Edvard Munch’s The Scream and you’ve got a pretty good idea of my expression at the time.

I’m attempting a new approach to the age-old resolution to lose weight though. I’ve set out to eat healthier instead which, I’m hoping, will translate to some slimming down along the way. I want to lose those extra pounds I’ve accumulated over the last year thanks to my bad eating habits. Let’s face it, I know exactly where those pounds came from—too many take-out lunches and dinners (it’s so much easier to buy lunch instead of preparing something to bring with me to work), that extra dessert (a package of Milano cookies doesn’t stand a chance against me), and one too many soda, diet or otherwise. I know they are all to blame for my clothes fitting a bit snugger than I remember, that and my laziness when it comes to preparing healthy meals.

I want to teach myself better eating habits by introducing more home-cooked meals with nutritional value into my diet, eating more fruits and veggies, cutting out some sugar, drinking more water, and not skipping meals (instead I’m going to attempt to eat smaller meals more often throughout the day). That way, not only will I lose those pesky pounds but I’ll keep them off and not have to go through this again at the start of 2016.

I have to admit, I’m a bit excited at the prospect. I’ve picked up a cookbook with some really yummy looking healthy recipes, and I’ve been pinning others that I find on Pinterest too. Considering how much I hate cooking, the fact that I'm excited about this is some anomaly.  Some of the recipes do sound amazing though, so I’m looking forward to trying a few of them out.

Here’s to a healthy new year!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Twenty-One & Fabulous

It’s hard to believe that my baby sister turns twenty-one today. In my head, Kelsey is still the little thumb-sucking brat (meant as a term of endearment) who hid her Easter candy in her crib’s bumper pad and went swimming in the toilet to keep cool one particularly hot summer day eons ago now. It doesn’t seem possible that she could be an adult who can order a glass of wine to go with dinner, if she so chooses. She should still be drinking Shirley Temples and requesting extra cherries (I may be guilty of doing that still too…).

But to commemorate Kelsey’s 21st birthday, I offered to make her a special birthday cocktail. She made one request—that it be like the Rory. If you watched Gilmore Girls as religiously as my sister and I did, and still do, you might get the reference. The Gilmores throw their granddaughter, Rory, her 21st birthday during Lorelei and Rory’s falling out period, and the bartenders create a signature cocktail for the occasion—the Rory. It is a very pink drink that Luke Danes, Lorelei’s soulmate, says is like “drinking a My Little Pony.”

While drinking a My Little Pony doesn’t sound appetizing (at least not to me), I caught my sister’s drift. I didn’t have to look far to find a cocktail that fit the description. The Messy Baker’s Raspberry Moscato Sangria did the trick!

Because berries are out of season, I stuck with only raspberries and strawberries to keep the cost down, but other than that the recipe stayed intact. I was happy with how the cocktail turned out, and I think my sister was too. It was very pink and very sweet, which is precisely what she had in mind.

For the full recipe, be sure to check out The Messy Baker!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Road to France Pt. I

One of the things I’m most looking forward to about 2015 is France. I love traveling but, until four years ago, the only place outside of the United States that I had visited was Canada.  Does that even count?  My father has never been big on traveling so the farthest my family would go was Disney World (a three hour plane ride). But me? I’ve had a list of places to visit since I was able to point at a map. My list is long—very, very long— so I try to check at least one place off my list a year now that I don't have to rely on my parents to plan vacations.  France is where I’m headed this time around.

I’ve been saving up for this year’s adventure for a while now, basically since I got back from my last trip in September. As the money has started to add up, the trip has begun to feel more real to me. And as that happens, France becomes even more of an obsession. The language, the culture, the food, the history, and the art fascinate me, but experiencing it all firsthand is still many months away.

So in the meantime, I’m getting my French fix by thumbing through my Fodor's travel guides. They have everything I need right there— detailed information on places to visit (both the major tourist attractions and the ones on the roads less traveled), cultural and historical facts, useful phrases and etiquette, not to mention vibrant photos that make me feel like I’m already there. I relied heavily on my Fodor’s guide to plan my trip to Italy and had an incredible time, so Fodor's is once again my trusted travel companion.

I have two guidebooks for this trip—France 2015 and Paris 2015. While France 2015 has a section on Paris (how couldn’t it?), I knew I’d get way more information on The City of Lights from a book focused completely on it. I don’t know much about my trip yet, I do know that I’ll be spending most of my time in Paris before jetting off to another region of the country. With Paris 2015, I have tons of information at my disposal for my time in and around the city (probably way more than I need); but France 2015 is already helping me to decide where else to go in France and what I’ll do while I’m there though, so it was money well spent.

Are you looking forward to any trips this year? I'd love to hear where you'll be headed! xx

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pictures of People Taking Pictures

When I asked for a DSLR camera a year ago, I was only angling for a serious upgrade to my Canon Power Shot SD750 point-and-click from the Stone Age (circa 2007). My granny-camera just couldn’t keep up with the pixel count and other shiny features of newer models. Plus, I knew that I would be going on a trip to Italy that August, and I wanted to capture everything in its HD glory so that looking back at the pictures, I’d feel like I was there.  My Nikon D3200 didn't disappoint me, and I discovered that it was fairly user friendly for someone who knew very little about camera settings to begin with.

I’ve always been an admirer of photography and think that it’s still an under-appreciated art form in some respects. I think that the blogging community has certainly helped to change that though, and I'm constantly inspired by the skill-level of some bloggers (have you seen Paris in Four Months?). So as I was preparing for my trip to Italy, I devoured any and all tutorials and tips I could find on the blogs I follow. I needed to figure out how to use my fancy camera—ISO, shutter speed, aperture, oh my!—so that I could actually take half decent photos.

I think that it’s safe to say that Italy was where my newfound passion for photography was born. Sure, I took the typical touristy shots, but I also kept thinking about how bloggers make everyday things look so beautiful. I started experimenting a little with subject and camera settings, drawing from what I’d seen and read on some of my favorite blogs. Since my trip, I’ve tried to not let my Nikon D3200 sit idle or fall back into the habit of only taking it out for special occasions like trips, celebrations, and outings. Blogs have taught me that the everyday is just as worthy of a photograph as that shot of the Colosseum or David.

I’m no photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I know that the only way to improve is to practice, practice, practice.  I think that blogging will give me a bit of a push to take my camera out more frequently and be more creative about what I shoot, or at least that’s my hope.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Quarter-life Crisis? Not So Much.

Having just turned twenty-five (yesterday), I was somewhat expecting to wake up this morning in the middle of a quarter-life crisis. I’m twenty-five, still living at home thanks to six-figure’s worth of student loan debt, and single (although that's by choice). But instead of waking up mid-panic attack, I couldn’t stop thinking about this one TED Talk I'd watched about how your twenties are the time to change whatever it is about yourself that you think needs changing.

To be quite honest, I haven’t read Dr. Meg Jay’s book, The Defining Decade, but her TED Talk from way back in 2013 still resonates with me. So many defining moments happen in people’s twenties—leaving home, starting careers, marriage, children, etc.—that some of what was said is just common sense. I mean, there’s almost always a new Facebook official wedding engagement on my feed these days, and my friends who are only a few years older than me say that it only gets worse the closer you get to thirty.

What really stuck with me though about the talk was that twentysomethings’ brains are still growing and being rewired for adulthood. I thought all of that had stopped years ago, but apparently twentysomethings are in a developmental "sweet spot" that we should take full advantage of. I kind of find that empowering as I stare my mid (and eventually late) twenties in the eye.  Scary and intimidating, sure, but knowing that the decisions I make now could influence my life for the next thirty, forty, or fifty years makes me want to live more intentionally now.  That can't be a bad thing, right?

Had any of you seen this TED Talk before? What'd you think?

...and now I can stop stressing out about my first post.