Friday, May 29, 2015

Monthly Favorites: May

This month's favorites are a bit of a haphazard mess, but here goes!

Milk Bottles

When I saw this set of 6 milk bottles at Marshall’s I instantly fell in love. I was never able to get behind the drinking out of mason jars trend, but these give a similar hipster vibe while paying homage to the milk bottles of yore (does anyone still say “yore”?). The price couldn’t be beat either: $9.99 for a 6 piece set?! I was sold!

Glasses Cleaner

Confession time. I’ve had this little gadget for years now, but I never leave home without it once summer (and sunnies season) arrives. I keep a heavily diluted mixture of Windex in the little spray bottle to give my lenses a quick clean with the help of my lint-free cloth. And, should a screw come loose, I have a small screwdriver to put it back into the place. The best part? Everything fits easily into my bag!

Colgate Optic White

I’ve always been self-conscious when it comes to my teeth, for one reason or another. First, I had bucked-teeth, then braces, and now I’m always fixating on whitening them. I’ve definitely seen some change since I started using Colgate Optic White. I brush my teeth per usual and then apply the Optic White gel. It feels a bit gummy for a few minutes, but then I don’t notice it. Until I can afford professional teeth whitening, I’ll definitely keep using this.


Back in February when I did a design inspo post, I mentioned my love of succulents. Well, I finally got one! It’s a fairly large one that has now taken up residence on my book case, but if I can keep him (yes, I’ve decided it’s a him), then maybe I’ll get a few small ones for my desk.

Audrey Brooke Ballet Flats

 I’ve been in desperate need of a pair of black ballet flats since my pair fell apart last August. I’ve tried to replace them since then, but each pair I bought ended up destroying my feet and left me hobbling down the sidewalk for days. I was having issues. What first attracted me to these flats was that the leather was soft which boded well for my feet (admittedly, they did end up requiring one good wear to be broken in still). I’m not a huge fan of pointed-toe shoes, but these looked so polished because of it. I’ve been wearing these to work non-stop and love how versatile they are. You can dress down in a pair of jeans or look smart in something a less casual. I'm loving Audrey Brooke right now!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Monthly Musings: May

May was a bit of a stressful month, so I fell a bit behind in my reading of basically everything (books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, you name it). I'm hoping that June will be a bit more relaxing and a bit more productive.  This month's picture is a shot of the Hudson River.
  • 19 Burgers You Really Need To Make This Summer - Admittedly, I leave all the grilling to my mother (Brittany + Propane + Fire = Catastrophe), but I couldn't resist these burgers on Buzzfeed.  Since I don't eat beef, burger season can be a bit of a bust for me.  This list had some great vegetarian options though!  The smoky sweet potato one has my name all over it.
  • Charlotte Elizabeth Diana is Royal Baby's Name - The moment most of the world was waiting for finally happened on on May 2nd!  The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a girl, who was officially named two days later.  I love the name, especially the fact that she is named after the People's Princess and her late grandmother.  
  • Today Is the 151st Birthday of All-Around Feminist Badass Nellie Bly - I love reading about bad-ass women from history, and Nellie Bly was a new name for me. According to the Mother Jones' article, "she was a trailblazing journalist, an unwavering champion for women and the working poor, and a brilliant muckracker. One of her most famous assignments was for the the New York World where she posed as a mentally ill woman and exposed the horrors of a women's asylum on Blackwell's Island. [...] Bly also achieved worldwide fame with her 1889 trip around the world, which was inspired by Jules Verne's novel Around the World in Eighty Days." I think someone needs to write a novel about her, if they haven't already.
  • Every Best Picture Oscar Winner, Ranked From Worst to Best - I love movies and the Oscars, so this article was right up my alley. I've seen almost all of the movies on this list, but I was stoked to see some of my favorites in the top 10 (#8 All About Eve, #7 Gone with the Wind, #1 Casablanca). What do you think of the ranking?
  • 50 Best Travel Quotes For Travel Inspiration - Quotes for people suffering from an incurable case of wanderlust, like me.
  • #TIPSTUESDAYS: My Props and Backgrounds for Blog Pictures - Frock Me I'm Famous is one of my favorite blogs on the internet, and I love Hayley's #TIPSTUESDAY feature.  I got some great inspiration for props and backgrounds from this post!  Here's hoping I implement some of Hayley's ideas with half her success!
  • “Game of Thrones” could learn from “Mad Max: Fury Road” - I've read a lot of articles on (warning: spoiler alert) Sansa's rape since the episode aired, but I thought this was an interesting look at the episode. I was horrified by the scene and agreed with many of the ire-filled rants immediately after the episode aired, but I liked the objectivity of this one.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Photo-Challenge: Macro-photography

I’ve completed my first photo-challenge! Woo! This month I wanted to focus on macro-photography, which happens to be a personal favorite of mine. Macro-photography is extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size, according to Wikipedia. For these photos, I used my Nikon AF-S DX Micron 40/2.8G lens.  Since everything seemed to be blooming, it was hard to not take advantage of the gorgeous flowers and greenery for this challenge.  But I did try to throw some other images into the mix.  So what do you think?  Which photo is your favorite?

I haven't figured out what my photo-challenge for June is yet, but I'm certainly open to suggestions!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Life Lately

It’s been a hectic/crazy/stressful couple of months for me, so I’m hoping that things will begin to even out. I remember thinking that nothing could get more stressful than finals week when I was hammering out 60-80 pages in 10-12 days. Then I didn't have a job until 10 months after graduation and thought that was the most stressful situation I could be in. Then the last couple of months happened. I’m not liking this adulthood stress trajectory…

Mom went for her annual and suddenly had to have bunch of tests because of some abnormalities. If you read my post on Angelina Jolie, Cancer, and Me, then you know that my mom’s side of the family is high risk for gynecological cancers, so yeah. Mom redid the gene tests because they check for more markers than they did years ago, so we waited for ages to hear those results. If Mom had the genes, then both my sister and I could’ve had them as well. Luckily, that test was negative. But Mom also ended up getting a mammogram, some weird ultrasound thing, and a biopsy. Mom and I can be somewhat fatalistic, so we were both fearing the worst. We waited, fretted, and waited some more. Thank goodness all the tests came back negative. BUT STRESSFUL.

With my family’s preoccupation with Mom’s health, everything else kind of got put on the back-burner. I was horrible about eating well (lots of take-out, unhealthy snacking, etc.), so I gained back some of the weight I’d lost while keeping my resolution to eat healthily. I’ve since jumped back on the healthy food bandwagon though! I’m also contemplating doing a teatox to give my healthy lifestyle a bit of a jump-start. The problem is that I hate tea with a fiery passion. So we’ll see how that goes.

Work has been worky but is already slowing down for summer. Summer in publishing means half-days on Fridays and that someone is always on vacation. Little actual work gets done, the response time between emails lag, and I end up doing a lot of filing, reading, and organizing until September. I’m looking forward to Summer Fridays though and hope to go on some mini-adventures that I can blog about!

On a more positive note, I’ve been busy planning France (as you already know). Having different trips and advance tickets to buy gave me something to look forward to while everything else seemed to be going downhill. I can’t believe that France is only 66 days away! I’ll start working on finalizing my itinerary in June.

As far as blogging goes, I feel like I’ve been slacking off as far as being part of the community lately. I’ve been posting content, but I haven’t been taking part in chats or commenting on as many blogs as I would like. I’ve just been so overwhelmed with other aspects of life and also enjoying the gorgeous weather that I’ve been a bit “meh” about sitting inside on my laptop. I plan to start turning things around on that front though!

Anyway, this weekend is Memorial Day Weekend (yay long weekend)! I’m hoping to take a lot of pictures of random things but new content won’t be posted until Monday. Don’t hate me! I want to enjoy the long weekend, de-stress, and hopefully get a little sun. I think my system needs a bit of a re-boot, don't you?  I’ll see you Monday!

So how about you? Have you been dealing with anything stressful recently?

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Wardrobe Wishlist: H&M

I’ve been talking about how I want to buy some spring/summer pieces to freshen up my wardrobe for a while now, so I decided I’d do my first wishlist post! I wanted to focus on one of my favorite brands—H&M. Their clothes is affordable (yay savings!), chic, and age-appropriate. A lot of the time I feel like certain brands cater to tweens/teenagers or mothers, but H&M does an amazing job at creating looks for 20 and 30 somethings. For this wishlist, I definitely had outfits for my vacation in mind, but I also wanted pieces that I could easily wear to work (publishing is fairly casual). The pieces I chose just seemed effortless to me. And yes, before you ask, I do really like the color green!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sondheim's Sweetheart

I am a Broadway baby. I went to my first musical, King and I, when I was eight years old, and have since seen countless others, both on Broadway and the West End. And when I’m not going to a show (I don’t go often enough, sadly), I’m cranking up the show tunes on my iPhone or stereo. Yes, I am a bit dorky. I’m okay with that though.

While I can’t get enough of Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loew, Stephen Sondheim is my favorite composer and lyricist. While he does have a signature style, no two Sondheim musicals are alike. This man brought us West Side Story and Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George, Gypsy and A Little Night Music, my personal favorite. But you can’t forget to mention Company or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum either. He has won eight Tony Awards (more than any other composer), an Academy Award, eight Grammy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and the Laurence Olivier Award. Talk about prolific.

I was in a particularly Sondheim-y mood the last couple of weeks, and with the help of my Pandora station “A Little Night Music,” I’ve been singing along to many of Sondheim’s song. I thought I’d share a list of some of my favorites with you. I seriously can’t think of a single Sondheim song that I don’t like, but here are my top 10.

10. Sunday in the Park With George – The eponymous song from Sunday in the Park With George. My favorite rendition is by Bernadette Peters from the original 1984 cast. It’s a humorous song where Dot is complaining about being stuck in the hot sun while George paints her (“A trickle of sweat/ the back of the head” and “The tip of a stay/ right under the tit”). She tries to tell herself that there are worse things to be doing, but I don’t think she believes that . I love the hilarity of the situation, and the plucky tune, especially when the tempo picks up toward the end.

9. Johanna – A stirring and melodic paean from Sweeney Todd that sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it. It’s a bit of a dark ballad for Johanna, Sweeney Todd’s beautiful daughter, sung by young, enamored Anthony. If you saw the 2007 film version with Johnny Depp, Jamie Campbell Bower sings the song fairly well. I’m a sucker for original casts, typically anyway.

8. Broadway Baby – This is a toe-tapping, witty song from Follies. There’s something sultry about it that reminds me of jazz club singers from like the 1930s or 1940s, maybe even bordering on burlesque. Again, Bernadette Peters does a killer rendition in one of her concerts.

7. Ladies Who Lunch – Okay, okay, I adore when Sondheim’s songs are a bit saucy and clever. There is something tongue-in-cheek about this song from Company. I love Elaine Stritch’s rendition, but her brassy, powerful voice might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

6. A Little Priest – You can’t get more sadistically funny than this song from Sweeney Todd. Mrs. Lovett and Sweeney Todd sing about turning people into pies and the variety of flavor (“Not as hearty as bishop, perhaps/ but then again, not as bland as curate, either!”).  No one does it better than Angela Lansbury (sorry, Helena Bonham Carter).

5. Children Will Listen – This melodic song from Into the Woods has a powerful message that I think everyone could benefit from listening to one or twice. It’s a beautiful song for a soprano, irresistible even, but it is a somewhat plaintive tune as well.

4. Move On – Another song from Sunday in the Park With George but in a different vein. It’s a touching song about the end of a relationship. There are some beautiful notes to go along with the poignant lyrics. Bernadette Peters strikes again!

3. Send in the Clowns – I already mentioned that A Little Night Music is my favorite Sondheim musical, so it shouldn’t be surprise that one (soon to be two) of its songs are in my top 5. I saw the Broadway revival twice: once with Catherine Zeta Jones and Angela Lansbury, then again with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch. This is another sad song about lovers parting ways, but this one is not quite so obvious in its lyrical turns of phrase. Desirée reflects on the ironies of her life, the most recent of which is that her lover Fredrik has chosen is young bride over her. The song’s meter is actually pretty complex, if you are into that sort of musical analysis.

2. Every Day a Little Death – Song two from A Little Night Music that just pulls at my heartstrings. Two sopranos sing this beautiful song that’s set to the ¾ time (think the waltz) and has some clear, resonant notes. Charlotte is venting about her philandering husband and how she can’t stop loving him no matter what he does. It’s another sad song, go figure.

1. Not a Day Goes By – Number one is from Merrily We Roll Along, and it is so poignant that it actually appears twice in the musical itself, once in Act I and then again in Act II. It’s sad but touchingly so, and whenever I listen to it, it just overwhelms me. I think a song that can affect you that way time and time again deserves to be number one.

If you’ve made it to the end of this long, long post, then you deserve a cookie.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Road to France Pt. IV - Adventuring with Viator

73 days until France!

If you’ve been reading my blog, you probably already know how excited I am to be going to France this year with my mom. I’ve been planning the trip, more or less, since I got back from Italy last September, but now we’re coming down the home stretch! The flights have been booked and the hotel reservations have been made, so now it’s just a matter of planning my various excursions in Paris and Nice.

I rely heavily on for my tour and daytrip needs. I’m not necessarily the type to like large tour groups in museums (I much rather aimlessly wander on my own time), but Viator provides some lovely advantages. For one thing, many of the “tours” for major tourist attractions include a skip-the-line option, meaning you get to skip those crazy waits for things like the Eiffel Tower. And, for people like me, you can usually find some independent tour options where your guides leave you to your own devices after a brief spiel.

Viator is also great for its more unique tours and daytrip options. Are you a foodie? Well, check out their food, wine, and nightlife options! Want to explore other areas of the country? There are plenty of daytrip options that provide transportation and friendly tour guides. Viator has something for everyone, trust me.

I’ve already begun booking some of my excursions, but here are my top 5 for my upcoming trip.

Versailles Independent Day Trip from Paris ($55-60) – This is one of the independent tours that I was talking about earlier. We’ll be picked up by coach from a central Parisian location and taken to and from Versailles, avoiding public transportation. We’ll then be allowed to roam Versailles for 4 uninterrupted hours with access to the gardens, Versailles Palace, and the Grand Royal Apartments.  Admission is included!

Ghosts, Mysteries and Legends Night Walking Tour of Paris ($25-30) – I did a similar tour to this one in Rome and had a fantastic time! Your guide leads a small group of people around the city after dark and tells all sorts of ghost stories and legends. It’s a fun way to learn the history of your destination, and who doesn’t like a good scare from time to time? If you like off-the-beaten-path adventures, definitely look into this option.

Provence Countryside Small Group Day Trip ($95-100) – Since I’m usually trying to cover as much ground as possible on my trips, day trips allow me to explore without fretting over transportation. The small group day trip is limited to 8 people, and you’re driven to various locations where you’re allowed to wander, eat, shop, and sight-see to your heart’s content. On this Provence excursion, we’ll drive along the French Riviera coastline to Cannes and see the old port, famous La Croisette Boulevard, the Cannes Film Festival Palace. We’ll move onto Grasse and have a guided tour of a perfumery before continuing on to Gourdon, Loup Gorges, and Saint Paul de Vence. The drive itself will include gorgeous views of the Alps and coastline. At $95-100 per person, this is a real steal! I’m more than a bit excited.

Monaco Small-Group Night Tour from Nice ($65-70) – I really can’t get enough of the small-group tours… This one will take us to Monaco in the evening where we’ll get to take a lap around Monaco’s Grand Prix racetrack, explore the glitzy principality, and even see if Lady Luck is on our side at a casino before heading back to Nice.

French Riviera Sightseeing Cruise from Nice ($20-25) – I love the water, and so does my mom, so a sight-seeing cruise along the coast seemed like an ideal way to spend an hour. I’m hoping that I’ll get some great photo-ops along the way!

So which of these trips appeals most to you?  Have any of you ever used

Sunday, May 10, 2015


I swear it doesn’t usually take me months to finish a book! I started Sex with Kings by Eleanor Herman back in February but then got slammed with reading for work (#lifeinpublishling). I ended up having to put the book down for weeks (and weeks and weeks) before getting around to finishing it. The wait was torture; I was really enjoying the book!

Sex with Kings is non-fiction, not a novel, so it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is mine! As I mentioned in my history book haul, Sex with Kings is a history of the kings of Europe and their mistresses over the last 500 years or so. You’ll read about the famous mistresses like Anne Boleyn (a personal favorite of mine) and Madame de Pompadour as well as lesser knowns like Athénaïs de Montespan and Nell Gwynn. What a found fascinating about the book is that reads like a juicy gossip magazine with all the credibility of a historian. In fact, Herman is a New York Times best-selling author and a bit of a media darling when it comes to commenting on royal scandals, so credibility she does have in large supply.

The book is impeccably researched, based on “diaries, personal letters, and diplomatic dispatches” through the ages. Herman weaves a tightly knit narrative that explores what it was like to be a king's mistress. She unearths recurrent patterns in the lives of the women who captivated kings and, instead of reading like a biography, you read brief, almost episodic, tales of the cat fights between queens and mistresses, rivalries amongst mistresses, and much more.

Unlike today, when mistresses are hidden from view, royal mistresses had position at court. They were public figures who often dressed more opulently than the queen and held some political currency. Herman brings the various tropes of the royal mistress to life with one scandalous story after the next. Just when you think you’ve heard the most outrageous thing you could possibly hear, Herman one-ups herself. My favorites? Probably when the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Josef’s former mistress, Katharina Schratt, pulled down her blinds at Hitler’s passing motorcade during his procession through Vienna, or when Napoleon III’s mistress Virginie di Castiglione pulled a Miss Havisham (Great Expectations anyone?) and locked herself in her rooms, which she had painted black from floor to ceiling, with rats and trash as her beauty faded.

My one complaint about Sex with Kings is that the section that covers Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles needs to be updated. It seems to end in 2002, before Charles and Camilla’s marriage in 2005. There is also mention of Camilla automatically becoming queen when Charles ascends to the throne. However, Clarence House later stated that it is intended that Camilla will adopt the unprecedented style of Princess Consort instead.

Still, Sex with Kings was a smart, sexy, and often times hilarious read for a history buff like me. Elizabeth Herman’s wit knows no bounds. I’ll certainly be buying myself copies of her other books, Sex with Queens and Mistress of the Vatican! I promise not to take months to read those ones though!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Liebster Award!

I received a Liebster Award nomination last week and have finally gotten around to doing my part (curse you, other responsibilities!).  I was so touched to receive the nomination since I’ve only been blogging since January, and I’ve been a bit MIA the last few weeks because of work and life and all that jazz.   In case you didn't know (I didn't), the Liebster Award is a way for bloggers to show a bit of love for each other, and help others get a bit more exposure.

The rules are as follows:
  1. Thank and link the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the questions given by the nominator.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers, who have less than 200 followers on twitter and link them. (I may have cheated a little.  Some bloggers have a few more than 200 followers.)
  4. Create 11 new questions for the nominees to answer.
  5. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs.
So, without further ado, thank you so much to the wonderful Random Musings for the nomination!
  1. If you could have any superpower what would it be and why?  I still have Avengers: Age of Ultron on the brain, so I think I’ll say telekinesis like Scarlet Witch. 
  2. If you could interview anyone, alive or dead, for your blog who would it be and why?  Gah!  There are way too many interesting people in the world to choose from.  Maybe Emma Watson or Angelina Jolie?  I find both of them incredibly inspiring, and the humanitarian work they do really interests me.
  3.  What are your 3 handbag (or pocket) essentials?  My iPhone, a good book, and a lipstick.
  4. If your house was on fire and you could only save one thing (not including people and pets) what would it be and why?  An heirloom pendant that has been in my family for nearly 200 years.  It’s given to the eldest daughter on her eighteenth birthday, so it’s been in my possession for 7 years now.   There is a great deal of history to that piece of jewelry, and I feel as though I’m its guardian until there is another generation to pass it on to.
  5. If someone offered you £1 million to be filmed 24/7 for a month (including bathing, toilet, sex, the works) and be put on YouTube would you do it?   I don't know! 
  6. True love or unlimited money?  True love.  Even if I’m determinedly single I’m still a bit of a romantic.
  7. If you go time travel 10 years into your future and see yourself, but be unable to change the outcome, would you do it and why?  Nope.  Then I’d have to live the next ten years knowing the good, the bad, and the ugly of what will happen to me without having any sense of control.  It seems like a miserable existence.  People aren’t meant to have that sort of knowledge.
  8. At what age would you say you were happiest?  I was pretty happy at 21-22, my last year at Cornell.  I was surrounded by my incredibly brilliant group of friends, doing the stuff I loved.
  9.  If you could change 1 thing about your life what would it be and why?  I would have dropped pre-med sooner.  I stuck it out for my entire freshman year at Cornell, but I already knew around that October that pre-med wasn’t for me.  That year was one of the most stressful of my life and my GPA never quite bounced back from those classes.
  10. What is your all time favorite post you've written on your blog?  I think my post on being determinedly single is my favorite.  It was great to sit down and try to really articulate why I feel the way I feel.  I also got some terrific and supportive reaction to it.
  11. Sweet or savory?  Sweet!
My 11 questions are:
  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. What is your favorite film of all-time?
  3. What do you love most about yourself?
  4. If you could invite three people (alive or dead) to a dinner party, who would it be and why?
  5. Are you doing any traveling this summer?  If so, where are you going?
  6.  Extrovert or introvert?
  7. What’s your favorite beauty product?
  8. Do you speak any foreign languages?
  9. What’s your biggest pet peeve?
  10. What are your three favorite blogs to follow?
  11. What’s your favorite quote?
Now for the nominations!  I nominate the following bloggers to answer my questions and take part in the Liebster Award: @theshelfsociety @BlameRainBeauty @themiscmusings @mycupofbeautyuk @lovefromlucky @OlColBlog @haileysworkshop @AnnieMACBlog @katsyxo @melodyyannep @stylealfresco

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What's In My Bag? Work Edition

You know how some people collect shoes? Well, I might love me a pair of gorgeous pumps or badass boots, but I can’t say no to a new handbag. I love my burgundy Audrey Brooke cross-body bag from my March Monthly Favorites, but the color wasn’t exactly shouting “spring!” to me, so I thought it was time to switch bags. And while I was at it, I figured I’d do a “What’s in My Bag” post.

I’m a sucker for a good WIMB post for some reason. Are any of you? It seems a bit voyeuristic, to be honest, but it gives you an intimate portrait of the blogger who’s willing to spill their guts—or the contents of their bag—onto the internet. So, without further ado, here is my What’s in My Bag Work Edition post!

The Bag

I work full-time, so during the week I go for utilitarian when it comes to choosing a bag. It needs to be able to fit all the usual suspects (wallet, make-up, phone, etc.) while also being able to hold my lunch and whatever I might need to carry to and from work.

I fell in love with this London Fog satchel when I spotted it in DSW last spring. I loved the vintage shape of it and the color, which just seemed so cheerful. I’m honestly not a huge fan of pastels, but I couldn’t resist this bag’s charms! The pink with gold accents was just too perfect. I believe it cost me around $70 last year (but don’t quote me on that), and I used it well into the summer before reluctantly switching bags. The bag itself is pretty sturdy and it can hold a lot, surprisingly, so it met all my work needs.

The Contents

Reading Material – Since I love to read and work in publishing, I have a lot of reading material in my bag. I always have at least one paperback (currently The Secret History) that I read on the train as well as my Kindle Fire HDX. I use the Kindle to read manuscripts for work, but I also upload the New York Times to read in the morning since I’m a news and media junkie. I always keep a small notepad in my bag too, which I use to jot down blog posts and whatever creative writing I might be doing on the side. And to be very old-fashioned, I keep a train schedule in my bag even though I have the Train Time App on my phone…

Beauty Essentials – I kind of suck when it comes to remembering to freshen my make-up during the day, but I always keep a lipstick or two in my bag. My daily look doesn’t usually include lipstick, but slicking some color onto my lips is my way of switching from a day to night look if I’m going out after work. I’m currently carrying Revlon’s Cherry Tart Colorburst Lip Butter and Maybelline’s Pinkalicious. I also carry a few loose hairpins or hair claws. This time of year, I keep a hand moisturizer in my bag, like Jergen’s Ultra Healing, to help repair the damage winter has done to my poor dehydrated skin. And lastly, I have my trusty sunglasses! These Miu Miu shades are my pride and joy. Their retail value is a couple hundred dollars, but I snagged them for $40 last summer. I absolutely adore them! The details on the side get tons of compliments, and I feel so confident (kind of like a movie star) when I’m wearing them.

Bits & Bobs – Of course I always have my iPhone 5 in my bag along with a pen (or 5…) to write things down in my notepads. It probably goes without saying, too, that I keep my wallet and my monthly train ticket in my bag as well. My wallet, which I bought in a market in Florence last summer, is another of my pride and joys. It’s the softest leather I have ever felt, even if it is a bit boring as far as design goes.

So what are some of your bag essentials? Do you have anything in there that is completely utilitarian?

Sunday, May 3, 2015

5 Smart Ways to Make the Most of Your Money

After making some not-so-brilliant purchases last month, I remembered just how important budgeting is. I ended up with $25 to last me until my next payday some 10 days later. Yikes! It’s been a tough week so far, and I still have to make it to Wednesday with only $7.50 in the bank. Double yikes! To prevent this little mishap from occurring again, smart budgeting is a must. The simplest formula I can think of is Monthly Salary – Bills = Spending Money. In my case, “bills” means my evil student loans, my credit card, and my monthly train ticket into New York City. There are certainly ways to stretch that money, so here are 5 tips to keep in mind so you avoid my current situation!
  1. Bring lunch. The month I made it my goal to bring lunch to work instead of eating out, I saved myself $50 a week. Throwing together a salad or putting leftovers in a container costs little compared to the $10 lunches I’d be buying. Not to mention, home-prepared food is usually the healthier route.
  2. Set goals.  I’m a goal-oriented person, so I find that it’s much easier for me to stay within a budget or save money if I make a goal for myself. I might decide that I want to have $100 left in my account at the end of a particular month, so that makes me more mindful of my spending. Even if I fall a bit short of the goal, I’d still be well within my budget.
  3. Plan ahead.  At the start of the month, I always try to plan out my expenses. There are the expenses that never go away (my bills), but there are always other things that crop up. I try to figure one-time expenses like doctor co-pays, excursions, or major purchases (laptops, furniture, etc.) into my Monthly Salary – Bills = Spending Money equation as best I can. Also, I try to avoid scheduling too many of these one-time expenses in a single month, spreading everything out as evenly as possible.
  4. Look for sales & bargains.  This is one of the best ways to stretch a dollar. I love finding sales and think of it as a sport (it totally is if you’re a shopaholic like me!). I look forward to the seasonal sales (Memorial Day, Labor Day, Black Friday, etc.), but I also get email notifications when my favorite shops have new sales. Add-ons for my internet browser like Shoptager notify me when my wishlist items at online stores go on sale. Nifty right? And although certain stores like DSW, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and HomeGoods might not have sales often, they are great for finding off-price brand name merchandise throughout the year.
  5. Consider your wants versus your needs.  This is the hardest part of budgeting—deciding what's a want and what's a need. It’s great to treat yourself to things when you can, but for me most of my purchases fall under the “need” category. If it’s a “want,” I make sure that my expenses and my “needs” can be paid for first. If there’s enough money left in my monthly budget, then I know I’m good to go!

So what are your tips for saving money?

Friday, May 1, 2015

New Month, New Goals: May

It finally feels like spring, although just barely.  I was able to go out bare-legged for the first time since October and stuffed my down coat into the deepest, darkest corner of my closet.  I’m seeing buds on trees, which means I’ve been taking allergy medicine daily, but I'll suffer through allergies gladly if I can put winter behind me though!

The fact that spring has finally sprung did make some disappointing things this month more bearable.  I don’t want to dwell, but there were a few speed bumps this month that I’m still working over as we head into May.  You’ve just got to take it one day at a time, right?

So, how did I do with my goals last month?

Start booking French excursions. Done! You can read about it all here.
Freshen my spring wardrobe.  I splurged on a pair of Vince Camuto pumps, but between booking things for France, bills, and buying a birthday gift for Dad, there wasn't much money left.  Maybe in May?
Freshen up my make-up bag. I've been testing out my Maybelline Fit Me Concealer but didn't buy anything else.
Watch the new episodes of Outlander. I'm already sucked in again.  I don't know what I'm going to do once the season ends.  Read Book 2?  Re-watch the first 8 episodes that I have on blu-ray?  Buy the second half of the season on blu-ray when its released?  Pine for the gorgeous Jamie Fraser?  All of the above, probably.
Watch the new season of Game of Thrones.  I am dying to see what Oberon's vengeful children are up to, and so far they haven't made an appearance.  The season is just warming up, but I do think it'll be a good one!
Start using MyFitnessPal again. I was certainly better about using MyFitnessPal this month than I was in March, but I think I could still do better!


  • Read 2 non-work related books. I already mentioned how I'd love to start reading for leisure more in my first reading list, so I figured there's no time like the present!  31 days seems like more than enough time to read at least 2 books for fun, even if I get swamped with reading for work again.  Things slow down in publishing after Memorial Day, so that'll give me some more time to read too.
  • Get some gardening done. I'm hoping that this spring weather sticks around so that my parents and I can plant some flowers.  After months of seeing nothing but white, it'll be nice to have some color around.  Gardening is also a nice way to spend time with the parentals, something I've started to appreciate more as I've gotten older.
  • Attend BEA. BookExpo America is a huge publishing event that takes place in New York City every May. Publisher from all over come together at the Javits Center to network and publicize their big books.  There are always a lot of giveaways, author signings, seminars, and parties to attend.  I’m looking forward to getting myself some nice swag again this year!
  • Buy some new clothes (for real this time). I failed last month when it came to this goal, but I’m really going to try this time.  I’m getting tired of the clothes in my closet, and it’s always nice to add a few new pieces to freshen up your look.  Plus, I do want some lovely outfits for France!
  • Take photos for my first monthly photo challenge. Since one of my goals this year is to improve my photography, I’ve decided to give myself monthly photo challenges.  This way I'll be forced out of my comfort zone and get to practice new techniques and styles. This month I’m going to be working on macro photography, so stay tuned.
Do you have any goals for May?

Lovely calendar by Rifle Paper Co.