Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September Favorites

September is my favorite month of the year and I'm sad to have to say goodbye to it. This month was fun for travel, birthdays, and quite a bit of fashion. I'm rounding up my favorites for the month. Definitely leave a comment with some of your favorite things, I'd love to check them out!

Instax Mini // This came in a package from Teen Vogue and I felt like a kid on Christmas morning unwrapping a new present. I've been totally wanting one for unknown reasons and it is too much fun. Garrett and I have been snapping the most ridiculous photos. It's a refreshing change from the iPhone. The pictures aren't perfect, and that's what makes them so special. (Plus, there's nothing better than holding a picture a minute after it's taken.) You can find them a bunch of places, but Amazon has great prices! I bought extra packs of film from Amazon too because the cartridges aren't cheap.

Julep Quick Dry Drops // This stuff is an old favorite, but I've been using the drops almost every day. I keep painting and repainting my nails. If you haven't tried the Julep Quick Dry Drops yet, you have to. Warning: you won't ever paint your nails without it. Once you do two or three coats of your regular polish, wait two minutes, then use two drops on each nail. Wait another minute or two and your nails are dry!!! DRY. No more sheet marks, no more blowing, no more smudges as you're running out the door.

Puffer Vest // Another old favorite of mine, but still just has great this year. You can have one puffer vest and incorporate it into just about every look wear for a month. Layer over dresses, sweatshirts, sweaters, or button downs. A good puffer vest will complete just about every casual outfit. (One of my favorite looks this month with the vest.)

Sole Society Bow Flats // I've ordered these earlier this month and they finally arrived (after a weird UPS train derailment delay!). I have an outfit post coming up wearing these shoes. I have to say they're everything I love in footwear: comfortable, bows, and a loafer. After only two wears, they felt like well-loved shoes that had been in my closet for years. The cutest blue suede shoes there ever was.

Cleansing Sponge // This was something that came in a big NYFW survival kit from Pinch Me. When I first saw this sponge, I was horrified. It felt and looked like a pumice stone. I couldn't imagine using it on my FACE. The packaging promised that it would soften with water.... Oh, this is a miracle sponge. The perfect way to exfoliate and cleanse without any irritation. I've been alternating with the sponge and my Clarisonic, but the sponge is just too easy. It contours perfectly to both your hand and the curves of your face. 

DryBar Curling Iron // I swear by this curling iron. It's a challenge to get used to it, but once you get the hang of it it's a total game changer. I use the iron about three times a week and love that I can do tight curls or lose curls or waves. I've been fielding questions over email and Instagram about how I've been doing my hair differently... and I owe it all the curling iron!

Sea Salt Popcorn // I'm addicted to this popcorn. Downright addicted. I love a good bowl of popcorn in the afternoon while I work or at night when I'm reading. (Or both if I'm being honest.) I typically love popcorn popped on the stove, but this microwavable version with sea salt is delicious. YUM.

What have been your September favorites?

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Cute Desktop Planner and Blog Notepads

This might just be the most helpful and absolute cutest thing I ever post on here. But actually. I'm obsessed and I think you will be too.

Whit is a recent college grad and she emailed me to share the business she recently started. I'm always open to hearing about new businesses and was totally blown away by her work with Heart & Arrow. She does web, blog, and graphic design... and just expanded into home and office goodies.

She sent me one of her Custom Hourly Notepads and the Blog Planner Notepad. I love both. The hourly notepad is the perfect thing for anyone who works at a desk... whether you're a working professional or a student. It's the perfect size (8.5 x 11") to keep right by where you work so you can perfectly plan out your day. And the blog planner couldn't be better designed. It will help novice and seasoned bloggers alike stay on track.

When ordering, use the code "prepster" to receive a free print as well! (Offer ends October 3. Add the print of your choice to your order along with the notepad and when you check out, the discount will be applied.)

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Basic Quinoa Salad

Always excited to share Louisa from Living Lou's recipes on here. I've really, really been making an effort to grocery shop and cook at home. The simpler the recipe the better. (This weekend it was simple pasta and tomato sauce... that counts, right?) It's easier for me to do dinners because by the end of the day I'm done with work. But during the day? I've gotten in the habit of ordering food or popping into a little cafe nearby. Whoops! This is the perfect lunch that is simple and healthy to make! Thanks for sharing Louisa!

Basic Quinoa Salad
by Louisa from Living Lou

Are you looking for a healthy salad to add to your week? I promise that this simple, basic quinoa salad will quickly become your go-to salad! I’m a huge fan of bringing a lunch to work or to school (it saves you so much money) and this salad has been one of my go-to weekday lunches for a couple of years now. Plus it’s really good for you which is a nice bonus. And while we’re talking bonuses, it only takes about 15 minutes to make, so if you’re strapped for time (which we all are these days), this is the recipe for you. 

Since we’re going back to basics, I wanted to share a recipe that would build on the techniques that I shared in my last post, so this quinoa salad uses my Basic Balsamic Vinaigrette as a dressing. If you haven’t made it yet, hopefully this salad will inspire you to give it a try. What I love about this recipe is that it’s kind of like a blank canvas, you can add whatever vegetables you have in your fridge or use the ones I’ve highlighted below. Quinoa salads are packed with protein which will keep you full throughout the day. You’ll notice that I’ve included feta cheese in here because it’s my favourite cheese on the planet, and I highly recommend you give it a try.

Today’s tips: 

1. Prep for the week
Doing a bit of prep on the weekend for the coming week is one of the best things you can do for your health and your wallet. This quinoa salad is the kind of dish that I would prep on the weekend to eat during the week. You’ll thank me on Tuesday night when you have this in your fridge after a long and exhausting day!

2. Get creative!
The most fun thing about cooking is to explore your creativity! Like I said earlier, you can really mix and match your favorite veggies in this salad (even fruit too if you’re feeling adventurous). Try adding some white beans for extra protein, shredded carrots, tomatoes or sugar snap peas. I would love to see what you guys come up with, so share with Carly and me in the comments or on Twitter and Instagram!

Basic Quinoa Salad

For quinoa: 
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water

For salad:
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green onion, sliced
1 cup diced cucumber
1 cup diced feta cheese
3 ½ tbsp basic balsamic vinaigrette

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add quinoa. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 12  minutes. After 12 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and allow to cool.
Once quinoa is cool, add red pepper, green onion, cucumber and feta cheese. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and stir. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Very New York City Weekend

The title sounds like a spinoff of a movie, but it really was a New York as you can get. It was also beautiful and warm. It was nice to have a midweek trip to Cape May and then spend the weekend back in the city. It's strange to go from having a car and driving through pretty little towns to back to subways and walking on very crowded sidewalks. Nice to get away, and nice to be back.

I shared many of these photos on social media channels. While I love being able to share real time things, I hate that I can't really explain the whole story. Blogging has been taking a bit of a hit with the rise of micro-blogging platforms, but I like being able to share more here, too!

Okay. I mean, if that picture doesn't make you want to pick up and move to the city as soon as possible, I don't know what will. The Upper East Side isn't really a popular part of the city to live in for twenty-somethings, but I truly can't imagine living anywhere else in the city. (Without losing my mind that is.) I'm just about right in between the East River and Central Park, both being great escapes from the concrete jungle.

Early mornings in Central Park are the best and Saturday was no exception. Garrett and I met up with my friend Kathryn from high school who is an insanely talented photographer and was in town with her husband this weekend. (Seriously, you need to check out her work.) I was really excited to catch up with her and she offered to take photos for my blog. Can't wait to share them with you, but here are some sneak peeks in the meantime.

(I'm wearing this dress and boots similar to these; Garrett is wearing this sweater.)

We thought it was going to be fall weather when we took the photos, but it was actually pretty warm. We ended up changing before we went off on the rest of our day! We first headed way downtown to the financial district to pick up our packets for the 5k we ran on Sunday. It's a hike and a half to get down there, but it's gorgeous to sit by the water.... so that's what we did for a little bit! In true adventurer fashion, we set off to find our favorite doughnuts (cinnamon sugar all the way) from Doughnuttery in Chelsea Market. I will do a lot for doughnuts, including brave the Chelsea Market weekend crowds.

Since we were in the nearby, we walked to A Salt and Battery for Garrett's favorite fish and chips. So. Good. It was too nice out to not sit outside and eat. I just wanted to bottle up the day in a jar to remember forever!

There's a Warby Parker in my neighborhood and I have a bad habit of popping in every now and then to try on some new glasses. I'm thinking I need to splurge on another pair...

This morning, I ran my first ever 5k. Garrett asked if I wanted to run it with him and I said yes, not even knowing what kind of race it was or what is was for. It was absolutely one of my favorite NYC experiences to date. The race is called Tunnel to Towers and I recommend to everyone who has the chance to do it. The race is a memorial for Stephen Siller, a NYC firefighter who ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Manhattan to help on 9/11. The minute he heard about what was happening, he threw on his gear (60 pounds!) and started to drive. The tunnel had been shut down, so he got out of his car and ran to Manhattan where he ultimately gave up his life helping.

The 5k race starts in Brooklyn and all the runners (and walkers) go through the tunnel and finish by the Freedom Tower. It. Was. Incredible. I don't even know if I can put into words how amazing and powerful it was. 25,000 people ran through the tunnel Stephen Siller ran through. It was crowded, not in a suffocating way, but in a "we're doing this together" way. Running through the tunnel was long and hot and many firefighters were running with their gear on... just like Stephen Siller did. (Not easy.) Every now and then people would start chanting "USA!" and it would echo and echo throughout the tunnel. It was insanely powerful; I kept getting goosebumps.

Then you get out of the tunnel and can breathe a little easier with the fresh air. Now, I'm not a runner and I was really feeling heavy-footed and slow. But you round the corner out of the tunnel and firefighters are lined up alongside the race course high-fiving and encouraging the runners. Each firefighter had a banner with the name and photo of a firefighter who had given his life on 9/11. I choked up and picked up the pace. It was surreal to see both the men who continue to put their lives on the line and the volume of men who gave their lives helping in 2001.

I've honestly never felt so proud to be an American then.

The best way to end a beautiful day is with a beautiful sunset.

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I tend to do my very-best thinking when I'm getting ready for the day. Between showering and spending time putting on my makeup and doing my hair, I have plenty of time to think. The word "ownership" popped into my mind the other morning. I was thinking about how much my life has changed since blogging and I was trying to figure out what it was that I think changed me the most...

And that's when ownership started to feel just right!

I've always been a responsible and independent person. Almost to a fault as I take things extremely seriously and can find myself missing out on life events and I was always a bit too grown up for my age. (As an example, I insisted on packing my own lunch starting in second grade because heaven forbid my mom not do it "correctly.")

But it wasn't until I became my own boss that I really started to take ownership for everything that I do. I definitely had moments growing up where it was easier to play the victim card than to be responsible. I fell into the temptation of cutting corners. I felt like things that were happening were out of my control and there was little I could do.

Taking ownership and having ownership over my own life has been a game changer. It wasn't an overnight thing and it's not something that deliberately happened, but I am very glad it did. Having ownership, however, can be something that you actively seek. Trust me when I say that it will be the best thing you can do for yourself.

Ownership, in my opinion, means....

Making a change if you wish to see change. This is the easiest thing to say and the hardest thing to do. It's like breaking or creating any kind of habit, it takes dedication and determination. It's all about getting into the rhythm of making the changes you need to make. Wishing and hoping and thinking (even planning) won't get you there... only doing will! (And it's up to you!)

Not blaming other people or situations. Being late isn't about traffic or slow trains, it's about not factoring morning rush hour into your commute. Getting a bad grade isn't a professor's fault, it's not studying enough. The rain isn't ruining the day, your attitude probably is. Whenever I find myself making excuses for why something didn't go well, I stop myself and reel it back in to find the root of the problem. Even when things do seem situational, it only takes a couple of minutes to reframe what happened to take control. The best parts? It makes my mood better and I can make a better choice/judgement next time.

Realizing how what you do impacts the results. When you're taking ownership, you can see the direct impact you've made. In a good way and a bad way, if that's the case. You're in charge here! One of the questions I receive the most is how I stay motivated. The bottom line for me right now is that if I don't work, I don't get results. The better I work, the better the results. Again, the literal bottom line is on me, and only me. It can be stressful, but also freeing and rewarding to see the direct impact.

Setting and sticking to goals. The best way to get results? Setting goals. Whether you work for yourself or are part of a organization or you're a student, you have to have goals. Having goals is the best way to stay on track and the best way to ensure you're taking ownership. (Don't forget to not blame other people or situations while making your way to the goal!) One thing to note is that a goal may change overtime. Maybe you reached it early or forgot to factor a crucial detail in and you won't hit it in time, take charge and change the goals as necessary. But remember... you're the owner here. Don't cut corners!

Taking a stand for what you believe and standing by what you do. Part of taking ownership is knowing what you believe and not being afraid of that. You don't have to make a huge deal about it; you can be private about your beliefs! You should know them though. Another part is standing by what you do. Recognizing when something went well or not so well; knowing when to apologize, knowing when to back down, and when to step up. This is when you really have to ask yourself if you're doing the right thing... if you've done the right thing. It's on you.

Taking care of yourself. THE MOST IMPORTANT! The only person who can really make sure that you're doing okay physically, mentally, and emotionally is you. It's the most important and easily one of the most forgotten steps. I personally struggle with this, but make a concerted effort to take care of myself. Having ownership can create stress so you have to stay on top of your own well-being in the process.

How do you take ownership over your own life?

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