My Home Picks on Amazon, Part 2

Last month, I posted my favorite Amazon home finds and wanted to share some additional picks with ya! Seriously, Amazon Prime really pulls through with affordable, stylish pieces. I’ve also been really inspired by Alaina’s home and Danielle’s and feel like all of these pieces would work in their places, too. 😉 It’s funny how once you get a certain style in your head, you keep stumbling upon pieces that match it perfectly!

My Home Picks on Amazon, Part 2

This glass and gold vanity tray is also perfect for a coffee table or bar cart. I love the gold accents on the corners and for under $20, it can’t be beat!

My Home Picks on Amazon, Part 2

I recently purchased this gold lamp and was influenced by many of the positive reviews saying that it looks much more expensive than it is (I mean, it’s under $40!). It adds a great pop of gold to any room and is a fraction of the cost of lamps at places like West Elm.

My Home Picks on Amazon, Part 2

This pillow cover is very West Elm-esque but is only $10. It’s great for a modern living room.

My Home Picks on Amazon, Part 2

I was lucky enough to find this chair on Craigslist for just $30 (compared to $150 on Amazon!), and its stylish frame adds a fun element to my living room.

My Home Picks on Amazon, Part 2

This set of mirrored trays would look fabulous on a coffee table and again look much more expensive than they are IRL!

Key Entertaining Essentials

Key Entertaining Essentials

Happy Friday! I wanted to pop in with three entertaining essentials that I’ve found extremely useful over the years (from college to apartment living, they’ve been musts!):

Small bowls: When serving snacks and dips, I honestly sometimes still use colorful plastic bowls that I bought at Target the summer before my freshman year. They’re super durable and I never have to worry about them breaking. However, if you’re looking to step up your serving ware game a bit, I’m also loving these from Anthropologie.

Lots of cups: I got two sets of plastic Lilly cups in college and still have ‘em! They’re great for when you have several people over but don’t want to resort to Solo cups. Mine have held up extremely well, are super cute (of course), and are easy to wash. I recently purchased these blue Lilly cups for my bar cart, and while they’re a different style (the plastic is thicker and they’re a bit shorter), I’ve loved using them, too!

Festive cocktail napkins: One of my favorite things to look for at HomeGoods and similar stores is festive napkins (Michaels often has adorable options, too!). At only $2.99 or so a pop, packets of napkins are a great investment and make for fun party props. I’ve seen everything from donut-themed ones to sassy sayings and more. You can never have too many (says the girl with an overflowing drawer full of printed napkins!).

Life Hacks, Part 2

Life Hacks, Part 2

It’s been awhile since my last Life Hacks post, so I thought I’d do round two, full of tips and tricks about everything under the sun a few useful topics.

Moving in with a significant other? Here’s how you can keep the peace even if your ideas of organization are world apart.

For my NYC ladies (or other small space gals)…how to maximize your square footage.

Need just one more pair of shorts for the summer? I’m loving this scalloped, lace pair!

Looking for a good chick lit novel for vacation? I can’t wait to read All Summer Long after seeing Ashley’s review (and I also loved Bookshop on the Corner, which she highlights!).

Need an easy dinner idea? My mouth is watering over Julia’s recipe for chicken taco bowls!

4 Things to Do For a More Productive Week

For weeks when you just need alllll the coffee (and maybe a few donuts).

4 Things to Do For a More Productive Week

I’m so excited to be heading out of town this evening for a little beach getaway (and I can’t wait–more on that tomorrow!), but does anyone else feel like the days leading up to a vacation are always the busiest? Somehow, it always seems like I have the most projects due right before I head out of town–which makes the vacation time all the more rewarding, sure! But the days leading up to a trip (which are already chaotic enough) become even busier when there are major deadlines to meet. Here are a few things that have already helped me this week:

1) Do some prep over the weekend. In terms of prepping for my vacation, I did tons of laundry and packed my suitcase (I’ll just have to throw in extras like my hair dryer, straightener, sneakers, and toiletries before heading to the airport). In terms of prepping for work, I spent some time on Sunday afternoon sitting down with the article I’ve been working on and gathering my thoughts and jotting down some notes about topics to discuss with my boss before our meeting on Monday morning. I find that sitting down in my own (quiet!) home to think about a big project is much more effective than trying to piece together thoughts at my desk early in the morning before a meeting.

2) Stay on top of your food situation. I placed my first ever Prime Now order on Sunday and loved it! I had a lot of trouble getting the $10 off coupon (which you can apply to your first order) to register on the site, but after a long time on the phone with Amazon customer service (which is generally pretty darn great!), I placed my order and secured a TON of nonperishable grocery items (and, of course, two cases of La Croix!) for only $25, plus everything was delivered right to my front door in just a couple of hours. Technology, what would we do without you?!

 

4 Things to Do For a More Productive Week

3) Do something fun. I hate when weekends go by and I feel like I didn’t do anything social or even just relaxing. But that’s often my own fault–you can be productive and still make time to catch up with friends, after all! I had a blast catching up with girls from various parts of my life on Saturday evening. Devoting Saturday night to purely just hanging out and having fun made it that much easier to focus on getting lots of things done (laundry, other housework, work prep, etc.) all day Sunday.

4) Try something new. Sometimes I’m eager to try something, like a new workout class or even a new dinner place, but then I get home from work and end up reverting to my usual routine. On Saturday, I tried a new spin studio in DC and absolutely loved it–I’ve already gone back twice this week, although I hate to use up my pack of classes so quickly! I was glad that I trekked out to the studio fairly early and tried the class when I had a little bit more free time–I hate getting to the studio four minutes before class starts, which is something I’m definitely guilty of doing. 😉 Taking a little more time to get familiar with the studio up front will definitely pay off in the long run when I am running late and already know how to use the lockers, set up my bike, etc.

Picking a Neighborhood

 

One of the best parts of moving to a new city (or just finding a new apartment) is choosing a neighborhood. I’ve been really happy with the various places I’ve lived (New York’s Upper East Side, Philadelphia’s University City, and now, Georgetown), but of course I always experienced the “what if” feeling. What if I lived in downtown DC closer to some of my favorite restaurants and workout studios (well, then I would be farther from work). But what if I lived in Virginia and was closer to work (however, would I still be able to find that “neighborhood” feel?). You know the drill.

Several of my friends have either re-signed their leases, moved to a new spot, or are currently living at home and exploring apartment options. I thought I’d share a few of the factors that were important to me during my search, which are things I still think about fairly often.

1) Practicality. Are you close to work? If not, does that matter? If you’ve been dating someone in your city, how close do you want to live to that person? Is it really worth it to Uber pool across town several nights a week in order to see him or her, or do you appreciate having your own neck of the woods? For me, I basically live as close as possible to my office in Virginia while still living in DC, which is something that I wanted. Of course, if I lived on the other side of the river my commute would be that much easier, but I’m much, much closer to work than I would be if I lived farther east in the city. Things like proximity to a grocery store, pharmacy, and gym are important to consider. In Georgetown or Glover Park, for example, you’re not necessarily going to be near a grocery store depending on where you live. I’m not personally super close to all three of the places I listed above, but I’ve made it work. I’ve had to accept that not every city is going to be like NYC, where there are truly three pharmacies, three grocery stories, and three gyms/workout studios per block! In Philly, I didn’t necessarily fall in love with my neighborhood, but I was happy with it because of how easy it was for me to get to class, buy food, and dine out every once in awhile, so as a busy student, practicality definitely won.

2) Personality. What’s the neighborhood’s personality? How does it match your personality? Is your neighborhood a place you look forward to coming home to at the end of the day, or do you just feel blah about it? I know that while I’m personally a city girl at heart, I prefer living in a neighborhood rather than in a more city-like high rise. Walking and driving around Georgetown honestly makes me so happy, and while I’m farther away from other things, I love how gorgeous and safe it is over here. In New York, I liked living on the Upper East Side because of the similar neighborhood feel, but the experience was definitely worlds away from one of my friend’s–she lives in an amazing, 20+ floor building downtown! Do you want to live in the New York/DC that you see on TV, or are you ok being a bit more removed from all of the chaos?

Picking a Neighborhood

3) Price. This is probably the number one factor for most people, but it’s definitely related to the other two. Maybe living in that cute but pricier neighborhood is worth it if you can walk to work (practicality) and cut back on transportation costs–honestly, not having to splurge on that monthly subway pass in NYC would’ve been amazing! Price is so personal and can vary so much from city to city, so there’s really no one “right” way to approach it. Also keep in mind that in some neighborhoods you can get more for your money in others. I knew people in New York who chose to live in Connecticut or New Jersey because they could get a little more space for their money, but in return, they had a much longer commute.

Have more neighborhood questions? I’ve lived in three cities (and apartments) in four years, so I’ve been there!  Drop me a note or leave me a comment and I’ll chime in!

How to Make the Most of an Apartment’s Downfalls

How to Make the Most of an Apartment’s Downfalls

Hado Photo

As much as I love my apartment, it’s far from perfect. I kind of describe it to friends as having more than enough room for one person, but not quite enough for two people. The main reason for that is because of the lack of closet space. I have two closets–one in my bedroom and one by the front door–but they aren’t the most functional. In New York and Philly, I was VERY fortunate and had a walk-in closet area both times (although in Philly the walk-in was my only closet, meaning that it also held bulky winter coats, my vacuum, and more). In DC, my bedroom closet is very deep but only has one bar that I can actually reach (and I’m a pretty tall person). While I don’t have a TON of clothes (all my money goes to home items instead! Ha), things were still getting a little crammed in there since the closet isn’t very wide, either.

 

How to Make the Most of an Apartment’s Downfalls

Hado Photo

After checking out the Container Store and still not feeling super inspired, I decided a few weeks ago that (while it would be a little weird), I’d switch the contents of my bedroom closet with those in my front hall closet. I realize that it may be a little strange for a guest to open up the closet door and see all of my dresses and button downs hanging up in there, but how often do I have guests over? WAY less frequently than I get dressed, which I do, you know, every day. So far, the new system is working well–especially because it’s summer and I no longer need to grab a jacket on my way to work anyway, which means no reaching into the deep closet every morning.

How to Make the Most of an Apartment’s Downfalls

Hado Photo

Does your apartment have some less than perfect features? Here are a few swaps you can try:

1) Not a fan of your radiator sticking out? My current apartment had one of these covers installed when I moved in (which is nice, because I don’t think I personally would shell out $250 for one!). It definitely makes the space a little nicer looking, and you can even keep things (like a stack of coffee table books) on top of it, if needed.

2) While I wish I had a whole closet to dedicate to cleaning supplies and things like extra toilet paper and paper towels, I’m lacking in storage space. Have a thin, standup vacuum? Slide it right under your bed our couch rather than propping it up somewhere visible. Just don’t forget where you put it when it’s time to use it!

3) Need to cover 80 percent of your flooring with carpets? This was a rule in my apartment building in NYC, and one of my downstairs neighbors made it VERY clear that she expected this to be enforced…but what better excuse to try out this layered rug look? Don’t feel like you have to sacrifice style to be a rule-abiding tenant!

3 Big Sales

3 Big Sales

There are SO many sales going on right now, and I just wanted to highlight a few of my favorites because there are really too many to count!

Gray Malin: Aerial beach prints are 30 percent off–a hefty discount, but keep in mind that Gray does have other sales throughout the year. I picked up my “I Am Busy” print for $99 (it’s generally $199), whereas the beach prints will still run $170ish for the smallest size with this 30 percent off discount. Also, note that framing can be EXPENSIVE, especially because the prints aren’t necessarily normal frame sizes. I got mine custom framed and was able to take advantage of a Groupon that allowed me to pay $40 for an $100 frame job. It turned out great, but even with all of my discounts, securing and framing a Gray Malin print was quite the process!

Anthropologie: The tag sale is ON SALE. I picked up another adorable Staffordshire dog glass in stores the other day, and I love it! Also, how cute are these Rifle Paper candles? The prints are gorgeous!

West Elm: Their sale has been going on for days and features some great deals. Note: it ends at midnight, so don’t wait! If I had room, I’d probably scoop up this chair (a steal, especially for West Elm). I also have this heart bowl, it’s so cheerful!

Happy shopping!

Things to Do on Your Staycation

As much as I love taking long weekends over the summer and traveling to spend time with my family or see someplace new with friends, staycations can be pretty darn relaxing, too! I took a few days off at the end of June and primarily used them to catch up on life. However, if you have day off (maybe you’re in town for the Fourth with no real plans) coming up and are stuck at home with no idea what to do, here are my ideas…

Things to Do on Your Staycation

Whip up a new drink recipe: Ok, so I tried making frozen rosé before (read about my adventures here), and it was amazing, but frozen rosé in a watermelon?! Now that’s even more festive (not to mention, it’s totally insta worthy if that’s your thing). Check out this recipe I spotted on Pinterest and let me know if you decide to try it!

Things to Do on Your Staycation

Make DIY abstract art: Mine will never turn out as beautiful as Shannon’s, but it’s still fun to make. Head to your local craft store and grab a canvas and some paint and go to town.

Things to Do on Your Staycation

Read a whole book in a day: I absolutely love reading while on vacation and always fill my suitcase with tons of books. I’m known to finish one (if not more!) books in a day and love lying on the beach (or in an air conditioned room, tbh) reading the day away.

Things to Do on Your Staycation

Plan out your next “real” vacation: Make a list (on the computer or just using pen and paper) and map out the places you’d like to see on your next scheduled trip. I need to sit down and look into specifics for Paris sometime soon!

Things to Do on Your Staycation

Try a new beauty trend: Ok, I don’t think I could pull off this banana leaf nail design, but spend some time pampering yourself or trying out that hair tool you impulse bought months ago and never sat down to use.

 

Five Things I Did My First Summer in New York

…That I’d do again in a heartbeat!

Five Things I Did My First Summer in New York

It feels crazy writing this, but the first time I spent a summer in New York was FIVE years ago in 2012! I was participating in a summer journalism program during which I interned at Parade Magazine, lived in an NYU dorm room with roommates who came from various parts the country, and overall just had a blast working in and exploring the city. The biggest highlight was definitely authoring the Olympic-themed cover story (available online here!) for a July Parade issue, even though I was so nervous at the time while putting it together!

It’s funny how even though the city has changed so much over the years (cute shops and restaurants keep popping up EVERYWHERE, as shown in my post about my most recent visit), there are tons of things that remain NYC classics. So if you’re heading to New York for the first time or spending your tenth summer there, add these activities to your list!

1)   See an outdoor movie. My roommates and I actually stumbled upon this one night but it ended up being a blast. I think the movie was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory…but I was more excited about the free popcorn and treats! Lying the park and watching a movie with friends after a long day of work is seriously the perfect summer activity.

2)   Head to Dylan’s Candy Bar. Dylan’s is a classic, at least in my book. If you like ANY type of candy, I guarantee you’ll be happy, because Dylan’s truly has everything! There’s a whole wall of different flavors of gummy bears, different themed candy bars from each decade, and (my favorite) plenty of dispensers so you can go around and fill up a bag with a little bit of everything. Go, go, go!

3)   Eat in Little Italy. It may seem overly touristy, but Little Italy is adorable and perfect for a summer night. Grab a glass of wine and a delicious bowl of pasta and enjoy dinner outside while people watching. Can you really think of a better combo?!

4)   Have brunch at Alice’s Tea Cup. This Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant has several locations across the city, and it’s the perfect spot for a little tea or breakfast date. It can definitely get crowded, but it’s an adorable photo opp and the food is great!

5)   Picnic in Washington Square Park. On weekends, the grassy area is packed with people lying out, eating, reading, and relaxing. There is always some great people watching in this area, too. Bring a friend or just bring a book and some snacks and spend a lazy afternoon outside.

4 Ways I Cut Back on Spending

I find it so interesting to learn what people splurge on and where they cut back (remember how interesting I found Refinery 29’s money diaries?!). For example, living in New York City, I walked by dozens of coffee shops on my way to work, which made it really hard to convince myself to make me own coffee at home (but I did, most of the time!). Some of my friends insist on splurging on things like bras or special types of shampoo. I definitely like to have extra spending money for, well, unnecessary items (home decor > food…sorry I’m not sorry!), so here are a few of the areas where I’ve learned to cut back…

4 Ways I Cut Back on Spending

1) Coffee. I definitely treat myself to Starbucks every now and then, but it’s really, really easy to say no to spending money on coffee because 1) it isn’t allowed on public transportation in DC, and that’s generally how I get to work, and 2) I work in the suburbs and can’t leave during the day, so while the temptation to grab a 2 pm iced coffee is still there, I simply can’t do anything about it! I bought a Keurig 2 and a half years ago and it’s held up fabulously ever since (knock on wood…I’m always a little worried about the lifespan of those things!). If you have a Keurig, use it. K-cups can certainly be expensive, but if you know where to buy ’em (places like Costco, Trader Joe’s, and even HomeGoods are all great options!), you’ll definitely be saving money in the long run.

4 Ways I Cut Back on Spending

2) Books. This one is only half true, because I still buy a LOT of books (if you live in a big city, you may end up being on the waitlist for a book FOREVER…I swear that I’ve been waiting for it to be my turn to pick up Lauren Graham’s book since February). While I’m trying to be better about using my library card (cue the Arthur library song…anyone?), I try to order the cheapest possible books (the “used” category on Amazon and websites like ThriftBooks are super cost effective). When you think about it, two books at Barnes and Noble will easily run you between $30 and $40, so while spending $4 is still unnecessary, it’s still a step in the right direction!

4 Ways I Cut Back on Spending

3) Lunches out. I’m very fortunate that my workplace has a cafeteria (I work at a school, after all!) and it’s very, very affordable to eat there (only $3 a day for unlimited portions). If your office offers something similar or reimburses you for food (I’ve heard of big firms doing this), definitely take advantage of the option! The food in our cafeteria is fairly healthy, fresh, and delicious, and if I were bringing lunch from home all year long, I’m sure I’d end up hungry by 2 pm anyway (hoping that this won’t be an issue now that the cafeteria is closed for the summer…I never know what to pack that will keep me full all day long!). If you find yourself stepping out for lunch and hate spending $10 a day on salad, try to set a limit. Maybe you’ll only buy lunch when it’s a social event (i.e.: going with coworkers), or maybe every Friday will be your lunch out day (the first summer I was interning in New York, I chose Monday to be the day I’d go out and grab a good salad…Fridays are already exciting enough, but on Monday I definitely needed something to look forward to!). I also once read an article about someone who managed to buy a week’s worth of lunch supplies for $19 IN NEW YORK. Challenge yourself to try to top that…I don’t think I could!

4 Ways I Cut Back on Spending

4) Cable. This is the first time I’ve ever had cable, and I only got it because it was actually cheaper to purchase a combined cable and internet plan than just internet alone. However, I know that I’m mainly a Netflix watcher and therefore would never pay extra for cable since I really never, ever watch TV. With so many shows available for free online, I am totally fine cutting that out if necessary!

Where do you save and where do your splurge? I’m curious!