Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankful for All Things.

This year has been a crazy one, but one that I wouldn't change for the world. Thanksgiving always makes me really reflective - to me, it's a time where I consciously think about all the amazing things that my life is holding, and just take the time to be extra vigilant and aware of all of the amazing things, big and little, that I have in my life that keep me going.

Blogger friends.
I've been lucky enough this year to have some phenomenal blogger meetups, turning virtual friends into real-life friends, which I'm kind of obsessed with.

With Christina and Leeann in Central Park.

Kari (my laundered spirit), B, Pam, M, and Kristen at our NYC blog brunch.

Netflix/Hulu/HBO Go.
But really... nothing can make me unwind more than a lazy ass Friday night spent watching too much television.

Red wine.

Also, obviously.

Guys, I would lack inspiration for so much - recipes, blog posts, fitness tips, zen guidance and inspiration - if it wasn't for this site that sucks up my time so beautifully. 

Shifting family dynamics.
I used to never believe it would be possible for me to have a positive relationship with my parents and brother, yet I find myself now calling them just to say hi, to invite them over for dinner, and schedule time to see them in person. It's become important to me to have them involved in my life, and I'm so grateful for that.

Okay, so when my parents met Anthony for the first time, we went to a tapas place.. one of the desserts was a zepole tree, which came out with a cloud of cotton candy. My parents could not even handle themselves.

Influenster and the Influenster App are pretty fantastic - you get the opportunity to connect your social media platforms and then have the chance to qualify for VoxBoxes - which are these awesome colored boxes filled with new products from various brands. Last year alone, I received the J'adore VoxBox that had face masks, Hershey's kisses, tea, etc. and the Victoria's Secret VoxBox, which came with a pair of yoga pants AND a sports bra. How many companies do you know that will send you all of this just to review?! I'm a fan and will continue to use it and reap the rewards.

New experiences, new foods, new places. I'm all about travel and am so grateful that I've had the opportunity to see so many new and beautiful places this year.

Troyes, France.
Our Airbnb apartment in Philly!

New friends. 
I've met some awesome people, mostly as a result of dating Anthony, and I'm so thankful for the ability to blend in easily and for them all being so accepting and warm.

Old friends.
I have the greatest people ever in my life, who are so filled with positive energy and encouragement, but who are also willing to totally kick me in the ass when I need it. I really can't ask for much more, friendship wise.

Reunited for the first time since Costa Rica in summer of 2012!

Good books.
I've read so many great ones this year, and I love how teaching gives me a window to share some of my favorite books/ones that really impacted me with a younger generation.

I eat these by the dozen, for real. And they encourage me to eat more salad, so I mean, how could I not be thankful?

And honestly, everyone else I encounter should be grateful for coffee too, because otherwise they would have to deal with a real bitch on a regular basis.

Home ownership. 
Listen, I cry about mortgage payments. I cry about how expensive electric bills are. I cry about the fact that the on-premise laundry is absolute shit and my clothes come out dirtier afterwards. At the end of the day though, my home is my happy place, and where I control the flow of how things go. I am so thankful for the fact that I have a roof over my head, and a pretty perfect one for me, at that.

Aveda Facials.
I originally had it as just "facials," but thought that you might think my new job was a little more x-rated... I've been going to a phenomenal Aveda facialist for the past year, and I'm telling you, she's a miracle worker. Not only that, but she recommends holistic methods that I can be doing to improve my overall health, and skin. Acne is something I've struggled with for a very long time, and adult acne is a real bitch, so I'm extra appreciative of her helping me with my number one insecurity.

Cute animal pictures.
Because really? How could you not feel happiness after seeing some of these?

Two polar opposites, but two of the most powerful things where again, I'm in full control. I love seeing my body stretch more, push harder, and look better after consistent effort and practice. This summer, I really pushed for speed and for improving my overall run times and I was able to really improve my overall times.

New relationships.
They say things happen when you least expect them to. Never did I think that Instagram (seriously) would bring two people together, or that I could have a relationship built on communication and mutual respect.
I'm ridiculously happy, which is terrifying because it's been so easy and natural, which is not what I'm used to, but am unbelievably grateful for the change for the best. I'm so excited about things and to see how everything continues to progress.

Cole Haan.
Seriously, my feet thank you and your Nike Air inserts. My bank account isn't too thrilled with you, considering you consist about 75% of my shoes, but my feet, which are more important, are so grateful.


New job.
I'm officially breaking up with teaching in a classroom and obtained a position as a credit recovery services trainer for a corporate position. Basically this means more money (a LOT more money), PTO instead of summers off (so I can take off ANY time), have 30% travel, and am totally on the forefront of this new division within the company, so I get to create the curriculum and everything from the ground up!

Yoga pants.
Particularly when I'm on my couch watching Netflix, drinking wine (and particularly when they're free from Influenster).

Always dessert. Always.

All the things I take for granted so regularly.
Running water, Internet access, heat, electricity, literacy, a college education, grocery stores, clean drinking water, the right to vote, people who love me deeply, the ability to speak my mind and bullshit as much as I want on this blog, and a future that is still so bright.

What are some of the things - little and big - that you're most thankful for? 

Currently listening to: Runaway (U & I) Kaskade Remix - Galantis 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Save or Splurge?

Biana over at B Loved Boston shared a really fun post recently about things that people typically save or splurge on. It definitely got me thinking, and reflecting on my spending habits (and what I probably should be budgeting more on... I always considered myself a saver, but maybe not!). Below are the categories and feel free to join in on the fun! 

1// A cocktail dress to wear to a wedding
2. A glass of wine at a restaurant 
3// A hotel room
4// A haircut
5// Wild name it! 

1. Save/splurge.
Okay, so this one really depends. Sometimes I get this very inflated ego, where I think that people on Insta or Facebook are analyzing what I wear and how frequently I wear it, and I'm convinced that I need a new dress for every single wedding or function that I'm invited to. 
I usually hit Nordstrom for cocktail dresses to wear to a wedding, however I do use my Nordstrom card, which constantly gets me credit/points, which equals dollars off (significantly in some cases!), but definitely still adds up to way too many dollars in cocktail dresses hanging in my closet. 
Last week though, I went to Marshall's during my lunch break and found a GORGEOUS maxi dress for.... $45 that I bought in preparation for the slew of weddings that are on deck. Talk about preemptive saving!

Must keep reminding myself it's okay to wear a LBD to more than one function.

2. Save-ish. 
I usually pick the glass right smack in the middle, price wise. So if the house wine is $8/glass and the most expensive is $20/glass, I'll go for the one around $12, figuring that it's got to be somewhat decent. 
Typically when I buy wine for myself, I base it off the cutest label (my dad, who orders the most expensive glass at every restaurant, always dies a little inside when I bitch about a bottle of wine that isn't so great... "but the label is sooo cute!"). Sorry, but a $20 bottle tastes the same to me as an $85+, dad. 

3. Save.
Wow, I'm not as thrifty as I thought! For this one, it really depends on the area I'm staying in, and the cost of the overall trip. 
I've been obsessed with Airbnb lately, where you can 5x the space for the same price as a hotel room, which is very economical (Anthony and I just booked a penthouse in Philly with floor to ceiling windows in Rittenhouse Square for under $200/night. UNHEARD of). 
My dad has a Hilton Honors and a Marriot Rewards card, and has literally three months worth of free rooms that he doesn't use, so he usually gifts them to me if I'm staying outside of a city, so the cost for a great room is $0. It's not what you know, it's who you know, right? 

4. Splurge. 
The girl who cuts my hair started on the "mentor" level at the salon I switched to after moving back home after college. The salon itself uses all Bumble and Bumble products, and Jessica's blowouts are like none other. She's now (four years later --- where did the time go?!) made her way up to the "master" level, which means her prices took a $40 jump. I will pay anything for her haircuts, blow outs, and her phenomenal personality. 

5. Wildcard -> Denim -- Splurge.
Always. I've tried other denim (under $100), and maybe it's in my head, but I don't think anything is comparable to a pair of Hudson, AG, or J Brand denim. The quality of the denim is fantastic, they hold up well, and are figure flattering. I have more athletic thighs, but a thin waist, so finding flattering denim is not easy.

Listen, Princess Kate choices J Brand for a reason. Just sayin.

What are your thoughts on saving versus splurging on the above mentioned things? 
I know I definitely need to start budgeting better/being more thrifty with cocktail dresses, even if that means I need to condense my closet before making any more purchases! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Quarter Century Life Lessons.

After I turned 25 (almost two years ago.. time really does fly), I really do feel like I went through a bit of an existential crisis. It was just that "what the eff am I actually doing with my life?" kind of experience, where I felt so stagnant when I wanted to grow. It was depressing to feel like I was so young (because 25 is still YOUNG), but was an adult at the same time, and the blending of those two mentalities was just weird and hard to wrap my head around.

I feel like I never truly knew myself before I hit 25 - and obviously it wasn't this snap your fingers change where I woke up and decided I had life figured out (most likely because I woke up hungover on my actual 25th birthday... sorry mom and dad).

However, these are some of the quarter life things I've learned, that I think are pretty universal. I need a reminder of some of these, and writing them out helps to reinforce in my mind the things that I need to stay on top of and keep encouraging myself to follow through with!

1. If you eat shit all the time, you will probably feel like shit all the time.
When I played soccer in high school, I ate like a MONSTER. And I ate Wendy's double bacon cheeseburgers and baked potatoes with extra cheese, and then washed it down with a Frosty. I could handle that and felt invincible.
Those days don't last. Eat some vegetables (even if you get veggie pizza), preferably a salad before your real meal. Drink a green juice for breakfast and become one of "those" people. It's become pretentious, but I promise you'll feel so much better. I don't beat myself up when I eat a cupcake, don't get me wrong, but if I eat carb heavy foods for an entire day and have limited fruits and veggies, I feel like shit afterwards and then it takes me double the time to feel more myself.

2. Don't spend time with people who are always the victim.
These people will legitimately suck the life out of you.
They will always, always be right no matter what facts are presented. You'll go into arguments preparing, like you're a lawyer because you know it'll be an uphill battle. Why spend time willingly with someone like that? Don't - cut this person out and you'll very quickly realize that friendships shouldn't be about trying to prove to someone why/how they've hurt you (if they do).
We all mess up, but someone who can't admit when they do without spinning it is someone who is going to be a life sponge for you very, very quickly. 

3. Thank your mom. 
My mom is wound VERY tightly. Very, very tightly.

(I asked my brother the other day, "How do you prepare someone to meet mom?" He responded, "You tell them she's f*cking crazy."). 

She cleans her house obsessively, to the point that when she would tell me about tip ABC for cleaning, I ignored her because I just saw it as absolute ridiculousness that someone would be so anal retentive about cleaning (like, she cleaned BEFORE the cleaning woman came.. scrubbed).
But seriously.. I owe her an apology because upkeep and housekeeping really could be a freaking full time job (and I have a four room condo, not a house). I appreciate everything that she does so much more now, because I can see what happens when you push those things off. Sorry, mom (but seriously - you don't have to organize your closet before a dinner party).

4. Learn how to say no without offering an explanation or feeling guilty. 
I'm at the point where if I don't want to do something, I don't do it. You want me to come with you to stand on line and wait for the iPhone six? Pass. You want me to drive three hours away to do xyz when I'm stressed to the max with work? Sorry, maybe another time. Optional work meetings/workshops on a Saturday? Yeah, I'm good.
It's all about realizing that FOMO is some bullshit, and that if you're not up for going to whatever function, don't do it. If you're feeling sick and don't want to go to the bar or out dancing? Don't do it. Put yourself and your own needs first versus what you think are the expectations of others. There will be another Friday.

5. Don't run from things that scare you. They'll still be there when you get your shit together and decide to deal.
This should be a duh, but sometimes it seems like if you run from your problems, they'll go away with time. It's immature and embarrassing to explain later on why you couldn't face whatever the situation is. Answers are always better than wondering what's going on (particularly if it's about your health).
I was an idiot a few years ago. I got a call that a routine test I had taken came back with abnormal results and they wanted me to follow up. Well, because it scared the hell out of me, I decided to do the mature thing and ignore it. So I ignored calls from the doctor and nurse staff, and just went on my life.. and you know what happened when I went back? The problem was still there, and I was basically called an asshole for ignoring it. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Even if things are scary, tackle them head-on.

6. There is nothing wrong with staying in on a weekend night. 
A little Netflix and red wine is good for the soul, whether you're on your own or are with someone. Don't become a hermit, but have a TV binge night every so often.

7. Wear whatever you want and whatever works best for you.
Can't walk in heels? I promise you, you'll always look better in flats.
Want to go to brunch in a dress even though your friends are casual? Who cares, you do you.

8. Say thank you.
Always. For whatever you want - saying thank you is always better than looking like you're taking something or someone for granted.
The security guard at work brings me coffee three times a week - he doesn't even ask anymore, but he always gets a thank you (and usually muffins or cookies as an extra thank you). I found out from a coworker that he said I'm the only person to seek him out to thank him. I'm no saint, but to me, showing that you appreciate someone or something is a little thing that goes a long way.

9. Stop with toxic relationships.
Don't pick up your phone for the girl/guy who says all the right things via text and then never puts them into action.
Over the years, there was a guy in my life who was always there and made me feel like he was this carrot dangling in front of me (bear with me) - always just outside of my reach, but still right there in front of me.
He made promises - he wanted to plan dates to take me on, he wanted to come over and take care of me when I was sick, when he thought of who he wanted in his life, it was me... however words are bullshit and actions speak louder (to the point that I was telling my brother about it last year, and my brother just laughed. He said to me, "This guy always does that to you right before he drops off the earth for a year." My brother is pretty clueless and 0% overprotective of me - so this just goes to show how blatant it was).
The best way for me to escape this cyclical process was to just cut it out... and I swear, once I put myself first and stopped this vicious cycle, I met someone who says all the right things, but also follows through. And that's what it's all about - no part of you needs to settle, because you're beautiful and powerful.

10. Stop shit talking other women.
I've become painfully aware of just how hard we as women are on one another. We need to eliminate critical conversations about other women from our vocabulary. If women could come together more often and praise one another instead of using words like bitch, slut, whore, whatever, maybe we could make a difference. We've got it hard enough (periods, misogyny, workplace discrepancies) so why are we constantly tearing one another down instead of building one another up?
I've also noticed just how insecure it comes across when as a female, you're constantly knocking other women down - when you love you, you won't be threatened by someone who is beautiful, intelligent, well put together, whatever.

What are some of the things you learned that have stuck with you/shaped your beliefs?

Currently listening to: the I Need R3hab podcast while I procrastinate cleaning my house. A huge thanks to all of our veterans, past and present for being incredibly brave and self sacrificing. We owe so much to you! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Carving, costuming, too many pictures, and a very terrible segue to a giveaway.

The week before Halloween was very fall-ish, which obviously was right up my alley. 

After Anthony, Jess, Jon, and I went pumpkin/apple picking together, as mentioned in a previous, very photo heavy post, Anthony and I headed back to my apartment so that we could carve pumpkins. He had NEVER carved a pumpkin before,  so it (of course) turned into a huge contest where loser has to cook dinner for the winner.

We carved, turned to Instagram and Facebook... and my beautiful sugar skull pumpkin WON by 2 votes (so even all of you who wrongly picked the one on the left... I still get dinner made for me!).

My work Halloween started with my coworker coming up to me and saying, "Barnes, I need your cell number immediately." So I gave it to him, and then two seconds later he asks if I checked my messages. I had to run back to my classroom, grab my phone, and then I saw this message:

This is code for the fact that my boss is walking around doing spot observations for all staff, and was extra fitting for Halloween.

For Halloween, we ventured via ferry from Hoboken to Jess and Jon's in the city to pregame at their apartment and head to the parade in the Village.. except we had way too much fun pregaming, so the parade didn't happen. Despite the change in plans (which was 100% for the best because the weather was disgusting and we were seriously having a ball), it was a phenomenal Halloween.

Halloween 2014 - Medusa and Jax.

We take pretty cute candids.

Boys and balconies.

Because I wanted to be a badass too (or Jess was taking pictures and decided to stage with props).

Girls gone wild.


We headed to a local bar for more drinks (mission accomplished).. American Hustle, vampires, Medusa, and Jax walk into a bar...

...Then we found a wheel on the wall, so drunk all of us decided to take bets.. on what? I don't really know.

End of the night eyes.

There were six of us - please take note of all the drinks on the table. 

 My Medusa makeup was all purchased from Sephora - have you entered the giftcard giveaway yet? I teamed up with some of my favorites to bring you a $100 giftcard.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hosted by: The Sequin Notebook, Join the Gossip, B Loved Boston, A Little Glitter, Twin Living, The Kari Diaries, Recent Somethings, Make Me Up Mia, Your Beauty Fix, and La Dolce Vita

What was your Halloween costume this year? 

xox, loves!