Monday, December 12, 2016

Detox Soup

Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year, in which indulgences abound in many forms. If, like me, that means a steady stream of cheese and delicious desserts, this is a good counterbalance.  Every once in a while, I just desperately want to eat vegetables, and it was on one of those nights that I made this soup. Between the lovely veggies and copious amounts of lemons, it's gorgeously light and heavy on the nutrients. One bowl absolutely counteracts 2 straight weeks of fudge for breakfast.

 Ingredients //

1 onion
4 leeks
4 carrots
6 cups vegetable stock
1 bunch kale
2 cloves garlic
2 lemons
1 can white kidney beans
Red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper

 Instructions //

Dice all of the veggies and add them to a stockpot over medium heat.  Saute until slightly translucent, but still firm

Add the stock and the beans, bring to a simmer

Add the kale and allow to cook until wilted

Remove the soup from the heat and add the juice of the lemons


Monday, November 28, 2016

November Budget

Guys, I didn't buy any clothes this month!  Well, kind of.  Brass, one of my favorite clothing brands, launched a program called The Edit, which I decided to invest in.  It was a pretty steep price tag (600, eep!) but what's included is awesome.

The Edit is basically Stitch Fix + Marie Kondo, in a weird way. Basically, Brass is combining minimalism with a capsule wardrobe.  The Edit includes tools to clean out your closet, beautiful hangers to hold your new swag, a Skype call to figure out your closet needs and wants, and one piece a month for 6 months.  They are offering 10 pieces in the core collection, plus one new seasonal piece a month for you to choose from. Basically, style advice and 6 pieces of clothing spread out over 6 months.  While the initial outlay was high, I'm planning on not buying anything else, so the cost will get spread out.

I'm really excited about focusing on other things with my money/time, rather than clothes, especially with the holidays coming up, but I'm guessing I'll receive a few things for my birthday (Friday!) and Christmas, so those will be included next month!

PS Happy Cyber Monday!  J Crew (plus 10% back on ebates, LOFT and Ann Taylor are having amazing sales - loving this festive sweater, this classic bag, this gorgeous dress and these perfect heels

Linking up with Fran!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Slow Cooker Squash Soup

During the last day of my CSA, they do a vegetable bonanza - take what you'll use.  I am never good in these situations.  I let the bargain go straight to my head and grab more than is reasonable for one person, and am then faced with crippling guilt because I absolutely have to use everything and use it well.  Soup for days and a freezer full of meals it is then.  This soup is bananas easy and very tasty.  I realized after photographing everything that I had a baggie full of roasted pumpkin and acorn squash, so I dumped that in to jazz everything up, worked great!


1 newborn-sized butternut squash (best I could come up with)*
1 onion
1 apple
2 cloves garlic
3-5 carrots
1 can lite coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ginger
Sprinkle of cinnamon

*As I mentioned above, I added roasted pumpkin and acorn squash too.  Roasting the squash gives it a bit more flavor, but is definitely not required


Chop everything up, add it all to the slow cooker, mix it, cook for 4-6 hours on low, 3-4 on high. Done, nailed it, your house smells like high class baby food. Boom.*

*If you want a silky texture, you can immersion blender it.  I liked it slightly chunky and ended up smushing the bigger squash pieces against the side of the crockpot and leaving as is.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ethical Gift Giving Guide

As I've mentioned, I'm trying to be more careful about where I spend my dollars.  With the holidays coming up, my goal is to give my loved ones gifts that they love, but also stays in line with my morals, especially now that we're pretty much all adults and don't need too much "stuff".  I've come up with a list of ideas below, but I'd love to hear yours!


Zady (25 dollars off 100) // Zady has their own clothing line, but they also sell products from other ethical brands, including jewelry, skincare and homewares.  Their mission and transparent practices are awesome, and I love that they actively support other brands that are doing good work. Emma Watson wore one of their sweaters in an outfit I immediately wanted to replicate, so if it's good enough for Hermione, it's good enough for me.

Everlane or Grana // I think that pretty much any adult can appreciate a really beautiful basic piece, which is both Grana and Everlane's wheelhouse. They recently dropped the price of cashmere (only 100 bucks), which is awesome, and they sell a variety of items for both men and women (cashmere sweatpants <3). The Everlane booties have been on my wishlist for ever, but they both also sell a lot of small, lovely gifts with lower price tags


Etsy (ebates) // Living in a part of the company where supporting small businesses is tough (just not a lot of access), I love that Etsy brings that marketplace to me wherever, whenever. I prefer to filter items made and shipped from the US, but Etsy makes it easy to shop however you like.  There are so many items on Etsy, you can buy something for everyone and contribute directly to an artisan.

Fair Trade // The Fair Trade designation can be given to items in a ton of different categories, not just homewares, but the linked list is a good place to start. Fair Trade means that the items were created through direct, equitable trade and that the producers are paid fair wages, work in safe conditions and minimize negative environmental impact.  There are physical Fair Trade stores and popups around the country, but the Fair Trade USA also has links to hundreds of partners that they've vetted.


Depending on who you are buying for, a charitable donation in their name or to a cause they believe in could be the perfect gift (looking at you, person who has everything). This database can help you figure out which charities do the most good with your money, and how moral their practices are.  Favorites of mine are Heifer International (pair with a stuffed animal for kids), Planned Parenthood and Save the Children.


The last few years, I've given my Dad tickets to something at least once a year. He's a tough guy to buy for, but we've really enjoyed the things we've gotten to do together.  I think a cooking class, floral arranging workshop or tickets to something is a great gift for loved ones.  Quality time is way more impactful than yet another thing.  Groupon often has awesome deals on things to do in your area at decent prices!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Currently and Small Goals


Discovering // Some new holiday music! The Pentatonix album is a favorite (Hallelujah is on repeat) and I love Kacey Musgraves new album. Holiday music is one of my absolute favorite parts of this time of year, so there's no shame in my starting early game

Celebrating // A few quiet weeks before Thanksgiving and the end of the year craziness kicks off!  We get a bonus day off tomorrow, and I'm planning on scrubbing the absolute life out of my apartment and slow-cooking squash soup.

Starting // Holiday shopping.  Makes me feel way less stressed to get it done earlier, plus I take gift-giving VERY seriously, so I need time to prep!

Wearing // This sweatshirt on repeat for ever, often with these boots and this vest

Googling // The weather in Aruba.  My mom's side of the family is traveling there for Thanksgiving, which is going to be amazing. I just ordered a couple bathing suits from here (more on that below) and am stocking up on sun screen and books

Goal Update

Commit to dressing up // Done!  I went as Wednesday Addams, which was fun! Most of the adults on campus recognized me, almost none of my students. Oh well.

Buy a new bathing suit // I snuck this into the last day of the month, because I used it as collateral for the next goal. I ordered two Kortni Jeane suits, which I'm hoping work well for me, but we'll see! I'll do a review later if they fit

Workout twice a week // Not only did I workout (20+ minutes twice a week) but I completed Tone it Up's 31 rep challenge every day but 2!  I found the 5 moves/31 reps each thing to work really well for me, so I'm going to keep that up moving forward.

Get off campus // Done! Had a lovely afternoon exploring Lenox and Great Barrington, both of which are delightful

Classic movies // Not even close. Totally forgot it was a goal. Mulligan

November Goals
Watch two classic movies // I will do this!

Read 2 books // My reading stack has been a little neglected over the last few months, and I really need to get back to it!  I just started Alison Weir's book on Elizabeth I and am enjoying it!

Track calories every day up until Aruba // There's a 0 percent chance I track calories on vacation, but I'd like to keep an eye on things until then (#bikinibody)

Buy no clothing // As I mentioned in my budget, I'm feeling pretty good about my closet at this point, and unless I find myself needing something specific/replacement, I'd like to focus my budget on other things

Vote // Please dear lord, let us just vote and move on from the election. I've been listening to Hamilton on repeat to remind me what America is supposed to be like.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Favorite Holiday and Getting Ahead

Happy November 1st, and my personal holiday season kick-off, though I try to keep it under wraps until after Thanksgiving so that my family doesn't kill me.  I totally appreciate wanting to tackle the holidays one at a time, but I also know that Christmas can get overwhelming REALLY fast for most people, so kicking a few things off earlier can make it easier.


Sending and receiving Christmas cards is one of my favorite parts of the season. It's like holiday cheer in an envelope.  I sent cards on my own the first year I didn't live with my parents, but lost track of it last year, so I'm committed to getting things done earlier this year.  Paperless Post has Rifle Paper Co cards that I'm obsessed with, though I love this one too (or maybe it's just the adorable picture/baby) and they have some that benefit charity.  I've got two years worth of pictures of Tallulah and I in a sleigh at the place my family typically gets our Christmas tree, so I'm hoping to get one there and use that!


One of the things that makes the holidays a little more stressful for me is that buying presents/travel/being home = budget busting, so I try to spread the costs I can anticipate (buying presents) out over the months before the holiday.  I've got the rest of my family figured out, and have started ordering some things. I don't want to spoil there surprises, but my own wishlist is below!  I really don't want that much stuff this year, which, all in all, seems about right.

Barbour hood (sage)
Roomba (might be cheaper elsewhere)
Allbirds Sneakers (natural gray)
Navy wool sweater


Thursday, October 27, 2016

October Budget

This ended up being a spendier month than I expected.  I had the opportunity to shop in store a little bit, which ended up leading to some of my favorite purchases in the last few months. I've worn both skirts about once a week for the past month, and the tops work well with the rest of my wardrobe.

Red skirt // $23
Blush tank // $8
Ruffle bottom blouse // $12
Flippy skirt // $23
Cognac boots // $32
Maroon boatneck tee // $6
Hogwarts tee // $5

Total // $109

I got a little overwhelmed with my closet this month, and also realized that my clothing spending wasn't quite matching up with how I spend the rest of my money.  Bottom line, I'm taking a break from fast fashion/super cheap everything and focusing on buying from brands whose mission and processes I really believe in.  Right now, Brass, Everlane and Grana are the three of found, but would  love to hear other suggestions!

Linking up with Fran!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Shopbop Sale

This blog post is sponsored by procrastination and Shopbop's best sale of the year.  Work has been insane this week (hence the lack of real posts), so I'm window-shopping at Shopbop instead, cause that makes total sense. Below is my wishlist!

Boots // Jeans // Weekender // Sorels // Tee // Dress // Case // Hat // Agenda // Mug // Ring

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Cheers-ing // To colder weather, and with hot, spiced apple cider.  Once or twice a year, I treat myself to a gallon of apple cider and mull mugs of it after dinner. It's the flipping best, especially with a fall candle burning (favorite) and football on

Organizing // Over the last two weeks, I haven't spent more than 2 days in one place, which means I've been living out of suitcases. Trying to organize that many trips into different bags has been one of my favorite challenges, but it has highlighted my need for a higher quality weekender (I had this bag for a few years and loved it, but it's definitely done).

Dreaming // Of all the layer outfits. I'll take this sweater with this tee and these jeans with these boots.  Oh and this scarf. And this coat. And maybe this hat?

Buying // Um, a safari!?  My mom is on the board of a charity that does a silent auction, and she ended up getting a photo safari for me and a friend. The price was crazy good, and I'm so thrilled to get the chance to do this!  We likely won't go for at least a year, but being close to elephants is worth the wait.

Listening // To my monthly playlist, which is even more random than usual, and Sawbones, my new podcast obsession. It's weird medical trivia, which I love anyway, and the hosts are really fun.

Linking up with Anne

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

September Budget

Well this is anticlimactic.  Without meaning to, I only bought two things this month, and they weren't even very creative. I had a chambray shirtdress from J Crew that I loved, but I put it in the dryer a few too many times, and it was veering closer to a shirt than a dress, so it was time for an update.  This Target one has pockets, though, so it's more of an upgrade. The nude flats were another replacement, kind of. Both of my pairs of cognac flats died mouse-related deaths, and I was looking to replace one of them, but I fell in love with these from Target and decided to go nude instead.  Just as versatile and super cute!

Chambray shirt dress // $23
Nude Flats // $28

Currently, there isn't a single piece on my wishlist. I would like to pick up some cognac boots (something like this or maybe this) but am not in much of a hurry, so I'll probably wait and see if a good deal pops up. I also just ordered this set and am really excited to test it out, especially with the change in season!

Linking up with Fran

Monday, September 26, 2016

October Goals

Jumping the gun getting these up so early, but my computer had a tragic accident over the weekend and my pictures are caught in limbo, so we're going with a no-original-photos post.

1 Commit to dressing up // I kind of hate Halloween and dressing up, but my school is really into it, and my students hate when I don't make an effort. Typically, I throw something lame together the night before, so my goal is to have a plan and stick with it

2 Buy a new bathing suit // Definitely feels weird to be thinking about this now, but my whole family is going to Aruba for Thanksgiving, and I don't currently have a bathing suit I feel comfortable in. Ideally, I'd get one two piece and a one piece, but I'll settle for one or the other. If anyone has suit recommendations for giant boobs, let me know!

3 Workout twice per week // It's been way too long since I worked out, and I'm definitely feeling it.  My goal is to do 2 30 minute workouts per week, in addition to dog walks etc.

4 Get off campus and explore // There's one weekend in October that I have totally open and I'd like to use it to go to a new town in Western Mass. There are so many cute areas, but I'm terrible about, well, leaving my house, basically.  Need to change that.

5 Watch 2 classic movies // One of my 101 in 1001 goals is to watch 5, and I've made 0 progress. Open to suggestions on what they should be, but I'd love to see something with Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly.  We'll see what looks appealing!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Homemade Dog Food

My dog is, and has always been, guided pretty much solely by her own whims.  She does not care about me, about food, about any form of discipline I've tried (other than the shock collar, those things are boss).nUnfortunately, that meant that she basically didn't eat a full meal for almost 2 years. Partly it was health stuff - she is sensitive to high protein food, but it's tough to buy high quality kibble that isn't protein based, and the poorer quality kibble REALLY didn't agree with her system.  Basically, I spent two years mixing and matching foods and treats, always teetering on the edge of actual malnutrition. Her vet was concerned, I was concerned, and I suspect that part of my girl's sass is actually just hunger.

Finally, I stumbled across a recipe for homemade dog food and, in a fit of desperation, made some.  Lo and behold, sister child ate the entire damn bowl in about 45 seconds.  A month later, she has put on 5 pounds and my sass theory has been thoroughly disproved. Alas.

My current recipe formula is below, but I do my best to switch each batch up.  It's important to me that she gets lots of different nutrition, hence the produce jumble. So far, the only food we've ruled out is corn (she made a tiny pile outside her bowl of all the kernels) and she definitely prefers meals with more sweet ingredients. Try a few things out with your own dog and see what they like!

Directions - Add the canola oil to a large pot over low heat. Add the meat, then the produce, rice, fish oil capsules and peanut butter. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it turns into mush. Let cool, portion out, freeze. Add 2 tablespoons of yogurt to each meal at serving, for calcium.

Makes about 14 cups of food. My 60 pound, highly active dog gets a cup per meal.

Notes - I buy boneless meat, mostly because I cannot handle meat in general, and boneless requires the least managing, but as long as the bones come out before serving, you could probably use those cuts of meat. I also buy the highest quality meat I can afford, but skimp on produce (get the hideous ones from the back of the store, you'll stew them anyway).

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


These past few weeks have, expectedly, kicked my ass.  Students started arriving last Monday, which led to the arrival/orientation/duty commitments ramped up real quick. I loved it, and I love being back at work and in the swing of things, but I would also really love a nap.  Here's what's been keeping me going!

hearting // Booties, booties, booties, booties, rockin everywhere. Also, new Harry Potter

watching // ... Harry Potter... Always and forevermore.  I realized recently that I don't have many shows that I love, and most of them are still on break.  More time for reading!

exploring // The Berkshires!  I've lived here for 2 years and have spent a truly embarrassingly small amount of time exploring. This weekend is the first time off I'll have in 2+ weeks, and I booked myself into a fancy spa pedicure and then a little bit of time exploring one of the cute little towns.  Can't wait!

creating // Some new furniture configurations.  In a haze of deep exhaustion, I decided to take apart my couch and put it together differently, then move a few other pieces around to make my space more functional. So far, so good.

eating // Salad, please please please. I eat like absolute crap on weekends I have to work, so the last few days I've been inhaling fruits and veggies.  My CSA has pick-your-own tomatoes and I go after them with indecent haste.  I probably look rabid.

anticipating // Soccer mom season.  Most of the student I work most closely with play fall sports, and I love getting to watch them play. The weather is perfect, the kids are exciting, and I am starting to have a good enough understanding of soccer that I genuinely know what's going on!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Summer Goal Recap

Summer is over :(((  My students came back on Monday, classes start in a few days and we're back into the swing of things.  The routine is really nice, but it was a great summer, so I'm sad to see it go.  I did set a few goals early in the summer, and wanted to check in about what I did (and didn't...) accomplish.

1 // Solo vacation

Complete!  I spent a few days in Montreal on my own.  The trip was great, and it was really nice to be on my own in a new place.  It was challenging not to travel with someone, and I do think I've gotten to a place where I really prefer to be with family/friends when I travel, at least for more than a day.

2 // Fancy recipe

Complete!  Granted, I didn't make a super fancy meal, in that I didn't purchase goji berries or 42 different spices, but I did get a lot more creative with flavors, and really enjoyed using my CSA more creatively.  I'm hoping to keep the momentum up into the school year.

3 // Complete BBG

Lols, no.  I did 7 weeks, which is better than last time, but never got back to it after my road trip.  Honestly, not upset about it.  I still do the workouts occasionally, but not every other day.

4 // Climb a mountain

Complete!  I climbed Mount Chocorua during my trip to North Conway in June.  I LOVED the hike and the summit was gorgeous.  Didn't hurt that I hit my calorie goal on my way up, and nearly doubled it overall.

5 // Read 20 books

So close! I read 17, which is pretty good.  Most of my reading time is evaporating with the arrival of students, but I am still hoping to get through a few more in September - The Girls and First Comes Love cued up next.

Monday, August 29, 2016

August Budget

I was pretty sure I was going to hold off getting fall clothes, but then Target happened and here we are. Oh well.  I had been looking for new work pants for a while, and was pretty thrilled to find two pairs that fit really well and were on the clearance rack. I doubt that the seersucker will be wearable past the middle of September, but I have about 15 outfit ideas for the floral and can't wait to mix them up throughout the fall and winter.

Seersucker pants // $13
Floral pants // $13
Corduroy skirt // $20
Teal top // $17
Peplum tank // $28
Crocs sandals // $18

Total // $109
Quarterly Budget // $500 - $251 - $109 = $140 left for September!

Fit Notes // The pants fit TTS, I got the classic fit, but I would like to try the curvy.  The skirt is from the juniors section, I ended up getting it in a size 2 sizes bigger than my normal, and it's now work appropriate, but I probably won't wear it without tights. Both shirts fit TTS, I ordered a 9 in the shoes, I usually wear an 8.5.

Linking up with Fran!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Vegetable Dump Dumplings

This CSA season, I've been trying to get more creative about how I use up vegetables, especially those I don't love. It's a miracle if I don't eat all the tomatoes on my 4 minute drive home, but peppers and squash can pretty easily go bad in my fridge. Enter these dumplings. This is the second time I made them, and can now semi-empirically say that if you make yucky things small enough, and add enough ginger and soy sauce, they become delicious. The dumplings are a little labor intensive, but easy to make with kids and pretty mindless - I made them while watching the Olympics and barely missed a beat.


Vegetable oil
Sesame oil
5 scallions (just the bottom bits)
1/2 tablespoon dried ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 clove of garlic
2 ish cups of whatever greens you have on hand
Whatever other veggies float your boat, chopped up, but not carefully
10 ounces tofu
Handful of cilantro
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 lime
12 ounce package of wonton wrappers


Add the oils to the frying pan over medium heat and add the scallions, ginger, red pepper and garlic. Cook about 2 minutes

Add the tofu and whatever (non-greens) veggies you're using.  Cook another 2 minutes

Add the greens and allow to wilt, then transfer the entire mixture to a food processor

Add the soy sauce, cilantro, vinegar and lime juice to the food processor and pulse until the mixture is broken down, but not mushy

Start assembling the dumplings - take a wrapper, paint water along the edges, add about 1 teaspoon mixture, fold over and pinch together. Set aside

When you want to eat them, either fry or steam for a couple minutes on each side.  I ended up freezing half the batch, which worked great.

Makes 48 dumplings, recipe adapted from Dinner, A Love Story

Monday, August 22, 2016

Book Review // Grunt, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Girls and Sex, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend and Heat and Light

I completed my 101 in 1001 goal of reading 100 books!  I wasn't exactly expecting it to be difficult, and it wasn't, but I did like going back over my list and remembering a few favorites from the last year or so.  As usual in the summer, I've been ripping through books, so I picked a few favorites to review below!

Grunt // I've never read Mary Roach before, but put the rest of her books on hold once I finished this.  In general, this book is about military science, but in Roach fashion, she focuses on the minutiae and explains it in detail. I LOVED her approach, and really felt like I learned a lot about how our military works as a whole.  Her writing style is conversational, and I laughed out loud a few times, but she also does a great job presenting concise and factual information, with a lot of experts weighing in.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child // I was extremely thankful to have been able to see that play in it's first week of being open, and I didn't read the book until after I saw it.  I think that, if you read the script as a book, it would be pretty tough.  If you read it as, effectively, a screenplay, and are able to visualize it in your head, it's more enjoyable. There were lots of things I loved about the story, and lots that I didn't.  For me, it definitely isn't the 8th HP book, but I'm grateful that we got a bit more closure on the story as a whole.

Girls and Sex // I fit kind of a funny demographic for this book - I'm not too much older than the woman this book is written about, and am not parenting anyone in their teens, but I still felt like I learned so much.  The book is about, well, girls and sex. And how puberty and society interact to make this really incredibly difficult situation to navigate, especially for 13 year olds. My favorite thing is that the author is able to, for the most part, allow the girls to tell their own stories - tons of quotes and anecdotes, with limited analysis.  Recommended  reading for anyone with a daughter, especially prior to puberty.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend // I read Valiant Ambition, the book about Benedict Arnold and George Washington (liked it, hated the ending) and was really craving something light and frothy.  This book delivered.  The basic plot is that a Swedish woman shows up in America to spend a month with her pen friend, and realizes that her friend has passed away, so she stays and sets up a life, including a book shop.  Nothing about this book is revolutionary, but the characters are sweet and enjoyable, the plot moves along at a reasonable pace, and it's ideal beach/vacation reading.

Heat and Light //  When Overdrive let me know that this book was available off my hold list, I genuinely had no idea how it had gotten there in the first place.  I also thought it was one of those harlequin romances, not a real book.  Well, it's about natural gas fracking and the (sometime significant) impact that process has, so I was way off assuming Fabio would run through.  Though not a light book, it's beautifully written, and I learned a lot about how America's energy resources are managed. Also, I was pleased to have made a Web MD style diagnosis that ended up being correct on one of the crazier characters.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

4 Days in London

I just got back from 5 days in London and, as per usual, am in full withdrawal and plotting my move over there ASAP.  The family and I travelled for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but managed to squeeze in plenty of sight seeing as well. This wasn't our first trip, so we skipped a lot of the classic tourist stuff, but did get to dive a bit deeper into favorite neighborhoods. We stayed in a lovely AirBnB in Chelsea, about a 10 minute walk from the Earl's Court Tube stop.

Day 1

What We Did // Our flight was a little bit delayed, so we ended up needing to shift our plan and ended up having a quiet afternoon in our local area.

What We Ate // 

The White Horse - this pub is actually around the corner from the house I lived in while nannying, and a place we had been to as a family on previous trips.  It's a bit higher class than you might expect from a pub (the sweet potato gnocchi I had was phenomenal, and I made quite the production of basting french fries in the truffle butter), but the beer list is great and the patio is perfect for people watching and enjoying whatever sun is available.

Blackbird - This was a yelp win for me.  Cosmetically, this looks like a fairly standard British pub - lots of dark woodworking and mirrored panels. The menu is also pretty classic, but with slightly more updated options and modern flavors.  I was thrilled to see a vegetarian pie, which isn't typical.  I, and everyone else, was thrilled with the food.  Also worth noting, that the portions were reasonable, as were the prices.  I came away satisfied, but not disgustingly full.

Day 2

What We Did // 

Portobello Road Market - I am a little obsessed with markets of almost all varieties, but Portobello Road is my favorite.  This street market spans 20+ blocks and includes antiques, clothing and food (both ingredients and prepared).  We spent a few hours wandering through everything, but I could have easily spent all day there.  It's open Thursday - Sunday, and we went on Friday, when pretty much everything was open but the crowd was more manageable than Saturdays.

British Library - My mom works in a library, so we stop into whichever is closest pretty much everywhere we travel. The British Library is primarily a research library, so we stuck to the single room that holds the Library's most prized possessions, including an original copy of Beowulf, Bibles from 300 AD and the original lyrics for several Beatles' songs, one of which was written on the back of a birthday card.

Matilda - Friday night, we decided to do boys night/girls night, and we were lucky enough to score tickets to Matilda. I was so, so delighted by the show and enjoyed every minute.  The set is absolutely incredible, and I've been listening to the sound track on repeat since show.

What We Ate // 

Granger and Co - Another yelp find for us.  It's just off Portobello Road, which was appealing after the Market, but I'll admit I was a little disappointed. The cocktails and the space itself were lovely, but I was underwhelmed with the food.  We split the scrambled eggs, which were heralded as the best in London, and loved them, but our entrees were not as amazing as reviewers led me to believe.  Definitely good, and a lovely spot for vegetarians and carnivores, but underwhelming.

Escapologist - And now for something completely different.  This spot is just across the road from Matilda, so we stopped in for dinner before the show.  The venue is amazing - very speakeasy/old subway station, with some deeply awesome wall paper (a bit of a London theme, as it turned out).  We had phenomenal drinks that were 2 for 1, though we maybe would have preferred that they be brought one after the other, not both at once.  The three of us then split two pizzas, both of which were delicious. We also went back after Cursed Child, and the cocktails only improved.

Day 3

What We Did //

Tate Modern - I am not a lover of modern art, but the rest of my family were interested in visiting, and ended up enjoying themselves. The new wing has just opened, so we ended up splitting up to take in the enormous amount of art and space available.  I loved the viewing deck on the top of the new section, which has incredible views of London in almost every direction.

Boat Ride - Instead of taking the Tube from the Tate back home, we took the river taxi from the museum to Westminster. It was a great way to take in the city from a different angle, and the ride was very smooth and quick.

What We Ate //

Borough Market - Again, my love of markets continue.  Borough is a giant food market, selling both prepared foods and ingredients.  We were there during lunch on Saturday, so it was absolutely packed, and several of the more popular stands had very long lines.  Again, we split up to find our own options, and I ended up with an incredible and diverse picnic.  My brother got fish and chips, Mom got a roasted lamb salad, Dad got some meat thing, I don't quite remember, the point being, there are tons of options, and all of the food is reasonably priced and really delicious.

Barbecoa - My dad has recently gotten more into grilling, and requested we go to this restaurant, as one of the founders is a favorite barbecue chef.  The restaurant is located in the shadow of Saint Paul's, so the location couldn't be more beautiful, but the food fully eclipsed even that view.  For everyone at the table, the meal fell into at least the top 5 best of their lives. For me, it was top 3.  And just to clarify, this is a meat restaurant, with exactly one vegetarian option, and it was one of the best meals of my life. Also, order every side and every dessert.  I all but licked the plate of every dish and will absolutely go back at first convenience.

Day 4

What We Did //

Cursed Child - This probably deserves its own post, but I'll just say that, if you've read the book and weren't impressed, withhold judgement until you can see the show. I'll admit that I was pretty underwhelmed by the story, but did love the additions to the canon that were made.  The stage craft, however, was astonishing and well worth it's rave reviews.

What We Ate //

Brasserie Max - We went for brunch ahead of the show, and I felt impossibly fancy.  The restaurant is located in a hotel right in the heart of Covent Garden, and is very posh.  I got the avocado toast, which was delicious, though the portion was tiny. My brother got the eggs Benedict with chipotle hollandaise, and I wish that I had done that - it was delicious. Both the coffee and tea drinkers appreciated the selection, and the weekend brunch option was perfect for us all.

Dishoom - Cursed Child is in 2 parts, so we had a very early dinner in between.  Dishoom is classic Indian, which a very diverse menu and delicious drinks.  The rest of my family ordered a few dishes to split, and enjoyed all of them.  I got a smashed/pan fried potato dish, which was delicious, but I maybe would order something else if I were to go again. The naan was delicious - I inhaled a few pieces.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Stylebook Review

A few years ago, I came across an app called Stylebook, which basically helps you visually categorize your closet, so you can take tiny pictures of all your clothes around with you.  I appreciate that this will be a ridiculous concept to much of the world, but it's one of my top 5 most used apps, so I figured I'd review it for any other organization obsessed people.

The Process //

The biggest downside for me about the app was the enormous amount of time needed to get it set up. You basically either take a picture of each item in your closet, or find a picture, then use the editing tool in the app to remove the background.  I found the editing app quite easy to use, but the process is quite time consuming.  Once you've got everything in there, keeping up is quite easy - I just add in items once I've decided to keep them. I then categorize everything based on type of clothing, but the categories are fully flexible, so you're able to use whatever makes most sense for you.

What I Use It For //

For the most part, I use the app to plan out what I'm going to wear on what day, including, occasionally, planning outfits months in advanced based on inspiration I see. The calendar function is by far my favorite, however, the app is also a lifesaver when out shopping. If I see something I like, I can check the app to make sure I don't have anything like it.

Favorite Features //

25 Most and Least Worn - This feature has helped me so much in understanding what works best for me, and which items need to come out of my closet. I check the least worn every once in a while, and decide if those pieces are worth donating (sometimes, those pieces are least worn because they're more specialty, so they get a pass)

Packing Lists - I absolutely adore this feature. I'm a very visual person, so being able to see the items I'm looking to pack, and how they'll look together, is key for me. The app allows you to add notes (I use that for non-Stylebook items) as well as make a checklist.

Style Stats - This isn't a feature that I fully maximize, but it's still brilliant. You are able to put in tons of information about each item, including color/brand/fabric/season etc, and the Style Stats section aggregates it all and gives you an absurd amount of information about your closet. It makes me ridiculously happy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Pros and Cons of Having a Dog (especially when you're young)

I haven't mentioned Tallulah on the blog much recently, but I assure you, she is still priority one in our house. Thankfully, we've moved well past the destroying inappropriate things stage (except at my parents house, but that's a different story) and we've settled into a very manageable routine.  She's still a giant weirdo about food and is terrified of the sounds of drawers closing, but has mellowed about a lot of her more annoying behaviors and is fabulous off leash.  I've had a few people ask me recently whether or not I would recommend getting a dog young (I was 21 when I got her) and so I figured I'd go over the pros and cons!

PS It's her 2nd birthday as I write this, so the pictures are my favorite over the last two years!


1 Um, dogs are great

This is probably the most obvious - dogs totally rock.  They're fun and cute and sweet and excellent vacuum cleaners.  As someone who grew up with dogs, I can't really imagine not coming how to one every day, which is why Lula came home to me so quickly.  I get way more exercise because I have her, and have explored the local area way more because of her (allllll the hiking)

2 Prioritization

This one is a little more of a mix of pro and con, but 2 years in, I feel mostly positive about it.  Tallulah has forced me to consider things other than my own needs when making a budget, which can be hard for a young professional to learn. She needs food, vet care, daycare, boarding etc, and I can't not budget for those things.  I had to learn early on to say no to the 4th Amazon order in 8 days because that money was needed elsewhere. That mentality has also helped me start savings goals for travel, gifts, etc.

3 Companionship

My job is unique, in that I live and work in the same community, with students and adults whose needs can be pretty high. Coming home to someone who wants a pretty basic list of things, and who doesn't ever yell at me or call me the worst is pretty awesome.  There's a lot of scientific research that indicates that pets are enormous stress relievers, and I can absolutely attest to that. Tallulah's also a fabulous excuse to be done working on time, or say no to commitments I can't quite handle, time wise.


1 Cost

Tallulah cost me somewhere around 5000 dollars the first year I had her, including food, vet costs, surgery, training, toys etc.  I didn't quite imagine it would be that high, and while I could handle it, it required a lot of other sacrificies.  Costs have been lower in the second year, but it still works out to be about 50 dollars a week, plus the occasional boarding costs. Not insignificant by any means.

2 Lack of Flexibility

I can't just take off for a weekend trip, or decide to go out right then, or stay in bed all day on a rainy Sunday.  I need to make boarding appointments, long walks and figure out how to keep a dog occupied when she's morally opposed to getting wet.  My next job (and, likely, all of them), will require dog friendly housing and a relatively flexible schedule. I'm really grateful for my parents support with managing T, but she definitely still puts limits on my spontaneity.

3 Time Commitment

On average, Tallulah gets about 2 hours worth of walks per day (we don't have a yard, so every bathroom break is a walk), and it was about double that when she was puppy.  Then there's training, puppy classes, driving her to daycare/grooming/vet. You get it.  Dogs take up time, and her needs come first-ish for me. Now that's she's older, she can wait for longer before she gets taken out, but still, I arrange my time to make sure she's comfortable and taken care of, and that trumps my wants.

Overall, I absolutely stand my decision to get her - she's my family and has made my job and life way easier for me to manage. If you work in a similar situation (walking distance to home, boss that's great about being flexible with time), I would say go for it.  If, however, the time or cost seems intense, wait. Dogs are a huge commitment, don't jump in unless you're absolutely sure you're ready. And please, adopt, don't shop.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Sephora Play! vs Birchbox - Updated Comparison

 I've been a subscriber to both Sephora Play! and Birchbox for about a year - the entire time Sephora has had a box.  I love both of them, and will continue to subscribe to both, but I figured it might be useful to break down the differences, so that if you only want one, you can choose a bit more easily


Frequency/cost // 10 dollars per month
Number of Samples // 6 (one is always a fragrance)
Customization // None (boxes are themed though, typically around seasonal needs etc)
Packaging Type // Fabric bag, decoration varies each month
Who it's good for // Lovers of Sephora brands, people willing to tolerate samples they can't use
Major Pro // Sephora uses newer products, and because they only send samples of products they sell, I always recognize the brand, and am generally thrilled to get to test the products out.  In the year that I've had it, only a handful of products have been things that I can't use due to complexion or hair type. I have purchased the full size of 13 products (about a product per box, which is impressive).  Highlight samples include Sunday Riley Good Genes, a Sephora brand beauty blender, BITE lip pencil, Bumble and Bumble Don't Blow It
Major Cons // I'm lucky in that I fit most of their samples - I imagine that women of color or women with skin or hair that are in the extremes (dry or oily) would not benefit from as many samples.  Also, the fragrance in every box is probably not everyone's cup of tea - I rarely love or use those samples. You receive a card worth 50 BI points in each box, which is great, but I hate that it can only be redeemed with purchase, and you can't redeem more than one at a time.


Frequency/cost // 10 dollars per month (get the option to earn rewards points worth 5 dollars per month)
Number of Samples  // 5
Customization // Yes - you take a quiz when you sign up
Packaging Type // Decorative boxes (vary every month)
Who it's good for // Anyone, as long as you're willing to experiment with brands
Major Pro // Birchbox has cornered the customization market - each box has products that are specific to my skin and hair, which is great.  I'm also a huge fan of the packaging.  The other major pro is the rewards program - you earn points for reviewing products, and the points convert to dollars that can be used on anything in the store (the selection is enormous and brands are great).  I've only purchased the full size of 3 products, but do typically use up all the samples.
Major Con // Typically, I'm not as excited to use the samples I get as I am with Sephora.  I've also received similar or the same products in a lot of boxes - Coola sunscreen has come every month since April. Luckily, I like the product, but it's getting vair old. Typically, I recognize about half the brands in a box.

Overall, I'm a huge fan of subscription boxes in general, and recommend them if you can afford 10 frivolous dollars per month.  You can subscribe to Sephora here and Birchbox here

Thursday, July 28, 2016

July Budget

Where did this month go?! Oh right, down the travel drain... Considering that I spent most of this month getting on and off of planes, trains and automobiles, I did some damage. Thanks Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (still going on, check out my recs).  Thankfully, everything, for the most part, will transition beautifully to fall and added some much needed pep to my closet!

Diff sunglasses // $50 (25% off if you use this link, seen here)
LOFT Circle Skirt // $20 (seen here)
LOFT Pull on Pencil // $20
LOFT White Jeans // $25
LOFT Olive Jeans // $25
BP Scarf // $18 (similar)
Caslon Knit Blazer // $38
Leith Stretch Pencil Skirt // $31 (similar)
Caslon Pants // $49

Total // $251
Quarterly Budget // $500 - $251 = $249 left for August and September!

Definitely spent a little more this month than normal, but I also got 9 things, most of which will serve me well going into the fall.  For next month, I'm actually hoping to avoid picking many things up - my closet feels pretty complete for right now, so it's just about buckling down and getting through the last of the oppressive heat!

Fit Notes // I ordered all the LOFT stuff in my usual sizes and everything fits great. The striped pencil skirt isn't too tight that I'm self conscious, which is great.  The circle skirt is a little see through, which can be tough with tucking things in, but it's not too noticeable.  I ordered a size down in the Caslon pants, which was a good move, even with my body shape.  The scarf is ENORMOUS, which I love, but it's definitely like having a small monkey hanging off my chest when I wear it (not that I've ever actually experienced that, but I'm using my imagination).  I'm obsessed with the blazer - it's tailored enough to look sharp, but is effectively a sweatshirt.

EDIT - I ended up returning the floral skirt. It's not double lined (unlike the LOFT skirt) and was very bootylicious for working with teenagers. Oh well.

Linking up with Fran and the other budgeting bloggers!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

10 Tips for Cross Country Roadtrips

I got back on Saturday from a cross country road trip - Portland, OR to Boston, MA with a friend and her dog.  It was my first time doing anything like that (both the driving and the friend vaca!).  Previously, my longest road trip had been 8 hours in one day, which was an hour shorter than our shortest day. I loved getting to see more of the country, and loved having the flexibility of the car, and learned a lot, which I'll hopefully use for my next trip!

1 // Plan ahead, kind of

One of the things that worked really well on my trip was that we scheduled hotels etc about 18-24 hours out.  That way, we could take the previous day into account (long day, short day, any mechanical problems etc), but still have a solid plan for the next day. I would struggle with not knowing where we were sleeping that night, and I'm pretty sure I would have poodled on the last hour or so of driving if we didn't have a stop place already booked.

2 // Eat healthy

This was my biggest regret from the trip.  I was completely sedentary for 5 straight days, and ate crap (fast food, packaged snacks etc) for the first 2 days. I felt awful.  The next day, I nearly cried with joy when we stopped at a gas station that solid fruits and veggies and ended up making a bag of baby carrots dinner. While I'm all for some treats, you'll be miserable if you spend the entire road trip inhaling sugar and chemicals.

3 // Pack carefully

Not clothes necessarily - yoga pants, the whole time, but in the car.  I had a tote bag at my feet in the passenger seat with water, snacks, chargers, a scarf, my book etc, plus my pajamas and toiletry bag.  That meant that, no matter what, I could reach pretty much anything I could need without needing to root around in the bag or disturb the driver. Key for making it 11+ hours.

4 // Have lots of things to listen to

I preloaded podcasts (Savage Love, Revisionist History, Pop Rocket, This American Life etc), made tons of playlists that were available offline and had a few audiobooks queud up.  It was key that we had options - that way, we didn't get too bored. I also loved that both of us had preloaded things, so we were able to swap favorites, introduce some new options and keep it interesting.

5 // Be flexible

My absolute favorite part of the trip was when we decided to get off the interstate and go through Badland National Park. It was gorgeous, and such a nice break from I-90. Having my friend be willing to indulge my bison hunt (success!) and need to photograph every.single.scenic.overlook. And I just got over the fact that her dog needed to be walked and managed and stopped caring that it added time on.  Our trip was a success because both of us were willing to bend.

6 // Have non-negotiables

This may sound counter-intuitive, but have things that we both needed, we were able to frame our trip way more easily. I was not willing to drive late at night, wasn't willing to sleep on a crap bed and didn't want to miss the sights along the way. My friend wasn't willing (obviously) to stay at a dog-friendly hotel, hates hotels without walkable restaurants and wanted to go a certain route. Those frameworks were essential in our planning.

7 // Start early

To a certain extent, this is personality based, as both my friend and I are early risers, but it was amazing for us to get up and on the road before 7, so that even on our longest days, we were in the next hotel by 9 pm, which meant we could decompress and get a good nights sleep.  I suppose if you're better late at night, do the opposite, but I found starting and ending early to be pretty awesome.

8 // Do something fun every day

I regretted not doing this the first day - if there's nothing to break the day up, it's pretty awful.  What the something fun is will differ pretty dramatically, depening on what you like, but find something.  We stopped at this amazing drugstore/general store/cafe/etc one day, Badlands were another, a mini hike another, etc.  They were the best parts of the trip and made it feel like a vacation, rather than an exceptionally long commute.

9 // Get some solo time

Considering we spent between 10 and 14 hours in the car together every day, having alone time at the beginning or end of the day was essential. Typically, we would sort of alternate getting ready, and each of us would nap in the car when the other was driving. Roadtrips can be tough for introverts, but making that a priority for myself really helped.

10 // Have an opinion

The first few days in the car, I really struggled with my friend, because every time I asked what she wanted to listen to or eat, she'd reply "I don't care" or "doesn't matter to me!", which was really hard.  It's not fair to make the other person choose everything - I had decision fatigue by like hour 4.  Have an opinion and make decisions, don't rely on whomever is travelling with you.