Our Rome Trip on a Budget

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I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since my fiancé and I went to Rome. That was such a memorable trip for me because it was my first time traveling to Europe. We fell in love with everything while we were there — the people, the culture, and oh yes — the food! I’ve been wanting to blog about our trip for a while, but I’ve continued to put it off because the task seemed so daunting. How can you sum up Rome? I decided the best way to share all of my thoughts was to break this up into several posts. Today’s post is the first in the series and I’m talking about all of the ways we saved money on our trip. Travel is definitely a passion of ours, and we learned during this trip that it doesn’t have to be out of reach financially. There are many ways to save while going abroad, but here are the three things that made a difference for us.

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Off-Peak Flights

Our flights to Rome were significantly cheaper, I’m talking less than $600, because we were open to traveling during an off-peak month. We went to Rome in November, which was actually a great time to go. The weather was in the 50s and 60s almost every day and it only rained once or twice. Other than that it was sunny every day. There were also fewer tourists. I’ve heard horror stories of waiting in line for hours to see attractions, and we didn’t have that issue at all.

Airbnb

Staying at an Airbnb instead of a hotel will save you a lot of money. And there are many to choose from in most European cities. Just make sure to go with someone who has a high rating and a lot of reviews. We stayed at the most charming Airbnb run by the nicest lady, Tersia. I honestly liked it better than staying at a hotel. It was clean and in a safe neighborhood. At the time, we were lucky enough to get her flat for $53 per night. The more nights you stay, the cheaper it is. The bed was so cozy and comfy and the windows opened up to the busy street below. It was 10 minutes from Termini Station, which has a train that goes to and from the airport, and it was at most a 20 minute walk to most attractions. Rome is a very walkable city, so that wasn’t an issue for us.

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Rick Steves

We used Rick Steves to plan our entire trip. His pocket travel guides are great because they are easy to carry around and he gives a lot of tips for saving money. One of the big tips for Rome is to use the Roma Pass. For €36, you get free admission for your first two attractions and it lets you cut the line. After that, you get discounts to a variety of other attractions. It also comes with an unlimited transit pass, which is good on the Metro, buses, and trams. We used the Roma Pass on the Colosseum and the Roman Forum since those are two attractions that can have long lines. His pocket guide comes with a full list of restaurant recommendations, including price points. This made it easy for us to select affordable, but quality restaurant options throughout the trip. We also saved money by listening to his audio guides for the Roman Forum and the Pantheon instead of paying for a guided tour. You can get all of his audio guides for free on the podcast app on your phone.

Well that’s it for now! I hope this was helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions about traveling to Rome. I’ll try to answer them in the next few posts.

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Under $50 Maxi Dress for Spring

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H&M Dress (Similar Dress) / Madewell Harper Mules / Old Navy Jacket / J.Crew Factory Necklace (Similar Necklace)

Hello! How is your week going? We’ve busy with wedding planning. We’re at the phase where we’re searching for a venue, which is fun but also stressful. There are so many little details to consider about each place and each one is different. And to make matters worse, our schedules don’t really line up this time of year. My fiancé is a coach for a high school spring sport, so most of his free time is occupied by that. I know whatever we decide will be beautiful. I just need to let the process unfold. Despite the craziness, I just had to pop in and share this dress with you! It’s less than $50, but looks so much more expensive. It has a great fit and the maxi style is so cute for spring, especially for those iffy weather days. I wore it with a jean jacket for a baby shower over the weekend and felt perfectly put together. This dress is not online, but I was able to find it in store at H&M.

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4 Capsule Wardrobe Myths Debunked

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After posting about my capsule wardrobe, I realized many people still have misconceptions about them. Some view them as too restrictive or boring, but that doesn’t have to be the case. A capsule wardrobe should be defined by a person’s lifestyle and preferences, so there should be a variety of ways to approach one. Here are some common capsule wardrobe myths debunked.

  1. You can’t add new things. A capsule wardrobe isn’t about not adding anything new. You will always have new clothing needs and your personal style will continue to evolve as you get older. It’s about adding fewer new items. You can do this by only adding the clothing you truly love and need. So that means you need to learn how to walk away from clothing that just isn’t the right fit for your life and style. My office recently changed the dress code so we can wear jeans to work every day. I’ll still buy work wear pieces for days I want to dress up, but I’ll certainly be adding fewer pieces like that to my wardrobe now.
  2. You can’t add trendy clothes. Trendy clothes should not be off limits. Especially if a particular trend really works with your style. Plus, trendier items can sometimes give your wardrobe a little facelift, making it look more current. And some trends stick around. Skinny jeans have been a trend since I was in college. That was over 10 years ago, and I don’t see that trend going away anytime soon. Just don’t let trendy clothes dominate your wardrobe.
  3. You have to stick to a black, white, and gray color palette. Once again, this is something that should be determined by your personal style and what actually looks good on you. You can use whatever color palette you want as long as the items of clothing are easy to mix and match. You can even have a few items that aren’t easily interchangeable as long as you wear them and find them useful. I gravitate to warm colors. I would say my main colors tend to be pinks, grays, and blues, mostly navy. Occasionally I throw in some greens. These are all colors that work together.
  4. You have to stick to a certain number. There is no right number. We all have different lifestyles and needs. Some people need a really dressy wardrobe for work and a casual wardrobe for home. Others can blend the two. That will inform the number of items that’s right for you. Like I said, my office has become more casual, so now that my work wardrobe is more like my after-work wardrobe, I’ll probably need fewer work wear items, causing my particular number to decrease.

Lastly, it’s ok if your capsule wardrobe isn’t exactly what you want it to be right away. It takes time to develop personal style and figure out what’s right for you. I think the best part of a capsule wardrobe is that it helps you try to define what your style is and hone in on that, instead of wasting time and resources on clothing that isn’t you.

A Great Long Cardigan for Spring

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Details: Target Cardigan/Tommy Hilfiger Shirt from TJ Maxx (Similar Striped Top)/Rag & Bone Jeans from TJ Maxx (Similar Skinny Jeans)/Madewell Harper Mules

One of my favorite purchases for my capsule wardrobe this spring was this pretty light blue cardigan from Target. I love the long length and the belt in the back. It’s great for layering over a blouse on these early spring days with unpredictable weather. I don’t have a lot of longer cardigans in my wardrobe, and I just love the structure this one adds to any outfit. The color is a really pretty light blue perfect for spring and is one of those colors that you can wear with just about anything. And it was only $25! I wore it over my striped Tommy Hilfiger tunic and Rag & Bone Jeans I found at TJ Maxx for dinner with friends this weekend. The Madewell Harper Mules continue to be a staple for me. What’s your favorite purchase for spring so far?

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My First Capsule Wardrobe: How I Did It and Why I Loved It

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At the beginning of the year, I decided to try a capsule wardrobe for the first time. It was winter and I wanted to save money, so I thought why not? Here’s how I approached it and what I loved about it.

If you’ve never heard of a capsule wardrobe, here’s a quick definition from Wikipedia:

“A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.”

The idea is to have a smaller wardrobe, consisting mostly of interchangeable pieces that stick to a coordinating color scheme.

I arrived at the idea of trying a capsule wardrobe for two reasons:

  1. I want to de-prioritize stuff
  2. I want to further define my personal style

I thought a capsule wardrobe would be perfect for accomplishing both of these things because it’s all about living with less. To live with less, you have to determine what is truly important and essential to you. In deciding what works and what doesn’t, you end up with only the clothing that suits you and your life ­— a wardrobe that is perfectly tailored to your unique style.

How I Did It

I mostly followed the steps outlined by blogger Caroline Joy in her blog post “How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe”. I augmented the steps below to create a process that works for me.

  1. Narrow down your wardrobe to the essentials. I divided everything into three piles: “Yeses”, “Maybes”, and “Nos”. The in-season “Yeses” stayed in my dressing room/closet in plain sight. The out-of-season “Yeses” went into storage along with the “Maybes”. And the “Nos” went to Goodwill. At the end of the season, I took my “Maybes” out of storage to reevaluate if I ever even missed them. I did not even think about them once! So they are going to Goodwill.
  2. Wear only your capsule wardrobe for the entire season. This part is pretty easy actually and forces you to be creative with what you have. Having all of my capsule items in full view all season helped a lot, so closet organization is critical. Hide anything out of season, so it’s not distracting, but don’t rule those items out as a possibility. They’re your clothes, so you might as well wear them, right?
  3. Plan and shop for next season’s capsule wardrobe. Ok, so I did this a little differently than Caroline Joy. She recommends buying for next season two weeks before it starts. I think that would have majorly stressed me out if I tried to do that. It takes me a while to find clothing that I truly love. There is a lot of research of different brands and styles and trial and error to find exactly what I’m looking for. Plus most brands start promoting next season’s styles pretty early. So I did this part throughout the current season and took my time. I do think it’s good to set a budget for these items. This will help to curtail any unnecessary, spur of the moment purchases. Just make sure you’re not continuing to purchase for the current season. That sort of defeats the whole purpose.

What I Love About It

I’ve been using a capsule wardrobe for the last three months, and I love it for a few reasons:

  1. It saves time. With fewer choices, I spend less time worrying about what to wear every day.
  2. It makes wardrobe gaps obvious. It’s easy to see what you’re missing when you narrow your closet down to only the essentials.
  3. It keeps things organized. I’ve moved to a system where my capsule wardrobe for the season is the only thing I see in my main closet/dressing room. Everything else is put in storage. It makes for a much more organized dressing room.
  4. It encourages creativity. With fewer options to choose from, I am forced to get creative if I don’t want to repeat the same outfits over and over again.
  5. It breaks shopping into seasonal chunks. Purchasing with a certain season in mind is so much more manageable. It’s also much more strategic. I think about my true clothing needs for the next three months, taking into weather conditions, events, etc. That way I won’t be rushing around before a big event to find the perfect dress or standing in the rain wondering why I don’t own a hooded rain coat.

Have you ever tried a capsule wardrobe? What do you think? Would you ever try one?

What I Loved About Becoming

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Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming was the first book I read this year, and I’m so glad it was because her story is truly uplifting and inspiring. It makes you feel like you can change the world, or even just your situation, for the better. The book is broken up into three parts starting with her humble beginnings in the south side of Chicago. She then takes us on her journey from Harvard Law School to a top Chicago law firm, and her career pivot into the non-profit world. After her courtship with Barack, we’re given a glimpse into their family life and the stresses of his political career and campaigning for the presidency. Once in the White House, you find out how Michelle put her unique touch on the role of First Lady.

I know we’re all supposed to be impressed by her academic accolades and amazing accomplishments while in the White House, but to be honest, the parts of this book I enjoyed most were the moments when she opened up about not having all of the answers. Like when she talks about her relationship with Barack and learning not to resent him for dedicating himself to his political career. Or when she realized practicing law didn’t make her happy and that she had been checking boxes up until that point of her life. The sections on her reinventing and re-imagining her career are some of my favorites.

Reading Becoming felt like talking to a close friend about everything from relationships to careers to parenting – oh yeah and living in the White House! That was my next favorite thing. I loved reading about what it’s like to ride in Air Force One or have secret service agents follow you everywhere, and most importantly, the snack situation in the White House kitchen.

Living in the White House isn’t all perks, though, as Michelle makes abundantly clear. She recounts how every aspect of her life, from the way she dressed to her mannerisms were subject to scrutiny while at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. How she and Barack couldn’t even go on a date without a fleet of security personnel, causing road closures, traffic, and commentary. That’s another eye-opening aspect of this book. You get to see how she learns to block out the noise and find her focus as First Lady. The story of her rising above her critics while staying true to herself is a common theme throughout the book and one I found to be a great example to learn from.

4 Ways Georgia O’Keeffe Inspires Me

During my last visit home to Cleveland, I got the chance to attend the Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern exhibit. It was the last weekend of the show, unfortunately. Before seeing it, I never knew much about her other than she lived in the southwest and was famous for her big flower paintings. I’m embarrassed to admit, it wasn’t a must-see show for me. As a Cleveland expat, my home visits are planned down to the hour, making sure I spend time with everyone. I have to choose my extracurricular activities wisely. But after seeing a clip of it on the news featuring some of her handmade dresses and repurposed clothing, I changed my tune. The show went into much more detail than just her famous flower paintings. It showed how her approach to life and art were very much the same. The minimalist aesthetic you see in her paintings is a reflection of her everyday sensibilities, from the way she dressed to the way she designed her home. Her modern approach to life still seems relevant today and left me feeling inspired and ready to follow her cue.

Here were just a few of my favorite takeaways:

1.    If you can’t find the clothes you want, alter what’s available, or better yet, make them yourself.

This really spoke to me. I’ve had the desire to make my own clothing for a long time. It’s only because of lack of time and skill that I haven’t. I have altered or repurposed clothing I found at the thrift store, dying something to make it a more pleasing color or having something hemmed for a better fit. Either option is much more sustainable than our current state of fast fashion.

Silk dresses she made herself.

A button down shirt that she altered to have a straight collar.

2.    If that doesn’t work, borrow from the boys.

This is something every style blogger and fashionista can relate to. We’ve been borrowing from the boys for a long time: boyfriend jeans, oversized button downs, hats, shoes, etc. But, O’Keeffe seemed to be one of the first. The difference, of course, is she was doing it during a time when it wasn’t in vogue. Such a boss!

3.    Find what works for you and stick with it.

In a time of capsule wardrobes and uniform dressing, this is another area where she was ahead of her time. Toward the end of her career, she had two outfits she wore when being photographed: wrap dresses and pant suits. When putting together my capsule wardrobe for spring, the guide I was using said, “Identify some of your uniforms.” Because there is efficiency in knowing what looks good on you. You don’t have to waste time or money obsessing over what doesn’t, giving you more time to do everything else. O’Keeffe clearly reveled in this.

4.    Nature is a great source for inspiration and materials, especially home décor.

This is probably my favorite photo from the exhibit. During her time in the southwest, O’Keeffe let its nature and landscape inspire more than just her art. Animal skeletons were used as subjects, but also as home décor. I feel like faux skulls have become really popular recently. Finding the real ones in the wild seems like a much cooler story and a lot cheaper.