May Book Reviews

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I’ve been on such a good roll with reading more lately. That’s partially because I went on  two trips to Cleveland last month and downloaded audio books to listen to on the drive using OverDrive. It’s also because I’ve been getting books out from the library and it’s honestly been great to have a deadline. That’s what I need apparently. I’m so excited to share these three books with you just in time for the long weekend. I would highly recommend all three. So I hope you can find a good nook or a sturdy lawn chair this weekend and read to your heart’s content.

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. It’s very well written, has great characters, and an interesting story. It is an oral history of the creation, rise to fame, and demise of 70s folk band Daisy Jones & the Six. The creative struggles and sexual chemistry between lead singers Daisy Jones and Billy Graham are palpable. The format is really interesting because it’s sort of like reading instead of watching a VH1 Behind the Music documentary. It takes place many years after the band’s heyday and you’re reading each character’s point of view about how the story of their band unfolds. I don’t want to give too much away. Just know that it features the typical sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but also some really poignant moments. It’s apparently loosely based on Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks. I heard the audio book is very good because it’s more of a performance. A cast of actors brings to life the different characters. Also, Amazon is turning this into a TV series, so the sooner you read it the better.

Look Alive Out There by Sloane Crosley

This one is just plain funny. It features a series of essays by Sloane Crosley, author of I Was Told There’d Be Cake. This was the first of her books that I’ve read, and I have to say I like her sardonic and witty style of writing. She’s a self-proclaimed typical New Yorker, which you pick up from one of the first stories about hailing a cab for the airport. Her bemusement at the silly, random, and sometimes mundane aspects of adult life is something I can relate to. The stories range from becoming totally obsessed with and revengeful of a noisy neighbor to climbing a volcano without doing any research first and discovering along the way that she is not at all prepared. Sounds like something I would do! If you need a good laugh or a little snark, this is a good one for you.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

This book really spoke to me. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that I have been trying to spend less and put less emphasis on stuff for the last year or so (see my post on starting a capsule wardrobe). But this takes it to a whole new level. In this book, Cait Flanders details how she got herself out of $30,000 in debt, quits drinking, gives away 70% of her belongings, and challenges herself with a spending ban. In the process, she learns what is truly important to her. I know the examples might seem extreme, but I feel like this book helped me look at spending in a completely different light. One of the most interesting questions she asks herself before buying something is, “Am I buying this for who I am now or some ideal version of myself that doesn’t exist?” I thought that was an excellent question to ask before buying something. I don’t know how many times I’ve bought things that were not ideal for my life right now and then regretted the purchase. For hundreds of little helpful anecdotes like that, this book is worth the read.

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Where to Eat in Rome

Welcome to the third post in my series about our trip to Rome. I’ve already talked about how to save when traveling to Rome, what to do while there, and now I’m going to share one of my favorite parts, where to eat! Although it is often imitated, Italian food straight from the source is like no other. The pasta melts in your mouth like only homemade pasta (I assume) can do. The restaurants use seasonal ingredients in all of their recipes, making everything taste fresh and unique to that moment in time. Everything we had seemed simply prepared yet offered a feast for the senses. Each ingredient is designed to stand out, whether it is a subtle squeeze of lemon juice and salt or a spicy bite of arugula to complement something sweet.

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We were so jetlagged when we arrived that we tried the first restaurant we spotted near our Airbnb, Ristorante Target. I wish I had taken photos because it was one of the best meals of the whole trip.  I had the maltagliati pasta with tomatoes, shrimp, and arugula. When we finally had a night’s worth of sleep, we were up early most days and needed coffee. To optimize our time and save money, we didn’t focus too much on breakfast. We started most days with “due espresso” and a croissant at the café and bar near our Airbnb. There is a place to get coffee and pastries around every corner, so don’t worry about options.

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We enjoyed a nice lunch one day at Cucina Del Teatro, not far from Piazzo Navona. It’s tucked down a cute little flower- and table-lined alleyway. I still dream about the pumpkin soup. And the pizza with fresh seasonal ingredients is one I’ll never forget.

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For a fancier dinner one night, we tried Da Fortunata. It offers a great view of the Pantheon if you get the chance to sit outside, and has some of the best spaghetti and clams I’ve ever had. I highly recommend starting with the burrata and tomato salad.

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We spent one afternoon in Trastevere where we tried a truly authentic restaurant Tratorria da Lucia. Everything was simply prepared but delicious, especially the cacio e pepe. The restaurant was packed on a Sunday afternoon with what seemed like students and families, a telling sign about its popularity among locals.

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Like I said in one of my earlier posts, we spent a lot of time near and around Pizza Navona. I can’t vouch for the restaurants right on the square, but Rick Steeves recommends many that are off the beaten path but close by. Bar Del Fico is one such place and featured one of my favorite newly discovered delicacies: octopus carpaccio. It’s pressed and thinly sliced octopus served with olive oil, lemon juice, and fennel. Show stopper! I had the linguine and lobster for my main course. Need I say more?

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The very last night, we tried my favorite restaurant of the entire trip. Another one near Piazza Navona: Enoteca Cul de Sac. It’s a tiny restaurant with barely enough space for all of the wine let alone people, but this also felt like a place where the locals might frequent. We started with the escargot. It was served in a mind-blowing parsley butter sauce. I had the lasagna for my main. Each noodle was evenly cooked and every bite was a perfect melt-in-your-mouth mix of sauce, noodle, meat, and cheese. It felt good to end the trip on such a high note!

Rome is an affordable city to visit, so food is definitely one the aspects you can really enjoy. I found the prices at most restaurants comparable to going out to eat in a city like Pittsburgh. There were options at every price point. When in doubt, have the wine. It’s all good!

3 Ways to Wear White Jeans This Spring

It took me a while to get used to wearing white jeans before memorial day, but now they’ve become a spring staple. They instantly make any outfit look a little dressier, which is great now that I can wear jeans to work every day. They also go with just about every color. Paired with the right colors and textures, they’re like a little stepping stone between spring and summer. Here are a few ways I’m wearing my white jeans this spring.

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Old Navy Jean Jacket (Similar) / Tommy Hilfiger Shirt (Similar) / Madewell Jeans / Madewell Mule / J.Crew Factory Necklace (Similar)

1. With a jean jacket. White jeans and a jean jacket are timeless. I dressed them up for work with this striped tunic. White jeans tend to accentuate my hips, so I try to wear them with a longer layer.

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Target Shirt / Madewell Jeans / Madewell Mule / Similar Scarf 

2. With a denim/chambray shirt. You’ll hear me complaining about this a lot now that it’s warmer out, but my office is currently an air conditioned tundra. I still need to wear sweaters and long sleeves to stay warm. Luckily this long sleeve denim shirt looks great with white jeans and is the perfect complement to the bright pop of color from this scarf.

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Similar Navy Blazer / Gap Sweater (Similar) / Madewell Jeans / Everlane Shoes / J.Crew Factory Necklace

3. With a blue blazer. Navy blue and white are always great complements. I elevated the look even more for a day in the office with a dark loafer and a gray sweater. I think white and gray look so classy together.

What to Do in Rome

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Now that I’ve told you how we saved money while traveling to Rome, I’m excited to share what we did. Rome is a small city that is easy to conquer in a few days, or even less if you’re really pressed for time. If you’ve never been, make sure you visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum if only to look out over the crumbling structures and imagine what was nearly 2,000 years ago. Use the Roma Pass for these two attractions to get free admission and cut the lines. Sights like Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and the Pantheon are ones you’ll see often if you walk everywhere like we did. I would recommend visiting them all during the day and at night to get different views. Don’t forget to throw a coin over your shoulder into Trevi Fountain to ensure you’ll return one day. Duck into the Pantheon and download Rick Steve’s free podcast about it. He also has ones for the Colosseum and Roman Forum if you’d like to skip the tour guide.

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Vatican Tour

One thing we knew we wanted to pay extra for was a guided tour of the Vatican. This is by far one of the best decisions we made and my very favorite part of the trip. We booked the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, and St. Peter’s Basilica Tour through Dark Rome. We were lead through the Vatican Museums, which are really extensive and featured some of my favorite art, including paintings by Raphael. This part of the tour transitioned right into the Sistine Chapel where we were allowed to take in Michelangelo’s masterpiece for nearly 15 minutes. Amazing. After that we walked through the incredibly massive St. Peter’s Basilica, stopping at major statues like the Pietà. Following the tour, our guide showed us where to buy tickets to go to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. We walked up hundreds of stairs in spaces barely wider than our shoulders, but it offered some of the best views of Rome.

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Angelus

On most Sundays at Noon, you can see the Pope delivering the Angelus or blessing from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. Even if you are not religious, this is a really interesting experience. Thousands of people from all over the world come to hear him speak. His image is projected on large screens and people are singing, crying, and holding up signs. It’s a sight to behold.

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Piazza Navona

One of our favorite places to hang out was Piazza Navona. This is a lively square lined with restaurants and tourists. It features gorgeous fountains, amazing people watching, and a gelato stand every few feet. Performers, musicians, and artists reside here, adding to the festival vibe. It’s a great place to take in the beautiful architecture and characters of the city.

 

Trastevere

When I travel, I like to get to know some of the neighborhoods of a city. Trastevere is described as being closer to the “real” Rome and less touristy than some other neighborhoods. It’s also described as having a bohemian feel. I liked walking around the different shops and trying restaurants the locals might actually visit.

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Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II

When you go to Rome, you won’t miss the massive white marble monument honoring the first king of a united Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. I’ve never seen such a large tribute to any political figure in the United States. It’s impossible to take a photo of the entire structure unless you’re really far away. It featured some of the most impressive architecture of the trip, and that’s saying something.

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Capitoline Museum

We happened upon the Capitoline Museum as a backup plan when one of the museums we wanted to visit wasn’t open. The building itself is gorgeous and it houses some of the most famous statues from Ancient Rome.

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Steelers Bar

While in Rome, we watched the Steelers game from La Boticella, a Steelers-themed bar. You may not be a Steelers fan, but you have to admit it’s kind of cool to find an American football themed bar while traveling abroad.

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Lastly, I recommend walking into the many churches that line the streets. They’re all older than most historical sites in the U.S. Look around. Take in the architecture you see everywhere. Just walking through Rome is an experience like no other.

How I Shop Sustainably

As another Earth Day passes by, I’m left feeling guilty about the plastic bag I forgot to decline at Ulta the other day. I’m also left feeling a little hopeless, to be honest. Our climate change situation feels more dire than ever, and I wonder if enough is being done to curb its effects. I have to ask myself, what can I do to make real and lasting change? As a style blogger, I feel a responsibility to admit that the fashion industry is not the most sustainable model. Fast fashion seems to be taking over our news feeds with new items and new sales pushing us to consume more every week. I feel like we all need to be a little more conscious of the effect our consumerism has on the environment. In an effort to change my own habits, here are three ways I’m shopping more sustainably. sustainable-fashion-1

1. Buy less. This one is scary, I know. But if you focus on buying quality instead of quantity, you can get there. This is part of the reason I started a capsule wardrobe. I want to own less. By focusing on only the high-quality functional items I truly love, I can achieve that goal and make less of an impact on the environment. This J.Crew camel coat is something I wear constantly. It’s functional and I love the style. It’s something I intend on keeping forever.

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2. Buy secondhand. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I love a good thrifted item. The craziest/best part is that you can find items with the tags still on or like new. And now there are so many secondhand shopping options out there: Poshmark, eBay, thredUP, and many more. In Pittsburgh and Cleveland, we have Avalon Exchange and Clothes Mentor. This brocade skirt I wore for New Year’s Eve this year is just one example of my thrifting scores.

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3. Buy from Sustainable Brands. More sustainable brands are available than ever before and I feel like more are going to keep cropping up. Reformation, Patagonia, and my personal favorite, Everlane. I feel like I never stop talking about their loafers. They are my favorite pair of shoes. I’m also obsessed with their Day Market Tote. It’s my everyday bag and it’s roomy enough for my work laptop.

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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