2019 Gift Guide: A Few of My Favorite Things

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I feel like a broken record, but I can’t believe it’s already time to start Christmas shopping again. Where did this year go? I feel like we just watched the ball drop and now 2019 is almost over. Time is flying! The holidays are right around the corner, and with that, comes the joy (and stress) of trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list.

As I get older, it seems like it gets harder and harder to come up with gifts ideas. Most adults I know, including myself, buy the things they need, and within reason, the luxuries they allow themselves. Every year I get more and more excited to receive practical gifts. I guess that’s part of adulting.

In an effort to add a little fun to your holiday shopping and maybe spark an idea or two for someone on your list, I put together a gift guide of some of my favorite things as well as some things I’d love to find under my tree on Christmas morning. I’ve included something for everyone – from the world traveler to the fashionista – and at various price points.

Happy shopping!

Continue reading “2019 Gift Guide: A Few of My Favorite Things”

Travel Diary: 1 Day in San Francisco

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A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit the west coast for a family wedding. You may remember reading about the gorgeous fall dress I wore to the event. To make the most of this trip, we decided to add on 1 day to visit San Francisco and 2 days to visit Portland. That’s not a lot of time in either city, but we’re always up for an adventure. Today I’m sharing all of the highlights from 24 hours in San Francisco. Portland travel diary to come!

Continue reading “Travel Diary: 1 Day in San Francisco”

The Simple Pasta Carbonara Recipe That’s Great for Dinner Parties

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The kitchn Pasta Carbonara Recipe

Saturday night we had our friends and their two adorable children (brothers almost 2 and 4) over for dinner. We served pasta carbonara, two gorgeous salads, and garlic bread. A simple yet satisfying meal. It was the first time I made pasta carbonara and I was surprised at how easy it was. Although the online recipes kept warning me not to let the signature egg and cheese sauce turn into scrambled eggs when it hit the hot pasta. That part was easy. The hard part was deciding to have everyone over for dinner in the first place.

We had just been out of town for a few weeks and felt like we were still recovering from giant piles of laundry and a cluttered house. As a consummate homebody, I look forward to the weekends we get to spend at home. But one of the things that makes our house feel like a home is having friends over for dinner. And before our trip, that had not happened for a long time.

I couldn’t help but wonder what had been holding me back all this time. The only thing I could think of were a handful of excuses like: we’re too busy, the house is a mess, I don’t know what to make, what if it’s not good enough? Cooking for others is something I really enjoy. Thought I’m still a novice, it’s a skill I want to improve.

In the end, I decided that there will always be a list of excuses. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be memorable and meaningful. And, if your friends are truly great people (like ours), they will help make sure everything else goes smoothly. Even if that means bringing over a space heater when your heat suddenly stops working the night of your dinner party. The only things that truly matters are the memories you create around the table and the time you spend together because these moments seem more infrequent as you get older.

So, after a good pep talk with myself, I decided to make pasta carbonara. It’s something we had and loved while in Rome and I was intent on recreating it. I followed this recipe from the kitchn. I love the recipe because it includes a lot of tips from famous chefs. And it’s incredibly simple, focusing on a few high-quality ingredients as the stars. It proves that a dish doesn’t have to be complex to be impressive.

I thought the recipe turned out great, but there were a few things I could have done to improve it:

  • Add more pasta water

After stirring in the egg and cheese mixture, the recipe recommends adding some reserved pasta water. I should have added more because the cheese started to get a little sticky and the pasta ended up resembling a mac and cheese more than a pasta dish.

  • Serve right away

Between all of the stirring that must happen after the pot of pasta comes off the burner and getting everyone set up at the dinner table, it’s easy for the past to lose some of its heat. It tastes best when served hot, so I would recommend calling everyone to the table before taking the pasta off the burner.

  • Get the bacon a little crispier

The bacon was good but I should have gotten it a little crispier, using a pan that gets hot quickly like a non-stick or my All-Clad. A crispier piece of bacon will stand out in the pasta better, both in taste and appearance.

A Gorgeous Dress for Fall Weddings

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Modcloth Dress / Betsy Johnson Flats / J.Crew Factory Necklace / Target Clutch (Similar)

A few weeks ago we attended a wedding in Sonoma. It was one of the dreamiest weddings I’ve ever been to. The venue was the rental property of a farm-to-table restaurant situated right near the Russian River and close to many famous wineries. Both the ceremony and reception took place outside and the setting could not have been more beautiful. We were surrounded by redwood trees and everything had that simple yet sophisticated California-cool vibe. I was obsessed with the rustic tables and place settings, which featured gold flatware and eucalyptus leaves.

When searching for a dress to wear to the occasion, I followed the direction provided on the invitation. It said: boho chic. To me that meant nothing too formal or fussy, but something that had the right amount of special touches. Enter this Modcloth silk wrap dress. It fit the setting perfectly and I loved how the deep blue was a perfect complement to the natural reds and oranges of fall. I felt stunning and the skirt of the dress was great for twirling on the dance floor. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to wear it!

Because the wedding was outside and at a farm, I opted for flats. These Betsy Johnson flats are that rare combination of comfortable and stylish. The unique cutout design is in the shape of roses and the rhinestone embellishments give them a little sparkle! Normally I’m not much of a flats person for special occasions, but the shape of these shoes is really nice and flattering on my long feet. I felt like Cinderella when I put them on. They fit perfectly! We danced the night away under glowy string lights and a full moon.

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A Classy Fall Work Look

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J.Crew Factory Foulard Drapey Tie-Neck Top, Loft Ponte Flippy Skirt, Everlane Modern Loafers in Burgundy, Forever 21 Pearl Barrette

My favorite season is nearly here. If I’m being honest, I probably look forward to summer more than fall. The warm sun is such a nice reprieve from the inevitably long and cold winters we experience in Pittsburgh. But every year without fail, I go crazy for everything fall. The chill in the air cured with a mug of hot cocoa. The plaid blanket scarves. The frightful decorations and smiling pumpkins. I can’t help but look forward to cozy nights spent cuddled under a blanket, with a good book or a spooky movie, and a savory dish baking in the oven.

My style sense is no different this time of year. I reach for what feels comfortable. I was drawn to the silhouette of this skirt because of its flattering, timeless fit and flare. The blouse is one that I know will be in my wardrobe for years to come. The classic pattern will stand the test of time and can be worn just as easily with a pair of jeans. They both pair perfectly with my trusty Everlane Modern Loafers – still one of my best purchases of all time. I make the look feel current with an of-the-moment pearl barrette.

I’m making a real effort this fall to only add pieces to my wardrobe that fit me and my style. When I say that, I mean what actually looks good on my body, but also my personality and daily routine. I’m looking for trusty and reliable, but also elevated pieces. Pinpointing my style has been the hardest part, but it’s becoming clearer, the more I practice. As I get older, I notice that I‘m gravitating more toward to classic, timeless patterns and colors in sophisticated cuts. I’m starting to turn down the trendy pieces made of cheap fabrics more and more in favor of quality staples that will last.

What do you prefer? Trendy pieces or classics? What are you most excited to add to your fall wardrobe this year?

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Celebrating 33 and Looking Forward to 34

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I just officially made another trip around the sun, and I can’t help but notice that every year seems to fly by faster than the last. I just want to slow it all down and savor every moment. In an attempt to do just that, here are some of my favorite moments from 33.

It will be hard to top this one, but I want to lead off strong! My long-time boyfriend and I got engaged on New Year’s Eve. He surprised me and proposed right before we went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Pittsburgh: Il Pizzaiolo. Luckily, I set up my tripod to take our picture in front of the Christmas tree, so we were able to capture the moment. After FaceTiming with my family back in Cleveland, we went straight to his parent’s New Year’s Eve party and announced it to them and all of their friends. I’ll never forget how I felt that night. I was so teary-eyed and happy.

In February, my sisters and I threw a big surprise party for our mom’s 70th birthday. I snuck through her phone book to invite all her friends and family. We rented out the private room at Bar Louie and had apps, presents, and cake. There were giant gold balloons in the shape of a 70! Everyone had a great time and it felt so nice to do something special like that for our mom.

This past June, I became an aunt! My sister and her husband gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and the entire family is so in love. We are all marveling at how much she looks like my sister as a baby. Every time I see her she is becoming slightly more alert and opening her eyes more. I can’t wait to watch her grow up. I’m completely smitten!

At work, I reached my 8-year anniversary. I’m not sure if I’ve ever explained what I do, but I’m a Senior Copywriter at a major lab supply company. I write every day and get paid for it! I write everything from brochures to social media posts to video scripts. I continue to enjoy the puzzle of rewording a sentence so it flows better or finding the perfect turn of phrase or word to convey the right message. And I’m lucky to be surrounded by a really passionate team full of talented people at a company that values its employees and cares about its culture.

Also:

I traveled to Paris, Chicago, Cleveland, Annapolis, and Charleston.

I went for a sunset boat ride on the Seine.

I stood on top of the Eiffel Tower.

I celebrated my grandma’s 95th birthday.

I sang karaoke with my cousin while her mother (my aunt) and my fiancé watched and laughed.

I saw Paul Simon, Mumford and Sons, and Arcade Fire live.

I went skiing with my fiancé and future mother-in-law.

I started a capsule wardrobe.

I got back into yoga.

I found time for painting and creative outlets like this blog.

I read a ton of good books, including Becoming, The Year of Less, and Daisy Jones and the Six.

I hit 200,000 miles on my car.

I swam in the ocean.

I went kayaking.

I hiked to the top of a mountain.

I had the best of times with the people I love.

The Cutest Paperbag and Tie-Waist Shorts

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Paper bag shorts are that perfect mix of casual yet chic. Worn with a tucked in tank top, they can be dressed up with the perfect shoes and statement necklace. Paired with a jean jacket or crew neck sweater, they elevate the every day. I found this pair during my recent trip to Annapolis at a boutique called Lilac Bijoux. The light blue and white pinstripes mix just as nicely with neutrals as they do brights. Despite looking slightly dressier, they are surprisingly comfortable with their loose fit and stretchy waist band. I couldn’t find this exact pair online, but I’m linking to a bunch of other cute options below.

I wore this outfit while running errands Saturday morning and to meet the blogger behind Summer Wind, Sydney Carver. She was meeting followers at the Macy’s in the South Hills Village Mall in Pittsburgh. I was so glad I went because she is just as nice and genuine as she seems on the blog. Saturday night, I attended the Squirrel Hill Night Market, a free outdoor street festival featuring artists selling handmade wares. It was so fun! There was live music and a lot of good food trucks to choose from. I had the chicken and waffles from The Coop and they were incredibly indulgent and wonderful. This time of year is so much fun with all of the fairs and festivals. I look forward to it so much! Hope your week is going well so far!

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  1. Elodie Paperbag Pleated Shorts / 2. J.Crew Kaleidoscope Floral Tie-Waist Shorts / 3. J.Crew Seersucker Paperbag Short / 4. Loft Crochet Tie-Waist Shorts / 5. Loft Tie-Waist Linen Shorts / 6. Socialite Striped Paperbag Shorts / 7. Topshop Tie-Waist Linen Shorts

Annapolis Travel Guide

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Annapolis, Maryland has always been one of our favorite cities to visit. Nestled on the Chesapeake Bay, it offers gorgeous waterfront views and plenty of fresh seafood. First settled in 1649, it also has a lot of history and charm with its beautiful 18th-century brick houses and roads. Now it’s home to preppy boutiques, inventive restaurants, a vibrant nightlife, and amazing boat (or yacht) watching. Here are a few of my favorite places to visit while I’m there. Continue reading “Annapolis Travel Guide”

Beach Capsule Wardrobe

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Every summer, I look forward to heading down south with my fiance and his family for a beach vacation. We’ve been going to the Isle of Palms right outside of Charleston for over 10 years, so I’ve sort of got my packing list down to a science. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to create a mini capsule wardrobe with all of the essential outfits. We spend most of our time on the beach and at the beach house. We go out a few times throughout the trip, but most of our days and nights are spent in casual clothes at the house. With a washing and dry machine, these capsule items should easily last you for a 7-day beach trip, plus 2 travel days. The best part is that all of these pieces are interchangeable, so you can create a number of different outfits if you mix and match the pieces.

What I pack:

3 tops

2 layering pieces

3 bottoms

After we’ve squeezed as much beach fun out of the day as possible, we all reconvene at the house for a delicious homemade dinner and a card game. Most of my outfits are pretty casual, but I like to have a few nicer options just in case we go out for dinner one night or run into the city for lunch. I also bring layers to stay warm in the air conditioned house.

3 dresses

For my days spent flying to and from the beach, I usually wear a comfortable jersey dress and a jacket or cardigan. We usually go out for one really nice dinner, so I make sure to pack a formal dress and a day dress just in case my fiance and I decide to run downtown for a nice dinner or lunch.

3 cover ups

5 to 6 bathing suits (not pictured here)

I like to have a few different cover ups to get me through the week since I have a variety of bathing suits in different patterns and bright colors. Also, after a few days down at the beach, they start to look not fresh. Haha!

4 pairs of shoes

Not all shoes are pictured because my Jack Rogers go with every outfit, but I like to have sneakers just in case we go for a walk. And I live in my flip flops at the beach.

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Jean Jacket / Striped Shirt / White Skirt / Dressy Sandals

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Tank Top / Shorts / Dressy Sandals

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Dressy Top / White Jeans / Dressy Sandals

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Jean Jacket / Jersey Dress / Dressy Sandals

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Navy Blue Cardigan / Day Dress / Dressy Sandals

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Formal Dress / Dressy Shoes

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White Cover Up / Dressy Sandals

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Patterned Cover Up / Dressy Sandals

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Chambray Cover Up / Dressy Sandals

Checking in on My Yearly Goals

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The start of summer is one of my favorite times of year. It’s lighter out longer, which makes me feel more motivated to finish projects around the house or just stay up a little later reading. Everything is blooming, so my front porch is decorated with flowers and I’ve started my vegetable herb garden. And everyone is ready to celebrate the warmer weather, so outdoor patios and open windows line every shopping and restaurant district.

It’s also about half way through the year and a good time to reflect on successes and opportunities. Here’s a little life update on some of things I’ve been working on lately.

Capsule Wardrobe

As you know, I plunged full swing into a capsule wardrobe at the beginning of the year. It’s definitely been beneficial in a number of ways. I’m more aware of all of the stuff I have, and I’m more focused than ever on buying less. In the beginning of the year though, I focused too heavily on perfecting my capsule wardrobe and spent more money on that than I intended. I think I need to come to terms with the fact that the ideal capsule wardrobe doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s something you have to build over time.

Becoming More Sustainable

One of the reasons I started my capsule wardrobe is to become more sustainable. It’s a topic that’s been weighing heavily on my mind lately. Every day brings a new report of how climate change is affecting our world, and I think some of the onus is on us to change our behaviors as consumers. I’ve been trying very hard to bring reusable shopping bags with me everywhere. Sometimes I still forget. And I’m trying to be less wasteful by using what I have or buying less to begin with (that includes clothes, but also food and consumables like toiletries). There are so many ways to be more sustainable, but this is what I’ve been trying to focus on lately.

Being Purposeful

Buying less stuff and thereby consuming less dovetails perfectly into one of my other goals, being purposeful. I think it’s easy to get caught in a cycle where you think buying more stuff will make you happy. But in reality, spending more time with the ones you love and filling your time with meaningful experiences are much better ways to seek out happiness. Instead of picking up my phone, I’ve been trying to spend more time reading books. Instead of watching TV, I’ve spent a lot more time on this blog! I’m also very interested in learning and trying new things, so whenever I can make the time for it, I try to learn a new skill. Any way I can, I’m trying to live a more purpose-driven life.

Saving Money

I feel like this goal is the undercurrent of all my other goals. If I buy less, waste less, and focus more on the experiences and people that truly make me happy, I will definitely end up spending less money. And at the very least, I’ll waste less money. I’ve been consistently saving every month. But I definitely think I can save even more. Inspired by “The Year of Less” I’ve been really trying to not buy anything new and just live with what I have. So far, it’s going well, and I can already say I’ve seen results, both in terms of my happiness and my savings account.

On top of these goals, I’m planning a wedding! It may seem like I have a lot going on, but to be honest, I feel like these goals are helping me stay on target to save for my wedding, and not burn out on wedding planning. What goals are you focusing on for the rest of the year?