Friday, December 29, 2017

10 Mocktails to Try for New Year's Eve

After a relaxing week after Christmas, I'm sure most people's social calendar is about to ramp up again for New Year's Eve. Arguably the biggest party night of the year, NYE always seems to be centered around champagne and snagging a kiss at midnight. For those who aren't quite of age yet, though, flutes of sugary sparkling apple cider are a childish substitute for big kid drinks.

     Since this is my last New Year's Eve before I turn 21 (it'll happen while I'm abroad, but ironically I'll already be able to drink there), I wanted to do a little research into fancier mocktails. Even if a real cocktail isn't out of the question for you, mocktails are a great option if you're going to be your group's designated driver or if you want to cut back on the empty calories from alcohol!

     A lot of mocktails call for homemade simple syrup; that can sound intimidating, but I've got a quick tip. To make your own simple syrup, just simmer equal parts water and sugar on the stove top, stirring occasionally until you get a syrup-like consistency! Once you've got your simple syrup ready, check out these 10 recipes for delicious mocktails that you can easily make for yourself this NYE.

  • Frost Bite Mocktail // I had a similar drink at birthday party in 6th grade and I felt very grown-up. Even at a more mature gathering, the combination of fruit juices, mint, blueberry, and lemon-lime soda are super-refreshing! Swap in diet soda or lemon or lime seltzer to make your Frost Bite a little lighter.
  • French 75 Mocktail // I'm obsessed with lemon, so I made myself one of these right away when I stumbled across the recipe and I wasn't disappointed. Leave out the sugary Limonata soda if you want to make a healthier French 75. 
  • Blueberry Moscow Mule // I love ginger beer, and this mock Moscow Mule with a blueberry twist sounds so yummy, I might just have to track down some ginger beer sometime soon.
  • Lemon Lavender Mocktini // For the more ambitious mocktail maker, making your own lavender simple syrup will help you build a sophisticated drink that'll taste like summer in a glass. 
  • Cranberry Pomegranate Bellinis with Lime // Swap the Prosecco in this recipe for seltzer to get your cranberry fix on NYE. 
  • Faux Champagne /// Fake some bubbly with this recipe that uses fruit juices and ginger ale. 
  • Grapefruit Mojito Mocktail // Another summery drink to help you drown out the winter blues.
  • Cherry Margarita Mocktail // If the cold really doesn't bother you, this slushy-like margarita is sure to be yummy well past midnight. 
  • Sparkling Raspberry Pear Mocktail // This pretty pink drink is definitely worthy of a NYE Instagram post. 
  • Bubbly Peach and Thyme Mocktail // A three ingredient mocktail that'll be fast and easy when you want to make glass after glass at a party.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy a fabulous New Year's Eve!
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Packing for Study Abroad: Do's, Don'ts, and My Packing List


     As someone who really enjoys clothes, the idea of having to fit enough outfits for an entire semester is horrifying. France is the fashion capital of the world, and I'm going to be there for winter, spring, and the beginning of summer-- not exactly conducive to packing light, right?

     I've been scouring the Internet for packing lists and cross-referencing them with the packing list my school (and my others) offered online. Unsurprisingly, my school's list is full of outdated items that would take up way too much space in my suitcase. The good news is, I've found lots of great advice from blogs, and today I'm sharing this post partly to help out those who go abroad after me and partly to solidify my own packing list. I'll go through my do's and don'ts, and at the end, I'll share my personal packing spreadsheet for four months in southern France!

  • Check airline baggage policies... // Most airlines will give you one free checked bag on international flights, which is great news for those of us trying to pack more for less. Do keep in mind how you'll be getting to your program once you land abroad, though; lugging a giant checked-size bag and two carry-ons might be a nightmare once you hop on a train or subway. Fortunately, my program is picking me up at the airport, phew. 
  • ...And then double-check baggage policies for budget airlines // If you're studying abroad in Europe, chances are high that you're planning on taking budget airlines like RyanAir or EasyJet to travel to new cities for under $50. While these airline ticket prices seem too good to be true, that's because they are. Budget airline tickets typically only include one carry-on piece of luggage, and the size restriction is much smaller than that of US airline. Yes, that means ONE BAG-- no carry-on plus your handbag like they allow here in America. Think you're gonna sneak a second bag or an oversize bag onto the plane? You'll be charged a hefty fine for any baggage that has to be checked at the gate. With this in mind, be sure to bring a smaller duffel or backpack for weekend trips on stingy airlines. Here are the baggage guidelines for the two popular budget airlines I mentioned before:
    • EasyJet: One bag, maximum size: 56cm x 45cm x 25cm (22in x 17.7in x 9.8in), including handles and wheels
    • RyanAir: One small bag e.g. handbag, laptop bag etc. not exceeding 35cm x 20cm x 20cm (13.7in x 7.8 in x 7.8 inc), and one cabin bag, not exceeding 55cm x 40cm x 20cm in size and 10kg in weight (21.6in x 15.7in x 7.87in, 22 lbs
  • Stick to a color palette // If you pack too many different colors of clothes, you're going to want to pack a bunch of different shoes to coordinate with them. Do yourself a favor and stick to one color palette (either black/coordinating colors or navy/coordinating colors) to simplify mixing and matching outfits and to reduce the number of shoes (and other accessories!) you'll need to pack. 
  • Do your climate research // Is your study abroad location warm? Hot? Dry? Does it have nasty winters? It's important to know what kind of weather you're getting yourself into so you can pack the right things. My packing list for the south of France in winter/spring is going to look a lot different than packing list for Amsterdam in fall/winter. 
  • Think about versatility // If you're packing to span several seasons, it's all about versatility and layering. That means packing lots of t-shirts and cardigans to layer over them, even if that isn't necessarily your usual style!
  • Plan to blend in // Do some research on the style in your host country and plan accordingly. Nothing will get you targeted by pickpockets and other scammers than looking/dressing like an American. 
  • Download the Kindle app on your phone or laptop // You can use the app with wi-fi, and you'll be able to read dozens of books online instead of having to dedicate a whole bag to reading materials. 
  • Pack travel guides // This was on my school's packing people even use travel guide books anymore? Well, even if they do, it's impractical to lug them abroad for a semester. There are dozens of travel guides available online for every location imaginable, so just commit yourself to doing a bit of research instead of wasting money and space on a physical book that you probably won't use. 
  • Pack a camera // Unless photography is your thing (i.e. you make money from it), your smartphone is definitely sufficient for taking pictures of your travels. Don't waste space on a camera and charger. 
  • Bring sheets/sleeping bags/towels for hostels or Airbnb's // Back in the day, hostels and Airbnb's required you to provide your own sheets/towels or charged a hefty sum if you wanted to borrow some. Based on my research, those days have ended, and apparently hostels don't even allow sleeping bags now. Unless your housing arrangements require you to bring sheets/towels, don't pack them! I'm just gonna shove an old twin XL sheet in my suitcase just in case, but that's just because I like to prepare for the worst.
  • Forget the basics // Obviously, you've gotta have your passport, ID, and any prescription medication. Make sure you pack them, because they could easily slip through the cracks!
  • Trick yourself into thinking you'll come back with less than you started with // Let's be realistic here, you're gonna buy souvenirs for yourself and your friends. Plus, you may be required to turn in your physical schoolwork (notes, tests, et.c) in order to get credit for your time abroad. You're going to have to bring home more than you brought abroad, so be sure to leave a little extra space for later.

My List
     Admittedly, this list could be shorter. If you're a guy or someone with a more realistic outlook on fashion, you could get away with fewer clothing items; I think I went a little overboard on shirts and sweaters. I also realize that bringing ski pants seems a bit extra/strange, but I'm bent on trying to figure out a weekend ski trip in the Alps and I can't seem to find any shops that will rent ski pants/coats. Stay tuned to see if I actually use the ski pants...

     Bearing in mind that I can use space bags to save a little bit of space in my amazing new Delsey luggage (purchased on mega-sale from Macy's), here's the general guidelines I followed while packing clothes...
  • Shoes: 6 pairs absolute maximum 
  • Sweaters: 1-5
  • Blouses/T-shirts: 5-10
  • Pants: 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of leggings, 1-3 others
  • Skirts: 1-3 
  • Dresses: 1-4
  • Pajamas: 2 pairs
  • Workout clothes: 1 pair 
     You can access my packing list here; I'm going to update it as I finalize packing so that you can get a more accurate look at what I actually end up taking! Once I get back from my semester abroad, I'll do a follow-up post to analyze how effective my packing was, so keep following along. T-minus one week until I fly out!

Thanks for reading,

Update as of 1/2/2018: Alright, I'm leaving tomorrow and the list of what I'm bringing has been finalized! Check the link above for the updated list. 
Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Creating Christmas Traditions

     One of the most exciting things about Christmas as I've grown older is that it's increasingly become something I get to help shape. When my brother and I were younger, my family would make a (usually very long) trek to Illinois to see extended family every Christmas; we barely ever spent a Christmas at home, wherever that home may be. However, ever since I've been in college, my family has been choosing to stay at home for Christmas, allowing new traditions to spring up.

     Building new Christmas traditions is exciting because I can't help but think that these are the traditions that will carry me through adulthood. Maybe, someday very far down the line, I'll even be sharing these traditions with my own children! With this in mind, I've really tried to be more conscious about the holiday season so that I can fully enjoy it and build a routine.

     My family visited Germany over Thanksgiving during my senior year of high school, and after seeing a few Christmas markets, I became obsessed with European Christmas practices. That trip, combined with my German heritage and my French major, have led me to do tons of research on French, and specifically Alsatian, Christmas traditions.

     Since I've always loved to connect to French culture through cooking and baking, that's translated to baking up lots of traditional French Christmas confections! Luckily, my favorite cookbook ever, The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer, includes plenty of recipes to keep me busy.

     This year and last year, I kicked off my Christmas baking with sablés de Noël-- cutout cookies flavored lightly with cinnamon and just a bit of a nutty flavor thanks to the inclusion of a little almond flour! The cookies are easy enough to whip up (the dough does have to rest before being rolled out, though) and they made a perfect snack during the holiday season. I think they taste best with a cup of tea or coffee!

      I can't recommend The Art of French Pastry enough, and it might be a little hard to recreate these cookies without it, but this recipe looks like a close copy if you want to try some simple sablés for yourself.

     In the days leading up to Christmas Eve for the past two years, I prepare the fixings for a bûche de Noël-- a traditional French christmas cake that resembles a Yule log. The recipe included in The Art of French Pastry includes hazelnut praline paste and chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache, making for a rich treat that I plan to keep baking every year! 

     Despite the popularity of Nutella here in the US, hazelnuts are pretty hard to find in the grocery store! Typically, the baking aisle only sells tiny bags of chopped hazelnuts (with the skin still on) for garnishing desserts, or if you're lucky, there may be 1 lb bags of in-shell hazelnuts. 

     I need whole skinless hazelnuts to caramelize in order to make the praline paste, which means that for two years now I've had to crack a half a pound of hazelnuts by hand! It makes for an interesting afternoon as shells fly across the kitchen-- I still haven't found a tidy way to crack them with our handheld nutcracker, oops. 

Half a pound of shelled hazelnuts
     Once the hazelnuts have been cracked, skinning them quickly can be achieved by tossing them in a pot of boiling water and baking soda and then rubbing off the skins by hand. After simultaneously roasting and caramelizing the hazelnuts on the stove top, you blend them up in a food processor to get creamy hazelnut praline paste. It can be stored at room temperature, so I generally leave it on the counter in an airtight container until I'm ready to assemble the cake.

In the process of skinning the hazelnuts for the praline paste 
Finished hazelnut praline paste

     If you want to get technical, my bûche de Noël consists of a jelly roll sponge cake that's rolled up with the hazelnut praline paste and chocolate mousse, and then iced with chocolate ganache. I make the jelly roll, ganache, and chocolate mousse on the morning of Christmas Eve so I can have the cake assembled for that night. 

Hazelnut praline paste spread on the jelly roll-- all that's missing is the chocolate mousse!
     Once it's all rolled up and iced, a lot of people cut off the ends and place them on top of the cake to create the look of knots on a log. After using a fork to create a bark pattern in the ganache, I dusted the cake with cocoa powder and powdered sugar for decoration. It turned out much prettier this year, and I'm excited to see how my Christmas cakes improve over time with practice!

The finished product
     We saved our bûche de Noël for after candlelight church service and combined it with a German tradition we've enjoyed for a bit longer. When I was little, my dad traveled to Germany for work and brought back a Christmas pyramid (Weihnachtspyramide) that my family has been enjoying yearly ever since. We lit the pyramid to eat our dessert in the glow of the candles. 

Dessert time
     When we went to Germany a few years ago, I got my own small Christmas pyramid that I love to put out in my room. Additionally, last year when my family went to the Philadelphia Christmas Village, I got a Christmas arch (Schwibbogen) from the Käthe Wohlfahrt tent. I'm definitely counting on these two items to be the anchor of my Christmas decor once I move out and have my own place.

My schwibbogen and Christmas pyramid
     After a wonderful Christmas Ever playing board games, we went off to bed-- sort of. My brother and I stayed up to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but we only managed to make it through half the movie before dozing off. On Christmas morning, there were lots of presents to be opened (and leftover cake to be eaten for breakfast). 

     Baking lots of French recipes and spending time with family has me feeling a little bit less anxious about going abroad; I can't believe I'm leaving in just over a week, but I'm feeling more calm about it after a wonderful Christmas with loved ones. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you had a very merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Holiday Outfit Inspiration

     It didn't feel real that Christmas was coming soon until this week, and now I'm scrambling to savor the season. My holiday calendar feels a little thrown off this year since I started watching Christmas movies in early November (oops), but now I'm getting excited all over again and trying to cram in Christmas activities.

     With Christmas, though, comes lots of photo opportunities and lots of outfit planning. Although I'm going to have a pretty lowkey holiday this year, I know lots of friends and family who have lots of parties and gatherings on their agenda. Dressing for Christmas is fun because we only get to do it once a year. I wanted to share some holiday outfit inspiration from some of my favorite bloggers and, more importantly, give tips for how you can realistically incorporate a little bit of their style into your own look!

Tartan & Plaid

Photo from Carly the Prepster

Photo from Kelly in the City

     Carly from Carly the Prepster posted this beautiful outfit about a week ago, and I was instantly impressed; a little earlier, Kelly from Kelly in the City shared this slew of Stewart plaid clothing items. Both dresses are stunning, and every prep loves a good plaid, but at over $100 each, these dresses just aren't practical for most people. 

     Instead of splurging on a dress you can really only wear once a year, look for a classic flannel plaid button-down or a schoolgirl-like plaid skirt, or just stick to patterned accessories.

Cheeky Sweaters
Photo from Carly the Prepster
Instagram post from @emilyoandbows

     This adorable "après ski" sweater has been cropping up all over Instagram-- most notably, Carly hits another holiday home run in it, and Emily from Emily O. and Bows posted a super-cute outfit picture.

The sweater itself is a reasonable splurge, but I'm linking some more fun sweaters for those of you who want to start a new Insta fashion trend. Turns out, Talbots has really cornered the market on fun winter sweaters!

Puffy Poms
     Ashley from The Richmond Prepster got lots of love for her adorable pom hat Instagram post, and shoes adorned with poms fill every department store I've popped into this winter. Ashley provides a code for 20% if you just have to have a similar hat from the Pink Pineapple Shop, but at $68 ($54.40 with discount) a pop these poms are pricey.

     Snag a similar hat for less, or try the fund trend out through an affordable pair of pumps. Alternatively, a pom key chain can be added to a purse or clutch to change it up for winter!

  Did I miss a holiday/winter trend? What are you wearing for the holidays? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Colonial Christmas

     Colonial Williamsburg is beautiful in any season, but there's nothing quite like a colonial Christmas. Every year as the days start getting colder and shorter, tourists and locals flock to my little college town to take in the Christmas decor, do some shopping, and go ice skating; Williamsburg is consistently voted one of the best American towns to celebrate Christmas in!

     Going to college next to a huge living history museum is a fun novelty. As much as William & Mary students complain about the tourists that flood our town to gawk, it's certainly a unique college experience to stumble across people dressed in colonial outfits at Wawa! Personally, I love colonial-style architecture and can't get enough of the adorable houses in Colonial Williamsburg (CW as we call it in Williamsburg). When Williamsburg welcomes Christmas, my favorite holiday, I can never resist poking around to take in the decorations. One day during the last week of classes, I took a quick study break to walk around the historic district and savor the season.

     I started out passing through Merchants Square, the shopping area along Duke of Gloucester Street between the College and CW. With its cozy shops and bevy of benches, Merchants Square is a favorite student hangout any time of year, but it's especially nice with wreaths above the stores and a big Christmas tree that provides the perfect backdrop for taking pictures with friends and significant others. Even on a cold, grey day, Merchants Square was bustling with activity and thrumming with energy.

     On the fringe between Merchants Square and CW, an ice skating rink pops up every year, providing entertainment from November to February. My friends and I have gone in the past (I'm a terrible skater), but unfortunately we didn't have time to stop by this year; we'll definitely have to carve out time for it during senior year! For now, I was content to watch the families and couples wobbling around on the ice.

     Once you reach CW, it's a sea of houses with festive, handmade wreaths-- every house is required to decorate for the season, and the result is really beautiful. Candles wink in windows and outdoor cressets provide warmth and light, but the wreaths are always the real showstoppers. There are books and books dedicated to them, detailing Virginia's old Christmas traditions, and it's turned into a competition now, with the doors with the best wreaths being rewarded with blue ribbons.

     The fruit-laden wreaths have always been a little confusing to me. Wasn't fresh fruit rare and expensive during colonial times? Yeah, it turns out, they definitely didn't decorate with fruit back in the day; the tradition started in the 20th century. Historically accurate or not, the fruits look awfully bright and cheery in the winter gloom!

     Farther into the historic district, there's a fenced garden where a few stalls sell outdoor items. In winter, there are two racks full of handmade wreaths for sale which are pretty darn photogenic. My mom loves the fruit wreaths and I thought about bringing one home for her birthday, but I was afraid to look at the price tag. Turns out, you can buy artificial wreaths direct from Colonial Williamsburg, but if you're crafty, this article details how to make your very own fresh wreath from greenery and fruit.

     There are literally countless wreaths in CW and it would've been useless to try to snap pictures of them all, so I wrapped up my walk relatively quickly. Even though I only spent around 30 minutes walking around to check out the decorations, CW at Christmastime really deserves at least a half a day to fully enjoy everything the historic district has to offer.

     Once I made it back to campus, I was happy to see the President's house was decked out too.

     Walking around the well-decorated colonial neighborhood was the perfect de-stressor as the pressure of exams ramped up. Although I'm thrilled to head abroad to France (in exactly two weeks!), I'm definitely going to miss my little college home in Williamsburg and all of its quirks.

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Halfway Through Junior Year

     And just like that, fall semester is over, which means I'm officially halfway through junior year. Going into this year, I knew the semester would be bittersweet because after the fall, I'd be headed off-campus to study abroad for spring; my analysis was right. Saying goodbye after finishing up my finals was extra tough because I was slammed with the realization that I won't be back at William & Mary until I'm a senior next fall. Still, I can't help but look back at the semester and feel really content.

     After a rough sophomore year, this semester was noticeable for how uneventful it was. Sometimes quiet is a very good thing! Of course, there was the usual stress of class deadlines and the application process for studying abroad was a little hectic, but all in all, I can't think of anything to complain about. Life is good right now.

    Over the past semester, I'm especially proud about...

  • Surviving "the block" // During your first semester as an official business major at William & Mary, you're required to participate in an integrated foundation semester, AKA "the block"-- it's a set of 11 course credits that establish your basis for the rest of your business studies. During the block, you take marketing, finance, business analytics, and two small classes on working in teams and computer skills, in addition to being required to pass simulation week. Within the block, you take all of those classes with the same group of people and are assigned to a team for all of your group projects throughout the semester. The block is notorious for testing your time management skills, so I'm thrilled to have survived it (and to have done really well in finance!).
  • Managing 17 credits // In addition to the block, I was taking two 3 credit courses, Federal Taxation and Intro to Psychology as a Natural Science. Although Psych is an intro course that I needed to fulfill a science requirement, my grade was determined by just three exams, so I'm proud for having survived the class. Federal Taxation is a required course for accounting majors and although the material was incredibly useful, as a future auditor, I'm so happy to be done with the class. I was worried about managing 17 tough credits, but the fact that I'm no longer working at college made a huge difference. Since I'm trying to complete 150 credits in 4 years to take the CPA exam, it seems like it'll make more sense to keep forgoing working in order to take more credits during senior year. 
  • Balancing friends & and a boyfriend // I've watched tons of friends and acquaintances struggle to balance boys and friends, so I've always made it a goal to manage my time well between friends and my boyfriend. This semester my friends have expressed that they think I'm really good at it, which means so much to me. I'm so blessed to have such amazing people in my life, and they all deserve my full atttention. I'm really pleased to say that I feel like I was able to really deepen my relationships with both my friends and my boyfriend this semester, and I can't help but feel so lucky to know them all. 
  • Keeping up with blogging // I started my blog this past summer, so I was really nervous to see how I'd handle blogging at school. However, I'm really proud that I worked to stay on track because it's really enabled me to grow my reader base. Aside from a quick break for finals, I consistently posted three times a week and am proud of the content I put out. 

     And to give you a quick peak into my "real" life, I'm including some pictures/Snapchats from throughout the semester!

Thanks for reading!
Friday, December 15, 2017

Transitioning Your Skincare Routine for Winter


     Is it just me, or is this winter off to a brutal start? In Williamsburg, we've already had a day or two where the temperature didn't get above 40 degrees, and it's snowed twice at my family's house in southern NJ. Winter is a tough time for your beauty routine, and that's especially true when the weather transitions so abruptly!

     My skin has taken a beating from this weather, and I'm finally getting my winter skincare routine under control. In the past, I haven't really changed up my routine from season to season, but now that I've been dealing with more dry skin problems and eczema, I've really had to take a look at what I'm doing for my skin to keep it happy and comfortable. After doing tons of research to develop a new regimen, I'm sharing my tips on caring for your skin all winter long!

Turn down the heat // I know hot showers feel amazing after walking around in freezing temperatures, but hot water will sap the moisture out of your skin in minutes. Resist the urge to dial the temperature up too high when you take a shower, and if you really need some hot water, draw yourself a hot bath and put in a moisturizing product like bubble bath or bath oils; Lush sells some great options, and I can't wait to use my "The Snowman" bubbleroon when I get home!

Use a creamy cleanser // If you have oily skin, you probably use a gel cleanser to help cut through grime and grease. But in winter, those powerful cleansers can strip your skin and leave it feeling dry and tight. No matter your skin type, you should be using a creamy cleanser in winter to avoid over-drying. If you're still concerned about oil or acne, look for a formula that contains a low dose of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide; last year, I loved Aveno's Clear Complexion Cream Cleanser.

Bulk up your moisturizer // By now, everyone know that you've gotta moisturize your skin, regardless of your skin type. But whatever you're using on a day-to-day basis probably isn't enough for the dry winter air. Step up your nighttime moisturizer by choosing a thicker formula that'll pamper your skin-- look for the word "cream" rather than "lotion" in the name (Cetaphil's Moisturizing Cream is a cult favorite that got me through the ultra-dry skin phase of using Accutane).

Switch to a chemical exfoliant // Using face scrubs can be so satisfying because you swear you can feel the dead skin sloughing off, but the physical exfoliants in scrubs are too harsh for stressed, dry skin. In the winter, keep up your exfoliating routine without overworking your skin by swapping to a chemical exfoliant; toners will do the trick on a daily basis, and for something a little more powerful, you can check out this list of the best at-home face peels under $20.

Use a hydrating mask once a week // Now that you've kept up with the rest of your skincare routine, make sure to indulge in some deep hydration once a week with a mask! Even if you have oil-prone skin, a hydrating mask can help balance your skin out and will help bolster it against harsh weather and the dry, climate-controlled air indoors. There are dozens of hydrating masks available at stores like Target, Ulta, and Sephora, but an easy DIY mask is just to use a bit of honey and leave it on for about 10 minutes before rinsing it off with warm water!

    Are you updating your skincare routine for winter? Let me know what your favorite products are!

Thanks for reading,
Monday, December 11, 2017

Pausing for Finals

     Finals are upon us, and I've got a packed week! Since I have two finals today and two on Wednesday, I'll be taking a quick pause to focus on studying. After that, you can expect regularly scheduled posts again starting this Friday.

Thanks for understanding and good luck studying if you're in the midst of finals, too!
Friday, December 8, 2017

Christmastime in the City

     Going to see New York City at Christmastime has been something I've looked forward to since I first moved to New Jersey. Christmas in the big city is featured in so many holiday movies, including my favorites Elf and Eloise at Christmastime, that it has a certain magical aura around it. Over my Thanksgiving break, I begged my family to head to the city, and I wasn't disappointed.

     Planning our trip, I knew we'd want to focus on seeing the department store window displays and the Rockefeller Center tree. Although I know New York is known for having a wide variety of Christmas/holiday markets, my family is a bit jaded since we've been to several Christkindlmarkts in Innsbruck, Austria; a little bit closer to home, the Christmas Village that pops up around City Hall in Philadelphia is another traditional-style stunner. Between Europe and Philly, we've gotten a bit spoiled with Christmas markets and when my mom visited the ones in NYC last winter, she wasn't impressed and vetoed ever going back.

     I did quite a bit of research about which store windows we should visit, and the Internet seemed to agree on these: Macy's, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale's, and Barney's. I carefully plotted out our path from Penn Station, where the NJ Transit trains arrive in the city, and researched lunch ideas since I knew we'd be there long enough to need some sustenance.

     Macy's is just a block from Penn Station, making it a natural first stop on our holiday walking tour. To be honest, I liked Macy's holiday window display the least, and so I didn't even snap any pictures. Spurred by the need for the lady's room (it was under construction in Penn Station, convenient, huh?),  we headed inside Macy's and admired the decorations inside, too. 

     After catching an early train, we were all in need of caffeine, and luckily Macy's flagship store has no less than four Starbucks plus a "secret" Starbucks that's not technically a Starbucks, the Herald Square Cafe, located on the store's second floor. Herald Square Cafe is Starbucks on steroids: all the baristas are black aprons (meaning they're highly experienced and skilled), the sleeves are built into their chic black to-go cups, double shots are standard, and Frappucinos are banned. The cafe also sells luxury treats like chocolates and champagne (Moët & Chandon, no less), but my family decided to stick to classic Starbucks drinks. It was the best darn Salted Caramel Mocha with skim that I've ever had, and the cafe was beautiful to boot. 

Herald Square Cafe in Macy'
     Caffeined up, we headed back out in search of more holiday displays. Lord & Taylor's beautiful ivy and lights combination was a standout to me; my dad mentioned that he remembered passing by these same decorations when he marched in the NYC Veteran's Day parade. The actual window displays were circus-themed, and my favorite element was definitely the "ring toss" that displayed designer rings. Saks was beautiful, too, but the Snow White-themed window displays were a bit lost on my family. I guess fairy tales work for the holidays, right?

Lord & Taylor

Saks really did look like a castle!
     Not far from Saks, we ogled the ginormous Rockefeller Center tree. It was massive, no doubt, but not particularly photogenic during the daytime. A few ice skaters were frolicking on the iconic ice rink, but most people just milled around, taking it all in. Further down Fifth Avenue, we passed Cartier and I couldn't help but drool over the festive red and how nicely it contrasted with the bright yellow cabs filling the streets. Tiffany's, by contrast, looked a bit gaudier with the building clad in earring-like decorations.


Swooning over Cartier
     At this point, were were getting a bit tired and hungry and cranky. We wanted to take my brother and dad inside the Plaza Hotel to show them the Palm Court, where my mom and I had gone to tea for my birthday in the spring, but a doorman and a sign stating "guests and restaurant patrons only" shooed us away; the city is certainly a bit friendlier (and less crowded) on summer weekdays than holiday weekends!

     The windows at Bergdorf's and Bloomingdale's blurred together, both beautiful but less impressive than what we had already seen. We popped into Bloomingdale's to browse, content to just do a bit of window shopping after the craziness of Black Friday.

Couldn't stop myself from snapping a quick mirror selfie in Bloomingdale's
     I had done some research and steered us to lunch at Bloomingdale's affordable and fun restaurant Flip, which is located in the department store's basement. Flip lets you create custom burgers starting from the meat up; I tried a beef and portobello burger with swiss cheese, arugula, and garlic aioli. My family was glad to sit down for a bit and munch on shoestring fries and delicious burgers made just the way we wanted. I had really tuckered everyone out with all of the walking, though, and so we decided to skip Barney's in favor of catching the subway back to Penn Station. Considering my brother and dad hate the city, I was impressed they had made it that long!

     All in all, Christmas in the city didn't disappoint. I loved seeing all of the decorations and loved that all of the department stores were just as pretty inside as they were outside. I always enjoy the energy of New York and can't help but feel a little sad that I won't be leaving near the city much longer. Although I'm excited to intern at Deloitte in the Washington, D.C. metro area this summer, I can't help but wonder what it would've been like to intern in New York. I'm still not sure if city living is for me, so for now I'll just enjoy the hustle and bustle of NYC through day trips.

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Beauty Hacks to Look More Awake During Finals


     Finals are less than a week away here at my college, and although I'm feeling relatively relaxed, I'm also dreading the late nights and early mornings of exams. I'm not someone who functions well on little sleep, and so having my sleep schedule thrown off never turns out well. Luckily, I've learned a couple of tips to help me "fake it till I make it" so that I can at least look like I've gotten a full 8 hours!

     In general, any trick that moisturizes your skin or adds a bit of color is going to help you look well-rested rather than dull and tired. That means that the most basic step to still looking like a million bucks while you're dead tired is staying on top of your skincare routine! Don't forget to take your makeup off before you fall into bed, and make the extra effort to apply moisturizer, preferably using a product with SPF during the daytime. Now that you've prepped your canvas, what else can you do to look more awake?

Put your eye cream in the fridge or freezer // Popping your morning under eye cream into the fridge (or freezer, depending on how thick the product is) turns it into a double-duty product. In addition to the usual benefits of the cream, the cool temperature will help reduce under eye inflammation-- that means bye-bye eye bags. Additionally, the cool cream is sure to feel invigorating on your tired skin.

Strobe for a glowing look // Beauty terms can get confusing, so here's a quick primer: strobing refers to using just highlighter to emphasize certain facial features (by contrast, contouring uses both highlighter and colors darker than your natural skin tone). Strobing is an easy way to get an instantly dewy, rested look and is more wearable than contouring in terms of an everyday look. To get the look, swipe highlighter along your brow bone, inner corners of your eyes, cheekbones, down the bridge of your nose, and in a x-pattern on your forehead and chin. Blend it out and you're all set. Need a little more guidance? This Cosmo article includes tips for choosing a shade of highlighter and where to apply it. Not sure what highlighter to use? NYX's Bright Idea Illuminating Stick is my drugstore favorite.

Use white eyeliner on your inner rim // Adding a white (or nude!) eyeliner to your lower waterline creates an illusion that extends the whites of your eyes, making you look more wide-eyed and awake. Even if you don't want to put on any other makeup, this hack is subtle enough that you could use it alone and still look natural.

Don't skip blush // Blush mimics the natural flush that your skin has when you're well-rested and in good health. You can get the same healthy glow by making sure that you don't skip blush in your makeup routine. Blush isn't just for your cheeks, too! Dabbing a bit on your chin and forehead can give you more of an all-over flush, and it can also double as a rose-y eyeshadow, too.

Curl your eyelashes // Even if you don't want to put on mascara (you've gotta be able to rub your eyes during those late-night exams, right?), curling your eyelashes will open up your eyes and make you look just a little bit more polished. Make the curl last even longer by giving your eyelash curler a quick blast from your hairdryer before using it on your lashes.

     Additionally, simple steps like staying hydrated and eating well can help your skin stay healthy-looking even when you're not sleeping as much as you should. I'm definitely counting on these tips to help me transition from college finals now to accounting busy season in a few years!

Thanks for reading and good luck studying!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Warby Parker Resort Collection

     What is it about eyeglasses and sunglasses that enables them to drastically shift the overall feel of an outfit in just seconds? Admittedly, I like to swap my contacts for eyeglasses when taking exams at college in order to get into a more studious mood, and I instantly feel more glamorous when I pop on a pair of sunglasses. Glasses are expensive, though, and sifting through limited options just to have to settle on something that you're already overpaying for.

     Enter: Warby Parker. The eyewear brand first popped up on my radar when one of my favorite bloggers, Carly of Carly the Prepster, wrote a post about her visit to a new Warby Parker store in Soho; I immediately started drooling over the store's interior (think lots of modern white and clean lines blended with retro elements) and the glasses that Carly tried on. A little more research turned up a slew of articles about how this fresh startup was turning the monopolized eyewear industry on its head.

      Although Warby Parker has a plenty of locations across the country where you can get eye exams as well as styling advice, what really distinguishes them is their direct-to-consumer offering. After taking a style quiz on the Warby Parker website, you choose 5 frames that you're interested in, and they'll ship them straight to you so can try them out for 5 days and make your final decision. The best part is, despite offering specialty services, Warby Parker makes eyewear affordable-- their frames and sunglasses start at just $98.

    As a business student, I can't help but fangirl over what an amazing brand and culture Warby Parker has built up. I'm thrilled to help the company launch their new Resort collection, and it doesn't disappoint one bit!

     Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on the new Warby Parker Resort collection frames; there's seriously a style for everyone, whether your style tends to be conservative or a little more avant-garde.

For the classic prep...
     The men's Tate frames are one of the stand-outs for me in the new collection. They're just so effortlessly stylish, and although I'm a sucker for all things tortoiseshell, I'm loving how the black Tate frames are elevated by subtle metallic accents. I'm also obsessed with the tortoiseshell Wren frames (available in black, too) since they update a classic look by including an unexpected color combination. The subtle cat eye shape is universally flattering, making the Wren frames wearable for everyone.

Tate eyeglasses in Tortoiseshell

Tate eyeglasses in Black
Wren eyeglasses in Tortoiseshell

     Sunglasses are indispensable in winter whether you're hitting the slopes or jetting off to a tropical location, and the Avery frames offer an updated interpretation of the classic clubmaster silhouette. I could see myself hitting the beach in southern France while I'm abroad next semester wearing the black Avery sunglasses; the clean lines and classic color communicate luxury (without the luxury price tag!).

Avery sunglasses in Black

Avery sunglasses in Tortoiseshell
For the modern prep...
      The Cassady eyeglasses offer the perfect blend of classic shaping and modern detailing. Slightly more angular, these frames include metallic detailing along the bottom rim that keep them from looking too cliche. I especially love the marbled look of the brown frames; have we found a new, more modern alternative to tortoiseshell?! These frames may just convince me to break out of my tortoiseshell eyeglass tradition.
Cassady frames in Brown

Cassady frames in Black
     The Cleo sunglasses are another great option for changing up your look; these vibes have a seriously high-fashion vibe without looking outlandish. The black Cleo sunglasses are very modern and chic, but I love the shell-like look of the cream frames-- they'd be perfect for sunny days at a sun-drenched resort! Again, the cat eye shape means that these sunglasses would flatter any face shape, making these trendy sunglasses less intimidating.
Cleo sunglasses in Cream

Cleo sunglasses in Black

For the fashion-forward prep...
    For guys looking for a pair of eyeglasses with a strong look, the Archer frames assert your sense of style with confidence. They also include that hint of metal detailing that'll help you stand out in a sea of bland eyeglasses-- talk about a literal glint in your eye. Available in black or tortoiseshell, the Archer frames are sure to look great whether you're holed up in the library or presenting on a big case at work or a winter internship.

Archer eyeglasses in Black

Archer eyeglasses in Tortoiseshell

     Turning it back over to the ladies, the Wyatt sunglasses offer a unique lens shape and the same modern detailing as the other sunglasses in the collection. These are a great option for those who love on-trend styles but don't want to wear the exact same thing as everyone else. Snag the Wyatt sunglasses soon  and you'll be able to claim the trend for yourself!
Wyatt sunglasses in Black
Wyatt sunglasses in Brown

     The Warby Parker Resort collection officially launches today and is now available in-stores and online! You can check out the full collection of eyeglasses here and the full collection of sunglasses here.

Thanks for reading and happy shopping!