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,
Alex
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!
Alex
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.

Tiffany's

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!
Alex
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!
Alex


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!
Alex
Friday, December 1, 2017

November Favorites (+Top Posts This Month)

     Guys, November FLEW by-- I'm shocked that it's already the first day of December! At new member formal tonight, I'll be celebrating my two wonderful little sisters in Chi Omega, and then after that I'll be buckling down for the last week of classes and then finals. The beginning of December also means that I'm officially one month away from heading to southern France for the semester which is still hard to wrap my head around if I'm being honest.

     Alright, now that my mini worry session about the end of the semester is done, let's get down to my favorites from this month!


  • Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer // I bought concealer on a whim despite the heft price tag ($30 for the full-size tube) but I haven't regretted it one bit. The product's name says it all-- this concealer is on the thicker side and does a great job of covering under eye circles and brightening your skin. The doe's foot applicator seemed a bit odd at first, but it makes dotting the product under your eyes much easier and it's also convenient for swiping across areas you want to highlight. If you're looking for a new concealer that's worth a splurge, check it out!
  • Primark // I wrote a whole piece about my newfound obsession with Primark. Although there aren't many locations in the US yet (aside from in the Northeast region), I can't get over this store that's just like H&M except better. Definitely check it out if you're looking for cheap and  trendy yet wearable pieces.
  • Drybar Triple Sec // Although I've never actually been to a Drybar location, I'm obsessed with their DIY (Dry It Yourself) videos and credit them with teaching me how to blow out my hair semi-decently at home. On a quick trip to Ulta at the end of October, I treated myself a bought a travel-size version of their Triple Sec texturizing spray to try out and I've been using it frequently ever since. I wash my hair every other day and put this in my hair before putting it up in a high bun to sleep; in the morning I wake up with pretty waves that makes my second-day hair look like I actually styled it. The product does have a strong scent, but I happen to like the smell. 
  • Running // For some reason, I've gotten the itch to run recently and it's felt so good. Running definitely helps clear my head when I'm feeling stressed at school, and it's also a great way to spend more time outdoors, especially when I've been spending too much time in my room or the library. I'm hoping to stick to running at least once a week for the foreseeable future, especially since it's probably going to be my only exercise option while I'm over in France. 
  • Starbucks Salted Caramel Mocha // Peppermint Mocha's tend to get all the love when it comes to holiday Starbucks drinks, but I've recently rediscovered this old favorite of mine. Salty sweet is a winner every time, so the next time you're thinking about changing up your drink order, think about swapping out your normal order for this one. 
And your favorite posts from this month? Here's readers favorite content from this month:
  1. Mini-Getaway: An Hour in Georgetown a winner by a landslide!
  2. 5 Things They Don't Tell You About Applying for a Student Visa
  3. 25 Gifts $25 and Under
     Additionally, look out for some exciting new content next week, because I'm very excited to announce that I may have my first brand collaboration post up soon!

Thanks for reading and happy December!
Alex


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Store Obsession: Primark

     Why is it that we're always so reluctant to break out of our shell and try something new? I love discovering new brands, but when my neighbors who lived in Germany for several years mentioned that their teenage son loved shopping at Primark, a department store I had never heard of before that's at our nearest mall (Freehold Raceway Mall), I was super skeptical. This Thanksgiving break, though, I finally got over my weird hang up and tried it out, and now I'm a total Primark convert!

     Primark is a Irish clothing store that also sells accessories, home goods, and beauty products. At first glance, it's very much like H&M; it offers a wide variety of trendy, cheap clothes with a European vibe. However, after walking around the entire Primark store at my mall, I decided that Primark's clothes were generally less outlandish/gaudy than H&M and also seemed to be a bit cheaper. Plus, I've never seen home goods in H&M-- my local Primark had pillow inserts, comforters, and much more!

     I went into Primark because I was hoping to pick up a few affordable pieces to round out my wardrobe before I pack to go to France next semester. Although I mostly stuck to the blouses and tees section, I was blown away by their selection of sweaters, wear-to-work items, and ultra-affordable outerwear-- they had long parkas for $25!

     I ended up getting a black ruffle sleeve, tie-back blouse for $15, a cream peplum tee for $8, and a pair of plain black booties for $22. Two tops and a pair of booties for just $45 felt like a huge steal, and I won't be upset if I wear the items out while I'm abroad since they were so affordable. I'm especially excited about the booties because they're so comfortable.



     Primark is mostly located in the UK (they have 182 stores there!), Spain, and Ireland, but luckily they've been expanding over here in the US. Currently, the stores are located in the Philadelphia suburbs, New Jersey (at the Freehold mall!), New York City, and Connecticut. Unfortunately, you can't shop online through Primark, so if you don't live on the East Coast, be sure to look out for a Primark nearby if you travel to the area.

      Unfortunately, when I'm in Montpellier the nearest Primark will be in Marseille, but I'll keep my eye out for them while I'm traveling because I'm definitely curious to see what the European Primark stores are like.

     Have you been to Primark before? Do you like H&M or Primark Better? I'd love to hear what you think!

Thanks for reading,
Alex


Monday, November 27, 2017

Quick Tips for Surviving the End of the Semester

     Driving back to school after Thanksgiving break was definitely bittersweet; although I love my school and hanging out with friends, the end of the semester is looming over us right now. With just two weeks of class left, including a big marketing presentation, and then four finals in three days, it's really crunch time for me!

     With stress mounting at the end of the school semester, it's way too easy to feel overwhelmed and like you're drowning in schoolwork. Today I'm sharing some basic tips partially to help my readers out and partially to remind myself what I need to do to buckle down to finish out my classes. The end of the semester is truly a marathon, so the best thing you can do to survive it is to plan, plan, plan ahead!


  • Go to office hours // Now is the time to clear up any questions you had from homework sets and old quizzes and exams in your various classes. Assume that anything you don't understand will end up on the final, and eliminate all those question marks by going in to chat with your professor. Not only will you understand the material better, but your professor will see that you're a conscientious student, which can come in handy if you end the semester hovering on the border of a grade and they have to decide to round your grade up or down. 
  • Drink plenty of water // Drinking lots of water helps you function at your best. Avoid dehydration headaches and mindless snacking by making sure you drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water. Plus, going to fill up your water bottle is a great mental and physical break that'll force you to leave your study spot and walk around, even if it's just for a few minutes. 
  • Commit to exercising // I know it's easy to fall off the exercise bandwagon when classes are winding down, but physical activity is great for your mood and focus! Try committing to just 20 minutes of exercise a day, even if it's just going for a quick walk or jog around campus. You'll be able to focus better once you sit down to study again, and you'll be more likely to eat well if you've already put in a bit of exercise.
  • Make a study plan // Nothing is scarier than feeling like you don't have enough time to study for finals! Reassure yourself by sitting down a week or two before your first exam and making a solid finals study plan, making sure to take into account all of the different material sections that'll be covered and how long you have to prepare for each exam. I usually use the method from this article to develop my study plan of attack, but I'd also recommend following my Study Board on Pinterest for even more tips and inspiration!
  • Take care of odds and ends before finals or after, but not during! // Random errands like packing up your personal items and returning textbooks has to get done at some point, but that point shouldn't be smack in the middle of your attempts to study. Do yourself a favor and worry about end-of-semester errands before and after finals, but not during your exams-- you want to be able to fully devote your attention to studying and taking care of yourself.

     Do you have any other hacks for surviving the end of the semester? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading and happy studying,
Alex
Friday, November 24, 2017

25 Gifts $25 and Under


     It's that time of year again: blogs are exploding with holiday gift guides. Although I don't usually participate in Black Friday, people across the US are currently flooding stores and websites armed with guides to finding the perfect gift for their significant other/bff/parents/etc. 

     Finding the perfect present for those most important to us can take tons of time and effort. Luckily, bloggers often take on that burden for the general population, slaving over carefully curated gift guide posts with millions of links that help everyone save time and money. I can't help but feel like putting together my first massive gift guide is a blogging right of passage.

     Most of the gift guides I've seen coming out this season boast "under $100" or "under $50" tag lines, but I wanted to go further. $50 is still quite a bit to spend on a single gift, especially for college students and recent grads! Realistically, if you're going to be buying presents for lots of people, you're going to have to lower your per-gift budget.

     Lowering your gift budget doesn't have to mean lowering your standards, though. Today, I'm sharing 25 gifts that are $25 and under; many of these items may be even cheaper on Black Friday! 



     How do you approach budgeting for holiday gifts? What's your basic gift budget? I'd love to get some feedback in the comments!

Happy shopping,
Alex
Monday, November 20, 2017

Casual Thanksgiving Outfit Inspiration

     The holidays bring on a slew of stressors: dealing with relatives, cooking, and traffic, just to name a few. With all of these distractions swirling around, I'm a firm believer in the fact that holiday outfits should be cute but comfortable and functional. Thanksgiving is an undeniably American holiday, making classic, American style a no-brainer when planning your outfit.

     I'm sharing two outfit ideas inspired by two of my favorite American clothing brands: J. Crew (the Factory Store), and L.L. Bean. I've put together two outfits that are comfortable enough for lounging at home, but also dressy enough for the special occasion. You just can't go wrong with dark-wash jeans and a sweater or nice top!

J. Crew Factory
     J. Crew is a beloved American brand, and J. Crew Factory allows preps on a budget to get the same classic style of the main brand at a lower cost. To me, this outfit embodies what J. Crew is all about: comfortable but chic outfits that shine thanks to fun accessories. The pretty plaid scarf incorporates holiday colors without being too on-the-nose, and the d'orsay loafer flats add an unexpected twist to the otherwise classic outfit. This outfit would be perfect for an urban Thanksgiving or for lounging around the house!
   

L.L. Bean
     L.L. Bean is the quintessential American brand, and it has a true cult following. Although a lot of people only shop here for Bean Boots, L.L Bean also offers tons of great clothes and accessories! This outfit is perfect for Thanksgiving at a chillier location and is practical enough for a post-dinner walk. The classic fisherman sweater will keep you super cozy, and the chunky scarf makes the outfit even comfier. Flat boots tucked into a sturdy pair of jeans finish off the Maine-inspired holiday ensemble.

     This Thanksgiving, just like last Thanksgiving, my family will be serving lunch to airmen at the Air Force base dining hall. Although I can't leave for home until Tuesday afternoon since I have a finance quiz morning, I can't wait to be home!

Thanks for reading,
Alex
Friday, November 17, 2017

Mini-Getaway: An Hour in Georgetown

     If you read my post about getting a student visa for my study abroad program, you know that I had to make a trip up to Washington, D.C. to go to the French consulate. I'm very lucky that I happen to go to school fairly close a consulate and that I don't have any Friday classes, because the consulate only takes appointments on weekdays. All of these factors added up to me making a quick trip up to DC two weeks ago to go to the consulate; I was also hoping I'd have some time to poke around the neighborhood afterwords since the French consulate is located in Georgetown.


Consulates aren't particularly glamorous, even when they're French
      After a 6:30 am departure from Williamsburg and a nice three hours in rush hour traffic, I found myself at the French consulate, right across from the Georgetown University hospital. The whole visa application process ended up taking 40 minutes from the moment I entered the compound to the moment I left. After making a three hour drive, I was not about to turn right back around and drive back to school. Spending some time in Georgetown seemed like a good enough option to kill an hour.

 
     Georgetown is a popular neighborhood along the Potomac in northwest Washington, D.C., known for being the location of a university by the same name as well as its annoying lack of a metro stop (have fun making the walk from the Roslyn or Foggy Bottom stations). I first went to Georgetown soon after my family moved to the Washington metro area because I demanded to go and try a cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake, the cupcake store featured on TLC's DC Cupcakes. I instantly fell in love with the area's brick buildings and preppy style. I was actually planning on attending Georgetown University (I got in early action) before news of the school's horrible financial situation/increasing tuition costs prompted me to switch to William & Mary. Long story short, I'm a big fan of Georgetown, and I knew exactly how I wanted to spend my time there on a balmy early November morning.

      After finding some free street parking in the heart of Georgetown, I made a beeline for Georgetown Cupcake. On a Friday morning, there was no line, and I was free to stroll right in and order my half a dozen cupcakes in their iconic pink box. Their flavor offerings vary by day and month, so I picked an assortment of yummy-sounding flavors-- peanut butter fudge ended up being my favorite of the batch. I knew I'd look like a tourist toting the big, clearly-identifiable paper bag through Georgetown, but I was more than happy to spend the day as a tourist rather than a harried college student.

      Cupcakes in hand, I spent the rest of the morning wandering down M street, the main drag in Georgetown. M Street is known for its fabulous (and expensive shopping)-- the wide road is lined by the likes of J. Crew, J. McLaughlin, Anthropologie, and Brooks Brothers. I spent my walk window-shopping and ogling the other pedestrian's street style. I love people-watching, and the tony citizens of Georgetown were the perfect subjects to observe. I gained some major style inspiration just walking around; even the grandmas in Georgetown look effortlessly chic and preppy.
   
     I also made an effort to stop by and see the Tuckernuck store. I've been obsessed with Tuckernuck for years now and had been anxiously awaiting the opening of their physical store when I stilled lived in northern Virginia, but unfortunately the opening ended up being delayed until after my family had moved up to New Jersey. There's something so exciting about seeing a real-life manifestation of a brand you love, and I was fan-girling so hard that I didn't even have the guts to walk into the store; since I'm saving up for study abroad expenses, I knew I wouldn't be able to buy anything, and I knew that'd be a struggle shop-a-holic Alex. For now, window-shopping had to do, but I'm determined to make it back sometime to do some in-store shopping. After I had seen Tuckernuck, I meandered back to my car, still just soaking in the ambiance of bustling, stylish M Street.

     Even though I only spent about an hour walking around Georgetown after my visa appointment, I was surprised by how light I felt. Even though I had two exams looming during the next week-- I drove back to school super fast so I could make it to office hours with my tax professor-- I felt unbelievably light just walking around and enjoying the unseasonably warm day. Sometimes you just need a change of location to get your mind off all of your obligations and just let go for a bit.



     Moral of the story? If you're feeling overwhelmed with school or other obligations, especially leading up to finals season, consider making a quick trip over to a new town or neighborhood and just get lost for an hour; a mini-getaway can make all the difference in your mood and outlook.

Thanks for reading,
Alex

   

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

2 Playlists for Fall

     Music becomes more and more important to me as the semester drags on. Often times when I settle in at the library, the only thing that can keep me chugging through my to-do list is a constant stream of good songs. The right playlist can make walking to class, hanging with friends, or just cooking dinner a little more enjoyable.

     I currently subscribe to Spotify Premium for Students, and I think it's well worth the money. For just $4.99 a month, I get unlimited access to Spotify's music services plus access to Hulu's limited commercial plan (on a side note, I'm starting to think Hulu is better than Netflix). This deal is amazing, and I'm already dreading when my monthly fee will get bumped up to $9.99 (without Hulu) after graduation.

     I'm also someone who has pretty eclectic taste in music. Depending on my mood or what activity I'm doing, I might be listening to rap or country or classical music.

     In fall, though, my preferences definitely lean towards acoustic and indie folk; the mellow vibe is perfect for chilly days spent holed up in the library and for walks through crunchy leaves. I'm sharing a playlist that I've been cultivating over many hours in the library. In my opinion, the hour-long playlist perfect for studying, relaxing after class, or for taking an afternoon drive to leaf-peep.



     By contrast, like many college girls, I love pop/Top 40 type music. I feel like this fall, popular artists have been releasing especially seasonally-relevant music; a lot of the most popular songs in the country have a sort of underlying moody vibe that's perfect for the dropping temperatures. While this second playlist is only 30 minutes, it includes all of my current favorite pop songs that get me into a fall-like mood. Fair warning, it includes two Taylor Swift singles-- although I don't keep up with all the TSwift drama and have no idea what I think of her as a person, I do enjoy her music.



     I'll also take this time to say that I've been loving Sam Smith's new album. I listened to it after hearing an interview with him on NPR (I didn't really follow his music before now) and I instantly fell in love.

     What kind of music do you listen to? What's your go-to fall playlist? I'd love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading,
Alex

Monday, November 13, 2017

5 Things They Don't Tell You About Applying for a Student Visa

   

One of the things that been majorly stressing me out since I found out that I was going abroad was the idea of applying for a student visa. The word "visa" has a plethora of negative connotations in my head-- dealing with bureaucracy and unnecessarily complicated paperwork was what immediately came to my mind.

     Once I started the process, I didn't really feel any better about it. My school's Global Education office provided us with a resource sheet for applying for a French student visa; the sheet warned that it was a lengthy, complex process-- joy, joy. After struggling with broken/incorrect links as I tried to create my CampusFrance account (step one of the two-step process to get a French student Visa), I managed to complete the first part of my application and signed up for an appointment at the French Consulate in Washington, D.C, desperately hoping that I'd hear back from CampusFrance in time to keep the appointment).

     It took two weeks to hear back from CampusFrance, and once I corrected a missing piece of my application-- apparently the scanned copy of my passport didn't upload the first time-- I was cleared for my consular appointment.

     My visa "appointment" was nothing like I expected. You always hear about visa "interviews", but my experience was neither an appointment nor an interview. After going through security at the consulate, I walked through the compound to the building that housed visa processing. I took a number and waited to go up to a window with a clerk-- all in all, it was very much like going to the DMV.

     Once my number was called, the process was relatively painless. I had carefully made sure to collect and bring all the documentation that was required to apply for the visa, so basically I just handed them over when asked, had my picture taken, and then left my passport and a prepaid envelope for the consulate to send it back to me. I was in the consulate for approximately 45 minutes from the moment I walked in to the moment I checked out. 6 days later, I got my passport, now sporting a new French student visa, in the mail. Kind of anti-climatic, huh?

     My student visa application process for spending a semester abroad was relatively positive, overall, but there were certainly a lot of things I didn't anticipate. Here's what I wish I had known before I got started and tips that other students thinking about going abroad may find helpful.


  1. You may not need even need a student visa to study abroad // Before you even start to stress out about getting a visa, check your destination country's rules about who needs a visa to study abroad. For me, France requires you to obtain a student visa if you'll be in the country for more than 3 months, so most students spending a semester there will need a visa. By contrast, my friend who's studying abroad in Scotland doesn't have to get a visa at all. Do your research before you start panicking.
  2. Student visas can be expensive // Be prepared to shell out some money if you do have to get a visa. Altogether, between the CampusFrance fee and the consular visa fee, my visa cost me $238; had I paid to have the CampusFrance process expedited, my visa would've cost nearly $400. Make sure to include visa costs in your study abroad budget!
  3. You can't start the process last-minute // Altogether, it took me just over a month to get my visa from when I started the first application process to when I received my passport back in the mail. Make sure that you look at your departure date and allot yourself plenty of time to get your visa figured out because you won't be able to leave without it. Paying to expedite the process is sometimes an often, but it's often very costly. 
  4. You may have to travel to a consulate to apply for your visa // I didn't expect that travel would be a part of the visa application process, but it sure is. France requires you to travel to your nearest consulate to finish your visa application. Although you can travel to the consulate nearest your college or the one nearest your home, you still may have to take a flight or long car trip to get to your visa appointment. I made a mad-dash Friday trip to the Washington, D.C. consulate, but you might have even farther to go. If you'll have to travel for your visa, make sure to budget additional money for that travel. 
  5. You're going to have to get comfortable securing legal documents // Get ready to track down bank statements, letters from your host family, letters from your host institution, statements of health...I had to send a lot of emails to my school's Global Education Office as well as my host school to get all of my documents together for my visa appointment. Bureaucracy is fun, huh?
So there you have it, my experience applying for a student visa and some advice for those of you who may be going through the process yourself! Getting a visa makes studying abroad a little more of a reality to me, and I'm really starting to feel excited (and nervous). 

Thanks for reading,
Alex
   
Friday, November 10, 2017

My 3 Favorite Blogs

     With the popularity of blogging exploding over the past few years, the Internet is saturated with bloggers. There are thousands of bloggers out there publishing amazing content, and I wish I could spend hours everyday just discovering new content. Since I'm still very new at this whole blogging thing, I rely pretty heavily on blogging role models when making decisions about content and style.

      So who are my blogging role models exactly? Today I'm sharing my three favorite bloggers/blogs with you all, in the hopes that maybe they'll inspire you too.

Carly, Carly the Prepster (formerly the College Prepster) // Carly's blog was the first blog I stumbled upon, after stumbling upon her page through a Pinned post about study tips. I instantly loved Carly's personable writing style and sense of fashion; I've followed along with her blog since 2015, and now I look forward to reading her posts every single day. Carly is a fashion and lifestyle blogger foremost, but she includes lots of guest posts about more general topics and I love reading anything she has to say. Carly is also very upfront about her struggle with anxiety, which is something I find both refreshing and incredibly helpful as someone who's also dealing with anxiousness. I fangirl over the fact that Carly and my boyfriend go to the same gym in Stamford, which is probably sort of weird, but she's just such a great blogger and businesswoman that I can't help but be a little bit obsessed.

Daphne, Mode and the City // I discovered Daphne's blog after she was mentioned on Carly the Prepster, and I almost fell over with excitement. Daphne is a preppy Parisian who writes about fashion and lifestyle, and her articles motivate me to practice my French. Although she doesn't have as much content written in English, Mode and the City is definitely worth a look even if you don't know French-- that's what the Google Translate browser extension is for, right? Most recently, Daphne's flawless Halloween costume broke the internet.

Rosie, The Londoner // To be honest, I can't really remember how I found Rosie's blog, but I'm hooked. I'll be honest, her writing style doesn't give you that same sense of familiarity that other blogs might have, but what Rosie does excel at is writing lush, descriptive accounts of her fabulous travels around Europe. Other standouts include the photos on her blog-- they give me serious wanderlust + outfit lust all at the same time. As if the gorgeous photos weren't enough, Rosie posts tons of healthy, delicious recipes on her blog. Although I don't read The Londoner on the daily, it always brightens up my day and inspires me to live my life a little more fabulously when I read the latest post.

So there you have it, the three blogs that inspire me the most! Do you read any of these blogs? Have suggestions for other blogs I might like? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy Friday,
Alex
Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Micellar Waters: Bioderma Sensibio vs. Garnier SkinActive

   

     I was pretty slow to hop on the micellar water trend, but now I'm obssessed with it and use it at least once every day. Before, I oil cleansed to remove my makeup and was very happy with the results (and also thought micellar water sounded like a load of BS). However, good quality organic oils can get expensive, and they're not exactly travel friendly-- just wait until you have coconut oil melt all over your toiletries.

     What is micellar water? According to the Huffington Post, micellar water is "is made up of micelles (tiny balls of cleansing oil molecules) suspended in soft water". The micelles attract oil and dirt to remove impurities from the skin without the dryness or irritation often associated with soaps and other cleansers. Micellar water is a great option for cleansing that doesn't involve running water, making it perfect for travel (and for using in college dorms when you don't want to make the trek to the hall bathroom).

     I first bought the cult favorite Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water when I was in France this summer, wanting to get a good price on a product I had heard a lot about. To my pleasant surprise, all of my makeup came off with just one cotton ball; later, I stumbled upon this Birchbox article detailing 5 uses for micellar water and almost immediately tried out the tissue sheet mask DIY; 10 minutes later, my travel-weary skin was looking less red and more smooth.

    I loved my bottle of Bioderma, but when it ran out, I was ready to give a different (and cheaper) brand a try: Garnier's Skin Active Micellar Cleansing Water. Although I haven't used up my Garnier micellar water yet, I feel like I've used it long enough to compare these products effectively. I'll be looking at the following critera: price, packaging, and effectiveness/usage.

Price: Garnier
     Unfortunately, Bioderma is known for being pricey, and without analyzing any other factors that influence value, the Sensibio product requires quite a chunk of change at $14.90 for the 500 mL size (about 3 cents a ml). By contrast, Garnier's micellar water is $9 for a 400 ml bottle. While your wallet is probably breathing a sigh of relief thanks to the under-$10 pricetag for the Garnier product, at 2.25 cents a ml), it's really not that much cheaper by volume. Buy Bioderma if you happen to be in Europe and you'll be able to save a few cents-- I can't wait to stock up while I'm studying abroad!

Packaging: Bioderma
     I didn't know what I loved about the Bioderma packaging until I tried the Garnier product. Garnier's flat top lid/cap doesn't stay snapped shut well and makes it difficult to control how much product comes out/where it comes out-- I frequently end up with micellar water dripping down my fingers when I try to apply it to a cotton ball.
     Bioderma, on the other hand, has a lid that stays secure; it never leaked, even when I packaged it in a soft-sided bag that got tossed around on a military flight from Germany to the US. Plus, the extended, baby bottle-like cap makes it easy to control the flow of product, making sure you don't waste any of super-pricey liquid. That's a win for Bioderma.

Effectiveness/Use: Bioderma
     Right up front, I noticed that Garnier's micellar water has a stronger, more chemical-y smell in contrast with odorless Bioderma. I've definitely had to use more of Garnier's product to get my makeup off; my 250 ml bottle of Bioderma lasted me nearly two months, but after using my bottle of Garnier for less than a month, almost a third of the micellar water is gone.
     Garnier's product works fine at removing my everyday makeup (tinted moisturizer, mascara, eyebrow gel), but requires lots of scrubbing and multiple cotton balls to get off my weekend makeup that includes eyeliner, eyeshadow, and heavier foundation. I also found Bioderma to be a lot more soothing on my eczema-prone skin than Garnier has been so far.

So what's the verdict?
    Honestly, I'd say these products are fairly comparable when you look at the big picture. Both will get the job done when it comes to taking off your makeup in a relatively convenient format, and I prefer micellar water's versatility to the convenience but compromised quality of makeup wipes. I like the overall experience of using Bioderma's Sensibio micellar water just a bit more and think it justifies the higher cost, but if you just can't stomach that extra $6, Garnier's SkinActive micellar water is a great second choice.

Thanks for reading!
Alex


Monday, November 6, 2017

My Favorite Dorm Recipes

     Eating in college is surprisingly hard. When stressed, people tend to eat poorly, whether that means skipping meals to save time or overeating due to stress. To top off the portion problems, the icky dining hall food tends to exacerbate the problem; I don't know about your school, but the only semi-edible food my dining hall tends to be french fries, oops.

     Cooking can help elevate some of your college eating woes, but how exactly can you cook in a dorm? I'll admit, it's not always fun. I definitely take advantage of my boyfriend and friends who live off campus and steal their kitchens (I do offer them food!), but that's not always feasible. I've been cooking for myself a lot more this semester, and today I'm happy to share some of my favorite dorm recipes and ones I can't wait to try out.

Microwave Recipes:




Quick, Real Recipes: for when you have access to a hall kitchen/an off-campus kitchen
Still want more? Here are some articles that compile even more recipes!
FYI, these next few weeks before Thanksgiving are pretty hectic for me, but I'm going to do my best to stay on top of blogging.

Thanks for reading!
Alex




   
Friday, November 3, 2017

3 Liquid Lipsticks for Fall

     Maybe it's the fact that traditional lipsticks just can't hold up to daily pumpkin spice latte sipping, but something about fall just begs for you to swap out your typical lip color for a matte, liquid lip color. Liquid lip color is perfect for swiping on before class or work on a hectic day, and lots of liquid lip products mimic the pretty deep reds and browns of fall leaves. I've been a big fan of liquid lipsticks myself recently, and today I'm sharing 3 standout products you can try pop on with your fall sweaters and boots for a kick of color.



Ciaté London Liquid Velvet Matte Lip Slick in Pin Up // $19
My friend Caroline helped me pick out this liquid lipstick on our fall break trip, and I've been obsessed with it ever since. I will admit, this lip product doesn't stay on well; if you eat or drink, it's going to come off, and if you brush your lips against something, the color will transfer. However, the color payoff and ease of application really outweigh those cons for me. This berry-like color is a lot darker than I usually wear, but I love how confident it makes me feel; Sephora's website describes this color as "universally flattering", and I couldn't agree more. The pointed tip of the applicator makes it really easy to line your lips with the color before you add it to the rest of your lip. The texture is also interesting-- it really does feel sort of velvety!


NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Cannes // Now $4.55
I've been using this lip product a little bit longer, and I love it lots, too. This NYX liquid lip cream also offers a pop of color, but this formula doesn't transfer as much as the Ciaté one and lasts a bit longer through eating and drinking. NYX describes this color as a "matte muted mauve", and it looks nude-ish in the packaging but is actually a bit pinky-red. The texture is pleasant, but the smell is just a bit chemically-sweet which some people may find off-puting. Overall, this product is a great choice with long-lasting power and a low price.


Rimmel London Stay Matte Liquid in Fire Starter // $2.79
I've heard a lot of hype about this super-cheap drugstore product, and although I haven't personally tried it out, it's definitely on my makeup wishlist. Online reviews sometimes complain that this lip product is hard to apply evenly, but for those who can get it on, there are rave reviews of how it lasts and last. The Fire Starter shade looks like a bright-red orange; not sure how it'd look on me, but it sure looks pretty in the tube!

Do you have a favorite liquid lipstick I should try out? Do you prefer matte liquids like this or a glossy look? Let's talk in the comments below.

Thanks for reading,
Alex

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October Favorites (+ Top Posts this Month)

     How am I already halfway through the semester?! Honestly, it's kind of terrifying to think about how close the craziness of finals is. Although I'm excited for the holidays, I'm nervous because I have to be in France pretty soon after Christmas (January 3). For now, though, let's recap my favorites from October!


  • "New Rules" by Dua Lipa // I had heard this song a few times before and thought it was okay, but once my friends and I saw the music video for "New Rules" by Dua Lipa, it became an instant favorite; we've had it on repeat lately.The music video has been critically acclaimed for really emphasizing the pro-female message of the song, and if you haven't seen it, I'd highly recommend watching it because it adds so much meaning to the lyrics. "New Rules" is great for the gym or any time you need a boost of confidence/a reminder that your girl group can get you through anything. 
  • E.L.F. Exfoliating Scrub // I picked up this scrub on a whim last week during a Target run-- let's be real, that seems to be the back story for 50% of what you buy at Target. This $5 scrub is gentle enough for my super-sensitive skin thanks to the Vitamin E and superfine exfoliating particles which is a major win in terms of price and functionality.
  • Starbucks Fall Blend Coffee// I'm a huge coffee junkie, and I noticed the pretty fall packing of this Starbucks blend almost immediately in the coffee aisle. I use the ground coffee in my reusable Keurig k-cup in the mornings before class. If you're looking for coffee with a fall spice flavor but don't want to go full-blown PSL, this is the coffee for you. On a side note, Starbucks 2-step Keurig Pumpkin Spice Latte tastes AWFUL. 
  • Francophilia // Is this a word? I'm not sure, but all things French have been consuming my thoughts as I prepare to study abroad in the spring. I've been researching places to visit in southern France, practicing my language skills, ordering suitcases...the list goes on! On Friday, I'll make a whirlwind day trip up to the French Consulate in Washington, D.C. for my student visa interview, so wish me luck handling traffic and bureaucracy!
  • La Roche-Posay Toleraine Double-Repair Moisturizer // I'm steadily becoming obsessed with La Roche-Posay's skincare products, and the Toleraine Double-Repair Moisturizer is no exception. This oil-free moisturizer is lightweight yet deeply moisturizing, and the product has a really pleasant, matte texture and appearance when you apply it. The product is gentle yet suitable for acne-prone skin which is a hard combination to find! Although $20 a tube is a bit pricey, the brand's website claims one tube should last you three months, and after a month or so of use, my tube is still going strong. 

Top Posts from October:
  1. Bon Voyage!
  2. Cozy for Fall Featuring Woolly Threads
  3. Duck Boot Buying Guide: L.L. Bean and Beyond
Thanks for spending another month with me here on The Preppy Bean Counter! 
Alex