July Hits List!

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July’s collection of items may not look like much, I know- but I assure you- this month was not without a TON of things that I loved. Some of them were just a bit more difficult to photograph- like the feeling I got watching the sunset over the Boston skyline on my friend’s balcony one last time before they move to a new apartment outside the city this coming weekend, or how nice it felt wading and swimming in the lukewarm waves at the beach this past Sunday- or how my heart swelled with all sorts of emotions as I watched The Killers perform ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ to an arena packed with people last week.

July was all about emotions: some bad, but thankfully most of them good- and many of my more “material” favorites were carried over from May and June (like my lightweight BB creams, hair care, and clothing)– but I did pick a couple more things to highlight for this month- like some bits and pieces from my Negan(ette) costume I’m debuting at the ‘Walker Stalker: Boston’ convention tomorrow!

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The most important part of my costume, of course, was the Lucille replica- and considering there are strict weapons/props guidelines in effect at the convention- I wanted my version to look as realistic as possible while still being safe enough to carry and swing around. I turned to Etsy’s own Creepy Twists Productions for assistance- and I was not disappointed at all. This hard foam and leather version of Negan’s weapon of choice is so cool looking, and so unbelievably sturdy. I was blown away the first time I held it- and I know it’s going to look bad ass in my photos. I can’t wait!

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For skincare in July, I kept it as simple and as basic as possible- although I had a couple of new additions to my regimen. For my face, this cooling and refreshing mist from Happy Spritz (which I received in a recent POPSUGAR box) has been a lifesaver. The temperatures have been uncomfortably scorching hot here in New England over the past couple of days- so this facial spray is a Godsend when I feel like my face is about to melt right off. It instantly cools me down and softens my skin. Also? It smells REALLY good. Totally calming.

And while having a cooled off face is great- I gotta’ make sure the rest of my body doesn’t burn up when I’m out in the sun, too. I try not to be overtly “choosy” when it comes to sunscreen- but I’ve been highly appreciative of this waterproof, sweat-proof and non-greasy SPF 100 spray from Banana Boat lately. I spent an entire afternoon at the beach this past weekend- in and out of the water- and I applied this liberally throughout my day. I didn’t get burned in the slightest. Considering how pale and sensitive my skin is to the elements- that’s a huge deal for me.

And now, for the miscellaneous stuff!

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

  • San Diego Comic-Con ’16 Recaps – I came for ‘The Walking Dead’ season 7 trailer, but I stayed for all the behind the scenes footage and updates from Marvel, ‘Game of Thrones’, and the cosplay community. As much fun as I had when I attended SDCC a couple of years ago- catching the recaps at the end of the day is WAAAAY more convenient than having to race from panel to panel (while in costume) or wait in line after line for hours at a time.

… I’d love to be in San Diego for some Mexican food or In-N-Out, though…

  • ‘Stranger Things’ – I know I vowed to spend more time outdoors in the month of July, but- c’mon- this Netflix series is/was SO good. Winona Ryder is forever my girl-crush and I loved her even more as I binge-watched this homage to my favorite horror films from the ’80s.

– TECH/APPS/GAMES –

  • Pokémon Go – I don’t have this app (yet), but I know plenty of people who do and I truly think it’s amazing how the country- as divided as we are at times- can unite for one common goal: catching imaginary monsters with our phones. It’s so fun to watch kids (and adults) race around and play this game together. I’m not being sarcastic, either- I genuinely love it- and the memes that have been created since the game’s launch have been hilarious.

And that, my friends- is my Hits List for July 2016! I’ll be wrapping up the overall month in a nice little post this coming Sunday before I head out to see The Last Shadow Puppets at House of Blues- but I’m really excited to see what makes the cut in August!

‘Til next time!

xx

POPSUGAR Must Have Box: July 2016.

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With the month of July wrapping up and a crazy weekend ahead of me (the ‘Walker Stalker’ convention and one of my favorite bands- The Last Shadow Puppets- are both rolling through town this coming Saturday and Sunday!) I wanted to take some time to share what I received in my one and only true love of a subscription service- my POPSUGAR ‘Must Have’ Box- before I shared the rest of my monthly favorites in my usual ‘Hits List!’ post a little later on this week prior to diving head first into my plans and preparing for the month of August!

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I had already received notice of the words/inspirations for July’s theme well in advance, but had made it a point to try and remain as spoiler-free as possible until the actual box arrived at my door so I could be surprised as I opened it. I was pretty excited to see what POPSUGAR had curated based on their choice of inspirations for this month, though: SUNNY, RETRO, FUN, VINTAGE, PLAYFUL, CHEEKY (ooh!) and WARM.

As usual, they did not disappoint.

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Now that I’m starting to feel like my old self again, I’ve been finally getting around to RSVPing to those backyard BBQs, pool parties and bonfires that I’ve been putting off while I worked through some stuff and started the healing process. I’ve even contemplated throwing a party of my own before the Summer ends- and I thought this set of cloth emoji napkins from House of Pom would come in handy when I’m playing bartender and whipping up drinks for everyone.

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The heat and the humidity has been brutal these past couple of weeks- moreso on my hair than anything else- and I’ve resorted to just pulling it back or tying it up in the morning after my shower to save myself a ton of unnecessary aggravation throughout the day. I’ve been loving this silky black and white scarf from Michael Stars since it arrived in July’s ‘Must Have’ box. It keeps my curls off of my face while still looking chic and in-season- and I know that once Fall rolls in and the cooler weather comes with it, it’ll make a comfortable wrap for my neck, too!

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The very first item from July’s ‘Must Have’ Box to get some serious use was this ADORABLE inflatable swan drink holder from SUNNYLIFE. I brought this guy to the beach with some friends and I over this past weekend to assist with keeping our water, iced teas (and hard ciders- ahem…) secure and close by whether we were on the sand or splashing in the waves.

I browsed SUNNYLIFE’s website and I have fallen head over heels in love with their gigantic rafts- particularly the ice cream cone and watermelon slice floats. They are way too cute- and I feel I could definitely use one for when I’m lounging in the pool during the final weeks of Summer.

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I love subtle details- and I try to incorporate them with my ensembles. Pops of color? Unexpected patterns? A little bling? I’m all about it- and I’m all about this pineapple pin from PINTRILL, too. I’ve been fastening this thing to my shirts and headbands in recent days and even though it’s small- a lot of people have noticed it!

PINTRILL has such a huge assortment of other pins available for purchase, too- so I’m sure I’ll be picking up a few more for future use.

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Hi. My eyebrows are currently staging a mutiny against my face (I’m due to get them taken care of tonight after work, but still)– and this multi-purpose illuminator from European Wax Center couldn’t have arrived at a more convenient time. I’ve been using this lightweight crayon to detract attention away from my wayward brows and give myself a more glowing, shimmery complexion along my cheekbones, my lips, and the inner corners of my eyes. This thing works wonders- and I’m going to keep it around for the next time I wait a little too long for a waxing/tweezers to stage an intervention for me.

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Also on the agenda tonight when I’m getting my brows re-shaped? Touching up my hair. The sun and stress has taken a toll on my strands (say that five times fast) lately- and my roots are in desperate need of some TLC. Fortunately, this non-sticky and non-greasy color protecting ‘Hair in the Sun’ styling cream from SACHAJUAN has played a crucial role in keeping my curls from turning straight-up pink (or as orange as it’s tube) since I received it in this month’s ‘Must Have’ box.

I’ve been using this cream hand-in-hand with a leave-in conditioner- and it’s kept my frizz manageable and the remaining red in my hair as strong and as vibrant as ever between salon visits.

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I will never, ever say no to any food that POPSUGAR sends me. It’s always so good. I don’t know what “retro” potato chips are supposed to taste like- but I look forward to finding out during my lunch break today since I’m packing these kettle crisps from Joe Tea in my bag to take with me when I go to tackle the day!

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Apart from an advertisement for the European Wax Center’s beauty line- July’s ‘Must Have’ Box also included a $20 gift card from TROVE– a customizable jewelry shop. Their stuff looks a little pricey at first glance (but very pretty!)– so having the $20 credit is a nice thing. I’m in the market for a new ring to add to my collection- and some of the ones I’m seeing on their website are pretty tempting!

POPSUGAR can consider this month’s ‘Must Have’ box another success. I really enjoyed everything I received- and I thought each item fit very well into July’s theme/inspirations.

Since August is the sort of “unofficial” end to the Summer- I’m really excited to see what they have in store next month to send off the season!

xx

“Smile Like You Mean It…”

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Thanks for letting me crash your lighting pit, Steven!❤

The past week has been a journey for me- one of self-discovery (or maybe rediscovering myself would be more accurate?), carefree fun, and being surrounded by good friends- old and new- who made me feel alive and like myself again.

For those who haven’t been keeping up with the more personal happenings in my life that I’ve been occasionally mentioning here since everything initially went down back in May, here’s a breakdown I shared a few days ago on social media:

For the past (almost) 2 months, I have more or less been completely exhausted and numb to everything and everyone. A 7-year on/off relationship (and even longer friendship) I was involved in crumbled around me when I found out my now ex-whatever-he-was had been deceitful and dishonest with me for nearly a year.

After multiple confrontations, arguments, and even unsuccessful attempts to find resolution and salvage what we could in the mess of things- I was blamed and shamed for our downfall and manipulated into taking responsibility for HIS actions. I was insulted- both about my feelings on the matter and even about trivial things like my body (first I was looking too curvy, and now I’m “disgustingly skinny.”)

Here’s the thing: when someone you loved and trusted tells you these things over and over- especially during times of uncertainty and crisis and confusion- you start to believe them. For the past two months I have felt like I was a horrible person who deserved the bad things that were happening to me. I wasn’t sexy enough to hold a man’s full attention. I wasn’t smart enough to keep them interested. I was irrational and too emotional. Basically- I was being told I was the worst.

I have since cut my ex out of my life- in all aspects and capacities. I knew what he was doing/saying was bullshit and not true- but it didn’t make me feel anymore enthusiastic about re-joining the world around me.

I had been throwing myself into work these past couple of months. I had been avoiding spending long periods of time with people for fear they, too, would think I was the worst and undeserving of basic common decency.

But I got invited by multiple people to come to Connecticut these past couple of nights- both to see a show by one of my favorite bands (The Killers!) and catch up with longtime friends on their touring crew. It took some coercing, even some bribing- but I eventually agreed.

When people you care about and respect- some whom you’ve seen recently and others you haven’t seen in years- act like they are genuinely happy to see you and are thrilled to be in your presence- when they PICK YOU UP TO BEAR HUG YOU IN THEIR EXCITEMENT– it changes you. When those people treat you with a level of kindness and compassion you’d gone so long without experiencing from the one person who SHOULD have been treating you that way to begin with- you start to feel things again.

I needed those last 48 hours. I needed the hugs, the jokes, the understanding as I explained what was happening to me in my life- and yes, the drinks (always the drinks!) I needed to watch one of my favorite bands play songs that still resonate deeply with me from the best seat in the house beside one of my best friends.

I needed that in order to reaffirm with myself and anyone around me within earshot that I’m not going to waste another 7 years of my life. I put things on hold in my twenties for a relationship that went nowhere and ended in flames. I essentially wasted what should have been the fun, wild and carefree years of my life accommodating a dishonest and selfish asshole.

I refuse to do that again now that I’ve entered my 30’s. Not when I’ve been reminded that I matter and that there are good people out there who see my value and appreciate every part of me (even if I’m supposedly “disgustingly skinny.”)

I’m going to do the things I’ve been putting off for YEARS. I’m not going to become complicit with being “comfortable” or settle on playing it safe. I’ve done that for far too long already.

Thank you to my boys- you all know who you are- and also to The Killers, who provided the backdrop and soundtrack to these amazing connections I’ve made over the years.

I love and appreciate all of you. I truly do.

That was written in the late hours of Thursday night/Friday morning, just a short while after I’d watched The Killers play a good chunk of their hits (and some B-sides!) at Mohegan Sun. It’s been a few days, but I’m still buzzing with energy- both from the music and from seeing some of my absolute favorite people for the first time in what felt like ages. I haven’t been that happy or energized in a long time. It was a like a pure shot/jolt of lightning and adrenaline straight into my heart, my mind, and my spirit. A shot/jolt I desperately needed to wake me up and get me out of the perpetual state of depressed fogginess I’d found myself in.

I know I still have some stuff to process and work through, but I feel so much more prepared to do it now, and even more motivated and excited to move forward while simultaneously getting my life back together as I start towards the future- MY future- much stronger and reassured with myself and my value than I had been previously. Just because one person- one guy- didn’t appreciate or respect me doesn’t mean that nobody else does, or that I shouldn’t be appreciated or respected in the first place. It just means it’s his loss- not mine.

I just feel so free, and so excited again- and I also feel so unbelievably grateful to be experiencing emotions that aren’t just awful anymore.

I can’t wait to see what’s next.

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xx

Day Off Date!

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With everything that happened in the month of June, I never actually got around to commencing my yearly “Summertime in New England” rite of passage with a weekend away (or in this case, a day trip) to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. I’d been so distracted, so stressed out, and so swamped with work and personal/relationship matters that I hardly found the time to eat or sleep properly- never mind take an afternoon to head up North and catch some sun and surf.

Last Tuesday, after running some errands that I grossly overestimated would take up the majority of my day- I was pleasantly surprised to find I had a chunk of my afternoon and evening left in front of me to do whatever I pleased. With the sun still beating down and my toes freshly painted a pretty awesome glow-in-the-dark neon coral color- I opted to finally hit the sand and made the mini-trek to Hampton to cruise the coast from Portsmouth, sit by the waves for a couple of hours and finally get my hands on a lobster roll (I EARNED IT) from The Beach Plum.

I may have actually cried from joy while I ate this.

I may have actually cried from joy while I ate this.

After putting myself in a mini-food coma, I stopped by my favorite surf shop along the coast- just a couple miles north from the main section of Hampton’s boardwalk and casino- Cinnamon Rainbows. I always try to make it a point to pop in whenever I’m in the area because they have the cutest assortment of clothes, shoes and accessories- the staff are really friendly- and I like looking at the finished/unfinished surfboards and skateboards they keep near the back of the shop. Crafting those boards takes a level of patience, talent and dedication I wish I had. It’s an art form. Truly.

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I didn’t go home empty handed, though. I couldn’t resist picking up a new thin, loose-fitting t-shirt to rep the shop (I used to have a tank top I loved that has since been misplaced or shamelessly stolen from my laundry bin by my dog) for when I got back home to the city- and some Sun Bum leave-in color protector spray for my hair because color-treated red hair and salty air/water is a dangerous combination. I love Sun Bum’s products- and this spray is no different. It keeps my hair frizz-free and fade-proof. It smells really nice, too.

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It wasn’t until the sun had started to set when I headed back over towards the boardwalk to pick up some fudge for my mom from one of her favorite candy shops (and a Slush Puppy for myself) and sit by the water again to watch the clouds overhead turn different shades of orange and pink. It was a much needed calm and peaceful moment in my life- which has otherwise been swirling around me like a tornado at times.

I’ve lived by bodies of water my entire life. I grew up near a lake, and I currently live beside a river- but none are as beautiful or as calming for me as the ocean is. I keep telling myself that if and when I ever get myself out to California (or outside Massachusetts, really)– I’m going to be as close to the Pacific as possible. I want to wake up and fall asleep to the sounds of crashing waves every day.

It was a nice day- and today is yet another day off for me. I’ve purposefully avoided making concrete plans since I’d very much like to head back up to the coast for some more sun and sand later on this afternoon (and also get my skee-ball on at the arcade and grab some fried dough)– so we’ll see how that goes!

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xx

Day Off Date!

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Although I travel to NYC fairly often, and have seen nearly all of the more popular landmarks or attractions (and some of the city’s best well-kept secrets) more than once- there are still a couple of areas I’ve never been to despite barely needing to check my phone’s GPS for directions anymore.

Coney Island is one of those places.

When it comes to Summertime beach-side attractions- all I really need is a boardwalk, some funnel cake, and maybe a couple of old, rickety amusement park rides and I will be perfectly and completely content (which is why I adore Old Orchard Beach so much) so I’m actually a bit surprised I’d put off checking out Coney Island until this past Tuesday- where Sean and I, already planning on going to NYC for the day, anyway- headed all the way down on the D train on a whim.

The original plan was to head into the city specifically to try and grab one of the INSANE milkshakes at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer in SoHo (seriously- just Google them and be amazed/horrified/fascinated)– since the weather heading into Manhattan was on the cloudier, rainier side- but once our train into Grand Central started rolling, the sky cleared up and the sun came out. Sean and I decided to embrace the change in the forecast by enjoying some time outdoors while we traveled- and the idea of checking out Coney Island once and for all popped into my head.

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My end game at Coney Island was to ride the Cyclone coaster. It’s been on my bucket list for a while now, although I didn’t think I’d really get around to doing it anytime soon until I was actually buying a ticket and waiting in a brief line to hop in- quoting ‘Captain America’ to Sean the entire time:

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And while neither one of us threw up- I think I may have bruised a rib coming around one of the bends. That thing hauls ass. It has way more kick than I originally gave it credit for- but it was fun! I’m glad I finally got to do it. The older roller coasters will always and forever be the best.

After a spin on the ferris wheel (with a really beautiful view from the top of the city skyline and the ocean)– Sean and I strolled the boardwalk and browsed some gift shops, arcades and food stands before we decided to head back towards Manhattan for dinner and to catch a train home at a reasonable hour since we both had to return to work bright and early on Wednesday morning.

Although we had gotten back into SoHo in what I thought was record time- the line outside Black Tap had already wrapped around the block. Famished at this point, Sean and I ended up popping by GATSBY’s for a pub style dinner that was really good and made the trek back to our train a little easier since I wasn’t stopping every few feet to whine about needing food (and their sweet potato fries are awesome!)

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Although I left NYC without a $15 milkshake smothered in cookies and/or M&Ms- I had a really good day and it was worth being a little groggy at work on Wednesday. It was the perfect way to wrap up my Fourth of July weekend (I even saw fireworks from my window on the train during my ride back home!) and I would absolutely love to go to Coney Island again someday- maybe just to ride the Cyclone until I throw up.

Thanks for another great adventure, NYC!

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xx

Quick Eats: Roasted Potato Crostini with Pesto Cheese

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Well hello, and Happy July! I hope my fellow Americans had a wonderful, fun, and firework accident-free Independence Day yesterday! I did what any true patriot in the U. S. of A would do and celebrated by eating a lot of (mostly unhealthy) foods, sweets, and sporting some red, white & blue while watching people set off illegal firecrackers they purchased across state lines.

You know. The usual.

My long holiday weekend actually extends through today, and I’m spending my last day off before returning to work tomorrow in NYC with Sean to do some shopping, a little sightseeing, and to try and hunt down these incredibly elaborate milkshakes everyone has been talking about lately. We’ll see how it goes!

Before I leave to catch my train into Grand Central, though- I wanted to share a recipe I tried my hand at this past week (as part of that aforementioned unhealthy food binge I went on in celebration of the 4th.) I randomly came across this appetizer in a local flyer recently, and being a fan of both roasted potatoes AND pesto- I knew I had to give it a go.

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1/3 lbs (4 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 6 ounces soft cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped prepared roasted red peppers
  • Snipped fresh chives (optional)

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Heat oven to 400ºF. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray or rub with olive oil.

2. On baking sheet, arrange sliced potatoes in single layer; spray/rub lightly with additional cooking spray/olive oil.

3. Sprinkle potato slices evenly with 1/4 teaspoon of garlic salt.

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4. Roast potatoes for 20-25 minutes or until they are are tender and browned- turning them over halfway and sprinkling with the remaining garlic salt.

5. While potatoes are finishing roasting, mix together cream cheese and pesto in a small bowl.

6. Once the potatoes are done cooking, spoon the pesto/cheese mixture on top of each slice. Top with chopped red pepper and sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.

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To call this an appetizer is actually a bit misleading, since these potato slices are pretty filling and could actually be a meal by themselves, but they tasted delicious- a perfect combination of saltiness and cheesiness- crunchiness and gooey-ness. I plan on making these for the next get together or party I throw and/or attend since I know they’ll be a hit and go fast!

I’d also like to experiment a bit with the ingredients, like maybe substituting chopped onions in place of the red peppers or seasoning them a bit differently. There’s a lot of different ways these can be prepared!

xx

June 2016: In a Nutshell.

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Summertime in the city. June 2016.

Summertime in the city. June 2016.

Hello, June 2016- can you come here for a second?

Closer…

…. Closer ….

That’s close enough.

What the F*CK was your problem?!

Not since the month my father died (and the couple of months that immediately followed afterwards) back in 2012 can I remember a solid few weeks of my life that were as emotionally exhausting, maddening, and just plain weird as this past June turned out to be. By the time today rolled around I was practically tapping out on the floor and begging July to hurry up and take over- and I’m someone who is almost ALWAYS saying how time flies by much too quickly for my liking- so you know this month was seriously rough for me.

In my ‘In a Nutshell’ post from May- I had briefly talked about a longtime friendship/dating situation I was involved in reaching a turning point. In that post, I had expressed optimism that myself and the guy involved were on the same page and moving forward with newfound respect and understanding for one another. Literally hours after I published that cheerful outlook on life and love- things completely fell apart. Come to find out, said guy had a large closet filled with multiple skeletons and secrets- and they all came tumbling out to surprise me and open my eyes to a whole convoluted mess of a situation I hadn’t had a clue about for months.

The weeks that followed, even up until now- have been a mess of anger, heartache, confusion, more anger and heartache- and finally some much-needed clarity and a sense of self-awareness and empowerment that came from my realizing I was involved in an abusive situation- I was being mistreated, used and psychologically/emotionally manipulated- and finally ending it (friendship-wise and every other potential aspect) once and for all. It wasn’t easy by any means, especially given that me and this guy have known each other for well over a decade- but people change. Some for better. Some for worse, and the ones who have changed for the worse- who refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, who think only of themselves, and who show no remorse for their behavior or willingness to change it- need to be removed from your life as quickly as possible as if they were a cancer.

Not all was lost, however. I found an unlikely ally in another woman who was also being deceived and used by this individual (and who had alerted me to his deplorable behavior in the first place- approaching me from a place of mutual respect, understanding, concern and kindness.) Over the course of this month we’ve gotten to know more about each other and we’ve realized we have a lot of stuff in common apart from our terrible taste in some men. We have been supportive and honest with one another throughout this ordeal- refusing to turn on each other the way it sadly and so often plays out in triangle situations like these where the actual at-fault person is rarely held accountable- and even finally met face to face the other night where I personally had an awesomely fun time. She’s wonderful, and if making a potential new friend is the silver lining to what was an otherwise stressful situation for the better part of a month- then I’m content with that outcome and it would have all been worth it. Sisters before misters, y’all!

In between sorting out that part of my life and starting the healing process/moving on- June kept the punches coming. Health scare? Vandalized car? Fender bender? Broken lock on my car? (June was ALL about car problems) Awful-ness coming out of Florida every other day and Britain losing their minds? Oh yeah. You bet this month had it all. Is it any wonder I just wanted to fall asleep in front of my air conditioner until it was over?

I digress- there were some lighter, fun moments in June. They were far and few between- but they were there.

Fortunately, I’ve made sure to keep myself busy and distracted in July- and my friends are sticking by me to keep me company and my mind occupied, too. I’ve got some day trips planned (including a couple for this coming weekend!) and a few shows lined up that I’m excited to catch. The Comic-Con circuit finally reaches the Boston area this coming month, too- and I’m really excited to share my Negan-ette costume I’ve been putting together when I’ve had the time between work and… Well, all that other stuff I was dealing with this past month.

Here’s to better days ahead and a better Summer, overall. Please, July- be good to me.

More of this in July, please. Swimsuit and hat by Primark.

More of this in July, please. Swimsuit and hat by Primark.

xx

June Hits List!

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I’ve reserved a few words to describe this month of June 2016, none of which are particularly kind (I’ll get to that in tomorrow’s ‘In a Nutshell’ post,) but one word that stands out- especially this week- is “scorching”. This month was ridiculously hot! I’m not complaining, since I’ll take middle-of-the-desert-like temperatures over snow any day of the week, but I did have to adjust a few things- namely my makeup and my wardrobe- to keep either of them from sliding off of me in my perpetual state of sweaty-ness.

Because of that, my June ‘Hits List’ is filled with mostly necessities and/or odds & ends I’d picked up over the past few weeks to help me beat the heat and decompress as much as possible after some stressful situations I took on and tackled this month.

As per usual, I thought I’d show the material things that are easy to photograph, first- before I dove into music/movies/apps/tech and miscellaneous things that require more of a words-only description.

Let’s take a look!

Last week, during a day of cycling through downtown Boston, grabbing lunch at Paul, and lounging poolside back at the apartment, Sean and I also stopped by my new favorite store- Primark– for an impromptu mini-shopping spree. For those not familiar with the glory that is Primark: think Forever 21 prices meets H&M-but-better quality- add five stories of limitless clothing and accessory options in the heart of Downtown Crossing- and you’ll understand why it’s so appealing and why I could spend hours and hours in there on any given day.

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From our most recent haul, these are three of my favorite finds (not pictured are the two swimsuits and the cover-up I also bought!) The first is this really big, really Summer-y navy blue, tan and gold bag that can hold pretty much all of my work and beach necessities and then some- and which has really cute, very sturdy rope and faux-leather handles that gives it a sort of nautical feel- which we all know I’m a huge fan of. The price of the bag? $14.

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I also picked up this adorable and oversized cream-colored lace hat with brown suede accents for when I’m heading to the pool/ocean/out for a stroll in the sun. At $6- this was a steal- and it matches pretty much everything in my Summer wardrobe. I’ll be getting a lot of use out of this and I’m so excited because it looks great on- and that’s coming from someone who never thought she could pull off the “floppy hat” look properly.

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Finally, when I laid eyes on these $7 canvas sandals with flamingos printed all over them- I knew I had to have them- and considering they are SERIOUSLY SO COMFORTABLE- I’m thrilled I picked them up. If I’m wearing black? I put these on. Pink? I’m sporting these. Any color? These are my new go-to’s. I’m in love.

Good God, I love Primark so much.

Next up is my makeup selections for June- which, given the soaring temperatures- I kept as light and minimal as possible. You’re crazy if you think I’m dropping serious dough at Sephora for products that are going to be melting off of me the second I step outside. I’ve found decent enough dupes/substitutions in my local drug pharmacy- and both my wallet and my face are quite pleased.

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For example, I rediscovered my love of Maybelline’s Dream Fresh BB Cream, which matches my skin tone perfectly and gives me just enough coverage where I look refreshed (and not like I’m wearing a mask) and I have been coveting my #113 shade of Lasting Finish Matte Lipstick from Kate Moss’ collaboration with Rimmel since it gives me a subtle, natural pop of color that compliments my complexion and doesn’t feel sticky/tacky/drying. Most importantly? It stays in place- even when it feels like the rest of me is roasting in the sun.

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In regards to my skin care, I haven’t really changed anything up too drastically this Summer. I’m still using lightweight and oil-controlling moisturizers (and plenty of SPF!) as well as light cleansers and gentle toners- but one addition I’ve made is implementing this gentle grapefruit-infused daily scrub from Yes To into my routine. I like that this scrub cleans out my pores without being abrasive- and it smells really nice, too.

And in the spirit of all things fruit/citrus-scented for the Summer- I’ve also been obsessively slathering this Sparkling Limoncello hand cream from Bath & Body Works all over my palms for the past month. I love citrus scents/flavors in general- but especially in the hotter months (I think it’s because they remind me of my home away from home in Southern California and it’s comforting in a way.) This hand cream is super softening and moisturizing- which is nice after I’ve been in the pool or out on the sand for a while and my skin gets a little prune-ish and dry.

And now, onto the other stuff!

– MUSIC/MOVIES/TELEVISION –

  • ‘O.J.: Made in America’ – Not since ‘The Jinx’ has there been a documentary that has been so gripping, so chilling, and so revealing. I was a kid when the “Trial of the Century” went down- but I remember watching the Bronco chase in my parents’ living room, and the big glove-don’t-fit moment- and sitting in my fourth grade classroom listening to a radio broadcast of the verdict and not fully understanding exactly why it was so important but knowing that it was. ESPN’s five-part documentary: detailing O.J. Simpson’s rise to fame, his repeated abuse of Nicole Brown, the murders, the trial- and then his downward spiral  post-acquittal- all with the backdrop of rising racial tensions in Los Angeles at the time O.J. was charged- really shined a light on so many factors to the case that I don’t think a lot of people who tuned in every day saw for themselves or took into consideration.

Featuring interviews with/commentary by Marcia Clark (LOVE HER), Mark Fuhrman (still a piece of garbage), Carl Douglas (still awful), O.J.’s former friends and colleagues, and members of the L.A.P.D. and surviving members of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman’s families- the documentary is definitely worth a binge-watch on your next day off. It’s fascinating- even if there are no real winners by the end of it.

– TECH/APPS/GAMES –

  • ‘Death Stranding’ – Okay, so even though the game hasn’t been released (yet)– can we talk about the weird, semi-creepy trailer from the latest collaboration between Hideo Kojima and Norman Reedus after the game-changing demo ‘P.T./Silent Hills’ fell through? Revealed at this month’s Sony E3 Conference- I have so many questions, no answers- and nothing more than “Norman Feetus” jokes to get me through this until we get a tentative release date and more information. Even still- this looks incredible and I can’t wait to dive into it.

I think that’s pretty much everything for the month of June! I plan on recapping this shit-show of a month tomorrow, but I’ll have more favorites in July!

And as always- feel free to share your own hits for June. I’d love to hear about them!

xx

Advice for the Professional Twenty-Somethings

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AdviceForTwentySomethings

My very first grown-up, “look at me adulting”, professional job came when I was in my early twenties and landed a coveted position as a legal secretary-turned-paralegal at a criminal and personal injury law firm. Prior to that, I had worked countless jobs in varying professions over the years: I was a cashier, a sales clerk at a department store, a manager at a popular shoe boutique, a makeup artist/skin care consultant, a tech at a comedy club and then a waitress/hostess.

While I learned new things and acquired different skills at each job- none of them really required me to set limitations on myself (like not staying out all night with my friends) or gave me a structured schedule. My days off always varied. My hours/shifts were always inconsistent. I never really planned excursions in advance and I was almost always inaccessible around major holidays where many of my former employers stayed open while the rest of the world closed up shop. I lived my life day-by-day- paycheck-to-paycheck.

Going from that to a regular 9-5, Monday-Friday took some adjustment, to say the least.

Now that I’m 30, and am currently engrossed in and embarking on my second professional career- I’m a little more prepared and experienced. I’m by no means an expert- but I have learned a lot of things along the way.

The good folks over at Casper– a startup company that makes mattresses that come in a box, which have grown to become popular to young adults in their twenties and on the move, got me thinking: what tips or advice do I have for young professionals?

I took a few days to look back on my career(s) and selected a few choice kernels of wisdom/knowledge that I’ve picked up over the years which I thought would be beneficial to those just starting their own paths in new or unfamiliar professions- and that I wished I had known a little sooner.

1. Adjust your evening and morning routines so you’re not just punctual and prepared- you’re downright early and fully ready to go. Every day.

In my early twenties, staying out all night on a Wednesday or Thursday went without consequence. I typically went to work in the afternoons- so crawling into bed at 4 a.m. and getting a few hours of sleep before it was time to show up for my shift (and get ready to go out again after work) became a regular thing. Of course, it was quite a shock to my system when I started working “normal” business/office hours and had to set a curfew for myself during weeknights- and even more of a shock to have to get used to a morning routine that included an actual commute- but I wanted to make a good impression and be taken seriously by my boss and my peers.

Here’s the thing, nobody likes BARELY making it anywhere on time. It causes unnecessary stress. You can forget important things while you’re racing out the door- and you never know what unpredictable factors can get in your way (traffic, inclement weather, etc.) and make you tardy- so I always made it a point to go to bed at a reasonable time to ensure I got plenty of rest and woke up a little earlier than most people would have liked in order to shower, get dressed, eat a decent meal, grab a coffee- and still make it to my office in time to get myself ready for the day’s workload- even if I encountered traffic or bad New England weather on the way.

DVR that show that’s on a little too late at night. Lay out your outfit and pack up your bag/briefcase with the next day’s essentials the night before. Charge your phone/iPad/tablet/etc. while you sleep. Shower in the evenings if you absolutely need some additional time in the morning to get a few more minutes of rest. Keep your keys in a designated location so that you can just grab them when it’s time to head out the door. Order and pay for your morning latte from your phone so you can just pick it up and go– there’s plenty of ways to save yourself time at night and in the mornings to ensure you are not just skating into work and clocking in on the dot each and every day- but that you are rested, energized, early- and ready to put your best foot forward.

Trust me- employers notice this.

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Me & Social Media – Then and Now.

2. Get your social media under control.

I’ve been on various forms of social media since my late teens/early twenties- and I wish there were a way to create a flipbook detailing the way my photos/posts have evolved over those years. Drunken party or vacation photos have gradually morphed into less embarrassing photos of me and my dog, or pictures of things I’ve cooked/baked.  It’s not just because I’ve gotten older and a little more serious and aware of my surroundings (I absolutely still drink at parties and while on vacation, after all)– but because employers, both prospective and current- tend to check up on those associated with their companies/brands to make sure they are conducting themselves appropriately.

I know- it’s impossible NOT to be on some form of social media these days, and sometimes having to censor yourself can be downright exhausting- but I implore you to take full advantage of each site’s privacy settings if you absolutely and positively do not want your boss, co-workers or clients to see the results of your Saturday night out barhopping with friends, your thoughts on politics, or anything your crazy aunt/cousin/friend from high school who always says problematic and offensive stuff (we all have one) posts on your wall/tags you in.

Think before you post- “will this affect my job or my career if anyone sees it?” If not- go for it. If there’s a chance it might- it’s probably not a good idea to share it. If you still want to, just make sure yo put as much distance between yourself and your company/employer as possible so that any resulting issues cannot negatively impact or compromise your position, your job or brand. I never specifically name who my employer is anywhere at all- not even in any of my short bios on any sites I’m active on for that very reason.

3. Avoid office gossip at all costs. Worry about your own business and no one else’s.

At my last job at the firm, I briefly worked with a woman who spent all day every day gossiping about pretty much everyone she had ever come in contact with: former employers, people that worked in other businesses within our building, even my boss and his family. It made me extremely uncomfortable and I avoided her as much as I could without it creating tension in the office or negatively impacting my work- which was ultimately the best decision I ever made- since I found out shortly after I’d left my position in November that she’d started talking about me, too- speculating as to why I left and even going as far as to insinuate I’d had an inappropriate relationship with my boss.

So Cathy in accounting has the juiciest story about Mike in H.R. and that one girl who sits a couple of desks away from you keeps alluding to the fact that she has some dirt on one of your supervisors from a company Christmas party two years ago. As tempting as it can/could be to get the scoop (we live in a world that closely scrutinizes the words and actions of reality TV stars, after all)– I implore you- just avoid any and all office gossip. That is a slippery slope to go down, and it benefits no one. Worst of all? Apart from participating in and being a witness to the damaging of someone’s reputation/character- employers aren’t too fond of gossips, either- so you could also be damaging your own career and progress by associating with people who are too busy talking about others to do their actual jobs.

And let my own experience at my last job be proof to the popular saying- if someone is willing to talk about other people, then they’ll be willing to talk about you, too. Just avoid them and that unnecessary bad karma that comes with them.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for more responsibilities/a raise/a vacation- but just make sure your timing is right, first.

One of the most nerve-racking moments for me during my first professional career was standing in front of my boss’ desk and asking if I could take a few days off the following month in order to head out to California for a friend’s baby shower and to catch a surfing competition. I had only been at the firm for a few months when the invitation came- but I had never been late, had finished every assignment on time, and really wanted to go. I waited until the end of the day on a Friday afternoon- when everyone was in a good mood by default- before asking my boss for a moment of his time and timidly mentioning receiving the invite and my desire to take a couple of days off. He was more than accommodating and kind about it, which was a relief- and made eventually asking for a raise a LOT easier when the time came.

I know not all employers are so friendly, and some might not even give you the time of day to chat, let alone ask for a favor- but you have to develop the courage to ask for the things that will benefit you personally and professionally- and you have to hone in on perfecting your timing to better increase your chances of getting those things. Monday mornings are typically a bad time to ask for a raise/time off, as are the minutes following a stressful meeting- but when the timing is right (and you’ll know when it is. You’ll sense it)– go for it. Don’t be afraid!

5. Punch through that glass ceiling and don’t stop climbing.

One of the things I really like about my current employer is that it’s such a large, diverse company that there are literally a thousand and one different directions I can go. There are hundreds upon hundreds of positions I can fill and try my hand at- and they will adequately train me and make sure I’m a good fit for the job before they either let me do my thing in peace or find a different role for me that I might be better suited for. The possibilities are endless- which keeps me optimistic about my future in the company.

I understand that sometimes, particularly after a rough day or week- it can get downright discouraging if you feel that you’ve reached your full potential within your career and there’s nowhere else to go- but I assure you: there is always, ALWAYS room to grow and advance. You can never learn too much. You can never try too many things. Continue working hard and continue acquiring new responsibilities and skills. Keep an open mind and actively seek out new opportunities and positions within your company that interest you and which you believe you will find fulfilling.

Treat every day at your job like it’s your first day- and go that extra mile. Your employer will notice your enthusiasm and it will not go unrewarded. There is no glass ceiling if you shatter through it and keep on soaring.

I know that every workplace and environment is different- and those embarking on their careers will undoubtedly learn their own lessons along the way (I’m still learning new things in my current position!)– but I think the five tips I’ve listed above sort of transcend limitations and can be applied across the board to any professional job. They’ve helped shape who I am in my career- and I hope they can help shape others, too.

Thanks again to Casper for asking me such a complex and thought-provoking question. They’re a great company and are definitely worth checking out if you’re looking to update your mattress, sheets, and/or pillows anytime soon (young and seasoned professionals alike need a good night’s sleep, too!)

If anyone would like to share their own tips/advice for twenty-somethings entering any professional fields- feel free to share!

xx

Quick Eats: Lemon Bars

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My mom recently baby-sat my seven year old niece for a couple of days since her Summer vacation is officially underway but my brother and my sister-in-law’s work schedules haven’t changed quite just yet. My mom had a full itinerary for the whole two days- including arts & crafts, a Super Soaker watergun fight- and plenty of baking since my niece’s stomach is essentially a bottomless pit where no amount of food ever satisfies her hunger.

I digress. Apart from cookies, brownies, and pastries- the two made boxed lemon bars my mom had picked up on a recent shopping trip. Since I have a love of all things lemon in the Summertime- I had stopped by during my lunch break to pick up a couple to take back to my office with me- only to be told they had come out horrible and tasted like “battery acid” (my mom’s descriptions are really great, for the record.)

Sure enough, when I opened my mom’s refrigerator to take a look for myself- I was greeted by the most unappetizing and orange (I’m still not sure why or what happened there?) colored lemon bars I’d ever seen in my life. I thought for sure my niece, who would eat literally ANYTHING– would be excited about them- but even she was grossed out by their taste and texture.

Inspired by their kitchen disaster, I decided to seek out a lemon bar recipe on my own- and voila! I found this one through PureWow that seemed easy enough. I gave it a try- with my mom present- to show her how it’s done.

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 16 ounces refrigerated sugar-cookie dough
  • 2¾ cups sugar
  • 1 cup (plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 7 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • Confectioners’ sugar, as needed for finishing

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper with nonstick spray.

2. Press the sugar-cookie dough into the base of the prepared pan in an even layer. Dock all over with a fork and transfer to the freezer to chill for 10 minutes.

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3. Bake the cookie crust until it’s lightly golden at the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. When you remove the pan from the oven, hit it firmly on the counter to help flatten the crust. Let cool while you make the filling.

4. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F. In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and flour to combine. Whisk in the lemon juice, eggs and lemon zest. Mix until well combined.

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5. Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Bake until the filling is set and lightly golden at the edges, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool completely.

6. Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar all over the surface. Cut the bars into 12 even squares, and then cut each square in half to make two triangles. Serve immediately or keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve.

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These bars were awesome. They were gooey, tangy- and actually yellow (the way they’re supposed to be!) I actually had some extra filling left over from this batch that I used to make a lemon custard that turned out just as delicious. I’m really looking forward to making more of these throughout the Summer. They’re a perfect and refreshing treat!

xx