An American Girl in Milan

Shopping at Duomo square

My Milanese street style
the most delicious gnocchi! 
hanging in Duomo square
Milanese pizza with ultra fresh cheeses and prosciutto
Duomo Cathedral, Milan

On Thursday we took a train ride through the picturesque French countryside, on the way to our next destination: Milan.

As soon as we got settled into our hotel, we headed to see the cathedral at Duomo. It is centered in a large shopping area with lots of restaurants and cafes so we took advantage of the opportunity to people watch as well. Milanese women are impossibly chic! And, it seems, have a strong preference toward luxury items as it appeared that most of them sported only Louis Vuitton or Gucci bags on their arms and much of the shopping in the Duomo area is the same--with Chanel, Prada, Dior, Miu Mui, McQueen, and just about any other luxury designer you can think of, to boot. It is wonderfully drool worthy.

For dinner we chose outdoor seating at Mercanti Caffe where we had our first taste of the tantalizing morsels that are authentic Italian food. We shared gnocchi, seafood risotto, pesto pasta, tortellini and the most delightful prosciutto and mozzarella plate. It was a refreshing change from Paris where we were satisfied more visually with the amazing sights. We knew that in Italy--it would be about the food!!

After luscious, deep sleep with the aid of pre-bed aromatherapy, compliments of the hotel and a huge breakfast buffet spread of cream filled croissant, fresh fruit, eggs, cold meats and cheeses, fresh juices and more, we were so refreshed and ready for a laid back day of shopping on Friday. We found cute little boutiques and a jewelry shop to snag gifts for ourselves and for our loved ones.

At the recommendation of the hotel concierge, Da Berti was our dinner place for the evening, so we could experience an authentic, multi-course Milanese meal. Da Berti had wonderful ambiance and looked sort of like a rustic farmhouse that had been converted into a restaurant, with dark wood furniture, exposed beams in the ceiling and shelving stacked high with vintage bottles of wine. The menu we shared consisted of fontina and Gorgonzola cheeses, salami, ham, cotta, mushroom risotto, ravioli with pumpkin flour, saffron and Parmesan cheese, boiled cod with mashed potatoes as well as braised beef with palenta. Each course was more yummy than the last, and I'd have to say my favorite was the pumpkin filled ravioli! I don't usually like pumpkin very much, by after having that--I am a believer. We each chose our own desserts to finish the meal; mine was a rich, smooth white chocolate mousse.

Milan was the perfect city for a jaunt in-between Paris and Rome (our next destination) as in each of those cities, we had heavy sightseeing agendas. But in Milan we had an opportunity to rest and re-group before our next city!

Read more more about my travel in these posts:

Improve Your Outlook on Life with a Bit of Positive Thinking {Guest Post}

I think I’m becoming allergic to negativity. Admittedly, I’m a happiness junkie and I love to be around people that inspire me. So naturally, when I’m around buzz killers and miserable people, my spirit has an adverse reaction and I feel personally responsible for changing the energy around me. It’s a blessing and a curse, I tell you. Recently, I was talking to a colleague at work and couldn’t help but notice how negative he was about absolutely everything. None of his criticism was directed at me, so it wasn’t a contentious conversation at all. Still, by the time I left his office I was exhausted from trying to deflect his toxic energy. I wanted him to see that his attitude was making everything seem worse than it really was. I don’t know if I was effective or not. I probably just annoyed him with my incessant optimism. 

As much as he was down on everyone and everything around him, I really believe that his own self-perception was at the root of it. When you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s hard to feel good about anyone or anything else. This guy is the type who is just unimpressed with everything. Do you know anyone like that? Hey, maybe one could argue that I’m at the opposite extreme and I’m too easily impressed with simple things. But there are so many benefits to appreciating people and situations for what they are without feeling the need to judge.

The absence of judgment helps us to appreciate reality for what it is. Don’t believe me? I’ll give you some examples of how positive thinking is way cooler than negative thinking any which way you look at it.

Everyone is on a different journey. Who’s to say that your way of thinking is the way that everyone should think? If you always set out to prove others are wrong, it will only bring more resentment and narrow mindedness into the world. If you ask me, there’s already enough of that.

It’s easy to talk about someone who is frustrating or angering you. But if you want an actual solution, the only way to initiate that is to actually talk to the person and address the issue. If you don’t agree with them, tell them. But don’t judge them and talk smack to everyone else. You’ll feel better and have a better reputation for being direct and honest.

Many people use negativity as a defense mechanism, which in effect keeps them from broadening their perspective. Instead, why not identify solutions and stop complaining?

There will always be highs and lows in life. Instead of acting like this is a surprise, be awesome and learn how to ride the waves. In other words, accept the lows and learn from them.

Recognize the representative. Usually what you see is simply what people choose to show. Keep in mind that everyone is coping with something. Everyone.

All in all, negative thinking is just not sexy in any way, shape or form. If you want to feel better, look better and attract more positive experiences – then you have to change your thinking.

“What you give out will be returned to you. Get rid of your bad thoughts, inferior attitudes and limited behaviors and good will be attracted to you. It's not easy. It's not magic. But it works, miraculously.” -Author Unknown

- GG 

*photos via Tumblr

How to Maintain Friendships: Passion {Guest Post}

It is amazing, but I have been able to maintain grade school friendships, as well as incorporate new friends from college and "grown up" life--all in to one fabulous circle... How? It's simple... Passion. 

Friends! How many of us have them? Well according to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest I have about 1072 "friends" and counting, but the friends that really matter are the ones that you can pick up the phone and call and they'll be there when you need them.

This month I celebrated 20 years of friendship with a few of my favorite gals. It is amazing to me that an 8th grade relationship can still be as vibrant as it was back in the 90s...let's be honest, some marriages don't last this long. 

I think the one thing that makes my girlfriends stick together is that we all have a passion for the same things. Our lives are mini mirrors of each other's and we tend to gravitate towards the same likes and dislikes. I can find a piece of me in all of my friends, whether it is their style, their hobbies, their career choices, or even the way they talk! 

I prefer to only remember the good times that we have as friends, but there have been some rough moments just like any relationship. I can say with full confidence that we take those moments and use them to make our bond stronger. We never have to repeat the same "fight", because no one ever likes the way we feel when it's happening. 

Our friendships have stood the test of time, through marriages, kids, and relocations. As the first married person in our circle, it was difficult in the beginning to blend my married life with the life of my single/dating friends. We've all been in the situation where our friends call us to go out, or go on a girls weekend and we say "no" and look like the party pooper. The great thing about my friends, is they respected my marriage and understood my priorities had changed. I may not have been able to speak to them everyday, hang out every weekend or head out to the mid week happy hour, but what they could count on was being able to pick up the phone even if we hadn't spoken in weeks and for our conversation to be as fluid as if we had just spoken the day before. 

I consider myself the "glue" of many of our circles; I am not sure how I did it, but I have successfully merged my childhood friends, my college friends and my married friends into one great friendship. I recently moved from the east coast to the west coast, and worried that all those external friendships would fade away, but when the friends from each sector planned a trip to come visit me together, I knew that they still had the same passion for the friendship that I did! 

Writer, Edna Buchanan once said, "Friends are the family we choose for ourselves". I couldn't have chosen a better "Family".

Leeann J. Sands

An American Girl in Paris - Days 2-3

On our second day in Paris, breakfast-on-the-go was the order of the morning. The pastry shop near our hotel served the most delicious quiche, with crust that tasted like soft buttery croissants.

We hopped on L'Open Tour, an open bus tour that would take us around the entire city, allowing us to hop on and off at our desired tourist sites. We passed some of the most beautiful neighborhoods and admired the unique architecture on the buildings before stopping to stroll Champs Élysées, and marvel at the Arc de Triomphe. We stopped at the Musèe de Louvre as well, but didn't get to go inside as it was closed for the day.

After a quick meal, we headed to the new W Hotel in L'Opera for cocktails. I tried a "cockteal", a breakfast tea served with alcohol, which was absolutely delicious! Our final stop of the day was for dessert at a sweet little cafe called Cafe Latera.

Our final day in Paris found us spending the morning at Versailles, touring the castle and gardens; shopping for souvenirs in the Latin Quarter; and trying out the French version of Spanish food at Barrio Latino.

gorgeous entry way in Marie Antoinette's home at Versailles
Hall of Mirrors: the most enchanting thing at all of Versailles (in my opinion)
strolling along the Champs Elysees
Parisian street sign
Arc de Triomphe
an evening dessert: light Pana cota
aboard L'Open Tour 
Eiffel Tower against a perfect blue sky!
Perfectly spiced caramel popcorn at the W Hotel L'Opera
"Cockteals" at the W. English breakfast tea with Baileys and tiny Oreos to snack on

Read more of my travel diary in these posts:

An American Girl in Paris - Day 1

Our first day in Paris was amazing! We arrived super early in the morning and our rooms weren't ready for check-in, so we decided to grab breakfast and jump right into sightseeing. After omelets and frites (yes, French fries for breakfast) we headed off in search of Notre Dame--which our airport cabbie told us was 10 minutes away from our hotel. We would soon discover, throughout the course of the day, that Parisians are of the belief that everything in the city is just a 10 minute walk. It took us a bit longer than that to arrive at the famous cathedral, but we just kind of got lost in the sights and sounds of the city, and eventually we made it.

After checking in and taking quick naps to help adjust to the time change, we set out for the Latin Quarter, a really cute and funky neighborhood with cute little vintage shops, cafes and an open market. We took on the relaxed attitude of the city and enjoyed a long luxurious dinner with several bottles of wine; followed by gelato for dessert--then walked around some more, enjoying the warm air and Paris at night.

The city really seems to come alive once the sun goes down, becoming resplendent with twinkling lights and full of people enjoying themselves--staying out late to enjoy cafe or vino with friends.

beautiful presentation of these scallops with mashed potatoes
Our first dinner in Paris
Notre Dame
AB and me in the cab headed for the Latin Quarter
Latin Quarter
Mango and Chocolate gelato! yum!

For more of my travel diary, check out these posts:

Falling into the New Season: How a Recent College Grad Transitions to Fall {Guest Post}

I’ll have to admit…fall is my favorite season, and the season in which I play around with my style the most. Believe it or not, I find joy in packing away all of my awesome tanks, dresses and shorts, and pulling out all of the stops with denim, leather, leggings and sweaters; and in saying goodbye to flip flops and hello to a cozy pair of oxfords or a funky pair of boots. This fall is my first since making the transition from college girl to big girl--which means taking some of my classic fall looks and making them a bit more grown up.

above look - Oxfords by: Not Rated / Jeans: skinny denim forever 21 /
Sweater: Forever 21 / Accessories Forever 21

I’d like to share a few key items that help me fall into my favorite season.

Sweaters: I’m a sucker for a good sweater. I feel you can never go wrong with them, and due to the versatility of this piece of clothing, there is the “perfect sweater” out there for everyone. There is nothing like the feeling of being wrapped up in one big personal hug all day. Personally, because I am a smaller lady (standing at a wonderful 5’2) I love the look of over-sized sweaters on me. It’s always fun to dress them up with a pair of leggings, a skirt and tights, or to even keep it simple with a pair of jeans.

Leggings/Jeans: I’m all for being Comfy, Cute, and Cozy while dressing for fall. I live for a wonderful pair of leggings on a fall day for pretty much any occasion. The most exciting part about leggings to me is the way they offer the ability to dress up or down any outfit; they’re perfect with a sweater or a longer shirt. Jeans also offer versatility in my wardrobe. In the fall I always stick to a darker pair of denim (deep blue, or black) or a nice relaxed earth tone to celebrate the season.

Fancy Footwear: In my opinion I feel that oxfords are the perfect shoe to define fall fashion. Whether it’s a classic pair of flat ones or a flashy pair with a slight heel, I always find the perfect balance of comfort and classy. However on the cooler days and nights of the fall, I have never been steered in the wrong direction with a pair of sleek knee high boots. As with everything I’ve mentioned, what I love the most about both is their versatility!

Accessories: No outfit is complete without prime accessories, and neither am I. I like to go all out; I have to have earrings, necklaces, and bracelets (lots of them)! I find joy in picking out perfect themes whether its flowers, catchy sayings or bows, I live for a fancy piece of costume jewelry…and how can I forget: scarves!! 


Oxfords: Not Rated / Pants: Forever 21 / Shirt: Forever 21 / Accessories: Forever 21

I’m all about having fun and being slightly over dressed for the moment. Whether I choose any of the above looks or re-create a look seen on my favorite celeb this season I’ll be sure to fall into my own updated style with ease.

What looks will you fall into and make your own this season? 

- Tati (blog coming soon!)

Paris, Milan, Rome!

Happy Friday Lovies! Hope you have had the best of weeks. Mine has been more hectic than usual because I am headed to Europe on Sunday! I have been working and researching and making lists and packing and buying things to pack--and I'm still not finished. But I am beyond excited to get everything completed and head off on this magical trip for 10 days, with 5 of my girlfriends to 3 amazing cities. 

So I am headed on vacation and you are in for a treat. A few of my loves agreed to pen fabulous guest posts for me for while I am away. These ladies are all fantastic writers and/or bloggers as well, and I'm so excited to share their different perspectives and writing styles with you. Over the next two weeks, please check in to enjoy:

My little sister Tati's perspective on the transition from summer to fall / college student to grown-up style. 

While I am traveling abroad, my former college buddy, Reginia, is actually LIVING abroad now. She gives her tips on how to effectively plan for a life outside the U.S. 

My good friend Leeann--blogger, Momo Momma, kick-butt black girl running and MD to Cali transport--writes about what it takes to maintain amazing friendships

The bestie, GG, in her beautifully raw and transparent way, reminds us of how important it is to have a positive outlook on life--internal dialogue determines the external experience! 

And finally, I will be doing my best to give updates and post photos from my travel. Have a wonderful weekend!

*photo (source)

Posh Tip: Plan a Stay-cation

Summer vacation season has ended, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still treat yourself to a sweet escape. There are tons of ways to plan local activities that make you feel like you’ve gone away, so why not take advantage and plan a stay-cation? They’re less expensive and may not even require you take time off from work.

Local Winery

Take advantage of the free or moderately priced tours at wineries near you. Spend the day learning something new and sipping on delicious vino. Some wineries even have restaurants on campus where you can have a pairing dinner to extend the experience. Then take your favorite bottle home, and continue to enjoy!

Historical Tour

Don’t wait until you visit someone else’s city to do all hit all the tourist sites and cool things each has to offer—spend time getting to know your town and learning about its history. Take advantage of one of the tour packages offered through your city’s tourism bureau and see everything with fresh eyes. You’d probably be surprised at how much you’ll learn!

Weekend Hotel Stay

Sometimes there’s nothing more relaxing than momentarily shucking responsibilities in favor of spacing out and clearing your head. Let someone else do the cooking and cleaning for the weekend while you luxuriate under down comforters or in a warm bath. Spend the weekend at a hotel in that area of the city where you’ve been dying to hang out—or that really quiet B&B that will get you away from the noise of the city.

Spa Day/Spa Weekend

The word “spa” pretty much speaks for itself. What can put you in a trance faster than a day—or a full weekend—at the spa?! Go get yourself manicured, massaged, kneaded, waxed, wrapped and just all around pampered by the professionals.


Take advantage of the last days of temperate weather by spending a few hours outside in the sun. Pack a picnic basket with your favorite treats, grab your favorite person or people and head to the nearest park to spread a blanket in the grass. The fresh air and great company will help you to feel invigorated and refreshed.

Even if leaving the house doesn't appeal to you, but you want the luxury of vacating from the outside world for just a little while to recharge, you can always lock your door, close the blinds, turn off your phone and other devices and completely unplug.

What’s your favorite way to stay-cation?

*edited photo. original (source)

What I Learned from My Whole30 Experience

I first saw mention of Whole30 on Instagram as two bloggers I follow—Style Activist and Grit and Glamour—commenced the program a few months ago. From there I was led to the Grit and Glamour blog, where I read more about V’s experience with the program; what resonated with me most was that she too struggled with eczema issues and that Whole30 had helped tremendously with that. She also touted better rest and more energy—and as someone who almost always felt tired and drained, I was pretty much sold.

So what is Whole30? In a nutshell, it is a 30-day food program designed to detox your body, and help get rid of food cravings and addictions to things like sugar and processed foods. While on Whole30 you are encouraged to eat only “whole” foods that are produced in nature. The Whole9 way of eating—from which Whole30 is derived—has been likened to the paleo or “Caveman” diet, which consists of eating mainly proteins (meat and fish), fruits and veggies. I already maintain a pescatarian relationship with food (or a lacto-ovo vegetarian one, depending on who you’re talking to), meaning that I don’t consume any meat—just some fish and seafood, along with eggs, fruits, veggies, etc. While the two food lifestyles are very different, I’m no stranger to restricted eating, so again I figured—I can do this.

For the best level of detail about the Whole9 lifestyle and Whole30 program, I’d really recommend checking out the Whole9 website; having done it just once, I’m certainly not an expert. But here’s what you need to know for the purposes of this post: While on the Whole30 program I could NOT consume any sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes (this includes soy) or dairy. But I could enjoy as much meat (ha!), fruits, veggies and nuts as I wanted. After checking out the site’s resources on doing this program safely as a vegetarian and without soy, I got busy! 

And I loved the program. I won’t pretend it wasn’t difficult to have to pre-plan and cook every single meal at home because it was hard as hell, especially because The Kid would have nothing to do with this “crazy thing Mom was doing”, which meant preparing for two sets of meals per day. I won’t pretend it wasn’t difficult finding substitutes for the ridiculous amounts of food on our grocery store shelves that contain trace amounts of sugar, beans, peanuts or soy—because it was hard as hell. But I digress. There are, thankfully, tons of resources on how to remain compliant to the program, and they helped a ton.

Here’s what I gained:

Clear skin. My raised, itchy eczema patches had already begun to flatten and fade by day 4 of the program. The skin on my face developed the most awesome glow, and the skin on my body was ridiculously soft. It’s always soft because, you know, I’m a woman and I like moisturizers and things—but this was on a whole ‘nother level (pun intended).

Flatter stomach. Also by day 4, my tummy had already begun to flatten and to look and feel less bloated. This continued throughout the duration of the program.

Better rest/more energy. By day 5, I was sleeping literally like a rock. It seemed like my body started to regulate itself by the exact amount of rest I needed. Around 9:30 or 10pm every night, I would start to crash; my mind and body would seriously, just shut down on me and I had to sleep. The next morning, I was up at 6am like clockwork (and the kind of funny thing is that I couldn’t drag myself out of bed before 6am). I didn’t drink any coffee during the program because I do not enjoy the taste of black coffee at. all. Each morning I had 4 oz of Kombucha and a bag of Yogi perfect energy tea, and that was all I needed (if, in fact, I really need them either).

More dresses. Amazingly, by day 13, I was able to fit into dresses in my closet that I haven’t been able to wear for at least a year.

Here’s what I lost:

- 5 lbs.
- An inch off my waist
- 1.25 inches off my stomach
- 10 inches off each thigh (what the?! seriously??!!! awesome!)
- Cravings for sugar and coffee (my vices)
- 2 minutes from my mile, yay! I had kind of hit a wall with my running so it felt really really great to finish faster.

And probably most importantly, here’s what I learned:

Days 1-3 of the program basically suck, as your body adjusts to the new nutrients it is receiving. I was fairly ravenous for most of days 2-3 and had to eat about every 2 hours (which is not recommended—you want to get to the point where you’re having just three nutrient rich meals per day).

Dairy and/or soy seem to be big contributors to my issues with eczema. I’ve slowly introduced some dairy back into my diet in preparation for my trip to Europe (go to Italy and not eat pizza? Puh-lease), and since I have, my eczema has flared horribly, and my skin feels paper-thin again. Not so much fun, but I have prescriptions that help in the meantime.

Planning Whole30/Whole9 compliant meals is a HUGE part of the lifestyle. It’s really important to especially follow the travel tips and take your own food with you when traveling. I was headed into my last week of the Whole30 program when I went to Atlanta for Fro Fashion Week, and because I was running late for the airport I didn’t even have an opportunity to grab snacks. Then, there were only 2 things on the entire hotel menu that I could actually consume—one of which was kind of pricey—so I ate the other almost THE ENTIRE TIME I WAS IN ATLANTA. Not fun at all—not to mention, it wasn’t the most nutrient dense or filling dish so I was starving for most of the weekend. As much as I fought to hold out for the full 30 days, I ended up having a croissant with breakfast on our last day in Atlanta just to feel full. And then, after getting a spoiled fruit salad and having zero luck finding a trail mix that didn’t have peanuts or sugar in it at the airport—I finally broke down and ate a Kind bar, which is a healthy snack! But also a non-Whole30 compliant snack. So technically, my adventure ended at day 24, although I didn’t reintroduce any other non-compliant foods until after day 30.

So as I said, I actually loved being on the program. I felt amazing and my body responded really positively! After I return from Europe, I will be doing Whole30 again; and even after I’ve completed the 30 days, I will likely be cutting dairy from my diet indefinitely, as well as severely limiting pasta (another weakness) and grains. I found some amazing recipes while on the program as well so I can’t wait to try those! I wish I had taken more before/after style photos so I could share those with you guys, but I honestly wasn't sure if I would be sharing my experience at all. Next time!

Has anyone else tried the Whole30 program? What was your experience?

In My Closet: Aigner Riding Boots

The countdown to Europe is on--just 5 days and counting! I wanted a pair of sturdy but comfortable riding boots to wear and walk in while we're doing our tourist thing. Though I have a pair already, I was attracted to this Etienne Aigner pair because they're both black and brown, which will enable me to wear them with more outfits. I originally found this season's boot at Macy's for about $160, but just before I bought them AB spotted last year's version at Marshall's for just 1/3 of the price! And there are only subtle differences between the two seasons, like the style of the insignia and the placement of the hardware--so obviously, I snatched them up. Can't wait to wear them!

Perfectly Priced: Classic Camel Coat

If you're a girl with a penchant for the classics (as I am), you'll love this classic caper coat with houndstooth lining from Modcloth. Pairing two feminine details: capelet sleeves and a belted waist, it is the perfect accent to beautiful dresses; and ideal for layering to keep the chill off while you travel or run errands. This camel beauty is perfectly priced at $140. 

Classic Caper Coat - Modcloth

6 Must-Have Scarves for Fall

One of my favorite accessories for fall is the scarf. Its perfect dual functionality keeps you cozy and adds extra sizzle to even the simplest of outfits. And there are tons of ways to wear it, from preppy to boho, that allow you to change up your look whenever the mood strikes.

Savvy Style Chat {AB, Freelance Marketing & Promotions}

Savvy Style Chat is a monthly series, featuring ridiculously stylish, savvy women with great stories to tell, and AB is one such woman. You already know that she has a pocket full of beauty tips because of her monthly  posts here on this site. But what you may not have known is that she is also super duper stylish--and enviably photogenic to boot. For our October Chat I present...

AB / Freelance Marketing & Promotions / @AdrieneBoone

Wearing my favorite accessory: bold earrings! Earrings -- Ashley Stewart / Dress -- Monif C.
What is your full time gig?

Federal Government Employee / Marketing Consultant

How does your occupation affect your personal style?

My full time occupation and my personal style don’t mesh well. I tend to go to work in very generic pieces: a basic pant or dark jean with a tank and cardigan are my standard uniform. My personal style peeps through, though, with a pair of fab earrings.

What other endeavors do you participate in and how do you transition your wardrobe throughout the day to meet the needs of these various roles?

I am involved in a lot of activities. I am a freelance marketing and promotions consultant, I volunteer regularly with my Sorority, and I also serve on a development committee for my high school alma mater. I am in meeting after meeting on some days, and I generally will throw on a blazer or belted cardigan and heels for those. So I tend to dress it up for my obligations outside of my full time gig. Backwards I know.

For a daytime affair: Leather Jacket -- eloquii / Dress -- Nine West / Shoes -- Kenneth Cole / Bag -- Louis Vuitton / Earnings -- Custom Made by MoeMoe23

What are your favorite colors or textures to incorporate into your wardrobe or home decor?

I don’t think I am partial to any particular color in my wardrobe. However I am currently trying to finish decorating my master bedroom and I have very specific choices in mind for that. I had a headboard custom-made with a great subtly patterned fabric, and am using silver and black as anchor colors with a pop of turquoise blue to accent them. I am on the hunt for a great duvet cover, mirrored chest, and artwork for a blank wall. Ah, the joys of being a new homeowner!

What is your most favorite piece in your wardrobe and how often do you wear it?

I actually have multiple favorite items, but they are all similar: I’d have to say my various pairs of leopard print flats. They're perfect for running errands on a casual day, but I often dress them up with a cute ensemble for events as well!

How do you make time for beauty in your routine?

My daily routine is pretty basic: cleanse, tone, and moisturize. Outside of that, I try to keep weekly and monthly schedules for treatments and my deep cleansing technique. This works for me, really well actually. We all get busy and we plan everything else in our lives--so I thought, why not schedule my beauty treatments too?

What hair and/or beauty product(s) can you not live without right now?

My Clarisonic Mia!!! It really revolutionized my skin care regimen! AWESOME PRODUCT! I’m not sure how I ever cleansed my face before!

I was feeling rather "boho-chic" on this day: Shirt -- Dots / Jeggings - Jessica Simpson / Boots -- Avenue / Bangles -- Mixed-n-Matched from my vast collection / Earrings -- Macy's

Where do you go to get inspired?

Inspiration is everywhere!!! Right now I love K Staton Boutique in Baltimore. The owner, Jade, is amazing and super helpful at aiding me in finding stylish pieces and great earrings. Instagram and Pinterest are great sources for inspiration for everything – clothes, shoes, nails, home décor, hair—really, everything! I am heading to Europe in a little over a week, and I’m really hoping to find some inspired pieces during my trip.

If a stranger walking past you on the street was asked to describe your signature look in one word, what word would that be?

ComfyFunkyNatural …that qualifies as one word right?! LOL!

{Just for fun} Flats or heels? Why?

FLATS!! Yes I know I am breaking some cardinal fashion rule somewhere, but flats are more comfy to me. You can only evoke true style and grace when you are comfortable and confident. However I do recognize that there are some ensembles that just need a pair of great heels! :-)

How to Balance Blogging with the Rest of Your Life

In an awe-inspiring moment of clarity and inspiration, you started a blog. And you were super excited about it for a while, dedicating all your free moments to crafting posts—but now the rest of your life has come calling and somehow what was, for a moment, your creative outlet and very favorite thing, has been pushed to the back burner. You want to be more regular with posting, and maintain that magical feeling that comes along with blogging. But how do you do it while balancing it with the rest of your life (full time job, relationship, kids, social life, etc)? In my experience, there are a few key things that can assist in this balance.

Decide on your purpose. Why do you blog? What do you hope to get out of it? What do you hope your readers will get out of it? Should it drive traffic? Keep distant family and friends updated? Is it just your creative outlet?

Decide how often you'd like to publish. Be realistic about what your schedule will allow. Decide which days you'll post and stick to that. If that means updating one day per week, then work on posting one day per week, on a consistent basis, until you master it. Then perhaps you can graduate to posting two times per week. Some people (and research studies) are also adamant that you publish your posts at the same time daily so that your readers know exactly when they can expect new content. (I have not quite mastered that one yet, but I do study my analytics, and am aware of what times of day my posts generate the most traffic.)

Set attainable goals. Based on your "why" decide what your goals are for each month (or each quarter if that is easier). Then jot down the steps you can take to meet those goals. Check in with yourself periodically and evaluate, at the end of the month, what worked and what didn't. What would you like to do differently for the month ahead? It helps to use a planner for this. I have a monthly desk planner, on which I like to write out my goal at the top of the page where I can constantly see it and remind myself to knock out the tasks that will get it to completion. This has actually helped me to increase my site traffic by $1k views per month over the last 3 months! I also like to keep affirmations and "to do" lists in the margin as reminders.

Keep an editorial calendar. Managing your content on an editorial calendar will give you the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you will write about in advance of the day you need to post it. This allows you to craft the story, find photos, edit graphics, etc. You can also use this calendar to jot down your ideas as they come to you so that you can potentially use them for the next week or month. I like to plan out themes for each day of the week so that readers have an idea of what they can expect to see on Monday, versus the content I post on a Friday. Independent Fashion Bloggers has a great detailed post that takes a deeper dive into this.

Work ahead. As you’re taking your daily web stroll through Pinterest, or circulating through your favorite blogs and online mags, keep an eye out for photos or graphics styles that you like--that you could potentially use (being sure to attribute them to their source) or replicate on your own--that might work for your upcoming posts. On the writing front, tap out titles, phrases and paragraphs as they come to you creatively--you can always go back and piece things together logically as you edit later. Pre-scheduling posts is also a great way to work ahead. This way you know your content will be released on time, and you’ll feel less pressured about getting something posted when you have busier days.

Figure out what time of day works best for you to blog. I prefer to get up earlier in the morning to do my posts--when the house is quiet and there are no distractions. This is when my mind is fresh, my body is rested and I'm at my most creative. Generally in the evening I'm tired after work, errands, the kid's activities, cooking dinner etc. and I have little energy once all that is done.

Use visual inspiration as posts. You don't always have to write out full essays. Your readers just want know what speaks to you and inspires you, and sometimes all that takes is a photo or two.

Have you tried any of these tips in balancing your blog with your life? How have they worked for you?

Style Struck: Fall 2012 Inspiration

Chilly temperatures have reached us here in Maryland, prompting the casting aside of beautiful warm weather dresses and sandals, in favor of long sleeves and lush layers. We've known it was coming for awhile, but it's officially time to change out our wardrobes. Though spring and summer are my favorite seasons, I do relish the opportunity to switch it up in the wardrobe department, and add a bit of dimension to my style. It's fun to see how tights and a scarf can totally change the look of something.

In colder months I still gravitate towards very feminine looks, and continue to favor dresses and skirts over most everything else. Tall boots--both heels and flats--are a wardrobe staple as they are the perfect complement to just about everything, and do a wonderful job of making simple outfits, like leggings and a long sweater for travel or weekend errands, look more luxurious than they might be otherwise.

As always, there is tons of inspiration as I look to fall wardrobe fun. These are some of the looks I am currently inspired by.


What are some of your favorite looks for fall?

* photos via Pinterest

Perfectly Priced: Sperry Top-Sider Boot

Weather the fall storms and winter snow in style with this black quilted Sperry Top-Sider tall rain boot. It is made of a high gloss rubber that looks stylishly reminiscent of patent leather and is completely functional in that it makes water roll right off your feet--keeping them 100% dry. Perfectly priced at $78, this boot is a splash-worthy steal.

Sperry Top-Sider Women's Shoes, Pelican Tall Rain Boots - Macy's