Monday, November 30, 2020

Recent Reads

I really hit my reading stride this month. I've been leaning into all the coziness of wearing pajamas, being wrapped in a blanket, and getting sucked in to a good book. Here's what I've read over the last month or so.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
This was such a heartbreakingly beautiful book. I don't want to say too much about the plot, because it takes a while to really unfold and fully understand what's going on. It centers around the death of a main character, Vivek Oji (clearly, not a spoiler), and then trying to figure out what happened and why... but it's not a thriller, or a who-done-it. It's not light reading, but it really is beautiful and so moving.

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
I feel like this book has been making the rounds, so you may have heard of it already! It follows a fake bachelorette- style reality show, where the bachelorette is a plus-sized woman. It's a fun read, but it's also a smart one, and witty and insightful.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
In Sweetbitter, we follow a woman who leaves everything to move to New York and gets a job in a restaurant. It's kind of dark - there's lots of learning, and growing, and making mistakes. I'd already watched the TV show based on this book (with the same name), so I knew the gist of what happens - it's a mix of dark and romantic, about growing up and growing into your own.

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
I loved this one!! It's a collection of short stories, but the second half-ish of the book is devoted to the longer short story that the book is named after. It's about a governmental office that is started to correct historical inaccuracies. The story is riveting and surprising, and I wanted it to be longer!

The Boys Club by Erica Katz
This book follows a woman working for a fictional investment banking company (or something similar in finances, I don't really know a lot about that world), and what it's like working in what is the "boy's club" of finance. I sped through this one and really enjoyed it.

The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan
This story was really well-told - it looks at the underpinnings of celebrity, and how you can appear to be happy and to have the perfect life when you don't actually feel that way at all. It reminded me of Daisy Jones and the Six in that it's told from multiple points-of-view, and it made me think of my childhood and the celebrity pop stars of that era.

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
I already wrote a post (here) about how this book has been inspiring my attitude this fall/winter. It's such an interesting perspective into happiness, and how we can use our surroundings to shape our moods. Some of it (spending time with friends and family) is out-of-reach for now, but there are lots of fun, small suggestions in the book.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
This book wasn't exactly what I thought it would be when I picked it up. It follows a character who is given the opportunity to experience what her life would have been like if she had made different choices along the way. It was a bit cliche to me - it wasn't my favorite.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You, and Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han
You've likely either seen the Netflix adaptation of these books, or you've at least heard of them! I'm always firmly in the "the books were better" camp, so I knew that I needed to read these! I really enjoyed all of them - I know they're three different books, but I read them one after another so it felt like one larger novel to me. They're really fun reads!


Friday, November 27, 2020

Friday Favorites

Two posts in one day - who am I?! If you missed it earlier, I rounded up my favorites from today's sales here, but I didn't want to leave you without a Friday Favorites post - they're some of my favorites to write.

I hope that you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving, regardless of how you celebrated. I also hope you're able to take some time to yourself to relax this weekend - I know that I've been feeling pretty burnt out lately, and I'm prioritizing rest and time to decompress.

 

Now, on to the favorites!

Folklore on Disney+
This is the soothing release we needed this week. I listened to Folklore basically non-stop over the summer, and it is still constantly on repeat in my musical rotation. (I am not someone who gets bored listening to the same music over and over, much to the regret of the rest of my family!) It was so beautiful to be able to watch Taylor perform the songs "live," and to hear a little bit of the behind-the-scenes of each song. I'm linking to the trailer, but highly recommend watching the whole thing on Disney+!


Disabled and Expendable?
Alice Wong is one of my disability activist idols. She wrote this back in April, near the "beginning" of the pandemic, but her words feel especially fitting as we see another wave of COVID cases crashing down on us. "Disabled people are not acceptable collateral damage in this pandemic" is a sentence I feel like shouting at people sometimes!


Are you okay?
Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex wrote this heart-wrenching essay about her miscarriage, and about the collective stress and pressure that we're all dealing with right now. I think her reminder to ask people if they're okay, so that we can begin to heal, is such a small yet important question to keep in mind.

 

Run on Hulu
If you're active on the Internet at all, you may have seen a lot of chatter after the trailer came out for Sia's new movie, Music - where the lead character is an autistic girl but is being played by a non-autistic actress. The horror/thriller Run on Hulu is the perfect antidote to that - an (incredible!!) movie with a disabled main character played by a disabled actress. Aside from the casting itself, the movie was EXCELLENT and everyone should watch!


Our Place Pan on Sale!
This didn't make it into my Black Friday sales post, but this is a really great deal on the internet-famous pan! Using code SUPERSALE brings the total down to under $100, which is the cheapest that I've ever seen it.

Best of Black Friday Sales

I'm rounding up the best of the Black Friday sales that I've found! I know that this can be overwhelming, so I'm trying to limit it to places I actually shop that have good deals.

Also - make sure you check out my Instagram tomorrow for Small Business Saturday! I'll be highlighting my favorite small businesses there.


J.Crew

Use code FRIDAY for 50% off your purchase and 60% off sale items!

 

Madewell

Use code VERYMERRY for up to 50% off!

 

Amazon

No code needed.


Nordstrom

No code needed.

 

Ulta

No code needed.


Banana Republic

50% off, no code needed; cardmembers can use BRC10 for an additional 10% off.

 

Target

No code needed.


Bouqs

Use code BLACKFRIDAY for 25% off. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Staying Thankful This Thanksgiving

 I am, admittedly, not the biggest Thanksgiving person. Last year, I actually went with my parents and sister to DC for the holiday, which I did really enjoy. But this year does still feel a little bit different - I think it's because it's already been so long since we've been able to see friends and family, that it would've been really nice to have that time of togetherness this year.

But I know the right choice this year is to keep gatherings small and safe, with our immediate family only. Without getting too preachy or self-righteous, I will say that I've been on a ventilator before, and it is not fun. COVID cases are rising really quickly, and I know we all think that our family members are being safe and cautious, but safe means different things to different people. I'll just end this little plea by saying that it's really important to make cautious, smart choices in the short run to protect ourselves in the long run.

With all of that being said, what I'm trying to do this Thanksgiving is keep my mind on things that I have to be thankful for this year, even if it's not the ideal holiday. I thought that I'd share my list of what I'm thankful for today, and I'd love for you to do the same in the comments!

 


I'm safe and healthy
This is on the top of my list right now, and something that I think about all the time!

A more laid-back Thanksgiving
I don't know about you, but Thanksgiving can be kind of stressful around here - lots of preparation! I'm thankful that this year, we can have a more relaxed holiday.

Thanksgiving dinner at dinner time
A little bit silly, but when we have Thanksgiving with the whole extended family, we eat our meal around 1 PM so that it works with everyone's schedules. This year, I'm happy that we'll be able to eat dinner at dinnertime!

Pumpkin pie for breakfast
One of my favorite traditions is eating pumpkin pie while watching the Macy's parade. I'm so glad that I can still do that this year! Dessert for breakfast never fails to make me happy.

SMA-friendly holiday
Honestly, I think one of the best parts of the whole pandemic and quarantine for me has been how SMA-friendly it has been for me. So many less logistics to plan around, and so much more flexibility. It's been nice, and it's extra nice when holidays are involved.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Gift Guide: For the Home

I think that gifts from the home are going to be super popular this year - who wouldn't want gifts for the place that we're spending most of our time?! It's so nice to get gifts that make our homes feel a little more, well, homey. I rounded up all of my favorite things to give to the homebodies in your life.

 

Wall Print
My friend Alyssa recently opened an online shop, and is selling prints (among other fun things). I love the message in this one, and think it would be so sweet to gift to someone!


Nespresso
I'm such a fan of my own Nespresso - I use it every single day. This is a slightly different version than the one that I have, but honestly, I think you'd win gift-giver of the year from anyone you give this to. I've never appreciated a great at-home coffee maker more than I have this year.


Our Place Pan
I've been seeing this pop up everywhere! It's supposed to be an amazing, all-in-one, easy to use and clean pan. It'd be a great gift for the chef in your life! It's on sale right now with code SUPERSALE, but note that some of the colors won't ship until after Christmas.


Cheese Board
This is a gift looking towards happier times in the future when we can entertain again. I love that this cheese board folds up on itself for easier storage, and that it comes with little ramekins and cutlery, too.


ChappyWrap
Not the first gift guide that I'm putting a ChappyWrap on, but I just love it so much and think it makes the perfect gift! It really is such a cozy blanket and anyone would be so lucky to get one. It also makes a great gift for yourself, if you're the kind of person who buys a gift for yourself after also buying one for someone else (I am this kind of person).


Coffee for a Cause
Give the gift of caffeine! It feels like a little luxury in the morning to drink from a non "big box" coffee maker - sometimes the best gifts are the little things that you never want to splurge on yourself. This coffee shop donates 15% of their sales during the holiday season to benefit children with cancer. I love a business that gives back!

 

Rose Candle
This is my all-time favorite candle. I love the scent so much - it's not overpoweringly scented, and it's sweet without that fake-sweet scent that I really hate. It's just my version of a perfect candle.


Indoor S'mores Maker
I think this is just so cute! What could be better for a cozy night inside that making s'mores over this little mini fire? This would make sure a fun gift - it's not just an item, it's a whole night's activity.


Aerogarden
So many people have been getting into cooking and baking this year. With the temperatures dropping, outdoor gardens are done for the season for most of us! With an aerogarden, people can still grow fresh herbs for the new cooking experiments.


Sonos Bluetooth Speaker
Give the gift of music! This is, in my opinion, one of the very best Bluetooth speakers out there. It's definitely not cheap, so maybe go in with a few other people to gift this.

Monday, November 23, 2020

My Christmas Wishlist

 I thought it would be fun to pull together my own Christmas wishlist for a post. I feel like I should preface this by saying that really, I don't expect to get any of these! I love giving gifts, but when it comes to getting them, I've been told I'm not the easiest. I tend to buy myself things that I want when I see them, and I also tend to have fairly... specific tastes. Other people might call me picky! I prefer decisive. So this is just a fun list I've put together to share, with absolutely zero expectations attached.


Fancy Espresso Machine
I really do love my Nespresso, but this espresso machine is on my dream gift wish list. It uses real beans (rather than pods), but still has automatic steaming to make my daily cappuccinos. It's super expensive, I realize, and I don't need it, but it's something that I'd love to have!


Dyson Airwrap
This is another gift in the "want, but do not need" category. Since I already have a Dyson blow dryer, I can't justify this, but if I could it would definitely top my list! I love that it has so many different attachments that it can basically do everything  - it dries, it curls, it has a straightening brush. I'd never need another hair tool again.


Clutch Pouch
I actually shared this in my Small Business Gift Guide, but it's on my personal Christmas wishlist too! I love that it's a piece of an actual Broadway show, of course, and I also just think it's so chic.


Adaptive UGGs
These just make me so happy! I remember wanting a pair of UGGs so badly when I was in middle school. I love that they're now making pairs that I'd be able to wear - they zip up both sides so they're easy to get on and off - and even though I'm 32 and definitely not in middle school anymore, I still want a pair. I can actually fit in the kids size, but they make an adult version too.


Lake Pajamas
I've always loved a good pair of pajamas, but I've definitely spent more time in them this year than ever before. I've heard so many great things about how comfortable these pajamas are that I really want to try them out for myself!


iPad Magic Keyboard
I upgraded my iPad + Apple Pencil earlier this year, and this keyboard will complete the set. I've had iPad keyboards before, but none of the other ones I've used have the trackpad built in. It's genius!


Peaceful Resistance Charm
I love this charm from Catbird, and if I buy myself a gift this year off this list, this will probably be what I buy. I love the symbolism behind it - a peaceful girl with her fist raised in resistance. It seems really fitting for this year.


Silver Quilted Crossbody
Okay, honestly... I think that I like this so much because it reminds me of Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century. I cannot resist a silver bag, and I love everything about this one. I guess there's also a decent chance this one end up being mine, too.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Friday Favorites

The early darkness has REALLY been getting to me this year, more than ever before. It is really making the weeks feel extra long to me. This is to say that I'm really looking forward to taking some time off for Thanksgiving next week. I think I'm just feeling a bit of burnout, and the darkness and the cold are not helping.

 

Anyway... this week's favorites below!


Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney
This was a great interview/conversation between Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney - they talk about their creative processes, about their lives, and about fame vs. keeping things private.


Ina Garten's Kitchen
So many of the recipes I've made over the last few months have been from Ina Garten! I love the peek inside her kitchen... and I wish I had her collection of Le Creuset!


Furbo Pet Camera
I bought a Furbo during the Prime Day sale, and I have been loving it! I know it will be more useful when I'm actually leaving the house, but even when I'm at home it's fun to throw out the treats and get an alert when Lily is active/barking/hoping for a treat. It'd make a great gift... for a pet lover or for yourself!


Influencers and the Election
This was a really fascinating article about influencers speaking out about politics during the recent election. There's always been a tension between staying silent and keeping readers/customers vs. speaking out. I'm really glad that this is the direction we're moving in.


Dolly Parton and the COVID Vaccine
Of course Dolly Parton donated to help fund one of the COVID vaccine trials! I honestly didn't know much about her before I watched her documentary a few months ago, but I'm continually impressed by her and everything she does - business-wise and personally.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Mindfulness and Gratitude

 In my last Friday Favorites post, I mentioned that I'd written a little post for my friend Eliz's blog about mindfulness (you can read it here). She's doing a whole "Mindful November," and sending out weekly e-mails with little posts and reminders throughout the whole month.

 

Honestly, I can't think of a better time for a focus on mindfulness, and I'm so glad that Eliz brought this to the top of all of our minds. The numbers of COVID cases coming out of Allegheny County this week have been astounding and terrifying - they're the highest they've been yet, with no sign of them letting up. It is so, so easy to get overwhelmed and caught up in the cycle of bad news, and then things can just spiral in my mind so quickly.

But really - I know that I'm doing just about all I can in terms of being safe about COVID. So the rest of it is out of my control, and I need to get through these next few days, weeks, and months without being overwhelmed each day. So for me, that's where mindfulness and gratitude come in. To focus on being present in each day, I've been focusing on the small things each day that make me happy.

A Nespresso cappuccino or a Starbucks drive-through order brings me joy. Lily snuggling with me in bed brings me joy, as does watching her get excited about getting a treat. Getting sucked into a really good book, or an episode (or two or three!) of a great TV show. A beautiful moment when the sun breaks through the clouds after a rainstorm. Even just putting on an extra cozy sweater or blanket! It doesn't really matter what it is that makes you happy... it's just about enjoying the small moments, and being present in them. It's about not letting them go unacknowledged because you're too busy thinking ahead, about other things.

I know this mindset doesn't do anything to change what's happening out in the world. But it really can change what's happening internally. And in a time when so much feels out of control, changing how you feel and how you react can go quite a long way.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Gift Guide: Small Business Edition

 I'm really making a concerted effort this year to support small businesses whenever I can. And shopping small for your holiday shopping is the perfect way to do that! Just a reminder - some of these shops might take a bit longer to ship, and are likely dealing with a different than usual work flow, so shopping early is best.

I'm sharing some of my favorite small business gifts below. Do you have a favorite small business you're shopping from this holiday season? Let me know in the comments!

Pothos Planter
I know so many people have been really growing their indoor gardens and greenhouses this year! This is a low-maintenance plant that comes in a cute little planter. It's a great gift for your own household and can also be shipped anywhere in the US!


CBD Gift Set
This is the perfect gift set for anyone interested in getting started using CBD. (You can read about my experience with CBD here.) It comes with their limited edition cranberry elderflower daily CBD drops, and set of their dynamic roller duos.

Don't forget - you can use the referral code REFHEATHER.TOMKO to get $20 off your first order!

 

Pajama Set
These pajamas are on my own personal wishlist! They're supposed to be the softest and most comfortable set of PJs, and also really long lasting. Giving the gift of comfy PJs/loungewear is more perfect this year than ever! 

 

ChappyWrap Blanket
I've shared about my love of my ChappyWrap before! It's the perfect blanket and therefore the perfect gift. This one is holiday-inspired without being so Christmas-y that you can't use it other times of the year, too. (And it's machine-washable!)

 

Macarons
This could have been part of my Pittsburgh gift guide, too - they're a local patisserie. Their macarons are absolutely incredible, and they ship nationwide! I love gifts like this that are tasty and special. (Their coffee, Nutella, and sea salt caramel flavors are especially delicious.)


Initial Necklace
I wear my little "H" from Suetables so often - I've been wearing it in so many pictures that I've posted here! It's subtle and chic, and I love anything personalized. It's such a great gift. And if you're not looking for an initial pendant, they have so many other beautiful options too.


Champagne Coupes
Okay, these are just absolutely gorgeous! They're hand-blown glass champagne coupes. I love this blue color, but there are so many other colors, too. What a perfect celebratory gift they'd make - perfect for anyone planning to toast in the New Year!


Candle
This is from the same non-profit that made my Vote tee! Their profits go towards family support, advocacy, and research about SMA, and accessible playgrounds, which is so cool. I love a great-smelling candle, and having candles lit makes things feel so much cozier and homier, too.


Desk Calendar
Each year, these watercolor desk calendars sell out quickly, so if you're gifting one make sure to order early! It's the perfect addition to anyone's work-from-home desk - just makes you a little bit happier each time you look at it.


Personalized Stationary
I love my personalized notecards - I've been writing so many short notes to friends and family this year! Personalized stationary is the perfect heartfelt gift that's also useful. And the stationary I have from Papier is such great quality, too. How cute are these stars and moons on this one?

Click here to get $20 off your first order!

 

Clutch Pouch
I love this pouch from Scenery - they repurpose curtains/backdrops/etc. from Broadway shows and turn them into these cute clutches! This one comes from the curtain of Kinky Boots, and I think the addition of the gold detailing just adds that little something.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Working from Home Update

I wrote a post about working from home back in April (you can read that post here), but since I've been working from home for over six months now, I thought it might be good to do an updated post. I feel like I've really gotten into a good groove now with my WFH situation.

I'll start off by saying that honestly, I'm really liking working from home. I have never been someone who thrived on social interaction during my work day - even in the office, there would be days where I didn't really see other people! So I'm quite comfortable with the solitary aspect of working from home. And from a disability perspective, it makes a lot of things logistically easier, especially in the colder months. Of course, I miss being able to run to Starbucks, see friends and coworkers, but overall, I'm not itching to get back to spending 5 days in the office. I'm crossing my fingers that at least partial working from home continues long-term!

By now, I feel like I have really found the best ways to make working from home work for me. Here's what's been working for me (pun intended).


Sticking to a Routine
This has been HUGE for me. I don't have the same routine every day, necessarily, but I have do to some version of a morning routine. I have to at least wash my face, brush my teeth, and change out of PJs. Some days I shower and get fully dressed, and other days I just wash my face and change into a cozy top, but I do some version of a morning routine so that I feel like my day really starts. It's really helped me get into the right mindset for starting my work days.

 

Focusing on Work-Life Balance
This is also really key for me! I think it's become really easy for work time and personal time to start to blend right now. If you're in the middle of something for work, it's easy to get wrapped up and just keep working until you finish it, and then by the time you realize it, it's 8:30 at night! 

I try REALLY hard not to let this happen. I don't necessarily stick to a strict 9-5 schedule, but I try to keep my evenings for me, and to be ok with keeping work tasks unfinished until the next day. Having that "me time" at the end of each day, even if I'm just watching something on Netflix or reading, has made my days much better. I think it's also helped me keep some semblance of feeling of control over my life right now, and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed.


Making a "Work Space"
I definitely talked about this in my first post, but I'm repeating it again because I think it's really important! Since I live with my parents, the desk that I've had for years is in my bedroom. But after working there for a few days, I quickly realized that I wasn't going to be my most productive self if I only worked from my room. So I got a simple desk that's easily stored, and put it in a different room in my house to work from. It's really helped me in feeling like I'm "at work" while at home. 

Now - I don't exclusively work from there! There are definitely days that I start working at the desk in my room and don't make it out of there before lunch. And I loved working out on my deck when it was warmer out. But having a dedicated work space that isn't my bedroom helps me when I need to really focus on something.


Finding My Organizational Style
This is actually something that I've been trying to figure out for years, but it's become more important now that so much of my time and tasks are self-directed. Working from home, there's no one to pop into my office and make sure I remembered to do a certain task, send an e-mail, etc. So making sure I'm staying on top of things and that nothing is slipping through the cracks has been even more important than usual.

I've been using a mix of high-tech and low-tech to stay organized. I rely heavily on my Google and Outlook calendars, and I use my phone and iPad to jot down digital lists of things on a day-to-day basis. But I also have been relying on paper lists and notebooks, too. I start making my weekly to-do list on Monday and then add to it/cross things off as the week goes along. (I use this one from Appointed and love it). The mix of digital and paper has worked best for me - I tried going fully digital but I just found myself forgetting things.


If you're also working from home, I'd love to hear what's been working for you! Let me know in the comments.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Friday Favorites

 I had a very "exciting" week this week - I actually left the house! I just went to a doctor's appointment, so nothing crazy, but it did feel surreal to be out and about in the world again. It was unfortunate that the cases are rising here so quickly at the same time as my appointment, but it didn't seem like waiting longer would be any better. It wasn't the ideal reason for "breaking quarantine," but I just keep reminding myself that sometime in the future I will, in fact, leave my house for something fun.


ONE - Remembering Alex Trebek
I am such a huge Jeopardy fan - it's going to be such a different show without Alex Trebek at the helm. It was really sweet to read so many people's memories of him and their time on the show.


TWO - Thoughts on Mindfulness
I wrote a little post for a friend that I met through Instagram (find her here!) about mindfulness. Check it out and make sure you give her a follow, too!


THREE - Gossip Girl Reboot
I recently re-watched all of the original Gossip Girl, so I'm super excited for the reboot. I love that they've done a lot to increase the diversity in the casting, and these pictures that they've released just look so good! I can't wait for the new episodes


FOUR - Waffle Stitch Sweater
This sweater is so comfy - it's the perfect slightly oversized fit. It's not a super heavy/warm sweater, but it's perfect for the weather right now.

 

FIVE - The Queen's Gambit
Have you watched this yet?! It's about a chess prodigy and her journey learning and playing the game. I know nothing about chess, but I still loved this show. I was initially drawn in by the clothes, but the characters and the plot really kept me interested. Highly recommend!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Embracing Hygge in 2020

Earlier this month (on Carly's suggestion) I read The Little Book of Hygge. I actually really enjoyed it, and I think that the hygge fad came before it's time - really, this is the year that embracing hygge is the way to go!

There isn't an exact translation for hygge, but as I understand, it's a combination of coziness and hominess, of feeling warmth and contentedness. It's about your surroundings, but also the people you surround yourself with - it's a feeling more than a tangible thing. But, of course, there are things you can do to make your life more hygge-like! And as we all face the prospect of spending a lot more time in our homes as we head into the winter months, I really think it's important to try to focus on being as hygge as possible.

In case you're like me, and want to make your life as hygge-like as possible right now, here's what I've been doing to embrace the hygge.


(Socially Distanced) Fires with Friends
I think that a crackling fire, a warm mountain pie, and a relaxed conversation with friends has to be one of the most cozy things that I can do right now. Having the fire pit and being able to extend the time I can see friends outside, even if it's just for a few more weeks, has been incredible for my mental health. It's so relaxing, and I feel so contended at the end of the evening.


Candles
The Little Book of Hygge recommends candles all around to create that warm, flickering light that makes everything look and feel so nice and home-y. They actually say that scented candles aren't used much, but I love catching a whiff of a perfectly-scented candle. I'm pretty picky about what scents I like and don't like, and my absolute favorite is this one from Rewined.


Books and Blankets
If I'm looking for a solo hygge activity, my go-to is reading while I'm wrapped in a cozy blanket, warm cappuccino or hot cocoa in hand. It is the ultimate relaxing and comforting activity for me, and I can pass hours without realizing how much time has gone by. Right now, this blanket from Chappywrap is my favorite (it's wheelchair lap sized!) and if you're not a wheelchair user (and not a child!), their original size blankets are your best bet.


Cooking Cozy Meals
There's something about the smell coming from the kitchen after you've been roasting dinner for an hour or two that's just so satisfying and comforting! I bought this dutch oven a few months ago, and I've already used it so much. I'm really looking forward to using it all the time over the next few months - coq au vin is the next "classic" that I want to try!


Game Nights
Whether you're playing at home with your family/roommates or virtually with your friends, just the act of spending time together and laughing at a game makes things feel much more cozy and joyful! The point of hygge is that it's the little things, the small moments, that make you feel most at peace, and spending time with loved ones (however you can) goes a very long way towards that. I've been having Jackbox game nights with friends, and always end those nights feeling so happy!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Gift Guide: Pittsburgh Edition

 It seems like a lot of people are starting their holiday shopping early this year. I'm resolving to do the same, especially because I likely will need to allow time to ship people gifts rather than giving them in person. With this in mind, I'm going to start sharing gift guides (one each week). If you're not ready to think about holiday shopping yet, feel free to skip over these posts for now!

To kick off the gift guides, I wanted to start by highlighting local Pittsburgh businesses. This year more than ever, I'm trying to patronize small, local business when I can. This has been a difficult year for everyone in retail, but for small business in particular, so buying gifts locally can be an easy way to support them. A few of these small business are owned by family/friends - I'll disclose that for each one!


Stone and Sparrow
Stone and Sparrow is a small-batch ceramics business. They make so many gorgeous things, but I particularly love this blue and white coffee mug. If you want to buy a set, you can contact them and they'll make them to order! This would make such a great gift for family/friends who moved recently... or really for anyone, since we're all spending much more time at home.


Commonplace Coffee
Of course, if you're gifting a coffee mug, you have to include some local coffee beans, too! The morning blend from Commonplace is the coffee that I personally drink each morning, and it's a great way to start the day. They ship, and you can let them know if/how you'd like the beans ground, too.


Danielle Bernard Designs
I found Danielle via Instagram and was instantly obsessed. Her bags are all handmade, and they're so chic and gorgeous! She often posts behind-the-scenes in her Instagram stories and I love seeing the pieces come to life. This "puffer pouch" would make a great gift for any fashionista friends in your life!


Arbor House Soaps
Disclaimer: Arbor House is my aunt's business.
If there was ever a year where soaps are a welcome gift, 2020 is the year. These soaps smell amazing, and look so nice set out next to your sink! The lilac is a personal favorite, but there are so many to choose from. Plus, the shop also has really amazing body butter, too!


Blakbird Jewelry
I've shared my love of Blakbird Jewelry before, so of course I had to include them in my gift guide! I love their jewelry - it's dainty yet strong and powerful at the same time, and really stylish and minimalistic. I love the simplicity of these vertical bar earrings, but honestly, every pair that I've bought has been great.


Katie Koenig Art
Disclaimer: The artist is one of my good friends!
Katie's art is just incredible, and I think everyone could use a little bit of the inspiration that comes from beautiful art right now. If you're a Pittsburgh or Andy Warhol fan, these Campbell's Soup Can coasters are a great, fun gift. And if you're looking for an original piece of art, she has some "mini masterpieces" that are perfectly giftable - how cute is this little latte?!


Laura E. Gross Textile Art
Disclaimer: The artist is my cousin!
Again - I think that anything that makes our homes a little bit cozier and more inspired is the way to gift-give this year. Textile/fiber arts are a fun alternative to paintings and prints that can make your house feel much cozier! I really love this mustard yellow color.


Jewelry by Old Soul
Another jewelry shop that I've shared before, but again, it makes a perfect gift. All of the jewelry is eco-friendly, and there are so many cute different styles of earrings, necklaces, etc. - really something for everyone! I love the simplicity of this colorblocked black-and-white necklace.


Knotzland
Would it even be a Pittsburgh gift guide if I didn't include Knotzland? I don't think so! I think that masks are a totally appropriate gift this year (never would have imagined myself typing that sentence!), and Knotzland makes the most stylish masks that I've seen, hands down - like this one. Right now, they're also offering some mask holders - bonus!

Monday, November 9, 2020

Hope and Decency Win

 When the AP and other news outlets announced that Biden was the projected winner of the 2020 election on Saturday, I felt like I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. In talking to my friends, and scrolling through social media, there was just such an energy of hope and excitement. While we all realize and acknowledge that there's still work to be done, it seemed like so many of us just wanted to take a day or two to celebrate the win, and the importance of it.

 


Having a BIPOC woman in the Vice President's office is something to celebrate - having that example to hold up for so many little girls is so important! I don't think people understand how pivotal representation is - you don't know what you're missing until it happens, and you understand how powerful it is.

And speaking of representation... Biden mentioned disability in his first address as the President-elect! This was another moment where the impact of it just hit me - I still get chills thinking about it. And then Jake Tapper called out #CripTheVote on national television! It's a small thing, but it means so much - I felt seen, and heard, and represented.

So while I know the work doesn't stop, I took some time this weekend to celebrate, and to allow myself to feel hopeful. And I don't think that I'm alone.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Friday Favorites

 What a week!! I did such a good job not checking the news obsessively on Tuesday night, because I knew that we wouldn't have results. But since waking up Wednesday morning, I have been refreshing the map and the news way too often. I'm cautiously optimistic, but wow, the stress has really been sky-high. Today's post will be a quick one because honestly, so many things that I've looked at this week have just been election updates!

So, on to this week's favorites.

 

ONE - Headspace & Election Anxiety
If there was ever a week to start Headspace meditations, this would definitely be it. I know I keep talking about it, but seriously, it's my favorite part of my bedtime routine! They even have a (free!) specially curated selection all about election anxiety and stress. So worth it!


TWO - Jessica Benham's Win
In local election news, I'm SO excited that Jessica Benham won her race for State Representative here in PA. While she's not my rep, she is going to be bringing disabled representation to Harrisburg - she's the first openly Autistic, openly LGBTQ representative in PA's state legislature - which makes me so happy.


THREE - Advent Calendar
There's something so nostalgic about Advent calendars for me, and I love having something to open and look forward to every day in December. This tea-based Advent calendar seems especially appropriate for a cozy 2020 December spent at home!


FOUR - Harry Styles Golden
Nothing is better at de-stressing than a Harry Styles music video break. It's impossible to get it out of your head!


FIVE - Adaptive UGGs
If you're around my age, you know UGGs were the boots to have - bonus points if you tucked your boot-cut jeans inside the UGGs. I could never wear them because without zippers, it's super difficult to get boots on my feet. Wellllll.... now they've come out with a pair with zippers on both sides to accommodate people like me! I know I'm well beyond my middle school years, but I think I may have to get myself a pair anyway, for old times' sake.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Staying Involved

As I was planning out my blog posts for this week, I knew that I couldn't just do a "regular" post on the day after the election - it just felt too weird, after such an important (and fraught) day. But I also knew that I wouldn't be able to know the outcome of the election before I wrote this, especially since the election results might take a while to become official.

 

So I'm going to keep today's post short. I understand how heavy this election felt, and the importance of it. But what I want to remind everyone of is the importance of staying involved. Regardless of who wins and who loses, it doesn't mean that the work is done - ESPECIALLY because so much of the work is done on the local or state levels, rather than the national one.

Whether you're feeling hopeless or hopeful - take a moment. Allow yourself time to feel your emotions, because they are real and valid. But then after you've let yourself take that moment to yourself, make sure you don't let your political interest wane just because the election is over. It's so important to remain involved, and to educate yourself about the many ways that local/state politics have an impact on your life. Look for little ways to keep active politically - find about about local candidates, or a state issue that's important to you. I know, personally, so many disability issues are decided on the state level.

I don't want to take away from the seriousness of this election, or the importance of the results. But I just want to make sure we remember how important elections and politics can be once November is over, and how important it is to stay informed and involved.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Shopping the Sephora Holiday Sale

First, before we get into today's post - if you haven't yet, make sure you VOTE!

Today, the Sephora Holiday sale opens for VIB members - you get 15% off to use as many times as you want between now and when the sale ends on 11/9. If you don't have VIB status, it'll open to all Insiders (free to join!) on Thursday and you'll get 10% off through the end of the sale on 11/9. Make sure you use the code HOLIDAYFUN to get your discount!

Sephora really only has two big sales a year, and they don't tend to offer many discounts otherwise. So now is a great time to stock up on your basics, or take advantage of the discount for any splurge items that you've had your eyes on!

I'm sharing a few different round-ups below... some of my favorite products that I use every day, some that would make great gifts, and some that are splurge-worthy

OUAI Shampoo + OUAI Conditioner
I've been using these for almost a year now, and I'm really loving them. I use the "medium hair" version - I didn't want something that would be too heavy, so that it wouldn't weigh down my hair. My hair always feels so soft and silky after I use them, and it seems to really help get rid of knots.

Face Wash
I love this gel-based face wash from Drunk Elephant! My face feels cleansed but not stripped after I use it, and it gets rid of any traces of makeup left on my face. Since I have super oily skin, I tend to use a lightweight face wash that won't break me out or be too thick, and this is perfect.

Evening Moisturizer
Another Drunk Elephant favorite! Again, this is almost gel-based, so if you're looking for really heavy moisture, this is not the way to go. But if you have oily and/or acne-prone skin, this is excellent. It adds just enough moisture to my face without making it slick and shiny, and it layers really well with my other products.

AHA+BHA Exfoliant
I love that this exfoliating serum has both AHA and BHA, so it can work on the surface of the skin and below it, too. It smooths over my skin really easily, and it's effective, but gentle enough that it rcan be used every night. 

Serum Deodorant
I wrote a whole post (here) about how much I love this deodorant! It's a natural, serum deodorant that applies like a roll-on. I was skeptical about any and all natural deodorant, but this one WORKS, and doesn't irritate my skin at all.

GrandeLash
This is another product that I have a dedicated post on (here), and another product that just WORKS. It's a lash growth serum that you just apply in a thin line onto your eyelid at night, and after a few weeks you'll find yourself with noticeably longer lashes. It's a great alternative to lash extensions or false lashes.

Body Wash
It feels a little bit lavish to buy a body wash from Sephora, but I love how soft and smooth my skin feels after this. It's just the right amount of moisturizing for me without leaving my skin feeling like there's a film on it.

Favorite Mascara
I know some people think that mascaras are interchangeable, but its one of the parts of my make-up routine that I'm most particular about! This one both lengthens and thickens, and it doesn't flake or clump easily. 

Brow Gel
This is such a great eyebrow gel - it doesn't smudge or transfer, and it gives just the right amount of definition and shape without being over-the-top. I also love that it's so incredibly simple to apply!

Super Lightweight Foundation
(You can read more here.) This is so sheer that it's more like a tinted moisturizer than a foundation. If you have oily skin, I think this is the best lightweight and oil-controlling foundations out there. I just put it on with my fingers and go!

Hand+Nail Cream
I think that we could all use extra lotion right now for dry hands. These are rich creams and the perfect pocket and gift size!

Pillow Talk Lip Set
I have the Pillow Talk lipstick and lip liner and love them both. They're the perfect natural, subtle shade, and the staying power is really great. Anyone would be lucky to be gifted this set!

Drybar Dry Shampoo Set
The Drybar dry shampoos are some of my favorites! This is a great set of mini sized bottles, with a variety of different scents to sample. Almost as good as how your hair smells post-blowout!

Drunk Elephant Hair+Body Set
This is an amazing set of mini sized versions of all of Drunk Elephant's hair and body products. I haven't tried their shampoo or conditioner, but every product that I have tried has been great. Plus it comes with a few extras too!

Afterglow Lip Balm Set
I love these lip balms - they're the perfect sheer wash of color plus moisture. They make a super cute gift - the colors are so subtle that they'd work on any skin tone.

Gua Sha Tool
We could all use a little more self care this year, and this gua sha tool is a great little way to give that gift! You could even throw in a serum like this one for ultimate relaxation. It would be the cutest little stocking stuffer.

Sheet Mask Set
This is another perfect stocking stuffer, self care type of gift! It has 6 different sheet masks (all "clean") for all of your skin concerns.


Brush Crush Straightening Brush
I have - and love - this straightening brush, and I think it's completely worth the investment. It doesn't give you stick-straight hair like a straightener does, but instead gives straight hair with body. It really gets rid of crimps or waves in your hair pretty easily and quickly!

Silk Pillowcase
Silk pillowcases are supposed to be the best for your skin and hair - they don't crease or wrinkle or crimp it. Sure, it's a little luxe, but if you're looking to treat yourself, this is a great option.

Dyson Airwrap
This is on my wish list!! It's an amazing styling product from Dyson that can curl your hair only with air. It also has so many different attachments - a dryer, a brush, and the curling wand. It's the all-in-one hair tool!

Dyson Hair Dryer
If you're not up for the investment of the Airwrap, the Dyson hair dryer is another great option. I have mine and love it so much - it makes my hair look and feel so smooth after I use it. I know it's not cheap, but I don't regret it.

Eye Shadow Palette
I think Pat McGrath's eye shadows are some of the very best. They have great pigment, and they blend so, so easily. I have a mini palette that I use and love. This palette has a great mix of metallic and matte, and has some fun colors plus some more neutral ones.

Luna Facial Cleanser
I've been using one version or another of a Luna for the past few years now, and it's really helped to clear up my face. It just really does a deep clean on my face, and gets everything out of my pores. But it's not too harsh - I use it every time I wash my face and it never irritates it. It's probably my favorite item out of everything in this post.

Ultrasonic Pore Extractor
If you're someone who usually gets facials, this looks like a great product to recreate the facial experience at your own home. This device has dual purposes - it helps to extract things from your pores, and also can help "push" the serum in deeper, too.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Sweater Round-Up

 Right now, nothing feels better than wrapping myself in a warm, cozy sweater - it's my way of dealing with the dropping temperatures and the feeling of being "stuck" inside. Maybe if I tell myself over and over and over that I'm cozy inside, and not stuck inside, then I'll eventually start to believe it!

 


I'm sure that a lot of you are feeling the same way! So I thought that I'd round up some great options for soft, comfortable sweaters perfect for our lives right now. I know I'm adding a few of them to my own personal shopping list, too!


Friday, October 30, 2020

Friday Favorites

It's been a really rainy, chilly, and gloomy this week, so I've been staying inside a lot more. I've been going out for a few minutes here and there when I can, but I've been really focusing on cozy sweaters and getting lost in a book in the evenings.

I think the weather plus the darkness at night coming earlier and earlier is just making me even more confused than I have been about time! While I'm still not sure how it's already the end of October, it also feels like it should be November by now. It just feels more and more difficult to keep track of the days and months. I've been relying heavily on my Google calendar and making sure it's up-to-date.

With all that being said... on to this week's favorites.

 


ONE - Pretty Pointelle Sweater
I picked this up during J.Crew's last sale - they've really been hitting it out of the park with their clothes lately! I love the color, I love how soft it is, and I love the details of the pointelle stitching and ruffles on the bottoms of the sleeve. And if you're looking for something more neutral, there's also a tan, black, and white version!


TWO - What the Constitution Means to Me
Since I've been spending more time inside, I've also been looking for good things to watch. Prime Video has a recorded version of the play What the Constitution Means to Me. It's a really great play on it's own, but my favorite part was the end, where the playwright has a quasi-improved debate with a high school/college student. It's so impressive! This was a great interview with the two student debaters.

 

THREE - Accessible Frank Lloyd Wright Home
I may have shared this before, I can't remember! But every time I read the story about how Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house for a man who started to use a wheelchair after a medical procedure gone awry, I get such chills. This quote really sums it all up (but you should still read the whole thing): “It was a very close collaboration between the Laurents and Wright, and that was very unusual for him. But Wright recognized that only Ken could tell him what his specific needs were before he could begin his design process to address them.”

 

FOUR - What AOC Does in a Day
I love this series, and AOC's is especially great. The mix of personal + political is perfect, and I'm always curious about what exactly politicians do with their days, whether they're at their home districts or in Washington. This is a nice little inside look.


FIVE - Everything in Michelle Obama's Assistant's Bag
I love a good "what's in your bag," and this one is definitely good. I aspire to be as prepared and organized as Chynna Clayton is! I can't imagine how exciting and yet incredible stressful her job must be.


 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Recent Reads

 Time for another monthly book round up! These are some of my favorite posts to write. As much as I love reading, it's a habit like anything else - and it can be all too easy to get lost in a Netflix re-watch instead of taking the time to get lost in a book! But knowing that I have these posts to write helps me keep my reading habit "active." Plus, writing a few sentences about each book helps keep the plots fresh in my mind!

 Oh, and a little note - if you follow the links to any of these books, you'll be taken to a really cool site called bookshop.org. It's a way to buy books online but financially support local bookshops! I also now have a "shop" there where you can find all of the books I've read in one easy place. I'm still working on getting all of my previously read books there, but September and October 2020 are up and running.

Here are the books that I've read over the past month.



They Wish They Were Us by Jessican Goodman
This book reminded me of both Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars - it's a twisted, young adult mystery filled with lots of high school drama. It follows the cool group at an elite high school, with all of the usual misbehaving... but also with a pall hanging over all of the good times by the murder of one of their friends (not a spoiler - you find out on the first page!). It's full of twists and turns as they (and I) try to figure out who was actually responsible.


The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy this, because it's a bit more fantasy than I usually read. But the story was so beautiful that I couldn't stop myself from reading. It's all about a group of magical orphans, in a time where magic is feared and those who are magical have to be registered and watched. So there's clearly a very poignant social allegory, and there's also a little romance subplot. I ended up really loving it.


The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis
I've come to realize that I read a lot of books that split between two eras in time and two groups of characters who end up connected in some way - this is the first of two on this month's list. This book is set inside New York City's library, and I love a good book about books! There's also a mystery about lost rare books/manuscripts, and connections across generations. It also let me imagine what it would be like to be a library caretaker and live in a little apartment inside the library! What a dream.


My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
I was inspired to read this after RBG's passing, but I probably should have looked a little more closely into what it actually was. It's less of a story/memoir and more of a collection of different speeches, decisions, and essays that she wrote over the years. Of course, it's an incredible testament to her life and her work, but it's also pretty dry and dense at times. I enjoyed it, and I learned a lot, but it was not an easy read.


The Paper Girl of Paris by Jordyn Taylor
This is the second book that trades off chapters between characters and time periods. A young girl goes to Paris after her grandmother's death and follows clues to find out more about her grandmother's life, and the life of her grandmother's sister who she had never heard of. There are Nazis and spies, and of course, a romance or two. This wasn't my absolute favorite - some of the plot points were a little bit unbelievable to me - but it's still a good read.


Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
This was by far my favorite book from the month. It's by the same author who wrote Homegoing, but it's a completely different type of story. The main character is from Ghana but has lived in Alabama for years, and this struggle between two worlds continues to play out in other aspects of her life - mainly, her pull between science and her childhood faith. The story isn't always happy, but it is raw and touching, and I didn't want the book to end.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Quarantine Beauty Update

 It's kind of still unbelievable to me how much my day-to-day makeup routine has changed in the last six months. I never was a full face of makeup person, but I wore foundation, blush, powder, mascara, and eyebrow gel pretty much every day. 

Now, I have my routine down to three very simple products. I've done a more elaborate version of my makeup (the version that I used to do every day!) only a handful of times since March, and it honestly feels kind of strange to do. I never thought I'd be comfortable with such a minimal makeup look, but I'm really learning to love and embrace it! So I thought I'd update you on my new makeup routine.

 

ONE - Bobbi Brown Skin Long-Wear Fluid Powder Foundation
I should preface this by saying that I have truly very oily skin. This liquid-to-powder foundation works perfectly for me because of that, but if you have even slightly dry skin, it's probably not going to work for you. It's super, super sheer and very thin and liquidy - I just use my fingers to apply. Because it's liquid-to-powder, it sets super quickly, so I apply it to my face in sections at a time so it doesn't set before I rub it in. But once it's set, it really does last all day long. And because it's so sheer, I don't feel like I'm wearing makeup at all, which is exactly what I was going for.


TWO - Marc Jacobs At Lash'd Mascara
I've been using this mascara for months now, so this isn't a new product, just a favorite. It's great for lengthening without weighing down, and without flaking or clumping. It's not waterproof, so it comes off easily at the end of the day, and it doesn't irritate my eyes at all.


THREE - Bobbi Brown Natural Brow Shaper
I was in the market for a new eyebrow gel recently - the one that I was using from Anastasia was great, but it was so heavy duty that it took real effort to take it off at tthe end of the day! I wanted something a bit more low maintenance and natural. I tried this from Bobbi Brown and also Boy Brow from Glossier. Both were great, but I prefer the slightly larger brush of the Bobbi Brown. I wear the shade "mahogany," and I think it's a perfect color match for me.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Perfect Oversized Sweater

 Now that I'm working from home, my day-to-day wardrobe has definitely changed. I always cared about comfort in clothes, but now I'm prioritizing it even more. I absolutely refuse to wear something that's not totally comfortable just to sit in my house all day! That means for fall, I'm finding myself wanting to wear only the softest sweaters that make me feel perfectly cozy.

As a petite person, I tend to shy away from things that are oversized or boyfriend fit, because they can end up swallowing me. But sometimes, when you're really looking for comfort, there's really nothing like something a little big and loose. And since I'm really embracing comfort right now, after I saw this sweater on Carly's blog I decided to give it a try!

 
 

And I'm so glad that I did. It's definitely a bit more oversized than I'm used to, but I'm into it. It's also so soft inside, which just adds to it's overall cozy feel! The "henley" style actually reminds me a lot of the style of tops that were in style when I was in middle school, but the fact that it's a sweater gives it a bit more of a grown-up feel. 

I also really love the blue color - surprisingly, even though I love blue, I didn't really have anything this color in my closet! But if you're more of a neutral person, this also comes in grey and cream (and a pretty pink too). I've been trying to add more color into my winter wardrobe (especially since all you see on Zoom is the top half of my outfit, ha!), and this blue was the perfect way to do it. I'm already daydreaming about wearing this sweater and being so nice and cozy while reading a great book.

As a bonus - this sweater (and many others!) is 40% off with code SNEAKPEEK through tomorrow!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Friday Favorites

Last week's big news was getting my flu shot, this week's is that I sent in my mail-in ballot so I can officially say that I voted! I triple checked to make sure that I had followed the instructions properly to make sure that my vote will be counted, and it was really such a simple process. I hope that you all have a voting plan, too - whether you're voting by mail, voting early, or in-person on Election Day. And if you're still not sure who you're voting for, check out my post from earlier this month about my reasons for voting here.

 

Now, on to this week's favorites!

ONE - Legally Blonde Reunion
Legally Blonde is one of my favorite rom-coms - I have seen it many, many times; it's just a classic to me! I loved watching the cast virtually reunite, and loved hearing the news that we'll be getting Legally Blonde 3 (eventually) even more!


TWO - Nespresso on Sale
My Nespresso machine is on sale at Williams-Sonoma (I talked about it in this post)! I know it's still pricey, but having it has made my pandemic life so much better. It's the little things like a tasty cappuccino that just makes my day a little bit better.


THREE - Students on Zoom
I love this cute video of kids when their teacher drops off their Zoom accidentally. Their stream-of-consciousness conversations had me cracking up!


FOUR - Lo & Sons Sale
I have wanted an O.G. bag from Lo & Sons for a few years now, but just couldn't stomach the price. They're having a major factory sale on certain colors/styles right now, though, and I got the O.G. 2 in grey for 70% off!


FIVE - Biden + Voters with Disabilities
Last, but definitely not least - I absolutely loved this op-ed written by a woman with Down Syndrome about why she's voting for Joe Biden. It's another great reminder of what people with disabilities lose risking if Biden isn't elected.