Spruced Up Study Hall

Our computer desk has been a bit of a trial for me.

In our first apartment, I never really loved how it looked (apologies for that atrocious photo), and in our new apartment, it’s the first space to start looking cluttered after I’ve given the apartment a deep clean. And because organizing the desk area is on the simplification list anyway, I figured now would also be a good time to figure out an organization system that actually works.

And it wouldn’t hurt if it was also pretty, right?

Here’s what I’m thinking of adding:

Desk Details in Gold

Cute, right? Y’all know I love anything white and gold.

I also need to spend a little time styling our bulletin board. I really like these inspirational ideas from Pinterest (click images for sources):

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Just because our bulletin board is functional doesn’t mean it can’t also be pretty, right? And now that I’m working from home a couple of times a month, it helps to have an organized, aesthetically pleasing place to work.

Do you have a home office? Is it more utilitarian or more stylish?

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Money-Saving Beauty Products Round-up

Living in New York City, it can cost a lot to look the way you want. Stylists are more expensive, manicures are more mandatory, and there’s almost always something going on that you want to dress up for. And while I’m all for maintaining my style, I hate feeling like I’m spending money on something that is ultimately going to grow out or wash away. Recently, though, I’ve started relying on three products that not only contribute to my beauty routine, but also save me money. Win-win, right?

For those of you also interested in saving money and saving face (and hair), I figured I’d share my round-up. Enjoy!

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Dollar Shave Club*
Hopefully my (very few) male readers haven’t already glazed over and abandoned this post, but the first thing on the list is something for ladies and gentlemen. My brother was the first person to introduce me to The Dollar Shave Club, and I have to admit, he has good ideas sometimes. Not only is this club MUCH cheaper than shelling out for a new Venus razor every few weeks, it’s also more convenient (razor heads come to you!). And because it’s cheaper and mailed direct, you will actually change your razor every week like you are supposed to. HYGIENE!

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Clairol Shimmer Lights Purple Shampoo
My brunette readers can skip ahead to the next product rec — this one is all about my blondies. You know how a few weeks after you get highlights, that magical, bright ashy blonde starts to fade into something more…orange? (The technical term is “brassy,” but we ALL know what that really means.) If you’re already spending hundreds a year to keep your hair the color of the sun, the last thing you want is to simply wash it all down the drain. LITERALLY.

This shampoo helps stop that. I think I’m actually the last person on the planet to “discover” it, but just in case, here you go. Get a bottle tout de suite. It’s less than $10, and it really, truly works, so you really have no excuse not to.

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Urban Decay De-Slick Makeup Setting Spray
All right, fellas, you can officially move on. (Probably.) This product is only beneficial for those of us who wear makeup — make the choice for yourself. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started actually investing in the beauty products I buy (instead of just grabbing the cheapest thing at Walgreens). The result: Better makeup and better skin. Also? A more sizeable bite out of my budget. So if I’m going to spend more money, I want to make sure the look is going to last. And last. And last. That’s why I was so thrilled to discover this little miracle worker in the Sephora checkout line. Not only does it set your makeup, it actually helps keep your face from getting shiny by the end of the day. And it REALLY works — just ask my (formerly) slick T-zone.

So there you have it. What are your favorite products to prolong your look?

*Affiliate link…if that bothers anyone.

What I’ve Been Reading, June 2014

Let’s work on those summer reading lists, shall we? Regular readers of my little blog know the drill: Every few months, I crack open my Kindle and share the books I’ve been reading, along with my thoughts on each, and then you all immediately procure said books because I told you to. (Kidding…but you should.)

Here we go!

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
What it’s about: This book is about the World’s Fair in Chicago in the 1890s. It jumps back and forth between describing the creation of the fair and following the horrifying work of H. H. Holmes, America’s first famous serial killer.
What I thought: This book is one of the more fascinating things I’ve ever read. If you have any interest in history or psychology, I highly recommend picking it up. In the beginning, I found the parts describing the creation of the fair to be a little dry (it’s is VERY detailed), but when you realize how many incredible things came out of the fair (everything from the ferris wheel to shredded wheat), you can’t believe what a huge impact it had on the course of history. And the portions about Holmes…that monster of a man was so grippingly awful, you won’t have any problem keeping the pages turning.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
What it’s about: Journalist Susannah Cahalan is living in New York city working for a major newspaper when suddenly a random brain infection makes her go insane — literally. Even crazier: This book is true — and told mostly from the first person — as Susannah struggles to recover from a little-known illness.
What I thought: Again, this book was really interesting. A classic journalist, Susannah constructs her memoir through a combination of actual memories (though she admits her condition kept her from being a reliable source), video recording during her stay in the hospital, first-person accounts from her friends and family, and scraps of a “diary” she kept during her madness. The result is a fascinating story — I’d never heard of anyone contracting anything like this before, but the scary part is that it could theoretically happen to anyone. The only thing I didn’t love is that Susannah’s writing style can be a tad heavy-handed, which is something I often notice with journalists-turned-novelists (for another example, see “Gone Girl). But still, a very interesting story.

Third Shift and Dust by Hugh Howey
What it’s about: The final two books in the Hugh Howey silo series where members of the various silos finally become aware of each other and attempt to bring down the system that confined them underground in the first place.
What I thought: So much happens in these books, it’s honestly a little hard to summarize in a few sentences. Suffice to say, if you read the other books in the series when I recommended them, you pretty much have to read these. The thing I really loved about these books is that you’re never quite sure who is lying or who can be trusted until the very end, and it makes you question a lot about the definition of right and who should have power over deciding what that is/ One thing I didn’t like was that the storyline felt a bit rushed at times. I kind of get the feeling that even Howey just wanted to wrap up this storyline.

Sleep Donation: A Novella by Karen Russell
What it’s about: Sleep deprivation and insomnia have become worldwide epidemics — and people are actually dying from being unable to fall asleep. The only cure is an infusion of sleep from donors (the system is managed almost exactly like blood donation with banks, donation trucks, and a recruitment team whose primary goal is encouraging donation). The system seems positive, but the narrators finds her ethics questioned both when she is forced to continually draw from an infant who turns out to be a “universal donor” and when a system break exposes thousands to tainted sleep.
What I thought: Y’all know I love a good sci-fi story, and this one was no exception. I really liked the twist on something familiar (blood donation and the fact that people are sleeping less and less in America and other countries), and the storyline is told in such a realistic way that you can actually see this happening some day. I also liked how the story wasn’t really about the science of how the donations worked (because, really, how would that work?), it was about right and wrong — do you help the greater good at the risk and cost of a few?

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
What it’s about: Ughhhh this book. Basically, it’s about an old man who is confined to a wheelchair who is writing a book about his grandparents’ lives in the old west.
What I thought: I read this book after no less than two people told me it was their favorite book. Well, no offense to those people, but I really hated this book. I’M SORRY. It is so long-winded (the narrator tells his own story in a stream-of-consciousness style, and the story of his grandparents with so many unnecessary details it’s hard to keep focused). And the fact is: Not that much really happens to the narrator. And he’s incredibly self-righteous. The story of the grandparents is interesting at times but starts to get very depressing as the characters continually suffer the consequences of their own actions. By the end of the book, I didn’t really like any of the characters or their choices. AND IT TOOK FOREVER TO GET TO THE END OF THE BOOK.

There you have it! What have you been reading?

Keeping it real.

About a year ago, there was a trend in the blogging community around honesty in posts.

The problem stemmed from the perception that lifestyle bloggers were miraculously leading perfect lives, despite juggling children, careers, Etsy shops, etc. Suddenly a few bloggers decided to dispel the myth, revealing the piles of laundry they had shoved just outside the frame of their immaculately decorated living room photo. The screaming toddler on the floor below their food styling table (where an expertly crafted souffle in a mason jar lay waiting to be photographed, of course).

I didn’t jump on the bandwagon then (because even a bandwagon about being genuine starts to feel a little forced after a while), but I can completely relate to the sentiment.

The fact is, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet. And this was never more true to me than this weekend when Joey and I finally crossed a few major items off of my SpringSummer Simplification List.

BEDROOM
Move bed back

Hooks for hats and bags
Move trunk into bedroom
Hang curtains
Fix pictures over drawers

LIVING ROOM
New coffee table or TV dinner trays

Clean up corners
Map for over couch
Organize desk area
Create more organized entryway

CLOSETS
Straighten linen closet

Clean out front closet
Reorganize crawl space

KITCHEN
Get Norden IKEA table
Sell dinner table (added to Craigslist)
Clean out pantry

The new crossed-out items are in purple, but they are that I finally cleaned out the pantry, and Joey cleaned out the front closet and crawl space. (I helped where I could, but it was mostly his hockey stuff that needed organizing, so he was pretty much on his own there.)

The process was…not tidy.

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It was kind of mind-boggling how much stuff was in those two spaces. And it took all of my will power not to freak out as it continued to expand throughout the apartment.

But I stayed calm and trusted that Joey knew what he was doing. And you know what? He really did. Not only is all of his stuff straightened away, he also managed to find a space for a large plastic crate full of sports stuff that has been living in our bedroom for about a year.

Total disclosure: I hated that crate the entire time, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much better my life is now that I don’t have to stare at it every day.

I tried to take an “after” photo of the crawl space, but the fact is that it’s still not that pretty. The rest of our apartment just looks loads better, and you can actually walk to the back of the front closet now. That’s progress, people.

Speaking of progress, we’re still trying to sell our kitchen table (buy it here, if you’re in the market), and we’re also selling Bogey’s crate since he has only used it about five times (listing here). Come on, help me cross more off my list!

My goal is to have everything done by the end of the month. But don’t worry — I’ll be real with you guys if it doesn’t happen.

What projects has everyone else been working on?

Pretty little liar

I am a terrible liar.

I’ve said this before. Even when my deception is for a good cause (like planning my parents’ surprise 25th anniversary party, for instance), I’m still unable to fib with any conviction.

In a way, this strongly affects my stance on beauty.

Am I the only one who often finds herself doubting a certain beauty decision because she views it as a lie? I’m not talking about covering a pimple or two — I mean flat out turning yourself into something you’re not. (A la this.)

We all know I fully own to being a medium-maintenance gal, but my motto when it comes to any style enhancements is always that I want to be the best version of myself. I highlight my hair, but the first words out of my mouth to my stylist are, “I want it to look natural.” I’ve spent hours of my life seeking the perfect foundation, concealer, and nude lip colors. Even so, I rarely wear much makeup unless it’s a special occasion. It took me years to feel comfortable with manicures because I used to hate the look of colors on my finger nails. (Total disclosure: I still get painfully self-conscious about bright shades after a day or two.)

The line gets blurred when my best version deviates sharply from what I might currently have, like those pretty blonde locks currently inhabiting my noggin.

When you pride yourself on being a genuine human being, it can feel like a betrayal of self to adopt any disingenuous beauty habit.

I dread the question, “Is that your real…?” when I know the honest answer is “nope!” It’s a big part of why, as much as I wouldn’t be mad if parts of my body woke up different sizes or shapes tomorrow, I don’t think I would ever take surgical action to make them change — I’d still be the person I am, and being anything else feels a little bit like cheating.

Fortunately, in most cases, I’m not embarrassed when someone “catches” me faking it. When it comes to my hair, I actually like discussing the myriad things we find to do to those poor strands of dead protein on our heads. And, honestly, I’m not really ashamed to admit that at some point in my life I’ve had fake nails, a fake tan, fake eyelashes, fake eye color (this one is on my mom — she wanted to see what my eyes would look like really green), and even fake hair (anyone else remember those faux hair scrunchies you used to be able to buy at Claire’s to create a messy bun in a snap? …anyone?).

The point is, I try not to take beauty too seriously. At it’s most intense, it’s meant to be a form of expression and experimentation. (And these under-eye circles that seem to have taken up residence on my face aren’t going to hide themselves.) But I never want to become someone who feels like she needs to look like something or someone else to be happy.

So spill: Am I the only one who stresses about turning into a big, ol’ phony? I mean, I’m not exactly getting Real Housewife casting calls yes, so I’m probably fine, but y’all know I love when we share neuroses.

Mind Lost and Found

I am not what you would call a “scattered” person.

One of the things I have always known about myself (and that my friends and family have come to love…right, guys?) is that I have a type A personality and it affects the way I live. (For more specific information about my personality type, I refer you to this satireperfect article.)

I’ll give you an example: I can tell you with alarming description the exact location of almost every item in my apartment. Right now. With little hesitation. My mutant power manifests itself in acute awareness of every single bit of stuff that surrounds me at all times.

Yeah, it is a little scary.

There are few things in the world that stress me out so much as the few pockets in the apartment that I have not organized within an inch of their lives. (Lookin’ at you, front closet, crawl space, and filing cabinet.)

I hate not knowing exactly what is in there. Being forced toLearning to live with the stuff of another person, even if I don’t understand or like that stuff, was by and large the hardest adjustment of married life for me. (Sorry, babe, you know I love you. Just not your piles and piles of papers ;))

So, in short, I am a freak. It may concern or, at times, annoy others, but in general, knowing where just about everything is at a moment’s notice a pretty useful skill to have.

Which is why I bug out when I can’t find something.

Because, you guys? There is only one place I would have put it. And that’s the place it belongs. So if it’s not there, I am left with very few options:

1. It has been stolen.
2. Our apartment is haunted and it was spirited away.
3. I AM ACTUALLY LOSING MY MIND BECAUSE IT SHOULD BE RIGHT HERE RIGHT HERE RIGHTHERERIGHTHERE.

As you can see, this is how civilizations break down.

In the last two months, I have lost (in chronological order) my wedding band (oops), my favorite pair of leggings, and my watch. About a week ago, they were all missing at the exact same time. And I may have considered tearing the apartment apart with my bare hands to find them.

Much like the loss of a person, there are emotional stages to the loss of an object:

1. Indifference – “I’m not going to freak out…I probably just left it in my other bag.”
2. Denial – “If I don’t check my other bags, I won’t have to admit I don’t know where it is.”
3. Determination – “Today is the day I find it!”
4. Frustration – “Ooookay…I’ll check my other bags. I know it’s in one of them.”
5. Panic – “It has to be in this bag! Okay, no, then it HAS to be in THIS BAG. IT HAS TO BE IN ONE OF THESE BAGS.”
6. Paranoia – “Someone stole it. My husband moved it. PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS UPSETTING MY SYSTEM.”
7. Depression – “It’s lost forever. How could this happen? I’m a failure.”
8. Acceptance – “It’s lost forever. I will learn from this and NEVER LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN.” (Cue an additional mental complex.)

OR

8. ELATION (possibly coupled with an inflated sense of accomplishment) – “I FOUND IT! I KNEW I would.”

I went through literally all of these steps with the three things I had lost. I didn’t help that they were three of my favorite possessions.

Fortunately, one by one, each piece materialized. The ring had fallen out of my jewelry holder and was hiding between my wardrobe and the wall. The pants had just fallen down behind the bigger pile of pants in the wardrobe. The watch was — get this — with all my other bracelets.

The fact that two of these things were technically exactly where they were supposed to be and I just didn’t see them might be evidence that I am, in fact, losing my mind. BUT THE SYSTEM STILL WORKS.

Does anyone else completely lose it when they can’t find something? Or have any mental tricks to recalling the location of an item? Help a (possibly insane) girl out.

Try something new: Soul Cycle

I’m writing this post before the sweat has even dried from my body so you get as accurate a recall of this class as possible.

A few weeks ago, my friend Sabine reached out to me because she had semi-recently become an instructor at SoulCycle.

I had only ever taken one SC class before, and, it has to be said, I wasn’t that impressed with it. But I’m a firm believer in second chances, so when Sabine offered me a free class in exchange for an honest review on my blog, I told her to sign me up.

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The Gym
Space: If you’ve never been to SC, the aesthetic is actually really similar to Drybar. If you’ve never been to Drybar…it’s modern and uses a lot of white and yellow. Shoes are included in the cost, and water is $2 extra. One of the biggest pros to SC is its locker room. Y’all know I love amenities, and these locker rooms are fully equipped with fancy soaps, good hair dryers, hair accessories, and the various toiletry and product accoutrements you need post-workout. (Basically, FREE STUFF!) The spin studio itself isn’t remarkably different from any other spin studio. The bikes are arranged in a semi-circle around the instructor’s stage. Throughout the class, the instructor has control of the lights and music.
Cleanliness: The locker room was a little messy, probably because it was the end of the day. Everything was wiped down and sterilized though, just a little cluttered.
Attitude: Before I attended spinning classes regularly, I think I would have been a little intimidated by SC classes. Most of the people there have been going for a while, and, in general, they go hard. If you have a few classes under your belt, though, you’ll feel right at home.

The Workout
Difficulty (Out of 10, 1 being “could do it in my sleep” and 10 being “omg I can’t walk”): 9. As I said before, I didn’t really care for the last SC class I went to mostly because I didn’t feel like I got a really solid workout. Sabine’s class was entirely different. Girl makes you work. Between continuously harder “climbs” and sprint intervals that had me literally dripping sweat, not to mention a tough arm circuit in between, I had a little trouble walking down the stairs to the subway after.
Experience: Sabine did a great job keeping the energy level up, even though class was on a Friday night. Classes like this are really all about the instructor, and I liked her style of providing cues and how smoothly each interval flowed into the next. One thing I don’t always love about SC classes is that you do a lot of arm work while you’re riding, including tricep dips and pushups on the handle bars. For me, it interrupts the flow of riding a bit, but I do like ending the class feeling like I’ve worked out more than just my legs. I think this is something I would probably get used to as time went one — even this time around, it was easier. Speaking of arms, there’s a portion of the class where you slow the bikes and do an arm circuit with light weights (at least, they feel light in the beginning). Sabine will be happy to know that my biceps and shoulders were burning (in a good way) by the end of that portion. Plus, she actually played music I hadn’t heard a thousand times at every other spin class, which is a big bonus.
Afterburn: I was already feeling wiped when I left the class, and I have a feeling my shoulders will be sore tomorrow morning. Definitely tough one.

Final grade: A! I’m not sure if I can afford regular SC classes, but if I go, at least I know Sabine’s classes are worth the cost.

And, for the record, I’m not just saying all this because Sabine is my friend. If I hadn’t liked the workout, I would say something like, “It’s really great for beginners!” This was tough in the best way possible.

Thanks again for having me, Sabine!