Establish your presence with branding (+ a big announcement!)

A couple of months ago, I attended the final Texas Style Council blogging and small business “conference”, which was referred to as CAMP (Create A Meaningful Presence). In my recap, I mentioned the sessions I attended, one of them being the session on branding with the ladies of Maiedae. It was one of the early morning sessions, and even though I am not an early riser at ALL, I could not miss out on the opportunity to learn more about branding and everything that is involved with that! (It doesn’t seem like it would be much, but there really was so much to learn!) I was asked if I would consider writing a post about what I learned about branding, so, here it is–and I have a big announcement to share, too (scroll down to the bottom of this post if you’re only interested in the announcement!). 😉

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Branding is made up of your logo, photos, and content, and more generally, it’s the overall look of your site/social media pages and the feeling they give your readers/followers. It is recommended to have a cohesive brand so your readers know what to expect when they come to your site. Traditionally successful bloggers have strong brands that stretch across their blog as well as their social media accounts.

You have three seconds to capture a viewer’s interest. That’s it! Isn’t that crazy?! I was kind of shocked when I heard that, but now I totally believe it. When I visit a new blog, I know immediately whether or not it’s a blog I want to peruse a little more. You want you and your site to be unique and relatable and your site to be visually interesting/”pretty”. Hone what makes you different while still capturing an audience!

We learned a lot about the impact of what can be seen above the fold on your site. “Above the fold” simply refers to the area of your site that a reader sees before they have to scroll. This obviously varies from computer to computer and depends on resolution and such, but it’s still important to consider what people who come to your site see first thing. You want three things to be clearly visible above the fold: your logo, a couple of sentences about you, and a nice profile picture. Having that immediate connection with a new viewer is really important because they realize there is in fact a real person behind your site and that you are relatable!

Having a mobile-friendly website is very important in this day-and-age when we spend so much time on our phones. If a new viewer cannot clearly see what’s going on because your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you can bet they won’t be staying around for long! Also, Google is now penalizing sites that aren’t mobile-friendly, so if you want that SEO…make it mobile!

On all of your social media accounts, use the same profile picture so your readers can easily find you–OR, if someone is browsing, they might recognize you from your blog or a different social media and decide to check you out.

As far as tips for individual social medias go, we discussed those briefly and I didn’t take notes because what worked for some people didn’t work for others and it all depends on what your readers/followers respond to. It was suggested to do one social media well and maybe have other social media accounts just to post links to your content if people want to follow you there. Here’s more on individual social medias (what I can remember from the discussion, at least):

  • FACEBOOK: Decide whether or not to have one. Most bloggers do not see their biggest traffic from Facebook because of  the way FB handles who sees your posts. I have one mostly for friends and family who don’t follow other blogs at all, and I generally only post links to blog posts with random Instagram photos or sales every once in a while. I kind of want to experiment and see what else they might want to see. A great way to do this is to ask questions and see what response you get; some bloggers I follow do this often!
  • TWITTER: Post links to your content and utilize hashtags. It was also suggested to post links to content you love by other bloggers you follow, because if they retweet or recognize you in some way, that’s great exposure! I use it to post random tidbits of my life in that moment as well as blog content, so whoever decides to follow me there gets something different than what I post on FB or Instagram. I don’t want to post only the same content on all of my social media because then there is no incentive for people to follow me on all of them. You do need to be mindful of strong opinions on Twitter, though. If it’s not something you want your followers to see, don’t tweet it!
  • INSTAGRAM: The big one here was to stick to a cohesive photo size (whether you want all squares or horizontal images or vertical images) because when people check out your account, it is calming to see a page with a single photo size. It’s not a lot for the brain to process. Also, stick to a similar kind of editing, whether your have a favorite filter you like to use or like to have colorful, bright images. Use those hashtags to your advantage (but not TOO many or you’ll likely annoy your followers). Some bloggers make up personal hashtags so their followers can see all the photos from a single event or trip.
  • PINTEREST: Pin cohesive content to your boards and keep boards streamlined, i.e. make different boards for specific things you’re interested in (like cocktails, skirt outfits, beaches, etc.) to encourage people to at least follow one board that strikes their fancy. Pin high-quality and visually interesting photos that people want to see in their feeds.

I hope this was somewhat interesting and/or helpful for those of you new to the whole aspect of branding your blog! 🙂


And now, time for my announcement…!

WOOHOO!

It’s true! I mentioned in my TxSC recap that I was working on a rebrand, and I’m so excited to say that I’m ready to launch on Monday! 🙂 Over the weekend, I’ll be copying all of the content from this blog to the new blog. The new blog will have a totally new look and a new name (!). I’m hoping my Bloglovin will be updated on Monday, but I can’t guarantee that since they take a while to respond to emails. For all of you subscribed via email, unfortunately I can’t move you over myself so you’ll have to resubscribe on the new site. Also, to WordPress subscribers: My new site is on Squarespace so you’ll also have to follow via a new method (email or Bloglovin) if you want to stay updated!

It will be really weird leaving twenty-something simple behind, but I’m really excited for this new adventure in a brand new space. 🙂 I hope you guys love it as much as I do! I’ll be publishing a final post here on Monday with a link to the new blog and to say a more formal farewell. (This blog will stay up though, and eventually I’ll likely set up a redirect from here to the new site.) Thank you all SO much for following along and being my friends in this crazy world we call the blogosphere! xoxo

Master of Science

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I graduated last week! I can’t even believe that I’m officially done with my Master’s degree. If you’ve been reading for a while, you may remember that I defended my thesis last October. I was planning on graduating in the fall, but I didn’t get my thesis edits done in time (the thesis office gave me a week to complete them when I had a million other things to do, but it ended up working out just fine). My final thesis edits were complete as of the beginning of last week, and my journal article (!) was accepted at the end of April. I get to check that research off and really dive into PhD research now, woohoo!

My parents were in town for the event, and I enjoyed spending time with everyone. 🙂 The graduation was a new experience for me. Because my school is so big (over 8,000 people graduated!), they break it into two events: commencement and convocation. Commencement is the school-wide general event where you listen to speakers, and the honorary doctorates and other awards are given out. They acknowledge everyone by degree and college, but no one walks. Convocation is broken down into individual colleges and consists of some short speeches and the main event–the actual conferring of degrees. Commencement and convocation were on two different days, so I wore two different outfits. I decided to go with my navy sheath dress for commencement and added simple accessories. For convocation, I wore my new seersucker dress from Uniqlo. It showed up in the mail the day before, and because I had nothing else picked out, I went with it! I added a cardigan for extra warmth, and I’m glad I did because some storms rolled through and really cooled the air (if you couldn’t tell by my arm hair standing on end, haha). I wore my Cole Haan pumps both days, and I have to say…they are AMAZING! My feet were sore from standing for what felt like forever, but I had no blisters whatsoever–even after being in them for hours! I also decided to decorate my cap, because why not?! It’s too fun, plus it made it easier for friends and family to spot me in the crowd of black gowns and caps. 😉

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ModCloth cardigan (old; similar or similar) / Uniqlo dress / Cole Haan pumps via Nordstrom Rack (old; similar with a pointed toe or similar with a higher heel) / Neutrogena MoistureSmooth Color Stick in soft raspberry

Commencement photo credit: my mom

Lingering thoughts after TxSC

A month ago today, I was on my way to attend the Texas Style Council CAMP–a small, life-changing blogging and small business conference focused on creating a meaningful online presence. (Check out my recap if you’re interested in reading the breakdown of my experience.) Since that weekend, I’ve been reflecting on what I learned about myself and the blogging community. I wanted to share some of my lingering thoughts instead of keeping them bottled inside. I hope you’re prepared for a bit of a brain dump… 🙂

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I’m not as outgoing as I thought I was. When I first got to TxSC, I found myself not really talking to anyone unless someone approached me first. During the mixer the first night, I was so overwhelmed at the number of new faces that I made a beeline for the drinks and ended up meeting a few people that way. I did introduce myself to Tieka of Selective Potential because I’ve been following her blog since before I started mine and I caught her when she wasn’t talking to anyone. During the “khaki cool” jamboree, I talked to Caroline of Unfancy when she was alone by the fire (it was rare to see her alone!). I rarely approached someone if they were in conversation with someone else because I did not want to come across as rude. However, I noticed plenty of other people joining in conversations and it never seemed rude…maybe it was because they knew each other? I’m not sure, but I was hyperaware of how I may come across to people. I felt like such an awkward turtle. I hung out mostly with my cabin mates because, as you might expect, we got to know each other the best since we were together every night, sharing sink space and chatting until our eyelids grew heavy. Also, I was not brave enough to just give people my business card after meeting them. I wish I had been, especially because now I have over 100 business cards and no one to give them to.

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It was harder to talk about blogging than I thought it would be. As a grad student, I meet with people in my field fairly often and am always discussing “business matters” (i.e. current and future research projects). When I’m with family, everyone asks about school and what I’m doing. I’m used to answering questions about my research even though I dislike them because I can’t explain what I do very well. I was nervous that people at TxSC would ask about my research, but not one person did (woo!). Instead, we talked about what we had in common, of course–our online presence, which generally meant blogging. It was exciting to be at a conference and talk about something other than science! With that came a whole new set of challenges, though. Blogging is not something I bring up to people in my everyday life unless it’s my boyfriend and I’m bouncing ideas off of him or someone asks me about it. I feel like it’s still this thing that no one really takes seriously even though it’s such a fun hobby (or even a business) for so many people, me included. Even though I was with all these women who also blogged about their personal style, I still found it hard to talk about it. It sounded silly to me when I mentioned that I blog my style and my cats. No one ever laughed, and I never felt judged (even when I was wearing thrown-together outfits to combat the cold and a ginormous poncho to avoid the rain), but talking about blogging is still new to me. I can say this, though… Because of TxSC, I’m more proud of my blog now than I was just a month ago.

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The blogging world needs more friends, mentors, friendtors, and champions. Blogging does not need to be a rat race of who can make it to the top fastest and stay at the top longest. We do not need to feed into the idea that the bigger the following, the better. We do not need to get sucked into having the latest trends and wearing only new pieces in every outfit post. What we do need is more people–fellow bloggers–willing to be friends, mentors, friendtors (friends and mentors), and champions (those who have your back always). We need more people leaving thoughtful comments and fewer people commenting just for the sake of leaving a link back to their blog. We need passionate bloggers who are willing to share their stories. We need more people lifting others up than tearing others down. I want to make connections with bloggers who are on the same level as me–newcomers with meaningful content even if their numbers aren’t at the top. I love so much the bloggers I chat with regularly online, and meeting bloggers in real life at TxSC was huge for me. I appreciate the “bigger” bloggers who are still interested in connecting with others. We are all just people trying to get through life and blogging about it on the way, right? Let’s continue to cultivate a positive environment for each other and for whoever decides to join the blogging world in the future. 🙂

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Photos by Chelsea Laine Francis

Recap: Texas Style Council CAMP

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent my weekend in the woods northwest of Austin, Texas, with over 200 creative women at a sleep-away blog conference hosted by Texas Style Council. It was fondly referred to as CAMP: Create A Meaningful Presence. I first heard of Texas Style Council from a few bigger bloggers I follow, and this experience looked like so much fun…but way out of my price range as a poor graduate student. When the 50% off sale weekend happened, I decided to take the plunge (I swear my bank account cried out when I bought my plane tickets!), and it was worth every penny and more. The experience was–simply put–absolutely priceless.

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After an exhausting morning and early afternoon of traveling last Friday, I set foot on the grounds of Camp Texlake, the home of a Girl Scout camp. The area was beautifully lush and relatively remote (much to my surprise!), which made for the perfect environment to unplug and be inspired. (Lots of people were able to Instagram/Tweet during the conference, but I could barely send photos via text message, haha!) The first order of business was to have head shots taken by the lovely Chelsea Laine Francis, who graciously photographed us and the conference for free. If you’re local to Austin and in need of a photographer, she is your lady!

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That evening, we indulged in a delicious dinner (catering provided by The Real McCoy Catering) and a keynote by Jenny of The Bloggess. I loved hearing her take on the blogging world. She told us she changes negative comments from trolls to positive comments, which really angers the trolls and eventually they disappear. Isn’t that great?!

We received a drawstring bag from TOMS to decorate during the “Create and Connect” mixer after dinner, and inside was a notebook from Minted and other little goodies. Luckily, I managed to fit all of the beauty samples in my [broken] quart-sized bag for the trip home!

At the mixer, sponsoring brands set out little crafts or activities for us to partake in, all while meeting new people and getting to know each other. I expected to be more outgoing than I was, but the ladies there intimidated me! I wish I had the courage to meet more people (and give out more business cards) than I did, though I still had a fantastic experience overall.

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After a restless night in a cabin with eleven other women and a steady, cold rain falling the entire night, I awoke bright and early on Saturday to attend a branding workshop with Jenny and Savannah of Maiedae. I (admittedly) had never heard of Maiedae before, but they are two of the sweetest and most inspirational women! I signed up for a one-on-one session on Sunday morning to talk about my current branding situation, web design, and going about rebranding (!), and Savannah was the biggest help and so encouraging. Big things will happen to this little blog in the next few months. 😉

Following a journaling session guided by Erin of Design for Mankind, we ate a hearty breakfast and listened to a keynote with Bethany of TOMS. Bethany shared how TOMS’ One-for-One model came to be as well as shared some insight into how we can each grow our own legacies. She introduced a new term to all of us: friendtor, meaning a friend who is on the same “playing field” as us and can act as mentors as well. At the conclusion of the keynote, we each received waxed canvas backpacks–one of many new products to come out of TOMS. They’re continuing the One-for-One model by providing a birth kit to aid in safe births for mothers in need for every bag sold. So awesome!

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For the rest of the day, we attended short sessions focused on more specific topics related to blogging and the small business world. The first sessions I chose was the vulnerability session with Carli of Inked Fingers and Tieka of Selective Potential. We talked about how we choose to be vulnerable online and how being vulnerable can affect how our readers perceive us, even if its a negative perception. We discussed how to deal with the backlash of being vulnerable and encouraged each other to find ways to be vulnerable that work for us, since you might not want to be vulnerable in every blog post or talk about every aspect of your life. The stories that were shared during this session nearly brought me to tears!

The second session I attended was the connection session, moderated by Becky of Chipper Things and Indiana, the brains behind Texas Style Council and blogger on Indiana/Elsewhere. This session focused on thinking of our readers as people that we can make real connections with and less as numbers that we must grow in order to gain popularity/more sponsorships. There seems to be an inherent rat race in the blogging world, and it’s important to take a step back and remember why you started blogging in the first place (and if you started blogging to make money and not because you’re passionate about it, you’re likely in it for the wrong reasons). We discussed the difference between transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability and the act of going deeper (creating meaningful relationships with readers) instead of further (increasing readership overall).

Lastly, I decided to attend the support session with Jen of Jen Loves Kev, Julie of Orchid Grey, and Amy of Crompton Collective. They discussed the importance of building each other up in the blog world instead of tearing each other down and not letting envy get the best of us. The idea of the friendtor came back in this session with their suggestion of making friends with the bloggers that started around the same time as your and/or are on the same “playing field” as you and building a mutual partnership with them. It’s important to learn how to be happy for each other when good things happen and not let it damper our own spirit if those things don’t happen to us. This is something I’m not afraid to admit that I struggle with, especially when I see blogs younger than mine getting more opportunities than me. I’m glad I attended this session for the reminder.

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Before dinner, we listened to a keynote on intentionality with Caroline of Unfancy and Jess of The Lively Show (pictured above the previous block of text). They each explained three things they learned in the past, three things they are currently learning, and three things they hope to learn in the future. Caroline talked a lot about her journey with minimalism, starting her blog to document her process, and dealing with negativity that has come with exponential blog growth. Jess talked about her career changes and growth of her podcast, The Lively Show. She discussed downfalls and how she has learned to give herself breaks and not put so much pressure on herself.

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The plans for the rest of the night consisted of dinner and a “khaki cool” jamboree! We dressed up in our best khaki outfits–inspired by Moonrise Kingdom, Troop Beverly Hills, Girl Scouts, or whatever we pleased–and jammed the night away. There were some small businesses selling items, and some brands set up photo booth areas where we could take funny pictures. Tagspire had a bunch of Moonrise Kingdom-inspired props we could use. Minnetonka Moccasins had a s’more station (yum!), Flash Tattoos had a wide variety of pretty temporary tattoos for us, and Honest Tea made floats with their fizzy drinks and ice cream. The Flash Tattoos are really cool, and mine is still looking pretty good even a few days later! My outfit was loosely inspired by Sam Shakusky (Moonrise Kingdom), and I thrifted almost all of it! The total came to less than $20, including my shoes (I wore my wonderful red loafers I’ve featured in many outfits). Because it rained all day Friday and Saturday, we didn’t end up having a campfire, but at least we still got to roast s’mores.

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The next morning, after my one-on-one branding session with Savannah, we ate a big brunch and listened to a keynote with Sophia Rossi of HelloGiggles (second to last photo below). Holy cow, she is amazing! The keynote focused on sisterhood and how we as women are each other’s biggest champions in blog world and in life in general. We all received copies of her soon-to-be-released novel, A Tale of Two Besties, and she signed them for us, too!

After a fun awards ceremony and tearful farewell from Indiana, we headed outside for the final camp activity. We broke up into smaller groups, stood in two lines facing each other toe-to-toe, and sent one person down the line at a time. The person going through the middle had to look down and cover her eyes, and we each whispered a word of affirmation into her ear as she walked by. The point was to empower each other and leave each other with positive, self-assuring reminders. Plenty of laughs and tears happened during this activity. It felt wonderful to hear the words people shared. Someone whispered “girlboss” into my ear, and for some reason that one really stuck. I never really thought about myself as a girlboss, but now I think in some ways, I am. It’s nice to have that moment to remember!

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Overall, I had such an amazing experience at CAMP! I loved meeting fellow bloggers in real life since I don’t have anyone around me that blogs. I chatted with fellow bloggers about trivial blog struggles we share, like having our boyfriends/husbands photograph our outfits. 😉 I was so excited to meet some of the bloggers I follow, Tieka of Selective Potential (she’s SO sweet and basically the reason why I started blogging in the first place), Liz of Delightfully Tacky, and Caroline of Unfancy (we bonded over Katy Perry and Taylor Swift), and it was wonderful meeting so many other bloggers and inspirational women! I feel like I left Camp Texlake with a group of friendtors by my side, which is more than I could have ever hoped for! I feel honored to have been a part of the final Texas Style Council conference. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped in the planning and on-site organizing of the conference. I truly had an unforgettable time!

If you read this whole post, thank you, and I hope it wasn’t too boring! I tried to think of a more creative/shorter way to write this recap, but I decided I wanted to write it all out chronologically so I could better remember it. I also had a very difficult time picking the photos I wanted to share! 🙂 If you’re interested in hearing more about the conference, check out #TxSC15 on Twitter and Instagram!

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{photo credits & people in photos with me}

Photos 1-3 (headshots) and 16 (Luna Bar photo booth): Chelsea Laine Francis Photography (Austin, TX)
L-R: Maddie of Folk Dreams Jewelry, Emma of Behind the Leopard Glasses, Brittany of Invasion of Personal Space, Hilary of Cutie Cameras

Photos 11-13 (Tagspire photo booth): Jacque Manaugh Photography (Dallas, TX)
Top L-R: Brittany, Hilary, Maddie / Bottom left: Brittany / Bottom right L-R: Jen of Jen Loves Kev, Julie of Orchid Grey, Liz of Delightfully Tacky, Caroline of Unfancy

Photos 14-15 (Squarespace photo booth): Logan Pearce Photography (Austin, TX)
L-R: Maddie, Brittany, Hilary, Emma

My boyfriend dressed me for a week

At the end of February, a Facebook friend of mine posted this article in which a woman let her boyfriend dress her for a week (a work week). I shared it with my boyfriend, Chris, thinking he may find it interesting and may even want to do it–and what do you know! He was into the idea, even with the caveat that I get to blog about it. 😉 We were going to do it the first week of March but delayed it to last week when I saw the forecast for the first week of March (thank goodness, haha). It ended up working out really well because we had some warm days in between cooler days, so he picked out a range of outfits (they look kind of silly side-by-side unless you know the weather we had).

I realize how problematic it can be when people start dressing specifically for other people, especially when it comes to women dressing for men. I wanted to do this not because I was planning on dressing for Chris and not myself (or other women, let’s be honest) but because I wanted to figure out what it was that he found me attractive in. Since I share outfit photos of myself often, I sometimes ask him for his opinion on an outfit and am often surprised at negative reactions (though it doesn’t stop me from wearing the outfits most of the time; the other times, I take a closer look in the mirror and realize he’s right). He also has a really solid personal style, so I was curious to see if he would dress me in outfits similar to his.

I did ask him to keep the weather in mind when putting together outfits and to please not make me wear a skirt sans tights if it was below 60 degrees or please not make me wear my nice shoes if it’s raining. Also, if you’re at all interested in the outfit details, they’re listed at the bottom of the post. Without further adieu…

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Monday, March 9 — Day 1

Chris picked this outfit because he likes my “skinny colored jeans…for reasons” and because the boots “make my legs look long.” He thinks the “whatever-it’s-called is really cool” (the cardigan) and he also likes me in stripes. I appreciate that he played around with color and also picked out a fun pair of earrings. While I wouldn’t have paired the tee with the cardigan because the tee has 3/4-length sleeves, I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that it didn’t bunch weirdly like I thought it would. This is not at all a deviation from an outfit I would normally put together myself.

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Tuesday, March 10 — Day 2

Chris tells me that he picked this outfit “because short skirt” and he “needed a top to go with it.” He thought more in terms of overall outfits instead of individual pieces, and he says that taking outfit photos of me gives him “insight into what works…and what goes together.” (He adds, “Like, not sweaters and dresses.” That is arguably his least favorite look on me and one I like to wear often in the winter, haha.) The stark contrast between the light blue shirt and bold red skirt is still one I’m getting used to, but it is growing on me…and I do appreciate a good nude-colored flat.

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Wednesday, March 11 — Day 3

“Legs” is all he has to say about this day. He also “really likes these boots” on me. He picked the floral jewelry because the dress is also floral. Even though it looks like it was a really warm day, wind and clouds kept it cool so he let me wear a cardigan while at work. He just didn’t want to photograph it since it wasn’t what he had in mind when putting together this outfit. When I realized that he wanted me to wear the dress and boot combination, I was immediately reminded of this outfit I wore last spring. Another good one!

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Thursday, March 12 — Day 4

Regarding this outfit, he says I’m “confident when [I’m] comfortable, and that’s sexy.” (I told him the pants are likely my least comfortable pair because they’re my tightest pair and it’s hard to bend my legs and sit in them after they’ve been washed, haha.) He is surprised that they aren’t comfortable because apparently they look soft (corduroy is soft, I agree). Not surprising to me, he likes that I wear skinny jeans. I also like myself in skinny jeans which is why I wear them 90% of the time I wear pants. One of the first things he said about this outfit when I wore it was that he picked the necklace and earring combination because “they were both pointy” and they were both gifts from him (the necklace for my birthday and the earrings for Christmas). I love a good knit sweater-skinny pant-boot combination (as you all know if you’ve been around this winter!), though I wouldn’t pair the necklace and earrings together myself.

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Friday, March 13 — Day 5

He saw me wear this top in a picture and “really wanted me to wear it again”. Plus, those Madewell jeans are a favorite of his. He picked the shoes because they matched the pattern in the top (which you can hardly even see), and he also likes the necklace with the top because it “made the top less flowy” (if you know what he means). I also asked for a cardigan this day since it started off cool. My office mate remarked about how Chris and I matched this day; he was wearing a burgundy top and denim himself. We hadn’t even realized it, but Chris thinks he must’ve been subconsciously on a burgundy and denim kick.

Overall, the outfits he picked out were not as different from my personal style as I thought they would be. (I mean, obviously they couldn’t be that different since he picked outfits from existing pieces in my closet.) He didn’t go with super tight tops and tight pants or super short skirts like I would think men prefer (broad generalization, of course). I appreciate that he thought about entire outfits versus throwing together individual pieces that don’t necessarily go together. The only “interesting” parts of the outfits were the jewelry choices, but I give him props for trying. I bet it was overwhelming looking at all of the options even though I did insist that he didn’t have to accessorize me. I’m also not surprised that the outfits were kind of in line with his own personal style. When Chris was looking through everything I had the Sunday before starting, he remarked that I didn’t have as many clothes as he thought I did, which I was excited about; I think he was surprised at the limited number of options he had. Still, he didn’t spend more than five minutes considering each outfit in the mornings so it must not have been that difficult.

In the article I linked, she talks about the reactions she received from the people around her, like her co-workers. I ended up telling the grad students I’m around on a daily basis what was going on on day 1, so I wasn’t able to get candid reactions from them. However, the one female grad student I hang out with regularly liked every outfit and thought Chris did a good job putting them together. I think I may have gotten more/different reactions had the outfits strayed further from what I normally put together myself and if I saw more than the same few people.

All in all, it was a really fun experiment! I didn’t learn anything groundbreaking regarding what Chris prefers to see me in, but I wasn’t expecting to. Knowing what he likes will not change the way I dress in any way. I guess he’ll just like my outfits more when it warms up (and when I stop wearing sweaters over dresses in the winter, haha). 🙂


 {outfit details}

Day 1: Bobeau cardigan via Nordstrom / J.Crew Factory tee (old) / Madewell pants (on sale!) / Cole Haan boots (exact — on sale in limited sizes) / ModCloth earrings (old; similar from Forever 21)

Day 2: LOFT shirt (similar) / Madewell skirt (old) / J.Crew flats (new version)

Day 3: Francesca’s dress (old) / Madewell boots (on sale in limited sizes) / ModCloth necklace (old; similar) / Forever 21 earrings (old)

Day 4: Madewell sweater and necklace / J.Crew Factory pants (old) / Chelsea Crew boots via ModCloth (similar) / J.Crew earrings

Day 5: LOFT top / Madewell jeans / J.Crew flats (new version) / ModCloth necklace (old) / Kate Spade earrings via Nordstrom Rack

A month post-Whole30

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I can’t believe it has been a month since my boyfriend and I were on Whole30, but I can’t say I miss it that much! In the words of the genius Taylor Swift via her song Wonderland, “Life was never worse but never better.” Actually…I think life is indeed better, because now I don’t feel guilty for eating bread, cheese, and sweet treats like those glorious cinnamon donuts above–my first post-Whole30 treat!

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The first few days of being off Whole30 were a little bit tricky because we couldn’t follow the recommended reintroduction plan due to holidays and other long-standing plans. In a nutshell, you start by eating one new food group on your first day (i.e. gluten), then for the following two days, you eat normal Whole30. On the fourth day, you introduce a different food group (i.e. dairy), then continue with two days of Whole30 and so on. It takes about a couple of weeks to finish the reintroductions properly, and we had them done in a few days. We followed a plan which included eating gluten on the first day, then eating Whole30 until dinner on the second day (gluten), followed by Whole30 on the third day until dinner that night (gluten and dairy). I’m not sure that it really affected us, though. Chris never experienced any terribly feelings (woo!), and my body was a bit out of whack, though it had been for the last few days of Whole30 so I don’t think the new foods caused it. I think my body was just trying to be sick, but luckily it wasn’t terrible.

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Even though we are very much NOT eating Whole30 right now, there are aspects of it that we’ve kept. Sometimes we still have Whole30-approved breakfasts–eggs, avocado, and grapefruit. We like eating grapefruit with breakfast whenever possible, even if we have cereal instead of eggs. Chris has also been making some meals that are Whole30-approved if not for the grain addition. We don’t pig out for every meal, and we’ve done a great job eating leftovers and such instead of always making new meals (partially thanks to Whole30). I definitely appreciate whole foods more and try not to snack as much (I haven’t had chips and cream cheese since before Whole30; my new snack of choice is either cinnamon roasted almonds or kimchi chips). The good news is that after a month off of Whole30, neither of us feel terrible about eating the non-approved foods again. While Chris is keen on doing another Whole30, I probably won’t partake because my experience wasn’t as wonderful as I had expected. However, we often recommend the program to friends that are experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort since it helped Chris with his heartburn. I hope that sharing my experience here helps you guys in deciding whether or not to do it for yourselves. 🙂

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Top photo: Cinnamon donuts

Top middle photo: Valentine’s Day-themed “monster” cookies

Bottom middle photo: Fancy chocolate covered strawberry

Bottom photo: Cast iron margherita pizza 

{All photos are via my Instagram!}

Packing for an academic conference

carry_on_bagsEverlane weekender bag / ModCloth tote

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to an out-of-state academic conference. I don’t go to out-of-state conferences very often; in fact, I had only been to two since starting grad school before this one (two years at the same conference in the same location plus one year as an undergrad). When it comes to packing for conferences, I will admit that I’m not a pro. I always second-guess what I choose to pack, especially because I have always needed an outfit to present in. However, Earth science-related academic conferences see a wide range of fashion–everything from suits and ties to parkas, worn-in jeans, and sandals (of course, sometimes with socks…haha)–so this lessens the burden of packing the “perfect” outfits a little bit.

This time around, I packed only 16 everyday pieces (not including a t-shirt & leggings to sleep in, sweatpants, and workout gear). That may seem like a lot, but it includes two tops, two tees, two sweaters, a sweatshirt, a coat, a pair of jeans, a dress, two pairs of shoes, tights, jewelry, and my tote. I noticed that when I pack for trips, I tend to pack layers, and this trip was no different. It’s so easy to mix-and-match when you have a couple of tops, a couple of cardigans or light jackets, and everything goes together. When luggage space is limited, it’s the best way to go.

During my trip, I discovered a cool feature of the Stylebook app. (You may remember that at the beginning of September, I posted my current closet inventory and also noted how I had been using the Stylebook app. I love it!) Besides having a photographic inventory of your closet and outfits, you can also create packing lists! Brilliant, right? I always intend to make an actual list that I check off as I pack and then repack to come home, but it never happens; I rely far too much on my memory, which has been known to fail me one too many times (I forgot to repack my pair of sunglasses on this trip, ha).

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After you create and name your packing list, you’ll see a page like this one above. What’s great about the packing list is that you can either add items by adding the items individually and then the looks that incorporate them, or you can do what I did and add the looks first and it will automatically populate your packing list with the clothing in your looks! How cool, right?! I didn’t make my Stylebook packing list until the end of my trip, but I was thoughtful enough when packing that I already knew my outfits ahead of time. (I actually put all of the looks together in Stylebook while on the plane to the conference!) In the notes section, I wrote down where I was headed/what I was doing and the weather to expect.

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Here are all of the items I brought with me! I stuck to a relatively cohesive color palette of burgundy, grey, and black, but I added in my cobalt dress for one of my poster presentations; my cropped navy sweater over that dress has become a go-to for academic conferences. My trench coat is the only coat I brought (thank goodness the weather cooperated!), and my tote was one of my carry-on items on the plane. I stuffed it full with my laptop, notebooks, poster (it was fabric!), my liquids bag, and a container full of cookies! The rest of the items were either worn on the plane or fit into my Everlane weekender bag, as seen in the top photo.

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Here are the outfits I wore! I was there for four full days (three days actually spent at the conference), which are the top outfits. The bottom two outfits were worn on the travel days with my yoga pants and sneakers. As far as dressing for conferences goes, I pretty much wear what I would normally wear on a daily basis. I actually felt slightly overdressed at my conference! If you’re looking to feel put-together, I highly recommend dark-wash jeans, simple blouses, and a nice cardigan. Even my sweatshirt felt nice enough for a conference setting. If I’m presenting, I like to go the extra mile and wear a dress with heels, though it definitely wasn’t necessary at this conference. Be sure to pack pieces that mix-and-match (sticking to a cohesive color palette helps a LOT) and you’ll be set! 🙂 (Below is one of my looks in action–post-conference, of course!)

IMG_7667Helmut Lang sweatshirt / LOFT top (sold out) / Madewell jeans / Sam Edelman boots / Ignatius 😉

Whole30: The grand finale

GUYS! Today is the last day of my boyfriend’s and my Whole30! Finally. I can’t wait to finally be eating more balanced meals. It’s probably because I wasn’t as strict about it as I should have been, but I don’t think it really helped me at all. If anything, I enjoy eating whole foods more and have found some great new recipes to keep in the rotation, but that’s about it. I don’t think eating cheese, bread, and wine in moderation is necessarily bad so I will happily add those back in my diet with no second thoughts.

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We are supposed to start our reintroduction tomorrow, but we have upcoming events that kind of screwed up the ideal reintroduction plan. The idea is to add back in one food group at a time so you know which group your body reacts to (if any). So, tomorrow we are supposed to add in one group, and then the following two days, we’re supposed to go back to eating entirely Whole30 to monitor how our bodies feel. The problem is that we are going out on Thursday and Friday. We’ve decided to start with gluten tomorrow (I’m FINALLY getting some donuts); the plan is to have donuts around breakfast, a bagel for lunch, and then homemade pasta for dinner. We plan to eat Whole30 until dinner on Thursday, where we are likely having burgers with buns (and cheese). Friday, we will be eating both cheese and chocolate in the evening (fondue for the win!), so we are going to try doing Whole30 for the rest of the day to minimize the impact. We’ll see how it goes. I’m actually surprisingly nervous about eating those foods again; I’m worried that I’m going to feel really sick for not having had them for so long. (I don’t think sugar will be so bad though since our vitamins have glucose in them. I didn’t take them regularly, but I took them enough that I’m hoping the sugar reintroduction won’t be so bad!)

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Feelings after second half: It got easier, for sure, but I never felt the “tiger’s blood” that most people report feeling during the last half of Whole30. I probably wasn’t eating enough filling foods (though I am not snacking as much as I used to–win). I also haven’t been good about drinking water (already failing at the New Year’s resolution); I felt really light-headed this past weekend when we went to a museum, and it was probably because I hadn’t had any water. I’m really trying to get better about it, but I hate going to the restroom. It feels like such a waste of time (weird, I know), but I really need to rethink that in order to get better about drinking water (perhaps consider it as a mini-break from work instead? haha…). Also, my gut in general doesn’t feel amazing, either.

Accidental and purposeful cheats: We use almond meal to make the “breading” for the chicken fingers (shown above), but the almond meal we just purchased this past weekend looks quite different from the normal almond meal. We may have inadvertently eaten some unapproved meal of some sort. Other than that, we’ve been doing well as far as accidents go. On the other hand, we have purposefully cheated (call the Whole30 police). While everything we ate was compliant ingredient-wise, it was not compliant in spirit. We bought and ate sweet potato chips dipped in guacamole on Super Bowl Sunday. We discovered the deliciousness that is a blended frozen banana (plus coconut milk to actually get it to blend) mixed with fresh strawberries. It resembles ice cream, so that’s a no-no. But, to be completely honest, I’m planning on eating it in addition to ice cream once we are done. It’s that good. We also had banana pancakes. It’s not the two-ingredient banana-and-egg combination–it’s probably better, honestly. I didn’t count that one as a cheat because I don’t like regular pancakes. I can only eat them with a million chocolate chips (or if it’s the only option and I’m ravenous). I actually craved these pancakes last week, which is a first for me regarding pancakes. A total win! They are also the perfect fresh strawberry delivery system. 😉

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New favorites: Besides all of the meals I’ve shown you in my posts, new favorites that I’ll definitely be keeping in the rotation include scrambled eggs with avocado, green apples dipped in almond butter, mixed nuts roasted with cinnamon (and freeze-dried strawberry “dust”–not sure if the dust will be staying around but roasted nuts is still much better than any other snack I liked before), and fresh fruit (sliced strawberries, peaches, grapefruit etc.). I liked fresh fruit before, but it’s going to become more of a snack food now and less of a I’ll-buy-this-only-because-I-crave-it type of food. We’ve been splitting a grapefruit every day for breakfast and it’s now become something I look forward to every morning. Coconut chips also proved to be quite a good snack, but I’m not sure if they’ll hang around. They’re not exactly filling or even that satisfying, haha.

Final thoughts: As I mentioned before, I’m nervous about the reintroduction phase, but at the same time, I’m SO excited to finally not have restrictions! A lot of people who do Whole30 end up not even missing the foods they aren’t eating, but I do. I don’t know if it’s because it’s what I’ve been eating my whole life and I’m used to it, or if it’s because my body feels weaker now than before I started Whole30. Chris and I both ended up losing weight, which was not part of the plan, but I guess it happens. (You’re supposed to not weigh yourself during the 30 days, but we had packages to send and needed to figure out how much they weighed.) If you’re considering doing the Whole30 and want to reap all of the possible benefits, make sure you follow their rules exactly or else you’ll probably end up like me: really indifferent and rather annoyed with the whole experience. I think the key to making this work (besides NO cheats whatsoever) is making sure your meals are super filling and satisfying. Nothing is worse than getting those hunger growls only a couple of  hours after finishing a meal! I hope these posts were at least somewhat informative; I plan to post again in about a month just to give a quick update on how the reintroductions went. 🙂

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Top photo: Kale and potato breakfast hash

Top middle photo: Mexican “breaded” chicken, roasted white potatoes, and lemon garlic green beans

Bottom middle photo: Blended frozen banana with coconut milk and strawberries

Bottom photo: Banana pancakes with strawberries

{All photos are via my Instagram!}

Whole30: Nearly halfway

Tomorrow marks day 15 of our Whole30. I’m not going to lie, it has been a rough couple of weeks. Chris and I were ready to call it quits last weekend…and then I looked up the “timeline” and realized we were right on track! I didn’t realize people felt lots of different emotions while doing the Whole30, but it totally makes sense. It’s also cool to see that enough people have chimed in about their experiences that the timeline was able to be created. Today’s post is just a quick update, including some recipes we’ve tried, setbacks, accidental and purposeful cheats, and thoughts moving forward.

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Feelings after first half: Is it February 11th yet? Seriously, I’m counting down the days. I miss everything I can’t eat. I’ve already started making a list and daydreaming about what I’m going to eat when this is done. I know you’re not supposed to jump into ALL the crap food the day after Whole30 is done, but it’s so tempting! It doesn’t help that Valentine’s Day is just a few short days after. The things I miss most are cheese, chocolate, cookies, any kind of bread, cereal, milk…and also being able to eat out. We’ve been out for breakfast but that’s all we really care to try. (Though we are going out to eat later this week and it should be interesting.) I also couldn’t get into my journal. I journaled for three days and then stopped. I should have kept track more because I had weird PMS symptoms last week (when I’m not expecting my menstrual cycle until next month). I was not expecting that at all. It’s crazy how much diet affects bodily functions that you don’t even think would that much.

Accidental and purposeful cheats: We bought freeze-dried strawberries that just had strawberries listed in the ingredients. We also bought freeze-dried peaches, thinking that it would just be peaches. Nope. We had some and then realized there was added sugar. We also made roasted potatoes last week (see bottom photo) and put seasoned salt on the potatoes, also not realizing there was sugar in it. Oops! At least we didn’t put that much on. After the first week, we both felt really weak and decided to take our gummy vitamins again even though there’s glucose in them. (Turns out the weakness we felt was normal for everyone doing the Whole30.) We don’t have them every day but I still don’t think it’s allowed. We also bought calcium gummies because of the lack of dairy. Those we’ve been having more often and they also contain glucose. I just say YOLO to that, lol.

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Greatest difficulties: Lunches and snacking. (And declining friends’ offers to eat out.) For lunch, we’ve brought leftovers as often as possible, but it kind of gets boring to bring leftovers over and over again. We’ve had a couple of successful lunches: strawberry almond arugula salad with lime vinaigrette and egg salad lettuce wraps. We tried doing turkey avocado rolls but we could only eat the organic turkey slices and they were disgusting. Never again. Snacking is quite difficult because you’re not really supposed to snack on the Whole30; you’re supposed to eat enough filling things during meals to keep you fuller for longer. While I’ve significantly cut down on snacking, it’s still something I do and there’s not a whole lot I can eat. We did make rosemary roasted almonds and those are fine. I also nibble on pecans and fruit, like peaches or strawberries. (Strawberries are nature’s potato chips, I’ve decided.) At home, I LOVE having a sliced green apple dipped in fresh almond butter. So. Good. Breakfast used to be difficult, but now we pretty much eat the same thing every day: scrambled eggs with avocado and grapefruit during the week and that plus bacon on the weekends. We add in leftover potatoes if there are any. (This week we are making a potato hash which sounds excellent for breakfast.)

Thoughts moving forward: I’m so happy we’re nearly halfway done! I feel like these past two weeks went by relatively slowly but hopefully the next two won’t be so bad. We were invited to a Super Bowl party next weekend, and that plus our one planned evening out might be the last couple of times we have to deal with making sure the food is compliant. (Thank goodness, because I hate being the person who says I’m dairy- and gluten-free when I’m not, really…) I’m eager to see how I feel by the end of it since I don’t really feel that different at this point. Also, I don’t see us continuing to eat like this forever even if it does help us both feel better because it is kind of expensive. We go to the store twice a week now and the gluten/dairy-free things are more expensive than the other things. I’m glad to have new favorite meals and snacks, though, like the apples and almond butter. I hope to try some more new recipes in the second half (we tried a lot in the first half!). Lastly, I hope we continue to fight the urge to quit. We almost quit many times over the past couple of weeks (the most major being last weekend when we felt so weak). We can do it! We’re so close!

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Top photo: lemon rosemary salmon, rosemary roasted potatoes, and sautéed garlic green beans

Middle photo: guacamole and chili “nachos” with baked russet and sweet potato chips

Bottom photo: flank steak with pineapple relish, roasted potatoes, and lemon roasted broccoli

{Follow me on Instagram to see more of my favorite Whole30-approved recipes!}

Whole30: The beginning

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Yesterday, Chris and I started the Whole30 diet. If you’re not familiar, it’s basically a paleo diet–no gluten, added sugar, dairy, weird additives, and legumes–for 30 days. This is not something I was ever planning on doing. People who know me know I’m obsessed with candy, chocolate, cheese…pretty much everything you can’t eat on the Whole30. We decided to go for it because Chris has had some gastrointestinal issues that haven’t been solved and it would have been difficult for me to eat differently than him because he’s the chef out of the two of us. (Also, I was reading about Whole30 on the website and it made me feel guilty for wanting to cheat, haha.) I figured I could do it. It’s only 30 days, and yeah, it’s probably going to suck at some point but a body “reset” sounds like a good idea to me. Plus, as far as times of the year to do something like this, now seems like the best time. There aren’t any major holidays, and we have no travel planned.

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We went grocery shopping on Sunday for the week and picked up a lot of fruits and veggies, a good amount of meat, some canned goods, and likely not enough snack foods. Snacking might be the most difficult part of the next month; I’m a huge snacker, especially while I’m working. Yesterday I just had a few nuts and fruit leftover from lunch to munch on in the middle of the afternoon, only I polished it all off only an hour after I had lunch. We’re not even supposed to have tree nuts that often so hopefully I figure out some good, filling snack foods pronto! (Please let me know if you have any good Whole30 recipes or snack ideas! I’d love to hear them.)

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Over the weekend, we purchased journals so we can keep track of what we eat. I also have been writing down how I feel so I can get a hang of cravings, emotions associated with them, how filling foods are, etc. I need to remember to bring it to school with me so I can avoid having to remember how the day went once I get back home. We also boxed up all of the food in our pantry that we can’t eat (and that will still be good in a month). It was slightly depressing filling the box with some of my favorite things to eat!

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Despite the inevitable challenges, I hope the next 30 days teaches me to be more aware of what I put into my body and help me make better choices when it comes to eating things that make me feel good emotionally and physically. Also, since we are basically limited to only water as far as drinks go (no alcohol…), I think this will also help me with my resolution to drink more water!

I wasn’t planning on blogging about it that much but I hope to do some more kind of “review” posts like these just to document this process since I’ve never done a diet like this before. If you have done the Whole30 before, please let me know how it went! I’d love to hear any tips, tricks, favorite recipes, ways to combat cravings, etc. 🙂