a tea + my thoughts // no. 2

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I’m back this month with another tea and a handful of things on my mind! The tea I’m talking about this month is my most common go-to and has been for years: a classic Earl Grey. It’s a black tea, kind of similar to English Breakfast, but infused with bergamot orange to give it the best floral, citrus flavor and makes it less bitter than your typical black tea. Earl Grey also happens to be the favorite tea of Queen Elizabeth, making it one of many things we clearly have in common 😚 Apparently, she likes Twining’s, too, which is my go-to brand.

Fun fact, because black tea is fermented, it’s a prebiotic that’s super healthy for your gut (like kombucha, which is made out of black tea). Plus, bergamot contains powerful antioxidants! To brew the perfect cup of Earl Grey, you’ll want to boil filtered water, then let it cool to 185 degrees then add a bag or teaspoon of loose leaves to steep for up to five minutes. I like to add a bit of raw honey to my cup and serve in a glass mug like the one in the photo.

find what you like //
I feel like I often hear so many people talking about aspects of their lives as if they were exhausting, miserable chores and I just really feel like shouting, “It doesn’t have to be that way!!” Really, it’s your life and it’s finite and you should be spending it doing the things you love or at least doing the necessary things in a way that makes you happy.

For instance, I hear all the time people say “I go to the gym a few times a week, but I really hate working out”. Really? You hate moving your body? The reality is they don’t hate working out, they just hate the workout they’re doing because they think that’s the workout they’re supposed to do. I don’t like aggressive boot camp style workouts. Does that mean I hate working out? God no, I love it. But I don’t do the types of workouts I hate. Instead, I do workouts that make me feel great during and after, like ballet and yoga and spin class or even just doing something active like a hike or a swim.

This idea applies to every area of life from working out to eating to your job and how you spend your weekends. People do a lot of things that make them really unhappy and we all need to realize that life can exist outside of the arbitrary confines so many people cage themselves into.

where do you get style inspiration? //
Last month, I went back to look at some of my old blog posts from several years ago and found one from 2015 about my favorite street style girls. It made me wonder, is street style still as big a thing as it was in my high school and college days? Or is everyone now just getting inspiration from fashion bloggers on Instagram? And if so, is that necessarily a good thing? I will say, I still love the girls I mentioned in that post, especially Caroline Issa who is perpetually chic. Who inspires your outfits?

looking back at old posts //
Like I said up top, I’ve been looking back through my old blog posts and have actually been super inspired by them! I did a lot of interesting fashion content, which I’d like to do more of but I’m kind of in a place where the state of the fashion industry is really uninteresting to me at the moment. I heard Kanye West talking about this and how the industry has kind of been reduced to things that appeal to the lowest common denominator and it’s no longer that attractive to a lot of people who have a long history of appreciating fashion. I’m trying to think of ways to re-engage myself in that world in a way that feels right to me. I’m excited to find new ways to appreciate this kind of art form again!

new album from the 1975 //
The new 1975 album came out in November, but I hadn’t gotten around to listening to it just yet because the songs I had heard sounded so different than the last album (which I adore) and it made me a little leery. But, I saw them perform “It’s Not Living” on Graham Norton and was like okay, yes, I’m into it. Then I listened to the whole new album and read a bit about it and wow, it’s brilliant and so timely. It really reflects a mood that resonates so much with me which is the bizarreness of being relentlessly optimistic in times of chaos. Like I said, it’s timely and reflects this very specific moment of time we’re in. Highly suggest you give it a listen and read the lyrics when you do.

trimming my own hair //
Even though I have hair cutting experience, i surprisingly just trimmed my own hair for the very first time! I was thinking about making an appointment at my salon before an upcoming trip, but then I asked myself if I really needed to pay $75+ when I really just needed a trim and would rather have that extra money to spend on the trip. I still had my cutting shears from hair school (long story), so I went in the bathroom and did a nearly dry point cut that look like five minutes and it did the trick!

a triumphant return to st. augustine

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As you might know, I lived in St. Augustine, Florida while doing my undergrad at Flagler College and have so many good memories of my time there. From swimming in ocean in the mornings before class and hanging out at all of the cute cafés to riding my bike around the cobblestone streets and appreciating all of the historic architecture (in addition to all of the typical college experiences, too, of course), there was always something to appreciate.

But, I didn’t go back to visit St. Augustine for a really long time after graduating because the end of senior year was a weird time for me and for awhile, I felt really negative connotations with the town that I loved so much before. I finally went back for the first time last summer, three years (!!!) after graduation with my friend Ryan, who I had studied with and was back in Florida visiting from New Jersey. He admitted that he kind of had some of the same weird feelings being back, which made me feel so much better about the whole thing.

While it was weird seeing all the ways things had changed and all the old places where I had so many memories, it was a good way to get over the bad vibes. Since then, I had visited one other time but it was at night and rainy and wasn’t the most exciting. But, this past weekend, my friend Holly and I planned a day trip that I felt helped me to reclaim my old city as my own.

Holly grew up in North Carolina and only moved to Florida recently. She’d been wanting to spend some time in St. Augustine and I’ve become a pretty enthusiastic tour guide, so I was excited for the day. What made it even better was that she recently bought the same exact car as me, so it was like being a passenger in my own vehicle on the way up. Haha.

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We started by getting donuts and driving up A1A along the beach to get there, which is one of my favorite drives. Sometimes when I had the time, I would take this route going back to school from my parents’ house in New Smyrna Beach in the evening. I always listened to Lana Del Rey on the drives for some reason (lol) and it was so magical. It’s an ocean view almost the entire way until you pass through some small, really Southern looking towns and then get into St. Augustine Beach.

Once we got into the beach side of town, we passed some of my old haunts like Café 11 (which had the best caprese sandwich and there were always dogs out on the patio), the beach outpost of Kookaburra Coffee, and the beach entry by the pier that was always my go-to.

Passing by the beach as we approached downtown, we passed the old office of the wedding planning company I worked for in school as well as the lighthouse and the touristy Alligator Farm, somewhere I’d never actually ended up visiting.

Crossing over the Bridge of Lions is always a kind of magical experience because you get the most amazing view of historic downtown as well as the portion of the St. John’s River that comes through town. Sometimes, you’ll get stopped if the drawbridge is up, but it’s fun because you can get out of the car and walk around. Didn’t happen to us today, but the view was perfect nonetheless.

So, we parked over on a street by my old dorm and walked up through campus so I could show her the amazing architecture and especially the courtyard which is one of my favorite places in town.

We walked around a little and stopped in this new self-serve tap room situation which reminded me of a scaled down version of a wine bar I love in Winter Park. We had some wine and pineapple cider, then walked uptown around where my former hairstylist’s salon is. I like the uptown area because it’s less touristy than much of downtown.

Our first stop was Juniper Market which is a super aesthetically pleasing coffee shop slash market slash art studio. It’s all white shiplap and there are tons of gorgeous paintings and paper goods created in house. There were some gorgeous postcards with painted magnolias and oranges that I’m very much coveting!

We went next door to Goldfinch, a boutique I loved exploring when I was in school. They have a really cute curated selection of chic, beachy bohemian dresses, bags, and jewelry. Next stop was the antique store across the street where I found a gorgeous pair of vintage earrings for $2! 😍

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Next, we walked over to one of my all-time favorite restaurants in the world, The Floridian. I absolutely adored their original location which was right next door to my communications building and was sad to hear that they had moved but I ended up really adoring the new location. They were able to really retain and maybe even enhance the cozy, homey, Southern vibe.

What I love about The Floridian is how it celebrates Florida heritage in a way that’s authentic. There’s no Mickey Mouses or tacky neon palm trees. Instead, there are beautiful wooden antiques, the most stunning alligator painting (it might be charcoal), and a creative, well thought out menu that sources locally.

I got my go-to order, the Fried Green Tomato hoagie with side salad and sweet tea. My friend got a Fried Green Tomato BLT (with bacon jam instead of actual bacon) and a Garden Gimlet which was this really great herby cocktail.

After our early dinner, we went over to Ice Plant which is one of my favorites that I never visited enough when I lived in town. It’s this great bar inside a 1920s ice factory that serves a vintage inspired menu. I got my go-to Moscow Mule and we sat there for quite awhile talking about fun potential future plans and making friends with one of the bartenders who was a fellow Flagler graduate. He was definitely the kind of person who made me proud to have graduated from Flagler because was so intelligent and thoughtful about the issues we were discussing.

I took a couple photos while we were having drinks and sort of love them because they have an interesting vibe and look like they could’ve been taken in the 1920s, particularly the one at the bottom of this post. It really feels like it tells a story.

After drinks, we went over to the beach. My friend is from North Carolina but once came to St. Augustine for spring break and, coincidentally, one of the spots that meant a lot of her was the same pier that holds a place in a lot of my own memories.

So, we went over there and walked on the beach. It was getting dark and misty and I was wearing wellies, so it weirdly felt like being on a beach in England or something!

Last stop was ice-cream because how else would we end the day? We picked some up and then made the drive back home. It was super misty at that point so all of the fluorescent signs along the beach made it feel like we were in a film noir. Ultimately, it was such an inspiring day and made me feel really excited for the rest of the year!

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twelve little luxuries under $50

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‘Tis the season for a little luxury, don’t you think? Of course, that could potentially be said about any month, but I just think it’s so fitting for February. In most places, it’s still cold to the point where everyone wants nothing more than to be cozied up indoors until spring. A big facet of this month’s theme of self love, in my opinion, is treating yourself to little luxuries that give you a little boost of joy.

Of course, when I think about things I’d like to treat myself to, my mind sometimes jumps to a Chloé handbag or a gorgeous sweater from The Row, but those are definitely not just “little” luxuries 😅 Luckily though, there’s tons of little luxuries that are either free (cuddling with your pet, doing yoga by the beach) or a lot more affordable than those splurge items. Here’s my list of twelve little luxuries, all under $50, to treat yourself to this month.

Why not start with a really good, luxurious tea like the Chocolate Rose variation from Tea Forte? Pair that with the iconic milk chocolate bar from the Mast Brothers based in Brooklyn. Pop a bottle of champagne, preferably Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label. If you’re a sweets girl, head to your local bakery for a gorgeous fruit tart. Dress up your nightstand or kitchen table with a fresh bouquet of flowers from Trader Joe’s or your local florist.

Make laundry less of a chore by using detergent from The Laundress, which made my college dorm hall laundry trips a whole lot more bearable. Treat your teeth to a fancy licorice toothpaste and a tortoise shell toothbrush. Make every hand washing a mini spa experience with Aesop’s Resurrection hand soap. If there’s a classic film you adore, buy a copy of the Criterion Collection version.

Get a little taste of Chanel with one of their Le Vernis polishes to make you feel super luxe. There’s nothing like a great lipstick to boost your mood and the Tom Ford lipsticks are particularly beautiful. Pick your favorite Maison Margiela Replica scent (I like them all) and buy the travel size version which lasts a surprisingly long time.

What little luxuries do you treat yourself to? Maybe the occasional hot yoga class or a mimosa at your favorite brunch place? Let me know!

your plan for a self-loving valentine's day

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Happy Friday! I hope you’ve all been having a really great month so far. After this weekend, we’re going into the week of Valentine’s Day, a topic I mentioned my thoughts on in this month’s letter. Since this month’s editorial theme is self-love, I wanted to share some ideas for ways to spend this Valentine’s Day that promote that.

read something inspiring //
Spend the evening (or week) reading a book that will inspire you to be the best version of yourself and to love who you truly are. I recommend You Are a Badass, Spirit Junkie, How To Love Yourself (And Sometimes Others), and Big Magic.

watch something romantic //
Now’s the perfect time to watch something sweeping and romantic, even if it may not be about 'romantic love’. It could be a traditional romantic comedy like Crazy Rich Asians, You’ve Got Mail, and Notting Hill which will all put you in a good mood with the humor and gorgeous scenery. Or, it could be something more classically romantic such as Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, Roman Holiday, and Funny Face.

bake a treat for yourself or to share //
For me at least, baking is a really calming and grounding activity to do and it results in something really delicious. Whether you’re keeping it all to yourself or inviting friends over to share, it’d be fun to spend the evening baking before settling in with your book or movie. Some ideas are a classic chocolate tart, Chloe Coscarelli’s chocolate chip cookies (with or without ice-cream), and the best fudgy brownies.

book a massage or facial //
If you need an excuse to treat yourself to a day at the spa, I’m providing you with an excuse! My local spa has this amazing package where you get a massage, facial, and pedicure as well as access to all of the facilities like sauna, stone loungers, and whirlpool for only about $135 and this is a gorgeous spa, mind you. See if any of your local spas have package deals like that because it’s so worth it!

have an at-home spa night //
If you can’t make it in to the spa, it’s easy to create your own experience right at home. Create a list of treatments you want to do, choose a chill playlist, then up the ante with some fruit or cucumber infused water. My favorite spa routine is to dry brush, take an amazing bath with salts and soaks while doing a face mask and hair mask, then follow up with a moisturizing body mask and DIY manicure/pedicure. 💅

write yourself a love letter //
This idea takes simple journaling a step further. Something nice to do any day of the year but especially around Valentine’s Day is to remind yourself that you’re always your own number one Valentine by writing yourself a love letter. It might seem silly at first, but writing down your accomplishments and the qualities you like about yourself is a really powerful exercise for your self-esteem.

create a positive mantra //
I love repeating my mantras every morning before I start the day and periodically switch them up depending on the situation. Use this week to develop your own positive mantra to put you in the right state of mind. I really like Jennifer Lopez’s mantras as well as these self love affirmations.

making the switch to a non-toxic lifestyle

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February is self love month and there are so many facets of what that means, but one of them is undoubtedly protecting your health. One big way to do that is to try your best to lead a ‘non-toxic lifestyle’. I’m not one of those people who is going to tell you chemicals are evil and to be avoided at all costs. It drives me crazy when I hear people say that because not all chemicals are dangerous. Water is a chemical, after all.

But we are definitely living in a time where we’re exposed to so many potentially dangerous chemicals on a daily basis. Over the last half a century, there’s been a huge uptick of chemical production in the U.S. Unfortunately, there’s some exposure that’s unavoidable, but that just means we should be taking control of our harmful chemical exposure in whatever ways we can. I put together a list of several things you can try in each area to reduce your exposure and lead as close to a non-toxic life as possible.

home //
You can go very in depth when it comes to the home, but here are a few basic things you can do to clean up your environment.

  • Reduce artificial fragrance. I adore candles as much as (possibly more than) the next person, but you have to be careful because the majority of candles are made with paraffin wax which releases known carcinogens when burned. Additionally, the artificial scents release even more toxins into the air. Make the switch to soy, beeswax, or coconut wax candles made with essential oils and wicks made from hemp, natural cotton, or wood. Some safe brands are Red Flower, Life+Cycle, SpaRitual, Mrs. Meyers, and Burt’s Bees. If you don’t need the flickering light of a candle, you can also just use an essential oil diffuser for home fragrance instead.

  • Use safe cleaning products. This is the big one. There are endless amounts of statistics about how harmful toxic cleaning products are to our health. The easiest switch you can make today is to stop using cheap, toxic brands and switch to cleaner products. I suggest using EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning to find information on brands. Typically, the natural products that are easily found in stores (Mrs. Meyer’s, Method) fall in the middle. They’re not perfect, but they’re certainly better than things like Ajax and Clorox. Some of the top of the line brands you should check out are Seventh Generation and Attitude.

  • Use DIY methods. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on high end, non-toxic cleaning products because there are plenty of DIYs out there. The big two that I recommend are cleaning with a solution made from vinegar, water, and essential oils as an all purpose cleaner and using wool dryer balls with essential oils instead of dryer sheets.

  • Switch from plastic to glass. Even BPA free plastic can leak chemicals into food that’s being stored in it and that’s particularly true if you’re warming up food in plastic containers. A super easy swap is to use glass containers like Pyrex for food storage. It’s also so much better for the environment.

  • Open your windows. Not only does it feel good, but opening the windows can improve your indoor air quality by releasing built up air pollutants and dust. Indoor plants will also help purify your air!

food //

  • Reference the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen. If you’re ever wondering, “Do I have to splurge and buy this organic?”, here you go. These lists tell us which produce items are most likely to be tested positive for high amounts of pesticides and which have the lowest amounts. Obviously buying organic all the time is ideal, but at least buy organic when it comes to the Dirty Dozen which contains things like strawberries, spinach, apples, grapes, and more.

  • Shop the perimeter of the store. Avoiding highly processed food is an easy way to reduce your intake of food toxins. Try to do the bulk of your shopping on the perimeter of the store, preferably in the produce section.

  • Adopt a plant based diet. Avoid meat and dairy altogether or at least, be very aware of where your meats aWear re coming from. Meat should ideally be high quality, grass fed, and organic.

beauty //

  • Make it easy by shopping smart. Finding non-toxic brands by scanning labels at the store for poor ingredients can be really confusing and time consuming. You can bypass all the research by simply shopping from trustworthy sources that do the work for you such as Credo, Follain, CAP Beauty, and Dermstore. Some particular brands I like are RMS, W3LL People, January Labs, Juice Beauty, Indie Lee, and Kjaer Weis.

  • Be aware of basic ingredients to avoid. These include sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, parabens, and phthalates. To make it easy, check out the EWG Cosmetics Database to see which products contain which potentially harmful ingredients and make the decisions best suited to your needs and concerns.

  • Wear less makeup. This is obviously a personal choice, but it’s certainly easier to avoid toxins in makeup by wearing less of it. Once you’re on the right skincare regimen for you, your skin will likely not even “need” makeup to look healthy and glowing. Over time, I’ve pared my makeup routine down to the basics of RMS concealer, a lip product, and sometimes mascara.

mind, body, soul //

  • Remove toxic people from your life. We’re not just talking about things that are toxic to the body, but things that are toxic to the mind and the soul as well. The state of your mind, after all, is a crucial part of your overall health so if you’re super stressed out, it likely won’t reflect well in your body. Relationships are complicated and there’s always highs, lows, conflicts, and so on but if someone is truly toxic in your life, do what you can to distance yourself for your own wellbeing.

  • Meditate. To manage the inevitable stress of daily life, get into a good meditation routine. I know it’s hard to get into at first, you’re not alone. It took me forever to finally get to a point where I like doing it and sometimes I’m still impatient about it. My advice is to start small, even if it’s just three to five minutes a day. I promise once you get into it, you’ll see the benefits.

  • Journal. Another way of combating stress and toxicity of the mind is to get all of your thoughts out in a journal. You can do it however you want whether it’s just a free flowing brain dump on the page or using complex charts to help sort out your thoughts. I definitely do a combination of both!

  • Go to therapy. A top notch way of getting all of your thoughts and emotions on the table in a healthy environment is to see a mental health counselor. It seems like the stigma of counseling is waning these days, which is great, but I still feel the need to say that going doesn’t make you weird/crazy/a failure or anything like that. It means you’re proactively taking your health into your own hands by consulting a professional who can help you make improvements to your life because that’s what successful people do.

  • Exercise. I’m not even talking about the physical benefits of exercise! When you find the right workout for you, doing it regularly becomes like a form of therapy that helps you to clear your mind and find peace and gratitude.