Sitting Pretty in the City

Sitting Pretty in the City - Chicago, IL.  View of downtown and Lake Michigan from the steps of The Field Museum.
I had several startling realizations lately, so allow me to share them with you:
  • I am becoming a tad bit of a local now. (Which, I’m sure even calling myself a local negates the whole “being a local” thing, but whatever.) I have been living in Chicago just shy of two months, and successfully went to several different places in the past week without using Google Maps to guide me– including navigating public transit.  Big steps, kids.
  • Walking around the city in the fall is the best thing ever. I spent a few hours just exploring yesterday.  Sun shining, wind blowing, wearing a blanket scarf, and carrying coffee.  I passed a ton of puppies, attractive runners, and gorgeous orange and red trees.
    I even stumbled into a thrift shop that I will be visiting quite frequently now. Not only do the proceeds from the sales go towards a local hospital, but the shop was the perfect over-crowded hod-podge of stuff that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  I spent less than 10 dollars on a bag full of things, and am sure I will be going back all the time.  Bonus points that it’s on the way to the closest train stop, which means I pass it everyday.  Dangerous and wonderful!
  • I swore I wasn’t going to waste money on fall decorations because a) I probably can’t afford them, b) my apartment is roughly the size of a large closet, so why waste the space and c) I’m just kind of lazy.  But then I found a bag of tiny pumpkins at the grocery store, and I may have blacked out a little because now my apartment is covered in tiny pumpkins. 

Sitting Pretty in the City - Chicago, IL: Decorating a tiny apartment with tiny pumpkins is quick, cheap and easy.

  • It is finally Giraffe Onesie weather.  Let us all rejoice.
  • You can buy candle-making stuff online for so cheap that it will make you wonder why you ever spent $16 dollars on a scented fall candle.  This may or may not be foreshadowing to what is about to happen next.  You have all been warned.
  • I have been reading a self-help book that I will not disclose the name of because #embarrassment but it’s making me THINK things and question things and wonder if how I am approaching life is the right way and oh my god, the quarter-life crisis is coming early, folks.
  • I miss my Kroger “Amaretto” coffee creamer so badly that I am thinking of having my mom ship me some a la college style.  Who knew moving to such a wonderful place would mean giving up SO much?
  • And finally, baseball is so confusing. I’m trying hard to follow the Cubs and their quest for glory (right? Isn’t that how we say it in sports terms?) but I just can’t make it work.  They’ve lost to the Mets twice, but apparently there are 7 games?  Why 7? Who decided this? Where can I find a brochure on how this all works? Is there a class?
Anyone with sports knowledge want to help me out?  I’m sure this is necessarily knowledge for my quest to find a husband. Thanks in advance.


5 Tips for Working at Home

By some crazy accident, I’m managed to get jobs that have left me working from home for the last year.

First it was with the CSAC, where I interned from home (which is what prompted me to start this blog!) and then when they hired me on as a Director, I rotated between my couch, one of our schools, and the local Panera Bread as my work stations.

Now, at my new job in Chicago, we’re without an office space for a few months, so I’m back at working from home again.  Funny how that works out, huh?

Basically, I’ve become a master at working from “home”.  Other than the major perk being you can wear whatever you want, there are a few downsides.  And if you lack a specific home office— or even a desk—, that can be a huge problem. I’ve talked about how to stay productive at home before, but a whole year of experience has added some new hacks to the system.

Thankfully, for those of you struggling with (or without!) the home office, you have me to help you.  Allow me to share my vast experience in the world of working without an office:

1. Start your day like you would if you were heading to an office.

You wouldn’t head to a real office without brushing your teeth or putting on a bra, so you shouldn’t do that at home either.  Get up, eat breakfast, and get ready for the day as if you would be leaving the house.  I’m not saying put on a full face of make-up and your business casual, but the actual act of getting yourself ready for the day will help you trick your mind into getting into a productive headspace far better than if you just stayed in your pajamas.

2.  Plan your breaks and stick with them.

Keep your brain in “work mode” by planning your day like you would if you were working a typical job.  Work all the way until your designated lunch time, and don’t allow yourself to get distracted before then.  If you work from your couch, it can be super easy to forget that you’re working and just zone out in front of the TV, so make sure you plan for your “break time” and stick to those times.

3.  Don’t work where you play.

In Ohio, I worked specifically from the couch, or the kitchen table. Those were my designated “work spots” and my mind knew that.  Now, in my studio apartment, the only real sitting area is my bed (AKA, where I spend all my time) so I’ve designated my workspace as being the floor in front of my bed. Totally, glamorous, I know.  But the floor is way better than working on in the same position that I normally watch Netflix and cruise Pinterest.

If I ever feel distracted on the floor (or stir-crazy, because I never leave my apartment), I take my computer down to a local coffee shop, or anywhere with WIFI.   Sometimes the change of pace is good and you can re-focus yourself at this new space.  Wherever you choose to work, just make sure you associate it with only working to help keep yourself focused.

4.  “If you couldn’t do it at an office, you shouldn’t do it at home”

I used to constantly be watching TV when I worked from home in Ohio.  I would tell myself I’m sticking to only boring shows for background noise, but it was still super distracting.  Normal people probably can’t have Netflix playing in the background of their workday, so why should you?

It’s a major temptation, but totally worth it to keep the TV off while you work.  I used to be so bad at this, but since I’ve been actually making myself follow this rule, my productivity has increased so much.  You may think you can multi-task, but each time you stop what you’re doing, you’re losing your focus on your work.  So no painting nails, doing laundry, baking cookies, or cleaning the house while you should be working. Save those for your lunch break.

5.  Create your office atmosphere.

You won’t be productive if you are surrounded by chaos.  Especially chaos that is associated with your home life.   If you’re lucky enough to have a desk, set up to fit your working style.  If you don’t have a specific work space, make sure you have everything you’d need at arms reach, and you have secluded yourself as much as possible if there is chaos around you.  Move the basket of laundry that needs folded so it’s not reminding you of other things to do, and pick up all the cats toys so you won’t be tempted to finally teach her how to fetch.  Where ever you are, make sure it’s got a productive atmosphere with no distractions.

If you’re in a public space, I highly recommend getting headphones.  I love listening to Spotify EDM playlists when I work.  They are full of upbeat songs with very little lyrics to distract me, and the music keeps me awake and motivated. Time passes much quicker when I have Steve Aoki in the background.

And if all else fails, motivate yourself with good food.  Most offices have a pizza party at least once a year, right?  You’re your own boss at your home office, friend.  Pizza parties can be everyday. Or donut parties.  I highly recommend donut parties.

Got any working-at-home tips?  Share them in the comments!


Bright Nails for Fall

Essie Cream Nail Polish by Essie in “Hip-Anema”

Fall nail polishes are synonymous with dark, brooding colors: oxblood, navys, deep greens, and neutrals.  I love a good dark blood red polish as much as the next gal, but if you have tiny nail beds like mine, dark polishes can make your fingers look short and stubby.

And now that I live in the big city, short-stubby fingers will totally hinder my future back-up career plan as a hand-model. So I’ve been trying to stay away lately.

I’ve been steering towards oranges and orange-reds as the weather has changed.  Dark reds and navys have me thinking of Thanksgiving and snowfall, instead of crunching leaves and layered sweaters.  I can’t wait until Christmas, but there is something magical about October that has me wanting to stay living in it as long as possible.

essie “Hip-Anema” was an impulse purchase last winter, and I fell out of love with it almost immediately after I got it, and it fell to the back of my collection.  It wasn’t until I was looking for more autumnal colors that I finally picked it back up, and have been using it since August.

Though it’s bright, it has an orange-y undertone that I think works well with the cooler weather, and the anticipation of Halloween.  It makes me think of happy, warm fall days instead of the dowdy, overcast ones we’ve been having in Chicago.  If I squint really hard at my nails, I can see crunchy leaves instead of spitting rain.

As an added bonus: I love the formula.  It has a thin texture that goes on very easily, and doesn’t goop up.  I go for 2-3 light coats, and end with a good opaque manicure that lasts awhile with minimal chipping.

Have you tried it, or have any other favorite autumnal brights?


Accidental Ulta Haul

Accidental Ulta Haul, featuring NYX Cosmetics, Real Techniques, L'Oreal Paris and a sneaky little surprise!

Since moving into my tiny apartment, Gracie Cat and I have entered a daily struggle with trying to keep her entertained.  Apparently the toys that were good enough back in Ohio no longer suit her now that she’s a big city kitty (such a snob), so she has started going after my stuff.

Her favorite past time is to wait until my apartment is pitch black and I’m trying to sleep, then jump up on the table/desk/vanity space and try to knock everything onto the floor.  Not only do I wake up to all my stuff on the floor— pens, pony-tails, paper, make-up brushes— but I am constantly woken by the sounds of things hitting my floor.  I bet my downstairs neighbors love me.

It started with my beauty blender, which she promptly ruined by biting and clawing it, and running it over every dusty surface of my tiny apartment.  Then, she graduated to the big dogs: my gel eyeliner pot.

And let me tell you, you don’t know terrifying until a tiny glass make-up pot falls from 4 feet up and lands on a wood floor at 4am.  I thought someone was breaking down my front door.

What was really impressive is that she managed to get the lid off the pot, dye her little white paws black, and smear it over the floor.  Because Gracie doesn’t do anything half-assed, that’s for sure.

And this was basically a long-winded way of saying that I needed a few things from Ulta, and then accidentally went hog-wild.  Beauty rewards points, a $10 off coupon, free shipping advertisement, and a sale on NYX products will do that to ya, I guess.

First of all I replaced my beauty blender, the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge and my eyeliner: L’Oréal Paris Infallible 24HR Lacquer Intense Gel Eyeliner in “blackest black”. It’s my first gel liner— well, this pot is technically the second, thanks Gracie— and although I like the product, the brush needs some work.  It would be much better if it came with an angled brush for a more precise line, as opposed to the rinky-dink little one it comes with.

Then came the new products: NYX  Highlight and Contour Pro Palette, NYX Control Freak Eye Brow Gel in “clear” and the NYX Vinyl Liquid Liner.

All I’m going to say at the moment is that I am loving the contour palette.  I’m going to do a full review on it this week, so watch for that if you’re interested.

Unfortunately, I’m not too tickled by the liner.  I thought I’d like the skinny brush, but I find it a little hard to control. I have yet to figure out how to get a crisp line with it.  But after it dries, it does stay put all day though, and stays perfectly black, which is great.

And finally, the brow gel.  I’m #blessed with thick eyebrows, so I’ve never felt the need to invest in a specific brow product.  Though I try to keep the them trimmed and shaped, I have a problem with my eyebrows staying in shape during the day.  They always tend to go crazy and I look like I have rocker-hair eyebrows.  I really like this brow gel, as it keeps them in place, but doesn’t feel like I have a thick coat of goop on.  I use the spoolie applicator to kind of brush them out, then set them in the place I want.  It does feel like it sort of wears off by the end of the day, but my eyebrows still don’t move.  I may want to try a tinted brow gel next, but this is definitely working for me at the moment.

I picked the “surprise me” option for the samples, and got a little bit of Benefit Cosmetics the POREfessional with my order.  I know I’m super late to the party on this one, but holy crap.  I’m in love.  I have dark pores on the apples of my cheeks and on my nose, and it’s literally like someone airbrushed them away with this primer.  I’m in love.  I may marry it, who knows.  I do know I’m getting a full size of it next time I am able to.  Sh*ts like magic.

And that’s it.  I am already mentally planning out my next beauty haul– some new eye brushes, which I think I desperately need (ya know, along with food and rent).

If you have any brush recommendations, let me know!

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Low-Cost Ways to Decorate Your Rented Space

subleasing, subletting, apartment, chicago, rented, low-cost DIY, home decor

If you live in a rental, or a sublet like me, then you know you have only a few options when it comes to decorating.  Not only am I living on someone else’s furniture right now (and someone else’s mattress… gross), but I’m in someone else’s home.  None of my decorations can be permanent, which makes personalizing my space a little tricky.

Luckily, I’m a creative thinker and determined to make my tiny apartment feel like my own little sanctuary, so I’ve found a few ways around it.

1.  Coffee beans.  Add them to anything and everything you can.  A big container of whole coffee beans is rather cheap, they smell good, and add some eclectic funk to your decor.  I’ve used them to hold make-up brushes in old jars, and at the bottom of a candle holder.

fairy lights, rose lights, twinkle lights, DIY, DIY home decor

2.  Get some funky lights.  Before moving, I got Rose Flower String Lights.  Unlit, they are white fabric, so they look pretty against the white curtains that came with my apartment.  And lit, they add a soft yellow glow to the room.  Drape them over some shelves, above your closet, or above your window, like I did.

3.  If your apartment is severely lacking in storage space, make the things that have to sit out look good.  I took some ceramic containers from a thrift shop, then added some $10 chalk board decals from Crate and Barrel to make fun labels.  Saved myself some cabinet space, but also added some decor to my kitchen.

low cost DIY gallery wall, gallery wall, velcro strips, art, homemade art, apartment, DIY home decor

4.  Hang pictures and decorations with leaving a mark on the walls with velcro Command Picture and Frame Hanging Strips. I put up my entire gallery wall using just velcro strips.  Each hung-up piece means something to me, which really makes me feel like this is my home.

5.  Repurpose whatever you can.  I always save glass jars, no matter what.  I turned burned up candle into a wide-mouth coffee-bean-filled glass jar for my make-up brushes, and a old salsa jar holds cotton pads in my bathroom. Adding a shiny spray paint to old items can make them look expensive.  Gold, copper, silver, or whatever on cheap plastic decor can really make a difference.  I did some spray painting myself a a few months ago, and I’m still loving how it makes some of my cheaper finds look more expensive.

Got any other ideas to cheap ways to dress up your rental?  Let me know!