Month: June 2014

The Making of an Equestrian

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In a few of my posts, I’ve alluded to the fact that I was an equestrian growing up. Over the weekend I spent a couple of hours at The Gold Coast Classic at Old Field Farm. This was the first time I have gone to a horse show at this venue, although I have passed the stables numerous times on my way to nearby West Meadow Beach. Nestled between The Old Field Club on one side and surrounded by water and the beach on the other, these stables are truly idyllic. They are in the process of being restored to their former glory, but in the meantime they are a tranquil setting for a horse show.

I spent the morning relaxing under the grandstand overlooking the main ring. I watched a few rounds of the hunter and equitation classes, which reminded me of my horse show days.

I began riding at the age of seven. I had been a figure skater until my parents decided to enroll me in a horseback riding summer camp at Thomas School of Horsemanship (TSH) in Melville, NY. That’s where my obsession with these majestic animals began. Even though it seems like an eternity ago, I vividly remember my first day of camp.

Summer camp began in late June. I knew no one at this camp, but quickly made friends with the horses. My first activity was a stable period where we learned to brush and tack the horses and also studied basic horse care. I was so excited for the riding part! The first horse I rode at camp was a palomino gelding named Tigger. He was very gentle and I spent most of that summer riding him when I could. I learned to walk and trot with him on my own. I felt like I was born to be on a horse. When it came time for our summer camp horse show, I showed on Tigger–and we placed first out of six riders in the ring.

I was sad when the summer came to a close and I thought I would have to say goodbye to the horses until next year. I had made lots of friends at camp and my love for horses was a complete obsession by now. In my free time, I read everything I could about riding and horse care, and I devoted hours to perusing the State Line Tack catalog making lists of items to purchase for my future horse.

Fortunately, my parents recognized how much I loved being with horses and kept me riding year round. I spent as much time as I could at TSH and went back to camp every summer.

By the time I was in middle school I was riding a minimum of three days a week. I had moved on to another stable in Huntington, NY and was working with a trainer regularly. I had always dreamt of owning my own horse one day, but understood the financial pressures that accompanied it. Prior to purchasing my first horse, I began leasing a horse at the barn and riding every day. Glory was a beautiful bay gelding. He was the perfect horse for me to start seriously competing on. I went to my first “away” show on him, and although we did not place, I learned a lot from the experience. After a few years with Glory, I was ready to move on to my own horse.

Steely was a beautiful 16.1 hand dappled grey gelding. He was 11 years old when we purchased him, and a great horse. Steely and I spent the first few months learning from each other. He was a show horse, but he was a bit out of shape when I got him. By the following summer we were off to the show ring. We competed in many local Long Island horse shows, but my dream was to compete in The Garden State horse show in New Jersey.

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{Steely and I at Good Sheperd Farm, Yaphank, N.Y.}

After suffering a setback with Steely (he tore a tendon and required rest for about six months), we were back on track and ready to head to Garden State. That show was my first competition off Long Island. We spent five days in New Jersey competing almost every day. By the time the show was over, we were both exhausted and Steely had earned quite a few days off. I was pleased with our placing at the show, and it still remains one of the highlights of my riding career.

I was about 16 years old when Steely got sick. I went to the barn one day and noticed that both his hind legs were inflamed and he was having trouble walking. I immediately called the vet in a full panic. The vet said Steely had lymphangitis and needed antibiotics, but should be fine. Yet each day I went to the barn, Steely seemed to deteriorate. My vet and I decided to send Steely to Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center, a specialty facility in New Jersey, for further tests and observation. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was uncertain and all I knew was that my friend was suffering. After Steely returned home to Long Island, it became clearer that the only humane decision was to euthanize my friend. It was an incredibly painful decision for me, but I knew that we had done all we could and it wasn’t fair to let my friend suffer.

After Steely passed, I didn’t ride for a while. I can’t remember how much time went by before I returned, but every time I looked at a horse I saw Steely.

When I went to the horse show over the weekend, there was a grey horse that reminded me so much of Steely when I first got him. I watched this rider and her horse gracefully glide over the fences and they worked so well together as a team – like Steely and I had.

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Although I sorely miss my days in the saddle, I am eternally grateful to my parents who understood my crazy obsession and did everything they could to nurture my talents as a rider. I feel like I grew up and matured at the stables, and riding also taught me important life lessons. Through Steely, I learned the importance of teamwork, hard work, dedication, patience, love, responsibility and forgiveness. As much as I enjoyed riding and showing, my first priority was always the well-being of my horse. If that meant missing a show or a lesson, so be it. I just loved being with Steely and grooming him, or taking him for some grass. For me, the love wasn’t purely for riding, it was also the nonverbal connection I had with my friend.

Waiting for the Weekend

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While another long, humid summer week comes to a close (can you believe it’s almost July already?), I am again grateful that my favorite two days are upon us. This week, a couple of things happened. First, I received the results of my most recent blood test checking my thyroid levels, and I can happily report that everything looks good and all my levels are where they should be. At my last appointment with my endocrinologist in April, I was less than pleased to hear that he wanted to increase my Synthroid dose from 100 to 112 mcg. I felt decent on 100 mcg, but gave in and actually feel slightly better on the higher dose (my apologies, doctor, for being so stubborn!). Second, I managed to carve out an hour on Wednesday to squeeze in some “me” time and attend a yoga class on my lunch break. The past few months have been hectic, and I’m afraid this little Yogini was not as dedicated to her practice as she should have been. But I’m back on track now, and the class was just what I needed to help melt some of the stress away.

This weekend I am really looking forward to attending The Gold Coast Classic, a horse show at Old Field Farm, LTD. The stables are located in Setauket, NY, across from West Meadow Beach. They have recently been undergoing quite the transformation and are being restored into a beautiful show ground. I was an avid equestrian for about twenty years, and although my life at the moment does not allow time to ride a horse, I still enjoy going to shows as a spectator. Ever since I graduated college and moved back to Long Island, I have made The Hampton Classic in August an end-of-summer tradition. I am looking forward to attending again this year — and stopping at my favorite C Wonder store in Southampton.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. Happy Friday!

It’s All in the Details

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The other night I slipped the hanger off of this beautiful turquoise dress that was dangling in my closet. I purchased it last summer for an event, but only managed to wear it once. The unique color and detailing grabbed me when I spotted it in the store and I immediately snatched it up. If you caught my Crushing on Coral post (you can read it here), you may have noticed that this dress is from the same store – Vine & Roses in Huntington, NY. I usually purchase something from them every summer — and always look forward to their emails showcasing their newest arrivals!

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This dress received many compliments when I wore it to work and out to dinner the other day. I love the way the fabric flows and all the intricate embroidered details on the top really make this dress feel very special. After grabbing my Coach tote, I was ready for a night out.

Catch Waiting for the Weekend later!

A Kid in a Candy Store

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Every now and then, I’ll see something that brings me back to my childhood and makes me long for those simple days filled with summer camp and Slip ‘n Slides. Sometimes just the sound of an ice cream truck passing on a hot day reminds me how excited I used to get when as a kid I heard it making its way down my block. This past weekend the mere sight of a candy store evoked those same memories.

Welcome to Candyland! The Port Jefferson Frigate has every imaginable candy, cookie, cake, fudge, ice cream, gelato, pastry and frozen yogurt concoction you could desire. If you plan on visiting Port Jefferson, this place is a must. Be warned, though, once you enter you may never want to leave. This bustling store is filled with youthful excitement from both candy obsessed children and sugar loving grown-ups looking for a delightful treat.

I have stopped in a few times before, mainly for ice cream. But on this visit, I really took the time to appreciate everything the store had to offer. Thankfully, I was sufficiently satiated after indulging in a half-baked chocolate chip cookie and brownie crêpe for dinner earlier.

But one particular corner of the store still caught my eye.

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As a child, I wasn’t a huge candy lover, although I had a few favorites. The candy corner in this store was incredible – even Willy Wonka himself would have been impressed! What I loved about it the most, aside from the vast array of candies, was that each generation of adults could probably find a candy that would make them reflect on their childhood the way that certain candies from my era did for me.

I remember as a child always enjoying Ring Pops, Nerds, Bubble Gum Tape, Sweet Tarts, and Pixie Sticks – old friends I hadn’t seen in a while–and now I found them all living together right in front of my eyes. I couldn’t resist purchasing two Ring Pops just for old time’s sake. The mere thought of donning a watermelon or blue raspberry flavored candy on my finger brought an immediate smile to my face.

Colorful in Cobalt

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What’s better than spending the first official day of summer by the harbor, listening to live music and having crêpes for dinner with a good friend? It’s hard to beat that, of course, except over the weekend my new H&M dress made its debut! The cool blue (one of my favorite colors!) was the perfect combination for a lazy summer afternoon spent by the water. I was drawn to this dress in the store, as it displayed the much appreciated element of versatility and was an acceptable length: suitable for a day at the office with a light sweater, or a trip to the East end of Long Island.

I paired the dress with C Wonder gold sandals and a C Wonder tote bag, which has quickly become my go-to summer bag. I love that it’s lightweight, comes in an array of colors, is easy to clean, and can hold everything I require for a day on the town.

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Dress: H&M| Sandals & Tote: C Wonder| Sunglasses: Coach| Nails: OPI on Collins Ave

For more of my musings, follow me on Instagram and Twitter: @livinginsteil

Waiting for the Weekend

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As another busy week comes to a close, I could not be more grateful for the impending weekend. This week was bittersweet for me as I celebrated my one-year thyroid-versary and my health. But I also observed the loss of a friend. Last year, immediately after my surgery, I was greeted by a cheerful voicemail from my friend Gaelle. I remember her kind offer to bring a vanilla milkshake from Shake Shack to my hospital room. She was by my side as I went through my thyroid cancer diagnosis and surgery (usually vetting my doctors), and was one of the first people to take me out for a celebratory meal once I was able to eat solid food again. Gaelle passed away in December 2013, and I would have loved nothing more than to celebrate this health milestone with her. I know she is looking down on me everyday and smiling as I continue on my journey to health and wellness.

This weekend is one I will spend reflecting. A lot has happened in the last 12 months. If I have learned one thing from this past year it is that there is always a silver lining. Even through tragedy, there is a bright-side. It may not appear when you would like it to, but when you least expect it, it emerges.

I will embrace life this weekend, be happy to have my health, and let go of things that no longer serve me.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend, full of health, happiness and the company of good friends!

Stylish Swimwear

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Now that I wrote my serious post for the week (thank you for all the comments and well wishes!), I’d like to lighten the mood a little and celebrate the lovely weather. Although it has been slightly more humid than I would prefer, it is a welcome relief to the cool chill and rain that was in the air last week.

My weekend shaped up as planned – and there was brunch and beach – but the best part was my shopping excursion at H&M. I try to stop at the store at least once a season, and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw during my most recent visit.

I have a few bathing suits that, like my American University towel, have become my favorite summer staples. Since I spent most of last summer out of the sun thanks to my thyroidectomy, and when I did see the beach for sanity I was grossly over dressed, I decided to celebrate the summer of 2014 with a few indulgent swimwear purchases.

The first one that caught my eye was a striped navy and white nautical suit. I loved that it offered a pop of bright color with the ties – and I’m sure it will look great with a tan!

Next, I tried on a strapless navy suit. The color was slightly darker than most of my other summer attire, but what really caught my eye was the ruching on the top.

I wish I could say that was all that I found to buy at H&M, but I must admit there were a few dresses that I just could not pass up. Look for them to make their debut sometime later in the week!

One Year Out…

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I am feeling very grateful as I sit down to write this post, which marks my one-year thyroid-versary. Last June, on a warm summer day, I awoke early with my hospital bag ready to go. I was heading to Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, NY to have a total thyroidectomy with central neck dissection. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer two months earlier, and filled the time before my operation with surgical consults, and good friends who tried as hard as they could to keep me positive and in good spirits (read the full story about my diagnosis here).

I wasn’t particularly nervous the morning of my surgery. After a lengthy trip, which felt longer than it probably was, from the east end of Long Island to the Upper West Side, I stood in front of the hospital not knowing what to expect, other than I would leave without my thyroid.

I was told to arrive early. My surgery was scheduled sometime in the morning. The hospital which I had been to many times before for consultations with my surgeon seemed still and cold on this day. Upon check-in I was instructed to have a seat in the waiting room and a nurse would get me ready for pre-op. The hospital was undergoing construction at the time, so sitting in the waiting room was not something I was looking forward to. I could feel my nerves elevating, as I listened to music on my iPod. Fortunately, my wait was short-lived and a nurse called me back with her. I didn’t realize then, but that marked the beginning of my hospital stay.

Trish, my nurse, was very friendly. She could sense that I was nervous and talked to me about the surgery and recovery. After getting me all set with a gown and my hospital ID band, she then set up my IV. Aside from coming dangerously close to passing out as she inserted the needle in my vein, I pulled through. Thankfully, Trish took pity on me looking back at her pale and ghostly, and let me stay in the private waiting room rather than have me go and sit in a crowded room near where the construction was taking place. I felt faint for a little while and tried to keep my anxiety at bay as best as I could. I made a few phone calls, flipped through a magazine, and just tried to relax.

By noon, after 4 hours of waiting, I became concerned about my scheduled surgery. Trish had been in and out of the room to check on me, but was uncertain what the hold-up was. Another 2 hours had passed and I was still waiting. By this time I was antsy and nothing I did helped to calm me down.

A doctor who worked with my surgeon came in to talk to me about participating in a study they were conducting. He asked permission to use my thyroid once it was removed and biopsied for medical research. At that point, I would have consented to anything just to get the show on the road!

By 4 p.m. we received the word that it was go-time. As nervous as I thought I had been waiting, it became suddenly real walking down the long, winding halls to the operating room. I should mention that this was the first surgery I have ever had and my first time in a hospital. Trying to enter the operating room was like being at customs in a foreign country. They asked me for everything except my passport! What is the reason for your surgery? What is the name of your surgery? Can you explain the procedure? I guess my answers were sufficient and I was permitted to enter.

It was the first time I had seen my surgeon since my last consultation with him. Dr. Fahey came highly recommended by a family friend and from the minute I met him, I knew I was in good hands. There was a team of doctors standing around him, and I’m sure they introduced themselves, but I can’t remember who any of them were.

Laying on the table was a strange experience. I saw faces looking down at me and doctors trying to make small talk when all I wanted to do was go to sleep. A mask was put over my nose and mouth that had a horrible plastic beach ball smell. Luckily, I didn’t have to endure the fumes for too long because I was out.

I have no idea how long my surgery actually took. I woke up in the recovery room around 7:30 p.m with the worst sore throat ever. I couldn’t talk, my throat burned, and I really wanted some water. I had compression boots on my legs to prevent blood clots – that was a strange sensation! After about an hour a nurse came and brought me some ice chips to soothe my throat. Since my surgery was postponed until the afternoon, my doctor had decided to keep me overnight for observation – which was fine because I really didn’t want to be in the car 2 hours to go home immediately after a thyroidectomy.

They brought me to my room around 9:30 p.m. Again, having never been in a hospital, let alone staying overnight, I really didn’t have high expectations. However, the room was gorgeous (if that is even possible in a hospital). I had a private room with a bathroom that overlooked the East River.

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I tried to go to sleep, but I could not. Shortly after I settled into my room I met one of many night nurses. She was pleasant and told me that my surgeon had removed her parathyroid years earlier. She encouraged me to follow his instructions for my recovery and I would be fine. After checking my vitals she left and said she would return in a couple of hours. I turned the television on since there wasn’t much else to do. My neck was incredibly sore, and I needed both hands to lift my head to and from the pillow. The only thing that seemed to be on was Pawn Stars – which was mildly entertaining. I tried to make a few phone calls, but my throat wouldn’t let me speak.

A few hours later, the nurse returned. I was still awake and really wanted to get out of bed and walk around. I convinced her to take the IV out of my arm and to remove my compression boots. I promised to walk every hour to prevent blood clots. It felt good to stand up after laying down all day.

I continued to ice my neck overnight and be visited by nurses. Around 4 a.m, the phlebotomist came in to draw blood to check my parathyroid levels. There are four parathyroid glands located behind the thyroid, which during a thyroidectomy, can get damaged resulting in low calcium levels. At 5 a.m, a few medical residents came in to do rounds and see how I was faring after surgery – I felt like I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. They changed the steri-strips on my neck and told me my surgeon would be in to check on me soon.

Before he began his next day of surgery, around 6 a.m., Dr. Fahey came in to assess my neck. He was surprised to find me changed out of my hospital gown and sitting by the window watching the sunrise. He told me my calcium levels were normal, but recommended that I take Tums for a couple of weeks just as a precaution. He said I could be discharged after breakfast and that I should call his office when I got home to make a post-operative appointment in about a week.

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New York City Sunrise

The morning nurse came in to give me my first dose of Synthroid after my surgery. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism weeks prior to finding out I had thyroid cancer, and my endocrinologist had started me on a Synthroid dose of 88 mcg. My surgeon warned me prior to surgery that once the thyroid was totally removed, the Synthroid dose would need to be increased until my thyroid levels were within a normal range. I was being started on 100 mcg of Synthroid daily.

After breakfast, not that eating was really an option, I was ready to go home. Before the discharge nurse even came in with the paperwork, I was dressed and ready to head out the door. I must admit, the hospital stay was not nearly as bad as I had imagined it would be until this point. It seemed like the discharge process took longer than getting admitted and the surgery combined! Thankfully, after a few failed attempts to get discharged with the necessary prescriptions, the discharge nurse finally emerged with the corrected paperwork and I was able to walk out of the hospital a cancer survivor.

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It was so hot and muggy walking from the hospital to the car. I was exhausted after a sleepless night and my throat was still extremely sore. I was not looking forward to another long drive home, but at least at the end of it, I would be home. As predicted, it was uncomfortable being in the car and trying to hold my head up. Resting my head against the seat was no better.

Finally – I was home. I decided to spend the next few days after surgery resting, and although I explicitly said ‘no visitors,’ my pleas fell on deaf ears. I slept a lot during the day. I wasn’t able to eat solid foods yet, so I made smoothies and indulged in ice cream from Herrell’s (my favorite ice cream shop) and frappuccinos from Starbucks. Avoiding getting my neck wet with the steri-strips was a bit of a challenge. All I wanted to do after surgery was take a shower and wash my hair. To make matters worse, it was a hot June!

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At home, six days after surgery – June 22, 2013

A week after my surgery, I returned to the hospital for my appointment with Dr. Fahey. I was nervous to meet with him as I would receive the results of the pathology report and I did not want to undergo radioactive iodine, the treatment after a thyroidectomy to destroy any remaining thyroid tissue in the body.

Dr. Fahey changed my steri-strips and said the incision was healing nicely. He told me that the pathology report confirmed I had papillary thyroid carcinoma, and although he originally thought the six lymph nodes he had removed were clean, one tested positive for cancer. I was devasted! I thought for sure the next words out of his mouth would be that I needed to have radioactive iodine as a follow-up. Fortunately, he gave me the option of a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, which put me at ease. We would monitor my anti-thyroidglobulin levels, one indicator of cancer, and as long as the numbers continued to decrease, we could hold off on further treatment.

I left his office elated and ready to move on with my life. I had spent almost four months consumed with my health and prognosis. I knew I would be seeing my surgeon and endocrinologist over the course of the next year, and years to come, but I was hopeful that I would have my health back and feel somewhat normal again.

I continued to have my Synthroid levels checked every four to six weeks and saw my endocrinologist sometime in July after my surgery. He seemed pleased with my progress. Over the course of the following year, I relied more heavily on my surgeon for my post-operative care, although it meant frequent trips to New York City. My last appointment with my surgeon was in March of 2014. Now that I am a year out after my surgery, he recommended that I see my endocrinologist for future care and gave me an appointment to see him again in June 2015.

I scheduled an appointment with my endocrinologist in April of 2014. It was my first appointment with him after the surgical follow-up last July. I was hesitant to see him as I remembered at the last appointment he wanted to increase my Synthroid dose. I had stayed on 100 mcg after my surgery and was reluctant to go on a higher dose as I was feeling okay. He reviewed the lab work I had in November and December of 2013, and again came to the same conclusion. My Synthroid dose should be increased to 112 mcg to keep my thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels lower than normal and hopefully prevent the cancer from returning. After some initial resistance on my end, I finally gave in and accepted the script for the higher dose. I have been taking 112 mcg for about five weeks now and am preparing to have blood work done to check my levels. I am hopeful that this dose is appropriate and the levels look sufficient to the endocrinologist.

So, one year out, this is where I am. My scar has faded better than I had anticipated. It is now a faint line across my neck that serves as an important reminder for me to take care of myself. I realize now that this ordeal will never truly be over – I am not cured, but a survivor. I heard thyroid cancer best described as a “maintenance cancer”; I believe that is accurate. For the rest of my life I will have thyroid sonograms, blood work and periodic consultations with an endocrinologist. I have tried to get used to taking a Synthroid pill daily, and although we’ve experimented to find the optimal dose, I still don’t feel like my old self. At times, I am very tired and have little energy. This has been hard to accept, but it is the reality I am left with.

Overall, I am thankful. Prior, to my surgery, I had heard horror stories that paralyzed me with fear and made me want to take my chances with the cancer. I was fortunate to have very supportive friends that helped me accept my reality – and for that I am grateful. After my surgery, I found yoga, which helped to improve my mental and physical clarity. Through this journey, I recognized the importance of telling my story and finding my voice. I hope that anyone who has to go through a thyroid cancer diagnosis can take comfort knowing that you will find your strength through the process, and there are resources that can assist you. I found great support with ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, and I would urge anyone needing advice or guidance along the way to consult their website (www.thyca.org).

Lastly, I am indebted to Dr. Porte, my gynecologist who found the thyroid nodule during a routine neck exam and my surgeon Dr. Fahey, who is an excellent and compassionate doctor. Additionally, a friend of mine whose brother-in-law is an endocrinologist also deserves praise. After weighing my options regarding removing the lymph nodes during surgery as a preventative measure, he strongly encouraged me to do so. I could not be more grateful for that advice, since one lymph node did test positive for cancer! And to my good friend Claudia, who took time out of her busy schedule to accompany me to quite a few appointments in New York City and who dealt with my somewhat irrational fear of public transportation – thank you!

Waiting for the Weekend

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This week has been long, stressful, exhausting… (insert any other adjective you feel is appropriate). The other day, I decided to try a body burn class. Although it was only half an hour, it was the most tiring 30 minutes of my life. I have to hand it to the instructor–she really crammed an entire body workout into a small amount of time.

Needless to say, I am thankful that the weekend is upon us and I feel I have earned some well deserved rest and relaxation. My weekend agenda is usually occupied with trying to accomplish things I have no time to do during the week, yet I can’t help but want to hit up the beach when I hear predictions calling for a nice day. Since we have been inundated with rain all week, it would be nice to see sand, sea, and of course, a little bit of sun!

Here’s what I predict my weekend will look like:

– Retail therapy at H&M (possibly Vine & Roses and The Loft for good measure!)

– Brunch with a good friend

– Morning yoga class

– A trip to the beach

Happy Friday!

Obsessively.Polished.Individual

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I have been a fan of OPI polish for a while now, but it has taken me years to wear something other than a French manicure on my nails. My obsession began as I was graduating high school. By the time I began college, my nails were perpetually painted a light pink with a subtle white line. I have always loved the way French manicures looked – they are classic and work with every outfit.

Now that the weather is warmer, I am fully embracing bright, vivid hues. My must-have summer polish color is Hot & Spicy by OPI. Last summer it was my new ‘French manicure’ of choice (and I must confess, I wore it all summer long!).

When I’m looking more for a hint of color, I turn to Essie’s Mademoiselle. And when I need something slightly deeper, but still fun and a good everyday color, I grab Essie’s Shop Till I Drop.

I’d love to hear what some of your favorite summer polishes are….