Month: November 2016

Birthday Buys

Birthday Buys

As my birthday month concludes, nothing makes me happier than opening the last of my presents (even if I did gift them to myself). If you follow me on Snapchat and Instagram, you may have watched as I opened my Black Friday/Cyber Monday purchase from Anthropologie — the Letters in Lights earrings set. Yes, I have been on quite the earring kick lately!

But that wasn’t the only thing I bought myself this month. On a recent lunchtime visit to Target, I stocked up on lots of sweaters. If you haven’t been there in a while, I highly suggest you go. I purchased a cream cowl neck Mossimo sweater that I will be buying in however many other colors it comes in. It’s that cozy – trust me! And since Mossimo can do no wrong, there may have been a cardigan…a burgundy long-sleeve shirt, and another oversized sweater that also found their way into my winter collection.

On the beauty front, what would a month (or a week be!) without a stop at Ulta? Naturally, I ran out of my beloved Stila Smudge Stick in Lionfish (still using that one and still love it) and with the holidays coming, I was in desperate need of a new nail polish. Insert Chick Flick Cherry from OPI — the perfect shade for the winter months (and a nice alternative to red).

Thank you for indulging me as I celebrated my birthday month!

Ready to Shop? Cyber Monday Deals You Don’t Want to Miss!

Anthropologie Initial Earrings

If you made the decision to curl up on your couch, stay in your pajamas all day, and binge-watch Gilmore Girls this past weekend instead of braving the crowds at the mall, today is the day you have been waiting for. Yes, it’s Cyber Monday — the day when you can get great deals on your holiday wish list items from the comfort and convenience of your very own home.

As tempting as it was to stay in and wait for Cyber Monday, on Saturday I ventured out to my nearest Anthropologie. The 30% off sale they had this weekend was just too good to pass up. And the earrings pictured above? Well, I got them for $7.56 – a way better price than their original $32 tag!

But if you held out, here are some sales that were worth the wait:

Ann Taylor: Free shipping and 50% off everything (In stores and Online – use code CYBER50).

Banana Republic Factory: 50-70% off everything + free shipping on all orders of $50 or more.

BaubleBar: 35% off (2+ items, use code SAVE35 or 25% off, use code SAVE25).

Bloomingdale’s: Take 25% off (online only).

Gap: 50% off everything (Online: use code CYBMON).

Loft: 50% off everything (Password: CYBERMONDAY).

Target: 15% off online or in stores.

White House Black Market: 35% off your full-price purchase + free shipping with code 37099.

Z Gallerie: 20% off art and accessories with code THANKS20. 15% off furniture with code THANKS15.

Sweets, Shopping, and Snoozing

I’m still in a food coma as I sit down to write this post, but I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones. Yesterday left me feeling incredibly thankful and grateful. I’m so honored to have this space on the Internet that you all come to and read what I have to say. I’ve shared a lot about my struggles on this site, and while they have been challenging, I am grateful for them because they have shown me a strength that I never knew I had. So, thanks to all of you for your continued support over the years. Your sweet comments make blogging a truly rewarding experience.

I’m looking forward to sleeping in (which I rarely get to do these days) on this long weekend and getting back to my weekly kickboxing routine. Something about indulging in a seven-layer cake on Thanksgiving (combined with all of the birthday sweets this month), makes working out seem like a good idea.

Of course, don’t forget to hit up your favorite retailers today for some steals and deals. But I have a feeling I didn’t need to remind you about that. Happy shopping!

Anthropologie Earrings

{Birthday earrings from Anthropologie}

Bright Blooms

{Bright Blooms}

Roast Coffee and Tea

{Trying out Roast Coffee and Tea}

Cute Signs

{Love these cute signs}

Allergic to Mornings

{Couldn’t resist buying this super soft sweatshirt at Target}

Last-Minute Hostess Gift Ideas

I can’t believe tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Do you have all of your meals prepped yet? I’m slightly behind and will be spending the afternoon grocery shopping.

In case you are a last-minute person (like I am), and are not hosting the big day yourself, I put together an easy gift guide for you to bring to your host or hostess. Personally, I love gifting pieces that can be left out for the season, so home décor items top my list. How cute is that graphic pillow or the rustic planter box filled with mason jars? Well, you get the idea.

Below are a few of my favorite gift ideas. I hope you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Last-Minute Hostess Gift Ideas

I will be back here on Friday. See you then!

Modern Calligraphy Workshop with Swell Anchor Studio

Calligraphy Workshop with Swell Anchor Studio

Over the weekend, I took my first in-person calligraphy class with Swell Anchor Studio, based in Patchogue, New York. I have long loved the art of calligraphy and could easily get lost watching clips of people “writing pretty” on Instagram. So a year ago I decided to try my hand at an online calligraphy class. It was a great introduction and I enjoyed practicing on my own thereafter.

Since I had no formal instruction, I was left to assume that the ink splatters on my paper when I tried writing certain letters and the drag I felt on the page were normal and would eventually subside as I improved. Still, it would have been nice to have some guidance as I progressed. I wanted to follow up with an in-person calligraphy class, and when Swell Anchor Studio (whom I had found on Instagram) announced they were holding a workshop on Long Island, I jumped at the chance to sign up.

I am glad I did. When I was thinking of something to gift myself for my birthday, I could think of no better present. Not only would I continue to improve my craft, but I would meet other local Long Islanders who shared my interest in calligraphy.

This was the first time I met Christie, the owner and calligrapher behind Swell Anchor Studio, her husband, Ian, and sister, Lindsay, who were assisting with the workshop. The class was held at The Dusty Attic, a specialty décor and accessory boutique right in the heart of the village of Patchogue. If you are feeling creative, definitely stop into this place for some inspiration (and supplies!). The space was ideal for holding a calligraphy workshop and it really helped me get my creative juices flowing.

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

When I arrived, I was greeted with pumpkin spice cupcakes and autumn-themed mimosas. Yes, please! Lindsay made the pumpkin spice cupcakes, and they were out of this world. It’s a good thing there was not an unlimited supply of these delicious desserts or else I would have eaten them all (#sugaraddict).

I found my seat, which displayed a beautiful name tag that Christie created for each of the participants. We were provided with all of the supplies we would need for the session – ink, nib, holder, tracing paper, and a clipboard.

Calligraphy Workshop with Swell Anchor Studio

Christie worked on a small chalkboard at the front of the table as we watched her write each letter, first in lowercase and then in uppercase. She instructed us on which part of the letter should be thick and thin, and Lindsay walked around to ensure that the nib and holder were held at the correct angle. Once we were comfortable with the alphabet, we began tracing words that Christie had provided for us and she talked about how and where to connect the letters.

Calligraphy Workshop with Swell Anchor Studio

I had a great time learning from Christie and her team, and I am grateful that I got to meet her in person and that I have someone who can guide me as I progress with calligraphy. Before we left, Christie presented us with a small tote that she personalized with our names. I’m keeping my bag in my home office as a reminder to take Christie’s tip of practicing for at least 15 minutes two to three times per week.

If you are interested in calligraphy, check out Christie on Instagram and visit her site to see more of her work. She will be hosting another workshop next month at West Elm in Huntington, New York.

Thank you, Swell Anchor Studio, for a wonderful workshop!

Fitz and the Tantrums at The Paramount

Fitz and the Tantrums at The Paramount

So far, life as a 30-year-old has been sweet (and I don’t just mean because of all the cake!). As my birthday month continues, I celebrated the other night by seeing Fitz and the Tantrums at The Paramount in Huntington, New York. My friend, Claudia got tickets to see them live, and of course, I was up for tagging along. Ironically, I thought I was unfamiliar with the band until on my drive to the concert, I was rocking out to a song I had heard on the radio a few times before, but never learned the artist. Well, it turned out the song was ‘HandClap’ by none other than Fitz and the Tantrums.

Despite growing up in Huntington and spending plenty of time in the Village, I had never been to The Paramount. The swanky New York City-ish concert site was once a movie theater and then was an IMAX before being renovated to look like a fancy nightclub.

Fitz and the Tantrums at The Paramount

The venue was the perfect place for Fitz and the Tantrums to perform, and while I could have used the sound decibels slightly lower (I think I heard my brain rattling even with ear plugs!), I had an amazing time. The energy in The Paramount was electric — the room was filled with people dancing and enjoying themselves. For three hours, I felt like I was completely out of my element, but transfixed in my new surroundings. The lights, sounds, and crowd made this a lively and memorable event.

Fitz and the Tantrums at The Paramount

If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend seeing Fitz and the Tantrums live. Their music is upbeat and makes you want to get moving. As for The Paramount, I don’t know why it took me this long to finally check it out, but it is my new favorite venue on Long Island.

Lighter Locks

Lighter Locks

Thank you for all of the birthday wishes! I can’t tell you how much your sweet comments mean to me.

This year, I decided to change up my look. Not just because I turned 30, but because I had always wanted to lighten up my dark locks. Usually, when I get to the hair salon, I chicken out. And while I may not have taken off as many inches as I had intended to, I did keep my promise and lightened my color.

I wanted to keep the length and add layers and angles to my hair, so I brought some inspiration images with me to show my stylist. I was also intent on trying the balayage because there wasn’t too much maintenance involved with keeping the color up.

Lighter Locks

I’ve been going to the same salon for years to have my eyebrows waxed, so I felt that it was only natural to have them do my cut and color as well. The staff at Spa Adriana are friendly and professional, and my stylist, Nadia, was able to work with what little direction I gave her when it came to color (which I know nothing about). She immediately got to work mixing and applying color to my hair. She suggested that because of the length, pre-cutting it and foiling it would be the best way to go. We took about three inches off up front and then spent the next hour applying the color and foiling each section — which took forever (patience is not a virtue of mine).

After the color and foil was in place, I sat under heat lamps. Once the color was set, Nadia washed my hair and I was ready for another cut.

Lighter Locks

Lighter Locks

I loved how the color looked on my wet hair, but I was blown away (no pun intended) when Nadia started styling it. The color did exactly what I had hoped it would do – it instantly brightened up my look.

While I didn’t get back to the lighter color I had as a kid, I am so pleased with how my hair turned out. It looks very natural and is virtually maintenance-free. If you are on Long Island, I highly recommend stopping in at Spa Adriana for all of your beauty needs!

Thirty Lessons I Learned By Thirty

Thirty Lessons I Learned By Thirty

As I sit down to write this post I am flooded with all kinds of thoughts. How did I get here? Didn’t I just graduate from college? Wow, it seems like I was just turning 21! Those are a few of the things that are crossing my mind as I try to reflect on my twenties.

While my twenties were good, I feel like I am ready to be thirty and enjoy all that this new decade has in store for me. I’d like to think that I am a little wiser than I was when I turned 21 and have more life experience under my belt. I’ve certainly had my share of struggles in my twenties — from finding my first job in a challenging economic climate to being diagnosed with thyroid cancer when I was only 26. These trying times changed me and taught me a lot about life — at an early age.

Moving forward, I am embracing the challenges I have endured and cherishing the amazing moments that I have been fortunate enough to enjoy.

1. Stand in your truth
2. Save for a rainy day
3. Always keep learning
4. Embrace change (and failure, too)
5. Don’t be afraid to try something new or change course if the status quo no longer works
6. Believe in yourself
7. Silence the naysayers
8. Know that it is okay to fail
9. Learn something new about yourself
10. Challenge yourself
11. Keep reading
12. Travel often
13. Be kind
14. Love yourself
15. Hustle….hustle…hustle
16. But make sure you also know how to relax and unwind
17. Live your life for yourself…not just for social media
18. Love what you do…every day. If you don’t know what you love, don’t stop looking until you find it.
19. Be true to your passion. But don’t depend on it to support you.
20. Keep your friends close and tell them what they mean to you
21. It’s okay to outgrow friends. Some people are in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. You’ll learn each person’s place as you go along.
22. Don’t hold grudges. Life’s too short for that. Forgive and move on quickly.
23. There is more to life than money. Happiness and experiences are priceless.
24. Treat yourself (within reason, of course)
25. Remember, your health is your wealth. Without it, you have nothing.
26. You are stronger than you think. Even when you have no clue how you are going to make it through a tough situation, you will.
27. Be open-minded and make sure you step out of your comfort zone from time-to-time
28. Have a hobby
29. Say what you mean and mean what you say
30. You don’t need to have all of the answers by the time you are thirty….it’s okay to be a masterpiece and a work-in-progress at the same time.

A Sweet Pre-Birthday Surprise…

Birthday Cupcakes

By now you know how much I love my birthday (t-minus three days…and counting). Today I’ll be getting my hair done — something I rarely ever treat myself to. But I’m excited to change it up a bit. Make sure to follow along on Snapchat and Instagram (@livinginsteil) to see my new ‘do.

Today I wanted to talk about the kindness of strangers (or in this case, new co-workers). I was inspired to write this post after I went in to work the other day and saw a little white box with the words “happy almost birthday” accompanied by a card on my desk.

If you saw my post on Monday, you may recall that my recent blood work came back with high thyroid numbers. This immediately sent me into a panic and I had to wait until yesterday to go for a neck ultrasound. The saga continues, as my endocrinologist is sending me for more blood work.

In the meantime, I’ve been frantically calling doctors all week (unable to concentrate for any span longer than three minutes), having results sent to all of them, and counting the seconds until I saw my endocrinologist. I now have more days to get through as I await the next set of blood work and results.

But during one of those hard days I stopped and chatted with a co-worker. I’ve only been at my job for two months and it has been hard to make friends. I talked to her about where I’ve worked before, and how I was finding my current position. I mentioned to her about my current health situation and how upset I was over it. In those moments I stopped thinking about myself. As my attention shifted to my new friend and her life, I was reminded that other people have their own battles, which can put yours in perspective.

I took comfort that day in the kindness of a relative stranger — and how similar we both were — despite being at very different points in our lives.

Her generosity truly touched me when I saw the sweet surprise she had left for me (cupcakes, yum!). The fact that she went out of her way to make my birthday a little more special brought tears to my eyes. And her beautiful card and handwritten note solidified the fact that this is a card I will treasure for a long time to come.

The events that unfolded this past week again reminded me of my favorite quote, “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone is fighting some kind of battle.” So as we head into the weekend, let’s try to smile even when we may not feel like it, say hello to people we pass when we are going about our day, and stop for a moment to brighten someone else’s day. You never know when one kind act may be just what someone needs.

I’ll be back on Monday to share a very special post with lots of life lessons from my twenties. See you then!

Monday Mantra: Patience and Fortitude

New York Public Library Lions

This weekend was trying. Despite my best efforts to remain calm after receiving alarming results on my most recent blood work (of course, on a Saturday), my plans of resting and relaxing after my weekly kickboxing class quickly went out the window.

After pacing around the house for a couple of hours trying to interpret the results, I was reminded of the lion statues in front of the New York Public Library. I actually didn’t know that they had names until yesterday. But when I learned they were named Patience and Fortitude, I knew those were strengths that I would need to get me through the week: patience while waiting for my upcoming appointment with my endocrinologist on Thursday and fortitude as I continue on my health journey.

If you have never been to the New York Public Library, two majestic lion statues at the entrance greet you upon your arrival. Although the lions have gone by a few names, in the 1930’s Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia named them Patience and Fortitude to embody the values that New Yorkers needed during the Great Depression. If you visit the library during the holidays, you might catch these beautiful statues adorned with a wreath.

So as I prepare for a week that will be filled with anxiety and worry, I know that Patience and Fortitude have my back — even if they are only marble lion statues!