Best of Everything 2014

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New Year’s Eve, 2014. Where did the time go?

I distinctly remember where I was this very day last year. In bed. Sick. I had caught some sort of horrible stomach virus that literally took months into 2014 to fully recover from. I was so disappointed because my boyfriend and I had made reservations for dinner at a quaint little Italian restaurant that I was beyond excited for. At the time, however, food and I weren’t on speaking terms. He ended up ordering a pizza that I basically watched him eat. What a bummer…and a terrible way to ring in the new year.

I’m determined to get 2015 off on the right foot. Essentially, the plan is to finally get to that dinner reservation, one year later – and I have absolutely no intention of watching him eat. I plan to dig in with the best of them at that quaint little Italian restaurant tonight, but not before heading out to catch, A Most Violent Year, opening today. It’s the last film of the year that I want to see before I officially write my top films of 2014 post, forthcoming. As such, this post won’t go into narrative or feature-length documentary films.

The last day of the year is perfect for reflecting back on where you’ve been and where you’d like to go as the year comes to a close. Today, I want to reflect on where I’ve been with a look back at a little bit of everything that made 2014 memorable. From books I’ve read, to music I’ve rocked out to, to products, and experiences – here are new discoveries, things that stuck, and lessons learned worth mentioning.

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L.A. Discovery: Bottega Louie.
{Perfect for brunch or dinner…and macaroons.}

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Only in L.A. Experience: Broadway Theatre District Walking Tour.

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Thing I Did For Myself: Recommitted to a consistent yoga practice…though admittedly I’m currently on the market for a new studio.


Beauty Find: Mullein & Sparrow’s Facial Detox Kit. It’s giving yourself the spa experience at home, on a budget. I discovered this small Brooklyn-based herbal apothecary just weeks ago and if I could, I’d buy everything! Love them.


New Addition to the Hair Regimen That I Can’t Live Without: Macadamia Healing Oil Spray.


New Addition to the Skincare Regimen That I Can’t Live Without: Clarisonic Mia.

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Indulgence: Iced vanilla lattes from The Sycamore Kitchen (or Hot Tamales).

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Accessory: Gosia Meyer’s 14K Gold Filled Initial Necklace.

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Guilty Pleasure: The Wendy Williams Show.


Splurge: Madewell’s Transport Tote in Saddle.


Travel Experience: My Birthday in Ojai.

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Fiction Read: We Are Water by Wally Lamb.


Non-Fiction Read: MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche.


Lesson Learned: Be extra cautious when driving down a windy road just after a fresh rain or you’ll lose control and your car will swerve and hit a curb so hard it takes weeks to fix! This isn’t rocket-science but for some reason I still managed to screw up majorly…and it cost me thousands. Ugh.


Gadget: Kindle Paperwhite.

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Blog Post: Journey of a Dress: From Princess to Fashion Legend.

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Tune to Rock Out to: Defeated No More by Disclosure.


Album: It came out a few years ago, but “4” by Beyoncé was in heavy rotation this year after I finally sat down and actually listened to the whole LP. Fantastic.


Discovered Artist: Lana del Rey.


YouTube Video: Taylor Swift’s incredibly contagious “Shake it Off” song synced to the 1988 National Aerobic Championship Opening Number.


TV Addiction: Scandal.


Addition to The Home: Paper Source’s Foil Desk Calendar. It dresses up your desk space with subtle elegance. (2105 is now available!)


Wardrobe Piece: A classic dark washed denim jacket, it’s my go-to year round staple for instant California casual chic.


Image Featured on the Blog: The moment I captured the sunrise over the ocean as I geared up for a long day of shooting in San Francisco.Srunrise ATG FINAL


Memorable Day: Taking myself to the LA Times Festival of Books Fair at USC. It was the perfect day: sunshine, books galore, great music, and the grilled cheese truck responsible for the photo below. Fun fact: it was my most successful blog post of 2014!

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Biggest “Ah-ha” Moment: Reading The Daily Love’s beautiful post in the wake of Robin’s Williams untimely passing. As I read it, I had the biggest “ah-ha” moment, and wrote the following post, Words that Gave Me Pause, to share it.


The moment I Saw Growth in Myself: When I got my first parking ticket in years and rather than get upset, I laughed with the universe. Full story here.

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Biggest Blogging Achievement: Completing the 100 Happy Days Challenge. It was a powerful reminder to always look for the beauty in your day and I went strong for 100 consecutive days. Statistics show 70% don’t complete the challenge. I was in the 30% who made it to the finish line!

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Words: This piece of poetry by William Henry Channing.

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Thank you for reading along with me this year. Cheers to a 2015 lived beyond our wildest dreams! x

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100 Happy Days: The End.

Day100ATGFINAL{Day 100: Sunshine.}

It’s the end of 100 consecutive days of happiness. Well, at least when it comes to the 100 Happy Days Challenge. I finished last week!

What a truly unique and enlightening experience.

As I mentioned when we checked in on the first 50 days, you really can find joy in your day no matter what type of day you’re having – if you only stop and pay attention. I think this is what taking on this practice re-iterates. I’ve had some tough times hit during those 100 days, yet I still made it a point to always find the silver-lining; be it in the sun beaming down on my face, enjoying an afternoon treat, starting a new book, or trying out a new nail polish. It’s about the small things.

One of the reasons that I started blogging was to celebrate and document my life, my world. It’s made me a better person for it. My eyes are always on the look-out for excitement, happiness, lessons learned, and new experiences (if only because it helps with writer’s block and gives me something to blog about!).

So as I wrap up this part of my journey, I hope to continue to grow into the type of person always looking for authentic joy.

Thanks for indulging me! Here are posts #51 through #100. Moments I look back on fondly.

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Highlights

Day89{Day 89: A Saturday morning walk around Lake Balboa.}

The last full week of June. The first full week of summer.  Day 95 on the 100 Happy Days Challenge. And the icing on the cake? It’s Friday!

I’m glad for it.

Not a bad week on my end. I’m just tired, in need of a real vacation. You know, the kind where you get on an airplane and land in a far away place where you spend the next 3 weeks straight immersed in “otherness.” That “otherness” being pretty much any and everything that take you away from the day-to-day, to really unplug and recharge. I’m a full-blown adult now and I’ve never had an authentic “otherness” vacation. Not something I’m proud of, not something that I hope at all continues, it’s just a fact.

With the introduction of summer, I’ve spent a lot of time this week, thinking about my bucket list. At the start of every season, I like to celebrate by thinking about my personal goals and/or fun-filled activities that I’d like to accomplish by the end of the season. There’s something unique about summer, in particular, that make crafting my bucket list lots of fun. There’s so much going on in LA during the next few months. With the addition of the warmer weather and long sunshine-filled days, the possibilities are endless.

I’m very much looking forward to the 4th of July weekend vastly approaching, though not quite sure what’s in store. I haven’t made plans yet, likely because it crept up on me if I’m at all honest about it. I suppose it’s time to start brainstorming. As long as there are fireworks involved, I’ll be happy.

I just checked my calendar and it’s blank. Who-hoo! No big plans this weekend other than the usual chores and errands.

As cliché as it sounds (because every female alive is guilty of this), I’ve been struggling lately with that “I don’t have anything to wear, I need new clothes!” phenomenon that tends to hit every so often. I feel like I’m constantly recycling the same pieces in my closet and it’s because I’m realizing that I’m missing a few staples (i.e. the perfect black skirt, a more tailored light blazer/jacket for summer, etc.). Essentially, I just need to throw a few new pieces into the mix and that should solve it. The problem is that it’s no secret that while I appreciate fashion as much as the next girl, I HATE shopping and don’t spend tons of money on clothes as many women my age are known to do. My monetary indulgences lean more toward lattes and earrings…oh, and paying bills 🙂

That being said (and even though I hate shopping, especially when you’re trying to find certain items), I’ve been wanting to work new options into rotation and have been meaning to check out this supposed “awesome” thrift store that I heard about in Santa Monica. This might be a good weekend to head over toward the beach and see if I can muster the strength to find that awesome one-of-a-kind new wardrobe item.

Other than that, it’ll probably just be me, a book, my boyfriend, and Netflix for the next 2 days. We’re finally starting the 3rd season of The Killing, just in time to catch the premiere of the 4th season, which starts in August.

I hope your weekend finds you doing something fantastic!

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{Day 87: Still Crushing on Coral.}

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{Day 88: Happiness is gas less than (barely) $4/gallon. I was a youngin’ but I remember when gas was 97¢.}

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{Day 91: That Monday morning I laughed at how over-cluttered/ridiculous my makeup bag has become. Who needs all this?}

Day93

{Day 93: Another day. Another film. Still my favorite place to be.}

Day90

{Day 90: Still Smiling! DeLorean sighting.}


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100 Happy Days: The 1st 50

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I’m nearing the end of the 100 Happy Days Challenge, with 9 days left to go! By nature, I always try to find gratitude in my life and in every situation, even when things aren’t going so well. This doesn’t mean that I don’t ever sulk because I certainly can, and do. But even during those times, I make it a point to always find a piece of joy in the day and be grateful for it. (Then I might feel better and move on, or continue to sulk – it just depends). 🙂

So the challenge for me wasn’t so much in finding something to smile about everyday, but remembering to document it and keep track of what day I was on! And even though I’ve spent much of my time over the last few years really being mindful about finding the joy in the little things, this was still different. Over the last 91 days, I’ve had to consciously stop at least once in the day to think about what I wanted my 100 Happy Days post to be, while also being completely accountable at consistency. And that’s where the challenge lies, to keep going no matter what type of day (or series of days) you’re having. You’re still looking for that moment that brought even the tiniest sprinkle of happiness, snapping a picture, and posting it. Every. Single. Day. For 100 days.

Admittedly, there was one day where I took the picture, but forgot to post it. (Doh!) I simply put it up on Twitter first thing the next morning when I realized I’d forgotten, found a new post for that day later in the afternoon, and kept going.

I thought it would be fun to look back at the 1st 50 days on the challenge and reminisce. Interestingly (though not surprisingly), it seems many of my days find that moment of joy when there’s good food or iced vanilla lattes involved (don’t judge!). But, I also adore the simplicity of many of the posts – I’m not necessarily out doing anything big or special. I can clearly see that joy did and does come in the small things most days. It’s in looking up at the sky admiring that trademark LA sunshine through the trees and clouds, it’s starting a new book on my kindle, smelling a beautiful bouquet of roses that my boyfriend gave me, drinking a cup of tea, or watching an old movie.

I’m proud to say, I can see the finish line just a few more days ahead. I look forward to sharing the last 50 days with you when I complete the challenge in early July.

This has truly been a great exercise in finding happiness in my day, every day. Here are the moments from Day #1 to Day #50 that made me smile!

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Highlights

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{Day 82: Not a bad view while running errands on a gorge Saturday afternoon. I sure do love palm trees, high in a clear blue sky.}

Not to be a “Negative Natalie,” but this was a pretty lousy week if I’m totally honest. Boooo! (Let me take a moment to re-iterate that…BOOOO!) And it certainly didn’t help that I spent much of my free time reading (which is one of my favorite ways to unwind) the worst book possible guaranteed NOT to cheer you up, The Fault in Our Stars. What a devastatingly beautiful story though, a book that makes you laugh out loud then cry 5 pages later. I finished it a few nights ago. One of the main things that I’ll take away from Hazel and Augustus’ tragic situation is that any human being walking this planet with their health in good standing is richer than a millionaire. It was also a reminder to make the most of your time here on Earth, surrounding yourself around those that love you, that will always be there for you…even on the days when you’re not your best self.

I’ve been debating when to see the film, if I’m ready to re-live the devastation and beauty again so soon. I can already tell that I won’t like the movie as much as the book (but isn’t that always the case?), though I’m always curious how books translate to the big screen. Perhaps I should give myself some distance before taking the plunge to see the film. Then again, perhaps I should just get it over with. Better to already be in the middle of a not so great mood when seeing a film like this, than being super chipper only to crash two hours later after seeing such a depressing movie, ruining the rest of your day.

But enough about my less than stellar week. Time to look ahead to the weekend (THANK GOD). I have a few fun things to look forward to. I plan to welcome the first day of summer with a gorgeous early morning hike. The goal being to remove myself a bit from the city to enjoy nature, take a few deep breaths, and re-energize my mood after such a crappy week (oops, there’s “Natalie” again). I’m also super excited to finally check out the much hyped about LA Chapter since the big Ace Hotel renovation downtown. (Not to worry boys and girls, I’ll report back if this place is worth the hype!)

And of course, I’m ready for a new read. Let’s just say it’ll be lighter in tone after The Fault In Our Stars.

Transitioning to more positive things – the 100 Happy Days Challenge is coming along, and I must say, the premise works even during a not so great week. Despite what may be going on in your life, there’s always SOMETHING that brings a smile to your face – even if it’s the simplicity of eating your first Snickers Almond Bar in ages.

Have a good weekend!

Day85

{Day 85: That aforementioned Snickers Almond Bar.}

Day84

{Day #84:  What happens when you walk through Macy’s with a coupon. Gosh – I just LOVE these earrings and I LOVE the name. Who doesn’t want to wear “C.A.K.E.”?}

Day86

{Day #86: That time three little grilled shrimp in my salad made my Wednesday.}

Day81

{Day #81: The Fault in our Stars, my go-to latte, and the open outdoors during an afternoon break.}

Highlights

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{Day 65: Tell everyone.}

As of late, my spirit has been craving a simpler time in life, at least my perception of things associated with a more carefree time in life. Then again, I can’t say I that I was ever the type to be totally carefree now that I think about it. It just wasn’t, nor has it ever been my personality.

I’m sure if I met my 17 year-old self, I’d still have a slew of concerns that all normal teens do that had me carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, things that might even seem pretty trivial to my now adult self in certain instances.

I envy those to some extent who can channel a completely carefree attitude. But luckily, I still do recall a more simpler time that brings a lighter, happier feeling.

I won’t go into the particulars of what’s sparked this craving, because as I’ve now had a full week to process everything, it’s not about the incident itself so much as the wider context and meaning of it. So, let’s just leave it at:

I had a “set back” happen last week and it was a blow to me on many levels because I just couldn’t get past the whole “why?” and “is the universe just out to get me?” mentality.

Even as I type that last sentence it sounds slightly ridiculous (okay, more than slightly), but if I were to be completely honest with you it’s where I was for DAYS after said “set back.”

Perhaps my not-so-mature initial reaction was due to the building tension from everything that seems to be going on lately, that this was simply the final straw that really set me off. I mean, I was PISSED, then just flat out disappointed. Suffice to say, I immediately called my boyfriend and had a meltdown on the phone with him as I shifted from pissed-om to disappointment, going into what all Oprah fans adoringly know as “the ugly cry.” (Kudos to him for enduring that, by the way.)

Admittedly, this was fueled by the internal dialogue that went on in my head where I kept making the argument to myself that I’m a good person! In other words, I always make a conscious effort to be a good, kind, responsible human being and therefore, felt so cheated that the universe wasn’t rewarding me for that by placing me in said “set back.” Again, I can now see how ridiculous this sounds. The funny thing is that logically you know this, even as it’s happening, but emotion seems to override logic at times – especially when that emotion is so raw and fresh.

As I’ve stood back and taken some time to process things since said “set back”, which while it absolutely STILL SUCKS in my mind, I have to express gratitude that it’s ultimately very minor in the grand scheme of this thing we call life. More specifically, the question “will this matter a year from now?” is the best way to measure how unimportant this truly is. I have much to be grateful for and I need to keep my head to the sky and a smile on my face.

And so, the Highlights of this week came as I found solace during this experience by saturating myself in the nostalgic, wanting to cling to anything that made me feel happy and comforted. Fortuitously, I found it in the most basic of ways. Watching movies from the late 80s and 90s that brought me to a different time, to my younger self made me feel exactly that. Digging out my old CD collection and rockin’ out in the car to music that took me back to my high school and college years for some reason pushed me through and helped give me the distance I needed to really evaluate the situation. (I won’t embarrass myself any further by disclosing what that music was made up of, but let’s just say boy bands were very popular during those years and I just sat and laughed and laughed at how that type of music was considered so “cool” back then.)

The best advice I got from my boyfriend during the middle of that “ugly cry” phone call was when he said something to the effect of : “There isn’t a reason for it. You’re not being punished. Shit happens and the lesson here is just to learn how to deal with it and not destroy yourself in the process.” (He’s a wise guy, that one.)

So, this is what I’m choosing to do.

And I still went strong on the 100 Happy Days Challenge, photos posted as usual.

I’ll end the week with my favorite Dr. Maya Angelou poem that couldn’t be more appropriate right now. In fact, I had this very poem posted on my dorm room wall during my sophomore year of college and would look at it often. I was saddened to hear of her passing a few days ago. What a life to be celebrated as the purest epitome of the type of woman and human being we should all aspire to be. I don’t imagine her ever feeling cheated by the universe during set backs in her life, but welcoming them to push her higher.

Have a great weekend….and keep rising.

Still I Rise

Maya Angelou1928 – 2014

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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{Day #63: Morning coffee and Jennie Garth’s memoir. Talk about returning to the nostalgic. I was a huge 90210 fan…mind you, I was also like 10.}

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{Day 60: Faux bling on the key chain. Always looking for ways to accessorize.}

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{Day 62: Breakfast in bed. }

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{Day 64: I scream, you scream. We all scream for ice cream…sandwiches!}

Highlights

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{Day 59: Sometimes a girl just needs a Rice Krispies Treat in the sunshine.}

Things are finally starting to settle down in my life a bit and I’m glad for it. I’m over my most recent bout with the common cold, and have been busily crossing things off on my never-ending to-do list with much satisfaction. This month has been one of the most chaotic, exhausting, fun-filled, yet challenging months I’ve had in quite some time. As such, I’m welcoming the long holiday weekend with open arms (and lots of rest).

Tonight, we’re off to see X-Men: Days of Future Past (let us all take a moment and just say, Fassbender!), and will check out the new documentary film, Fed Up, that’s been on my must-see list for a while now at some point before the end of the weekend. I’m also excited about some much-needed girl time with a new friend over brunch. Crunchy Cornflake-encrusted french toast, a large vanilla latte, and lots of girl talk couldn’t sound any better at the moment. Otherwise, I look forward to a rather uneventful Memorial Day Weekend ahead…and that’s a-okay with me.

I won’t be posting this Monday due to the holiday. We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming on Wednesday with the scoop on my May Birchbox. Until then, I hope the long weekend treats you and yours very well.

A few of my favorite 100 Happy Days Challenge photos/highlights of life lately for your viewing pleasure.

See you soon! xx

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{Day 52: What LA does best on a clear day. It really doesn’t get any better than this!}

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{Day 55: Fresh pedi. New rug.}

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{Day 53: Sunflowers as centerpieces. It just works.}