Yellow Rice with Diced Tomatoes, Black Beans, and Ground Sausage

Hi friends!

I hope your Wednesday is going well. I find myself turning to comfort foods in the kitchen lately, so I thought I’d share this amazing rice dish that my cousin, Emily, turned me on to years ago in pre-pandemic times. It has tons of flavor, is hearty and filling, and will feed you for days. It would be a great dish for a bigger family or to take to a dinner party. It’s also inexpensive to make, which is a hugely important factor for me right now.

Here is what you’ll need:

1 bag of 10 oz. yellow rice
1 can diced tomatoes or Rotel
1 can black beans
1 roll of sausage (maple sausage is my favorite!)

From here, it is pretty simple. You’ll cook the rice according to the package instructions. I’ve used Mahatma and Vigo in the past. They may suggest drizzling some olive oil into the water prior to boiling, and I’ve used a brand before that suggested butter, so just keep that in mind prior to getting started if you think you’d like to use either of those to add texture to your rice. Butter probably works better to achieve that desired fluffiness, but I usually use oil.

While the rice is cooking, I empty the sausage into a pot and start massaging it with a spoon until I can work it into a stir. Then I stir periodically on medium heat, allowing the sausage to brown and become fragrant. It may take you less time than the rice will take to finish cooking, so I normally turn off the eye and let the sausage simmer for a few minutes while the rice counts down.

After the rice is done, I’ll give it a few stirs to make sure no water is sitting in the bottom of the pot and then transfer it to another bowl. Then it’s just a matter of adding the other ingredients, stirring until you feel everything is evenly distributed through the rice, and you’re ready to serve! I usually just dump a healthy helping into a small bowl and eat it as is, but I think adding a topping of avocado and/or tortilla chips could taste good as well. I’ve never tried that, but maybe I should! It sounds good in my head anyway!

Let me know how you like it if you ever give this one a try! It is a good meal at all times, but especially when you need some extra feel good in your life. Happy Wednesday, everyone!

What I’ve Been Wearing This Spring

I am no fashion maven. I think the very fact that I’ve just used the phrase “fashion maven” illustrates that my cheugy tendencies run quite deep. And even though my sense of style is not exactly Christian Girl Autumn-level, I have always enjoyed clothes and shopping and putting together outfits.

Generally, I do not have a need to get dressed up that often since I’ve been working from home. However, I did run into a cluster of social events in April that forced me to don more than just my favorite pair of joggers and a graphic sweatshirt. I usually dress up a little bit for Sunday brunch with my parents, only because that is the one day out of the week where I know I’m going to be out in public. And because I’m not as comfortable in athleisure as the rest of Suburbia on a Sunday afternoon, it’s possible I get a little dressier than I need to. But, whatever.

As you can tell, my denim jacket features a lot! I’ve owned it for a long time. I think I bought it from the Loft shortly after graduating college, so it’s been hanging around 😁 for close to a decade. It was probably on sale or I bought it from their outlet online. But I wear it all the time. It’s the perfect light jacket for warmer seasons when the weather is fluctuating during the day. It has become an all-seasons wardrobe staple for me.

Of all the outfits I’ve concocted lately, this one has been my favorite. I used to wear headbands a lot when I was in middle and high school, and admittedly they are starting to grow on me again. I just have to be careful with them, because any pressure around my ears can spark a migraine. I’m no Blair Waldorf, but I could see making headbands a regular part of my “look.”

These outfits, I do not like so much. The outfit to the left was in response to an awkward weather day where morning started out with a chill, but it was supposed to get slightly warmer by afternoon. The outfit to the right I threw together before meeting friends for drinks and I didn’t want to put that much effort into my appearance; I just wanted to be comfortable; I don’t think I even wore makeup. Although it was a very comfortable outfit. That is actually a sweater I’m wearing over a floral print sleeveless jumpsuit. But to me the oversized sweater gives it a funny shape. I’d still wear it again, though. 🤷🏼‍♀️


Right now, my wardrobe is a mix of Stitch Fix boxes, boutique items, and secondhand finds. I want to keep incorporating secondhand pieces into my wardrobe, but I can’t deny I’m having a moment with boutiques. Charley’s Clothing is one of my favorites right now and I love that they’re local(!), but I also enjoy thrifting with eBay and ThredUp, and am trying to warm up to Poshmark more. I haven’t shopped with Stitch Fix in a while, but I still like browsing their app because I’ve found some well-loved pieces through them in the past.

For the first time in my life I’m not overly concerned with being trendy, which is a relief to my bank account and my psyche. This could be because I’m no longer in an office environment every day and my social circle has dwindled some since the pandemic, so there’s not this constant reminder anymore that other people are better at style than I am. Now, it’s only an occasional reminder. 😆

Seriously, though, I’m trying to focus more on simply buying what I like (not what I think other people like), and staying honest with myself about what I would realistically wear in my current lifestyle. I want to focus on longevity, too, so I’m trying to pay better attention to the materials listed on tags. Even still, I have plenty of clothes with picks and small holes that I can’t let myself get rid of yet because I love them so much. Holding onto well-worn clothing doesn’t bother me so much anymore. Too much has happened. 😄 I don’t want to think too hard about what I’m going to wear. I’ve considered putting together a capsule wardrobe, but the only reason why I haven’t yet is because I don’t thrive in restrictive climates. Maybe one day I’ll give it a try, but I think my first step is to focus on the above and get a better sense of my personal style.

A Brief Trip to Myrtle Beach

Happy Friday!

Can I just say that the last two Fridays I had off made me a big fan of the 4-day work week concept? This week has felt so long knowing that I have to go back to my regular schedule of working on a Friday. Having the extra day tacked onto my weekend made me feel like I had so much more of my own life added to my week. At the same time, returning to work on a Monday after a 3-day weekend made my head spin a little trying to readjust my brain to job-mode. But I think if the 4-day work week were a regular thing then my mind would eventually adapt. It is definitely something I could get used to.

Last Friday, I took off to go to Myrtle Beach with some family and friends who plan periodic girls’ weekends throughout the year. Last year, I was invited for the first time by my cousin and now roommate, Emily, on their trip to the mountains, and it was so lovely. We stayed in this big cabin that overlooked the woods and there was a trail that snaked down to a little creek.

When we went to Myrtle Beach this last time, we really just had one day to do stuff. Some of us went to Broadway at the Beach, which wasn’t as lively as I remember it being when I was younger, but then we went to Barefoot Landing, which was much more my speed. The shopping there was a lot better. I bought a shirt at Gemini Boutique that I have since worn multiple times, because not only is it super cute, but when I was growing up my parents mostly listened to classic rock, so that is what I would listen to as well, and Def Leppard was a favorite band of mine from that era. When I saw this riff on Pour Some Sugar on Me, I just knew I had to have it. Being tired and needing coffee is kind of my thing, plus it had a Gilmore Girls vibe I just could not deny myself.

We also visited the Spice & Tea Exchange, where I found some Cacio e Pepe seasoning that I can’t wait to try in some of the pasta I bought from them. And while we were there, one of the girls, Kennedy, who I first met at the mountains, turned me onto their tea bar. I tried the Superberry Trifecta. It was light, refreshing, and fruity without being overwhelmingly sweet, because I opted not to add sugar or any other sweetener.

This other drink was a wine slushy from Carolina Vineyards Winery. I bought the piña colada flavor, and they add a sweet Riesling to them. It was nothing short of amazing.

Also, while we were browsing Barefoot Landing, we passed by this restaurant called, LuLu’s, which got me over-excited, because my nickname was LuLu growing up. I actually kind of miss being called that. Although, most people called me Lu, which I think is funny, like having a nickname for your nickname. 😄

After we left Barefoot Landing, we met the rest of our crew at Crabby Mike’s for dinner, then went for a walk on the beach at Myrtle Beach State Park.

It was windy and cold on the beach, but I still enjoyed the walk. (And of course enjoyed getting to take a lot of pictures!) Walking on the beach is always a cathartic experience for me. It is the one place where I feel completely removed from reality without suffering any delusions of grandeur, as C-3PO would say. The beach is already so simple and bare and natural, I can’t help but feel a little emotionally stripped down when I’m there. I find it very calming and centering.

Sidebar: I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the book, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, but if not I highly recommend it. I don’t even know how many times I’ve read this book now. It is one of my absolute favorites and makes me want to completely abandon my life for a seaside cottage every time I read it. Even though there are aspects of the book that may be written for women of a certain class, in the way that Virginia Woolf’s, A Room of One’s Own, was written, I still find her ideas to be imperative to the female and creative experience. Especially when you learn more about her marriage to Charles Lindbergh. It adds so much context to her book. Which leads me to another recommendation: The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin, which is a fictional depiction of their marriage. SO GOOD.

This trip made me antsy for the my upcoming vacation with my parents. I go to the beach with them every year, sometimes multiple times a year, and this time they are bringing their puppy, Bailey, with them. I’m sure that will add much more color to our vacation!

But I’m also hoping the puppy will keep us a little more active. Usually, we sit on the beach, take a walk, sit on the beach, go back to the condo for lunch, walk off lunch, sit back down, etc. etc. I usually get a lot of reading done. Except last year I didn’t read on the beach much at all. I kept getting restless and wanting to take more walks than normal, which I blame on working from home. I actually sit so much more now than when I worked in an office, because there was a street with a sidewalk and also a gym I frequented regularly. (Of course, I could never go back to an office now because I’ve permanently acclimated to that WFH life, but I can’t help complaining about it every now and then.)

My mom wants to buy a bike with a detachable puppy carrier that pulls behind in hopes that we can all be simultaneously entertained. Of course, that means I will have to buy a new bike myself, because the one I had broke a few summers ago. Mom turned me onto Huffy bikes recently, and I’m obsessed with this one. I’ve wanted to buy a new bike for a long time, but the only reason I haven’t yet is because I don’t see myself using it very often. But I think it would be nice to have for such occasions as vacation.

Anyway, enjoy your weekend! I’m hoping to log off work a little early today. I really need to finish my current read, so it would be nice to sit on the back porch with a glass of wine and a good book before getting the pets fed and making dinner.

Until next time!

A Few Things (v. 4)

person covered with gray blanket

On my way home from a brief weekend getaway Sunday afternoon, I archived all of my recent Instagram posts. I do this occasionally when I feel like what I’ve been posting no longer aligns with my values and/or interests. Or if I decided to divert from a specific editing routine and then after handfuls of posts realized the aesthetic no longer resonates. A few months ago, I decided that I would stick to Instagram’s in-app editing tools because they’re easy to use and I feel like I don’t over-edit my pictures with them like I would with VSCO or A Color Story. Then in April, I started using an even more simplified process by editing with Apple’s photo editing tools in their camera app. At first I really liked this method, but the more I used my camera’s in-app photo editor the more I realized I didn’t like it. The quality of the photos looked too harsh.

I also started to feel annoyed with my posts about food and outfits. I didn’t like how I was pressuring myself to tie my blog posts to my Instagram account all the time and vice versa. It felt too much like I was trying to be an influencer, which is not what I wanted for this space. I began to think it was perfectly okay for the two to be separate from one another, because that is how we did it in the personal blogging days of yore. So I decided to rewind and try again.

I want this space to be a personal and creative outlet. I’m not looking to make money off of it. I realized how easy it is to be conditioned by what you see on Instagram, the idea plunged into your mind that there is a formula to posting content that will get you views and likes and comments, and that views and likes and comments are indicative of your success on social media. In my experience, what that mostly gets you is harassed by affiliate marketers begging you to DM them for a collab.

I did write about this once already, but it’s taken time for me to unravel the influencer’s mindset. That is partly why I archived most of my recent Instagram posts. I may also start sending some of my blog posts to drafts as I try to figure out how to move forward with this space. All I really want is a safe place to angst authentically. (I am only half joking.) Of course, I’m no longer in my early 20s trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. Now, I’m a slightly more mature, seasoned 30-something who’s trying to figure out what to do with her life. Yes, I want to angst, but I also want to ponder and reflect at length. I’m not really good at expressing myself to people in person. I feel more human when I’m writing.

~*~

My sleep paralysis demon tried to make an appearance the other night. Do you ever experience this? The first time this ever happened to me was as a child. I think I was about 8 or 9-years-old, and I remember dreaming that a frail blue-faced boy with sharp cheek bones and cold eyes knelt by my bed staring into the mysterious depths of my pupils. In the dream, an unknown, faceless friend was also in the bed with me, and even though I couldn’t see her face, we kept slapping at each other in fear, pleading with the other to scream out to my parents for help. All the while, the blue-faced boy continued to stare at us, or me, with unflinching focus. I remember he had shoulder-length hair that was pulled back into a colonial-style ponytail. I don’t know why I remember this detail, but that and the deathlike hue of his cheeks, and his round, dispassionate eyes have stuck with me over the years.

It occurs to me now that as I was dreaming of my friend and I slapping at each other I was most likely trying to wake myself up and unable to do so, because of the paralysis state, which I read is your body experiencing awareness as it enters or exits the REM cycle. This can cause hallucinations, and gives your body the impression that you are unable to move or speak for several seconds up to several minutes.

When I fell asleep Sunday night and hovered in that state of awareness as my body attempted to enter its REM cycle, I began to hear the sharp ticking of a watch. It is not uncommon for me to hear a ticking clock during these episodes. However, I wear an Apple Watch to bed. It doesn’t tick. In my dream state, I remember drawing my wrist up to my ear before I was transported to my parents’ house, specifically into their kitchen at the back door, as though I had just let myself inside. I was alone there. No Mom, no Dad, no rambunctious puppy jumping against my legs for attention. It was quiet, desolate, and slightly blurry. I remember thinking to myself as I was dreaming, “This is wrong, I shouldn’t be here.” I stepped cautiously through my parents’ kitchen around their dining table, turning as I moved through the room in search of…anyone. This is wrong, I shouldn’t be here. But there was no one. I was alone in my parents’ house. I stepped through the entryway into the living room. Then there was this sensation that I was being pressed down to the floor. My knees buckled. It felt as though I was being carefully propped against the couch beyond the living room entryway, not quite lying down. However, I couldn’t see the force that was moving me. Up until this point, everything I just described merely felt like a normal dream, but then my vision changed to a kind of infrared perspective. I remember I was wearing jeans, and they suddenly turned hues of orange, red, and yellow. That is when I entered the paralysis state, struggling against my mid-consciousness for full, unfettered awareness.

I don’t know if you have pets, but if you’ve ever seen your cat or dog dream in their sleep then you may know how to visualize a person trying to break out of a sleep paralysis episode. They are mostly still, except you may see their paws twitch and their eyes roll upward, revealing only white, glossy globes. I struggled this way for a few seconds.

It was not the worst I’d ever experienced. There was at least one occurrence where I could not break out of it, and my panic became such that I was unable to breathe. A few times, I have heard a dark, ominous voice whisper my name, as though floating above my head. Once, in college, I even heard my own voice urgently calling out for me to wake up. The worst episode occurred only last year, when it felt like someone had slipped into bed beside me and slid their hand over my breast, whispering my name in my ear. I was living alone at the time.

Luckily, when I broke myself out of that episode I was alone in bed, save my cat, Edith. But for a few minutes I was terrified to move, terrified to look behind me in fear that someone had made their way into my apartment. I did eventually recover Sunday night, but as I woke it appeared that something or someone was standing, then floating in front of my bed. It shrunk into a spidery black orb, and moved as my eyes flitted from my door to the wall to the ceiling. This, too, had happened before. Once, sleeping over at my parents’ in my 20s, I awoke from another episode as a large black spider scurried across my wall directly in front of my face, but as I gained consciousness the spider grew smaller and smaller until it disappeared altogether.

There is a lot of debate as to whether these experiences are exclusively scientific or if there is a supernatural aspect behind them. Aaron Mahnke wrote an incredible episode about sleep paralysis on his podcast, Lore, that physically shook me. If I had to decide, based on my own experiences, I’d say it’s a little bit of both.

~*~

Last night, I saw this reel on Instagram that AllTrue, formerly known as CauseBox, is trying to quietly go out of business in the shadiest way possible. They have filed for an Assignment for the Benefit of Creditor, which I read is an alternative to bankruptcy. I bring this up, because after debating it through winter following my delayed Winter ’21 box, I decided, against my better judgment, to renew my annual subscription, which was $235 because I also opted for the eco-upgrade.

For those not familiar with AllTrue, they are a subscription box company who focused their brand on curating products from women-owned businesses with ethical manufacturing practices. They had become a big name brand in the last few years, and I enjoyed discovering new products and companies through their boxes. I decided to renew my subscription March 18, and by April 11th they had stopped posting to Instagram. You will never be able to convince me that those two men didn’t know that their company was about to crash and burn as they continued to allow people to sign up for and renew subscriptions. They completely scammed people.

It is a huge disappointment on so many levels, not least of which because they’ve lost people their jobs, lost vendors their money (and only give them the option to buy back their own product), and have not said the first word to their customers that they were going out of business. I never had any issues with my boxes until the last couple of years with the delays in shipping, which I assumed was due to the pandemic and an uptick in their subscriptions.

Thankfully, I am still within 60 days of purchase, so I plan on calling my bank today to file a claim in hopes of getting some if not all of my money back. It is such a shame that sustainable messaging and supporting female makers had to be sullied by the bad business practices of two men who look like they stalled out during puberty. (Look, I know that was petty and a cheap shot, but they officially suck, so I went there.)

Until next time…

xo.

Pesto Tortellini with Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Shaved Parmesan

The other weekend, I was walking by a random frozen foods/dairy refrigerator at my local Lowe’s Foods when a carton of Rana’s Basil Pesto caught my eye. Of course, piled up on display in the vicinity of the pesto was various stuffed pastas that immediately sent my mind spinning into recipe mode. You probably know what this means by now. I have another recipe-less recipe to share with you today.

The pasta I decided on was the robust package of Buitoni Three Cheese Tortellini that almost immediately entered my eye span after spotting the pesto. Honestly, I could eat this stuff with just a little bit of olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette dressing topped with grated cheese and be perfectly happy. However, since I’d decided to get the pesto, I also bought a carton of grape tomatoes and can of sliced mushrooms to add to the dish. One day I will start sautéing my mushrooms again, but right now I’m using the canned option to hasten my cooking process. I did, however, dice the tomatoes and stir them in a warm pot with some olive oil while the pasta cooked.

When the pasta was done, I drained and transferred it to a separate bowl, drizzled a little bit of oil on top, stirred, added the pesto, tomatoes, and mushrooms, stirred, then served with a healthy topping of shaved Parmesan, which is my new favorite way to consume Parmesan—shaved. For whatever reason it looks more elegant to me that way. I guess it speaks to my Bourgeois sensibilities. When I was in my apartment, I would sometimes buy actual wedges (I know, WEDGES) of Parmesan and put in the effort to shave the cheese myself, but this time I had some leftover shaved Sargento Parm that I needed to get rid of. It was just as good if not better than my own freshly shaved cheese.

Let me tell ya, this pasta recipe I made up in the middle of the grocery store did not disappoint. It was right on brand for me: easy and delectable. (Somewhere in the distance my cousin is yelling THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID.)

Well, folks, I hope you have an amazing Wednesday. Let me know if you ever decide to make this. I’d love to know what you think!

An Afternoon at the Park

Last Sunday afternoon, following brunch with my parents, my mom and I took their dog, Bailey, on a walk at Gibson Pond Park.

When my mom suggested the idea, I was so excited. I love parks and I love walking, and it had been so long since I went on a good walk. I used to walk all the time when I worked in an office. It was my favorite time of day. After lunch, I’d take a leisurely stroll down Main Street in Downtown Columbia where my office was located. Just getting out and stretching my legs for 20 minutes did wonders for my mind and body and soul. 💕

There was only one walking train that curved into a small circle, so once we’d taken a few laps we ventured over to the dam. Bailey was a little put off by the turbulence of the waterfall at first, but she got used to it and seemed to enjoy exploring the area. My mom was more afraid of the other dogs ambling around than Bailey. But there was this one couple she behaved so shy around, it was wholly unexpected because normally Bailey is so excitable with other people. 🤔

All in all, it was a fun activity. My mom, Bailey, and I got to let out some energy, because walking Bailey is a workout in itself! 😄 I hope we make it a regular thing. I miss being around nature, and just being out in general doing something other than running errands or shopping.

Hope you’re having a good weekend!

xo.

Spicy Mustard Chicken Thighs with Seasoned Asparagus and Red Potatoes

I am in no position to tell anyone how to cook. I’m usually winging it at dinner with a little bit of guidance from Google or a cookbook. However, I did make these chicken thighs a couple of weeks ago that I’d like to share, because they ended up being so flavorful, thanks to my newly discovered secret ingredient.

I’d been wanting to make chicken thighs for a while, and finally one Monday I ordered some through Instacart to be delivered with red potatoes and asparagus. That morning, I woke up feeling uncharacteristically motivated. I got up early, practiced yoga, and decided to try some apple cider vinegar with water and lemon oil as a pre-coffee cocktail to get a jumpstart on my hydration.

It was disgusting. I will probably never again drink apple cider vinegar. I couldn’t give two figs about “the Mother” and it’s health benefits. Just yuck.

With that being said, I did read on the label that it could be used as a tenderizer and marinade, which is how I decided to make the chicken thighs for dinner that night. I let them marinate with the vinegar in the refrigerator while I did my evening chores, it was probably a couple of hours. I then rubbed some spicy brown mustard on them, drizzled a pan with olive oil, and seared them. I did cover the chicken for a bit in the beginning to hasten the cooking, but then I cooked them uncovered, flipping back and forth until I was satisfied with their color.

For the asparagus and red potatoes, I chopped them up after rinsing, drizzled them with olive oil, then sprinkled The Salt Table’s Savannah Spanish Moss Seasoning Blend over them that I found in my cousin’s spice cabinet, shaking for about 30 seconds to blend everything. I put the oven on 425 degrees and baked them for about 30 minutes, but I would monitor while baking to make sure they cook through in 30, and you may even need to lower the temperature and cook longer depending on your even so you won’t overlook the asparagus and undercook the potatoes.

Everything tasted amazing, and I was really proud of myself for coming up with that off the top of my head, even though it was pretty simple. The apple cider vinegar made a huge difference in the flavor of the chicken and I was surprised by how much it softened as a result. I think I will always use apple cider vinegar to marinate chicken from now on. My cousin and I were able to eat on this meal two nights, as it made four servings. The actual cooking part I believe only took me about a half hour, so it’s totally doable for a quick weeknight dinner. I definitely look forward to making this again in the future.

A Few Things (v. 3)

1| I’m really excited about warm weather, spring blooms, and mulling the idea of doing my first ever capsule wardrobe for the coming warmer months. I was reading a post on Uncomplicated Spaces yesterday that re-inspired me. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to do a clothes shopping fast after reading Lee Vosburgh’s Closet Mission, so I’ve been making an honest effort not to add anymore clothes to my wardrobe for 30 days. I still have a couple of weeks to go, but it’s forced me to be more thoughtful about the clothes I shop for and what I want to add to my closet going forward. I think my struggle is going to be transitioning out of my current closet and into the closet I want to have without needlessly discarding clothes I could still wear. I say this because I know the style of capsule wardrobe I want to create and it’s different from what I currently own. So I thought I would start by creating a capsule wardrobe out of what’s already in my closet, then add the style I want to pursue as needed.

2| I finally decided to upgrade my WordPress subscription so that I could install a decent theme. I messed around with it so much Friday afternoon after I logged off work, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m tech savvy to a point, but not a very distant point, so I finally gave in, got my upgrade, and uploaded this pretty theme I found on Etsy. I saw that the designer is from South Carolina, so it made me happy to support someone local-ish! She was also very responsive to any questions I had about setting up the theme, but her download came with instructions so it was fairly easy to do. It’s super minimal, which I love, and has gotten me excited to start writing more posts.

3| Speaking of which, I’ve been reading through an archive of a former blog of mine that I found on paperblog, and I am just floored by how much I had to write about back then. I was in college at the time, I actually think I graduated during the period I wrote this particular blog, so I know there was a lot going on. I was also working full-time while finishing school full-time, so I probably had a lot of intellectual and creative stimulation that inspired me to write (however badly!). It’s just that even when I feel inspired to write these days, I have no idea what to say, and most of the time it doesn’t seem useful to write if I don’t know what I want to write about, so I don’t write at all. Not even in a private journal, but especially not somewhere public like on a blog. Even now I feel like I’m just rambling, and doing it very ineloquently to boot.

4| I’ve been trying really hard not to care so much about the cohesiveness of my Instagram feed lately. I don’t know why I find this worth mentioning, but it’s been on my mind the past few weeks. I’ve been trying to convey my life more naturally and authentically, so I haven’t planned out any content there like I may have in my pre-pandemic past. I think I’m also about to change the way I edit my photos again. Years ago I used VSCO, but then during the pandemic I started experimenting with Lightroom, A Color Story, Snapseed, Afterlight, and I’m sure there were some others. Most recently, I’ve just been editing through the Instagram app with their built-in tools, but yesterday I started playing around with my iPhone’s camera editing tools, which is what I used to edit the above picture. I need a little more practice with it, but I think I prefer it to Instagram’s editing tools. I think it looks more natural and dramatized at the same time. My iPhone’s built-in photo editor is pretty basic, but I actually like that about it. I feel like if I have too many options I’ll end up over-editing my photos.

5. Okay, something not related to the internet at all now… Last month, I paid off my car (yay!) and decided I wanted to get it detailed in honor of the milestone. I only purchased an interior detail, but I’m planning on taking my car for a very expensive car wash later today to take care of the exterior for now. I do want to have an exterior detail done at some point this year, but not until pollen season passes at least. But because of the pollen my car is in desperate need of a good wash right now, so that’ll have to do for the moment. I’m really happy with the results of the interior detail, though. The guy who did it was very thorough and almost made it look good as new. Only almost because my car was in pretty bad shape before. I mean, not the worst condition, but definitely not the best. At any rate, it looks leagues better than it did before, so I’m satisfied with that. I just wanted to do that for myself since I finally got my car paid off, and I haven’t always been good about taking care of it the way I should in the past. When I go through bad emotional phases I tend to neglect things. But this is the first car I’ve paid off all by myself so I wanted to celebrate that. 🙂

Until next time…

xo.

Blog Talk: My Love-Hate Relationship with Social Media

I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time, but I think I’ve been avoiding my own come to Jesus moment with this issue. The other night, I scrolled by a Facebook post from one of my favorite authors of my 20s. Her name is Nicole Baart, and when her first books were being published she was fairly active on her blog and Twitter. I gobbled up everything that she wrote. In her Facebook post, she talks about being at odds with social media yet still attracted to the basic premise of its existence.

Reading her post wasn’t the first time my anxiety flared at the thought of how influencer culture has affected the way I treat my own social media accounts. I shared as much in a reply to her.

It’s evident lately how much the influencer’s social media has changed the way I approach my own accounts, and especially blogging. Sure, I admit that the allure of the influencer’s lifestyle has peaked my interest in the past. I’ve created many a new blog and Instagram account in pursuit of it. But I could never get my heart connected to the effort. At the end of the day, I’m an English major who desperately wanted to grow up to be a wisecracking but cerebral writer. If I’m being brutally honest, chasing after influencer culture feels dumb and more often than not I can be found inwardly cringing at the influencer’s attempt to sneak money out of my pocket by dangling something shiny in my face with the promise of a 20% off discount code. I actually had to go through the accounts I follow on Instagram and unfollow a huge amount of influencers I’d started following without even realizing how badly it was impacting my daily perspective, my shopping habits, my mental state even.

I’ve continued to post in an influencer format on Instagram for the sake of pursuing cohesiveness, trying to find a strategy that works for me, that communicates something substantial about the way I perceive my life experience. I thought by going basic with my content and photo editing I would be leveling with myself, confronting reality rather than trying to escape it with overly edited imagery, as I was wont to do in the past. But when I scroll back through my old Instagram photos all I do is wish I had never strayed from that person. I wish I had never stopped writing, never stopped dreaming, never stopped creating.

When I wrote to Nicole that social media feels so much different now, I meant that the prime motivator for social media sites in today’s culture/economy is powered by monetization rather than community. Of course, it’s not surprising. Sometimes I think that influencer culture was inevitable, we were always headed in this direction whether or not we ever saw it coming. You can’t blame money for doing what money does—tempting people, leering at them, making them want things out of their reach with the whispers of a better tomorrow. Even if we can’t always hold the people responsible to account, we can hold ourselves accountable. We can establish healthier practices.

Did you ever watch The Social Dilemma? I was so tempted to delete all of my social media accounts afterward. I didn’t, though. Because, like Nicole, I still admire the premise of social media. I still long for the days when personal blogging was on trend and social media sites were simply additives, more immediate ways to connect. And, I guess, social media still functions this way. But now there is more clutter, more noise. Not only are new brands demanding your attention and your follow on a daily basis, but trolls are worse than ever. New accounts are constantly being suggested to you based on something you liked the day before, so you end up following way more people and businesses than you really have brain space for or even care about. I don’t meant that to be harsh, just that there is this inescapable height of consumption that can never be satisfied, and the arbiters of these social networks know that and exploit it.

Social media has caused me more mental exhaustion and insecurities than ever in the last year. Perhaps some of that is on me. Yes, I know that social media is more or less designed to control you and your habits. The longer they hold your attention, the more likely they are to get your money. But I’ve known this about social media for a while now. Influencer culture did seem to sneak in through the back door, but at a certain point I knew it had arrived, was making noise, and trying to get my attention. It didn’t pass my notice that more and more of the accounts I followed were brands I never even shopped with or brands who got me to spend money I didn’t have hoping to build a lifestyle for myself I would never achieve. I read articles, watched documentaries, educated myself. And still there was a part of me that wanted a piece of the cake.

But, lately, what I really want more than anything is to feel like myself again. I don’t feel like myself when I write at length about the outfit I decided to wear to Sunday brunch with my parents. That person is probably a poser. I DO feel like myself writing about this, though. It reminds of the person I wanted to be up until about a year before COVID hit in the US. The only reason I stopped trying to be that person was because she was fickle and undisciplined and I honestly didn’t know who she was or what she wanted, and thought maybe the best thing for her was to take a giant leap away from her hopes and dreams to gain some clarity. I know I said before I wished I hadn’t done that, but if I’m honest with myself I still think it was the best thing for me to do at the time. I think I needed to dissociate from that person so I could learn what really mattered to her. I think I’m finally starting to find that out.

My ideal is to focus less on social media and more on writing. Writing what, I don’t know. What I do know is that social media has distracted me for a long time from what I really want, which is simply to write. To be a writer. I think I hid behind social media before because it kept me from writing, from pursuing the life I really wanted, which is to financially support myself with my words.

I don’t know what this means for my blog or my social accounts going forward. Honestly, I’m tempted to archive all of my Instagram posts from the last year and half, or since my account’s inception, and start over from scratch. I’d love if I had never deleted my original social media accounts in my early 20s. I went through a similar breakdown about a decade ago, and now I want to scrap everything AGAIN and start all over. But that seems dramatic now. I’ll continue to ponder it. Although, I can’t help but laugh at myself for caring this much.

East Coast Style Vibes

Hi friends! I hope everyone is doing well. I haven’t posted regularly this month because I did exactly what I knew I would do when I started blogging again, and experienced feelings of disengagement and inadequacy trying to build a new blog. I let myself have those feelings, but now I want to talk a little more about my style journey because so much has been rolling through my head about it in recent weeks. I’ll start by going through my outfit from this past Sunday. I think I’ll be able to touch on everything I want to write about that way!

So, pretty much every Sunday I meet my parents for brunch and spend the rest of the day with them, usually running errands with my mom after we finish eating and then hanging out at their house in my dad’s shop if it’s cold or sitting out on the deck or patio when it’s warm. I usually try to dress somewhere between nice and comfortable, because Sunday is the only day during the week when I actually go out in public, so there is part of me that wants to feel put together, that wants to feel a little bit of the way I did before the pandemic, where leaving the house is more of a to-do. But I can’t deny that things have changed in such a way that I can no longer justify discomfort for the sake of style. No matter what, I have to prioritize comfort now. And while I wish I could be that girl who rocks an oversized sweatshirt with leggings and fashion sneakers, I’ve just never felt comfortable in that look. While other girls look very fashion in their nonchalance I always feel sloppy and disheveled. Maybe it’s just a matter of finding the right outfit, though. (Or maybe it’s just in my head?? 🙃)

Last Sunday, the high was in the 60s, so I wanted to wear something to keep me warmer in the morning (since we usually eat outside) with a layer to remove in the afternoon once the sun started to warm us up. I decided first on my striped tee by Madewell (see similar). I bought this shirt secondhand on eBay, and it is one of my favorite pieces in my closet. It’s fitting for all seasons, in my opinion, especially since living in the south we experience warm weather regardless of the time of year, and it’s the perfect top for mildly warm days. I layered my beige cardigan over it for a little warmth. This cardigan, and my jeans, came from Stitch Fix, so they’re not easy to link to. But I thought the contrast and neutrality of the colors gave the outfit a distinctly east coast feel. Especially once I chose to wear my black Everlane mules (see similar). I love their relaxed look! Lastly, the necklace is one I bought several years ago at a Loft outlet (see similar) and the small gold hoops came from an AllTrue box.

As you can see my shopping practices have been all over the place in the past. I recently decided to take a break from Stitch Fix, because I want to focus on shopping more sustainably and buying secondhand. I find so many good pieces on eBay. ThredUP is good too, but I have developed more of a habit of looking at eBay for secondhand clothing before browsing ThredUP. I’ve found good things on both sites, though.

Admittedly, I’ve had a little bit of a struggle with what brands to buy secondhand. I like clothes with a little flair these days. I’ve tried wearing mostly neutrals and monochrome in the past, but it bums me out not to have some pattern and color in my wardrobe. (I am, at the end of the day, a southern girl, after all.) And, yes, this outfit is one consisted of neutrals, but the structure, pattern, and fit gave the outfit character that matched my personality perfectly. It’s easy, breezy, and comfortable!

There are fast fashion brands—like Madewell, Loft, and Banana Republic—that I’m more comfortable shopping secondhand because I already know my sizes and that I like their style. Their prices secondhand are also a lot more affordable for me than even buying sustainable brands secondhand, which can still be pricey. But I’m also not wanting to put too many rules on myself at this point. I love smaller boutiques, such as Charley’s Clothing, and still find things I like at Kohl’s and Target.

My main focus is to buy within my means, to shop intentionally for my current lifestyle, and to be confident that whatever I’m buying—whether it’s fast fashion, a sustainable fashion brand, or secondhand—that I know I’ll get my use out of it. Overall, though, I want to focus more on holding onto my money rather than shilling it out for clothes and accessories that I won’t wear because I don’t have a real need for them. Not that I won’t occasionally treat myself, I’m certain, but I want to be sure that when I’m adding something to my closet going forward that it serves a purpose, that it’s filling a gap in my wardrobe. Style meets function is my new goal!

What about you? Do you shop secondhand? Where do you like to thrift? Let me know in the comments!