BEDA 2016

What I Learned From Blogging Every Day in April | BEDA Day 30

30 days, 30 posts. I actually freakin’ did it.

I started this project out as a way to get myself writing again, knowing full well that I would probably quit halfway through, as I have with almost every challenge I’ve started over the last few years. I thought that even if I made it halfway through, 15 posts in as many days is still quite a feat. 6,000+ words in two weeks is nothing to shake a stick at, unless you’re doing NaNoWriMo.

And yet, even on the days where I felt zapped of all creative energy, I wrote. I knew a 100 word post about my weekend was better than no post at all. I got the words down on the virtual page and sent those words out into the world. Sometimes I got 2 hits a day, sometimes I got hundreds. The traffic didn’t really matter to me. As long as I could cross “write a post” off my to-do list for the day, I was happy.

So what have I learned over the past 30 days? A few things, actually.

I can always find something to say.

I’ve always struggled with self-confidence (who hasn’t?), especially when it comes to meeting new people. I tend to hang back in conversations or not introduce myself to people, thinking I have nothing interesting to say. If anything, this project has shown me that I can always find something to add to the conversation. My thoughts are valuable and worth sharing. Even if I have some trouble translating what’s in my brain into conversational English, I’ll eventually figure it out. This is all easier said than done, but I’m working on it. It all takes practice, and I think BEDA was a great exercise.

I don’t always have to fit into a niche.

Everything I’ve read about “the business of blogging” encourages writers to stick to a genre of content and not stray too much, lest they lose precious eyeballs. That definitely works if you want to build your blog into something huge, but when it comes down to it, I’m writing for me. It’s easy for me to stick to travel content when I’m only posting a few times a month, but that gets a bit mundane when I have to post something every day. And when it comes down to it, I’m not a travel expert. I’ve traveled a lot, and it’s one of my favorite things to do, but I still don’t really know how to pack a carry-on. I’m allowed to write about the gender wage gap or tiny houses if I want. When it comes to this site, I’m my own boss. And that’s incredibly freeing.

I need structure.

Generally speaking, my writing output has gone way downhill since I graduated from college. When I was in school, I had deadlines every week and professors to hold me accountable for them. Now, when I want to write a new script, I have no one to answer to but myself. Being your own boss can be great, but I’m a pretty lax manager when it comes to deadlines. With this project, I knew I had to get something out every day, and if I didn’t, my inability to follow through would live on the internet forever. When I go back and watch videos from my failed VEDA attempts, I get pretty embarrassed. I didn’t want to feel that way again. Maybe letting my inner critic drive this project wasn’t the healthiest move, but it helped me get it done. For once I wanted to whole-ass something and throw myself into a creative project as much as I could with a full-time job. And that’s exactly what I did.

As for the future of this blog, I don’t really know what’s in store. I’m going to keep posting at least twice a month, but right now I want to focus on other writing projects. I dusted off an abandoned pilot script a few weeks ago and would like to at least finish a draft of that. Going back to the theme of structure, I’m also hoping to et back in the classroom this summer and start some new projects.

I think I’m coming out of this project with a better sense of who I am as writer and as a person. Sitting down to write every day forces you to reflect and spend some time in your own brain. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s terrifying, but it’s always worth it.

Of course I have to thank you all for reading and supporting me through this project. Whether you left a comment, favorited one of my Tweets, or said something to me in person, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only person reading these words. I hope you’ll all stick around for…whatever I have in store for the future.

BEDA 2016 completed. Someone buy me a drink.

Friday Link Round-Up | BEDA Day 29

We made it to another Friday, y’all! I’m very much looking forward to this weekend as I have very few plans. Open schedules make me a little nervous sometimes, but this is the last really free weekend I have for a while. I’m going to treat myself and…I don’t know, do laundry and clean my apartment or something. Tomorrow is also the LAST DAY OF BEDA! I honestly can’t believe I’ve actually made it this far. I’m pretty proud of myself, but I’ll save my real #reflections for tomorrow’s post.

Anywho, here are some of my favorite internet reads from this week. Happy Weekend!

“I Lived My Best Life For A Day And Wanted To Die” by Katie Heaney – Buzzfeed

“Why I Had A Breakdown Watching ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'” by Kelsey Miller – Refinery29

“‘Isn’t This Funnier?’ New Girl Creator Liz Meriwether Recalls the Making of the Prince Episode” – Vulture

 “Chyna Deserved Better” by Mairead Small Staid – Jezebel

“Broadway Shows Get the Point! Again!” by Eric Grode – New York Times

“The Brooklyn Getaway // A Gal’s Trip to NYC” – The Overseas Escape

finding personal style

Finding My Personal Style | BEDA Day 28

When I started this project, I made a list of topics I could touch upon over my 30 days of posts. One of those topics was “forming my aesthetic.”

Past Charlotte, what does that even mean? How does one fit such a whopper of a topic into one 500-word post? And which aesthetic are we talking about? Fashion? Literary? Home decor? Tumblr? Every time I return to the list, I’m not quite sure where to start with it. So I guess we’ll just go with some free thoughts on finding my personal style.

My style was pretty much the same throughout middle and high school. I was a standard t-shirt and jeans girl, particularly if those t-shirts were of the graphic variety. I’d mix it up occasionally with “punk” elements like Chuck Taylors or a studded belt (woof), but the general vibe was pretty casual. As time went on I softened up my look a bit, embracing cardigans and empire-waist tank tops with a dress or two to mix things up. My shops of choice at the time were Delia’s (RIP), American Eagle, and The Gap.

I was more willing to experiment in college, but tended to revert back to my denim comfort zone. If it took more than five minutes to get dressed, I wasn’t having it. Dresses and skirts made more of an appearance in my wardrobe, as I was more willing to embrace my femininity. Once I started to move out of the juniors department and into the world of Big Girl Clothes, though, I realized I was in a whole different category of customer, one that didn’t cater to my age group. I wanted to try crop tops and rompers, but the options in Forever 21 looked silly on me. Gaining the Freshman 15 kind of wrecked my self-esteem for a bit, making shopping even more difficult.

Something changed when I went to London, though. I stepped into a Topshop in Kensington and found that their petite section had a lot more than frumpy pantsuits. Finally, I could try out the styles I’d seen in magazines and style blogs. I’ll be honest, most of them still looked kind of silly, but just seeing that I could actually wear trendy pieces opened my mind up to new options. I started to wear brighter colors and pieces that didn’t always work, but made me feel good in the moment. For a second, I finally felt like one of the cool girls.

I now face a new dilemma as a post-grad working full-time in New York City. I can shop for work clothes without a problem and find outfits that look professional and comfortable at the same time. But part of me still wants to be “trendy” during my limited time off. I have very few “going out” outfits as I can’t find any that suit me (and I rarely “go out” as it is). I’m also just generally dissatisfied with the options available to me. The recent fare available in stores like Topshop and Zara kind of look like costumes you would find in a sci-fi movie. Culottes? Really, y’all?

I guess the key is to keep trying things on until something feels right. Or just keep perusing fashion blogs until I find a look to emulate. For now I’ll stick to my new uniform: LOFT blouses and black jeans.

Image via Enis Lebelici

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5 Things I’m Looking Forward to This Summer | BEDA Day 27

Summer is nearly upon us, my friends. While I’m more of a spring gal, I still look forward to all the travel and outdoor fun summer brings. Here are five things I’m particularly looking forward to this season.

  1. Vidcon! Vidcon is always a staple of my summer. It’s become this annual pilgrimage where I’m reunited with old friends, surrounded by likeminded people, and have the opportunity to learn new things about the always #changing face of #newmedia. While the conference has grown substantially in the last few years, there’s still something great about spending 3+ days with people who share your passions. I’m incredibly excited to go back for my fourth year.

  2. A Return to LA – I’m planning on spending a few days in LA ahead of Vidcon to catch up with friends and eat a ton of In-N-Out. I have a bit of a fraught relationship with the City of Angels, but I always enjoy my visits. I know I’ll be spending at least some of my 36 hours in town listening to Kanye in my rental car and drinking iced coffee from Intelligentsia, so it’ll be just like the summer of 2013.

  3. Central Park Hangs – Central Park is a bit of a trek for me in the winter, but I’m so looking forward to spending plenty of weekend afternoons there this summer. I bought a picnic blanket last year and used it all of two times, so I’m determined to get more use out of it in the coming months. I also have a ton of reading to catch up on. Maybe I’ll actually finish The Catcher in the Rye this year (don’t judge).

  4. Shakespeare in the Park – This is the year, guys. One of these weekends, I’m going to wake up super early, bring my aforementioned picnic blanket to the park, and camp out outside the Delacorte for free tickets to one of the Public’s productions. I’m particularly excited about the all-female production of The Taming of the Shrew running in May and June. Donna Lynne Champlin is in it. What more do I need?

  5. Governor’s Ball – So I did that thing a few months ago where I bought a pass without asking any of my friends if they planned on attending. As such, I’m facing the prospect of going to (what used to be) the New York version of Coachella by myself. The lineup is way too good for me to pass up, though. Between The Killers, Haim, Chvrches, and Death Cab for Cutie, I’m pretty much in musical heaven. Now to find someone to tag along…

What are you looking forward to this summer? Let me know in the comments!

Chanticleer 6

An Afternoon at Chanticleer | BEDA Day 26

Chanticleer 2

I went home for about 24 hours this weekend, which has become a common occurrence over the last year or so. I was in town for my mom’s choir concert and had a lovely few hours hanging out with my folks, snuggling with my dog, and sleeping in my own bed. The weather was absolutely stunning on Sunday, so we decided to take a ride to Chanticleer, a world-renowned garden right in my hometown.

Chanticleer 3

The flowers of Chanticleer were out in full bloom and we enjoyed a nice walk around the grounds. The Chanticleer Foundation has added a bunch of improvements – including new bathrooms and walkways down the hill from the house – since I last visited, which make the garden even more visitor-friendly. With these new paths we were able to explore areas of the garden we’d never seen before, like a pond full of giant carp.

Chanticleer 4

There’s a little shed down the hill from the main house that is just darling. It must have been used as a playhouse for the original owner’s children, as it’s decorated with these amazing murals right out of a children’s book. Somehow I was able to fit through the door without any problems, which shows you just how tiny I am. I should really stop acting surprised when I get carded at bars.

Chanticleer 1

Overall, it was a lovely – albeit allergy-ridden – afternoon. I managed to get all these photos on my iPhone, as I left my DSLR at home. I did some quick edits in my favorite photo editing app, Afterlight, and I’m really happy with how they turned out. Every time I visit Chanticleer, I can’t believe it’s always been right in my backyard. I can’t wait to visit again.

Chanticleer 5

Spring 2016 Beauty Favorites | BEDA Day 25

Despite my love of makeup and hair, I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately. I haven’t bought a lot of new products in the past few months and my look has been pretty much the same every day. I’ve been trying to remedy that this month by trying out some products that have been hiding in my makeup case and grabbing a few new things from Sephora and the drugstore. As we’re nearing the end of BEDA (and I’m running out of ideas for #content), here are a few of my favorite products from the past few weeks.

Goody Spin Pins

Image via Goody

These little spiral guys* have changed my life, and that’s not an overstatement. I have pretty thick hair, so it takes a fair amount of pins to get it into a neat bun. I was a little skeptical when I heard that these pins do the work of 10 bobby pins, but I decided to give them a try. While it still takes me two pins to secure my bun, my style doesn’t budge once the pins are in. For someone who spends a fair amount of time picking bobby pins out of her head, these pins are total game changers. I’m in love.

Urban Decay Primer Potion

Image via Ulta

I recently ran out of my beloved, but sadly not cruelty free, MAC Paint Pot and needed something to keep my eyelids from looking sad veiny. I tried another similar product, and while it covered my lids nicely, it totally sucked as an eyeshadow primer. My lids were a creasy mess after a few hours. I managed to dig a sample of Urban Decay’s Primer Potion out of my makeup case, and I’m not sure why I abandoned this product in the first place. It covers my veins enough that I feel comfortable wearing it on its own, and works wonders under a powder shadow. I welcome you back with open arms, old friend.

Pacifica Eyeshadow

Image via Ipsy

When it comes to eyeshadow, I’m more of a palette girl. Single shadows tend to get lost at the bottom of my makeup bag, never to be seen again. A few months ago, I decided to dig out a sample of Pacifica’s eyeshadow I received in an Ipsy bag, and I’ve used it almost every day since. This particular shadow is a great champagne color that gives my eyes a little shimmer without looking too overdone. The best part is that Pacifica’s products are all natural, cruelty free, and relatively inexpensive. I’m definitely a fan.*

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream

Image via Beauty.com

Putting on a thick night cream before bed is one of my favorite parts of the day. The First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream* has kept my skin nice and soft through the harsh winter months and now through the seasonal transition. My skin also feels like it has more elasticity, which is something I worry about as I start to actively age. It’s all downhill after 21, kids.

Lush Ambrosia Shaving Cream

Image via Lush

Do you know how hard it is to find a cruelty free shaving cream that actually works?! The struggle was pretty real until I discovered this beauty from Lush. While it’s more designed for faces, this product is really good at preventing razor burn, particularly for those of us with sensitive skin. I also much prefer the control of a bottle to Lush’s tub packaging. I always end up running out quicker with the latter.

It’s been a pretty solid few months for me beauty-wise. What have you been loving this spring? Let me know in the comments!

crock pot chicken meal prep

I Tried Buzzfeed’s Meal Prep Plan So You Don’t Have To | BEDA Day 24

Meal Prep Sunday should seem like a total dream to a lazy girl like myself. You get all your cooking for the week out of the way on one afternoon and spend minimal time in the kitchen after work. It’s easy and helps you stay on a healthy diet. Despite all this, I couldn’t quite get behind the meal prep craze until recently. I never have quite enough time on Sundays to do all the necessary cooking, and doing a big shop every week can add up. After a week of one too many Seamless orders, though, I decided to give it a try.

I’d been eyeing this meal prep plan from Buzzfeed for a while. It uses lots of my favorite foods and each dish looks great on its own. A few weeks ago, I took the plunge and set aside a few hours to get everything together.

I made a few changes to the plan to fit my personal preferences. I don’t eat a lot of pork, so I swapped that out for a pound or so of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes or corn, so those were out. My local grocery store was also out of zucchini, so I skipped that as well.

My first step when I got home was to get the chickens going in the crock-pot. I consider myself a bit of a crock-pot master, so this was easy enough. About halfway through the chicken’s cook time, I started in on the veggies. The carrots I bought were not nearly as thick as those pictured in the article, but I figured I’d give them a try anyway. I doused the carrots and peppers in oil and seasonings and popped them in the oven on a baking tray.

As this was my first foray into roasting, I wasn’t totally sure I was doing the right thing. As it turns out, I wasn’t. I put the vegetables on a flat baking sheet rather than one meant for roasting, and they burnt to a crisp. Some of the peppers were salvageable, but the carrots were a complete disaster. Rookie mistake, Dow.

While the vegetables were roasting burning, I threw a few cups of rice into a pot. It ended up being WAY more rice than I could possibly need on my own, so I froze half of it. Hopefully it’ll actually be edible down the road. I steamed some broccoli as well to get some greens good to go.

The chicken came out tender and delicious, as it usually does after a few hours of slow cooking. Again, I probably made way more than I actually needed and threw most of it in a large tupperware in the refrigerator.

I ate my first meal, the rice bowl, that night. It wasn’t quite as bland as I thought it would be, as everything was fresh from the oven/stove/crock-pot. A little shredded cheese would’ve added something to it, but I forgot to pick that up at the grocery store. It fueled me up for a night of drinks and comedy with some coworkers and I only ordered one snack at the bar.

The next night I went with fried rice, which is pretty much a staple of my cooking repertoire. The rice took a minute or two to declump from sitting in the refrigerator, but after improvising with some of the chicken, it turned out pretty well. I saved a bit for lunch, but forgot to bring it with me in the morning. Such is life.

After an evening gym session on Tuesday, I wasn’t really in the mood to prep anything for dinner. I ended up leaving everything in the refrigerator and heated up a frozen pizza instead. I went with fried rice again on Wednesday night, as I needed to cook something fast before running some errands. Things were starting to smell kind of iffy by Thursday, so I dumped the extra chicken and rice and ended up making some pasta instead.

So, did Meal Prep Sunday work out for me? Yes and no. I got a few easy dishes out of it, but after a few days, nothing in the plan looked particularly appetizing. I also ended up cooking way more food than I actually needed, and it kind of pained me to throw it out after a few days. On the bright side, I learned from my roasting failure and had a few days of excellent chicken.

I would probably try another meal prep plan before embarking on this one again. Something with less meat and more ingredients I will actually eat. My friend Amanda has made a bunch of videos about meal prep and cooking that have given me some great ideas. As for the Buzzfeed plan, it’s going to take a little time before I try it again.

On Being “Petite” | BEDA Day 23

I am what the fashion industry classifies as “petite.” I am 5’1” (on a good day), have small proportions, and can still fit into kids shoes. Almost everything I buy has to be from a petite section or tailored until I can actually wear it without looking ridiculous. I’m privileged in that I can go to a store like H&M and actually find clothes in my size, but they rarely look right on my body.

This all makes shopping extremely difficult. And expensive.

The petite sections of most department stores are pretty terrible. They’re full of bland pantsuits that even Hillary would pass on and basic blouses and pants that are fine, but not particularly trendy or fun. There’s something to be said for sticking with well-made basics that fit, but I want to have the choice to branch out and try new things. I shouldn’t be shut out of having fun with my personal style just because I’m short.

If I decide to venture out of the petite section, I eventually end up paying extra for tailoring. It’s usually worth it, but that’s an extra $20+ I wouldn’t have to pay for a garment were I a few inches taller. I may just be stubborn, but I’m on a budget, yo! I’d like to only pay for my new pair of jeans once.

And what about the ladies who are curvy AND petite? A lot of petite lines seem to cater to tiny, waifish figures (much like the rest of the fashion industry), effectively shutting out anyone who is short and above a size 12. That just doesn’t seem fair.

I like to think things are getting better for us short girls. Trendier brands like LOFT, Anthropologie, Topshop, and more offer pieces in petite sizes, even dedicating (small) sections of their stores to us. There’s even more selection online on sites like ASOS. I’ve also managed to find a few petite fashion bloggers, like Alterations Needed and The View From 5 Ft. 2, to get more style inspiration.

Despite all this, I never feel like I’ll get this whole “shopping” thing right. I have a tendency to walk into a store, try on a bunch of stuff, and leave with nothing. This is great for my wallet, but not great for my closet. The petite struggle is real, y’all. I think I’ll just stick with the juniors section for a few more years. They seem to get me.

Friday Link Round-Up | BEDA Day 22

Happy Friday (and Earth Day), y’all! We’re nearing the home stretch of BEDA and boy, am I tired. This could also just be burn out from waking up early every day this week (who am I?), but I’m dragging this morning. I’m looking forward to a weekend of shows (including American Psycho), a quick jaunt back home, and some time to get my life back together. I’ll also be blasting “Purple Rain” all weekend in honor of his purpleness, Prince, who left us too soon yesterday.

In case you’re looking for some weekend reads, check out some of these gems of the interwebs:

“How Prince Taught Me About Sexuality” by Nichole Perkins – Buzzfeed

“I’m a Traveler on a Budget – Not a Budget Traveler” by Rosie Spinks – The Billfold

“How Every NYC TV Character Would Vote in the New York State Primary” – Vulture

“10 Hotel Lobbies to Work From in LA, San Francisco, NYC and Chicago” by Amber Gibson – The Points Guy

“In Its First Season, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Greatest Legacy Is (Finally) Bringing the Asian Bro to Television” by Jada Yuan – Vulture

U Street

A Culinary Tour of DC and Arlington | BEDA Day 21

DC Food-4

Last weekend, I joined some of my favorite ladies in the world for a weekend of adventures in Washington, DC and the surrounding area. We were there to celebrate Leslie’s birthday and finally hang out like real adults, outside of a conference setting. It was an amazing three days filled with great talks, near-perfect weather, and lots of food. Seriously, by some happy accident most of the weekend revolved around eating and drinking.

U Street Mural 2

After checking into our AirBnB in Arlington, we made our way down to U Street to check out the scene. The U Street Corridor has been experiencing something of a renaissance in the last few decades, and is now home to lots of cool shops, bars, and clubs. While wandering the neighborhood, we found this gorgeous mural and had to do a bit of a photoshoot.

U Street Mural 1

If you find a mural in a city alley and don’t take an OOTD photo, where you really ever there?

u street mural 3

The lovely Allyson

The Saloon DC 1

At the suggestion of Amanda, we stopped into The Saloon, a no-frills bar and restaurant on the main drag. The Saloon is all about social interaction – you won’t find any TVs here and cell phones are highly discouraged. Their beer selection is top notch, though. I fell in love with a fruity wheat beer called Ruby Red that I will probably never be able to find again. I guess it’s better to have loved and lost, than to not have tasted Ruby Red at all.

The Saloon DC 1DC Metro

Remember when I said this was our first time hanging out outside of a conference? Well, we managed to find one anyway. After a breakfast of beignets at Bayou Bakery, we took the Metro down to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to check out the USA Science & Engineering Festival. While the exhibitors geared their booths more towards kids, it was cool too see all the innovation coming out of the participating organizations. Seeing so many kids, particularly girls, get excited about STEM and STEAM work was particularly heart-warming.

ragtime arlington bloody mary bar

We all managed to sleep in on Sunday and met up for brunch at Ragtime, a casual spot with Cajun flair. Ragtime is particularly well known for their Sunday brunch menu, featuring waffle and Bloody Mary bars, live music, and plenty of other goodies. As a Leslie Knope-in-training, I went straight for the waffle bar, piling on all the fruit and syrup my heart desired. Between that and several cups of coffee, I was highly content.
ragtime arlington live music ragtime arlington bar

All in all, it was a really great weekend. We may have laid pretty low, but it was so nice to have a few days to recharge and catch up with great friends that I don’t get to see that often. Sometimes just having a few beers in someone’s apartment is better than seeing everything a city has to offer. Plus, look at the sunset from our AirBnB. Why would I want to miss that?

arlington sunset

DC, thanks for a great few days. I’ll be back before you know it.