Closet Staples

I probably should have written an apology post before I published this one because I feel as if I owe you all an explanation as to why I’ve been MIA. I’m notoriously atrocious at keeping up with blogs. I’ll keep it short & sweet for you & leave it at “I had better things to do.” But not the passive/agressive “better things.” Better things such as earning my bachelors degree, moving across the country, figuring my career out…small, not-at-all-life-changing things like that. You understand, don’t you?

The title of this post is mildly misleading. I chose “Closet Staples” & I know a handful of my friends/readers are hoping for a list of clothing items every practically fabulous woman should have in her closet to ensure a stellar look on the daily. Sorry in advance, babes. While this list includes essential items a woman should carry with her everywhere she goes, they’re not exactly the physical, wearable items you’re thinking of. While I will never (EVER!) downplay the importance of a well-fitted blazer or a fabulous pair of heels, these staples are the very foundation of not just a practical woman’s wardrobe, but her life.

Let me start by saying: New York City changed me. I don’t know if it was the warm welcome I received (HA! jokes. Cheer up, Manhattan!) or the fact that I attended one of the most well-known design schools in the world (definitely the latter), but I went from an average homegrown suburban PA girl to a fashion maven with a reputation to maintain! Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I left New York that I found my inner fashionista. & if I may be totally honest (when am I not?), my newfound talent for dressing well had 0% to do with clothing, everything to do with discovering myself, & subsequently, dubbing my closet staples that I never leave home without. I couldn’t tell you exactly what it was about my experience in New York that helped me to finally gain the invaluable &ever-coveted self-knowledge. For all I know, it could have been owning the hardest decision of my life to leave the city that really changed me. It doesn’t really matter how it happened. What matters most is that, for the first time in my life, I love myself truly & fully, & I freaking love my life. I’m not rich, I’m not in love…hell, I’m unemployed right now! But I love my life. I really do.

So what’s my secret? Here are 3 of my closet staples which I “wear” every day that I’m convinced will make your everyday experience more lovable & maybe even bring you closer to knowing & loving yourself.

1. Smile, damnit!

Fake it till ya make it. Charles Darwin & William James were among the first revered scientists to suggest that facial expressions can have an effect on, not simply be a result of, feelings and emotions. Their findings eventually led to the cultivation of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis. You could be having the worst day of your life, but the moment you smile at someone & they return that smile, your day is instantly better. It’s not magic, it’s psychology. Your day may still suck, but it’s on the up & up. Take it an extra step & strike up a conversation with someone. Ask your barista how the morning rush has been. Even a simple “Good morning, dear barista! How are you?” *smiles* gives you not only the chance to brighten your day, but someone else’s, too, which DOUBLY brightens your day. According to the book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being authored by University of Pennsylvania Psychology professor Martin Seligman, “…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.” If an internationally renowned Psychologist says it, I’m sold.

Additionally, get your face out of your stinking phone for 2 seconds to share that beautiful smile of yours with a stranger. I think I was the only girl on the island of Manhattan who looked up to smile at people. Needless to say, I felt I didn’t fit in extraordinarily well because of this. We don’t need to worry about a robot invasion, we’re already here! Day-to-day stranger interaction is practically non-existent among our younger generations.

When the mood strikes me, I often switch to Turner Classic Movies on television & am baffled when friendly greetings that take place in street scenes are often between, *gasp,* STRANGERS!

“But wait,” I pause, “Mr. Jones doesn’t know little Bobby Smith? Why the heck did he just greet him?” BECAUSE THAT’S THE WAY HUMANS INTERACT, LITTLE MILLENNIAL. Not via text, not on Facebook Timelines/Chat, not by Twitter @mentions…by looking up, smiling and saying, “Hi!”

Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations. I’ll never forget this older man who sat next to me on a bench in Union Square last September. I smiled & he introduced himself. I was nervously waiting for a friend whom I hadn’t seen in years & my conversation with this guy put me completely at ease. It was like one of the conversations you see on HONY, only I wasn’t holding a camera & didn’t ask him interview questions. It felt so old-fashioned & blissful as he told me about how he left his high-paying corporate job to pursue his dream of becoming a playwright. He gave me his card & I will never ever forgive myself for losing it. He was the coolest guy I had ever met. If I had never smiled, I wouldn’t have had that (probably) life altering conversation with the coolest man ever. So smile, damnit. The world is waiting for you!

2. Oh, sweet heart.

Yes, you read that right. No, that’s not supposed to be one word. What has happened these days that so many people just seem perpetually angry at the world or as if the universe “owes” them something? (Side note: I’m not talking about people with RBF. Sorry people don’t understand that your “face is just like that.” Also sorry that I’m one of those aggravating people who takes it personally.) Honey, the universe birthed you. What more could you ask for than LITERAL life?

I make acquaintances everywhere I go. It’s funny how complaints are usually what get people started on conversing & keep conversations going. Not how beautiful the weather is today, not how blessed they are, but by how angry they are at this incredibly “unfair” life we live.

We as humans have a tendency to be a little self-centric. Just because our life isn’t exactly where we want it to be at this particular moment doesn’t mean the future is hopeless. It’s a bad day, not a bad life. My go-to words of advice for friends in trouble or sadness are “It’ll work out. It can’t do anything but.” I’ve had my fair share of trials & tribulations over the years. I’ve learned the long & hard way to accept that life is not always going to work out the way you want it to, but it’ll work out the way it needs to. No struggle lasts forever, every pain shall pass. We just can’t (or shouldn’t, rather) keep throwing these “WOE IS ME” tantrums when we don’t get our way. Unless you’re 3 years old. Then, by all means, continue.

Many people have a habit of looking at the world & seeing all of the people who have it better than they do. What if we were only able to see situations in which others have it worse than we do? How would our perspectives change? “Comparison is the thief of joy,” said Theodore Roosevelt, the greatest United States President to ever live (you will learn over time just how much I love this man & how much I loathe the way people steal & butcher his quotes. #bullmooseparty4eva). Quit comparing yourself to those in seemingly better situations than yours. Even Queen Bey envies someone. Whether or not you’re a religious person, whomever you believe wrote the ten commandments was really just looking out for you when they said, “Thou Shalt Not Covet.” It’ll destroy you. So thanks, mysterious bush-burning, stone carving force from the sky. We appreciate you.

I know that learning to love your life is easier said than done. To start, it helps to make a list of good things in your life or things that you’re thankful for. Life’s hard, & no, you didn’t ask to be brought into this world, but neither did anyone else. So soften up & realize that everyone is on a constant mission to find and maintain happiness. Every individual has unique needs for creating happiness. Like a fingerprint, a map to happiness is unique. Respect that you frownie-facing at work all day, shoulder-bashing an innocent subway rider, or cussing out the driver who cut you off won’t do anyone a shred of good. One of my best friends is a firm believer in getting back what you put out into the universe. Reflect on your day today & decide if that’s something you could really live with.

There’s a saying floating around the interwebs: “If every word you spoke appeared on your skin, would you still be beautiful?”

Be a beautiful human, my friends & learn to have a sweeter heart.

3. Work it, girl! Whatever it is…

CONFIDENCE! I should eat my words. Seriously. I took entirely too many years to stop caring so much about what other people might think about my flaws & to instead focus on my strengths. I have to say, it was the best thing I ever learned how to do. My only regret is that I didn’t learn it sooner.

We all have something unique and wonderful about us. I can nearly promise you that anyone worth your precious time won’t even notice your flaws. As long as you’re constantly striving to be the best version of you that you can be, no one can expect anything more of you. Additionally, you shouldn’t expect anything less of yourself. So, have confidence in everything you do! It’ll burst out of you like sunshine and people (the good kind) will be drawn to you.

Confidence is a hard thing to teach. It’s more easily translatable as a faith in yourself & your abilities. I’m not necessarily saying that you need to be the best at anything. You simply need to have faith that your mere existence is worth something in this life. If you wholeheartedly believe that, you have everything to be confident in. Your existence & everything you do matters. As you start to love yourself and the person you continue to evolve into, all the rest will fall into place. You’ll recognize your strengths, combat your weaknesses, stand up for the little guy, resist temptation from the dark side…& all the energy you put out into the universe will bless you ten-fold. It’s not always immediate & a lot of times it was already there, but your perspective was just so clouded by insecurities, it was difficult to see it.

To reword one of my favorite quotes from The Help to be grammatically correct: You are kind, smart & important.

Know it. Believe it.

It’s almost unforgivable how many cliches I wrote in this post. I hope they weren’t too distracting & that you heard my message loud & clear. Just in case you missed it: this life is not about material things or what the universe gives you. This life should be about what you give to the world. Your smile, your positivity, your sparkle. If you bless it, it will bless you. Now, that’s not scientific fact & no, there have been no such scholarly journals published on the topic, but the movie Pay it Forward doesn’t make us cry just ‘cause. We cry because we know the world would be a better place if we could all be as extraordinary as little Trevor McKinney. All we can hope for in this life is that our deaths will leave behind a legacy akin to that of (spoiler alert:) Trevor’s post-mortem impact.

Don’t leave home without your smile, your open heart, or your confidence, ladies. I promise these “closet staples” will make your life that much more practical and worth living every single, solitary day.

What are 3 things you never leave home without, material or otherwise? Let me know below in the comments! I’m wild with excitement for your responses.

Xs & Os,


P.S. I recognize that this post is pretty heavy/deep. I promise my next post will be much lighter, like a recipe for my best-ever croutons😉 What that means is I’ve already started writing it. GET EXCITED.

For your listening pleasure this fine autumn morning: Mumford & Sons, Ghosts That We Knew (Album Version)

Mumford & Sons
Ghosts That We Knew

I strongly believe that music has the ability to set & change our mood. As I was walking on my university’s campus this morning, I really could have used this song playing as my personal background music. It puts you in a relaxed, pensive mood & really helps you to appreciate the evolving beauty of autumn. The colors on the trees seem more vivid, & you can suddenly understand the awesomeness of nature & the purpose of the changing seasons. I know that’s a lot to expect from just a simple song, & maybe it’s just the musician & philosopher in me, but wouldn’t you just love for your day to suddenly change gears & to have a new-found warmth in your soul? Seriously, though, what do you have to lose?

Enjoy, my loves.

First Post Jitters & A Quick, Little Recipe

It’s finally here! My first-ever post on Practically!! For a long time, I wasn’t sure this day would come. I finally committed to making Practically! happen & for the past week, I’ve been wrestling with an impossible choice: what will my first post be about?

Obviously I want it to be impressive, but I can’t just put off posting until I come up with “the best post ever!” The whole point of Practically! is to help make your life simpler, more practical, lovable…& I realized a complex post would not achieve a single one of those goals. So I’m starting simple.

I won’t hide that I’m terrified of this post & what it could (or rather, could not) lead to. I want the internet to like me! I want people to read my posts & say, “That girl…she knows what she’s talking about.” It’s taken me a really long time to accept that not everyone will like me in real life, so tackling that same issue on the internet makes my palms all sweaty & my heart all racy…I just really, really hope you like me, internet! So I suppose, here goes nothin’!

I decided to spend the weekend at my Dad’s house as it’s Homecoming at my school & I have mountains of work to complete for Monday. Staying at school would ensure that I’d make the excellently horrible decision of spending all the money I don’t have going out with time I can’t afford to waste. So I made the 35 minute trip up to my Dad’s.

I was not-so-pleasantly greeted by a pathetically stocked fridge (sorry, Dad). When it came time for lunch, I was at an impasse. How could I make a decent lunch if there was hardly any food?! (Besides 34, 827, 349, 823 opened salad dressings, some jello & a whole bunch of bread & carbs that I can’t eat**) As I continued to scour the refrigerator and pantry, I finally found a few ingredients that I could potentially make work together: a mildly overripe asian pear, celery heart rejects, a can of tuna, raisins, a scraped spoonful of grape jam, a small amount of several different kinds of greens, and a quarter of a tomato. With the help of a few pantry staples, I turned these unwanteds & leftbehinds into a delicious lunch! I’ll call it, Sweet Tuna Salad Salad

Note: This is a great example of when I throw a meal together with random ingredients & I encourage you to modify this recipe to, not only what ingredients you have available, but what ingredients you like! Knowing what you think tastes good together is the first step in having the confidence to make meals without recipes (I’m looking at you, Mom).

Here’s what I used, how I prepped the ingredients & an amateur photo or four I intend to post on Instagram later to tout my awesome, healthy eating, fake chef skillz.

Sweet Tuna Salad Salad
Serves 1 (a fairly hungry 1)

Base Salad:

  • Mixed Lettuces (I used romaine, spring mix & baby spinach)
  • 1/2 Asian pear (cored, segmented into wedges & cut into 1/2 inch thick pieces)
  • 1 Celery stalk (sliced vertically in half then chopped)
  • 1/3 tomato (cut into 2 wedges & sliced into 1/2 inch pieces)

If I could have, I would have added some pistachios & fresh onion & bell peppers, too. Oh, yum. Next time, for sure.

Wash all produce & combine/toss. Plate.

Tuna Salad:

  • ≤ 1/4 C Raisins (or grapes, if you have ’em!)
  • 1 can (= 2 pouches) Chunk Light Tuna (pref. packed in Water)
  • 1 celery stalk (sliced vertically in half then chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp. Onion powder (or to taste)*
  • 1/4 tsp. Garlic salt (or to taste)*
  • Mayo, to taste (enough to hold ingredients together)

*notes: I generally use fresh onion (Vidalia or sliced Green/Spring/whateveryouwannacallthem) and garlic (~1/2-1 fresh clove) with a sprinkle of sea salt. Dear ol’ Dad didn’t have any of that on hand & I often use these 2 spices to substitute in a pinch. It still tastes great! For a healthier version: use a 50/50 mixture of fat-free plain greek yogurt & mayo.

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Scoop & place atop center of base salad.

Sweet Grape Vinaigrette:

2 Tbsp Grape jam (“WHAAAAT?!” Yeah, I know, but trust me.)

1/2 Tbsp oil (I used an herbed olive oil a family friend made, but canola or vegetable will work fine, too)

1Tbsp White distilled vinegar

Combine ingredients in a small side bowl (like a little glass Pyrex dish). Mix vigorously with a fork until mixture is uniform. Drizzle over both salads on your plate!

You can also use a Raspberry or other sweet fruit vinaigrette, but what fun is that! Feel free to experiment with berry purees, too. I love making my own salad dressings🙂

Bon Appetit! Jouissez!

Sweet Tuna Salad Salad 1

Sweet Tuna Salad Salad 4 Sweet Tuna Salad Salad 2 Sweet Tuna Salad Salad 3

I sincerely hope you all enjoy this Sweet Tuna Salad Salad! I loved it! The dressing was my favorite part! Always remember to substitute ingredients in & out to suit your tastes! The person who knows what you love most is you, so to make this lunch truly something YOU enjoy, you have to have the confidence to get a little “wild & crazy” with your salads😉

Xs & Os


P.S. As this is my first post (but this applies to always), I’d love your feedback! Did you love it, like it, or maybe just not so much? Questions, comments, suggestions & love notes are always welcome! If you’d rather not post publicly, check out the “Contact A Girl” page!

**Regarding my statement about the carbs I cannot eat: I have a lipid disorder called Severe Hypertriyglyceridemia that restricts me from eating a lot of fun things like carbs, sweets, alcohol & saturated fats. I can still enjoy these foods occasionally, but am generally very, very limited on allowance. At some point, I’ll probably do a “personal” post to explain it in more depth. In the meantime, inquiries are welcome. I’m pretty open about it, as it affects my everyday life.