Six Tips To Slay At Thrifting

I was born in the aisle of a thrift shop. Okay, that’s a lie. But I had to get your attention, because today I’m talking about my absolute favorite thing in the world: thrifting.

If you know me from my non-internet life then you probably know that I thrift shop a lot. You probably also know that I’m really good at it.

Thrifting is a culture I was introduced to back when I was a wee lass. I remember thrifting with my mom, and spending absolute hours (felt like years) in the thrift store. Thrift stores were wonderous places where me and my siblings were allowed to roam free. My favorite sections? Books, shoes and craft supplies. Even as a kid I didn’t have much of an interest in toys. I wanted to MAKE things.

As a travel blogger, thrifting is a very necessary part of the lifestyle that I’ve chosen to lead. If I’m funneling my money toward plane tickets, it can’t be flying out of my purse for designer handbags. Thrifting is a lifestyle that enables me to live my best life. And today I’m going to be giving you six of my personal tips on how to thrift shop like a pro.

1. Hydrate, Eat and Pee First

For the love of all that is sacred in this world: Eat before you go shopping. Take care of your basic needs before you even think of stepping foot in a thrift shop. Most stores will have a bathroom for you, but to be perfectly honest not even that’s guaranteed. If I had a dollar for every thrifting trip that’s been ruined because someone who was with me needed to pee or got hungry/thirsty, I would be a very very rich woman. Thrifting is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t walk in and out in 10 minutes. Prep before you go (sometimes I even bring snacks and a water bottle with me in my purse).

2.  Choose Your Thrift Shop Wisely

There are three kinds of thrift shops I look for.

  1. Thrift shops in well-off areas (thrift shops are donation based, yo—do the math).
  2. Thrift shops that are run by charities (usually these are super cheap compared to chains like Goodwill or Value Village).
  3. Buy, Sell, Trade Shops and Consignment (this is where I buy designer items)

Which type of thrift shop you choose to go to really has to do with what you’re trying to achieve. I really like having statement pieces in my wardrobe that are well made (leather boots, leather jackets, leather purses…okay, so I like leather—what of it?) so shopping at #3 type shops is important, but I usually only go into these once every two or three months. #1 shops are my weekly trips because these are where I can find cool vintage pieces that people who don’t value their dead relations give away for free. One woman’s trash is another lady’s treasure. #2 spots are where I shop for furniture and other home items because big things you want cheap, if at all possible. You can also sometimes find other cool nuggets for really cheap at these (like when I found a pair of Frye boots for $20).

Favorite find — List price: $328 | I paid: $20

3. Know Your Brands

Here’s the deal: Unless you rely solely on vintage clothing (which you might—more power to you) you probably have certain brands in your closet that you’ve bought recently from a normal store. Remember those brands. Take a moment to jot them down. If you don’t have clothing that you love in your closet, then go to your favorite store (whether you can afford it or not) and try stuff on! Does it fit? Great, note the tags and brand. While you’re in a thrift store trying new things can be great, but also knowing what works for you will allow you to make smarter decisions when purchasing.

NOTE: I will admit that I have a bit of an advantage here because I worked at a two different consignment shops in the past, but get to know the feel and look of well made clothing and it will take you far!

4. Sale Days are the Best Days

Fun fact: Thrift stores have sales too.

How do you get to know about these sales? A lot of chain stores have email lists that you can subscribe to for updates on when they have sales, but smaller stores will have sales often just based off of how long an item has been in the store. You can’t always ask an employee outright what will be going on sale, soon, but you can pay attention to patterns (for example, if things that have been there one month are now on sale). There are also often sales based off of item categories (ex. all dresses, shoes). Check stores for calendars of sales dates, or check on their website.

5. Shop in Chunks

Here’s a really big insider tip: I never (ever ever ever) shop an entire store at once (unless it’s like the tiniest shop in the world). Why? Because that is just asking for exhaustion to set in, and this is supposed to be fun, remember!? What I usually do is hit my favorite sections (books, candles, shoes and fabric). Obviously, some days, I go in knowing that I need a pair of jeans or a dress for a party, so I’ll look at those specific sections in addition to my regular ones, but like I said, I’m not trying to pass out from exhaustion. How long do I shop for? I usually shoot for around 1-2 hours.

6. Don’t be Disappointed if You Don’t Find Anything

The beauty of thrift shopping is that you never know what you’re going to find. This also means that you never know if you’re going to find something. Do yourself a favor and don’t pressure yourself into finding that amazing piece the first time you ever visit a shop. Have fun with the experience, and realize that sometimes it’s just for the thrill of the hunt.

*Extra pro tip for introverts: Shop with headphones in and your favorite relaxing music playing. 

10 Ways I Save Money and Travel More

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Saving money has always been a hobby for me. It really does feel more like a game, at this point. How much can I save? How far can I stretch one amount? This is not because I have to, but because I love being able to do twice as much with what I have. Not only do I think that it’s fun, but I also think it’s important to be a good steward of your money, in general. During the holidays this can get a bit tricky, but here are some of my ideas for saving a little extra cash so you can travel more!

1. Popping Tags


I have a degree in fashion design. That being said, I love expensive clothing (or well made clothing, which is usually very expensive). I love well made fibers and fabrics and leather boots are my weakness. I know that clothes are important to my psyche, so I make room for them in my budget. But there’s a catch. First off, if I want to go shopping for clothes, I have to sell clothes to Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads. This way I’m not only buying new clothes at a discount price, but I’m also cleaning out my closet and using credit to reduce how much I’m spending even more. There are also apps that do this, so don’t panic if you don’t have a store near you. The best part of this system is that I end up paying 1/10 of the price for designer clothing.


2. Discount Tickets

I grew up doing theater and I’ve always loved the stage (whether I’m on it or not). That being said, paying to see theatrical performances can feel like cutting a hole in your bank account and watching it drain. But I NEED theater, so I’ve found a few ways around the system. I usually go to previews or first performances (which can be based off of a “donate what you can” system) or I buy my tickets through GoldStar which is a discount site for just about everything in your area. I’ve literally paid $6 for a performance, before. Some aren’t quite that discounted but it does save a whole ton of money, especially for date nights.


3. Volunteer

I am hugely into volunteering. I grew up volunteering basically every weekend and I think it’s so important to give back to causes that you’re passionate about. For me, this includes some local venues that promote the arts. In exchange for volunteering I get free access to the performances and I’ve even been able to catch one by the amazing spoken word artist and poet, Sarah Kay.


4. Buy and Cook in Bulk

I have a bit of a dietary advantage because I’m allergic to pretty much everything expensive (cheese, dairy, alcohol) but I still keep an eye on how much I spend on food. Not only do I make massive meals which I then store so I can eat them in the future, but I also buy in season (fresh food that are usually on sale). This is a great technique for people not onboard with a Top Ramen diet.

I’m also very pro stats and analytics, so I love drawing up lists of what I’m going to buy and then trying to keep it all within budget. You might not be so nerdy. But here’s one small tip: Do not go in the store without a list – and stick to it. You’ll be surprised how much money it saves you.


5. Monthly Phone Plan vs Contract

I decided a few years ago to go off of a contract and grab a “pay as you go plan” for my phone. Why? Because it’s really important for me to be flexible about where I live and what I’m paying for. If I end up moving back to Europe, I don’t want to be tied to a three year plan. This also saves me a lot of money since Verizon offers plans for as little as $35 for 2gb of data and unlimited texting/call.

 

6. Phoning a Friend 

I’ve had my iPhone for three years, and while it’s not cutting edge, it’s also not cutting into my savings with a $700 bill. I do like technology, but I’m not onboard the get further in debt to get a phone the size of your face train. My phone is just now starting to show signs of wear/needing to be replaced, but even in replacing it there are ways to save money! For instance, I’m going to be buying a refurbished phone rather than shelling out for a brand new phone. You might be surprised how much you can save! Check out some buy options HERE, if you’re not crazy happy about searching Craigslist.


7. Breaking Up with Netflix

Here’s the controversial one. I don’t have Netflix. I know: how do I survive? But I manage it with only having to occasionally explain that I don’t have it, to people who refer to shows/movies based off of them “being on Netflix.” To clarify, I also don’t have Hulu. These services just aren’t something that I need in order to be happy. A lesson that I didn’t learn until I lived in France and couldn’t afford them. Even now that I can, I just don’t need the temptation. I do have access to PBS because I donate to them monthly. Supporting public programing is really important…and I love documentaries.

 

8. Negotiate EVERYTHING

I save $240 a year on my wifi bill because I negotiated it down with my provider. Why? Because prices are arbitrary and companies would rather be getting some money from you, than for you to go to a competitor because of $10/month. The moral of this story? Ask! If you’re paying bills you can always call and ask if there’s any way they can decrease the bill. The key here is to be really nice. Customer service people get yelled at 60% of their day ( #unofficialstat) for things they have no control over. Show them some kindness and you’ll go far.

 

9. Invest in Things that Last

Okay so this goes back to the same idea as saving money on clothes. Something I never realized (being raised in the consumer capital of the world: the U.S.) was that if you buy a good pair of shoes then you can literally wear them for YEARS. Well, I apply this principle to everything I buy. If there’s a sturdier option, I go for that one. It might be a few more dollars initially, but if you don’t ever have to buy that thing, again, then it’s so worth it. Example: buy glass, not plastic, to save food in.

 

10. Make it Myself

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Here’s another thing I learned whilst being hopelessly broke in France: there are a lot of things that are pretty easy to make. While I realize not everyone is crafty, there’s always the option of hopping on Pintrest if there’s something you love, but can’t swing budget-wise. Chances are, there’s a tutorial (let’s be honest, Pintrest has everything). Especially if you found it in a store that rhymes with Shmanthropology, look it up on Pintrest – you can probably save 60% just making it yourself. Check out my crafting Pintrest board for more fun ideas!

Phew! Fun, right!? Here’s the great part – even if you only follow one or two of these, you can save a little more and put that money toward travel. Want more ideas? Check back for part two (because I have that many ways I save money) next week!

Did I miss something? Comment below with your money saving ideas!

Kid Friendly Recipes Worth Keeping

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If you’re an au pair like me, or even a mom or dad who just wants to get your kids to actually eat a meal, you know that feeding kids can be tricky. Eating healthy while eating yummy aren’t always two peas in a pod, but over the past year I’ve picked up some recipes which have proven to be fail proof with my kids.
I’m not gonna lie, this year has been especially challenging for me because I’m feeding an age range of 5 to 21 years old, so the taste buds are anything but similar. But regardless of how difficult, each night I have four ravenous boys pacing my kitchen for food. What’s a girl to do!?

At this point I can honestly say I don’t know what I would have done this year without Pintrest. It has been such a help when I’ve had no idea what to do, or what to feed this family. Because let’s be honest, it’s not only important to find food that tastes good and makes everyone happy. We need meals that also work with the very real issue of time constraints!
All of these recipes I’ve found I can make into a dinner in 30 – 45 minutes (total – cooking + prep time) – because let’s face it, no nanny has 3 hours to dedicate to feeding her children. Sound familiar? Here are my top 5 go-to recipes for kids (just in case you find yourself swamped with salivating children).
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Whoever was the first person to come up with the idea of fajitas (or their cousins burritos/tacos) deserves a nobel peace prize. Not only do my kids love to eat food they can use their hands with, but they also like the independence of being able to put whatever they like on their plate, wrapping it up in a tortilla and calling it good. I really like being able to find recipes for copying store-bought items, so this recipe has been great for seasoning chicken, turkey and hamburger to wrap our little tortilla blankets around. CLICK HERE for the recipe!  Note: I usually throw in some canned diced tomatoes with the seasoning, to help with flavor/consistency.

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Everyone has their favorite pancake recipes, and I don’t want to add to the clutter of the internet, but this recipe makes simple honest to goodness buttermilk pancakes which are easily matched up with some eggs and bacon to make the perfect meal of breakfast as a stand in for dinner. This is a great meal to have when you don’t know what to make, can’t make it to the store, need something your kids love and want to use things already in your house. In my book (and my kids minds) it’s always a win. NOTE: This recipe is liquid heavy, so make sure you only add in enough of the liquid ingredients to moisten the dry ingredients to a silky texture – no one likes watery pancakes. CLICK HERE for the recipe!

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I actually made this with regular (boil to prepare) ravioli and my boys loved it. Again, it’s bringing together really basic items (ravioli, pasta sauce, meat and cheese) and making something wholesome that kids love. The prep time wasn’t much, but it does take a bit of time to cook, so make sure that you have some chopped veggies for your littles (or bigs) to munch on while it’s cooking, if you get a late start! CLICK HERE for the recipe!

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Okay, so this one isn’t really a meal, so much as just a life saver. Sometimes slapping a piece of cooked meat and some vegetables on a plate isn’t quite enough to fill the stomachs of your hungry children, and this is one of the easiest filler items you will ever find (not to mention, super fun for kids to help with). Add in a plate of these bad boys and you’re on a smooth path to baking your way into your children’s hearts. Just don’t expect leftovers – these things fly off the plate. CLICK HERE for the recipe!

IMG_1814b copyWarning: Once you cook this recipe your kids probably won’t stop asking for it. I’m not a crazy creative cook, but I do love to put food in front of my kids that is filling, wholesome and leaves them with smiles on their faces. This recipe does it all. Not only will it make your house smell mouthwatering, but while the chicken is cooking (with only a 10 min prep time! Hallelujah!) you can be putting together a salad, mashing some potatoes or making some buttermilk biscuits ( *wink *wink). By the time the chicken is done, you’ll be in good shape to have everything for dinner ready to go! CLICK HERE for the recipe!

What are your favorite recipes for kids? Let’s share!!

 

The Most Excellent Adventures

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Musee D’Orsay

Ok ladies and gents it has been WAY too long since I wrote a blog post!

First off, welcome to December, everyone!

Let the Christmasness commence (even though it’s been Christmas in France for the last month).

The last couple of weeks have been complete madness: filled with birthday parties, cooking and adventures, so it’s been hard to sit down and collect my thoughts in this little bucket I call my blog.

But I am determined to hash it out. Fight my crazy and Write! Write! Write!

Ok. Well, first off, Goalvember is over, so let’s go over my goals and see what happened!

Open a French Bank Account: In France you can always depend on two things. First, the bread is always going to be amazing. Second, the process to do anything is going to be fifteen steps. So, after five trips to the bank I’ve finally accomplished getting an appointment with someone who speaks English…next week. Well, better late than never, right!?

Design more: I may have waited until the night of November 30th, but I DID finally use my sewing machine, and now I can’t stop! I love to sew so much, but it’s been a bit hard with having to start over in the art supplies department. But now that I’m set up I’ve been creating, and I’m going to be working on a new project now…but I’ll write that in my December goals.

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A little doll I created this week as the first project to be made on my sewing machine. I think I’ll call here Coco. Like Chanel, duh.

 

Etsy shop up and running: This has to do with my December goals too because I’m thinking about shifting the emphasis of my Etsy shop, but more info to come!

Go to a tourist/outing every week: The weeks have been crazy, but we’ve been out and about pretty much every week (with the exception of last week when we brought the party to us!!) and we’re going to keep going strong. This week I’m going to Art Ludique to see an exhibit on Takahata and Miyazaki, which I am SO excited about. I’ve been marathoning films from both as preparation, but it’s going to be so much fun to actually go see the sketches and art work!

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Musee D’Orsay

 

Have an amazing “Friendsgiving”: Oh. My. Word. Did we have a good Friendsgiving!? Yes. Yes we did!! I was so happy with the way everything and everyone came together to make Thanksgiving dinner such a success. It was a little bit chaotic to get ready for, but I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. I definitely think it goes up there on the top of my “favorite Thanksgivings” list.

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December goals
Goalcember? Hmmm…maybe not.

  1. Blog more: Let’s be real. I’ve been slacking when it comes to blogging and it’s a bummer. I really want to remember the good, the bad and the ridiculous during my time in France, and that requires writing. My goal is to post 2-3 times a week. Let’s do this.
  1. Etsy Shop Listings: So I’m designing a collection of little cute things that I want to release in December in my Etsy shop! I’m really super excited, and a little bit nervous, but it feels really good to be creating, again! Stay tuned!!
  1. Have an amazing time in Amsterdam: For Christmas I’m going to Amsterdam and I’m so excited!! I really want this to be just the best trip ever, so here’s to making it rad. (Also, if you guys have any suggestions for places to go, let me know!)
  2. Vlog more: Maybe you know, maybe you don’t but I started (as in 2 videos) Vlogging when I first came to France and then life got crazy and hectic and I stopped. I want that to change!! It is my goal in December to make 1 video per week on my Vimeo channel. Do or die. Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme…

 

  1. Stick with the program: I’m part of this fitness accountability group on Facebook that is really really amazing. The group consists of people from back home and people I’ve never met but I love how much positive energy there is flowing through the group. It’s my goal to stick with the plan and workout regularly and eat right. Finding workouts that don’t kill me/ put me to sleep is hard, but I recently stumbled across some that are Zumba/Bollywood style and I’m in love.

 

  1. Get real serious ‘bout French: I’ve kind of been slacking. I won’t lie. I don’t have to speak French at the house, and I’ve really been slacking off when it comes to perfecting my French. This needs to change, even if I have to drag myself to French tutorials every day. It’s so hard to not curl up in a cave of English movies, films and songs, but I don’t want to waste this experience and I want to make sure I’m always learning while experiencing France.

 

  1. Finish classes on KhanAcademy: I’ve talked before about how it’s really hard for me to finish things. Well, online classes are the same. But I’m determined. I’m taking a class on Revolutions through the 1700-1900’s, Computer Programing and Hereditary Biology and I want to finish them ALL OF THEM in December. Reaching high? Maybe. But it’s really important for me to be stretching my mind in multiple ways.

 

  1. Finish The Hobbit, See The Hobbit: Yeah, fun fact: I still haven’t finished the f*ucking book. It’s sitting on my nightstand, right next to my hefty sense of guilt at not doing anything with it. But it has to happen because the last movie is coming out and, as overly dramatic/drawn out/over cinematized it’s going to be, you know I’ll be first in line (Figuratively. I don’t actually believe in waiting in obscenely long lines for films).http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSzeFFsKEt4

 

  1. Storyline a story: I’m midway through writing a story that I’m then going to (hopefully!!) pay one of my darling friends to illustrate into some kind of comic or something, but I really have to get on story boarding it and it’s so hard to get motivated!!

 

  1. Get involved somehow in a French event and meet more French people: It could be/is very easy to only talk and hang out with other English speakers, but I really want to be intentional about meeting people who are actually French. Believe it or not, it’s actually not that easy. Goal: Make a French friend. It’s as simple and hard as that.

    And that’s all for now, folks. Living in France is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m taking it one day at a time, and slowly, but surely I’m making it work!

 

Prayers, thoughts, happy wishes and snail mail are always loved and appreciated. ❤

 

 

Seven Ways To Renovate Your WordPress Blog

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If you’re revisiting my blog from last week, you may notice there are some differences. I spent all yesterday pulling together ideas I’ve been dreaming about, and I’m absolutely in love with the results! That being said, there are still a ton of things I want to work on, but baby steps, right?

Since it took me 12 million hours to find all of the information and put it together, I thought I would write a post today about what I did. Hopefully I can save all of you guys some time and trouble if you decide you want to do some renovations of your own!

1. Updating your header

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Headers are important because they are the first thing people see when they come to your blog. Depending on what your blog is about, and what you want aesthetic you want to portray through your blog, these can be a lot of fun to design! For me, I really wanted a “journal” like feel because that is, more or less, what this is. I love minimalism and was excited to use the same font that I have tattooed on my arm! The arrow that is underneath the font I sketched in my notepad, then scanned, then opened in photoshop and added to my original text piece. Note: Since the arrow is so thin, it was hard to crop it down the original drawing. If I had had a pen tablet I think it would have been a lot easier and faster.

2. Creating a background that stands out

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Glasgow, Scotland

Honestly, I watched so many tutorials on finding the perfect background for your blog. I was really excited about creating the perfect background using all kinds of technology but, in the end, it was a picture of Scotland that stole my heart. Here’s one of my favorite non-photoshop needed tutorials I found for designing your own blog background, if you do decide designing is the direction you want to go in!

3. Adding Social Media Buttons

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Holy hell, this took me four hundred years to figure out. Mainly because everywhere online that I looked told me that the only way to have the cute little social media icons was to buy a blog domain, buy a blog upgrade or promise my firstborn child to the devil. Since I wasn’t willing to do any of the above options, I decided to keep looking until I stumbled across this glorious tutorial. Even though it’s for Blogger, the same idea works for Worpress, and if you’re having trouble, you can always go make a free Blogger account and then just transfer the HTML. To find the “buttons” themselves, you have a few options:

1. Design the yourself on Photoshop – I would keep them at about 50 pixels x 50 pixels

2. Buy them on Etsy (they send you the files after you buy them online)

3. Google “Free Social Media Blog Icons.” Cut and paste.

Here’s the Tutorial I used:

4. Find the perfect profile picture

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It was pretty hard for me to find a decent picture to put up on my blog because I don’t necessarily have that many of myself, standing alone, posing. Luckily, I recently went galavanting around the city with my best friend, and she stole my camera a couple of times, resulting in the picture I now have. In order to get a square picture into a circle I used Photoshop and this tutorial.

 

5. Choosing the perfect template

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First go to your left hand Dashboard>Appearance>Template

Honestly, WordPress has a pretty terrible selection of templates to choose from compared to what they used to have. Most of the good ones cost over $80 and I’m just not willing to spend that much money on a blog (especially since I’ll probably change my mind as soon as I buy it and want something else). Instead, I played around with each of the customizable features for the free templates, before finally deciding to use the one I have now. In addition, I did kind of spoil myself and spend $30 so that I could change the background and the fonts to what I wanted. The nice thing about WordPress is that you can play around with what this might look like before you make the commitment to pay anything. The $30 is a once a year fee. I rationalized it because I know I’m going to be spending a lot of time on this blog over the next year(s) and I wanted something I could take pride in.

6. Widgets!

Widgets (or the little things you find in your side bar) are your absolute best friend. Playing around with these can allow you to add HTML, picture albums, links to your Twitter or Instagram and all kinds of other goodness. Here’s a picture of what my widget bar now looks like, so you have an idea of what I’m using.

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7. Organize Your Blog

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A lot of what I did yesterday was just taking the time to organize and make sure all the little details were to my liking. For instance, I had pictures on the side bar before but they were in a staggered messy bunch that I now (hopefully!) straightened out to be more appealing to people who are looking through them. I honestly believe the best blogs are the ones that just pay attention to detail.