Seersucker Sass: April 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How to Pack for a Long Weekend Trip

We're quickly approaching the season of long weekends and summer Fridays, and I cannot wait.  Spring kicks off a season of travels for me, but I do most of my traveling in the summer.  Whether it's spending Labor Day weekend on the lake in South Carolina or heading to Indiana for Father's Day weekend, I love the feeling of packing a bag and hitting the road.

In the past, I've been an overpacker to the point that it was embarrassing.  I traveled with a Vera duffel, a reversible tote filled with makeup and skin care products, my work bag,  and a handbag... for a two night work conference.  Each trip after that, I've worked to pack a little less every single time.  Everyone is different, but here are some tips that really work for me.

1. Start with the right bag.  Then pack multiple smaller bags into this bag.

I carry this bag from Carolina Dandy.  It's a little more sophisticated than the large duffel that I used to carry around, and much easier to maneuver.  It's also roomier than it looks, so you should be able to fit everything you need for a long weekend trip in there!  This bag was perfect for my four day trip to Folly Beach and Charleston, and I can't wait for the adventures it's going to accompany me on this year.

My trick to packing everything in one bag is to use a few smaller bags.  I pack a toiletry bag, my makeup bag, an accessories bag, a shoe bag, and an empty bag for dirty clothes.  It may sound excessive, but when I get home late on a Monday night after a fun weekend, and I'm trying to prepare for a long week ahead, I appreciate knowing exactly where to find my moisturizer and the stud earrings I want to wear to work the next day and being able to dump the dirty laundry bag right into the hamper.

2. Ask yourself "Do I really need this?!"

If you're going on a weekend getaway, are you truly going to apply every serum that you typically apply?  If you're going to spend a weekend at your best friend's place, can you get away with using her shampoo?  Every item that you put into your suitcase not only takes up space and adds weight, but it's one more item that you have to unpack.

3. Pack pieces that are versatile.

I really like to have options, especially when I'm on a trip where I don't have my evenings planned. I love pieces that can be dressed up or down - like fun blouses, chambray button downs, and destroyed denim - because I feel like I have options.

4. Roll your clothing to take up less space.

When I pack a bag, I like to roll my clothing, and stack it along one side of the bag.  When I'm trying to find something, it's easier for me to sort through the little rolls of fabric. If I forgot a dirty laundry bag and there's not something I can repurpose as one, I will roll and stack my dirty clothes on the opposite side of the bag.  If I'm traveling with pieces that can't be rolled (like a blazer), I pack them last and lay them folded in half on top of everything.

I want to hear from you - What are your best tips for packing for a long weekend?

Also, a big thank you to Carolina Dandy for partnering with me on this post.  I only talk about products that I love, and I love this bag.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Blogging 101: Five Programs That Make Blogging Easier

I love blogging.  I love having a creative outlet where I can talk about fashion and beauty and my life to balance out the things I talk about during the workday, like infrastructure and workforce.  However, there are things about blogging that stress me out.

I love to write.  It's the thing about blogging I love the most; give me a topic, and I'll give you 500+ words with a smile on my face.  I wish all parts of blogging came as easily to me as writing does.  But they don't, so through trial and error, I've found ways to make those stressful parts about blogging a little easier.  I'm finally at the point where I can whip up a collage without stressing myself out over it, and I actually enjoy editing photos now.  It's all because of the programs I use.

I'm not saying this is the easiest way for everyone, just that it's what works best for me.  With that being said, here are my favorite programs for bloggers.

Lightroom // Anytime I had to work in Photoshop, I felt panicky.  I would do the "auto tone + auto contrast + auto color" on photos, and every single photo taken in that series would look differently.  Lightoom is so much easier.  I actually use this tutorial, apply those settings to each photo in the series, then tweak them a little if needed.  My photos look better, it takes much less time, and I still have my sanity in tact post-editing.  I think pricing may depend on what Adobe Suite you use, but I pay $10 a month.  (If you're a student, there's a student discount!)

Powerpoint // Another way that I avoid Photoshop.  I know that a lot of bloggers use Photoshop for collages, but I just feel extremely overwhelmed if I'm doing anything besides popping photos into the collage.  Powerpoint makes things like removing the background of a photo so simple, and you can easily save your files as a photo.  (PS - Here's a post about how I make collages in Powerpoint!)  If you don't have the Microsoft Suite, you can get Powerpoint, Word, and Excel for less than $8 a month.

Hootsuite //  If you're unfamiliar with Hootsuite, it's a social media scheduling program.  After I schedule a blog post, I immediately schedule the social media for the post, and then it's done, and I don't have to think about it.  You can utilize features like "autoschedule", which will schedule tweets for times that will have the most impact.  Hootsuite has a paid package, but I had it for a year, and I wasn't impressed, so I just use the free version.  

(PS - I also like Buffer a lot!  Unlike Hootsuite, when you go to schedule a post in Buffer, the photo from the link will automatically pop up.  Buffer also has a "requeue" feature, which allows you to tweet anything you've already tweeted through Buffer again.  The only downside to Buffer is that when you hit the @ sign and start typing a username, it doesn't search for users the way that Hootsuite does.  I use Hootsuite for blogging, and Buffer for my professional social media and the YP account that I run.)

Canva //  Yet another product that helps me to avoid Photoshop.  I'm really bad at design, and I love that Canva has templates that I can just pop things into, and they're already sized for social media.  You can even use color codes to match the brand colors that you use!  This site has made me go from dreading design to actually enjoying it.  The basic plan is free, but the monthly plan is only $8 and I'm definitely considering the investment.

Ahalogy //  Pinterest is the social media for driving traffic to your site.  I use Ahalogy, which allows me to upload my pins, and autoschedules them for me.  (You can schedule them, I just prefer not to.)  Ahalogy also allows me to schedule pins from other Ahalogy users, and Ahalogy users are also sent special sponsored opportunities.  There are other great Pinterest schedulers out there like Boardbooster and Tailwind.  (My friend Jenny is the Pinterest queen, and she has a lot of great articles on her site Confetti Social about different schedulers.)  Ahalogy is a program that is free, but you do have to apply to be part of the network.

Shew, that was a lot! I want to hear from you - which programs do you use to make your life easier?  See any on my list that you want to try out?

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Walk on Folly Beach

Do you ever just have a moment where you're like "Wow!  I am an awkward human being!  Why am I allowed in public?  How do I function?"  I have those every time I take blog photos, but especially during this photo shoot on the beach.

I really thought a beach shoot would be easy.  A lot of the stress I feel when taking photos for the blog is because I can't find a background I like.  So a beach photoshoot seemed perfect, because what is prettier than a beach?!  I would frolic around, Amy would take some photos of me, it would be awesome.

Amy and I get down to the beach, and it's crowded.  Groups of frat bros and bachelorette parties are walking buy as we're trying to shoot, and I can just feel their (more than likely imaginary) judgement.  Finally, things calm down a little bit, and I start to feel more confident. 

I start frolicing.  I instruct Amy to just take photos of me as I run toward the water and then run back toward her.  I get really good at frolicking, and then I frolic too far and my rear end gets soaked by a wave.

And then the wind picks up.  At first I was totally making it work for me.  But then it really picked up and my hair was everywhere.  And Amy's hair was everywhere.  We were like two Cousin Itts trying to have a beach photoshoot.  We found a little relief from the wind under the pier, and I think Amy found a lot of relief when I decided to wrap the shoot.

Top // Shorts // Watch // Bracelet

If you share my struggle of being super awkward in photos, here are three tips that I have to make your beach photoshoot a little easier.

1. Study photos on Pinterest.  This would have been about 50 times easier if I had just looked up what other bloggers, or even models, were doing for inspiration.  Great examples - here, here, here, and here.

2. Give instruction to the person using your camera.  This might seem like a no-brainer, but I am really awful at just passing a friend or family member my camera like they're a mind reader and know exactly what I'm trying to accomplish with photos.  If you're shooting with a non-photographer for the first time, give them a little guidance.  Do you like to be photographed horizontally or vertically?  Is there an angle that you prefer or hate?  Sharing this info will make things a lot easier for everyone involved!  (I am seriously so lucky that Amy just took to taking photos, but I imagine things would have been less stressful for her if I had actually given some guidance other than "Make me look like an Instagram model.")

3. Move. When I don't know what else to do in blog photos, I start walking.  I think photos look much more realistic if my hair has some movement or my arms aren't planted in a pose.  I'm also a lot less uncomfortable.  I've heard bloggers say they try to move a little for each click of the camera, so I took that into consideration when taking these photos.

A big thank you to my girl Amy for taking these photos!  Do you have any tips to share for taking blog photos?  I need all of the help I can get!


Friday, April 14, 2017

Long Weekend To-Do List

Yesterday around 4:40ish, I determined that this was going to be a three day weekend.  In my office, we don't really take many holidays.  I don't mind; it's a fast paced field, and when you love what you do, going into work on a bank holiday isn't so bad.  But yesterday, I was drained.  So I set a goal for this weekend just to recharge before Easter Sunday and take some time to check a few things off of my to-do list.

At the office, I live and die by my to do list.  There's a special system that I use to keep up with everything.  But outside of the office, it's nice to just have a list of more frivolous, fun things to do.  Here are the ten things I'm trying to get accomplished this weekend:

Research how to keep the soles of Louboutins red.  One of life's important questions, am I right?!  So far, it seems like the best option is to have red rubber soles put on the shoes, which also makes them more comfortable.  Judging from the website, there is a place in Raleigh that does this, so I've been asking around about the company from friends that live in Raleigh.  (I know this is super random, it just stems from a conversation I had during last week's trip to Knoxville.  I'm such a curious person, and I do so much research on things that are totally irrelevant to my life.  Welcome to the way my brain works!)

Figure out what in the world I'm going to do to my hair.  I have a hair appointment at five today.  I've gone back and forth between a trim and more blonde or a lob that's more of my natural color, even though I have a love/hate relationship with my natural color.  SOS send help on this one.

Research uses for coconut oil.  I've been using coconut oil as an eye makeup remover for about a month now.  After being told by multiple people on Twitter that it's not actually possible to do this, I've got it down to a routine.  The skin around my eyes looks so much brighter since I've started doing this!  I'd love to know your favorite way to use coconut oil :)

Use Minted gift card before it expires.  I won a Minted gift card from a giveaway on Sara Laughed, and I've really struggled to figure out what to buy with it because I was overwhelmed with options.  I've wanted a piece to put between my closet doors, and I'm really loving this piece.   I bought another black and white print last week from a local antique store... Are we sensing a trend?

Brainstorm additional ways to promote theSkimm.  theSkimm is one of my favorite things in this world.  Watching the news leaves me feeling anxious, and it seems like online news sources are so clickbaity.  I love theSkimm because it makes staying informed easy.  Each weekday morning, I get an email that's basically a news briefing of what has happened in the past 24 hours; bonus points for the fact that it's non-partisan, and I can read the whole thing in less than five minutes.  (And there are often book and wine suggestions, does it get any better?!)  There are perks for referring people, but I'm honestly just passionate about it because I think it's important for Millennial women to be informed.

Add this week's content to Pinterest.  The question that I get asked the most is how to increase page views.  In my opinion, Pinterest is necessary for blogs and the easiest way to keep traffic flowing to your page.  Adding pins to Pinterest can be a little time consuming, so I usually just do it once a week... and it needs to be done!

Actually try some recipes from Pinterest.  I pin a ridiculous number of recipes, only to constantly make street tacos and chicken lo mein, with the occasional spaghetti cacio e pepe sprinkled in.  My goal for next week is to try a few new things like one-pot swedish meatballs with egg noodles, chicken and asparagus lemon stir fry, and canned tuna ceviche.  (If you have any favorites, send them my way!)

Research foldaway elliptical machines.  I had planned on joining a gym for Lent, but the whole biopsy situation put that on hold.  I started doing my research on elliptical machines (basically the reason I wanted to go to the gym), and I was amazed at how affordable they can be!  Do any of y'all have a foldaway elliptical?

Purchase a new moisturizer.  I had a makeover with IT Cosmetics products, and I loved them so much that I decided when I ran out of an item, I would replace it with something from IT Cosmetics.  At the same time, I received a sample of a different moisturizer, and I loved it.  So I'm currently trying to decide between Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet and IT Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream Moisturizing Super Cream.

Plan content.  I had a crazy week, and it threw my content calendar off.  So I'm going to clean it up this weekend and get it ready for the rest of Q2.  I have a collaboration with Carolina Dandy going live next week, and I'm so excited!

Take advantage of killer weekend sales:  I'm looking for jeans, spring/summer workwear updates, and a killer pair of wedges.  If you're planning on doing a little weekend shopping, don't miss the list of sales below!

What's on your to-do list?  Have any big plans this weekend?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

An Annual Reminder

Two weeks ago, I was frolicking on Folly Beach.  But a week before that I had no idea what my future was going to hold or if a beach trip would even be possible.

I went in for my annual skin check-up a little over a month ago.  I've talked about it before on the blog, but I'm a melanoma survivor.  I was diagnosed less than two weeks after my 20th birthday.  I spent a lot of time coping with my diagnosis and the way that it changed my life in ways that I had never imagined possible.  I really don't think there's anything in the world that can prepare you for that.

So each year, as I prepare my skin for warmer weather, I take an afternoon to get my skin checked.  I have it down to a routine at this point - shower in the morning, wear my hair up and skip the makeup to give the doctor a better view of my skin, and wear loose clothing to work just in case I have to have biopsies.  I plan my appointment as close to the end of the work day as possible so that I don't have to come back to the office, just in case I have a biopsy.  For a few days, my world revolves around this.

The actual checkup isn't so bad.  The doctor and her nurse make small talk with me as every inch of my skin is examined.  I tell her about spots I'm concerned about, and she explains to me why they're okay.  Sometimes I leave with all of the skin I started with.  Other times, like this time, I leave with biopsies on spots that I thought were totally normal.  I'm numbed, so I don't feel anything, and I take deep breaths and avoid looking at the tray with the tools on it at all costs because I'm squeamish.  We go over cleaning details - wash, apply Vaseline, cover with a bandage.  I laugh, because there's a lifetime supply of Vaseline and clear, waterproof bandages under my sink.  Results will come in two weeks, if I don't hear from them by then, give them a call.

And then the waiting game begins.  In my mind, every discussion reverts back to those test results.  And while I know it's not healthy to worry like this, I feel the need to mentally prepare myself.  I had my first mole removed at the age of six, so when I had a biopsy done at 20, I was so calm, cool, and collected about the situation that I didn't worry a bit.  Being diagnosed with cancer caught me so off guard that I now prepare for the worst because the control freak in my cannot fathom ever being that caught off guard again.

I don't say all of this to scare you, just to give you some insight on what it's like to be diagnosed with cancer before you're old enough to do thinks like drink wine or rent a car.  When I was diagnosed with cancer, I was at an age where I felt like I was invincible, and it was a total wake up call.

This is my annual reminder to be good to your skin.  Slather up if you're going to be outside, use skin care and makeup with SPF, and avoid the tanning bed at all costs.  (And don't forget about places like your feet, scalp, etc.)  Don't buy into the "at least if I die of skin cancer, I'll die tan and pretty" graphics that people share this time of year.  (Seriously, can we agree that those are the worst?  My blood boils every time I see one because that's not quite how it woks...) Schedule a dermatologist appointment; they really aren't that scary.

I feel very blessed to share that this round of biopsies came back fine and have even healed up nicely.  Now that I have the "all clear," I'm ready for some spring and summer fun and a little sunshine.

Happy Thursday, and thanks for the opportunity to share my story!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Nordstrom New Arrivals (under $100!)

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for supporting Seersucker Sass blog.

Confession - browsing Nordstrom new arrivals is my favorite form of stress relief.  My favorite pieces in my closet are those pieces that I can pull out and relive a memory - a dress that I wore to my first Annual Meeting at work, the dress I bought to wear out for my friend Katie's birthday, the poncho I bought for my trip to Connecticut.  So when browsing through Nordstrom's new arrivals, I let my mind wander about where each piece I'm eyeing might take me.

I've done a lot of browsing over the past week, and I'm excited to share with you some of my favorite pieces.  They're all under $100, so if you're looking to add a couple of new pieces to your spring and summer wardrobe, you can do so without breaking the bank!  (Most pieces come in multiple colors, so if you see something that you love so much you want to buy it in every color, or you just like color in your wardrobe, you have options!  I've denoted those pieces with an "*" below.)

What's your favorite way to relieve stress?  See anything that needs a home in your closet?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fashion Should be Fun

This post contains affiliate links.  Thanks for supporting Seersucker Sass blog.

I took a little road trip to Knoxville this weekend with my friend Laura.  We had two goals - visit the Lilly Pulitzer Signature store and have lunch with her best friend, Des.  In the past, I lived in Lilly Pulitzer.  But as my style has evolved, I've found myself skipping on the gorgeous prints that I used to love, and sticking with navy, office appropriate pieces.

I started by trying on this gorgeous romper.  It was love at first sight, and despite having nowhere to wear it, I was planning on taking it home with me.  Until I tried on this top.  It was more practical, and I knew that I could wear it more frequently.  I'm big on cost per wear, and I knew that it could be paired with white shorts, white jeans, or even coral pixie pants.  The lace dress was beautiful, but it was a piece that I wouldn't wear frequently, and it would join another lace dress in my closet that I purchased in September but still haven't worn.

As Laura, Des, and I made one last trip around the store before checking out, this dress caught my eye.  It broke all of my rules - it was bright, patterned, and I had no idea where I would wear it.  But the neckline was fun, and I didn't have anything like it.  I stepped out of the dressing room, and Laura and Des insisted that I bring it home with me.

"Where will I wear it?" I asked.  "Girl, you can get dressed up and wear that to the grocery store! Make people wonder where you've been!" 

So I bought it, along with the blue top.  I love shopping at Lilly because I love the experience.  The people are nice, and I like to think that each piece has it's own story.  In fact, my first Lilly dress was a gift from my mom on the day that I was declared cancer free.  It represented a sunny new outlook on life.  And the wildly patterned dress that I bought on Saturday was a nice reminder of a lesson that I was reminded of - fashion should be fun.

The romper in the photos below was an After Party Sale purchase and had been sitting in my closet since September.  Six months later, I finally had an excuse to wear it, as I pulled a stack of Lilly out to wear while in Charleston.  The weather was a bit chilly and breezy while we were there, and I can't stand to have cold arms, so it was the perfect piece for the weather... and the location!

Romper // Sandals // Sunglasses (old Zac Posen- similar)
Watch // Bracelet // Lip Color (shade - Je Na Sais Quoi)

After the very important reminder that fashion should be fun, I'm already thinking about when I will wear this again.  It would be perfect for a girl's night out!  But if all else fails, I can always get dressed up and wear it to the grocery store ;)

Happy Monday, y'all!  Do you agree that fashion should be fun?  What's hanging out in your closet just waiting to be worn?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Monthly Coffee Date

I'm almost a week late on this month's coffee chat, but I just got back from vacation, so that definitely justifies postponing it a bit, right ;)  Work gets a little bit more insane by the week, so I was excited to have a few mixed with exploration and beach side relaxation.  

top // hat // watch // bracelet

Travel •  I'll have a full post about this up later, but I actually took three days off work to head to Folly Beach and Charleston!  I rarely take time off, and it was nice just to "be."  I didn't respond to a single email while I was there, and it was amazing.  I'm already trying to decide where my next little trip will be, so feel free to send suggestions my way!  

Work •  I gave the most important presentation of my career thus far in March!  Public speaking is something that I'm working very hard at being better at, so it's kind of nice to have this in front of me as a benchmark.  Now when it's time to give a presentation, I can remind myself that this is nothing!

I'm still working really hard to find a good work/life balance.  I mostly spend my week grinding away at the office or with volunteer stuff, and by the time I get home, I'm ready to eat, chill out for 30 minutes, shower, and go to bed.  I've slowly been cutting things out of my life to make more room for things that make me happy, so I'm hoping my content will really pick up.

Fitness •  We went to Folly Beach, and everything was kind of dead in the evenings.  There were bars and things of that nature, but when traveling with with a 15 and 16 year old, those aren't really an option.  So I started going to the hotel gym every night to use the elliptical, and last night I broke my FitBit out, and I'm hellbent on getting 250 steps every hour from 9-5!

My next step is joining a gym, which I hope to do late this week or next week.  My body feels so much better when I'm active, and I definitely wouldn't mind being a little bit more toned.

Recent Purchases •  I've been cutting back on my spending lately since I treated myself quite a bit for my birthday, so not many purchases.  I did buy these sandals while at the beach, along with a couple of dresses.  I loved the sandals because of their versatility; I felt like they could go with denim shorts, white jeans, and casual dresses.

Content Planning  Travel always inspires me to write!  I have a lot of exciting things planned for the next quarter, but I would love to hear your input.  I strive to make my content helpful, so suggestions are always welcome!  I'm also working on a Q&A post, so if you have any questions, send them my way!

Band aids •  You might have noticed in my Instagram photos that I've been rocking bandages lately.  I had a few biopsies done, and I've been keeping them covered until they're completely healed.  Just didn't want to take any chances :)

That's kind of a quick recap, but it's been such of a whirlwind month that I'm positive I'm leaving things out! Haha.  I want to know - What's new with you?