Monday, September 11, 2017

16 Years Later



I just wanted to post something quick to recognize this day. Sept. 11, 2001 was the most significant day of my teenage years, and was a day that we all became adults. I was in high school on Long Island, NY, and watched the towers fall from a TV in the library. That day was exactly half of my lifetime ago. I was 16 on that day and it's been 16 years since. So much has changed, and I just want to take a minute to remember all who were lost and those who survived. I'm proud to be a New Yorker and I hope for a better future for all of us.


Friday, June 23, 2017

Shopping Tips from a Former Retail Worker (Nine West, Estee Lauder, Claire's)



I was reading this article about Forever 21 Shopping Secrets today written by a former employee, and it made me think about my many years spent in retail when I was younger and what "secrets" I learned. They aren't QUITE as useful as the ones in the PopSugar article, but they could help! Here are the stores I worked at, and reasons why you should shop there too.

Claire's

This was my first retail job at age 16. I grew up near a huge Tanger Outlet Center and as soon as I was old enough I went to my favorite store for a job. I don't have too many tips or secrets from this position--the prices are low and the merchandise is vast. There were so many small items squeezed into a small storefront and there was usually some kind of BOGO going on. The sale section had a lot of good stuff for super cheap--sometimes pennies. I believe we received shipments every day, so there was always new stuff. But don't ask if there's more stuff in the back; usually all merchandise is on the floor. As said in the Forever 21 article, the best time to shop at this store, and the ones below, are midday on a weekday.

Pepperidge Farm

For a grocery tip, I'd definitely advise going to Pepperidge Farm. Did you know that you don't have to eat bread and crackers by the sell-by date? The products are good for months afterward, and even longer if frozen. You can buy Goldfish and bread for much less than the grocery store, and some are marked even cheaper depending on the sell-by date. Bread is generally expensive and Pepperidge Farm Outlet sells it for much cheaper. They also have cookies, soups, crackers and frozen items. One secret: the store I worked at toasted bread sometimes to create a delicious smell in the store. They also have samples but please use the scoop--don't put your hands in the bin!

The Cosmetics Company Outlet (Estee Lauder)

This makeup store is definitely the place to shop at if you're looking for deeply discounted makeup from expensive brands like Estee Lauder, MAC, Bobbi Brown, Stila, Clinique and Prescriptives. It also carried discontinued makeup, so if the brand got rid of your favorite eyeshadow, it might be there. This store had the best employee discount of anywhere I worked, and I also got free makeup on my birthday. There was a lot of stock in the back, so if they don't have your product up front, ask if they have it elsewhere. We didn't offer makeovers like Sephora, and as with any makeup store I wouldn't advise trying samples on your face. A lot of people used the samples, and even though we cleaned products every day, you just never know. Best sellers: Clinique's Dramatically Different lotion and All About Eyes cream.

Nine West Outlet

I worked here the longest, enjoyed it the most and had a management position. Nine West Outlet is pretty different from the regular mall retail store--the outlet is self service and has a lot of merchandise on the floor. If you don't see your size, ask and it may be in the back. Shoes are arranged in order from smallest size to largest up the wall, and shipments came in once per week. Ask you local store what day they receive shipments and check in the following days for the best selection of shoes. I highly recommend this if you have a shoe size of 5, 11 or 12--the more rare smallest and largest sizes often come in with one only size per shoe style. By contrast, a shoe style may have a bunch of 7s, 8s and 9s in its shipment. If you find a shoe you like but it's not in stock, ask the sales associate to check the computer to see if it's at a nearby store and they can call and hold it for you for 24 hours. They also can ship shoes for a $10 flat rate (as of the mid 2000s when I worked there--it may cost more now). The discount was OK--but often shoes went on sale for lower than what we would get off the original price. Most of there time there was some kind of BOGO--Usually buy one get one half off. Sometimes when there was a really big percent off sale shoes would go back to their original pricing, so it's worth it to check and see what sale is going on. Always check to make sure you don't end up with two left shoes or mixed sizes from other customers putting the shoes back wrong. And seasons tends to start early--summer footwear begins being delivered as early as February and winter stuff arrives by mid-summer. If you want a deal though, wait until you're in the season for marked-down footwear as new stuff is brought out.

I hope these tips help! I haven't worked in retail for about 10 years so take my advice with a grain of salt, but if all else fails, make sure you're friendly to the associates! Not only will it make their day better, but the nicer you are, the more likely they will be to help you score the best deals!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top Summer Spots on the East End of Long Island

I am currently planning a few seasonal getaways and I thought I'd share some of my favorite summer spots from where I grew up--Long Island.

Long Island is the best place to be in the summertime. It has tons of beaches, bars, restaurants, wineries, breweries, sports arenas, shopping and more. I live in the Philadelphia area now but I always plan to visit home as much as I can during the summer. It feels like a vacation every day. A few tips: plan your trip in advance, get to where you're going early (traffic is crazy out east, with a lot of people and few roads), be respectful of the locals and enjoy yourself!

Here are my top spots from "way out east," where I grew up:

The Beach



It doesn't matter where you go--the Sound, the ocean, even the bay or a lake--Long Island has tons of water. It has more than 400 miles of coast, and the beach is never more than 15 miles from you at any point. I truly miss it, as the closest beach to Philly is the Jersey Shore (still great, but far!). I've swam in the Atlantic, the Long Island Sound, even the Peconic Bay and Lake Panamoka, and it's always a good time. I actually prefer the Sound over the ocean, as it's closer to my family home, we belong to a private beach club, and it's quieter.

Claudios



Claudio's is a summer tradition for my family. My parents brought us out to Greenport as kids for the food and to walk around, and as adults we go out for some drinks and fun. I love to get a bucket and enjoy the sunset from the dock on the bay. The live music is great and you always end up seeing someone you know.

Oaklands



Oaklands is a fun restaurant and bar on the water on Dune Road in Hampton Bays. I like to go out and watch bands play there--especially my uncle's band, Heart and Soul (shameless plug). This south shore spot has great food and an outdoor bar.

Phil's Waterfront



Seeing a theme here? I love restaurants on the water. I grew up in Wading River, which has the original Phil's--your basic sports bar. I always like going to Phil's, but I love the new setting on the creek in Riverhead.

The Wineries (and Other Beverages)



I can't limit this to just one--there are more than 60 wineries on Long Island, and 1.3 million people visit them every year. The most western vineyard is Baiting Hollow Vineyard, which is fun but tends to get very crowded. They have a large tent and are open in the winter. I prefer some wineries that are a bit quieter--I like Roanoke Vineyards and Sherwood House Vineyards. But honestly, they are all great. Try a limo wine tour and check out a few at a time. Wine not your thing? There is Long Island Vodka on Sound Avenue next to Baiting Hollow Vineyards, and also the Riverhead Ciderhouse and Long Ireland Brewing Company.

Walkable Towns



There is a lot of great shopping, eating and things to do in many towns on the island. I enjoy walking around Port Jefferson, Sag Harbor, Patchogue and Greenport--window shopping and checking out new restaurants.

I could list many, many more places, but these are my favorites. Here are some restaurant honorable mentions:
  • Cooperidge Inn in Baiting Hollow 
  • Pera Belle in Riverhead
  • The Pie in Port Jefferson
  • Porto Bello in Greenport
  • Pure North Fork in Wading River
  • Seaside Grill (at the Hyatt) in Riverhead
  • Toast in Port Jefferson

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

10 Years Post College - What I've Learned and Some Advice for New Grads


I graduated from college 10 years ago last month. The time absolutely flew by, and I have learned a lot in this decade of post-college adventure. I've made mistakes in both my career and personal life, and I've recovered from those mistakes and made some great decisions too. I am proud of my accomplishments, and I wanted to share some things I've learned over the years that may help those who are graduating now. Here's to the next 10 years!

1. It's OK to Feel Anxious. Graduating from college is a scary time. You're going from everything you've known for the past 16 years (school) out into the real world, where no one is taking attendance or giving you a grade. When I graduated I definitely felt like I didn't know what I was doing - plus my closest friends were a year behind me so they were still involved with college. I got a full time job right away but I missed being in school and getting constant feedback from teachers. My advice to college grads would be to take some time to get adjusted to working a 9-5. It's completely different than college, and that's OK. You may feel like you don't know what you're doing, and that's OK too. Just do your absolute best, observe your workplace to learn appropriate behavior, and ask questions. Working is a whole new way of learning.

2. Create a Loose Plan. Make a list of the things you want to accomplishfrom small everyday task to big milestones. Think about how you'd like to develop your career. Reach out to those in your industry and ask them how they got to where they are. Read workplace advice blogs to help with unique situationsI like Ask a Manager. And remind yourself that everything will happen with time. I know when I graduated I wished I didn't have to start out at entry-levelbut I had to, just like everyone else. You need to pay your dues. And from there I was able to work my way up in my industry. I still have a list of things I want to accomplish in the coming years, starting from where I am now.

3. Practice Skills You Need as an Adult. One of the most important skills you need as a working adult is interview skills. These come with time and experience, but the better you interview, the more likely you are to land a job. Study common interview questions, do mock interviews with a trusted friend, learn everything you can about the company you're interviewing with, and always ask more questions at the end of the interview. Show that you are smart, capable and willing to learn. At the same time, you are interviewing them as welltry to figure out if this job and workplace is the right fit for you. Sometimes it's not. And if it isn't, thank them for their time and look for something else that's a better match. Go on as many interviews as you can to familiarize yourself with different interview styles. And ensure your resume is top notchask someone with writing and interviewing skills to look it over and give advice on how it can be strengthened.

4. Admit Your Mistakes. You will make mistakes. I still do. The most important thing it to admit when you're wrong and to learn from them. If you are defensive and refuse to see the other side of the equation, you will look pretty bad to an employer. Even if you don't agree with something, it may be how the company does it. Try to adhere to policy and when you make a mistake, own up to it, learn from it, and move on.

5. You Will Get Knocked Down - So Get Up. I was laid off 10 years into my career. At first I was absolutely devastated. My job is everything to me. I know that it's just a business decision, and it happens to the majority of people at some point, but I felt really discouraged and lost. So I decided that while I look for new full time employment I would be my own boss and work on my career in other ways. Fortunately for me I was able to keep my job on a freelance basis, plus I acquired some more freelance work, so I essentially was working while not working. Point is, I was knocked down, and decided to come back from it, and you will too. You will encounter situations that are difficult, but keep moving forward and you will rise again.

6. Never Stop Learning. Try to start new projects at workand if you can't, do them on the side. Whether it's a new hobby or online class or simply researching a topic that interests you, never stop growing your knowledge. Learning something new will make you feel reinvigorated and purposeful. Try writing down your goals and ideas in a journal; it's useful to have all of your thoughts in one place.


I hope some of the things I have learned are useful to others. It took awhile to get here but I am proud of my career path and my personal life is pretty great as well. I designed this life, and you can design your own as well. So do the best you can, make goals, meet them, and move forward into your future.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mango, Crab and Avocado Salad Recipe


This is one of my favorite recipes when I want to eat something light, yet delicious. It's easy to make and is low carb and healthy. I prefer recipes where I can kind of "wing it" - I find constant measuring tedious and I like when I can just throw everything in a bowl. Recipe for the mango crab and avocado salad is below.


Ingredients
1 mango
1 avocado
1 can of white crabmeat
Rice wine vinegar
Soy sauce
Orange juice
Honey
Old Bay seasoning
Onion flakes
Powdered garlic
Salt and pepper
Sesame seeds (optional)

Directions
Combine the crab, a splash of rice wine vinegar, a splash of soy sauce, a splash of orange juice. a drizzle of honey, about a teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning, about a teaspoon of onion flakes and powdered garlic, a dash of salt and pepper and sesame seeds in a bowl. Mix well. On a cutting board, dice avocado and mango. (For cutting the mango, which can be tricky, hold the long side away from you and cut down each side avoiding the middle pit. Score the flesh and turn the piece inside out, then cut off the cubes.) Either lay the mango and avocado on top, or mix it all together to combine the flavor, like below. Then enjoy!




Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Thinking Positive

I wanted to write a little bit about positivity. Sometimes I struggle with this, and I think social media has made it worse for everyone. As a wannabe-blogger, I am following dozens of others, and you can see them jetting off to exotic locations on a company's dime just to post an #ad, or being gifted boxes and boxes of free clothing that costs more than a new car. It can be downright depressing comparing yourself to others. Someone else always comes out on top.

I encourage myself to look at the good things I have to make myself feel better. Sure there will always be someone else who is richer or thinner, but there is no one exactly like me (or you!). And if I can do any one thing with my blog, it would be to inspire others and let them know it's ok to not be perfect. Perfect is boring anyway. And social media presents a highlight reel of stuff that is already embellished. Let's keep it real here. We don't live inside Pinterest after all.

So to help with that, I tried to come up with some of my top tips to get me out of a funk:
  • Watching a trashy reality show or funny movie
  • Snuggling with my cat
  • Going for a walk and enjoying nature
  • Working out at the gym
  • Organizing my closet or drawers
  • Coming up with a new outfit from clothes I already have 
  • Writing down my feelings in a journal
  • Cooking dinner with my husband and having a glass of wine

 What do you do to cheer yourself up when you're not feeling good enough?

Monday, April 10, 2017

New Beginnings

I have found myself with some unexpected free time so I thought I'd sit down and write about whatever runs through my mind today.
We just bought a house, so things have been busy. The house hunt wasn't too bad - we looked at a bunch and were able to find one sooner than I anticipated. We moved in last week and have already had a bunch of homeowner "tests" - but we're pulling through! The cat loves it, so it was a good buy.
The day we moved in was warm, and it has been nice ever since so we have turned a corner and winter is over. It's time for a fresh start and new beginnings, in more ways than one. I am hopeful for the future and encouraged by all of the awesome content creation I see out there - I really hope I can force myself to stay vigilant and commit to posting more than once every few months. Time gets away from me, but I think I can stick with it this time!