How to Get My Beachy Waves Hair Look in Less Than 10 Minutes

Hi babe! I know you’re probably busy drowning yourself in PSLs and dragging out your uggs from storage, so I’ll keep this short & sweet. The two most common things that I get messages about are about my hair and about starting a YouTube channel. So I’ve combined both in this post with a video on how to get my signature beachy waves look (in less than 10 minutes!).

This is the first time I’ve ever made a video public, so don’t judge too hard haha. Let me know what you think! And if you try this at home, make sure you send me pictures!

 

 

Fall Is Here and Skin Is In

Alright, alright, alrighttttt. It’s finally fall! Well, sort of. It’s not like, FB official or anything yet, but anything under 75 degrees in my book means boots, plaid and hoodies. What can I say, I’m a basic. It’s in my blood.

#NewSeasonNewMe is my motto this year, and I’m playing to win! The ultra cliche “when you look good, you feel good” statement has been buzzing in my ears lately. That said, I’ve put together a two part series to include a full rundown of the hair + skin treatments that I’m using to keep my hair hyrdated and my skin moisturized as the weather starts getting cooler + dryer. I promise you, it’ll be worth the read when your skin isn’t dry af in November, causing your makeup to crack on your face by your 11:30am meeting. You’re welcomeeee.

Skin Is In

I love my hair, but my skin is my numero uno. I’ve been relatively lucky in life so far when it comes to acne – I only get the occasional breakout, and it’s usually when I’m PMSing. Other than that, the only thing I struggle with is dry skin. So I’ve spent that last few years figuring out what products work and what ones don’t (which is hard, because I have very sensitive skin) and I think I’ve finally come up with a great rundown!

Clearasil Ultra Rapid Action Daily Face Wash – Let me be clear (no pun intended) – this totally works. I usually take my showers before bed and wash my face with this in the shower if I’m having any type of breakout. By the time I wake up in morning, my face is at least 80% cleared up. The only downside is that I do find it can be drying if you use it every single day, which is why I try to alternate days that I use it.

 

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Argon Oil + Eyebrow Razors – Ok so I’ll admit that the first time I saw a video of a girl shaving their face, I was freaked TF out. Idk why but for some reason I watched Michelle Money from The Bachelor put a video up of her doing it one day and I was hooked – I had to try it! The exfoliation is out of this world! To protect my skin, I only do this once a month – I don’t want to irritate it too much, and I don’t want to become obsessive about it. I PROMISE that it doesn’t make the peachfuzz on your face grown back as a thick man-beard. If anything, it thins it out. It makes my makeup application totally flawless, and my skin is renewed + fresh for the next few weeks. The trick is to make sure you’re coating your skin with the argon oil first to prevent any scratching and irritation, and then doing quick + small downward strokes with the eyebrow razor. Try it out and let me know what you think!

neLpxuLaneige Mini Pore Waterclay Mask – I recommend weekly application of this. The mask goes on wet and then hardens in about 10 minutes. It comes with a sponge to gently exfoliate while you wash it off of your skin, which (in my case at least) leaves me with skin that legit looks like it’s glowing (in a good way). I only do masks about once a week to avoid too much product on my face, and I typically try to do them on Sundays to set myself up for fab skin the whole week. Anyways, this mask has charcoal in it which apparently is v. chic and trendy to put on your skin these days. Who knew? It’s also v. depressing, because when it dries it lets you see just how monsterous your pores really are and it’s extremely disturbing if you’re not prepared for it. Just an FYI – you’ve been warned.

 

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask + Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Glow Moisturizer – That was a mouthful. These are the two products that I use every night. After I’ve showered and washed my face, I apply the Kate Somerville mask (you only need a thin layer of it, no need to cake it on) to my whole face and neck, and then apply the Laneige lip mask to my lips (obviously). The lip mask if thick, but effective. I haven’t had chapped or cracked lips in God knows how long, and because my lips are hydrated, my lipsticks/ lip stains tend to stay on longer. When I wake up in the morning, I simply rinse my face of any excess product that’s left over and I’m good to go!

 

Sally Hansen Airbrush Leg Makeup – I am 10000% against tanning beds, but that doesn’t mean I’ve totally embraced my practically translucently pale skin. I really just prefer not to blindfold people with my whiteness if it can be avoided. This Sally Hanses stuff is the perfect fix for winter when it’s not warm enough to get your glow from the sun. Not only is it instant color, but it’s semi-waterproof, meaning that I can rinse off in the shower without it coming off. The photo below is after doing just that – and the color is still completely in tact! But if you want to get rid of the color, just get a loofah all soaped up and scrub for literally 15 seconds and you’ll see the color go right down the drown. I. Am. Obsessed.

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Have you tried any of these products, or are you currently using different ones that I should try out? Let me know! I’m always looking to up my game. Check back next week for a full layout on how to keep your hair healthy this fall. xo, AJ

4 Places You NEED To Check Out Before Summer Ends

GUYS. August in NYC is no joke. This is my 4th year suffering through it, and if anyone tells you that you get used to it, they’re a big fat liar. I went out to dinner with my girlfriends the other night and it was so unbearably humid that one of the girls literally stood in front of the hand dryer for 10 minutes trying to dry up her sweat. UGH. Fall 2017, WHERE YOU AT?!

Anyways, I’m really excited to tell you guys about my new partnership with Sapahn! This amazing company was founded in rural Thailand by the incredibly sweet Brooke Mullen. She came across artisans with beautiful hand-crafted pieces and saw that due to market challenges, they were earning less than they deserved because of what she referred to as, “minimum bargaining power and a lack of adequate resources.” Brooke instantly wanted to help these people, and she did just that! How? Sapahn knows exactly who is making each piece and how it’s crafted, as well as where the materials are coming from. Their artisans set their own prices for what they create – bargaining is not allowed! They’re paid 50% when they begin making the piece, and the other 50% when the order is delivered. Why? “We recognize the increased vulnerability artisans may face when having to pay for supplies, labor, and life expenses until a month or two later when the full order is completed.”

So basically, when I learned that I’d be able to work with a company that had beautiful and versatile pieces, and that also values and appreciates incredible talent, I was sold! I always want to be really transparent with you guys, so here it is: whether or not you buy a bag from Sapahn, it doesn’t effect me personally. I’m not being paid to write this post (although Brooke did sent me the amazing bag I’ll be writing about) and I won’t get a commission off of anything you buy. So you can rest assured that everything I write here is totally my opinion- I truly believe in this company 🙂 

Now for the fun part! I’ve been so crazy busy this summer that I haven’t had a chance to tell you about some of my favorite spots in the city for you to try out! So here we go- 4 places for you to check out before summer ~officially~ ends. 

  • Exchange Place – Jersey City – Ok so yes, this is technically not in NYC, but it’s literally right across the river and a 5 minute ride on the PATH, which is cleaner than the subway so you’re welcome. Exchange Place in Jersey City is stunning. It has unbeatable views of NYC, and they’re all insta-worthy ;). The boardwalk multiple piers that you can stroll on- if you read my running posts, you’ll know that I’m here all the time. They have food trucks, occasional street performers, and a brand new beer garden just opened up down there as well! My Sapahn bag happens to be perfect for a Saturday afternoon on the pier, because it actually holds a ton. I can fit my wallet, sunglasses, headphones, snacks and even my Fujifilm camera in there (if I force it, lol). Check it out- I promise it’s worth it.

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  • Shopping in SoHo. I mean, yaaaassss, but also, noooo because I’m broke and there’s nothing in SoHo that doesn’t make you poor. Yet another reason why I feel personally victimized by this city. However, my friend Danielle and I decided to take our lunch hour and head over to LF because they were having a massive blowout sale and like, ok fine twist my arm, I guess I’ll go shopping. I walked in and immediately got anxiety because this place makes TJMAXX look as organized as the container store. Like, holy crap. It was so overwhelming that I literally had to take deep breaths. I silently thanked God that my bag was a cross-body bc I honestly think I would’ve lost it and never recovered it in the MOUNTAINS of clothes otherwise. Long story short, I bought a super cute fall sweater for 60% off and was like, #blessed. Oh and then we went to Dominique Ansel’s bakery (famous for the Cronut) and bought frozen s’mores. They were good in theory, but there was too much ‘mallow and not enough ice cream IMO. But let’s be honest, there’s never really enough ice cream, ever.lf1

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  • Dinner with the girls. VERY IMPORTANT. We went to La Palapa in the East Village and it was great all around. My girl Erin was back in town for the weekend after moving to D.C. at the beginning of this summer, and you guys, I didn’t even realize exactly how much I missed her until I had her back and almost cried I was so happy. Some people just get you, ya know? So to celebrate, 10 of us got together and bonded over tacos, guac and margs. For a place that’s cute and has really good food, I was pleasantly surprised with how it was priced – the bill (with tip) came out to just under $300 for the whole group. Not bad at all, especially with alcohol on the tab. It’s also really close to some fun bars, so you don’t need to run around the whole damn city looking for your next spot to go- a major win! 

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  • Tribeca Drive-In at Oculus Plaza. I LOVE this! Outdoor screenings of some serious classics on the first weekend of every month (from June-October). It’s so close to Eataly, it’s the perfect way to kick off a good weekend- great Italian food and a fun movie on a summer night in the city? Just make sure you grab an ice cream cone to top it off 😉 Sticking some snacks, your wallet and a good pair of sunnies into my Sapahn bag is the best way to bring what I need to the movies without worrying about leaving anything behind while I move from spot to spot trying to find the best view! Next Viewings: 9/1 – Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 9/2- Enchanted.

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August Favorites!

Is it just me, or does it feel like the summer has totally flown by? Like, how can it possibly be Labor Day Weekend next week?! This summer has been pretty wild for me for several reasons. Let’s re-cap, shall we?

  • My apartment was broken into so that someone could throw a party. You dam read more about that here
  • I moved from Brooklyn to Jersey City and have been exploring the neighborhood non-stop ever since
  • I started running with the Nike Running app and have gone from not running at all to running up to 5 miles at a time
  • My boyfriend moved out to LA, so I’ve been out there once a month to see him (side note: LDRs are not easy but also not impossible, and also, Red-eye flights are the devil’s work

And those are just the headliners! So yes, a ton has been going on, but in between all of the craziness I’ve come across 7 things that I’m a huge fan of. Take a look through them and let me know what you think!


What I’m Watching (Real-Time) – Billions

Maybe it’s because the show is set in NYC. Maybe it’s because the two lead actresses are both total bad-asses. Or maybe it’s because I literally cannot wrap my head around the idea of someone spending $65,000,000 on a house just so they can tear it down to build another one. Whatever it is, Billions has me hooked. Start season 1 on Amazon Prime (we’re only two seasons into the whole show) and I guarantee you’ll be wondering why  you’re slaving away at your ok-ish job making $60k a year when you could be like Wendy and making a quarter mil (before bonuses) by pumping up some bankers. UGH.

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What I’m Binging on – Nashville

Ok so I’m not entirely sure how this show escaped my radar for so long, but I am OBSESSED. Dean + Rayna – the whole ‘Will they or Won’t they?’ will have me anxiety-ridden until the day I die. I never gave this show a chance when it premiered, for reasons I can’t explain. I’m a huge country music fan, so this should’ve been something I jumped on. Once I came back from visiting Nashville in July I was just suddenly really into the idea. So I brought up the first episode on Hulu (they have all 5 seasons, #BLESSED) and it’s been a love affair ever since. When will Juliette get her life together?! When will Maddie stop being an obnoxious teenager?! When will Will reveal his true self?! I SIMPLY CANNOT BE STOPPED!

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What I’m Reading – The Perfect Stranger51I7LCRhT6L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

I’m a huge fan of a good thriller, and The Perfect Stranger is exactly the kind of thing to get me hooked. I don’t want to give away the deets, so I’ll just say this: Have you ever felt like you’re being watched? Maybe that’s because you are… Don’t forget to close your blinds at night 😉

 

 

 

What I’m Snacking On – Frozen Grapes + Gelatosouthamericandarkchocolate1

Separately, of course! I have a sensitive tummy and I’m also lactose intolerant so as much as I LOVE ice cream, it doesn’t always agree with me. Not to mention, dairy is something that tends to leave a lot of people bloated. So I go for the non-dairy sorbets and gelato flavors at my grocery store. At the moment I’m partial to the Ciao Bella dark chocolate flavor, mostly because it tastes pretty rich so I’m satisfied after just a few bites. And for when I’m trying to be really healthy? I stick a full bag of green grapes in my freezer and take out a bunch. I honestly have no idea why, but frozen treats are my fave. It might sound bizarre, but just do me a favor and try it before you judge me too hard.

 

What I’m Wearing – My New Pieces From Target

Ok, so I need to be frank with you all. I seriously dislike summer. I know that’s like, sac-relig to most people, but I seriously cannot stand it. But I LOVE the fall. Not only is is more comfortable to hang outside in, but football season makes me happy af and the clothes are SO MUCH CUTER. Which is actually somewhat dangerous because I constantly feel like every cute sweater I see simply needs to have a home in my closet. As we all do, I went to Target the other day for legit one thing. I walked out without that one thing, but with a sweater, two tops and a skirt. And that’s just the beginning, I can already tell. I’ll be doing a whole separate post about fall fashion later on, but here’s what I picked up this weekend. *Full disclosure: The sweater + tops aren’t online yet so I literally ordered the dress and booties right now so I could post about them for you. I find excuses wherever I can to shop**

 

What I’m Listening To – Have A Happy Day via Spotify

Who doesn’t love a good playlist, amirite? I’m right. I found this playlist on Spotify a few months back, and I’ve listened to it at least once a week since. It’s not all bubblegum pop music, there’s some fab throwbacks in there – check it out here!

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What I’m Splurging On – Pilates Classes

I cannot believe I even wrote that down *insert eye roll here*. I used to think that Pilates classes were just for suburban moms who wore yoga pants all day and hung around the studio in between trips to the grocery store and picking up the kids from soccer practice. But if I’m being honest, I’ve been seeing some of the ladies from The Bachelor posting videos of their Pilates moves on the ‘gram, and I got suckered in. I’ve been looking for something to do that’ll help tone me up without having to just lift weights while sweaty men grunt and drop heavy weights just a few feet away. So I splurged on a package of classes – stay tuned for more on that in the coming months!

How The Nike Running App Has Changed My Game

For those of you who read my post about how I’m improving my health one day at a time, all I can say is THANK YOU! I can’t begin to describe how much I appreciated all of the incredible sincere and encouraging messages I received. Writing a post that made me so vulnerable was a bit scary, but everyone’s kindness made me realize that there’s absolutely no shame in my game. I’m giving it my best shot one day at a time!
That said, a lot of messages I received were filled with questions about the Nike running app that I referred to, as well as a more in-depth description of how I got started and what I’ve been doing to keep it up. I’m more than happy to share as much as I can about my journey, especially because I’ve found the positive feedback to be a huge motivator!
Truth be told, getting into the running game was a complete accident. I never had any intention of training for anything. There was a brief stint in college when I trained with the Couch to 5k app (which DOES work if you commit to it!), but I never took it seriously enough – I don’t think I got passed being able to run a mile without stopping. One of the big differences between that app and the one I’m using now is that they do a sort of “interval” training where you walk for two minutes, jog for 4 minutes, walk for 2 minutes, etc. Personally, that’s not something that works for my body. If I’m running and then I stop to walk, my body gets crazy tired and all of the energy that I had goes out the window. It because difficult for me to run for more than a few minutes again without stopping! The Nike app that I use doesn’t tell you when to walk/jog/run. The only thing it does is have you run a little fastest for a few minutes during the weekly benchmark run. Other than that, I go at my own pace on my own time.

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As I mentioned in my first post about all of this, I started using the Nike Running app because I signed up for a corporate challenge 5k race with my company. I really had no desire to even try to run for the whole race and on race day, I almost didn’t even go! On the way there, my friend Danielle told me she uses this app and that I should try it out. So I did, and I actually found it to be sort of like an addicting game. I’m pretty competitive with myself and when it comes to running, I was surprised to see that I would constantly push myself to go a little further than the distance that was set for that day. Who knew?! In fact, there’s only been one time in the last 10 weeks when I’ve stopped to walk in the middle of a run (more on that later).

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So what’s the key? For me, it’s discipline. I’m famous for letting myself off the hook for one or two workouts, which then turns into three months without stepping foot in the gym. I have yet to let that happen with this program. One thing that’s kept me on track is that I set up a personalized plan within the app that has me training for a specific goal- a 10k on October 7th. Despite the fact that my plans have changed and I can’t run the race on that day anymore, I’m still acting like I am and following the plan. I certainly don’t let it control my life- if I have plans one night or I’m really tired, I move the workout to the next day. As long as I get my four runs in for the week at some point, I’m golden. And the app banks on you being motivated by little rewards, so there’s an entire section dedicated to your personal achievements! Fastest 1k, fasted 5k, longest distance, most miles run in a week, the list goes on and on. It may sound silly, but I feel SO proud of myself whenever I unlock a new achievement!
A new thing for me is running outside. For the first month and a half of the program, I would almost exclusively run on the treadmill so that I could strictly monitor my pace and focus on my breathing. When a week came where I didn’t have access to a treadmill, I quickly learned that running outside is a wildly different experience. There are some parts to it that I find to be harder- namely, keeping a proper pace. But I also find that by trusting my body to adjust to a pace it’s comfortable with, I’m actually able to run much father than on the treadmill! Here’s a perfect example; when I ran 4.5 miles indoors, I pushed myself too hard and ended up taking in too much oxygen. You know what happens when you do that? You get intense stomach cramps and end up lying on the floor of your best friend’s apartment on Bachelor Monday, seriously questioning your life choices and being genuinely scared to run that far again. It sounds dramatic, but I’m so serious- when I found out I had to run 5 miles the following Tuesday for Long Run day, I didn’t think I’d be able to do it. Until I actually did it…
When I moved to Jersey City a few weeks ago, there was no way I could pass up the opportunity to run outside – I live less than a half mile from the waterfront, and the views are unmatched. It would be a crime to miss out! But let me be frank- clear through the first half of my 5 mile run, I thought there was no way I’d be finishing without walking g a little bit. It was actually raining out that day, but I refused to let that stop me – actually, it probably helped to not have the August sun beating down on me during my most challenging run to date. Somehow between mile 3 and 4, I got a burst of energy and realized that if I really tried, I could run the whole thing without stopping. And I did it! It was 100% my proudest moment to date on this whole training journey, because I’m still in shock that went from not being able to run 1 mile to being able to run 5 in under 11 weeks. WHAT EVEN?!

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Don’t let all of that fool you though. I am NOT perfect, not even close. The training schedule for that week had me running 5 miles on Monday, 2.25 on Tuesday, and then 5.5 on Thursday. I was still feeling a little tired from earlier in the week, and was also in pain from having a pinched nerve in my shoulder/elbow. I wasn’t going to let that keep me from going on my run, but I wasn’t totally in it. So you know what? I owned it, and I did the best that I could. I ran for three miles, and then walked for about 0.25, then ran another mile, walked for 0.25 and then finished it out. TBH, I’m pretty surprised that my average pace for the whole run was 12:19 – especially since it’s only a minute faster than my typical pace for longer runs.

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My point here is that the keys to success with training yourself to run distance, much like training for anything else, is to really commit. I’m not focused on doing this to lose weight or even really to fit into smaller clothes- that’s an entirely different goal. For me, this has been about pushing my personal boundaries far past what I ever thought my body would be capable of doing, and making myself proud every day. I may not fit into size 6 jeans, but I can certainly run a lot farther than some people who do. The cool thing about running is that you can literally do it any time, anywhere. You don’t have to wait for the gym to be open, or worry about your favorite machine being taken. You can just throw on your sneakers and go. Hell, you can even go barefoot and still get some mileage in! It’s a great alternative to what I used to do, which was to directly home and Netflix my life away for the next 5 hours. Not gonna lie, I still do that but at least now I have like, an hour of outdoor time 😂

xo, AJ

Blogging In The Beginning

I get SO many questions about how I started blogging and what steps someone needs to take to start a blog, so I figured, “lightbulb!” Why not just write a blog post on it? Ik, I’m genius, no need to remind me. But feel free to anyway 🙂

The Planning:

I started The Laughing Blonde because I felt like I needed some sort of creative outlet. There are a few bloggers that I had been following on Instagram before, and it seemed so cool to me to get to travel and have new experiences and get paid to do it! I’ve always had a creative side to me, and I found it difficult to stay excited about my day job as a media planner, which is less creative and more strategic. There was just one night in late January when I got a little burst of energy and decided to actually go for it! I spent about two hours trying to come up with a name, which seemed impossible because literally every single one I came up with was taken already. Do you know how infuriating it is to come up with a genius name for your blog, only to see that some asshole has already claimed it and hasn’t posted a photo since 2013? UGHH. So once I finally found a name that was available both on Instagram and as a website domain, I was ready to go. To be clear, I had ZERO experience designing a blog. The last time I “designed” a website was when I was 12 and a psycho about customizing my MySpace page. Side note- remember when we all thought we were little mini Mark Zuckerbergs (before he was even a thing) because we would figure out how to slightly alter our profile codes on MySpace and made them look really badass? SAME. So anyway, here I am at 24 years old, feeling like an 82 year old who can’t figure out how to turn her cell phone on AKA feeling VERY FREAKING LOST. I picked a super basic layout and wrote my first post, and then published my photo on Instagram. It was truly about as bare bones as you can get. From other people that I’ve talked to, I’ve heard that people stress for MONTHS over perfecting their SEO strategy, or write like, 20 pieces of content before they even make their site public. For me, I just wanted to get something published so that I wasn’t putting so much pressure for perfection on myself. To be clear, I don’t feel like there’s one perfect way to do any of this – I just didn’t want to give myself an excuse to prolong it anymore!

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Followers:

Ahh, follower count. One of the biggest stress-inducing things in the blogger world. Gaining followers, especially in the beginning, is tough because you really have no content (so what are people following you for?) and because it’s unlikely that people are going to want to follow an Instagram page that only has 2 posts and 37 followers – there’s strength in numbers, and at the beginning it’s the struggle bus all the way. The key is to get support from the people you know first. At first I wanted to keep the blog separate from my personal life, which is why I have both two Instagram accounts – one is personal, one is strictly for the blog. I was slightly embarrassed that I had even started a blog, and didn’t feel like I wanted to be judged by my friends, colleagues or even old peers from high school for what I was writing about – especially because I knew there would be times when I would post things that were really personal and sensitive to me. I mean, if you’ve been reading my stuff for the last 6 months then you probably already know what kinds of things I’m talking about. I’m pretty deep sometimes- who knew!? But as I started writing more and more content, I realized that my close friends were going to see it anyway, and honestly, wtf do I care what the guy I had a crush on in 9th grade thought of me anymore? I mean TBH yeah I care a little bit – EW BYE – but not enough to keep me from proudly posting my content. Don’t like it? Don’t look!

So I built a base of followers around the people who knew me and would be at least minutely interested in hearing what I had to say. From there, I did the ~controversial~ move of the classic follow/unfollow. Depending on who you ask, this is either the best or worst way to get Instagram followers. I guarantee you that every single person reading this knows what I’m talking about – it’s the random follow you get from an account you’ve never heard of and you’re like, huh? How did they even find me? Let me tell you: they found you from going to an Instagram account that they like and following the accounts that follow that page. It’s truly a numbers game at first. And it’s a pain in the butt as well, because you can only follow like, 150 a day before Instagram blocks you. So building up your audience is NOT easy, and it takes time. I’ve also found that I need to be better about letting go of the people who unfollow me. It’s nothing personal, they’re just trying to keep their follower:following ratio on point, and for one reason or another The Laughing Blonde didn’t make the cut. It happens.

What I do NOT recommend is buying followers. It’s clear as day when a follower is bought, because they’re have little to no content on their page, have 7 followers and be following 52, 985 people. Don’t waste your money, babe.

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Content:

I’ll keep it simple with this one: Post content that you actually enjoy writing about. You shouldn’t have to force yourself to write a piece when the enjoyment isn’t behind it. It’s all about writing what you know. Hands down, the content that performs the best for me is always the stuff where I’m being really vulnerable and honest about who I am and what I’m going through. Yes, I also like writing about cool restaurants to check out and what makeup I wear, but if you look back at my stuff, you’ll notice that I’ve cut back on those kinds of pieces recently because people don’t care about them as much. They’re reading your blog because they care about YOU. If they wanted recommendations for dinner, they’d just go to Yelp.

Another thing I’ve learned is that writing in my own voice is what allows my readers relate to me so much. I can’t tell you how many times my friends have texted me saying how hard they’re laughing because they can picture me saying the words out loud to them – that’s such a huge compliment! I try to keep it as real as I possibly can – that means sharing my accomplishments, as well as my failures. You’d be surprised how supportive someone you don’t even know can be! Click here for my favorite post to date!

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Photos:

I get photos from all over the place. A lot of times I re-post things I love from other bloggers. Sometimes I use content I’ve shot myself, and other times I work with local photographers who are looking to build up their portfolios. I’m not a Rockafeller over and here and (sadly) I don’t come from oil money either. You don’t need to work with hardcore professionals to get the shots you need. Two of my favorite people I’ve worked with are 1: my friend Kira who works at Travel + Leisure and helped me out massively for my first shoot and 2: my new friend Kelsey (@styledinthestreet) who reached out to me on Instagram to set something up and was AMAZING! I highly recommend working with her if you’re in the area and get the chance. It’s all about making sure you feel totally comfortable with the person you’re working with, otherwise you probably won’t get the shots you want.

I’ve also realized that I get the most engagement when I utilize the My Story feature on Instagram – so many of my followers send me DMs after I’ve posted something, and it’s awesome to know that they’re following along and feel like they’re getting to know me!

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Do you have any tips + tricks to share with me? I’m still so new at this myself, I would love to hear what works for you guys! Post a comment or send me a message 🙂 xo, AJ

My MILK MAKEUP Review

YOU GUYS. I just came back from Sephora with some new products and I’m so excited about them that I had to go straight to my laptop and give some feedback so you all could see for yourselves! There’s a whole lot about being a girl that I feel personally victimized by (biological clocks, the idea that men age like wine and women age like milk that’s been left out on the counter overnight, and the fact that it feels like Sephora’s marketing team has a looking glass deep into my soul and they know exactly what kind of packaging will have me emptying out my wallet. RUDE. Like if I actually thought about how much I’ve spent on beauty products in the last year, or better yet, my life, it makes me nauseas. I cannot let my mind go there.

My personal #makeupgoals is to wear the kind of makeup that makes it look like you’re not looking any makeup. Very #IWokeUpLikeThis. This has pretty much always been my go-to look because I’m fair and I have a young face (or so they tell me), so if I wear too much color or, God forbid, eyeliner, it’s a tragedy. I look like a street-walking clown. Over the years many of the brands I’ve used have changed. I’ve used everything from Georgio Armani $70 foundation to the $15 Revlon foundation that currently sitting in my makeup bag. All kinds of mascaras and concealers and blushes. My biggest struggle is makeup that doesn’t dry out during the day, which happens often because my skin is on the dryer side. And it has run my bank account DRY, let me tell you!

That said, when I went to Sephora today, I found myself planted in front of the MILK Makeup station so I could try on every last product. I personally consider them to be mid-range in terms of price. Definitely affordable for the effects they have. The cool thing about this brand is that the whole point of their product line is for you to apply with your fingers – it’ s like fingerpaint for your face. Idk about you, but fingerpaiting is about the only art class I ever excelled in, so I feel like kindergarten really prepared me for this moment.

Blur Stickblur

TBH, this is probably my least favorite out of the MILK products that I’ve tried, but it’s still cool. It looks like there’s color to be, but don’t let that fool you. It comes in one shade, and works for pretty much all skin tones. It minimizes the appearence of pores and fine lines to give you a smooth matte finish. You can use it on its own, as a primer, or to lock in your other makeup. I personally use it on its own when I have a bit of a tan, because it basically just gives my existing glow a little boost without forcing me to cake real makeup all over my face. Sephora, $36

 

Cooling Water cooling

I. AM. OBSESSED. WITH. THIS. Like I said earlier, my skin is on the dryer side. The point of this caffeine-infused gel stick is to de-puff eyes and energize the look of skin, as well as helping to get rid of dryness. I put this on before I put on any other makeup, and it not only felt amazing, but it made putting on the rest of my makeup incredibly easy and kept it looking fresh throughout the day. To die for. Sephora, $24

 

Sunshine Skin Tint sunshine tint.PNG

This comes out of a tube with a rollerball at the top (similar to rollerball perfume), which I really like because it gets you way more control of how much you’re squeezing out and applying. Nothing’s more annoying when applying makeup then when you go to squeeze out a tiny bit of foundation and a whole glob comes out. And then you’re like that’s nice, there’s $6 worth of makeup down the drain 🙂 🙂 🙂 This only required 3-4 swipes across my face to get total coverage. It feels really light, but like it took care of all the issues I wanted it to. It’s also SPF 30, which is really important and something I try to make sure is in any foundation I use! Overall, it’s really natural looking which is just what I’m going for. Sephora, $42

 

Flex Concealer flex concealer

I feel the same way about this concealer that I do about the Sunshine Skin Tint, so I don’t want to get too repetitive. What I particularly like about this is the staying power. I have extremely dry eyes which, ironically, causes them to water all the time. I often have issues with concealer because it gets flaky and cracked under my eyes because of the tears that I’m frequently wiping away. This avoided those issues and made my under-eyes look really bright and energized. Sephora, $28

 

Lip + Cheek cheek

I’ve been using cheek stains for about a year now, because I feel like they blend into my skin far better than traditional blush does. This cheek tint is no different. The shades are gorgeous (I combined Swish and Rally together), and they practically melted on my cheeks in the BEST way. It gave the kind of color that you get when your cheeks get pink from being outside for 10 minutes in the snow. It’s PERFECT! Even better, you only need a few tabs and the container is pretty big, so you would probably only need to buy this 1-2 times per year at most. Sephora, $24

 

Ubame Mascara mascara.PNG

My usual mascara routine is to use one that’s lengthening/voluminous and then following that up with a second kind that’s waterproof to combat my always-watering eyes. I also typically curl my lashes, which gives an effect that I love, but I do think causes some damage to my lashes. When I applied the Ubame mascara, I noticed that the unique shape of the brush made is to that I don’t need to curl my lashes. It also somehow manages to stay on really well, even though its not waterproof. Very impressed.   Sephora, $24

How I’m Working on My Health One Day at a Time

Working out (in a traditional sense) has never been something I’ve loved. When I’ve done it, it’s usually because I’m being forced/threatened by a coach, I’m trying to lose 13 lbs in 4 days for an event that I forgot about until yesterday, or because I got a burst of energy for a week and a half. That’s basically it. I was the girl in high school who, during the mile portion in gym, would hide behind the big blue mat used for track meets halfway into lap #2. By my senior year, my cheerleading coach would legit have to threaten me if she wanted me to run, and even then, I can’t recall a time where I did it without 5 minutes of negotiating first.

I’ve always struggled with my weight and body image, which is, unfortunately, not new for many girls. There was a year or two in high school when I would consider myself to be a normal size (never thin, but not heavy), but for the most part I was overweight. I try to keep it open and real on this blog, so I’ll just say it- I reached my heaviest weight of 230 lbs in August of 2015. That’s a number I don’t think I’ve ever shared with anyone before because I was so ashamed. I was working at a job that made me miserable, ordering seamless every night and was never active. I’d been in the city for just over a year when for some reason, I woke up one day and decided I’d had enough. I began working out every day, eating super clean and in just over two months, I was down 30 lbs. I struggled a little to manage the loss because I’m normal and I like junk food, but I found a routine eventually, and another 30lbs came off over the next year. All of a sudden I was getting attention from guys, getting compliments from my family, friends and colleagues, and feeling really confident. But I still hated doing any workout that wasn’t the elliptical or Zumba, which are my comfort spots.

 

A few months ago I signed up for the J.P. Morgan corporate challenge in NYC. It’s a little longer than 5k through Central Park, something that was laughable to me because I couldn’t even run a mile without stopping. Literally I’d be winded at 0.75 miles and have to stop. I almost didn’t show up on the day of the race. Luckily, some of my friends from work also signed up and encouraged me to go with them. One of my good friends Danielle (of @packinglightly) told me about the Nike Running Club app and told me I absolutely had to download it. I almost didn’t, but I’m SO glad I did! I finished the race feeling so insanely proud of myself, and then started playing around with the app and set a goal for myself to run a 10k (6.2 miles) in October, and then the app created a plan for me. If you have any doubts whatsoever about downloading an app or thinking you could ever be a “runner”, hear me out. In the last 8 weeks, I’ve gone from not being able to run one single mile to being able to run 4.5 miles without stopping. I’m not fast by any means. I run at a 5 mph speed. Grandmas with walkers could probably pass me if they wanted to. But 4.5 miles without stopping?! Hell yes!

jpmacorporatechallenge

Danielle of @packinglightly – I owe it all to her!

app_4.5

7/28/17: 2 months down, and 4.5 miles without stopping!

My health has become less about losing weight (although there’s about 30lbs more that I wouldn’t be sad to see go), and more about seeing how much my body can accomplish. Don’t get me wrong, 4.5 miles isn’t a breeze for me. I’m sweating like a pig, huffing and puffing towards the end and red faced for about an hour afterward. But my body can do that. I’m so psyched about it, and I find myself pushing myself to keep going towards the finish line, even when I feel like giving up at the beginning of mile 2. The other perks haven’t been bad either- my arms are a little slimmer, my tummy is a little flatter – my hair is constantly a sweaty mess which is something I could live without bc ugh, hate washing my hair every day (you already know the struggle).

workout_after.PNG

The best advice I could ever give to 12, 16, or 21 year old me would be to push myself. Forget about all the unnecessary nonsense that truly doesn’t matter. Be a good person, be kind to everyone, and be kind to myself. Treat myself to ice cream, and then treat my body to a nice little run after. I wish I’d started being kinder to myself earlier in life, but so happy I started when I did. If you’ve been looking for a sign, or some encouragement to get started, here it is. Throw on some sneakers, run (or even walk!) just to the stop sign and back if that’s what it takes. Just do it – then tell me how it went 🙂

Xo, AJ 

Crazy Town Full of Neon Dreams

Y’all, it’s been a MINUTE since my last post – sincerely apologize for that. Things have been crazy busy these last few weeks. I was in LA visiting my boyfriend for the 4th, and then I had to prepare for my move and get ready for my trip to Nashville! But I’m back, and I know you missed me as much as I missed you 😉

Have you ever been to Nashville? If you’re not 21 yet, don’t even bother reading the rest of this post. The most important thing I learned on this trip is that if you’re not 21, then Nashville is a giant waste of money. Unfortunately I didn’t know about this before I took my 18 year old sister here for her high school graduation gift. Whoops. We made the best of it though, considering we were 100% sober the entire time. Yeah, ik, the struggle was real. Age aside, the city was a cool place to visit. First of all, Ubers are dirt freaking cheap down there. What would cost me $25 in NYC cost me $7 in Nashville. Can’t beat that, considering that’s basically what I tip my cab drivers in New York, and that’s when I’m feeling cheap.

Nashville is filled with 3 groups of people. Group 1 are the drunks who are down for a good time. These are the people who are here for Bachelorette parties, girls weekends, etc. They drink way too much and wind up dancing barefoot at Tootsies by 3pm on a Wednesday. Group 2 are the families who had the misguided idea that Nashville was a wholesome place to travel with their young kids and soak up all that country music has to offer. Great idea in theory, but the execution is weak once you realize that outside of the bar scene, there’s about 4 things to do in Nashville and that’s it. Group 3 is your redneck clan. These people can be identified by their American flag (or if they’re thoroughbreds, Confederate flag) t-shirts, rhinestone belt buckles and cowboy boots with an Eagle hand-painted on them. It’s a sight, I’ll tell you that much.

Anyways, I’ve put together a quick rundown of our trip and linked out the places I’m mentioning for you to check out on your next trip to Music City!

Day 1: We landed in Nashville on Tuesday morning and headed for an early lunch at Puckett’s while we waited for our Airbnb to be ready. Puckett’s is a cute spot on Church that’s decently priced and has live music. The menu was good, but I wasn’t impressed by the delivery of it, tbh. Definitely go here if you’re looking to save some money and get a live music experience to pass the time. After we finished, we ubered over to our Airbnb over on Elliston’s. Guys, I fell in love a little bit. It was perfect for us – girly, but not overdone, clean, equipped with the essentials, had an incredibly comfy bed and pullout couch, and our host even had a laminated booklet she put together of her favorite Nashville spots! If you’re ever looking to stay here with a group of 1-4 people, I highly recommend you check this listing out! Anyways, we cleaned up, unpacked, and headed to Broadway (where all the action is). Day 1 spots included the Wildhorse Saloon (a really fun and LARGE (3 stories!) spot that has great live music and line dancing every hour and a half). *Sidenote – they allow you in here at all hours if you’re under 21  –  most places don’t.) We also had dinner at FGL House (the house burger tasted great – it didn’t taste as great when I threw it up 3 hours later though.. ). The space at FGL is really cool as well – Another 3-story building that has a rooftop bar with live music, and a massive screen on the first floor restaurant area that plays country music videos on a loop.

Day 2: We kicked Wednesday off with breakfast at Frothy Monkey– I highly recommend their customizable oatmeal (I added strawberries and apples to mine FTW). We walked about 15 minutes in the hot-as-hades Nashville heat (DO NOT RECOMMEND) to the Country Music Hall of Fame. I’d like to point out that this was my fault in assuming that there would be more modern-day country music attention in this museum. I’m not sure why I thought that, since this is a Hall of Fame and therefore it makes sense that the majority of the focus would be on older stars. What really got my goat was that the first exhibit you see is the Taylor Swift education center. I was BUGGIN about this bc Tay is my girl. Imagine how pissed I was when I walked in and realized it literally had zero to do with T-Swizz – it’s full of classrooms for little kids to do arts and craft projects. I’m stills salty about it.

Two hours later (I had to get my money’s worth, considering the ticket was $25 (UGH) a piece), we headed over to see the Parthenon. This thing is legit just a to-scale version of the Parthenon in Greece… except you’re not in Greece AKA its not the real parthenon AKA it’s cool to take pictures in front of and that’s about it. BUT we met an extremely nice man who was having his first day out after being in solitary confinement for 60 days after a bone marrow transplant. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the entire trip, talking to this man. He’s in his late 60s, had been sick with Leukemia for the last three years, and was so inexplicably grateful for this second chance at life he’d be given from a selfless 25 year old Marine who donated his bone marrow to a total stranger and saved his life. It was incredibly inspiring, and I’m currently researching what the necessary steps are to becoming a donor myself. If you’re interested, you can find more info here.

After the park, we headed back to the apartment for a quick re-charge nap and then went back down to Broadway. Takeaways from night #2 – you absolutely NEED to check out the Wanna-Bs Karaoke bar (you will sing at the top of your lungs and have the best time doing it), and you also need to get ice cream from Mike’s. Every flavor is homemade, and their single scoops are like, three regular people sized scoops. YAAAAS (dairy) QUEEN!

Day 3: By day three we were like, ok Nashville, we get it, ur hot and humid. Kicked it off with the breakfast of champs AKA ice cream sodas from Elliston’s soda shop (world famous bc Reese Witherspoon has been here and anywhere Reese goes gets an automatic approval from me). Then we headed to my 2nd favorite part of the trip, the Grand Ole Opry. This place was the bees knees, man. I personally think $25 a ticket is a little over-priced, but getting a backstage tour of the most famous venue in country music was cool af. Fun fact: most artists who perform at the Opry live in Nashville, so they drive themselves to the venue when they’re scheduled for a show. There’s a back parking lot where only the artists and their team can go that’s blocked off by cones to give them privacy from fans. But the golden part of this is that the artists (I’m talking Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood types) have to get out of the car and move the cones themselves, then park their own cars (the Opry doesn’t offer valet parking), and the real kicker: They have to show photo ID when they go inside BECAUSE YEAH, I WOULDN’T RECOGNIZE CARRIE UNDERWOOD EITHER- WHAT?! Apparently, they do it to keep the artists humble. Idk why, but i find this to be easily the funniest thing I’ve heard all week.

The rest of day 3 consisted of: another re-charge nap at the apartment, a return visit to Wildhorse Saloon for a lil bit of line dancing, a performance at the Karaoke bar by me (Gunpowder and Lead by Miranda Lambert is my JAM), and going to Crazy Town for dinner at 8:30 and literally having to stay their the rest of the night bc they start carding at 10pm and my sister wouldn’t have been able to get back in otherwise. It’s actually a really cool bar (again, multiple stories high with different bands on each floor).

The Bottom Line: Nashville is a cool little city that’s good for a 2-3 day trip when you’re 21 years old or older. It’s not outrageously expensive, there are a ton of cool honky tonk bars to hang out in, and the live music aspect is a blast. It’s probably why you see photos on Facebook from 4-7 bachelorette parties every goddamn weekend – the perfect setting for the #FlingBeforeTheRing. Get it, ladies!

 

Why the apartment hunt struggle is SO REAL for New Yorkers

If you’ve ever had to move, you know that even though you’re so excited to have a fresh space, it’s not an easy task to accomplish. First of all, it’s expensive. There’s the first month/ last month bit, the security deposit, the cost of buying packing materials and then the cost of movers. Basically, if you’re not ready to liquidate some assets, you may start seeing you bank account in the red. #SoBlessed.

Apartment hunting in NYC is an entirely different beast, similar to what I would imagine the Hunger Games was like IRL. There’s 1 of 2 ways you’re doing this. You’re either living with roommates, or trying to live by yourself. And you know what? They both suck. A lot. If you’re trying to move somewhere with roommates, here are some of the scenarios you’ll undoubtedly face:

  • Different budgets- you probably don’t all make the same amount of money, so some of the group will want to ball out for central AC and an elevator building, while others will want to skimp on a 6th floor walk-up. Thank God for the American Dream, amirite?
  • Timing- If you’re not first you’re last: that’s the name of the game for NYC real estate. If you’re looking for an apartment with your roommates, you better all be there to see it and be prepared to sign on the spot because if you decide to wait until Becky can be conferenced into the roomie FaceTime chat later to discuss your options since she couldn’t be at the showing, you’re out. Someone already signed in blood and offered up their first born for it. Better luck next time.
  • Converted spaces- do I really need to say anything else about this? There’s nothing more irritating than a listing saying that there’s a 3 bedroom (and it’s reasonably priced!) available in Murray Hill, and then you find out that they’re a bunch of liars. Do you know how many weeknights I spend sprinting from my downtown office up to midtown, sweat dripping from every pore on my body and a crazed look in my eye, just to see that the place that I thought would comfortably house 3 20-something year old females was actually a “converted” apartment? All that means is that this place was originally only meant for two bedrooms and you decided that future tenants either a) didn’t want you to have a living room or b) didn’t really care if you never see the light of day again because lol your “bedroom” doesn’t have a window in it.

I just battled literally millions of other New Yorkers this last month to find a reasonably priced (lol jokes on us bc those don’t exist) and somewhat safe apartment to sign on for the next 12 months. It was like stab to the heart having to write a check for a full month’s rent (while I’m still living in my Brooklyn apartment) as well as 1.5x rent for the security deposit. Bible, I saw stars. I had to sit down with my head between my knees. Not a drill.

In the hopes of reminding myself what else was out there, I played around with Craigslist and Street Easy to see just how voraciously some of my fellow NYers are being ripped off. I felt slightly better after seeing the below:

 

First of all, there’s this:

none-for-rent

none_for_rent See? I wasn’t exaggerating. THERE ARE LITERALLY 0 APARTMENTS IN ALL OF MANHATTAN $1,250/MONTH OR LESS FOR RENT. Not even a a studio on friggen E. 158th street. WHAT THE HELL NYC!?

Then there’s this – $800/month for a 1 bedroom in a 700 sq. foot 3-bedroom apartment. What a BEAUT!

 

There’s this one, which I’m 600% sure is an actual walk-in closet that someone is being charged $1300/mo to suffer in

closet.PNG

 

You have this one – which wouldn’t be the worst one on the list… until you notice that there’s a shared bathroom with the rest of the floor -___-

shared

And finally, this iconic $1,000/mo  UWS apartment that literally went viral for how pathetic it is. Sad.

*Listed amenities include: mini-refrigerator, hot plate, closet, large window, shared bathroom

 

So as I cry over what my savings account could’ve been (but probably never will be thanks to this new apartment I’m moving into), I save a few tears for the poor souls who are stuck with these nightmares. People of New York: When it comes to apartment hunting, may the odds be ever in your favor.

xo, AJ