Manhattan Beach: Take 1

For #MDW this year, I traded in Manhattan borough for Manhattan Beach and let me tell you, I fell in love. I told you all a few weeks ago about how my boyfriend moved back to California at the beginning of May for a job, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you’ll start seeing a lot more posts about my adventures in Cali from now on. This weekend will be the the first of many where I’ll trade in the martinis for daiquiris, Thai for Mexican, dirt/pee/3-day-old dog crap for sand, and handshakes for hang-10s (too far?). You wanna know the ultimate sign that Manhattan Beach is the opposite or NYC? People walk around barefoot here without the instant craving for a tetanus shot. That’s big.

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Anyway, these trips will be every other month at least, which gives me an opportunity for a mini-series on all the best spots I come across while in in Los Angeles- so fun! TBH, sorry I’m not sorry that instead of being tortured by unavoidable Manhattan heat waves, I’m literally writing this while sitting on the pier watching people surf and build sandcastles. Like, I’m actually feeling spray hit me every few minutes because I’m literally HANGING OVER THE PACIFIC OCEAN. Ok sry (lol not really).

This first trip is pretty low-key, because Patrick has just started his new job and needs to get some extra work done. I’m trying super hard to be the cool-girl, ya know, because I’m always SO breezy or whatever. But really, it’s not that bad, because instead of dragging him around to go shopping with me and be extra touristy, he’s getting his stuff done and I’m buying too many dresses and unabashedly staring at this girl 10 feet from me who literally has the most perfect body I’ve ever seen, which is something I could never do if Patrick were with me because I’d likely gouge his eyes out if he partook in this one-way staring contest :).

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3 places to check out when you visit Manhattan Beach:

The Kettle: We went out to dinner at The Kettle last night, which is one of (if not the only) place that’s literally open 24 hours in this beach town. We went early because food = priority and we had big plans to watch a Dog’s Purpose (side note: don’t watch this movie without a box of tissues within reach), but from what he’s told me, it’s a fun spot for 20 somethings to hang out after most of the other restaurants and bars have closed. They’re famous for their French-Onion Soup (I tried it, you need to as well), and their menu is reasonably priced. While I went for the class Angel-Hair Carbonara, Patrick decided to be boujee and get the Blue Crab Omelette (inser eye-roll here). Also, they have bran muffins which, admittedly, sound disgusting, but I tried it and omg just do yourself a favor and order 3.

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House: A favorite among the locals, the lines here start forming as early as 7:30am on weekends. I thought I’d had a good breakfast before, but few places have measured up to what Uncle Bill served us. The portions were awesome, the strawberries that topped my waffles w/ whipped cream were fresh (because I’m healthy like that), and their hot chocolate was BOMB. The bill for two came out to be less than $30, which makes no sense to me since they’re pretty much right on the beach and their rent must be insane, but who am I to argue with perfection?

Simmzy’s: Another casual spot on the beach, we had lunch here on Sunday afternoon. There’s no arguing that this is yet another prime location, and the lines speak for themselves. We got super lucky with only having a 5-10 minute wait for 2 at 1pm, but when we were leaving, we could see the line wrapping around the block! I went with a classic chicken/apple/walnut salad, while Patrick decided to be a bit more adventerous with his Hawaiian Style Poke Bowl with Crispy Rice. Not only was this super healthy, but it was delicious. If you have the time and don’t mind a little adventurous ordering, go for this one- you won’t see it on the menu at many other places, and it was fresh af. Simmzy’s is also know for its craft beer selection (we tried the Beachwood Foam Top Blonde). The atmosphere is loud + casual, and is a great place to go with a group! Note to self for next time: order the apple-filled doughnut. We didn’t have time to stick around for dessert this weekend, but people RAVE about it on Yelp!

 

I’m headed back out there for the 4th of July, so plenty more recommendations coming your way! Have any tips for me? Comment below!

xo, AJ

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Oh, the Places They’ll Go!

Damnnn Laughing Blonde, back at it again with the gift guides! It’s that time again, guys – time to be broke. Honestly, it’s like everyone conspired together to try and make me as poor as possible. Can someone please explain why Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Wedding Szn and Graduation Szn all fall within the same 4 months? It’s rude af. All these people out there getting married and getting degrees and I’m over here like, yeah sure, no prob, here’s $100 I was planning to frivolously spend on like, my electricity bill but nah fam, you take it and get yourself a nice panini maker, it’s all good. It’s summer in NYC, so what would I possibly need electricity for? Air conditioning? All set, thanks!

My little sister is graduating from high school next month and you know what she’s getting from me? A freaking trip to Nashville. Wanna know what my own MOTHER got me for my high school graduation? Absolutely nothing. She didn’t even wanna go because in her words, “there’s really nothing special about graduating high school. You showed up to a school for 4 years and participated just enough for them to pass you on to the next phase of life. You literally didn’t have a choice to not go.” It sounds harsh, but when I think about it, I literally did the bare minimum in high school so she’s like, not wrong. She was kinda bitchy about it, for sure, but not wrong. My sister on the other hand, she’s a low-key genius. All AP classes, #4 in her class, already has a year of college credits under her belt and she’s gotten a full academic ride to the school she’ll be attending in the fall, so I figured I’d throw her a bone, ya know? Reward the little Einstein by agreeing to sneak her into a bar and then hand her the Advil and Gatorade the next morning as she suffers from her first hangover.

Anyway, grad season is upon us, and it’s time to look for gifts that speak to the soul. After all, I’m out here tryna’ break glass ceilings, not bank accounts. Before you check out the gift guide gallery below, take a look at some of the deals + steals I have for you!

Framebridge

The 411: Framebridge is a company that frames your art, but doesn’t require you to liquidate all of your assets to do so. Reasonably priced + very high-quality. Either upload your own photo, or send in what you want to have framed (they can even do shadow boxes)! And they’re quick- it only takes about a week from order to delivery.

The Deal: Use the code “laughingblonde15” to get 15% off of your first purchase!

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pretty/creative by aes

The 411: pretty/creative by aesis an Etsy shop based out of NYC, but ships all over the country! 100% custom totes, makeup bags, travel cases + stainless steel waterbottles, all right at your fingertips, and the pricepoint is fab – $20!

The Deal: We’re giving y’all a giveaway! Any purchase made between now and 6/15 will automatically enter you into a giveaway – the winner will be able to select one item from the shop, as well as receive a $50 Visa gift card! Use the code “LBGRAD” at check-out, and you’re automatically entered! And PS- any purchase you make using that code will give you a 15% discount at check out!

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Where to Buy:

Almost Adulting – Amazon, $13

Meal in a Mug – Amazon, $17

Bachelor Quote Pencils – Etsy, $17.95

Mindy Project Quote Pencils- Etsy, $19.95

I Just Graduated.. Now What? – Urban Outfitters, $20

Bartending Glass Set – Amazon, $20

Y’all Pennant – Etsy, $25

Meryl Streep Pillow – Etsy, $25

Wearsafe – Amazon, $30

Verrier Handcrafted Print – $35

Instagram Framing – Framebridge, $39

Portable PingPong Set – Uncommon Goods, $40

Custom Passport Holder – Etsy, $49

Diana Camera – Uncommon Goods, $49

Custom Gift Krate (Women’s) – Lemon Krate, $50

Six-Pack Bike Bag – Amazon, $60

Custom Gift Krate (Men’s) – Lemon Krate, $98

Polaroid Camera – Amazon, $97

Mini Plus Brewing System – Keurig, $100

Beats Solo Wireless Headphones – Amazon, $229

Everything You Need to Know About Airbnb

How many times have you gone on a vacation and had 1 of 2 things happen:

  1. Your room was pretty expensive, given that you barely spent any time in it. Let’s face it, the price of a hotel room includes tons of amenities that guests rarely use (concierge service being the biggest money sucker), and you end up eating those dollars.
  2. You traveled with a group and found that all of you crowding into such a small space led to unnecessary fights, no room to store snacks or cook food, and a constant battle over who was hogging up the bathroom. (TBH, if you’ve ever traveled with a group of girls, you already know that mirror space is a hot commodity and if you’re not first, you’re last).

Airbnb is a company built around avoiding all of the downsides of a hotel, and improving on all of the upsides of what people want out of today’s travels (especially millenials).

There are two sides of Airbnb – being the host, and being the guest. Let’s kick it off with the guest experience, shall we?

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The Guest Experience

To use a real-life example, I’m taking my little sister on a trip to Nashville this summer as a graduation present. When I started looking at hotels, I wanted to die. If we wanted to be anywhere near the city, but avoid roach-infested motel rooms where it was legit questionable whether we’d come back to New York alive or not, we’d be spending $200 a night, easily. Not to mention, the only thing we’d be getting is a single hotel room. Nothing more, nothing less. Meaning we’d need to eat out for pretty much every meal, be on top of each other anytime we weren’t out exploring the city, and I’d have to hear her complain every single night about me falling asleep to Friends (heaven forbid the princess doesn’t get her 12 hours a night of beauty rest). So I started exploring Airbnb, and I found the perfect spot. It’s super easy, because you enter in how many guests, what the dates are, and where you’re trying to go, and then a billion cute listings come up. You can filter on the map exactly where you want to be and your price range, and then check out different reviews and descriptions of houses/ apartments / condos available during your desired stay.

I settled on a clean, girly apartment in Nashville for less than $100 a night. It has two beds, a kitchen, free wifi, free parking, etc. There’s also a no-penalty cancellation fee up to 5 days before your arrival. There’s 65 reviews, and an overall rating of 5 stars. Which begs the question, why the hell would anyone ever stay in a hotel again?! Not only am I spending less on this Airbnb than I would a hotel, but I’m also saving money on dining, as the fully equipped kitchen will allow us to buy groceries and cook instead of eating out for every meal.

Needless to say, I couldn’t be more excited for this trip, or the glamorous opportunity to try and smuggle my 18 year old sister into a Nashville bar (any tips? Plz advise.) If you’re heading to Nashville, here’s the link to this rental: Moonshine Nashville 


The Host Experience

Let me just start off by saying that I’m absolutely love being able to host on Airbnb. This city is expensive af (I seriously don’t understand how rent can literally be $5k/month for 320 sq feet of space in some areas), and salaries don’t always match up with what you need to spend to have a roof over your head. I go away on weekends fairly often and the minute that I discovered that I could rent out my apartment and make some extra spending money, I didn’t hesitate. I’ve been a host for almost 2 years now in a few different apartments that I’ve lived it, and 9/10 times, it’s a fab experience. I decide how much I want to price my apartment at per night, I’m the one responsible for cleaning up and preparing for guests (unless I hire a cleaning service), and I’ve never had an issue with a rogue guest. People ask all the time if it makes me nervous to leave my personal things around with strangers there, and I can honestly say no, it doesn’t. #1- I’m 24 and have like, no money and therefore nothing really worth stealing. #2 – I can vet my guests my their different forms of identification and verification which means two things – if I think they’re sketchy, I can decline a reservation and if something does go wrong, Airbnb knows how to find them and I can file a report.

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Truth be told, this is the best way to side-hustle IMHO. I’ve made thousands of dollars and been able to go on a few trips I wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise, as well as bought way too many clothes that (sadly) still have the tag on them #regrets. When I traveled to Prague and Budapest last year, I rented out my room for a week and ended up being able to pay my hotel bill with the money I was making renting out my room. It was the perfect trade-off! Communication is typically really easy with guests, and I make sure to leave out clean sheets + towels, stock up on shampoo/soap/toilet paper, and leave the kitchen clean. That’s really all there is to it!

Aside from hosting in your home, you can also host a unique experience! Create an itinerary to let viewers know what they’re in for – how long the experience is, what you’ll be doing, what to bring, when to arrive, etc. The cool thing here is that you can make this anything you want it to be, and you get to be the expert!

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Check out this rad Ocean Advocate experience in Cape Town, South Africa!

Here are my top tips to being a stand-out host:

  • If you’re not going to be there to welcome your guests, leave them a welcome note to find when they arrive
  • If you’re going to be hosting the same group for longer than a few days, send a quick check-in text or email to make sure that everything is going smoothly and see if they have any questions for you
  • Know a really adorable cafe just a few blocks away? Tell them! Guests are almost always from out of town, and are trying to get their bearings. Besides Yelp, you’re the only recommendations they have!

My Wishlist of Cities + Experiences

Own The Stage – Los Angeles, CA

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cuba
seattle
Barcelona
sydney

What’s in my bag?

Are you a clutch type of lady, or more of a tote bag girl? In lamens terms, are you cool with getting around town with just your headphones, wallet, sunnies and a single lipgloss, or do you prefer to also have 50+ extra items, ya know, “just in case”?

Personally, I fall somewhere in between. My bags are usually on the larger side, but a full on tote is often slightly overwhelming and frankly, encourages the poor hoarding behavior that I’m trying to avoid. But this girl likes to be prepared – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cleaned out my bag and then the next day, been in desperate need of whatever it is I decided I would literally never use. Because Murphy’s Law works like that.

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Jokes aside, carrying an over-stuffed, heavy bag can actually damage your health (don’t worry, I talk about that more below). Being a woman for 24.5 years on this earth will teach you a lot, and I’m ready to bless you all with my purse wisdom. It’s not a perfect science (yet), but here’s what’s in my bag:

The Essentials:

Whether your bag fits in one hand or practically doubles as a duffle, every girl must have the absolute bare essentials. If I’m using a really small cross-body, I use a phone case that allows me to put 2 credit cards and an ID into the back of it so that I can leave the wallet at home. I’ll stick a $20 in my bag, my keys and breath mints and I’m good to go. You never know when your bank will turn against you. Say you’re on a health kick and haven’t gone within 100 yards of a pizza place in the last 3 months (LOL unless you live in NYC, bc that’s impossible). You go out with the girls and then decide you’re craving a buffchick pie, so you throw your Chase card down (#payday). Your bank is all, “that’s not Jessica, she would never cheat on her diet!!! Identity Theft!!” Well then. #1) RUDE. #2) Thank God you brought that $20, amiright? Yes, I am. Also, hand sanitizer. Just do it. You never know who was hanging on to the subway pole before you. Ignorance is bliss, but hand sanitizer saves lives.

Here’s some never before seen footage of me and my friends:

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The Beauty Bag

Since I usually carry a medium-size bag, I also put a small makeup bag in there tokeep things organized. Absolutely nothing is more annoying than when I’m looking for something in there and I feel like freaking Mary Poppins pulling out 14 different items first (including a kitchen spoon during a meeting a few months back, that was a really nice surprise).marry poppins

Any of the beauty-related things I have in my bag go in here. I usually carry around at least 2 different lip shades, because you never know if you’ll be in a pink mood or a ~nude~ one. My two current favorites are Maybeline’s Vivid Matte Liquid in either Grey Envy or Twisted Tuplip (only $6.99 at Target), or my Lipsense kit. Speaking of, if you’ve never tried Lipsense but you’re super tired of catching yourself in the mirror at 3pm and seeing that 83% of your lip color is gone, you might want to try this. There’s like, 20+ colors and it seriously lasts you the WHOLE day! You need to be careful about re-applying the gloss every few hours so your lips don’t dry out but other than that, I’m convinced it’s worth the investment. My friend Mandy is a distributor, and you can contact her on Insta at @everbelipsbymandy.

At any given time, my hair can be a real nightmare to deal with (as you may have read in several of my earlier posts). It tangles easily, it gets in the way during Zumba and it sometimes betrays me by looking greasy on same day washes!! That’s why I always carry around 3 hair essentials: My Milk & Sass Macaron hair brush, Milk & Sass Sugar Twists and a mini bottle of Batiste dry shampoo. The brush + hair ties are designed to protect my hair from breakage, and the dry shampoo clears up any oily spots on demand. #MajorKey. The Macaron brush also has a mirror on the cap, so I’ve been able to remove the compact mirror I used to keep in my bag and swap in this lil cutie. Kills 2 birds with 1 stone, and I have one less thing to schlep around with me.

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The final beauty bits are crucial, especially as the weather starts to get warmer out. In just a few short months, we’ll all be trying to mask the sweat stains that formed while we were waiting 12 minutes for the delayed Q train to arrive. Fun Fact about New Yorkers- most of us suffer through subway commutes that force us to stand on top of each other while waiting in underground stations that are 20 degrees hotter than the already-blazing summer temps raging above ground. LOL summer is fun. As a wise lady (probably) once said, you can’t force yourself to not sweat, but you can def make sure you don’t stink from it! Ta-da! I give you the mini Marc Jacobs Daisy Sorbet perfume. It’s so cute and smells amazing. I got mine for $20 at CVS, and I get compliments on it all the time. If Daisy Sorbet isn’t for you, there’s tons of other options. Most major perfume brands sell mini versions of their scents, so check out Ulta or Duane Reade or Sephora.

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When I Feel Like Being Extra

Generally speaking, if I know I’m going some place where I won’t be in total control of my surroundings, I’m extra af. I’m a notorious over-packer, but it’s simply because I don’t want to be in a position later on where I wanna kick myself for not bringing the thing I KNEW I should’ve brought. Don’t believe me? Here’s what I dumped out of my tote the last time I went somewhere for longer than 12 hours:

  • Water bottle / snacks (obv)
  • Extra phone battery
  • Extra underwear (TMI, IK)
  • Dairy pills (I’m lactose intolerant)
  • 2 books for the subway
  • Extra contact lenses
  • Eye drops

The list goes on, but I don’t think I need to bore you with the details….


The Bottom Line

Over-packing and constantly carrying heavy bags on your shoulders could end up doing permanent damage to your body. Carrying a heavy bag on one side of your body consistently could lead to muscle spasms and pain in your neck/shoulders/lower back. Even if you’re consciously leveling it out as you walk, you could be doing even more damage! It can cause pain in your hips and oblique muscles on the side you carry your bag on, and neck strain on the opposite side caused by your body trying to level out your shoulders.

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Here’s what you can do to save your poor body:

  • Use a backpack (I know, I LOLd too, but there are some pretty cute leather ones out there – try TJMAXX or the outlets!)
  • Switch shoulders
  • Use a second bag (one purse for your essentials, a second tote for your workout clothes) – this helps distribute the weight more evenly
  • Avoid wearing heels when you’re carrying a heavy bag, because heels alter your gait which emphasizes the issues you’re already having.

 

xo, AJ

Life Lately

Hi friends! You may or may not have noticed that I’ve been a bit absent lately and slow to post. Believe me, I’ve missed you more. Girl Scouts Honor. This last month has been kind of a whirlwind . About 4 weeks ago, my boyfriend was offered an amazing job is Los Angeles. Not only is the job really great for him, but that’s where his family lives (he grew up there, but has lived in the NY area for the last 8 years or so). It was a difficult conversation to have, but it’s absolutely the right thing for him, and I couldn’t be more proud. He’s such a wonderful man and insanely hard worker- anyone who works with him should consider themselves lucky, because they’re getting the best of the best. Side note – need a financial advisor? I know the best one – message me :p

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Suffice it to say that I needed to be able absorb the shock pretty quickly. What made it even more difficult was that he’d had a 10 day boys’ trip to Thailand planned for the last six months, so a couple of weeks after the offer was made, he was halfway across the world. Not ideal, but I’m so glad he was able to take such an incredible trip with some of his oldest friends before this new chapter starts for him.

Lucky for me, I have a pretty amazing boss. She was super sympathetic about everything and once I told her that he was leaving for LA last Wednesday, she let me take Monday and Tuesday off to spend with him. So when he came back from Thailand last Sunday night, I met him at the airport and then spend the next three days basically inseparable from him. Since Patrick is basically the world’s most perfect boyfriend, you may not be surprised to learn this, but here goes: He binge-watched Golden Girls with me for all of season 5- what a guy, amirite?! Not only that, but he bought me Caramel Cookie Crunch Talenti, and played with my hair while I combatted my ill-timed monthly cramps. I’m telling you, he’s an angel among peasants.

Wednesday morning came far too quickly and before I knew it, he was dropping me off at my office before he was off on his cross-country drive to Cali. To be honest with you, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet, the fact that I can’t see him whenever I want anymore. Long distance is a real bitch, but I can think of worse places to have to visit than Southern California. I already find myself geeking out over long-distance relationship gift ideas I’m finding on Etsy, or care packages I can put together, or all the touristy crap I can do when I visit him. I can’t wait!

So, long story short, life has been pretty chaotic recently, so thank you for sticking with me and being so understanding through it all. And I need your help! Do you have any long distance relationship tips? Gift ideas? Must-see places in Los Angeles? Message me or leave a comment below 🙂

xo, AJ

P.S. – Not to brag or anything, but how freaking handsome is he?! I’m so dang lucky!

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