Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Three basics to update your fall wardrobe

#1 The perfect French blue shirt, extra long. 

I just bought two of these, one to wear it to work over a pair of slim black cropped pants, black heels, and red lipstick and another to wear with my black leather skirt and lace-up heels, black leather leggings or skinny jeans, flats and wild earrings on the weekend. This will also update my ages-old Current + Elliott leopard jeans that I still love.

#2 A pair of leather leggings that I should have bought three years ago. 

I found a great end-of-season deal on a pair and exited to finally wear them for fall with chunky cream sweaters like Alexa Chung, oversize tees or one of my new extra long French blue button downs paired with my favorite lace-up flats!

#3 And the perfect black flat to wear everywhere. 

After wearing out my final pair of inexpensive DSW black flats I decided to spend a little more for these (that I've had my eye on for a year, I think it was time) and couldn't love them more. They're perfect for running through the airport, and are simple enough that they look good with pretty much everything. In fact, I am sitting in a hotel bar at this very moment wearing these shoes with this dress and this (amazing) jean-jacket-disguised-as-a-blazer.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Five steps to become a freelance writer

This is a topic particularly close to my heart, because I'm (slowly) working towards becoming a freelance writer full-time. It took me a long time to figure out how exactly to accomplish each of these steps, and I'm still working on #2 and #5.

#1 Be willing to work for free. 
This could also be titled, 'Don't quit your day job' because you're going to need one to fund your life while you spend your nights trying to get your foot in the proverbial door of an established outlet that can help you to build credible writing samples. The truth is, the only incentive an editor has to take on a green, untested writer is for the sliver of potential for fresh pitches and free, publish-ready content (emphasis on 'free'). At a minimum, expect to offer yourself for three months of unpaid work or a set number of articles.

#2 Pick a topic that you know, and that interests you. 
This should be obvious, and is also extremely important in order to motivate yourself to be prolific, and to do it for free at that. When I started freelance writing, I focused on women's fashion and lifestyle topics because it's already a sideline interest and fluffy enough that it doesn't require a ton of research; this is especially critical for me since I have a relatively demanding day job and just a few hours each week to devote to writing.

#3 Learn how to effectively cold-call editors. 
You will never get an opportunity to write if you don't make the opportunity yourself. Cold-calling editors is really the only way to get started, and it will be painful at first. Start with smaller sites that are growing and could use the free labor. There will be some editors who don't respond at all, and others that flat out reject you without reading any of your samples. But there will eventually be some bites if you are committed to making it happen. Once you start to accumulate some solid, published writing samples, it will help you market your writing to bigger publications and you'll start to have editors reach out to you. 

#4 Write about your topic of interest for anyone who will let you. 
Related to #3, when you get a bite, jump at the opportunity. Don't be snobby about the size of the site, the readership, the genre of content, or the impact it is making on the world. Remember that the editor is taking a risk on you, and it's important that you show her that she made a great decision. Do your best work, be as helpful as possible, and provide insightful pitches and ideas every time you submit an article. Ask questions, and for feedback, and make sure that you are getting the tone of the publication down. If you notice the editor is changing your work significantly, find out what you can do differently to make it easier for her.

#5 Get over the haters.
There will be plenty of people who think that what you write about is stupid, dumb or embarrassing. I can't tell you how many people have made fun of me and my articles, especially when I was starting with small Web sites, entering blogging competitions to get a foot in the door, and starting my own little blog. At first, the haters will be right most of the time and your articles will be terrible, but that's OK. It's a risk to put yourself out there and do something different, and when you publish content you invite the world to weigh in with their opinions. But at the end of the day, everyone has to start from the same place, which is the beginning. And at the beginning, everyone is pretty bad. You have to go through a volume of work and crank out mediocre content for a long, long time to ever get really good. And there is no better feeling than starting to get good and prove your haters wrong. Except the feeling of getting your first email from a reader who found you, loved what your wrote, and wanted to tell you how it helped her. 

All of that said, I've been making some changes in my pursuit of freelance writing and expanding into the new genre of women's career advice by writing for a British site called Career Girl Daily - if you haven't heard of it, I hope you'll check it out! Below are my latest articles for you to read (and maybe hate, especially now that we've established it's part of the process...):

In the interest of being more prolific, I've also committed to posting to this blog and my new design site Chateau Bordeaux once per week. Here's the latest: One easy way to make every day of your life count.

Photo via

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Launching a new project...

This blog has been a little side project and experiment for several years now, and I have loved the process of learning how to code, improve my photography, and track my site metrics. When I first started blogging, I read somewhere to start broad and not to market content - it will allow readers to find you organically, and will help you to figure out where to focus your efforts. This also means that you grow quietly, under the radar, and can take time to refine your skills, make some risks, find your voice.

Of my few thousand page views per month on this little blog, more than half are coming from posts on interior ideas and DIY projects. I love checking the site metrics and seeing the 'spikes' from my normal traffic; its usually driven by someone finding this little blog, and sticking around to browse everything. Nearly all of my spikes originate from posts on interiors, and many of the emails I get from readers who have found this site are related to design and DIY ideas.

Thanks to all of this longitudinal research, I've kicked off a new Web site focused solely on interiors called Chateau Bordeaux (sounds fancy, right?) and have been slowly building content and posting some of my old favorite posts from this blog onto the new format. Here's the link if you'd like to check it out and take a look around: If you're willing to share, I'd love your feedback, ideas and input!

Monday, August 10, 2015

What to wear in Napa Valley

This post could have also been titled "What to wear on any weekend of summer, anywhere, for any occasion" but this &Other Stories dress is especially suited for frolicking through vineyards. It's one of my best buys of the summer because it's so versatile, comfortable and classic with cute little pom poms on the sleeves - all it needs is some red lipstick and a pair of great sandals or heels. (Wes said that I looked like Laura Ingalls Wilder in it, and I took that as a compliment.)

My cute friend Michelle (the jumper on the left) and I spent the day touring Napa a few weekends ago, and decided to take The Wine Shuttle so we could enjoy ourselves and not have to worry about driving along the way. They take requests for wineries to visit, and after much arm-twisting also told us that the local favorite is Hall Winery in Helena, a reservation-only spot that we sadly missed but is on my list for the next trip back. 

Some of the highlights included:
1. Michelle impulse-purchasing a membership at Domaine Chandon (it was worth it).
2. Brunch at Auberge du Soleil, the best view (and only healthy meal) that we had in Napa.
3. Trefethen Vineyards (specifically the education and the chardonnay).
4. The service (and enormous steak frites) at Bistro Jeanty.
5. Enjoying the patio and an Oakland Raiders party at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel and Spa, where we were stayed.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The best basic dress you'll ever buy

This is a simple navy cotton dress from the Gap that I picked up a few weeks ago and have been wearing everywhere - it's styled online and in the stores with a tie belt but looks so much better without it! It's loose, voluminous, and looks way more expensive than the $47.99 that it is currently retailing. The high neck and simple shape is a perfect backdrop for my favorite costume jewelry like this vintage doorknocker necklace (copied from my friend Elle, whose style I covered here.)

Other ways that I've styled this dress have been with cage heels, big earrings and a clutch to wear out; with a blazer and lace up flats for work; and with a beach bag and gold sandals for the beach. It literally goes anywhere!

If you haven't been in the Gap lately, I suggest you change that ASAP. It has become my favorite source of wardrobe staples that are also comfortable and extremely affordable. (Shout out to my friend Sara who reintroduced me to the Gap - I credit her with this find, plus a few of my other Gap favorites like this dress, these pants, and this sweater, all of which came with me on my 4th of July trip to North Carolina).

Friday, June 26, 2015

A healthy spin on Thai takeout

Thai food is my kryptonite: I can eat vegetables and lean protein all week, but Friday night rolls around and there is nothing coming between me and my hankering for panang curry with rice.

Because its summer, and because I'm trying to stay really committed to my health (including sticking to my beautiful skin anti-aging regimen courtesy of Beyonce's dermatologist - more to come on that topic), my weekend favorite foods need a makeover. I decided to start with my typical Thai takeout order and see just how disappointing it would be to up the health factor.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to layout your living room

Our new apartment is amazing, but posed some serious challenges for the living room layout. There literally was not a place for the TV unless we sacrificed the windows and I just wasn't willing to do that. So, we got rid of the TV. (Ok, really we turned a 3rd bedroom on the first floor into a den and it turned out to be the best idea ever.)

Anyway, our living room is really bright with an exposed brick wall that I love, and decided to let it go au natural with the only statement-making decor choice being a large red wool Moroccan rug.

 We didn't have room for large furniture, so I let the couch and rug take center stage, and added some extra seating and modern side tables to bring it all together. (I found the clear acrylic nesting tables on Amazon for $165 and it was the best buy ever. They are the PERFECT modern touch to balance my random collection of assorted vintage furnishings.

Raw silk drapes in a dark gray added some texture to the room, and also block out the light when I am trying to read my Kindle! The old drapery rods from our other apartment fit perfectly, as did a hand-me-down brass lamp that never quite worked in our other places.

These mismatched side tables (from Target, can you believe it!?) are the right height and work together because of the round shape and metallic tones. They also help to balance out the old, dinged-up vintage furniture in the room!