My Weekend in AZ: A Novel

This past weekend, I flew across the country to visit my best friend, Rachel. If you read my study abroad post, you’ll know that she was one of my randomly assigned roommates during my semester in Barcelona. I use the word “random” loosely, because not one ounce of me believes it really was.

Anyway, enough of the friendship sap. I was super excited not only to see Rachel but also to see Arizona – I had never been! It is certainly unlike any other place I’ve traveled to. Rachel made fun of me for getting excited about seeing so many cacti. But hey, it’s the little things, right?

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Patio at The Henry. Couldn’t clear out the patio to take an ideal picture, unfortunately

On our first full day, we ate at The Henry in Phoenix. It was such a cool restaurant – everything from the decor to the hostess made you feel like a chic VIP. I was so excited to eat outside on the gorgeous patio – a meal outside in January?! The funniest part was that they had heat lamps on all over the patio – it was in the 60’s. But I’m still a cold weather wimp, so I was down with it after my initial chuckle. I had an amazing kale salad and some brie toast. Which fueled me up for part two of our day…

Nordstrom Last Chance. I actually hadn’t heard of this until I started researching AZ right before I got there. The store is the final home for returned and overstocked merchandise from Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack. We’re talking dirt cheap – and I’m very frugal! It may sound silly that this was my first event when I had flown six hours across the country, but this is me we’re talking about. Rachel tried to prepare me for the mayhem on our way, but this is one of those things you have to experience to fully understand. Within three minutes of being in the store I told her I wished I had taken a Xanax.

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That front bag is all shoes

This was a random Friday afternoon, yet I could barely navigate around without bumping into other shoppers. Grown women were sitting in the middle of the aisles to hoard merchandise and try on shoes. Rachel had to spend several minutes maneuvering her (ok, my) cart around a woman that refused to get up. She lugged around that cart the whole time like a pro while I narrated the experience and how overwhelmed I was. Now that is friendship.

I wasn’t quite as successful with the clothes and accessories as I had been with the shoes. If getting a cheap purse requires me to arm wrestle middle-aged women while riffling through tiny baskets surrounded by people, I think I’m good with full price. Ok, at least mid-price. The clothing was much less cutthroat, but there wasn’t a lot of it in the most common sizes, of course.

The dressing room line was very long, but we eventually made our way to the front. I assumed we would be guided into a room, but the attendant was offering space in the “open dressing room.” Rachel, bold as always, went right in, but the mere idea of stripping down in a large mirror surrounded by a bunch of strangers was enough to make me wait. Until time kept going by… and Rachel came out… and I was still waiting for a private room. She convinced me that it wasn’t so bad, so I put my big girl pants on – or should I say took them off – and stepped in there. Guess what? I made a dressing room friend in there! She gave me some brutal honesty when it came time to try on this ethereal Free People dress. I wanted to love it, but I wasn’t pulling it off. I was tempted to buy it anyway because of the price, but new-dressing-room-friend knocked some sense into me.

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Topshop wedges for $10. They deserved a good home

Then came time to be those annoying people sitting on the floor mulling over our options. At least we chose a corner out of the way. I had somehow acquired five pairs of shoes. Mostly wedges, aka the biggest space-taker-uppers. My suitcase was basically full on the way, so I was freaking out about how I was going to fit them. But they were such good deals! Rachel convinced me that this was my last chance (ha, get it?) to get these kind of deals. So yes, I bought all five. Plus two pairs of jeans and a dress. Sue me, ok?

Since I know my parents are currently reading this and about to dial me up on the phone to lecture me about my shopaholic habits, I will reveal the astounding total of all of these items: $114.00! Ok, and a decent amount of tax, but you can’t nickel-and-dime a once in a lifetime opportunity, people.

(Spoiler alert: Rachel and I dedicated a chunk of my last day to rearranging my suitcase to try and fit the new shoes… plus the five pairs I had brought with me in the first place. Yes, ten pairs of shoes for four days. Whatever. Anyway, we fit almost all of them in! Then she came in clutch with a huge Lululemon bag that she was going to throw out anyway. The remaining wedges went in there and I took that as my carry-on. Take that, air travel!)

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Heaven is for sure filled with pancake flights

Now that I’ve dedicated seven paragraphs of this post to Last Chance, I’ll move on. That evening, we went to a cool indoor/outdoor bar called Wasted Grain. Even though there were lots of cute Arizona boys, I told Rachel I hoped no males approached the table. Hi, I’m Haley, and I’m as antisocial as it gets. Apparently my detached vibes didn’t work that well, though, because one of her coworkers tried to buy me a drink. I never accept drinks from guys because A) I feel bad, B) I can buy my own and C) I never want to feel like I owe someone something. Mostly A, honestly. So I politely (or so I thought) declined. The guy was so insulted! All the girls at the table told me that you’re supposed to say yes or it’ll hurt their feelings. Lesson learned. Just kidding, I’ll probably say no next time, too.

While her coworkers went out, Rachel and I stayed true to our grandmotherly selves and watched Harry Potter on the couch with mediterranean takeout. It worked out perfectly, because we were well-rested enough for a decadent brunch at Snooze the next morning. 😉 This place has a thing called a pancake flight. Yes, like a beer flight, but with pancakes. Hello, heaven.

 

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These boots weren’t made for walkin’

After more Netflix-and-chilling (but actually) that day, we reluctantly prepared to go to a club that night. Rachel had been telling me for weeks how crazy the club scene in Scottsdale gets, but I guess I just assumed I’d be prepared since I went to school in Miami. Um, not really. The group of us were invited to sit at some guy’s table, so obviously we said yes – not because free drinks, but because sitting. In heels. Thank you, club gods. Anyway, they proceeded to pass around a bag of cocaine and ask if we wanted some. I literally grabbed it not knowing what it was at first and waved it around saying “OMG I wouldn’t even know what to do with this!” and one of them stopped me and reminded me that you can’t really wave around baggies of cocaine in public, even when you’re doing it in innocent outrage and confusion. Another lesson learned.

 

The next day, after our hungover stomaches had gotten down some breakfast burritos (#fitfam) we took a walk around Old Town Scottsdale. This was a Sunday afternoon, mind you. Yet there were groups of drunken young adults traveling around the streets in golf carts from one club/bar to the next. My old soul and aching head looked at Rachel in disgust, and she clarified that no, this was not because Monday was a holiday. This happens every weekend. Scottsdale, you have not ceased to amaze me.

 

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Not a real tattoo. Was just feelin’ the nature vibes

On Monday, my last day, we decided to finally be active and go for a hike at Pinnacle Peak. It looked super daunting, especially because I had never been on a real hike, but thankfully it was easy. We really did it for the ‘gram anyway, so we got all we went for. In all seriousness, though, it was really beautiful. I wish the climate in New England allowed hiking/walking/breathing outdoors to be a thing. I’d probably be much more fit! (Maybe.)

We had dinner at a Mexican place called Blanco, which had an awesome happy hour. We capped off the night with ice cream sundaes (duh) at Sugar Bowl, an old-school ice cream parlor decked out in pink booths. Now that’s my kind of late night scene.

So now that I’ve given you a play-by-play of every step I took on my trip, I’ll let you go. If you ever find yourself in the Scottsdale area, I hope this helps you enjoy your trip to the fullest! And if not, I hope you at least got a chuckle out of it.

Colorfully Yours,

Haley

 

 

 

 

 

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Pajama Party

Wearing bright colors isn’t the only thing I’m known for in the clothing department. In fact, this other “thing” is more of a hot topic.

It’s true: I wear matching pajama sets. Every night.

I’m not sure when it started, but I’ve been obsessed with coordinating PJs for a looong time now. My mom and grandmother started buying them for me for holidays and birthdays, so my collection is quite extensive by now. I have everything from fleece to jersey, nightgowns to button downs, cheetah print to catchphrases.

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One of my most recent pajama set purchases. Fleece, covered in pandas, with “I Love Naps” written across the front. The trifecta.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times my pajama-set-wearing has been the butt of jokes among my friends and family, but what I can tell you is that there is no shame in my pajama game. The cornier and fuzzier the ensemble, the better.

My brother, Colin, constantly refers to my sleepwear as my “onesies.” None of them are actually one piece, but since they all match, it apparently looks like it. When he’s home, I am greeted every morning by “Nice onesie!” Siblings.

I didn’t know this wardrobe choice of mine was unusual until I got to college. Communal quarters reveal a lot about how the other half lives. I, apparently, am the matching-pajama-wearing minority. But I know that every time someone pokes fun at my grandma sleepwear, they’re secretly jealous…right?

As my annual pajama receiving time of year approaches, I thought I’d round up some of my budget-friendly favorites. Some of these are on sale, so don’t waste time! You don’t want to be stuck wearing a ratty t-shirt and threadbare bottoms to bed, do you?

Whether you’re shopping for yourself or others, take my advice – buy some cute, dorky pajamas. Give the gift of a cozy sleep and macaron-filled dreams (you’ll see what I mean). You never know who you’re going to meet in your dreams, after all.

Here’s hoping whoever I meet in mine appreciates my quirky sleepwear. But if they don’t, I probably don’t want to meet them, anyway.

Sweet dreams, readers!

COZY

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Every time I babysit, I find myself getting jealous of the kids’ fluffy bathrobes with animal ears. I’ve always wanted one in adult size. Well, my wish has been granted! Stay cozy with these fuzzy ensembles inspired by the animal kingdom.

Left to Right: Plush Polar Bear Hooded Nightdress, $24.90, Forever 21; Cozy Zoe Animal Ear Hooded Robe, $48.00, Nordstrom; Faux Sherpa Top and Jogger Sleep Set, $24.99, Target; Plush Panda PJ Set, $29.90, Forever 21

CLASSIC

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You cannot go wrong with a classic two-piece flannel number. It’s the quintessential pajama set. If you don’t have at least one set of these in your pajama drawer, you are doing it wrong.

Clockwise from Left: Daizie Polka Dot Flannel PJ Set, $24.99, Target; Flannel Pajama Set, $44.00, J.Crew Factory; Striped PJ Set, $29.94, Old Navy; PJ Couture Velour Pajama Set, $29.99, JCPenney

CHEEKY

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I live for a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek saying. Plaster it on a nightgown and it is quite literally a dream come true. Oh, and there are those macarons I mentioned! ‘Sweet dreams’ is right.

Left to Right: Hibernate Graphic Nightdress, $12.90, Forever 21; New Look Hangover Pajama Set, $27.00, ASOS; Topshop Brunch Club Long Tee, $38.00, Nordstrom; BP Undercover Thermal Sleep Set, $14.97, Nordstrom Rack; Adolescent Clothing Designer Bags Nightshirt, $38.00, ASOS

Secrets of a Serial Spender

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I’m Haley, and I’m a shopaholic.

I’ve been completely MIA from the blog lately, but I’m back just in time to help my very-few-but-very-loyal followers with their holiday shopping.

Also, this is step one of my twelve-step program. 😉

Putting aside the three times per week on average that I visit T.J.Maxx/Marshall’s, my addiction mostly manifests itself in ferocious online shopping binges. My lack of transportation freshman year of college led me to join every flash-sale site in existence, and it has pretty much been a downward spiral from there.

But just as I was in college, this post-grad gal is on a tight budget. That’s where my roughly-a-million-dollar per year tuition (sorry, Dad!) comes in:

Research, research, research.

Here are some of my tips and tricks for online shopping on a budget. Thank me later, Santa!

1) Retail Me Not:

My first step while online shopping is ALWAYS to check out www.retailmenot.com. The site has endless coupon codes for pretty much any web retailer you can think of. More often than not I’m able to at least score free shipping. That adds up!

2) Hit the Mall:

If you’re on the hunt for something specific, it’s always a good idea to check out the actual retail store to compare prices to the online version. This is particularly vital for sale items. For example, J.Crew’s online sale prices are often very different from the in-store sale section. Not necessarily better or worse, just different depending on the item.

As for full price items, the price won’t change from site to store, but the discounts will. This fall, I was about to hit the “Order” button on a huge shopping cart of Old Navy items. At the last second, I decided to head on over to my local Old Navy store. Turns out that they were having an in-store promotion for cardholders. I ended up getting hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise for about half the actual cost.

(Side tip: find out which family members and friends have which store credit cards, convince them to let you use theirs, and pay them back that same day. Thanks, Mom!)

If the store doesn’t have the item you were looking for in your size, speak to an employee before heading home to order online. Stores like Gap and Nordstrom will order the item free of charge. Translation? No shipping cost!

3) Tweet, Tweet:

Check all of the social media accounts of the online retailer before purchasing. Sometimes they tweet or post coupon codes that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. This is particularly true for smaller, boutique-style stores!

4) Hand Over Your Email:

I know, I know. It’s annoying to have your inbox flooded with junk. But you may not see it as junk when you realize that handing over your email address usually scores you a minimum of 10% off your first order. Already signed up? Break out those old email addresses that you don’t dare share with the public. You better believe I use my old AIM address, my college address, and my Gmail address – that’s three occasions where I can get 10% off!

5) Hedge All Your Bets:

Does your giftee have expensive taste? You may be able to get them that designer item, after all. For example, whenever I search for Kate Spade items, I crosscheck the Kate Spade website with sites like Nordstrom and Lord and Taylor. Sometimes Nordstrom has that wallet or bracelet on sale before Kate Spade’s site, and vice versa. One of the sites may be having an amazing sale or you may have found yourself an awesome coupon code for one but not the other.

6) Don’t Be a Snob:

Sites like 6PM, Overstock and Zappo’s can be your best friends. They sell the same name-brand items as your favorite retailers, but for a lot less. Sure, sometimes their items are last season, but often you can find current products for cheap. Many of these discount sites offer free shipping to boot. I once wanted a pair of patent leather Steve Madden pumps more than anything, but they were over a hundred bucks. Lucky for me, I snagged the exact same pair on 6PM for seventy-something!

7) Find a Common Thread:

Thanks to my mish-mash of preppy and edgy items, I’ve come to find that the two have more in common than you’d think. For example, Karmaloop may look like it’s on another planet than Piperlime, but both carry B.B. Dakota. I know this because freshman year, I felt the need to spend all of my money on a fur vest… in Miami. I lusted after a specific B.B. Dakota version, and found it cheaper on Karmaloop than any of the other sites. Lulu’s and Nasty Gal are another example – they carry many of the same brands and exact dresses, but their prices are not always the same. Keep your eyes open and don’t judge a book by its cover!

8) Back to Basics:

We’ve all fallen in love with an item on a particular website, only to find that it’s either too expensive or out of stock. That’s where the “duh” factor comes in. Type in the product’s description into Google! My best friend asked me just the other day where she could find a scarf she spotted on Instagram. I typed in a basic description of it: “plaid blanket scarf.” Millions of hits! I was able to find a near-identical version for cheap on Etsy. Which brings me to my next tip…

9) Etsy:

If you don’t use Etsy, you’re seriously depriving yourself. The site features individual sellers who either make or resell products. You can find absolutely ANYTHING on Etsy. It’s my go-to site for personalized gifts. Some gifts I’ve found on Etsy include an engraved leather flask, a carved wood cutting board, a monogrammed phone case, a coordinate bracelet, and a million and a half other things. I’m an Etsy-holic.

10) The Hunt:

My friends are always asking me where they can find an item they saw on Pinterest or social media, but all they have is the picture. If my own sleuthing skills don’t do the trick, I tell them to post it on The Hunt. All you do is post the picture, select your price point, and voila! Other people find the item, or something very similar, for you. It doesn’t cost a thing – it’s more of a pay-it-forward set up. Someone found you that cheetah coat you had been dreaming about (guilty) so you help another stranger find those patterned leggings they want. Win-win!

Happy Shopping!

Work It: An Unemployed Girl’s Guide to Office Outfits

Joining the workforce can be scary enough for us recent graduates. Throw in the question of what to wear, and the prospect is even more daunting. Although I’m taking my job search at a verrrry leisurely pace, one of my best friends came to me for help with her big-girl wardrobe. Call me the unemployed genie. Here’s my advice on how to stay stylish while you get your boss coffee slave away at your desk!

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1) Don’t be afraid to mix and match.

Dragging yourself to the office everyday may be tedious, but it doesn’t have to look it. Gone are the days of a black skirt suit and white blouse. By wearing bold colors and fun prints, you can spice up your workday! You may be tempted to buy dark colors or simple solids, but gravitating towards color doesn’t have to limit your wardrobe. In fact, mixing and matching can expand your closet and ensure that you never look the same – although your cubicle might. So next time you’re at the mall, don’t be so quick to pass up that floral pencil skirt or polka dotted blouse.

2) Do sweat the small stuff.

Paycheck too small for a wardrobe overhaul? Accessories can go a long way! Try a chunky statement necklace or an oversized watch. Carry your laptop in a chic tote bag. If your office has a dress code that doesn’t allow for much creativity, switch up your manicure or test out a new hairstyle. Other pieces that can up the ante: trendy glasses, a printed scarf, or a thin but bold belt.

3) Casuals aren’t just for Friday.

Workwear doesn’t have to be stuffy. You can take your weekend wardrobe to the office by making a few adjustments. That flannel button down you spend every Saturday lounging in? Tuck it in to a color-complimenting skirt and add a sparkly bib necklace. Your favorite chambray shirt would look great with some dark green cigarette-leg pants and a gold belt. Even a t-shirt can look profesh under a cool blazer. Dare to don your denim, too – dark jeans tend to look more polished.

4) Lay it on thick.

Whether your office feels like a walk-in freezer or you’re trying to get some more use out of those summer sale items as autumn arrives, layering is key. Cardigans are always a classic, and a comfy wrap sweater can add some trendiness to your outfit without sacrificing warmth. Add a pair of textured tights or an infinity scarf during cooler months. Trade in your ballet flats for some faux leather boots and you’re ready for a snowy office commute!

5) Think big, but not too big.

You definitely don’t want to be that girl at the office – you know, the one who prances around looking like she’s ready for a night on the town. With this in mind, I’ve come up with a good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t wear it to meet your (nonexistent, in my case) boyfriend’s parents, don’t wear it to the office. However, there’s a fine line between respectable young professional and sloppy old bag lady. Don’t be afraid to wear fitted clothing! For example, slim-fit dress pants look a lot more presentable than a baggy pair, and a tailored blazer will get you taken more seriously than an ill-fitting jacket.

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Depending on your job and the atmosphere of your office, you may need to tweak these tips. Don’t be shy – ask your boss or new coworkers what the norm is. But regardless of what field you’re in, my everyday shopping mantra applies: never pay full price for anything! Head to the outlets, find online coupons, check the weekly catalogues, do whatever you have to do – but don’t break the bank for your work clothes.

The following stores are known to have amazing sales if you know when to hit them: JCrew, Ann Taylor LOFT, Gap, Banana Repbulic, Old Navy, and Nordstrom/Nordstrom Rack. Trust me, I wouldn’t be caught dead paying full price for anything at most of those stores, but a little pre-shopping research goes a long way! And as a bonafide Maxxinista I can’t forget Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, where the items are always off-price.

Good luck to all you new worker bees and remember: work colorfully!