hi, friends. wow, two posts in one week?!  i don’t even recognize myself. is this what i look like when i have a project to write about? i’m like a changed woman over here. {editor’s note: i started this post on july 16th. it’s now august 1st. OOPS}

just kidding. {editor’s note: CLEARLY}

but only kind of – i really do feel like this project has gotten my creative juices flowing again. i hate that phrase, but it’s true. my day job got really crazy for about 6 months straight (though it’s been way more chill the last few months! advertising ebbs and flows), and i think working pretty much all the time just kind of zapped my energy. i never wanted to bring my laptop home, let alone open it to write or design or do any of the fun creative things i generally like to do.

now that things have calmed down (and more importantly, now that i have a project to focus on!), i feel like my brain has switched back on. there’s all sorts of stuff whirring around in there, but lest i freak you out, i’ll only share some of it. in particular, we’ll start with the bedroom design plan, which, if you’ll recall from my previous post, is currently sitting unused, because allie got uninspired and couldn’t seem to figure out how to make the room work for her.

right now, it looks like this:

IMG_7457a blank canvas of sorts, just BEGGING to be repainted and freshened up a bit. i love the wainscoting in here, and i think once we soften things up a bit (we’re going very neutral in the space), this room will feel crisp, calm, and happy. which is generally how bedrooms should feel, if you ask me. i’m all for bright colors, and fun prints, and i love how moody bedrooms look when i see them on the internet, but when it comes down to it, i just want the place i sleep to feel a bit like stepping into a cloud. allie’s mind moves a mile a minute, and i’m hoping to give her a space that helps her slow down (even just a little bit).

IMG_7459

so, without further adieu, here’s the plan. like i said above, we’re going deep into neutral territory. we’re switzerland, in a design board. this is more neutral than any space of mine, but with the amount of light allie’s bedroom gets, i think it’ll be beautiful.

Allie's House_Bedroom1

while i was home over july 4th, we went to the paint store and picked up sample pints of the two colors above (both benjamin moore, my main man). you’ll notice i’m proposing that we go lighter on the walls, darker on the trim. this is the opposite of what’s traditionally done, but it’s a trend i’ve been seeing a lot of lately (i’m particularly smitten with jenni yolo’s barnhouse paint choices and this kitchen from amber interiors, while not exactly the same, they show the concept has legs!). i’ve saved a bunch of inspiration shots of this look on instagram, and i’m thrilled that i was able to convince allie (and my parents, whose opinion means a lot to us!) that it’s the right way to go.

side note: does anyone else call places the “xyz store”? my friends at work recently made fun of me, HARD, for saying i was going to “the food store” after work (ie, the grocery store). i’ve just now realized this is a thing i do with lots of things. paint store, food store, drug store, etc. AM I THE ONLY ONE?!

IMG_7586 (1)

we started by putting the two paints up on the wall, just to see how they look next to one another. i didn’t want to go painting the wainscoting if we hated one of the colors on the wall. i’ve asked allie to take photos of the swatches at various times of day, so that we can see how it looks in the daytime vs. the nighttime. so far, we’re pretty sold. i can’t wait to see how fresh this space feels with some bright white on the walls.

the freshly painted walls will serve as the perfect crisp, clean backdrop for the other pieces we’re bringing in, while the brass accents in the lighting and curtain rods will help keep the space from reading too cold (which is often a risk when you go all white + neutrals).

IMG_7585 (1)

so, let’s break it down a bit, shall we? allie hasn’t had a ton of thoughts on what she likes, design-wise, but she did have a few requests when it came to the actual pieces in the room.Allie's House_Bedroom1

  1. a bed with a headboard. this is a relatively easy fix, because allie already has a box spring, mattress, and metal bed frame. a brand new bed + mattress would blow our budget, but a new headboard (the kind that attaches to a metal bed frame) is totally doable. we’re going for a simple linen option: pretty, but also comfy enough to rest her head on/sit up against.
  2. better lighting. when we moved allie into this apartment, we skimped on lighting. there’s an overhead fixture in her room right now, but it only has a single bulb, and doesn’t give off much light. the new option above will offer ALL THE LIGHT while still looking verrrry cute (if i do say so myself). we’ll also be adding bedside/reading lights (either in the form of plug in sconces, or small table lamps).
  3. more storage. as discussed in the previous post, we’ll be building out some simple shelving in allie’s closet (there are two in this room!), but we’ll also be getting smart about storage elsewhere. nightstands with drawers offer a place to shove all your inevitable bedside clutter, while pretty baskets serve as a resting place for extra blankets, shoes, etc.
  4. a full length mirror. i love the option above (from urban outfitters) because it not only provides a mirror, but also offers some hanging options. allie can pick out her clothes for the next day, or hang delicates to dry on the right side, and admire her fabulous self on the left.

in addition to those four things, we’ll be purchasing a new rug (would you believe the one above is MACHINE WASHABLE?!), new bedding (simple striped jersey from target), and new art (from my favorites over at juniper print shop). then, if the budget allows (i’m working my magic to make it so!), we’ll also splurge on an accent bench (i love the pattern of the textile on this one, and it’s a great extra seating spot in a small space), a pretty clothes hamper (so the laundry doesn’t end up on the floor), and the cutest dog bed i ever did see for her cockapoo, daisy.

i’m sure that as we start painting, ordering things, and of course, assembling them and getting them in the space, this plan will change a bit – but right now, i’m feeling pretty darn happy with how it’s coming together. the living room and dining room are presenting a bit of a challenge for me (odd angles, columns, different flooring, less natural light) but this room…this room,  i can see.

IMG_8254

me, early on in my renovation at the grand apartment

you guys ready for a real #tbt? here’s a little video i took, on my iphone, way back in the summer of 2016, when i closed on my little apartment on grand street. it’s the before tour of all before tours (at least, around these parts). i was just diving into the blogging world, i’d just started my instagram, and i was feeling a wee bit overwhelmed by the immensity of the project i’d taken on with exactly zero renovation experience.

cut to three years later, and i’m itching to do it again. luckily, my sister has asked me to help her redecorate (no, not renovate, at least, not anytime soon!) her apartment, giving me a new project to focus on, and a whole new set of “before” photos to share with you!

if you follow me on instagram, you may have seen these the other day – but i’m re-sharing them here so that i can talk you through them in a bit more detail. in the upcoming weeks, i’ll be sharing full design plans, but design plans are nothing without a little background, am i right?

let’s dive in, shall we? below, we’re standing in the kitchen, looking into the bedroom. this unit is on the top floor of an old house (built in the 1900s, i believe) that was turned into a two family home many years ago. because of this, the house has both good bones (the wainscoting in the bedroom!) and some very weird design decisions (the ceiling tile! the weird kitchen layout!). i’ll get into more detail on our budget later, but it’s a redesign/decorating budget, not a renovation one. if we have some money left over, we may do some small upgrades in the kitchen (flooring – bye linoleum!, lighting), but for now, most of it is staying as is.

IMG_7457

so, the bedroom! it’s my favorite room, to be honest. that wainscoting really gets me. when allie first moved in, she was really into blues and greens, so we painted this room a pretty seafoam green. over time, her tastes have changed, and so we’ll be taking the bedroom in a more neutral direction. it’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do, and we’ll be moving in the white/off white direction.

you may have noticed that there’s not really any furniture in the bedroom as of now. that’s because allie couldn’t seem to make it work, layout-wise, and instead of calling her older and wiser sister 😉 she decided to call it quits and move EVERYTHING into the living room. more on that in a minute, but suffice it to say, this room needs help. luckily for us, the fact that it’s empty means we can a) paint it ahead of time and b) store all our furniture deliveries in here ahead of install day.

IMG_7459we’ll need to patch the window frames before we add a fresh coat of paint throughout (we’ve already got the colors picked out, and allie is planning on throwing some samples up on the walls to make sure we’re headed in the right direction). we’ll also be getting rid of these curtain rods, and hanging the new ones much higher up (something 2013 sarah did not know!). new lighting will a) modernize the space and b) make more of a statement and c) light the room better (more bulbs = more light!).

IMG_7461this room has a cute set of double closets (if we were doing real construction, i’d knock down this wall to make the room larger and let the light in, but such is life!), but they need a bit of work.

IMG_7458

we’ll start with a fresh coat of paint, and then we’re planning on building out some simple shelving in here, so that allie can actually fold and stack her clothes (right now, they’re crammed into too-small vintage dressers). if i can find someone local and cheap enough (like a friend’s handy husband!), i may actually sketch out something beyond just 3 shelves, but that’s our starting point, at least for now. the bar will come down, as the second closet has plenty of hanging space.

IMG_7462here’s the second closet. in here, we’ll remove the front bar (allie dresses super casually, and doesn’t have a ton of stuff to hang), and find better shoe storage. i’m thinking a back of the door shoe organizer might work best, so that we can free up the space inside the closet itself. she’s in the process of sorting through the bags below – all of which are clothes she potentially no longer needs/wants – to figure out what can be donated. if anyone has any amazingly bright ideas for what to do in here, please let me know! i’m going to be looking around for good DIY closet ideas over the next few weeks.

IMG_7460i’ve also (happily) talked her into getting rid of these blinds. if she wants blinds, we’ll do bamboo ones (like i have in my kitchen), but the plan is for simple sheer white curtains in here, to let the sun shine in. it’s the little things, folks!

ok, moving on. right now, as you’ll see below, allie is using her living room as her bedroom, her dining room as her living room…things are a wee bit weird! for as long as i can remember, she’s liked crowding as much stuff as possible into her spaces, and this space is no exception. our task here is to help allie figure out what she needs in her space, functionally, and then what will make her happy, figuratively.

we painted this space a pretty grey tone when she first moved in, and we’re still pretty happy with it. for both time and budget reasons, i think we’ll leave the paint as is (though i’d love to be able to give everything a fresh coat of bright white, i’m not sure it’s in the cards right now. TBD on that front!).

this space will get, at minimum, new lighting, new window treatments, all new furniture, a new layout, new rug, and new art. so, basically everything but the paint color will change. and if i magically zoom through painting the bedroom in early august, i might just tackle this area too 🙂 i will say this paint color tends to photograph rather dark (i didn’t edit any of these photos, in hopes that they’d be true to life!); in person, it reads a much lighter.

IMG_7464

we’ll start by clearing everything out, and putting the bedroom back where it belongs. one thing that became immediately clear to me during my most recent walkthrough was how much allie needs better storage. this apartment has only 3 closets (but a lot of usable attic space, and a basement!). there are the two in the bedroom, and then there’s one in the dining room. the door you see above leads out into the hallway – but allie never uses that as an entry to the apartment (there’s another door from that same hallway into the kitchen, and she generally enters that way, or through the outside second floor porch (which also leads into the kitchen). that said, if i can make it work within the layout, my goal is to not block this door, just in case she ever changes her mind!

to the right of where she’s got her bed is her desk area. allie works in IT, and is a big computer person (lucky for us, she’s like having the geek squad on demand!). right now, she has two ikea desks creating an L shape for her workspace, but my goal is to figure out how to simplify it down to one. then, we’ll add drawer storage (via filing cabinets from CB2 ), and create a corkboard wall (like this!) for her to pin up art, inspiration, important notes, calendars, etc.

IMG_7452

see that cool looking vintage camera and globe above? those belonged to my grandma and grandpa. i told allie to hang onto them – they’ll make great styling tools when the time comes! above you can also see a mini bookshelf. allie has two of these in her apartment, and while there’s nothing WRONG with them, i want something a little sleeker, and more importantly, taller. when in doubt, follow the manhattan model: build up. we’ll actually be utilizing one of the dining room walls (where the yellow dresser is below) for a big bookshelf.

IMG_7463

the living room and dining room are, ostensibly, one larger, interconnected space, and i’m designing them as such (which you’ll see when i share design boards for this space). oddly, the owners covered up the beautiful wide plank hardwoods with yucky parquet at some point (but only in the dining room!). we don’t have the budget to rip these out and refinish what’s below, so for now, we’ll put a big rug in this space to try and distract from the ugly flooring.

IMG_7454

here’s another view of the dining room, which allie’s currently using as her living room (her couch and GINORMOUS TV are in here). a few of you commented on those ceilings in stories, and while i too wish they could go, that’s more of a renovation situation than a redecorating one. my hope is to make the rest of the space sing, and just let the ceiling tiles blend into the background. work with what you’ve got, and all that.

one thing i do love about this space is those columns. are they a little intense? sure. allie hates them and wants them gone. but i think with a fresh coat of (less shiny!) paint, fresh design, and better art on the walls, we can make this room beautiful. the door you see straight ahead in the photo above is one of the aforementioned closets, and it’s where allie stores things like air purifiers, fans, vacuums, etc. to the left is the door to the kitchen. right now, there’s absolutely zero shelving in there, too. i’d love to get some hooks to mount some of the items above (and things like brooms), and free up the floor space for some baskets or bins (to store things like games, office supplies, etc.).

IMG_7456

this photo is snapped from the kitchen. the closest door is to the left. this space exemplifies what i talked about in yesterday’s post: a mishmash of what was cheap, or what was comfortable, or what was available – but no real design. i’m THRILLED to say we found budget for a new couch, so this one will be getting donated. and goodbye, TV tables, i shall not miss you. we’ll patch the holes above, raise the (new!) curtain rods, and get brand new curtains (window changes will happen throughout the entire space). this room doesn’t have an overhead light, and since we don’t want to tear down the ceiling, my plan is to get a hanging plug-in pendant, and run it up the wall and over the ceiling, then dangle it down, centered over the dining table.

ok, folks – that’s the gist of it! questions? thoughts? brilliant ideas? i’m all ears.

ACS_1278 2

hello, friends! god, is this thing still on? long gone are the days of me promising to write here more, as i tend to get my kicks on instagram. but sometimes, there are stories that just don’t fit inside the grid. and those stories require resurrecting this here blog.

if you’re here, that means you’ve likely seen me talking about my new project over on the ‘gram. it’s my sister’s apartment (that’s her up at the top of this post!), and she’s been kind enough to let me have my way with it.

that sounds naughty, doesn’t it? what i mean by that is, she’s basically given me free reign to redecorate it. she’ll be weighing in on design decisions, of course, but she’s effectively a dream client in that she trusts me and my taste implicitly. before we dive into exciting things like design plans and budgets; shopping lists and mood boards, i wanted to tell you a bit about the apartment itself, and the situation allie has found herself in. because i think it’s a situation MANY of us find ourselves in in our mid-twenties (and beyond!).

quick sidebar, though: i want to preface this story by saying that i know design is a luxury, and that while you can certainly do it on a budget (which we will be!), it does, most of the time, take money. we’re privileged to have a bit of that to work with (more on our budget in upcoming posts, but it’s not huge!). i feel lucky to have the opportunity to give my sister a space she will love (and she deserves!), and i recognize that we’re lucky to be in the position to do so.

okay, now back to the story. 

recently, while i was in mexico with a few girlfriends, my sister and two of her friends came to stay at my apartment here in new york. while allie is quite familiar with my renovation (she is my sister, after all), this was the first time she’d gotten to “live” in the space for a few days without me or my parents around.

when she got back home to massachusetts, she mentioned to me that being in my home – one that feels finished and thoughtful and homey (i’m paraphrasing here) – made her realize just how much she didn’t like being in hers. i’ll pause to let that break your heart just a tiny bit like it did mine.

IMG_7454

see, home means different things to different people. some people don’t care what their home looks like, so long as it’s comfortable. some don’t care about trends or quote unquote “nice things.” many don’t have the privilege or the luxury to care about either. but what i think it means for almost everyone is a safe haven – a place where you open the door, and you exhale, and you know that for just a moment, all is right in the world, and you are safe.

is good design inextricably tied to that feeling? of course not. but i tend to think it doesn’t hurt.

and right now, allie’s home is missing that.

IMG_7464she’s found herself in a position that many people find themselves in post-college. her apartment is a mishmash of hand me downs, things she got on sale, things she (and i, with less design knowledge than i have now!) picked out years ago that now feel “young” and unsophisticated. nothing quite goes together, nothing quite fits, because there was no real thought put into the overall look of things (and in some cases, very little thought put into individual items). i say this not as an insult to her or any of the assorted family members to whom some of the items originally belonged – this is the way most of us furnish our first apartments!

sometimes i think about the first place i had after college: the futon in the living room that passed as a couch, the folding TV tables that we used as “coffee tables” (and more accurately, places to put our vodka sodas while we pregamed on the weekends), the “bed” i crafted from a mattress atop plastic drawers from the container store (storage!). YOU GUYS, I HAVE COME SO FAR.

and now, it’s time for allie to do the same. to have her “grown up” apartment. and i’m so excited to be helping her create it. over the next few months, i’ll be sharing the process – hopefully finishing with a week in late august in which we unbox and install and style ALL THE THINGS.

in between now and then, here’s what you can expect to see:

  • before photos
  • FAQs (feel free to leave any questions in the comments here!)
  • inspiration images
  • design boards for the bedroom, and living/dining room
  • shopping lists/budgets for each space
  • paint choices and colors
  • sneak peeks on instagram

come back tomorrow for the before tour. i can’t wait to bring you guys along for the ride!

 

IMG_6613

Last weekend, I had a 4 hour long coffee turned ice cream turned long walk in the sunshine date with a nice Italian man. Let’s call him M. He was a few years older than me, creative and interesting and seemingly normal. He had an impressive job he was passionate about (hard to find!), he showed up to coffee in cute yellow sunglasses and a camera slung over his shoulder, and he treated me to a chocolate croissant.

When he offered to come over and cook me a pasta dinner on Wednesday night, I felt like a movie heroine—was this real life? I said yes. Actually, I believe my exact words were, “f*ck yes.”

 

Between our coffee date on Sunday and our date at my place last night, we exchanged quite a few texts. Monday morning, while I was struggling to keep my balance on a crowded 8am F train, my phone buzzed with messages of the sexual nature. If you’re dating in this day and age, you know the ones. We all get them.

I’m not opposed to sexting. Really, I’m not. So long as both parties are informed and empowered and there’s true consent and equality in the exchange. But I’m generally not as inclined to sext with a near stranger. I said as much, and in doing so, seemingly pissed him off a bit. Or at the very least, threw him off his game. He apologized, briefly, but went on to tell me he just wanted things to be “fun.” Implying, of course, that my turning down a Monday morning sext sesh meant I wasn’t fun.

~

Recently, over giant bowls of cacio e pepe, I talked to my friend Martha about the state of my dating life. Some of you may recall I wrote about being blown off by a guy I’d been seeing right before I went to Copenhagen. In telling Marth about the experience, she recommended that if I were to see him again, I try and be more upfront about my needs, or at the very least, tell him how that experience made me feel. I balked at the idea—why did I need to tell this dude I was kinda dating and sometimes sleeping with about my FEELINGS?! And then she made a good point: even if he wasn’t my person (and I don’t think he is), having that kind of “tough” conversation with him would be good practice. That is to say, telling him, “hey, you blowing me off at the last minute made me feel shitty” would prep me for telling my future person, “hey, that thing you did really upset me.”

~

Cut back to Monday morning, on the F train. For the sake of setting up the story, I present to you our actual text conversation with M. My text below is in response to him asking me to just open up a bit more, tell him what I was thinking, etc. I’m sparing you from the sexual stuff that had come before it, but trust me when I say “what I was thinking” was not without innuendo.

Me: What I feel is that I had a great time yesterday, I felt chemistry, and I’d love to see you again this week.

Me: Apologies if I’m not as well-versed in the whole talking about my feelings thing. It takes me a while to feel comfortable with people. No hard feelings if you’re not interested in that. I’m not sure what you’re asking me to say.

Him: I want you to be a bit more relaxed. More playful. Just enjoy chatting a bit more, please. It isn’t an exam. It’s a fun moment.

In my head, I heard Martha. Be honest. Listen to your gut. Tell him what you need (and what you don’t).

So I tried to be clear. I’d already told him (in person!) that I was a bit shy, that it took me some time to warm up to people. I’d made it clear who I was, and given him the out if he wanted it. I said, again, that sexting wasn’t really my thing. And he seemed, for the most part, to get it. To lighten the mood, I jokingly said I’d open up a bit with a few glasses of wine in me.

~

Cut to last night. He shows up on my doorstep with a bag of groceries from Whole Foods and a bottle of red, and proceeds to show me how to make carbonara from scratch. Every so often, he stops stirring to kiss me, hungrily, like he hasn’t been kissed in years, like he’s dying to tear my clothes off. Again, I wonder: am I in a movie? Are the cameras going to pop out from behind the window? 

I think back to our conversation on Monday. His energy is strong, what he wants is clear. In the back of my head, I hear my intuition—the part of me that fears that when the time comes, he’s going to want weird sexual stuff that I’m not comfortable with. I quiet it, and sip my wine.

The carbonara is complete, and we sit, at the table—like a normal, civilized couple—and eat. The wine has kicked in, my intuition has gone silent, and I feel calm, relaxed—like the fun Sarah he wants me to be. The fun Sarah I know I can be in the right situation, with the right person, when I feel comfortable. This is going to be fine, I tell myself. Beyond fine; it’s going to be fun.

And for the first few hours, it is. Our chemistry is, for the most part, as good as I predicted, and I try not to think about sucking in my stomach or whether he’s looking at my stretch marks or whether I’m as good at certain things as I think I am. I try to just close my eyes and live in the moment, and enjoy the fact that a good looking Italian man cooked me carbonara and then took me to bed.

Around midnight, we finish, and he puts his clothes back on.  It’s late, he tells me. I should let you get to bed. We head back into the living room, and start cleaning up from dinner. I’m wearing a black slip that I’ve thrown on, slightly sexy but not overly so. I’m rinsing wine glasses in the sink when he comes up behind me, and starts kissing me again.

I thought you had to get home, I say to him teasingly.

I did, he says, but then I saw you in here, in that.

Before I know it, we’ve migrated to the couch, and his clothes are off again. This is where things go south. Emboldened, perhaps, by the last few hours, he asks me if I’ll do something for him, and he can watch. At the risk of crossing the TMI line I’ve most certainly already crossed here, I’ll leave you to use your imagination at this point.

I’m suddenly acutely aware of this strange man, naked on my couch in the darkness, asking me to do something that feels more out of a porno film than the romantic scene I’ve been setting in my head all night. I shake my head, and tell him no, I’m not comfortable doing that.

Why not? He presses the issue.

That sort of thing is for me, I say, not for him. I say it defensively. My guard is up. In my head, I’m tracking backwards to Monday morning, to his sexual texts. I should have listened to my gut, I think. I knew we’d get here eventually.

He’s staring at me as though I’m some sort of sexual doll he can bend into position, and I wish I could snap my fingers and go back in time, to when he was just a cute man making carbonara and offering me pieces of parm to taste.

He asks, again, and again, I say no, more forcefully this time. And then his tone shifts. Angrily, he tells me he’d like to offer me a bit of advice for future dates. I should watch my tone, I shouldn’t be so quick to say no, it might make dating more difficult for me in the future. Reacting this way to men, he says, isn’t great. They will not like it.

I don’t know whether to smack him across the face or to cry, so I do neither. Instead, I tell him, as bravely as I can muster, that I don’t need his advice on dating, and I didn’t ask for his opinion on the topic.

And now, he gets truly angry. He begins to put on his clothes—first his socks, then his underwear, then his pants and his shirt. I’m reacting, he tells me, like a child.

No one over 14 would act like this, he says. I am entitled to my opinion, he says. It is the beauty of free speech, he says, for him to say what he wants, without being asked.

He says all of this in a thick Italian accent, the accent that just two hours ago, I thought was sexy. Now, I go silent. I just want him to leave. I want to slam the door in his face and then fling myself on my bed and sob, because OF COURSE THIS IS HOW THE MOVIE ENDS. Of course I’m not a human being he respects, but rather, a vehicle for whatever weird fantasy has struck his fancy that day.

Oddly, instead of storming out, he helps me finish putting the dishes into the dishwasher. We don’t talk, but move carefully around one another, chess pawns that don’t dare touch. I hate that I’m in a flimsy black slip, and want desperately to be fully clothed.

More than anything, though, I hate that he asked me to do something I didn’t want to do. And a tiny part of me, really and truly, hates that I didn’t want to do it. Perhaps someone more fun than myself would have given in. No, not given in, but enjoyed it. I wonder, briefly, if it means there’s something wrong with me. If it’s true that I’m no fun. Am I doomed to be no fun forever?

European to a fault, he kisses me on both cheeks before he goes.

Thank you for dinner, he says.

You made the dinner, I reply. So thank YOU.

And with that, he’s out the door, and before I can even process what’s happened I’ve locked it, tight. I stand in place for a minute, arms crossed at my chest, feeling sad and stupid and angry all at once. I wish, not for the first time, that I could skip over all the bullshit of dating and just be happily partnered up with someone who will treat me with the respect I deserve.

I want to cry, but the tears don’t come. So I load the dishwasher, and close the windows. I blow out the candles, and I tell Alexa to turn off. I brush my teeth and wash my face, patting at the beard burn on my chin. I stare at myself in the mirror, and I try to tell the girl looking back at me that she’s worth more than some weird pornographic fantasy dreamt up by a random Italian she met on a “dating” app.

My bedroom smells like bodies, like sex. I want to throw my sheets out the window. I want to burn them. I do neither of these things. It is, after all, 1am. So I spray them aggressively with linen spray, as though I can evaporate the scent of the Italian with some overpriced essential oils and distilled water. I take a deep breath, and climb into bed. Shutting off the lights, I tell myself that this too shall pass, and I shut my eyes tight. I sleep like the dead, waking only when my alarm goes off at 7:30.

And then I get up, and I go about my day. Because there’s nothing else to do, is there? We wake, we live, we sleep, and we repeat. All day today, I’ve watched my phone for a text from M. An apology, maybe, for asking me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with. A simple “I’m sorry for reacting the way I did.”

It’s 4pm, and it hasn’t come. I don’t think it ever will.

img_4220

Today, I am 33 years old. WOOF, am I right? There’s no denying it: I’m a real adult. I have four weddings this year (and that’s just the ones I know of already!). People I know are starting to have babies. I’ve been in an apartment I own for over 2 years.

In other words, shit isn’t just getting real. It is real. I always feel reflective (and if I’m being honest, a bit emotional) around my birthday. I mean, can a girl get a boyfriend and can he send flowers to her office on her birthday FOR CRYING OUT LOUD?! Just kidding. Except not. What I would give for a man to send flowers to my office.

ANYWAY, my point is this: every year when my birthday rolls around, I start thinking about where I am in life. And inevitably, it’s not exactly where I want to be, or, perhaps more accurately, “where I thought I’d be.” Because it never is, is it? We hold ourselves to these crazy standards: This is the year I’ll fall in love! This is the year I’ll get married! This is the year I’ll get a new job! This is the year I’ll…

But what if this year, I tried to think differently? What if this year, my goal was simple: to live, and love, well. To stop waiting around to do the things I want to do, or say the things I want to say. To take the trips, and write the stories, and let the people I love know that I really love them.

Maybe, if I start there, I might just end up where I want to be.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll get through my birthday without some healthy reflection. So, let’s do it, shall we? Here are 32 things I learned in my 32nd year (alternate title: 32 things I know to be true at the dawn of 33).

img_0676

  1. Life is short. Over the past few months and weeks, I’ve watched multiple friends grapple with the worst of things: illness. Death. I’ve watched them rise, strong and mighty, vulnerable but powerful, to the occasion again and again. And I’ve thought to myself, nothing is forever. No day is guaranteed. Is it a cliché? Yes. But it’s also true: life is short. And it deserves to be lived. With gusto.

acs_0959

acs_0802

my mamas paying a visit to the grand apartment

  1. Your parents will not live forever. I’ve officially hit the age where it’s not unusual to lose a parent. God, I hate typing that sentence. I wish my parents would live forever, I really do. I hate that there are all these milestones I’ve yet to check off (see: wedding, kids) that they may not live to see. My mommy experienced some health issues this year and it threw me for a loop. Every time she called, my paranoia kicked in: was it cancer? Was she dying? I compulsively say “I love you” every time I get off the phone with my moms, just in case it’s the last time we speak. It’s insane, I know. But I know they won’t live forever, and so in addition to spending all the time I can with them, I want to be sure they know: they’re the best damn moms in the world.

acs_0919

my work team (a bunch of badass ladies)

  1. You cannot do it all (even though you want to). This past December, I hit rock bottom at work. Not to toot my own horn, but it takes quite a bit for me to hit that point. I am nothing if not insanely efficient. But between juggling multiple direct reports, a workload better fit for 3 people than one (yours truly), and a difficult coworker I just couldn’t seem to click with, I broke. And it wasn’t pretty. I cried not just at my desk, but in front of a very senior boss. I started to dread coming to work—a feeling that affected me more than the workload did. My boss saw it happening, and in the New Year, she intervened. She took me off one of my three accounts, a move that I’m at once thankful for, and one that makes me feel like a failure. Who am I if I can’t do it all? Um, a regular person, Sarah. Because NO ONE CAN DO IT ALL. Okay, I guess I’m still learning this one.

acs_0573

  1. There’s nothing wrong with a rest day. When I first got into working out a few years ago, I wondered: what was up with those crazy people who did 2 a days and who got up at the crack of dawn to run along the East River? And then, glory be, I became one of those people. You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but for the last few years, I’ve consistently worked out 6-7 times a week, sometimes doubling up on my workouts in a single day. For a while, I got on a schedule where I’d go weeks without a single rest day. I convinced myself that sleeping in and missing a workout was tantamount to undoing all the progress of the last 7 or so years. I mean, that’s ridiculous. After my two week trip in Europe this summer, I came back to New York and my classes and thought, oh my god, I’m going to have to start all over. But guess what? I didn’t! My body bounced back. It wasn’t 0-100, but it was pretty close to it. And I realized that maybe I could take a break every now and then. That I could release my grip just a bit. Now, I take a rest day on Friday or Saturday. And if I’m tired, I don’t beat myself up for sleeping in. I listen not to my crazy brain, but to my body. And so far, so good.

acs_0534

me, after nearly two weeks in europe

  1. A 2-week vacation is the best kind of vacation. I know: a 2-week trip (any trip, really!) is a luxury. But man, was my 2-week trip to Europe this summer magical. Sure, I was in a beautiful place eating beautiful food. Sure, I was with beautiful people (my friends). But more than that, I was away for long enough that my body, my brain, and my heart truly let go. Week 1 was fun, but I still felt myself caught up on the hamster wheel of the go go go mentality. It wasn’t until week 2 rolled around that I felt myself exhale. My smiles got bigger. My breathing got deeper. My mind rolled around in its cage for a bit, and then it settled. By the time I got back to New York, I felt something I haven’t felt in years: really, truly rested.

acs_0819

sipping coffee in mexico city

  1. The world is so much bigger than you can even imagine. I think I learn this more and more each year, and more and more each trip. Every time I travel, I seek out the smaller hotels. I look for the local haunts. I find the coffee shops and the hole in the wall restaurants, I jog along the water and shop in the local markets. It’s so easy, especially in New York City, to settle inside my bubble and never leave. But each time I do, I feel it: I feel my world expand. Sights, sounds, feelings, moments. The world is big, and I am but a speck atop it.

img_1321

my new insta friends turned IRL friends, tiina (left) and bev (right)

  1. Strangers on the internet can actually be quite nice. This was the year I made friends on Instgram—and met a few of them in real life. I know you’re nothing ‘til you have a few haters, but I’m thrilled (and perhaps flattered) to say that the tiny community I’ve built on Instagram over the past year or so has been nothing short of wonderful. I feel like I’ve found my people, and it feels really good. PS: If that’s you, thank you. I’m so glad you’re here.

 

  1. It’s okay to feel like you’re behind everyone else. Because the truth is, you’re on no one’s timeline but your own. Earlier this year, I had my AMH levels tested (one of the indicators of fertility). Rounding the corner to my mid-thirties, I know the facts: after 35, your chances of having a baby naturally drop drastically. In other words, TICK TOCK. But as it turns out, my AMH levels are pretty darn high. Which means that even though the stats show time is a wastin’, I might just have a shot—even though I’m eons behind everyone else. This knowledge meant more to me than you’ll know (and I wrote more about it here, if you’re curious).

 

  1. You have no need for energy vampires. Last year, I read a passage about energy vampires: people who suck the energy out of you when you’re around them. We all have those friends, right? Who leave you feeling glass half empty, rather than half full? I know a few of those people, and in my 32nd year, I vowed to stay away from them. Life is too short to spend with people who make you feel like shit. Full stop.
acs_0579

a slow morning at home

  1. If you’re sick, it’s your body’s way of telling you to slow down. Without fail, every single time I drank too much/worked too hard/stayed out too late/got too little sleep this year, my body threw up the middle finger. I learned to keep the colds at bay with natural remedies like elderberry syrup and oil of oregano, but those babies can only do much. The lesson? Don’t overdo it. And when your body says no, LISTEN.

 

  1. You don’t like running, and that’s okay. I tried, for years, to “learn how to be a runner.” I’d gone from an overweight couch potato to a still overweight (but very active!) fitness freak, and running was the one mountain I hadn’t conquered. For the last few years, I tried, in vain, to find that runner’s high everyone talks about. Spoiler alert: I never found it. And in my 32nd year, I let that shit go. Not everyone is meant to be a runner. And by that I mean: I think I am not meant to be a runner. It’s fine, though, because I’ve got SoulCycle.

 

  1. A good book is almost as good as a good friend. 8-year-old Sarah could have told me this—books were often better friends to her than actual humans were (especially because books didn’t get confused when you talked about feelings)—but books do something that sometimes, not even your very best friend can do. They lift you up, transporting you out of your body, into another story entirely. And then when you’re ready, they bring you back home again. And that’s quite a magical thing.

Side note: if books were friends, I’d be so goddamn popular.

img_0347

my weekend MO: baking and a podcast

  1. Same with a good podcast. Living alone in a funny thing. I quite like it most of the time, and then there are those stretches where I don’t see or talk to another human being for a few days (unless you count the barista who makes my coffee or the people who check me into my workout class) and I start to feel like I’m floating in the ether. Like maybe I’m a total loner who has no friends and who might never talk to another soul again. When I don’t have someone to call, and I’m tired of talking to Penny, I turn on my favorite podcasts. And suddenly, it’s as though I’m surrounded by friends; their voices of choir around me, assuring me it’ll all be okay.

 

  1. It’s okay to cry at work. Okay, in all honesty, I’m still working on this one. But it’s a big goal of mine: to feel my feelings (within reason, of course) and NOT beat myself up about it. I cried at work twice this year. Okay, three times. And each time, that tiny little voice in my head was shout-whispering, “DON’T CRY. DON’T DO IT. DO NOT CRY. NOT HERE! NOT NOW!” And each time, I CRIED. Because crying is a NATURAL HUMAN REACTION to feeling things, and as you’ve all probably gathered by now, I feel ALL THE THINGS almost all the time. Goal for 33: keep crying, and don’t hate myself when it happens.

 

  1. Your greatest hurt can become your superpower. A decade ago, I went through something that turned my life upside down. Something that threw me into a deep depression. Something that made me question my sanity, my worth, my life. And in my 32nd year, all these years later, I started to feel like I had things under control. Like maybe all of that pain had been worth something. That maybe, just maybe, life had torn me down and built me back up again for a reason: so that I could be someone better, someone stronger. I’ll carry that little piece of hurt in my soul for the rest of my days—but I’m starting to think that same hurt might just be what makes my heart so big.

acs_0508

i didn’t get married, but i did do this. 

  1. Things won’t be the way you thought they’d be. I’ve officially reached the age where most of my friends are married, and a few are even starting to have kids. And it’s obvious: I’m in my early thirties and I am not where I thought I’d be. In my 32nd year, I worked hard to make peace with that fact: to let go of the expectations of what should be, in hopes that it’ll open doors to what could be.
img_1383

hannah, my partner at work, and a damn good friend

  1. New friends can be found in the darkest of places. If you’re a regular reader around these parts, you’re well aware that the last few months at my job were, in not so many words, ROUGH. But out of the darkness, I found a spark of light—in a woman named Hannah. Hannah was hired as my art partner, but over the past few months of late nights and weekend work, has become so much more than that: we’ve become great friends. It’s one thing to be drinking wine in a dark conference room at 8pm on a Monday. It’s a whole other thing to be drinking wine in a dark conference room whilst cry-laughing about the ridiculousness of your situation, and knowing you’re not in it alone.

 

  1. A good mascara can be life-changing. It’s true. Mine is Glossier Lash Slick, and I may never go back to drugstore mascara again.

acs_0783

acs_0669

  1. Sweat will ALWAYS help. Unless you’re so hungover you can’t get out of bed. Then it’s better to stay home. Because no one wants to be the one dry heaving on a spin bike.

 

  1. It’s okay to cry, period. One of my most favorite things about New York City is the way you can cry in public without anyone batting an eye. New Yorkers often get a bad rap: We’re rude. We’re pushy. We’re unfriendly. Say what you will about our attitude, but I will tell you this: a New Yorker will never ever judge you for crying on a stoop outside a Duane Reade. They may stop and offer you a tissue, or a sympathetic glance, but never ever will they look at you like it’s insane to be crying in public. I cried in public multiple times this year, and MAN IT FELT GOOD.

acs_0507

my family, otherwise known as the people who keep me sane

  1. And you’re never too old to call your mom (see also: #2). I should know – I have two of them. And I try to call them a few times a week. Because as I said above, I know they won’t live forever.

 

  1. Your dream man probably isn’t on Tinder. I got screwed (and screwed over) enough this year to know: Tinder is NOT the place to meet your dream man. It’s a great place for unsolicited advice (actual message I received: “Sit-ups. Do some.”), and an even better place for unsolicited dick pics (actual photo I received: not pictured, but it was Parisian, and would have been greatly improved if it were wearing a tiny beret!). It is not a good place for actual dating, or meeting the man of your dreams. I hope 33-year-old Sarah remembers this next time she’s drunkenly swiping in an Uber at 1am.

 

  1. But he might be on Hinge. The two good dates I’ve been on this past year both came from Hinge. Granted, two isn’t much, but it’s too good against MANY bad on the Tinder front.

img_2800

my team of wonderful women

  1. It’s hard to be a good boss. But it’s worth it. Managing people, I have learned, is less about the work, and more about the people skills. I like people (I minored in sociology and psych), and I think my skills are relatively good. But sometimes, management feels like babysitting a bunch of toddlers who all want different things for dinner, and I’ve forgotten how to cook. Those are the hard days. Then there are the days when you watch the people on your team soar high above your wildest expectations, and you just want to yell, “THAT’S MY BABY! AIN’T SHE THE CUTEST/SMARTEST/MOST WONDERFUL CHILD EVER!?” On those days, all the bullshit is worth it, ten times over.

 

  1. People can only meet you where they are. Emotional intelligence is a thing, and it varies. I learned this time and time again this year, both in friendships and at the office. I cannot expect people to react the way I want them to react. I cannot expect them to react the way I would react. I can only expect them to react the way they react—to their best of their emotional capability. Asking (or hoping) for more than that is asking to be let down. We’re all just doing the best we can.

acs_0672

  1. You’ll never regret a workout. It’s hard to workout early in the morning. It’s even harder once winter rolls around, and it’s pitch black outside even at 7am. Here is what I’ve learned: if you can just get yourself out of bed, and brush your teeth, you’ll make it. Turning off your alarm (and not going back to sleep) is the worst part. Master that, and the rest is gravy. And you will never, ever, regret sweating it out.

img_3349

a last minute long weekend in paris with my friend sara

  1. Or a last minute trip. My trip to Paris this year couldn’t have come at a better time. I was tearing my hair out at work, considering walking out of the office and never coming back. It was 72 hours, maybe even a little less, two 6 hour flights (plus airport delays) and not quite enough sleep. But it was also 3 days in PARIS—3 days of sightseeing and wine, of covering miles of the city with hot coffee cups in hand, of heart to hearts and catch ups and more giggles than I could count. I came home exhausted, but I came home full. When I left, my cup was empty, when I returned, it runneth over.

 

  1. Time is a powerful healer. At the beginning of last year, I was ghosted by a guy I’d put a lot of emotional effort into for the past few months. He didn’t live here, it was an entirely phone-based relationship, and still, there was a teeny tiny part of me that thought, maybe this is it. I opened a little door in my heart, and in it, I told myself a story: that maybe I’d move to England. Maybe he’d move here. Maybe fate would find a way to bring us together. Fate had other things in mind (as did he), and the romance, whatever there was of it, really and truly, fizzled. And it hurt. BAD. But each day, it hurt a little less. By spring, I’d almost entirely recovered; by May, when I met up with him in London (ahead of a two week trip I was taking with friends), I felt strong enough to spend 24 hours with him and NOT have my heart break all over again.

img_0366

  1. Very little will make you happier than a Taylor Swift concert. And you should definitely splurge on the $200 tickets, because when she plays the side stage and she’s so close you can ACTUALLY SEE HER EVEN THOUGH YOU’RE IN A GIANT FOOTBALL STADIUM, you’ll experience a moment of bliss unlike any other.

img_9329

  1. Except maybe your cat. Nothing, and I repeat, nothing will comfort you like Penny will. There is unconditional love, and then there’s the unconditional love of an animal. There is truly nothing like it.

acs_0620

  1. There’s a big difference between being alone, and being lonely. And though you might often be physically alone, you’ll come to realize you don’t mind that—in fact, you might just like it.

acs_0955

me and my two oldest friends (31 years!) over the holidays

  1. And even when you feel alone, you’re not. Not really, at least. Because even though you might not have a husband, you do have your friends—a select few of which might as well be family, because you know they’d see you through just about anything (and you’d do the same for them).

TGA_HolidayGG18_Coworkers.jpg

if you work a 9-5 (or, like me, a 9-7ish), you (probably) spend a lot of time at work. in fact, when you really think about it, we spend more time with our coworkers than we do most of the other people in our lives. the older i get, the more i value the people i work with just as much as (if not more than!) the work itself–and i’m happy to say that my coworkers (some of who i’ve worked with for 5 years now) are some of my favorite people in this city.

working with people you like makes the long hours and stressful days infinitely more bearable. which is why i felt it was of utmost importance to dedicate a gift guide to them. so, without further adieu, here are a few fun things for the folks you share your days with.

sparkly gel pens, $12. i am well-known at work for my colorful pens. i have a basic set from muji, but my most favorite ones are my sparkly gel pens, which bring me back to my lisa frank days and make writing to do lists WAY BETTER. buy it.

color-blocked to do list, $12. i am a HUGE rifle paper co. fan, and this color-blocked to do list is no exception. there are three things from rifle on this list (can you pick them out?!), but this one might be my fave. simplicity wins all. buy it.

all the coffee mug, $14. because mondays exist, and so does the rest of the work week. buy it.

aesop resurrection hand balm, $27. the very best hand cream. smells like you just took a trip to the spa–without leaving your desk. buy it.

i am very busy cup, $15. because sometimes your drinkware needs to tell people to leave you alone. buy it.

astrology post-it, $4.50. when logic goes out the window, you’ve got to call in the big guns. for the coworker who loves tarot and crystals and is always talking about mercury being in retrograde. buy it.

forever busy charger, $35. for the days when she’s stuck in conference rooms and can’t plug in. buy it.

pizza rolls tote bag, $25. PRIORITIES, people. i’m damn proud to say i’m surrounded by a dozen badass ladies at work that i’d happily order this baby for. buy it.

rifle paper notebooks (set of 2), $14. for those of us who still take notes the real way (who else hates the insanely loud typers during meetings?!), there are these pretty notebooks. buy it.

fucking great job post-its, $4.50. sometimes, we all need a little reminder that we are killing the game. buy it.

rifle paper floral folders, $14. project folders, made much prettier. buy it.

brooklyn candle co “escapist” candle set, $55. if you can’t get away, you can make your desk/home smell like vacation. buy it.

boobs mug, $34. because everyone should have the chance to drink their morning coffee out of a boob mug. buy it.

 

 

TGA_HolidayGG18_BFFs.jpgwell, friends, we made it! it’s holiday season! and if you’re anything like me, you’re in FULL ON GIFT MODE. i know some people find holiday shopping tedious, but i quite like it. maybe that’s because i love shopping, period – but to me, there’s nothing better than a really great gift.

i don’t think gifts need to be overly serious, or overly expensive. rather, i look at them as a chance to get someone i love the kind of little luxury item they’d never buy for themselves. and never is that more true than when i shop for my closest friends–so who better to serve as inspiration for my first gift guide?

THIS ONE GOES OUT TO THE BFFs.

you know the ones. the women who answer your crazy texts at 2am. the ones who you can call and say, “i know this is silly but…” the ones who talk you off the ledge at work. the ones who blast old school jonas brothers songs with you in the car and pause at exactly the right part. the ones who know you almost better than you know yourself. having a close girlfriend is, i think, one of the most magical things in the universe. i’m very, very thankful for mine.

GIFTS FOR BFFS

olio e osso balm, $28. it’s blush! it’s lipstick! it’s eyeshadow! this multitasking colorful balm can do it all, and it smells amazing. buy it.

starry clutch, $60. i’m forever on the hunt for cute clutches/pouches. they’re packable, they’re perfect for a night one, and this one is a dreamy merlot hue with gold stars. what’s not to love? buy it.

fireplace candle, $38. i’m a huge fan of brooklyn candle co. they recently released this limited edition candle. it smells like cozy nights spent by the fire, and it’s millenial pink. yes please. buy it.

gold coffee scoop, $10. because everyone deserves to feel fancy AF when they make their morning coffee. buy it.

extra large mugs, $3.99 each. for those extra long days. buy it.

summer fridays jet lag mask, $48. this mask is pricey, but worth it. it makes you look instantly rested, whether you’ve just stepped off a 12-hour flight or you’ve barely slept a wink. buy it.

starry flannel pjs, $75. life gets exponentially better when you trade your ratty high school tee for fancy PJs. pair with face mask or slippers for the perfect “let’s stay in” gift. buy it.

swell “traveler” bottle, $35. i’m obsessed with my swell traveler. it keeps drinks hot for 12 hours and cold for 24. and i can toss it in my bag and KNOW it won’t leak. HELL YES. buy it.

cat spoon rest, $14. as a cat lady, i appreciate getting cat lady things – but much prefer when they’re of the sophisticated variety vs. the “you’re a crazy cat lady so i got you this weird knitted toy” variety. this spoon rest falls squarely in the former category. buy it.

emu mayberry slippers, $60. i bought these recently. best $60 i ever spent. i am obsessed. they are beyond comfortable, and they make me happy every time i look down at them. WIN WIN. buy it.

“grown ass lady” tote bag, $20. i own many emily mcdowell products, this tote included. i’ve bought it for many a friend, because let’s be honest: sometimes we need a reminder that WE ARE GROWN ASS LADIES AND WE DO WHAT WE WANTbuy it.

multi-colored acetate hoops, $48. sometimes, all you need is a statement earring. that is all. buy it.

heart trinket tray, $18. i collect these little trinket trays like nobody’s business. they’re where i keep earrings and other random jewelry. perfect for a dresser or bedside table, and a steal at $18. buy it.