4 Accessories You Need for Your Next Beach Day

There is something so satisfying about escaping to warmer weather when it’s still below freezing in Buffalo. This week, we packed our bags and traveled to Anna Maria Island, Florida where we were greeted by sun and sand. While I packed plenty of sundresses and even jeans for chilly nights, the most important beach accessories didn’t take up much room in my luggage.

Must Have Accessories for Beach Day | Anna Maria Island, Florida | A New Day Sunglasses | Floppy Sun Hat

1. A Hat

A hat is an essential beach day accessory that keeps your scalp from burning and shields your eyes from the sun. The weather and our plans for the day dictated what hat I wore. I love this floppy sun hat with a pretty bow for lounging on the sand on clear, calm days. For a morning out on the boat or windy weather, my favorite UT baseball hat was a better fit.

2. A New Day Clubmaster Sunglasses

A New Day is a recently launched Target-exclusive brand with lots of cute accessories. These were a complete impulse buy just days before we left for Anna Maria Island. I love that they’re a classic shape with just enough details that they’re not boring. They also fit my smaller face really well.

Must Have Accessories for Beach Day | Anna Maria Island, Florida | Pura Vida Bracelets Silver Wave Ring

3. Pura Vida Bracelets Silver Wave Ring

This dainty accessory adds just a touch of nautical sparkle to my beach day ensemble. The ring was a Christmas gift from Shannon, along with an Anna Maria Island sticker and coozie. This gift had me daydreaming of the beach for the past 3 months!

Must Have Accessories for Beach Day | Anna Maria Island, Florida | Cool Gear Tumbler

4. Cool Gear Tumbler

Keeping drinks cold is a very real beach day struggle. I love this tumbler because it has a wide mouth for ice cubes. The double walls keep it from sweating, so sand is way less likely to stick and end up in my bag or the cooler.

5 Reasons I Can’t Wait for Warmer Weather

Shoveling inches of heavy snow after this week’s late-winter storm, just days after the weather seemed to be turning towards spring for good, has me dreaming of warmer weather. Spring and summer in Buffalo make winter bearable. I can’t wait until we’re eating on patios, grilling and planting flowers.

There’s so much to look forward to as the weather gets warmer, including these 5 things I’m most excited for:

  • Choosing lawn furniture. Cody and I moved into our apartment just as the weather was cooling off last October. This spring and summer, we’re excited to create a little oasis in our backyard, which was one of the reasons we chose the apartment we did. Lawn furniture, Cody’s new grill and a colorful collection of planters are very much on my mind.
  • Riding outside. Barn time is my favorite stress reliever all year round, but it’s definitely more relaxing when you can feel your toes.
  • Open toe shoes. Sometime in August, I start craving booties, but by March I’m so ready for strappy sandals and boat shoes. I’m also a big fan of going entire days without wearing any shoes, which definitely isn’t an option with 6 inches of snow on the ground.
  • Weekly trips to Lake Effect. Because our closest Lake Effect Ice Cream location is now Hertel Ave. instead of Lockport, we don’t have wintertime access to our favorite flavors. Fingers crossed this comes sooner rather than later!
  • Road trips. We don’t have any specific vacation plans for the summer, but I’m guessing warmer weather will hold weekend trips to the Finger Lakes, Allegany and Salem.

What I’m Reading Right Now

I love a good book and my family knows it, so the months following Christmas are always filled with a very long reading list, which I’m sharing here. I’m slowly working my way through a few books right now; next month we’re headed to Florida, where hopefully I’ll fly through a few books while laying on the beach.

The Amateur Emigrant by Robert Louis Stevenson

This is the only book on the list that I bought for myself. I found it in West Side Stories for a few dollars and haven’t had a chance to start it yet. This is a short (and lightweight) one that I’ll be sticking in my bag when we go on vacation.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

I’m about a quarter of the way through this novel and I’m really enjoying it so far. I’ve only put in a few pages at a time at the breakfast table. The characters and action are so easy to picture, which makes it nice to pick up when I have a couple of extra minutes to sip my coffee in the morning.

What I'm Reading Now | Succulents and Sunnies

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I added Born a Crime to my Christmas list after a few recommendations from friends. This is another one on the list that I have not started. I’m excited to crack it open, but I think it might be one that deserves undivided attention. I’m waiting for a low key long weekend to dive in.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Reading Catch 22 has been a years-long process. I started it again this fall after getting only a few chapters in when I first received it a few years ago. It’s very good, but doesn’t exactly leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling inside – not that all books should!

Culturematic by Grant McCracken

I always like having a book in my bag to read during lunch at the office. Culturematic, my last lunchtime book, was very interesting. I think I would have liked a college course based on the book, but I won’t be keeping it around now that I’ve finished it.

What I'm Reading Now | Succulents and Sunnies

The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines

Paige got me this for Christmas (along with Hearth & Hand goodies) and I’ll probably take it to Florida as well. I adore Chip & Joanna and will gladly invest my time learning a little bit more about how they created the farmstyle empire they run today.

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is not high end literature by any means, but gosh I love her stories of summer romance. This was not my favorite of her books, but it was a cute read that took just a couple of days.

Are you reading anything good right now? Let me know in the comments!

Starting 2018 with a Few Small Changes

Taking time at the beginning of the year to set goals helps me make changes I’ve been meaning to make throughout the previous months. Nothing major, but little changes that I feel make a difference. One year, I started making my bed in the morning. Another, I promised myself I would actually floss my teeth every day.

This year, January was a non-stop whirlwind of weekend trips, blogging about them, job interviews and holidays. Trying to set and maintain goals would not have been fair to myself. February promises to be a bit more relaxed with more time at home, perfect for a positive start to my resolutions for 2018.

1. Blog once a week

My current content calendar includes 1 new blog post a week, so this goal is definitely obtainable. My biggest change will be planning ahead when I know I won’t have time to write during a given week. Having content written and photos edited before I need them is a simple change that will hopefully make my life easier!

2. Edit a video

I never want to be a vlogger and I don’t particularly enjoy watching long vlogs, but I do like a good challenge and learning new skills. I took a bunch of video footage at Allegany State Park during a camping trip with friends last fall. We had warm, sunny weather and the raw video is really pretty. Compiling a short video of the trip is definitely on my long term to do list.

3. Post an Instagram story once a day

Sharing snippets of the everyday makes a difference in the number of followers I have. Other people have also noticed that regular behind the scenes updates help keep new followers around. I also don’t feel as pressured to post picture-perfect images to my feed on a regular basis when I’m active on Stories.

4. Take social media breaks

This is probably going to be the most difficult item on this list for me, but I want to take 1 day a month to completely ignore what’s happening on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Social media isn’t all bad, but it does affect my ability to focus and my outlook on any given day.

5. Eat well

I won’t be dieting anytime soon, but keeping a balanced diet is always a goal. My eating habits the last few months, between moving out of my parents’ house, the holidays and travel, are not impressive. More vegetables, less dessert.

It’s Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so I’m not one to rush Christmas shopping, decor or celebrating.

But now, the second weekend in December, it really is starting to look and feel a lot like Christmas. Last night, I got to see In a DC Minute‘s beautiful Fox Cross Farm decorated in Christmas glory. Afterwards, I joined Shannon and Morgan for a night of baking cookies and Christmas movies.

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It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas Decor

Today, the Bills are on TV, playing in an actual snowstorm while flurries go past our kitchen window. My cinnamon tea is hot and dinner is in the Crock-Pot. (If this post didn’t sound just like my mom in the first few paragraphs, it now sounds as if she’s writing my blogs.)

With the general cheer of this weekend, I wanted to share how Cody and I are getting our little home ready for our first Christmas here. Last Saturday, we found a beautiful tree at Jurek Plantations. We both brought our favorite ornaments from home before finding a few store-bought additions.

It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas Decor

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It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas Decor

In other spaces, we switched out throw pillows and added twinkling lights, pine boughs, a framed thank you card Paige made a few years ago, Willow Tree angels and a few handmade decorations from Filomena’s Favorites in Medina. I’ll definitely be shopping some post-holiday sales to pick up a few more items to decorate with next year!

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It's Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas Decor

The Perfect Farmhouse Table for Your Tiny Apartment Kitchen

When Cody and I moved into our apartment, we realized the 5 person dining table from his great grandpa wasn’t going to fit in our eat-in kitchen. And neither was anything we could buy for a reasonable price. So we made our own, without too many missteps.

Keep scrolling for our entire shopping and cut lists!

This project took us the better part of 3 weeks, but it could easily be finished in a weekend if you don’t have as many distractions as we did. I wasn’t planning on posting about this project, so I don’t have step-by-step photos – but it turned out too good not to share! I love how simple it is, which makes it easy to decorate no matter the season.

Farmhouse Kitchen Table for Small Apartment | Shopping List and Cut List

Farmhouse Kitchen Table for Small Apartment | Shopping List and Cut List

As always, measure twice and cut once! We found that after cutting our five short pieces for the table top, the width was slightly more than what we estimated; it all depends on the cut of the boards. After cutting and sanding everything individually, we assembled the legs, aprons and support bar. The apron is set in a quarter inch from the outside of the legs. We measured at both the top and the bottom of the apron, then put on wood glue before attaching the pieces with screws.

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Farmhouse Kitchen Table for Small Apartment | Shopping List and Cut List

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Farmhouse Kitchen Table for Small Apartment | Shopping List and Cut List

For the top, we assembled everything on the ground before attaching that to the base. Once everything was together, we sanded the top again to knock down some of the less than perfect seams. We could have planed either the pieces individually or the table top as a whole, but that would have slowed us down even more, so we chose to love the imperfections on the top.

If you have the space, it would be easier to stain and paint before attaching the two pieces, but we did not do this. Painter’s tape worked just fine to keep the stain and paint separate.

We chose a dark wood stain for the table top, to make up for the fact that we used pine (which was wayyy less expensive than hardwood) and painted the legs a creamy white.

To get the finished look, we used just 1 coat of Minwax’s Wood Finish Penetrating Stain in Espresso 273 and 3 coats of Mixwax’s water based Polycrylic protective finish. The only downside is that this finish is not super heat-resistant. For the legs, I used this tutorial on color washing with Behr’s Heavy Cream. It’s very easy and takes almost no paint, which is nice.

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Farmhouse Kitchen Table for Small Apartment | Shopping List and Cut List

Eventually, I’d like to find chairs that are a little more farmhouse style, but we’re using the chairs from Cody’s grandpa’s table and they work just fine!

Shopping List

2 4″x4″x8′ fir boards
2 1″x8″x8′ pine boards
2 1″x4″x6′ pine boards
8 oz Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish
8 oz Minwax Wood Finish Penetrating Stain
8 oz Behr Premium Plus Ultra Interior Matte
Kreg Pocket Hole Jig Kit
Kreg 100 Count 1-1/4 inch Screws
4 oz Elmer’s Carpenter Wood Glue
Paintbrush
Fine Sandpaper (for between coats of Polycrylic)

Materials We Already Had

5″ Orbital Sander
5″ Orbital Sandpaper (a medium grit works fine)

Cut List

For the Top

5 21.75″ from the 1x8s (Four of these will come from 1 board and 1 from the 2nd board)
2 36.25″ from the 1x8s (This may change slightly, depending on the exact width of your 1x8s.)

For the Aprons and Support

4 26.25″ from the 1x6s
1 31.25 from the 1x6s

For the Legs

4 identical cuts from the 4x4s (The height will depend on what chairs you’re using; it really doesn’t matter as long as they’re all the same!)

My Fall Favorites: Essentials for Making the Most of Autumn

It’s officially autumn and even though it’s still warm in the afternoon, the mornings have been cool and foggy. Fall is my favorite season and October is my favorite month. I make the the most of fall with mums in every shade of yellow, red and purple, apple pie and cable knits. And yes, that is a pumpkin spice latte in my coffee cup.

These are my favorite fall accessories:

1. L.L. Bean Boots
Breaking out my fall shoes is an occasion worth celebrating, and no pair of boots makes me happier than my Bean Boots. They’re so comfy and my favorite fuzzy socks fit inside! I’ve also found that some of my favorite fall activities take place in my Bean Boots. Cue the cool weather hikes, fall festivals and weekend camping trips.

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2. Columbia Thermal Crew Socks
I love thermal socks and wear them the majority of the year. These are by far my favorites: they don’t fall down, the aren’t too fluffy and they keep my feer super warm. Bonus: I found these socks at TJ Maxx for less than they’re listed online on Columbia’s website.

3. Mums
This one is pretty self explanatory. What’s not to love about mums at the entrance of every store and on every porch in every fall color.

My Fall Favorites and Autumn Essentials

4. Yankee Candle Spiced Pumpkin Car Jar
I *highly* recommend investing in a fall-scented Car Jar. After my car is sitting in the sun all day, I open the door and it honestly smells like I’m pulling pumpkin cookies out of the oven. Who doesn’t need that after a long day at the office?

5. Artisan de Luxe Nell Throw
I almost bought this for myself last week at Home Goods, and, in a testament to how well my mom knows my style, she bought it for me for my birthday this week. The rich texture compliments our worn leather couch and natural throw pillows really well and I’m excited to curl up in it as the weather gets cooler.

My Fall Favorites and Autumn Essentials

6. Nanny’s Apple Pie
My grandma was a fantastic baker, and nothing was more impressive than her Thanksgiving staple, apple pie. My aunt is continuing the apple pie tradition. If I’m the one making, I’m more of an apple crisp kind of baker, but nothing is quite the same as a flaky crust and perfectly layered apple slices.

7. Homemade Concord Grape Jelly
This is probably a weird addition to a fall favorites list for those of you who don’t look forward to picking grapes off the vine in September every year. My dad’s uncle’s vineyard looked (and tasted) delicious when we visited last month; there’s nothing better than concords warmed by the sun on a fall day. And of course, there’s nothing to do with the pounds of grapes we picked but to make jelly!

My Fall Favorites and Autumn Essentials
Also, how cute is this apple hand towel my grandma embroidered?

8. Mossimo Supply Co. Cable Knit Cocoon Cardigan
If it was in my budget, I’d buy this sweater in every color. It’s so warm and cozy, and it comes in the best fall colors. The cable knit adds a little extra texture that makes this sweater perfect for throwing over a summer tank and calling it fall, which is my favorite kind of fashion.

9. Falling Leaves
Autumn is synonymous with gorgeous foliage. I spent countless hours pressing fall leaves in phone books as a kid, and did it again last fall for my holiday gift tags. No matter how old I get, there is such thrill in finding an unblemished red leaf on the ground.

This Dance Is For Me + My Favorite Improv Songs

The first time I was asked to improvise was in a ballet class freshman year of college. I was already out of my element, a communications major in my second semester in a room filled with sophomore musical theater and acting majors. Sometimes remembering a barre warmup in front of them was more than I could handle.

My dance background in ballet, jazz and tap didn’t include any improv, so this request to just move with new music was scary. Terrifying even.

I always loved moving around to the music on the radio. I have a hard time listening to music at work because I’m constantly bobbing up and down, choreographing in my head to whatever song is on. That choreography got in the way when I tried to improv. Instead of letting go, I tried to remember every move I made, in case it turned out “good.”

By the next time I was asked to improv, I had declared my dance minor, was a junior, was used to dancing without the mirrors and even liked end-of-class partner massages. It turns out I really enjoyed improvising once the awkward factor was out of the way.

Improv Playlist | Succulents and Sunnies

The ability to move without caring what you look like or what other people think is a true skill, one that took a long time for me to develop. These days, the ease of improv – you don’t need a ballet barre or big space or the perfect song – makes it the form of dance I do most. Sneaking into the group exercise room between spin class and kickboxing at the gym for a little movement is my happy time in my post-college world. Who cares about the woman doing core or the guys jumping rope? This dance is for me.

If you’re looking for a few songs to get up and move around to, these are some of my favorites:

Nothing Better than the Outside of a Horse

“I’ve often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” – Ronald Reagan

These words are incredibly true, and have been since my first horseback riding lesson at age 9. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed a recent increase in the number of horse pictures. There’s kind of a lot of them. The last year, I’ve been back at the barn and it feels good.

There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as a couple of hours at the barn; not necessarily riding – sometimes that goes pretty badly – but brushing, bathing, grazing and feeding endless carrots. These hours are special and after 4 horseless years, I’m still feeling extra thankful I get to have them.

This year, I’m spending those hours with Johny. He’s possibly the happiest, sweetest, cuddliest lesson horse on the planet. Johny was the first horse I showed, and while we were never going to win a class, we both learned a lot about working as a team.

Nothing Better than the Outside of a Horse | Succulents and Sunnies | Niagara County 4H Show

Nothing Better than the Outside of a Horse | Succulents and Sunnies | Niagara County 4H Show

Last weekend, Johny and I broke out the hoof polish and saddle soap for an open show. After we both got over a little bit of nerves, we had so much fun! Horse shows are kind of like dance recitals. Practice is fun, but also hard. When you get to a show, all dolled up, you do your best, but it’s not the place to make any big changes. You just get to ride and hope nothing too terrible happens. And nothing did – we couldn’t ask for anything more!

Thanks to our personal show photographer Katheryn Krawczyk for the pictures!

Love Ya Like a Sister

My sister and I are close, bonded by our love of cute coffee shops, affinity for new adventures and the misery of both not understanding what your parents are talking about and simultaneously becoming them. Despite this, Paige and I haven’t lived under the same roof in years. Some of that time, we were both in Ithaca, meeting up for Saturday morning coffee dates when we were both free. Others, we were hours apart, one of us home and the other in Ithaca.

Cody and his siblings are incredibly close, and when Cody’s brother moved to Rochester last month, we knew that we’d be gathering often, thankfully only a few Thruway exits apart. This weekend we celebrated the first of many “Siblings’ Weekend,” full of family updates, breweries, boating and ice cream sundaes.

Love Ya Like a Sister | Siblings Weekend | Succulents and Sunnies

Love Ya Like a Sister | Siblings Weekend | Succulents and Sunnies

Love Ya Like a Sister | Siblings Weekend | Succulents and Sunnies

While Cody’s sister and his brother’s girlfriend aren’t my sisters, they do a pretty good job of filling in when Paige hasn’t been home in a while. This weekend, my heart was so full of love and laughter, fueled by a sunset boat ride, flatbread pizzas on the patio, trail mix and Impractical Jokers. Many thanks to Patrick and Shannon for making this weekend happen. Can’t wait for next time!