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.

Fall_Favorites_Autumn_Essentials_1

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!

How To: Using Instagram to Plan the Perfect Trip

I love social media and I love to travel, so it probably isn’t much of a surprise when I say that I always use social media when planning a getaway. Instagram is particularly helpful, because people share the most beautiful place they saw during their day, which usually means it’s worth your time as well. This was really helpful in Costa Rica (check out all the highlights in this post) because it was a shorter trip, which meant less time to wander and happen upon the coolest places on our own. Here are 3 ways I used Instagram to make our trip extra-amazing:

1. Research Local Hashtags Before You Go

Start with basic location-based hashtags (like #costarica, #sanjose and #manuelantonio) and let Instagram’s suggestions lead you down a rabbit hole. Collect a list of 15 or 20 of the the most promising, based on how the photos look, how many posts there are and how relevant they are to what you want to do on your trip.

How To Use Social Media to Plan a Vacation | Succulents and Sunnies
There are 3 reasons you should do this:

  1. Take a look at what people are already posting to discover unique must-dos and restaurants.
  2. Post pictures of your own trip with these hashtags for more likes AND to help future travelers.
  3. Help local attractions find you. Cafe Milagro in Manual Antonio commented on a photo I posted and we ended up going 3 times. We would have never chosen it on our own, but the craft beer, live music and local coffee were all amazing!

2. Search the Cities You’ll Be Visiting

Instagram’s “Places” are also really helpful when you’re looking for things to do. I like this feature because it not only lets you scroll through all the photos tagged as in that city (Quepos, Costa Rica for example), but also at locations within that city (like Playa Manuel Antonio).

How To Use Social Media to Plan a Vacation | Succulents and Sunnies
This really helps when you’re trying to figure out which must-dos are where, especially when they’re not in a book or on Google Maps (like the can’t-be-missed Playa Biesanz). Plus, Instagram’s new location stories make this easier than ever!

3. Follow Local Attractions You Want to Visit

This goes for local businesses you’re planning on patronizing too. To stay up to date on hours, special events and even coupons, give places you really want to visit a follow. Their posts could help you decide what day you stop by or other nearby stops you should make. This tip can also be applied to Facebook and Twitter, depending on where the attraction or business is most active. If you’re visiting a country where you don’t speak the language, Facebook’s native translation will do a good enough job to get the point across.

Now go and plan a killer vacation! And let me know how you use social media to find the coolest places on your next trip.

The Answer is Yes: Made in Buffalo with Seth Godin

Buffalo was once a center for industry and innovation, and as this city moves into the future, it is also remembering that past. Don’t believe me? Then clearly you weren’t a member of the sold out crowd gathered at the Albright Knox to hear Seth Godin speak at the first event in the Buffalo Jewish Federation’s Made in Buffalo speaker series.

I was lucky enough to attend as a guest of Telesco Creative Group, who created some truly amazing deliverables for the series. I really owe the team at Telesco, especially Julia, so much. Not only for the opportunity to attend Seth’s Made in Buffalo event, but for taking a chance on a barely-out-of-college graduate who randomly emailed them and making me feel like a part of Buffalo’s growing creative community.

Seth Godin sees the world differently, and he’s really good at encouraging other people to do the same. Nothing Seth said was new in a “groundbreaking research” kind of way, but everything he shared felt exciting and fresh because of how he said it. Who else would start a marketing presentation at the Albright Knox Art Gallery with pictures of bats? No one. Why pictures of bats? Because bats look like bats, until you turn the pictures upside down, and then they look like the coolest partying animals EVER. Who even thinks like that?!

Seth Godin. The view from here.

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Seth does, and for an hour on Thursday night, he made 350 other people think like that too.

Seth’s focus on community, or “tribes,” is reflective not only of his Jewish heritage but of his Buffalo upbringing as well. All around the world, including Buffalo, people are flattening the bell curve. Instead of mass marketing products to the masses, successful companies are innovating products that appeal to smaller groups of people. The proof is in organizations like Instagram, Warby Parker and Chobani (all brands I LOVE, by the way), all making billions of dollars because they don’t need to appeal to everyone. Just a community of people who will become brand champions. Who needs traditional marketing when you have the power of word-of-mouth testimonies? These products and brands are “remarkable,” or “worth making a remark about.”

You can see this phenomenon in Buffalo too, as specialty shops pop up on Main Street, Hertel Ave. and Elmwood Village. Do I stop into the home goods stores? You bet, and I tell other people about them. The punk-rock jewelry shop? Maybe not, but they don’t need me, because they have their own community of brand champions.

Seth calls this take on business the connection revolution, an economy based on coordination, trust, permission, the exchange of ideas, generosity and art. Instead of products made for average people, which led to a “surplus of stuff and a shortage of attention,” there are brands for weird people, focused on interesting change for the better.

This new economy needs us to be fully present, in a way that is hard in today’s society. It needs us to act as if we won’t be judged. It needs us to live by the Italian phrase “salto mortale.” This translates literally as “deadly jump,” but Seth doesn’t want us to die, just take a risk. He’s asking us to put our emotions into our work, to innovate now. Not when we think we’re ready, because we’re never really ready (and it’s “always too soon,” but when we’re prepared.

We can’t do these things alone; we need our tribes of weird people who are just like us. When similar people connect, when they feel special and recognized, they have a power that a mass of average people can’t begin to imagine.

Seth asked us to clap slowly together, which took us around 7.5 seconds, similar to most audiences. It reminded me of something my college ballet professor would have us do: standing in a circle, eyes closed, she asked us to all jump simultaneously. No cheating with heavy breathing or moving around. Just feel each other and jump. It sounds bizarre (and very Ithaca College theater arts) until it works. And then it feels like magic. That’s the power of connected people with something in common.

Seth sums up his focus on connections with this: “People like us do things like this.” This statement is what gives brands like Harley Davidson their power (and revenue). They make millions promoting not products, but a way of life. They tell “people like us” how to “do things like this.” Harley Davidson became the leader of this group of motorcycle misfits.

Buffalo has “people like us” – both as a whole (we are the City of Good Neighbors, in good times and bad), and in our smaller tribes. We need leaders to tell us what to do, how to come together. Seth called on us to be those leaders, in a time when Buffalo is recreating itself as a better version of its past glory.

As Lenard Bernstein said, and Seth reminded us, “I’m no longer quite sure what the question is, but I do know that the answer is yes.”

Inspiration Straight from Big Magic

I am not a genius. I have a genius.

This is a distinction that took me by storm when I was first introduced to Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Pieces of this book were required reading in Dance Composition, a class that demanded more creativity than any business course could even imagine. One thing about business classes is that they indulged my perfectionist nature. You can ace a marketing exam or put together a well-researched media strategy that will knock your professor’s socks off. Creating a work of art with your body and the landscape around you can never be “perfect.” And this scares me.

Being able to separate myself from my creative ideas was a relief. And this separation of self and “genius” was only one of the ideas that I found helpful as I created performance art throughout the semester.

Because I aim to be a lifelong creator, maybe not in dance, but in writing and photography and other pursuits I have not yet discovered, I added Big Magic to my Christmas list this year. My grandpa (who I always ask for all the books I want, because he gives the list to his local bookkeeper who will order everything on the list if it’s not already in stock) delivered, and I’ve been working on this book most days at lunch. I first mentioned the book when I named it one the things that was getting me through winter.

The differentiation between being a genius and having a genius is just the beginning. Elizabeth Gilbert is a writer, and a successful one at that as author of the smashing success Eat Pray Love. After this success, she gave two TED talks on what led to her critical and commercial acclaim. This book is a continuation of those TED talks, and it remains just as casual and mind blowing as TED talks tend to be. Big Magic reads like a conversation, delivering thought-provoking and reassuring passages throughout.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert Review | Succulents and Sunnies

I have passages starred from beginning to end, and I find myself introducing ideas from it everywhere from Instagram to Bible Study. Just 40 pages in, Gilbert reaffirms that “You can support other people in their creative efforts, acknowledging the truth that there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or failures.” The first piece of this statement is something that I’m finding especially true here in Buffalo. The support and collaboration in the blogging and entrepreneur communities here is something I love to see both in my social media feeds and at networking events. The second is more personal, and possibly more important. While a growing readership is always nice, I’m focusing on making my goals for this blog about regular blog posts that are me. And that’s important.

Do you struggle being “original” enough to stand out? If not, please let me know how you do it. For the rest of us, Gilbert reassures us, saying “Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.” If being yourself is good enough for her, it’s definitely good enough for me. I also love Big Magic‘s focus on creating for your own reasons. I write this blog for me, and that’s okay, because “Your own reasons to create are reason enough.”

Gilbert offers such practical advice for fighting those periods of time when you just don’t feel creative. She talks about the practicality of working through these times doing something, anything. This is beyond helpful, as my real job becomes more and more writing-focused. Add freelance social media content and creative partnerships, and sometimes I’m just not feeling it by the time I go to write here.

This leads to another great point; creative pursuits aren’t likely to be your full time job. Even Gilbert had a full time job until after Eat Pray Love. It would be great to be an Instagram influencer who lived off freelance content creation and affiliate marketing. But my personal digital footprint is a labor of love, one that takes time and doesn’t pay. “People don’t do this kind of thing because they have all kinds of extra time and energy for it; they do this kind of thing because their creativity matters to them enough that they are willing to make all kinds of extra sacrifices for it.”

Putting in the time, writing regularly and sharing photos that are reflective of my thoughts and actions, is important, because that is all that is under my control. My success, as Gilbert points out rather directly, “[depends] upon three factors – talent, luck, and discipline – and I knew two of those three things would never be under my control.”

All of these gems, which are pushing me to work diligently on my creative pursuits, are sprinkled among personal anecdotes from the creative life Elizabeth Gilbert is living. She touches on the very real issue of depression among artists. She talks about how no work to too special to edit. There are times where writing could never describe real life, and times when writing is exactly what she needs to makes sense of reality.

While we should work and work and work towards exactly what we want, there are times when we are swept into furies of creativity. Those moments when you can’t write fast enough to get it all down, those huge waves of inspiration that come to you out of nowhere. They’re because of, Gilbert says, Big Magic. For those of us striving to live creatively, without fear or darkness, we must accept Big Magic when it comes to us, because we are not geniuses. We have geniuses.

Inspired by Coffee ☕

This image from Steamworks, which I first posted on Instagram, was picked to be part of last week’s Step Out Buffalo Project #HashtagStepOutBuffalo roundup. I love these roundups and I am so honored to be a part of this amazing collection of local photos!

This isn’t the first time I’m mentioning Steamworks, the new cafe in Lockport. I highly recommend a trip there for an afternoon of coffee and board games! Unfortunately, I can only recommend the pour over brews, because they’re so good I haven’t tried anything else.

Last week, I discovered #MoodBoardMonday, which I cannot believe I didn’t know existed before now. I love, love love mood boards, but I haven’t had a chance to work on any branding projects lately. The discovery of this hashtag made me miss the inspiration I always sense when putting together the perfect feel for a new project.

Who says you need a real project to get inspired? Not me! I’m using the cozy, steampunk feel of the coffee shop to guide this collection of images, colors and textures.

I love the comforting, homey textures of the wood grain and coffee stains paired with the edgier, technicolor rust that is at the same time natural and otherworldly. The burlap coffee bags and soothing watercolors add rustic touches. The smooth white coffee cups and carafes, along with the sleek keyboards and cameras of the shop’s patrons finish off the space into a symbiotic collection of textures and colors that leaves me inspired.