My Favorite Spots in DC

My Favorite Spots in DC

3 summers ago, I made my first move to Washington, DC and began to call this wonderful city home.  Like any major city, there’s plenty of spots everyone tells you that you have to make it to you and I will say, DC’s tourist spots are wonderful, but I think there are so many spots that people miss and overlook when they come to this area and they truly miss some of the wonder that DC has to offer. I’m giving a little insight into my favorite places in the city and some of the places I’m hoping to make it to very soon.

My favorite spots:

  • The Kennedy Center. I missed out on this spot for far too long and I had NO idea what I was missing.  Seeing a show in the opera house transports you back to a time of old Hollywood glamour.  The views from this place are also unbeatable. It is a spot that many people skip over, but making time even just to check out the rooftop is so worth it– you can see the monuments, Virginia, and my favorite area, Georgetown.

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  • See the monuments at night.  If you’re in DC, you definitely have the monuments on your must-see list but if you’re only seeing them during day, you are missing out on some of DC’s prettiest sights.  There’s such a special feeling to the monuments at night and I think it is one of the most calming sights. It is worth checking out.
  • The Portrait Gallery.  The Portrait Gallery is off the path of the National Mall, but it is one of the best Smithsonians DC has to offer.  Seeing the portraits of every President throughout the year is an amazing and engaging way to get to see a part of America’s history.

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Places I want to visit:

  • Dumbarton Oaks.  Dumbarton Oaks is a historic estate in Georgetown that I have been meaning to visit for years, but haven’t made my way to yet.  It is an absolutely gorgeous house and grounds and I really hope to get the chance to explore it this summer.

 

  • The Wharf.  The wharf is on most people’s list of places to visit in DC, but with its distance from Georgetown, I have never gotten myself down there.  It is a spot that I think has so much life and culture (and views) and I really want to see this fun area.
  • Old Town, Alexandria.  Though not DC proper, Alexandria is a spot I really want to check out.  Coming from a small town, I always love getting to explore spots that remind me of home.  I’m hoping to make a trip to Alexandria this holiday season to join in the festivities there.

 

DC is such a fun city and there are so many places to check out!  These are just a few of my absolute favorite places and the places on my always growing wish list.  What are some of your favorite DC spots?

 

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Take a Break

Take a Break

You make your plans and life makes other ones for you.  

I had no intentions of taking a social media break at all this summer.  I blogged while on vacation and was planning to start my job, settle into my new place, and keep going with the blog as usual.  Life didn’t think that was the best plan for me and I decided to follow that cue: I took a two week break from my blog and Instagram.  

The break happened naturally– I would sit down to write, but I didn’t have the words or energy to say anything.  To put it simply, I was experiencing complete burn out. I blogged through the school year, finals, and then my vacation.  I felt like I was blogging because I had to, but I didn’t feel like I was creating content I was truly proud of. I felt like I had gotten to a point where I wasn’t being a service and I was a bit lost from my own personal mission statement of serving others, as my mind focused more and more on growth and following.

So, when life got busy and the words escaped me, a break felt like the exact move I needed to take.  And, not having social media did make a difference. I could take more effort to settling into my new house and new job.  I could spend time with friends and be fully in the moment, not thinking about my posting schedule. And the amazing part was that during this break, I felt my creativity skyrocket again.  I constantly was having ideas for blog posts and Instagram photos and stories. I felt like I could see why I started blogging again: to share my life in the hopes of helping someone else.

So, I recommend taking a break every once in a while.  In a culture that praises hustling and hard work, taking a break feels almost impossible.  But, when you push yourself constantly, you burn out. You need the break to recharge and find your direction again.  You might find yourself feeling better than you ever did at the end of it.

 

Exploring Southern California: Studio Tours (Part Three)

Exploring Southern California: Studio Tours (Part Three)

A little known fact about me is that I am a bit of a movie junkie.  I absolutely love going to the movies and I basically live for Oscar season.  For this reason, I was SO excited to go to LA and have the opportunity to tour the studios where magic happens.  I had the opportunity to go on three different studio tours: Sony Pictures, Universal Studios, and Warner Brothers.  I enjoyed each of these tours. Here’s the details and differences of each one:

Sony Pictures: This tour definitely takes a more historic approach, which I was very excited about as entertainment history is what I want to specialize in.  The tour begins with a video and a stop to the Sony Pictures museum, which includes the Seinfeld set and various costumes and props used in movies like the Spiderman films.  We learned about how this lot came to be Sony Pictures and the history of both MGM and Columbia Pictures. The lot is formerly MGM’s but unfortunately, the studio sold off many of its sets, props, and costumes when it hit financial difficulties and it is unknown where these items ended up.  The lot does still have many small details that honor this past– the office buildings, which were once apartments for the stars, are named after the stars who lived in the buildings (my favorite to see was the Hepburn Building, named for Katharine Hepburn, who I am named after– my mom is also a huge movie fan).  The next stop on the tour was the Jeopardy! Set.  The set was much larger than I had ever imagined and I was able to take a picture at one of the previous podiums.  Next, we visited the set of The Goldbergs.  Seeing this set was so cool, as it is such a unique set and show, with much of the decorations being from the creator’s actual home.  Finally, we walked the backlot and saw many of the cars used in films, including the cars from Ghostbusters. This studio felt the most like a working studio and if you’re lucky, you might even get a celebrity sighting! I would definitely recommend this tour, especially if you are interested in entertainment history and the old golden age of Hollywood.

NOTE: This is a 2-hour walking tour.

Universal Studios: This tour is located within the theme park Universal Studios: Hollywood and feels much more like a ride than the other two tours.  You board a very large tour bus and begin to go through the backlot of Universal. We visited the streets of New York first before going into our first piece of immersion: a 3D King Kong experience meant to demonstrate the power of special effects.  I was a bit disappointed here to find that this experience was simply a snippet of the King Kong ride located in Universal Studios in Orlando. We drove by some of the famous cars used in film, before going to Little Mexico where movie rain and flooding was demonstrated to us.  We saw a set for Jaws, which was not used for Jaws but rather Murder, She Wrote, before seeing a backlot for a scene of Jurassic Park.  We drove down the road where town scenes are filmed and continued to Whoville.  The buildings in Whoville are actually made of styrofoam to get the weird shapes!  We also saw the sets for Bates Motel and the destroyed plane in War of the Worlds.  The ride ends with taking you through another 3D experience: the Fast and Furious ride (it is a replica of the Orlando version).  This was the shortest tour we took, being an hour long, and was the most ride-like.

Warner Brothers: This tour is part walking and part driving cart, a combination of the other two we took.  We started by seeing a cabin that has been used in True Blood and Hart of Dixie.  I am a big Hart of Dixie fan and was amazed at how they transformed this cabin into the beloved Rammer Jammer.  Next, we visited the part I was most excited for: Midwest. Midwest is used to represent any town and can famously be recognized as Bluebell in Hart of Dixie, Rosewood in Pretty Little Liars, and my personal favorite, Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls.  We got to get off and walk around here, going into the inside of Lorelai Gilmore’s house (spoiler: it’s also Sookie’s house) and seeing how they used these houses to film.  We also saw the house used for Fuller House here and the streets used for the Jersey scenes of Jersey Boys.  Next, we visited the streets of New York followed by a prop museum.  This museum held props from Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Harry Potter, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. We also got to see the Batmobiles throughout the years.  The guided tour ends and you enter an interactive area where you get to learn about filmmaking.  Here, you can see costumes from the new A Star is Born, take a picture on the set of Friends, and hold an Oscar.  This was the longest tour we took, clocking in at 3 hours. I really enjoyed this tour and would definitely recommend it, especially for younger girls, as many of the sets you see are aimed at this age group.

Overall, I enjoyed each of the tours.  I would recommend trying to check them all out but if you are pressed for time, I would definitely do either the Sony or Warner Brothers tour.  Both of these give great insight into the behind-the-scenes magic that occurs on the movies.

 

Exploring Southern California: Part One

Exploring Southern California: Part One

With the school year finished and my internship not starting until the beginning of June, I had some rare free time.  This summer, I am filling this otherwise dead time with a trip to Los Angeles. I am so excited about this trip and to share little snippets of my day both here and on Instagram.  I love to travel and I have always wanted to get to know the West Coast better, so I am loving the opportunity to travel and see all that this area has to offer.

Day One: Travel Day!

Call me weird, but I always get SO excited for long flights because I love getting to disconnect and catch up on movies.  I am a total movie junkie, so six hours on a plane just watching movies is the best to me. This time, I watched Mary, Queen of Scots, I Feel Pretty, and Smallfoot.  Mary, Queen of Scots is one of my favorite historical figures and Saorise Ronan is one of my favorite actresses so I was thrilled to finally get to watch this movie! If you’re a European history lover, I would recommend it, but if not, it might not be your type of movie.

After getting into LAX, we picked up our luggage and rental car and drove a little over an hour to our hotel, Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas.  We checked in, dropped off our luggage, and went out for dinner at Sol Mexican Cocina.  I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant!  We had shrimp taquitos for our appetizer and I got the chicken street tacos as my entree and they were AMAZING.  Our waitress was so kind and even gave us a dessert, which was so tasty I never even had time for a photo. We are making plans to get back to this restaurant asap.  After dinner, we returned to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.

Day Two: The Richard Nixon Library & Museum and Exploring the Resort

I am a total history nerd and that is about to show through SO much.  One of my biggest bucket list items is I want to visit every Presidential Library in my lifetime.  Before this trip, I had visited the libraries of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and Franklin Roosevelt.  When my dad pointed out that we would be near Richard Nixon’s Presidential Library this trip, I jumped at the chance to go and mark another Presidential Library off my list.

The library was truly fascinating.  I’ve studied Richard Nixon numerous times in classes, but I had never taken such an intensive look at him.  The library also really dives into Watergate, which I appreciated and found so interesting. My favorite part though was exploring the outdoor grounds.  Pat Nixon’s rose gardens are so beautiful, I kept stopping to look at every flower we passed. We also got to tour the house outside that Richard Nixon was born in and spent his early childhood in, which was a really cool and unique experience.  While this library was not my favorite of the libraries I’ve toured so far, I truly did enjoy it and loved the opportunity to learn about Richard Nixon from a perspective I haven’t had before.

After we finished the library, we stopped at Blaze Pizza for a quick lunch and then went back to our hotel.  It was too beautiful a day to stay inside, so we went out to explore the resort grounds a bit more. This place is so gorgeous, with views of the Pacific everywhere (including our room balcony!).  Everywhere on these grounds is stunning and I am truly in love with the resort and with the beauty of California.

Afterwards, we went for a late dinner at Reunion Kitchen + Drink in Laguna Beach.  I’ll be honest– I was mostly excited about this spot because I watched every episode of Laguna Beach and the Hills when I was in high school as a guilty pleasure.  Getting to go to the town where it all started, even if just for a restaurant, was super exciting. The food also was amazing at this restaurant, which was a wonderful end to a great first full day here in California.

Day 3: The San Diego Zoo

It has been about fifteen years since I last went to San Diego, so you could say my memories of the zoo and the city were pretty murky.  I did remember seeing pandas here, so you could say I was slightly disappointed today when I found out that the San Diego Zoo no longer has any giant pandas.  Despite this set back, we had a lovely day at the zoo!

Fun Fact: The San Diego Zoo has the largest colony of koalas outside of Australia.  I was SO excited to get to see the koalas and they were so adorable. They don’t do much, as they sleep approximately 22 hours a day, but they look like teddy bears when they sleep.  I could have spent hours just watching them.


After the zoo, we drove back to Newport Coast and grabbed dinner and called it an earlier night than we have been having.  Tomorrow, we are continuing our adventures and heading to Beverly Hills and yes… I will be singing this song the entire day.

The Importance of Behind the Scenes Moments

The Importance of Behind the Scenes Moments

I view Instagram and social media as an art form.  There is so much time and creativity put into it that often goes unnoticed.  And just like with any art, we want to get it perfect. Our feeds should be aesthetically beautiful, our captions should be perfectly palpable, and our writing should be eloquent and swift.  And, this work should be appreciated: it does not come without effort and it is desiring of art.

Yet, social media is different than any form of art before.  While you can paint a picture and put it up in a room, it is not thought that that picture encompasses you and your life.  When you post on social media though, your posts become you. They are your public representation world of who you are and what your life looks like.  People assume they know you when they see your profile. And to many, this assumption feels unfair, because it brings with it a new sense of responsibility.  We are responsible for showing reality in this art form, as much as beauty and perfection.

I think this responsibility is what is leading to the rise of behind the scenes posts right now.  Social media is a curation of moments, but when that’s taken to represent all of reality, it can be pretty harmful.  So, all of us, who spend our hours thinking about how we can create the best content possible now have something new to think about: how can we continue to make art we are proud of, while also showing reality for all that is.  Behind the Scenes posts do exactly this: they show the art process. They show what the day to day looks like, including the moments of no creativity and struggles. They bring reality into this curation of moments.

My challenge for you is to think about how can you bring reality into your social media presence?  How can you make your account a positive space, instead of a negative one?

I’ll be sharing a full blog post of behind the scenes moments from my latest Instagram later this week.

 

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About My Blogging Experience: Part One

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About My Blogging Experience: Part One

The past few days on my Instagram story, I’ve been running a Q&A all about blogging, photography, and Instagram.  In fifteen seconds, I did not always have as much as time as I wanted to answer questions so, I’m sharing some longer answers here!

Q: How and why did you start blogging?

A: I started my first blog in June 2017 as a summer passion project– it focused on finding the uncovered history stories in my home county, Westchester, NY.  I loved writing this blog for the summer and spent every Friday and Saturday exploring new spots with my mom. However, I knew this type of schedule was unsustainable for when I was at school, so I decided to put that blog away (for the meantime, I may bring it back at some point). Fast forward through a few failed attempts to get back into blogging, I finally committed in summer 2018 that I was going to blog again, but I needed it to be something that was sustainable in my life and I was truly passionate about.  I kept feeling that I wanted to do something to break down the perfection complex of social media, while also helping people to find happiness in everyday– and so, the Self-Care Diaries were born. This was meant to be a place of celebration for successes but also acceptance and understanding for failures. Since launching this blog in October 2018, things have changed a bit: I’ve realized that this first goal I had of wanting to show reality online and find the good in everyday could expand far beyond just self-care.  Still, this idea is what drives everything I do with my social media presence and blog.

Q: How do you find the time to blog while being a college student?

A: I want to be completely honest: sometimes, it’s really hard.  I try to be reasonable with myself at all times and remember that I am a full time college student, not a full time blogger.  So, if I know I have a stressful week of papers and tests, I will set my expectation for the week that I will write one blog post and publish two Instagrams.  If I have a lighter week, I set my plan for the week to involve more content creation– maybe, two blog posts, three Instagram posts, and some interactive Instagram stories.  I also do set time in my schedule that is designated blog time. During those times, I will just focus on my content creation, whether that is blogging, taking and editing photos, or working on my content calendar.

Q: How do you come up for ideas for blogs when you feel stuck?

A: I have a few strategies for this.  First, whenever I get an idea, I immediately write it down on a note I have on my phone where I keep all my blog related content, including post ideas, quotes, and captions.  This way, later on, when I am staring at my blank document with NO idea what to write, I can look to this note and see some ideas that I may have forgotten about or passed on in the past.  Secondly, I really try to crowdsource for ideas when I’m stuck. I ask my Instagram followers in polls what they would like to see and what they wouldn’t like to see. I also see what other bloggers are talking about and think about if I have a response I would like to share, or if I can bounce off their idea somehow.  I also pay attention to the DM conversations I’ve had on Instagram– are people continually bringing up a topic to me? Is this something I would be passionate about writing about? Usually, at the end of this process, I have a topic I am really excited to write and share about.

This post has already gotten very long, so I am going to cut it off at that question but I will try to answer some blog-related questions here every week or so.  

 

Sharing My Playlist for Life’s Most Overwhelming Lyrics

Sharing My Playlist for Life’s Most Overwhelming Lyrics

Yesterday was a hard day.  I felt overwhelmed in every aspect of my life– professionally, I have a big decision coming up and many interviews; academically, I had a paper due that I struggled A LOT with for my hardest class; socially, I get down on myself that I’m not a good enough friend because there are weeks where I feel like I don’t make enough time for my friends.  On days like that, self-doubt creeps in and tells me that I’m only overwhelmed because I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough. I know I’m far from being alone in feeling like I’m constantly fighting a little monster in my head– if you’re feeling this way, I want to remind you: we are stronger than that monster.

I turn to music when I’m overwhelmed to help me fight the monster. I feel like music can help me feel seen and understood so I’m sharing below five of my favorite songs that help me calm down and also, a link to my spotify playlist.

 

  1. Hold On by Shawn Mendes.  

 

Favorite Lyric: And it won’t slow down, no matter what you do, so you just gotta hold on.

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  1. Girl in the Movies by Dolly Parton.

Favorite Lyric: I want to be happy, I want to be free, just like that girl in the movies.

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  1. Flicker by Niall Horan.

Favorite Lyric: Then I look in my heart, there’s a light in the dark.

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  1. Inside Your Heaven by Carrie Underwood.

Favorite Lyric: When minutes turn to days and years, if mountains fall, I’ll still be here.

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  1. 1973 by James Blunt.

Favorite Lyric: I will always be in a club with you in nineteen seventy three, singing here we go again.

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Here’s my entire Spotify playlist, which I do periodically update and add new music to: