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.

 

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The Cherry Blossom Festival & My Second Spring Style Essential

The Cherry Blossom Festival & My Second Spring Style Essential

My favorite season in D.C. is cherry blossom season.  It makes this city feel so magical, as there are pink and white flowers everywhere you look.  I was so sad last year that I missed this special time of year while doing my college program, but that just made me so excited to see it this year.  The wait was worth it, because everything fell into place this weekend– my mom was in town for a visit, the kite blossom festival was happening on Saturday (without us even knowing it), and the weather was absolutely perfect.  Everything about yesterday made me fall just a little bit more in love with this beautiful place. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day:

I’m also so excited for the second installment of my spring essentials with another classic piece, the denim jacket.  I love denim jackets and can almost always be found in the spring and fall to be wearing one. I love the look of denim jackets over summer dresses, as I think it can make a nicer dress look a bit more casual. I also love how you can make a denim jacket fit your personality– you can embroider the back, wear a plain classic jacket, or find one in colored denim, like my spring pink jacket.  

I bought my classic denim jacket from Ann Taylor Loft– it is $89.50 but is currently on sale for 50% off.  My pink denim jacket is also from Ann Taylor Loft, but is currently out of stock.  Land’s End has a great alternative available though for $53.97 right now.

Here’s how I’ve styled denim jackets:

 

Happy spring and I hope you enjoy seeing many more colorful outfits in the future!

 

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.  

 

February Goal Check-In

February Goal Check-In

Can you believe it?  We are two months into the year already and it just feels like 2019 is flying by.  With the year rolling and the semester halfway done already, I feel this is a good time to do a goals check-in and set some goals for the rest of the semester.

Goal Check-In:

Goal #1: Plan Less: This was my biggest goal for the year and the goal I’ve seen the most progress on.  I’ve said goodbye to my Google Calendar, where I would plan out every single minute of my day.  I mean it– I would create time periods for sleep. Productivity was the name of my game, but I just ended out burnt out and unhappy.  With a less structured schedule, I’ve made time in my life for the moments you don’t always predict– the meetings that run over, the random run-ins and catch-ups with friends, and time to relax and breathe.  I’ve still got a LOOOONG way to go on this goal, as I usually can still be found making plans weeks in advance and still have a pretty stuffed calendar, but I’m getting there.

Goal #2: Spend More Time with Friends: Whenever I get busy, I tend to isolate myself and only spend time with the people who directly relate to whatever I’m busy with, whether that’s work, extracurriculars, or class.  Whenever I do that, I create a stress bubble for myself, as I’m only around people who share my stresses and struggles. I’ve been trying to make time for all my friends this semester and I’ve been doing pretty well on this.  I’ve been getting coffees and dinners with friends I wouldn’t otherwise see and Facetiming my long distance friends.

Goal #3: Get to the Gym: This is the goal I have been so sporadic about.  There are some weeks where I get myself to the gym daily with excitement about the next episode of my podcast.  And then, there are weeks when I can’t even fathom where I’d get the forty-five minutes a day to spend at the gym.  I’d day I’d score like a 4/10 on this goal so far.

Where do I go from here?  Well, I consider the progress I’ve made so far and use that to help me form new goals for the rest of the semester.  Here’s what I have so far:

  1. Continue to try to plan less and be more spontaneous.  Try to go into a weekend with nothing on the calendar and just make it up as I go.
  2. Make time for myself.  I often feel like on the weekends, I’m exhausted from everything and just need some time to decompress with myself.  I want to start making time a few times a week for me to do this so it doesn’t pile up.
  3. Actually get to the gym consistently.  I really want to get into the habit of going daily or every other day and so, this is a goal I want to continue working on.
Do What Scares You: Learning to Be Alone

Do What Scares You: Learning to Be Alone

People always say you should do what scares you in order to grow.  That’s an intimidating concept at its core and one I have ran away from for a long time.  What scares me? Being alone.

I’m not scared of being alone in the romantic comedy sense, but rather, for the majority of my life, I was scared to actually do anything alone.  My freshman year, I skipped a lot of meals in the dining hall because I was too scared to eat alone. Why? I was so scared that everyone who was there with their friends would judge me for being by myself.  In my head, I could hear laughter about how I had no friends. In reality, no one even batted an eye, but my inner monologue and fear controlled me.

When I went to Disney, I felt it was time to change: I only had five months to take in this place and if I only did things when others were around, I knew I would leave with regrets.  So, I did park days by myself. I booked meals for one. I explored the resorts when I wanted to. I also spent time with my friends and enjoyed their company, but I didn’t let my fear of being judged stop me from doing things alone too.  It was about balance: I could be alone or with people.

So, I want to share with you all my favorite ‘alone’ activities, in case you’re new to spending time with yourself like I was.

 

  • Coffee Shop.  I’m convinced there is some hidden power in coffee shops (and I’m not talking about caffeine) because when I’m in them, I find it completely comfortable to be alone.  I love working in coffee shops and so, I often bring my laptop to write an essay and do some readings, but I’ve also found I love coffee shops for relaxing alone time: I love just bringing a book and sitting and reading in a coffee shop.  It’s a space where so many other people are by themselves that this whole idea of being judged for being alone goes away.

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  • Museums. The first place I ever went by myself was the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.  Going to museums alone is one of my favorite activities, because you get to explore at your own time and pace and be taken away by what strikes you.  I spent a good half hour just staring up at the ceiling at the Renwick and it was amazing– never before would I have been able to spend that type of time like that.

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  • Shopping.  This one intimidated me.  I had always gone shopping with either my mom, my sister, or my friends, but never alone.  However, when I shop alone, I find I’m willing to take more risks in what I try on because I’m not worried about anyone commenting on how awful something looks on me.  So, I try on things that look horrible but sometimes, I find a surprising good find that I would have completely missed out on otherwise.

 

I still hate eating alone at a sit-down restaurant and I sometimes hear that inner voice telling me everyone is judging me, but I’ve also found a solace in being alone and learning to enjoy my own company.

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One of my favorite photos from Disney that I took on what started out as a solo park day (I ran into friends who I then spent time with): Ariel in the Festival of Fantasy Parade

 

Making Weekends Work for Me

Making Weekends Work for Me

As a kid, I was woken up every morning by my mom telling me the weather in the happiest young.  I always responded with a groan and “ten more minutes…five more minutes…just one more minute.”  You could say that I am definitely NOT a morning person. I’ve tried to be a morning person and hit up that 7 AM spin class so I could get my workout in and start some work before the day even really began.  But, it never worked. I ended up despising the gym, feeling exhausted by my lack of sleep because I only got about 4-5 hours because of the early wake up, and I didn’t really get anything done.

One formula doesn’t work for everyone.

Mornings don’t work for me– they are not how I become more productive or happier as a person.  So, this semester, I’m trying something new: I’m doing weekends differently. In the past, my weekends included me waking up around 10, struggling to do work all day but feeling really distracted, and meeting up to go out with friends at night.  I would end up drowning in work on Sundays because Friday and Saturday had been pretty unproductive. So, this semester, I’m changing my schedule to work with my own personal productivity.

I like working at night.  6 p.m. is when I start to feel energized and focused so now, that’s when I’m starting my work on weekends.  During the day, I’m enjoying myself. I felt like in the old schedule, I never really spent quality time with people during the weekend.  Maybe, we went out to a party together or to a big dinner, but I never got to have the long conversations and connections I really wanted to have.  So now, I’m having coffee and lunch and sometimes, even breakfast with friends on the weekends. Another thing I found was I had bogged my weekends down so much in work and honestly, not being productive, that I was never getting to spend time in D.C. and enjoying this city.  With my new schedule, I actually have time to go to the museums I love and take advantage of all the opportunities that exist here.

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I am literally overjoyed by having the time to enjoy D.C. again.

So, this quick post is just to tell you: do what works for you.  Don’t have a schedule that leaves you feeling disconnected and unproductive just because that’s the conventional way of doing things.  Change the pattern and you might find life looking a lot easier and happier.

Staying Organized & Accomplishing Goals

Staying Organized & Accomplishing Goals

With the start of a new year, there’s a sense of excitement.  There’s a million ideas and goals floating around. After the initial excitement and urgency wears off, reality sets in: if you’re not organized, all of your resolutions will be failed and forgotten before January even ends.

There are some people who organization comes naturally to, I am not one of them.  Despite my best efforts, my tiny dorm room quickly becomes cluttered and papers start to disappear.  However, this disorganization has gotten me to invest in some fool-proof ways to get and stay organized throughout the year:

 

  • Invest in a good planner. I love Google Calendar as much as the next person, but I do find that when I write things physically down, I am more reasonable about my commitments and time.  I also am obsessed with my planner and adding stickers to my monthly calendars– the pretty aesthetic really gets me to stick with it.
  • Write everything down 3 times. Repetition, repetition, repetition.  It works. I keep three calendars, write down all my goals 3 times, and set 3 alarms.  By the third time, it is ingrained in my head and I am ready to face the task, piece by piece.
  • Buy everything you need before you start a task.  At the beginning of the your task, make sure you have all the materials you need.  There is nothing worse than looking at your next step and realizing you have none of what you need to do it.  Your productivity plummets as you recognize you have an additional step now to achieving your goals. Avoid this problem– buy all your materials in advance.  For me, I buy all of my pens, highlighters, books, and notebooks before classes really start up.
  • Prioritize your to do list.  Life piles up and it’s easy to think everything is urgent– it gets overwhelming.  Make a to-do list with three sections: high, medium, low. High priority items are ones that must be done by tomorrow, medium is within 2-3 days, and low is non-urgent.  I also often will make an event section of my to-do list, so that I am reminded of my time commitment and make a reasonable schedule for myself.
  • Work with others, when possible.  When you make commitments to others, you are more likely to stick with it.  Make plans to study with a friend, workout with a buddy. Staying organized is so much easier when someone else keeps you accountable– use your support system to help you be the best version of yourself.

 

I hope these tips help you with all your goals and share your goals so we can work together to achieve success.