Dolce and Gabriella

Little thoughts from the Big Apple


Big Sur

So this week was incredible.

My mom and I took a trip up the California coast from LA to Monterey. For about seventy-five miles north of San Luis Obispo, the Pacific Coast Highway is basically cut into the edge of the Santa Lucia mountains. The landscape couldn’t be more dramatic; the jagged, rocky mountain peaks plunge directly into the Pacific Ocean.

As you drive, you feel as though your car is teetering on the edge of a cliff. At points, it is. The experience is terrifying, but also incredibly exhilarating.

For most of our trip, the road was covered in fog. It was mystical and beyond beautiful and hard to put into words. Suffice it to say that it’s a drive everyone needs to make at least once in their lifetime.

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetChanneling my inner Mary-Kate Olsen in a sweater wrap by Comme (purchased at Avanti in SLO) and maxidress by Juicy Couture (similar at Nordstrom)

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Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetIs this view not straight out of a fairy tale?

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetAnd then the sun came out.

The trip was definitely a spiritual experience for me–I’ve never felt more in awe of our beautiful planet. I can’t wait to go back and do it again–next time, I want to go farther north past San Francisco and into the redwoods.

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For more photos and a backstory, view my Steller on our trip.

What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?



The Liebster Award and Thoughts on Compliments

I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award for the second time–first by Cindy at Cindy’s Musings and then today by Grace at Style, Art and Grace. I’m thrilled…thank you, ladies! I so enjoy reading both of your blogs. My very favorite part of this blogging thing is meeting other smart, creative bloggers, and participating in the Liebster Award tag is such a cool way to do so.

As far as I can tell, the Liebster Award isn’t a centralized thing. It’s not a regulated award, just an honor passed from blogger to blogger. When you’re nominated, you answer the questions posed by the blogger who nominated you and then yourself nominate another set of bloggers. All the blogs you name are supposed to be on the smaller side, because the idea is to spread Internet love and help other baby blogs grow.


Plus, everyone loves answering questions about themselves. While in the real world this kind of self-indulgence might come off as narcissism, in the blog world it’s just known as self-empowerment. How awesome is that? I think women especially have a hard time doing this, because we’re trained to deflect compliments and downplay our strengths from the start. To hell with that–I say, if you got it, own it. Celebrate it. And celebrate it in others. Your goal for today, ladies: give a genuine compliment to a woman you love and accept one in return. The only thing you’re allowed to say is, “Thank you! I’m flattered.”

I loved reading Grace and Cindy’s answers and am unashamedly excited to answer my own set of questions (I’m using Grace’s.) Here we go!

1. If someone gave you unlimited funds right now to re-decorate your home or re-vamp your wardrobe, which would you choose?

Probably my home, which is almost empty at the moment since my mom and I moved in not long ago and are only slowly acquiring furniture. We left most things in Wisconsin when we moved since we knew we’d be in a much smaller house here in LA. We love to go shopping at garage sales and flea markets for unique pieces, so we’re slowly assembling a collection of stuff we both love. For my room, I’m currently trying to decide between Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy and Newburyport Blue for an accent wall with whites and creams everywhere else.

2. What is the one fashion accessory you could never give up?

Sunglasses…being in the bright sun without them gives me a headache, so I never leave the house here without a pair! What’s sad is I always am leaving them places. I had one pair from Madewell that I adored (these in tortoise) and somehow lost at the beginning of my freshman year…still so devastated that I’ve only let myself buy Forever 21 and H&M pairs since.

3. If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?

I’d stay right here in my pretty little pocket of sun 🙂

4. What made you decide to start your blog and what is your favorite thing about blogging?

I’ve always loved reading other blogs and have considered starting my own before, but I’ve never felt like I’ve had something unique or useful to say. Now that I’m in college and doing internships, I have a little more experience to write about. With Dolce & Gabriella, I hope to share what I’m learning and generate some of the great content and conversation that I’ve observed on the blogosphere for so long.

5. You’re running late getting ready in the morning and have to decide between doing your hair or your makeup. Which do you decide to do?

Makeup. Bed head is a look I can pull off; pimple-covered face is not.

6. Do you have one go-to beauty product you couldn’t live without?

The Falsies by Maybelline. I can’t afford department store stuff, so this is the next best thing if you want big volume like I do. The only catch with it is you have to scrape the excess mascara off the brush back into the opening of the bottle before using–the formula works best when there’s a minimal amount on the brush.

7. What is the fall fashion trend you are most looking forward to trying?

I have a great, really simple suede fringed bag I’ve been saving until fringe is back. Judging by Blake Lively’s new Vogue shoot, it’s way back.

8. Who is your style icon and why?

I love Charlotte Gainsbourg’s style…effortless with just a little edge. Oh, what I’d give to be French. 

9. Where is your favorite place to shop when looking for fashion on a smaller budget?

Goodwill! I buy clothes almost exclusively secondhand. I actually wrote a post about my love of Goodwill a few weeks ago.

10. Would you rather shop online or in an actual store?

In-store. The very most important thing to me when choosing clothes is the fit. You can’t assess fit without trying something on, unfortunately. I only order online when there’s free shipping and free returns so the process is risk-free. 

11. Describe your style in one sentence:

“Make it simple, but significant.”–Don Draper


Now for my own questions, I’ll nominate a few blogs that I follow, but this is really an open nomination. If you have a blog and you read my blog, I nominate you! Fill out the questions if you’d like and drop me a note so I can take a look 🙂

1. Fill in the blank: I got 99 problems but _____ ain’t one.

2. You get to/have to take a trip around the world with one other person for a year. Who would you most enjoy/tolerate doing it with and why?

3. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

4. Name the next Kardashian sister. You can choose to continue the “K” dynasty or derail it forever…the power lies in your hands.

5. If it were impossible for you to fail at it, what’s one thing you’d do?

6. If you were to write a coffee table book about something, what would it be about? One idea:


7. What possession does your best friend have that you’d like to steal the most? (FYI: “her boyfriend/girlfriend” is not an acceptable answer.)

8. What was your favorite Disney Channel Original Movie? I liked Life Size.

9. If you could change your name, would you? To what?

10. What’s your most guilty guilty pleasure?

11. Once you’ve made it and you’re filthy rich, what’s one thing you’re never going to do yourself again?


I’m nominating:

1. Carolyn at The Makeup Writeup, who’s not only a fellow Trojan–go SC!–but also a brilliant makeup reviewer and blogging advisor. Special shoutout for teaching me how to use HTML tags in comment boxes.

2. Priya at Perfectly Priya because I love her friendly, witty writing style

3. Jess at Just Jess May for her funny, thoughtful, so relatable posts

4. Maggie at Clothes to Midnight because her photography is gorgeous and her style is always on point

5. Shannon at Clothes and Quotes because her laid-back West Coast style is something I aspire to

6. Haley at Belle Vie because she just did an awesome series on skirts and inspired me to haul all of mine out of the back of my closet


I’m just so happy to be in this blogging world and to have met so many great people already. If you have a baby blog and haven’t dropped me a comment yet, please do today so we can introduce each other–I respond to everything and am all about returning the favor on your blog. 



Happy days

I love July. It makes me feel gloriously stuck in the middle of summer. It makes me feel like I have time, like I have enough long nights and hot days to last as long as I need. It makes me feel like school and winter are still far away.

The end of July always makes me sad. It was a lot worse when I lived in Wisconsin, where sometimes in the winter we get zero hours of direct sunlight and the temperature never makes it out of the negative degrees. My mood has done a 180 since leaving bad weather behind–I no longer have to sit in front of a blue light for fifteen minutes a day to feel normal. That’s something, right? And I love USC, so most of the things that make me sad about August 1st are gone. But I still get leftover bummer feelings every year when I realize July is over.

It’s so easy to be happy without even realizing it, and then the happy time passes and you realize you didn’t savor what you had. I try to savor. I take a lot of pictures. They’re not good or artistic; they’re not even well-lit most of the time. But at least I have them so that when I feel a little blue, I can look at some of the sliver-thin moments of bliss that fly by without me remembering, or worse, noticing. Each photo represents some little “awake” minute in which I was cognizant enough of how good I had it right then to record it for later.


photo 5 The time we bit off much more than we could sip at Serendipity 3

Processed with VSCOcamThe time I took a letterpress printing class and the character palette on Adobe Illustrator came to life around me (so much type!)

photo 2The time the curls held (it had never happened before and hasn’t happened since)

photo 4The time I discovered one of my favorite pieces of art on the wall in front of me (“Between Earth and Heaven” by El Anatsui at the Met)

photo 1The time birthday cake, The West Wing, and a cuddle were all it took to make me the happiest girl around

photo 2The time we were the last ones up

photo 3The time the sky turned pink (those are white roses)

photo 5The time we hung out all day

photo 2The time I saw my school on Netflix (The Graduate

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe time I spent a grand total of $2 on my favorite meal

Unedited, blurry, happy.

What was the best day of your July? I want to hear what made you this happy.


College the 80/20 Way: Make the Most of Your Time Studying and Socializing

Have you heard of the 80/20 principle? It’s an old economics idea that’s been recently popularized by a guy named Richard Koch. Koch wrote a book in 1999 called The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less, which outlines some of the major ways that the 80/20 Principle influences our lives. I read it a few weeks ago and have been fascinated with “80/20 thinking” ever since.

Koch’s big point is that the relationship between cause and effect is not as direct as you’d think. In most situations in our lives, a small minority of causes produces the majority of effects. For instance, 20% of the salespeople at a store usually make around 80% of that store’s total sales. We wear our favorite 20% of our clothes around 80% of the time. Around 80% of the work you get done happens in 20% of the time you spend on it (thanks, Facebook.) The exact relationships vary, obviously, but it’s surprising how many imbalanced cause-effect relationships fall right around the 80/20 range.

Koch says, get rid of the idea that putting in X amount of work will get you X results. X work might get you 4X results, if what you’re doing is really efficient. Or it could get you .2X results if you’re not using your time wisely. Maybe you’ve experienced this while writing an essay (or a blog post.) You struggle with words for ages and not much good is coming out…and then, in a burst of inspiration, you bust out four paragraphs in 20 minutes and feel like a rockstar. In a small percentage of the time you put in, you accomplish most of your success. The key to being more productive at everything, then, is figuring out how to milk those rockstar moments for all they’re worth, while cutting out the time you waste getting zip done.

Although Koch’s book, particularly the first part, is a good read, the big takeaway can be summed up easily as I did above. The more interesting thing to do is take the 80/20 concept and apply it to your own life. So, I started thinking about college: I could have really benefitted from this 80/20 stuff my freshman year. When so many people and assignments and opportunities are thrown at you at once, it can be really stressful and overwhelming. Luckily, you can apply the 80/20 principle to get the most out of your time.



1. Choose depth over breadth when it comes to activities.

This isn’t high school. You no longer need thirteen thousand items on your resume to make it into Dartmouth. The things you do outside of class aren’t for padding an application, they’re to help you grow. The large majority of learning and satisfaction that you derive from extracurriculars will come from the small minority of opportunities that you deeply invest yourself in. So don’t waste time juggling ten clubs. Instead, find one to three that really speak to you and give them your all.

2. Prioritize your perfectionism.

You can do a satisfactory, probably even pretty good job in 20% of the time you spend on a big project. It’s when you say, “oh! And I can do this too…” or, “but it’s not COMPLETELY 110% done yet…” that things start to go haywire. “It is the inclusion of the ‘nice to have’ features that turn potentially sound projects into looming catastrophes,” says Koch, meaning that it’s easy to blow tons of time on little odds and ends of an assignment that, while nice, aren’t worth the time you’re spending on them.

There are certain projects–ones that have big implications on your grade, your career, or your success in some other way–that are absolutely worth being a perfectionist about. But–you guessed it–a small number of projects carry a huge amount of weight in life. This is true in college classes, where an essay can be worth half of your grade, and in most other areas as well. You can’t possibly give every single thing on your to-do list the star treatment, so you need to be smart about which tasks deserve your heart and soul and which you ain’t got time for. Regarding projects that aren’t really going to give you much in the long run, it’s okay to do a satisfactory (80%) job in a small amount of time (20%) and then move on to something else that’s worth your attention.

Not everything can be, or should be, done perfectly. That’s hard for a lot of overachievers, myself included, to swallow.


3. Try working by time rather than by task.

You’d be amazed at how much of the work you do can be accomplished in so little of the time you usually give it. On a particularly busy night, try giving yourself time slots to work on assignments instead of diving into one and only moving onto the next when the first one is complete. For instance, work on three tasks for only an hour each. Having a deadline can really boost productivity, so you might be surprised by how much you accomplish in just the hour. Even if you don’t finish, at least you know which assignment needs the most additional work and how you can best spend your remaining time. You’ll make significant progress on all of your tasks instead of finishing one and ignoring the others (my biggest studying issue.)

4. Selectively socialize.

The second half of Koch’s book, where he talks about how to apply 80/20 thinking to social situations, gets a little confusing. But the basic 80/20 concept definitely applies to college social life. From how it looks in the movies, you’d think every night at college is a party. For some people, it is. But the truth is, to get good grades, to really learn and grow in the way you’re supposed to in college, you have to work a lot. You’re going to have to say no to some invitations.

When I think back on my freshman year, I can count the “wow, that was a really great day/night” moments with my friends on both my hands. The large majority of the happiness I got from socializing came from a minority of the time I spent doing it (and, it’s worth mentioning, the majority of those great moments happened with a very small group of people.) When you’re busy with other stuff, you’ve got to prioritize if you want to feel fulfilled socially. Only say yes to the stuff that actually sounds like a good time (and people you actually like.) Life’s too short for lame-o parties, you feel?

5. Put out the right fires.

80% of all your problems can be solved by fixing the peskiest 20% of the issues causing them. If you feel down in the dumps around February (everyone does), take a good look at your situation and figure out what’s causing the most trouble. That history class is super-stressing you out? Make an appointment with your TA and clear things up once and for all. That guy you got involved with is causing way too much drama? Buh-bye. Even if you can’t fix everything that’s going wrong, fixing the few things that are causing the most issues will make a huge difference.

6. Build on your best 20%. 

Koch’s mantra: run with what works, ditch what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to abandon things that are “just fine” to dive into something else that you’ve fallen in love with or are really good at. Figure out what your top-20-percent activities are and give them the time/energy/resources they need to be the very best for you…even if doing so means taking resources away from stuff that maybe “you technically should” be doing. Cut out the least productive/satisfying activities you do–YouTube, a boring club, a useless assignment–and give that time to the things that are giving you the most success. Your overall productivity and happiness will multiply.


Have you read the 80/20 principle? Do you have any tips I missed?

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Comments that really piss New Yorkers off

“Wow, that’s expensive.”

“Is it always this humid?”

“In-n-Out definitely has better burgers than Shake Shack.”


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(but not better fries)

“I’ve used my umbrella more times in the past three weeks than I’ve used it in California EVER!”

“Can I get some avocado on that?”

“I would have brought a jacket, but I don’t own one.”

“This traffic really isn’t all that bad. I take the 5 home from school during rush hour.”

“My feet hurt. Can’t we drive?”

“This apartment costs HOW much?”

“These aren’t real tacos.”

[To someone singing a line from “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea] “Guess what? Part of the music video was filmed on the freeway by my house!”


photo (5)

true story

“Yeah I never buy oranges, cause my neighbor always gives me a bunch from his tree.”

“Oh hey, this tote bag still has sand in it from the beach.”


In other words,



There’s no place like home.

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First Week Snaps

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 The side of the Empire State Building (taken early in the morning on my first day of work)


Gorgeous flowers on the first day of work from the best mom in the world!


Having my Gossip Girl moment at Grand Central (spotted!)


An espresso moment/spiritual awakening at La Colombe in Soho

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A pretty new dress to make my Saturday perfect

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I’ve used my umbrella more times in my one week in New York than I have ever at USC.


9 ways to fake being a local in New York

Today, I was shopping at a boutique in SoHo (Soho?), when a salesgirl a few years older than me came over to help.

“That dress is cute,” she said, pointing to the chambray fit-and-flare I was wearing. “Where are you from?”

I should have smiled and said, “LA! And you?” Instead, I prickled at the way this chick with a trendy bob and perfect eyeliner instantly knew I wasn’t a real New Yorker.

“Here,” I said curtly. “I’m from here.”

“Oh!” she replied. But I saw it in her eyes. She knew the truth. She could smell the Wisconsin on my breath.

I’m not a real New Yorker. I’m not one of those girls who strides confidently across the street while the “do not walk” sign is lit. I don’t know how to ride the subway, standing, without holding onto any poles. Hopefully, this is because I have other attractive qualities (California cool? Midwestern charm?) that make up for the aura of efficiency and competence that I lack. But just in case, I’m finding ways to fake it so I don’t feel quite as inadequate when I look at all the impeccably polished girls along my morning commute through the garment district.

Here are some pointers I’ve come up with during my first week in New York. They’re little things I do to try and feel less like a tourist in the city that’s currently home. Maybe they’ll help you pass as a local, too.


How to fake being a local

 Image from Darren Johnson on Flickr (Creative Commons.)

1. People enter the subway through the outside edges of the doorways. They exit through the center.

I would never have noticed this if a nice lady I struck up a conversation with on the subway hadn’t mentioned it. She said that it’s easy to spot tourists because they stand in the middle of the doorway trying to get on the train, but they end up being trampled in the steady stream of people getting off. Mentally divide the doorway opening into three lanes: people get on through the left and right lane and get off through the center lane.

2. Get your Metrocard out before you go down into the subway station.

This is for two reasons. One, it makes you feel less flustered: you don’t have to fumble around in your wallet for your card as people swarm around you toward the turnstiles. Two, it’s safer: your wallet is safely tucked away (and you’ll be less distracted) as you navigate a large crowd of people.

3. Give addresses as intersections, not numbers.

When people/cab drivers ask you where you’re going/where you live, they’re not looking for the street number. Numbers mean nothing to these people. Give them the street/avenue your address is on first, then the nearest cross street (like, “I live on 56th [Street] and 5th [Avenue.]”) Most of the time you don’t have to say “street” or “avenue,” because people can guess from the type of numbers you give. If you’re in between two cross streets, you can also use “between” (as in, “I live on 56th between 5th and 6th.”)

4. Catch a cab going the same direction you are.

If you’re trying to go uptown, catch a cab that’s already on an avenue going uptown. If you want to go uptown and you get in a cab going downtown, you’ll pay extra for the distance it takes to turn around. Most roads go only one way, but the next one north/south/east/west will probably be going the other way.

5. The lights on top of the cab tell you if it’s available.

Avoid looking like a noob by only trying to hail cabs that are actually open for business. An empty, on-duty cab will have only the middle lights lit. When all the lights are off, the cab already has a passenger inside. When all the lights–the center light giving the cab number and the two side lights–are on, the cab is off duty.

6. Know what you want before you get to the front of the line.

Ironically, I’m the queen of order-postponing at Starbucks counters and drive-thrus back in California. When it’s time to give my order I usually still don’t know what I want, and I spend several more seconds deciding. This doesn’t fly in New York. Get up to the counter, give your order, and get out of the way.

7. Don’t be glued to Yelp/Maps.

Yelp doesn’t know everything and at times isn’t even helpful (I don’t want coffee 0.6 miles away, Yelp! I want coffee NOW!) And map apps don’t have every place in their database. I think in LA we’re really used to destination traveling, where you drive from one hotspot to the next one miles away with a sort of tunnel vision. Because of how sprawled out the city is and because we drive everywhere, it’s difficult to wander and discover new things.

Totally not the case in New York. Here, every single street houses dozens of places worth visiting. You don’t always need to set out with a destination in mind–in fact, doing so can make you miss even better things you come across along the way! It’s just as fun to walk along a new street and see what hidden gems Yelp didn’t show you.

8. Get Seamless.

The pop culture New Yorker never cooks dinner. The real New Yorker never cooks dinner, either. As far as I can tell, this is because 1) the average New York kitchen has exactly one square foot of counter space and 2) groceries are so ludicrously expensive that it doesn’t save money to cook your own meals. Most people use Seamless, a website that lets you order food online for delivery or takeout from thousands of different restaurants.

9. Ask for help.

The secret about scary New Yorkers is that they were all, at one time, the very scared newcomer. Don’t believe the stereotypes: most of the people I’ve met here have been very kind. If you need directions on the subway, ask; someone will answer you. And further, don’t be afraid to reach out to role models. I chatted with a girl about ten years older than me at a lunch last week. She has one of my dream jobs (writer at a major magazine.) Despite extreme anxiety about doing it, I asked her for her email address and if she’d like to get coffee this week. Having conversations with people you admire is a great way to get inspiration and a little direction, two things that are crucial when you’re feeling overwhelmed.


Real New Yorkers, I’d love to hear what tips you have for feeling more at ease in the city. What do you all do that I’m still missing?