A BEACH DAY PICNIC


Summer's coming, hence the beach parties are starting. And just in time for Memorial Day I have another fun beach picnic setup for you to recreate this weekend. Last Saturday was my fiancé Arthur's birthday and so of course I did what I love to do, elevating the simple things in life. So when he asked for a fun day at the beach, I answered.  We had about eleven friends join us for the day and it worked out great. I probably won't recreate this for the long holiday weekend but I encourage you all too! Here are all the details, enjoy! 

THEME, TIMING & LOCATION: The theme for Arthur's birthday was the start of summer, just like Memorial Day! I really just wanted everyone to feel relaxed and have a nice day at the beach. So I started with the invitations, which Paperless Post of course had covered with it's new Gray Malin collaboration. Next step was finding a good location on the beach that wasn't too crowded, aka avoiding Venice Beach and anything close to the Santa Monica Pier. After heading a bit north, I scouted a small parking lot and a big wooden fence, which would serve as a great landmark for guests. I found a spot on the beach right above the break in the sand, so we could easily see the waves crash in. I highly recommend doing this for your own nice view but also so the pictures have the ocean in them, just saying! Then I dropped a pin to send to guests to make it simple and avoid fifty calls back and forth to find us. Fortunately the weather that day was perfect, not too hot but with enough sunshine and little wind for everyone to be comfortable. If it's chilly that day I recommend grabbing some blankets like I did last time, like these $2 ones from Ikea. Since the theme was summer at the beach I went with variations of blue to match the waves and sky, and it looked wonderful with the wooden pallet, as pretty much any bright color would. 



THE SETUP: Since I was inviting more than a few friends I wanted to make sure we had enough table space to gather around so I immediately I figured we needed some kind of flat table surface. Last time I used a few small wooden crates and lined them up to make a table, which worked really well but didn't provide a wide enough space for everything. So this time I took an idea from my friend Brooke who used a wooden pallet as a wide surface table and it worked out perfectly! She even had a great place to find them right in Santa Monica but you can find them at any type of construction or hardwood store or here at Walmart. Just call ahead and ask if you can have a wooden pallet, pretty much all places that house large pieces of furniture or building materials will have them since they use them to stack heavy items on top of each other and maximize space. Most are likely to give them to you for free or for very low cost. I placed the wooden crate onto several baby blue flat sheets and used watermelons as weights for the corners of the sheets. I found an amazing little table runner to add a bit of sophistication without sacrificing the rustic feel of the wooden pallet and it turned out just right! I found mine at Tuesday Morning in Santa Monica but there are many cute ones you may even want to keep after the picnic! Then I sprinkled some sea shells and chocolate truffles (just for my fiancé and his major sweet tooth) as decor. I had a plastic vase for the flowers but since Whole Foods wrapped them so well I just stuck the arrangement in between two pallets and called it a day. 



THE FOOD/DRINK: I wanted to have some easy summer snacks for everyone so I ordered an assortment of wraps from Simply Salad's catering menu for people to munch on.   Of course I also had the usual chips and guacamole spread, and as always, a delectable cheese plate. On my cheese plate were the basics like brie, manchego, and blue cheese with some great accoutrements like toffee almonds, a raw honeycomb and pepperoni slices to pair. Since Arthur loves desserts I made sure to get a cute little cake stand and fill it up with tons of pretty options. Vienna Pastry has such a wide selection of adorable little treats and cakes and is extremely reasonably priced! To drink I made an extremely simple vodka soda punch as that's his favorite drink and added some limes for flavor into my mason jar dispenser. I love how summery it looked along with the wooden pallets. 

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-MGN

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A BUBBLY FRENCH 75 COCKTAIL


It's a fizzy and fabulous cocktail that I absolutely love! Combining all my favorite spirits in one refreshing drink, the French 75 is comprised of gin and champagne, with a lemon twist. It's a perfect remedy for a warm summer day or nice aperitif on Saturday night. I happen to drink them all year round but it certainly pairs best during the summer. Not every bartender will know what you're talking about when you order one, so be prepared to give them the scoop, after you make one for yourself and friends. Traditionally French 75's are served in champagne flutes but I prefer to sip them over ice in a wine glass so it's a bit more refreshing, less sweet and voluminous. Enjoy!


INGREDIENTS:
1 OZ. GIN
1/2 OZ. SIMPLE SYRUP
1/2 OZ. FRESH SQUEEZED LEMON JUICE
BRUT CHAMPAGNE 
LEMON TWIST/DRIED LEMON FRUIT, TO GARNISH 

INSTRUCTIONS:
COMBINE GIN, SIMPLE SYRUP, AND LEMON JUICE IN A COCKTAIL SHAKER FILLED WITH ICE. SHAKE UNTIL WELL CHILLED AND STRAIN INTO A GLASS. TOP WITH CHAMPAGNE AND GARNISH WITH A LEMON TWIST TO SERVE. 


{ gin | champs | simple syrup | lemon garnish | wine glasses }

Recipe via Saveur

-MGN
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STUDYING, SOME THOUGHTS

So I PASSED MY EXAM! Make your therapy appointments now because I can finally practice independently, just kidding! Passing this exam means I’m officially able to practice as a therapist, which I’ve been doing for about four years now, but under a supervisor’s license. Now that I have passed this exam, I will be able to have my own practice and operate a bit more independently. If anyone else has had goals that require a licensing exam, I have so much empathy for you. I’m not a natural test taker and as good as I am at a lot  things, exams have never been my thing. At all. This test was basically a logic/reasoning exam, as that’s often what doing therapy and working with people in need requires. If you are planning to take any exams in preparation of the LCSW or LMFT exams I would highly recommend using the program I used, Therapist Development Center. I am by no means a study expert but I had to do a lot of work getting prepared for this and these are just a few things that helped me. Enjoy! 

1. Organize: The study program I used was a big proponent of this. They set a schedule that was easy to follow and on target with a timeline. If you don't have one I recommend making one, with each section you are planning to tackle in order and with a space for the dates you plan to cover them and another space for the date you actually cover them. The recommendation I got from my study tools  was to do so about 3-5 times a week, for only up to two hours at a time. I gave myself some room so that if I missed a day here and there I wouldn’t feel too behind or worried. Although I didn’t know for sure when I’d be able to take my exam, I still followed the regimen for the most part with a ballpark date in mind. It was really helpful so I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the amount I had to study since it was all broken up into days and time. Each time I finished a position, I happily crossed it out on my schedule and it felt really satisfying! 

2. Eat, sleep and exercise: This I believe really made the biggest difference for me. I made sure to get in exercise as much as possible, particularly on the days I wasn’t studying and before studying as much as possible. There is research to show how exercise, eating healthy and getting enough sleep will really help in retaining new information successfully, as well as  helping execute on exams. I’ve always neglected how much my diet, sleep and exercise has impacted my brain functioning throughout my academic career and even in my professional one, but as you can imagine it really does have an impact. 


3. Study at your high point: I am a morning person so studying at night is basically a waste of time for me. The best advice I can give is to study when you are most awake and ready, otherwise it won’t be effective. I compare it to eating a big meal before a workout, you won’t push as hard or feel as good exercising after eating, and while it’s always a good idea to exercise, I realized that’s not going to maximize my time. Same for studying, make it count or else you will likely forget a lot and have to relearn it again. 

4. Still enjoy life: Even the weekend leading right up to my exam involved a lot of time with friends but I still planned out how to get the studying in. Since I’m a morning person I chose to get up early everyday leading up to the exam and study for a couple hours before going to work, seeing friends or running errands so that it was out of the way and I could rest afterwards. It also helped me relax and forget about my mounting test anxiety leading up to the exam, which was really helpful. 

5. When you take the exam: Breathe, literally I forget to do this, as many do. Exams are about endurance and so finding a calm, steady, focused stance is extremely important. I tend to rush through things when I am anxious and this is something I really had to work on while studying as my exam was four hours long and required lots of reasoning to find the best answer. So I took a breath and stayed on task. The advice from my study material was to "attack the test" and that is the position I tried to maintain, taking an active, assertive role for the duration of the exam, no matter how much I wanted to finish and veg out! The other recommendation was to have a snack in the middle of the test, particularly something with sugar like fruit and juice. Unfortunately I showed up at the test without having arranged a special accommodation beforehand so I wasn't able to to do this but I did eat a hard boiled egg before leaving home that morning and then half a banana right before the actual test. Either way, it's crucial you have something to sustain you as test taking is extremely draining! 


Good Luck!!

-MGN

SUMMER WHITES




There’s just nothing that compares to wearing white, and I’m not talking bridal. I’m trying to think how far back my obsession goes, but I can say for certain, it’s the chicest statement a person can make. Some of my favorite staples being a crisp white collared shirt, a structured white blazer, a summery little white dress. And of course the other classics you can’t go wrong with, white denim, white bikinis, white ruffles. They all get me and I get them back! Despite the rule of waiting for Memorial Day, I wear it all year round (white fur coat anyone?) Enjoy my picks ahead of season!  

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-MGN

MOTHER'S DAY GIFT GUIDE

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My mother is the hardest person to shop for. Anyone else have this problem? She and I have very similar taste, which is why I am still so puzzled that she ends up exchanging at least 90% of the gifts I give her. That is why last year for the holidays my sister and I decided to change it up a bit and get her a more experiential gift. That gift was a personal shopper so she could politely decline someone else's ideas. And the result was perfect; she LOVED it and I think has even gone back to the same shopper for more! Most department stores offer this service free of charge and I'd recommend it for any person who loves fashion but isn't easy to pick things out for. But for anyone else who loves a good gift guide, here you go. My top picks, aka things I would like from my two dog sons who can barely manage to pose for a picture with me let alone get me a nice gift. Then again, snuggles will never go out of style. Enjoy! 

-MGN

LE WEEKEND


GO: On a bike ride, LA weather permitting, possibly on the beach or around Santa Monica. I love ridding around Montana avenue, always with the hope of grabbing a slice of my favorite peanut butter chiffon cake from Sweet Lady Jane! It's also the perfect time to start sunset beach picnics, and you know how much I love those. EAT: A girls night out at Sunset Tower Hotel. It's an iconic piece of Los Angeles history, perched above the city on the famous Sunset Boulevard and feels like a time capsule for the good old Hollywood days. As I have mentioned before, I feel as if history in Los Angeles is often overlooked and so I am sucker for anything that feels original and classic, or maybe I'm just getting older! Anyway, it's a great spot for a cocktail or brunch with a beautiful view, and I'm hoping to hit up Chateau Marmont afterwards for nightcap. Okay yes I am officially old. DO: Study, study, STUDY! I am still in full on study mode and am literally counting down the seconds until I take this exam and pass, God willing! SHOP: Aerin's new blue and white home collection with William's Sonoma. How chic is this ginger jar ice bucket?? This is yet another perfect opportunity for me to stop studying and waste 45 minutes on the internet! SEE: So I have my MoviePass and have lots of movies I want to see it with! At the top of the list, Amy Schumer's new movie I Feel Pretty, Chappaquiddick, and Love Simon.


Happy Weekend!

-MGN


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MEXICO PACKING GUIDE

{dress sold out in almost every size unfortunately}

Under the Mexican sun... one of the things I love about vacation is exploring new places but this one was straight relaxation, with the addition of many margaritas and quesadillas. My fiancé (omg did I just say that?!) and I went to Cabo for a friend's wedding and it was quite the time spent poolside, reapplying multiple layers of 50 SPF and wearing lots of ruffles. I just can't stop the ruffle train, I think almost every outfit had at least one and I will continue to keep wearing them the rest of life! Packing for Mexico may seem like a no brainier but I threw together a list anyway and also in anticipation of summer. The most important thing to pack for me is super strong sunscreen (I used this one and was burn free), a big hat to cover my face and an easy beach read. The rest is just pretty! Enjoy!


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-MGN

STATEMENT EARRINGS

It's the trend I swear I won't tire of! Hence my second post itemizing all the statement earrings I'm currently lusting over right now, a few of which I had to grab for myself. It's like irresistible candy for a five year old. Ever since Rebecca de Ravenel created the lovely Les Bonbons the statement earring trend set afire again and I couldn't be more satisfied. For anyone heading on vacation or just over the cold-ish, rainy-ish weather I recommend stepping it up with some colorful ear candy. All the best picks from yours truly. Enjoy. 

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-MGN
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POSITANO CITY GUIDE

Summer in Positano is quite a lovely experience. My love of Italian culture goes way back, even before studying abroad in the very quaint and beautiful Verona, but rather when I made the bold choice to shy away from the typical French and Spanish classes in high school and opt for Italian. I had obviously already loved the food so why not learn the language? Especially growing up in Chicago, which had a rich Italian community, mostly visible to us by their amazing cuisine throughout the city. After starting to learn the language, I quickly fell in love with it and joined my school's Italian club where we danced to songs like Americano and wore ridiculously funny costumes, among other things. In college I carried on the tradition by studying it as my minor before taking a semester abroad in beautiful Verona, the most romantic city on earth. Fast forward to last year, when my boyfriend and I decided to make a stop in Positano, the epicenter of summer in Italy on the Amalfi Coast, and my love for all things Italian was once again reignited. Full disclosure, we were only there for a few days between our trips to Lisbon, The French Riviera and Israel, but I think we did a marvelous job with our small time and here are some things I'd recommend. If you don't have time to read the whole post, here are my three strongest recommendations, a day at the La Fontellina Beach Club in nearby Capri and drinks and appetizers at sunset at the Champagne and Oyster bar at Le Sirenuse. Also have your hotel concierge make reservations for you at restaurants and beach clubs before you get there! I'm already dying to head back! More below, enjoy!

STAY
I LOVED our hotel so, so, so very much! My boyfriend and I honestly talk about it all the time - that we wish we had an extra day to sit on our beautiful balcony overlooking the city and coast with a pizza and spritz. We stayed at Hotel Conca d'Oro and I would highly recommend it to anyone who doesn't mind stairs and doesn't have the budget for the lovely Le Sirenuse. The hotel is situated a little higher than most in the city center, which I happened personally to like. Positano is quite small and everyone is usually walking as it's the most convenient way to get around and take in the magnificent scenery. The city center was about a 15-20 minute walk and I happened to love touring the city, which consists mostly of stairs, cobblestones and inclines, and areas mostly unreachable by car. Our hotel room wasn't too spacious but the balcony had to have been twice the size and I wouldn't have had it any other way! The concierge was helpful and the food was great too. We ordered room service that was delicious and very reasonably priced considering the typical costs of hotel food anywhere. We didn't get the chance to eat at the restaurant for lunch or dinner but I did enjoy the beautiful complimentary breakfast spread most of the hotels in Positano offer. The restaurant and the hot tub were of course facing the coast and most of the hotels we looked at offered sea view rooms. Overall it was a wonderful experience and I would most certainly stay there again! I also had friends stay at Le Sirenuse and Il San Pietro di Positano, both with very nice things to say about them! 

Hotels

EAT
Since we were only in Positano for a small amount of time we had few meals to report on so this is not by any means the most thorough restaurant guide. My hands down, favorite meal was the spaghetti alla vognole at La Fontellina Beach Club in Capri (more below under LOUNGE). We also went to the very beautiful La Sponda at Le Sirenuse, which I thought was extremely romantic and delicious but not necessarily life changing, more about that here. We also went to La Tagliata after it came highly recommended by many people, however, I had a few reservations after leaving. I liked the food but it was A LOT of food, which the owners apparently recycle ethically by reinvesting it somehow into their livestock or the land I believe. I think for a big group or family it's a great idea since it's pre-fix, very good quality and comes with transportation to and from, but to me it felt like I was at camp with fifty other couples I didn't know and a counselor who had a set time agenda to follow. Other places that came highly recommended below! 

Restaurants
Conca del Sogno (only by boat)

DRINK
If you take away any advice from this guide, please promise me you will go to Le Sirenuse for a drink, preferably at sunset! This was the best spot in Positano (aside from our balcony with pizza and champs) and simply the most beautiful moment! More details about Le Sirenuse here. We sat in the Champagne and Oyster Bar which serves cocktails, seafood and other yummy snacks, but they also have Franco's Bar which has a beautiful view too but only serves drinks. I ordered a spritz (in Italy drinks always come with some yummy snacks like olives and chips) and a delectable cheese and charcuterie plate while we watched the sky turn the most beautiful shade of pink and blue. Everywhere in Positano has lots of breathtaking options to do just this, but I found Le Sirenuse to be the very best! 


LOUNGE

Positano and most of the Amalfi coast is known as a place to relax and enjoy the sun, stunning views of the Mediterranean and incredible cuisine. And of course there are many options to do just that, with a large selection of great beach clubs on the water. Most of which all have restaurants, beach chair rentals, showers/changing rooms and chair service. We went to La Fontellina in Capri and it was spectacular! Capri is a little island off the Amalfi coast which has regular ferry service to and from Positano daily, however, La Fontellina is on the other side and is only accessible by foot and by boat. They have a boat shuttle themselves from Marina Piccola, however getting there requires about a 10 minute taxi ride or 30 minute walk to the other side of the mountain. Despite the slight trek to get there and back I still would highly recommend you go with the intent to spend the day lounging in the sun, swimming in the Mediterranean, and drinking and eating the spectacular food. We had about 3.5 hours there before needing to head back but I honestly wish we had longer, it was such a fun day and my favorite thing on the Amalfi Coast next to a drink at Le Sirenuse!

Beach Clubs
DO
In addition to lounging for an afternoon at one of the many beautiful beach clubs in Positano, I really recommend taking a boat tour. Most companies offer many different options, including small group tours and private ones for varying amount of times and locations. We didn't have much time in Positano and unfortunately were unable to fit a boat ride in but if I go back it will certainly be a priority! Positano is also known for having great shopping. The city has so many beautiful tile patterns all over and there are so many great shops that sell beautiful ceramics to capture just that. I also loved all the flowy white beach dresses and embroidered patterns. I didn't get much time to really go through everything but I certainly was eyeing as many things as possible on our walks around the city, creating a mental list for next time! Positano is also famous for having lots of leather sandal shops where you can have a custom pair made just for you, how fabulous is that? But the hands down most important thing to try while you are there is the spritz! Like I mentioned previously, it's the essence of an Italian summer and served as my water during my time studying abroad in Verona. If you can't get to Positano anytime soon, check out my recipe here.

See
Cooking Class at Casa Mele
Grotto Boat Tour (Gianni's & Positano Boats)
Hike Sentiero Degli Dei
Shopping in City Center
Drink Spritz!

PACK


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As you can imagine, Positano is a European beach town with visitors from all over Europe and the rest of world and the style there certainly reflects that. Europeans, in my opinion, have a more evolved sense of style and I love seeing how this translates to beachwear as it can be hard to be stylish when it's 90 degrees outside! On our visit I decided to wear my scarf as a headband with big round sunnies since I knew my hair was likely to get wet. At night I did a chic top knot bun to avoid wasting time on a blow out and it felt very freeing and regal. Also, way cute with the millions of statement earrings I brought to change out every few hours. I also opted for flat sandals the majority of the trip with nothing more than a wedge here and there as Positano is full of steep inclines, pebbled roads and endless stairs! This is NOT a place for heels, let me repeat, no stilettos! If you must have height, I reccomend a very low and chunky heel or reasonably flat wedge shoe, but throw in a pair of flat sandals or flip flops to your basket purse just in case! Like most beach towns, everyone is dressed in something that could easily work with a bathing suit during the day, whether you plan to dive into the Mediterranean or not. Aside from those few things, all the same resort wear outfits will do; loose, embroidered dresses and skirts, tunic coverups, off the shoulder peasant blouses, and woven basket bags. 


Buone Vacanze!

-MGN
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LE WEEKEND

UNWIND: I am heading to Pasadena to see my family and spend a nice chunk of time just relaxing and catching up. I love driving to Pasadena because for some reason it really feels like going home. Aside from having family that live there, it also reminds me a lot of Chicago and I tend to forget I am in Los Angeles when I am there. Anyone else from the Midwest or East Coast feel that way? CELEBRATE: Passover starts tonight and my talented boyfriend makes a delicious matzo pizza that is not exactly traditional Passover food but pizza is my favorite food group.  And Happy Easter to those celebrating! SEE: I am eager to watch The Assassination of Giannini Versace: American Crime Story, see Thoroughbreds, Love Simon, and Madame when my MoviePass arrives and choose a new book to read on my upcoming vacation to Cabo. Any suggestions welcome! EAT: A new spot I am determined to try is Night + Market Sahm which opened fairly recently I believe in Venice and comes after the very popular Night + Market Song in West Hollywood and Silverlake It's a yummy, simple Thai spot that I have heard amazing things about. I LOVE Thai food and will just have to report back in my next Supperclub post. I am also tad obsessed with the new juice spot that opened in Brentwood, Joe and the Juice, not because I am that enthused to spend $8 on a juice or that I am that into juicing but probably because the location is so great next to Alfred's and with lots of great outdoor seating. Also, it took forever to open so there's the hype! I have already gone twice and ordered the ginger shot to save me from a terrible cold, but I am curious to try the acai bowl and sandwiches they have too. I am also just grateful for another good spot to lounge with my girlfriends in the neighborhood, as there aren't many options in Brentwood! 

Have an awesome weekend, 

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