2017, A YEAR IN REVIEW

As we move into a new year I am not as keen on setting resolutions or goals as I am about reflecting on the last year, particularly the good things that happened and the lessons I have learned. This year for me was pretty great, I started a really significant relationship, became more confident in a new role of mentoring students, strengthened friendships and (hopefully) found more focus blogging. Perhaps the most significant difference this year, making it stand out amongst others, was the amount of traveling I did for weddings, bachelorettes, and just plain fun. It was a privilege I don't take for granted and has me feeling very grateful to have seen so much of the world. And if I dare add, a bit more intrigued about all the other places I still would love to go. But on another note, I have also learned a lot of real important lessons from a lot of real life hardships - conflicts at work, the dissolution of friendships and some growing pains best handled with experience. These things have been difficult, but I have chosen to see them as good tests in strength and vulnerability, two things I think matter the most when being faced with any insurmountable problem. Without struggle, there is really no pleasure, right? Overall, I think this year has proven pretty awesome. Here are my top five memories from 2017. Enjoy!

{ Pestana Palace in Lisbon }

1. #Fantastic Voyage 2017.... (eloquently named by my boyfriend) and perhaps fitting for the amount of travel we seemed to cram into a two week vacation - Lisbon, South of France, Amalfi Coast and Israel - surviving just the flights alone have me feeling like a superhero. It truly was my highlight of the year, I just loved every place we went, every meal we rapidly consumed, and every magical sunset I can't wait to frame sometime soon. I had been to every country except Portugal but the experiences and cities we visited were truly spectacular in their own right. The south of France was too large an area to really master in four days but I think we made very good use of our time. I still wish I was eating pizza on the most magnificent terrace our tiny hotel room in Positano provided. I think the terrace was actually larger then the room itself, to which I actually preferred. Lisbon was such a pleasant surprise and I definitely have a visit to nearby Porto on my bucket list for the blue and white azulejos alone. My second time in Isreal allowed me to see a much more cosmopolitan side of the city and the wedding we attended in nearby Caesarea was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. 


2. My epic 'drake on cake'... How could I not include this delicious and beautiful cake? It was perhaps, my best one yet if I do say so myself. Drake is one of my favorite rappers and I just LOVE this little trend of writing his lyrics on cakes. Of course the cake was designed by the most incredible bakery, SusieCakes, in my favorite marble flavor. And the birthday table I decorated to match I think did it justice! Not sure how long I'll be doing Drake on Cakes for my birthday, but I know this one would be tough to beat. 


3. Reuniting with my college girlfriends... and seeing our first Zeta wed at our alma matter! It was the first time I had been back since graduation and quite nice walk down memory lane. I went back to my sorority house, the psychology building and all the old bars we used to tear apart in our themed party costumes back in the day. It was a fun way to reminisce and kind of like seeing your grandmother's house as an adult, the campus looked somewhat smaller to me, a little less overwhelming perhaps. After seeing and participating in the bigger world, I guess the campus appeared more nostalgic, as it is after all, just a moment from the past. In true Illini fashion my friend had her reception overlooking the football stadium, lucky for me, since I not so surprisingly didn't see too much of it during my time as a student. 

{ Bazaar Mar in Miami }

4. Trips to Chicago, New York, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Cancun, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs... So much travel! All except for Miami are places I have been before, however, each trip definitely provided a new experience. Going to Miami for my first (and second) time this year I had no idea how much I would love it. Palm trees, bright colors, latin music, cocktails by the beach? It's got all the makings of a great tropical resort but within the context of a large, world class city. Going back to NYC was also a major trip as it was my first non-bachelorette girls trip in quite some time. I went with two other girlfriends from LA to visit a good friend who recently moved back to the big city and ever since she left we have been dying to visit her. It was a real treat to trot around the city and have a Carrie Bradshaw moment for a weekend, I always saw myself living there and even though I love LA, still have that small bit of temptation to Whitney Port it and try my luck in NYC. But the weekend was quick and wonderful, leaving me with just more desire to head back soon. Cancun was a super romantic and relaxing vacation, definitely different from my first trip on Spring Break in college and a very memorable one. I have seen more airports and hotel rooms this year then I can count and it's been incredibly fun and exciting, but also more confirmation of just how much I love Los Angeles and my life here. There really is no place like it and I am very lucky to call it home! Looking forward to spending more of next year here and less on the road. 


5. My ten year high school reunion... was not all it's cracked up to be but even better, it was so fun! My high school knows how to have a good time and that it was. I think people probably stayed up until 4am, despite my venture to deep dish pizza before midnight, no wonder we had a reputation. I was impressed with how nice and mature everyone was, so many familiar faces and nice times looking back on those four, incredibly influential years. More about that here. Most of all I realized how lucky I was and still am to have such great friends for his long. Even though we live in different cities and lead our own lives, it's always the same when we reunite and it's really one of the best things about life. 


What memories from 2017 are you most grateful for? 

-MGN

THE RESORT WEAR GUIDE

{ photography by Ezekiel E }

The bright colors just make me so happy to look at. All I can think of is what statement earring to wear with my bathing suits and loose dresses at night. It's been a long hard year and hopefully you all have some rest and relaxation planned in the near future. I was just in Miami and felt all the good winter vacation vibes inspiring this guide. For the many lucky warm-weather bound I have compiled a big list of all the best vacation essentials. Just looking at all the bright colors and embellishments have me dreaming of a tropical escape. I'm imagining myself sipping an umbrella drink next to large palm leafs, a warm summer breeze and sandy toes, and some much needed naps in the sun. So if a breezy trip to the tropics is in the cards for you then please do enjoy. For the rest of us, a cozy cold weather guide is coming soon too. Enjoy!


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{ photography by Ezekiel E | dress | shoes }

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{ The Bar at Faena Hotel | Miami, Florida }

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 { photography by Karina Batista }

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-MGN
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ON A DEEPER NOTE: FRIENDSHIPS, SOME THOUGHTS


Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, the other is gold... I know, so basic right? But I really think there is something to be said about friendships, especially as I become more of an adult-I am 28 but it's a work in progress- it has become more and more apparent to me that friendships have been changing since my earlier years. And I think for the most part these have been good, necessary changes. A little history of my friendships to preface; mine really started as most seem to in childhood, I had my school friends, family friends, summer friends, neighborhood friends- and leading up until about 4th grade this really did hold true. In middle school however, I did not have the best luck, it was so rough and I was an easy target for being bullied, despite having a few friends who were very supportive and also not that popular by the majority of the class standards. Fortunately I had a lot of self-confidence, or perhaps just a lot of hope, and despite the negative experience, I felt good going into high school. There I made some of my longest friendships and first learned what friendship really is; beyond our Xanga pages (did anyone else have Xanga?), or coordinating Abercrombie and Fitch outfits, and BFF necklaces, but also jealously, betrayal, loyalty, confidence, real love, trust, endurance and support. I truly believe there is no better feeling in this world to know you can trust someone, for ten years, a couple months, a weekend or a lifetime. Friendships make up the fabric of what makes us human, as we need our social relationships to be functional in life. And having one good friend is more than enough, but what happens sometimes to those friends? What are some of the painful realities when friendships change or we face conflict with the people we cherish? How can we adjust or rethink some of the common dips that happen in friendships? I don't give advice but here are some thoughts. Enjoy and let me know what you think. 
#Besties4life, we all have or have had our #1 BFF, head bitch in charge, or considered family. It's been a thing since the beginning for me, the expectation to have one #1 friend in charge of everything. The assumed maid of honor, the girl responsible for knowing my favorite flower (it's a peony BTW) and being in our MySpace top 8. Ever since being a little girl I always made point to thoroughly define who this person was, despite them often changing or sometimes competing with one another. I recently have changed, the "best friend label" because I feel it puts a lot of pressure on a relationship. When one person is responsible for always being there, doing the most, consistently proving they are worthy of the number one title. This is not to say that I don't still have friends I am very close to, in much more serious ways then others, but I have started to rely a little less on one friendship all the time and instead started to realize what each person contributes best is very different. This mindset helped me tremendously, because I stopped expecting perfection from one person and started appreciating the uniqueness of every friend, the one that gives good advice, the one who also enjoys instagramming pretty restaurants, the one who will eat with me at my favorite tsukemen spot (actually that friend also said she can't anymore with the smell so I have resorted to going by myself, oy vey). 
Brunch friends vs. let's pick up where we left off friends, there is quite a distinction for me. It used to be that I would consider these large groups of girls who all fell into some umbrella my closest friends: grad school friends, sorority friends, high school friends, junior league friends, etc. And I would be lying if I didn't say a lot of them still fall into the same category, meaning I typically only see them within the constraints of these groups. However, at some point over the last several years I have noticed a shift, where I feel less equally close to each and every member of every group and I have finally realized THAT IS OKAY. I think it's natural to spend different amounts of time with different friends because let's face it, we only have so much time. I can imagine that people who get into relationships, have long work hours, have children (or dogs) find that at some point their time is limited and that is the real test, I believe, about a friendship. Is it a lunch friend or a pick up where we left off friend? Can this friend be okay with seeing you once a month, taking a yearly weekend trip or talking on the phone a few times per year? Can this friend always be there for you no matter what, even when you don't see them very often? I feel for the most part all my friends I am still in touch with, and even the ones I am not, pretty much fit into this category of picking up right where we left off. And if I my say, I think this is really what friendship should be like, grateful for our history, respectful of the changes and just the same as always when reunited. 
The friend who gets into a relationship. This happens all the time, and despite whatever drama, I think we all need to just accept that relationships DO CHANGE friendships and that is totally OKAY. I hate when people deny this, because it's almost as if they expect more from a friend in a relationship and I think it's more about balancing time and also just being happy for them. I have a lot of empathy for those friends who either don't like a friend's new partner or just feel the loss because the reality is that it is a loss. Especially when it's a really close friend or you don't have many friends. The way I have always thought about this is to be really honest with yourself and friend by acknowledging the change and perhaps instead of promising to keep up the same level of contact, promise to keep quality time, whether it's a weekly phone call or get together once a month. Whether you now have to schedule time together, where before it just happened naturally. And I think the most important thing for me is having empathy for what the change is like on both sides and not placing blame on either party. For the friend who doesn't like their's friend's partner, this is really tough (aka Hills reference) and in my experience, stating your opinion (even when asked for it) has never lead to very good things. So it's just helpful to consider how important your opinion is to this friendship/is it worth possibly changing the friendship or even dismantling it before stating your peace. The reality is that criticizing someone's partner is essentially criticizing them and therefore can cause a lot of hurt or even backlash. I am not against speaking your mind, lord knows I do all the time, but I have started to take a different approach in keeping my opinions to myself and when I address something, I really consider all the possibilities of what might happen as a result before deciding what to do. 



Conflict and resolution, not the best part of friendships, but fairly common and normal. As a therapist I have learned that it's not always about the fight of the moment, but more so, what it represents in terms of patterns over an extended period of time. So yes, addressing a snide comment, who picks up the check or an invite to a party is one thing that tends to come up and should hopefully go away. But it tends to be a pattern of frustration or hurt that causes a problem in any relationship. As I have gotten to know all my friends, I have put different expectations on them and what I am able to tolerate. I think for the most part as you get older you just have to accept some things about a person, because as a therapist I will tell you, people don't tend to change unless it's extremely important to that individual and even then, it can be very difficult. So I always ask myself, is it worth bringing up? Especially if I am in a particularly bad mood, I try to put things aside first and really think about them before deciding whether or not to bring it up. At the end of the day, sometimes addressing something is worse for a friendship then actually trying to change it, for example, the friend who is always late or who never offers to drive. These of course are little things but sometimes they add up and depending on how good a friend they are, might be worth addressing. I always try to consider how they might react before I address something and make sure it's worth my effort. There are then of course the obvious conflicts that are much more hurtful or serious, like telling secrets, betraying trust, hurting loved ones- which I would say might end up changing a friendship or unfortunately breaking one. I think these are obviously all case by case, but I do think that we all have the right to expect trust and respect from our friends and therefore it's important to ask yourself, can I still be close to this person, whether they apologize or not, is this repairable or will it just change what the friendship is. Coming from a place of owning your own feelings, rather then calling out what someone did is always a more honest and more effective way of addressing a major conflict, because ultimately you can only own your feelings, not explain someone else's actions. And to set the record straight, I don't accept or give apologies such as "I am sorry I hurt your feelings," because I think we are all mature enough to be humble and just say "I am sorry" and truly mean it. 



When friendships end... This is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of friendships, because they are often very painful, frustrating and sad. I think it's safe to say that all people have experienced some kind of conflict with a friend and hopefully it's been resolved or repaired. But there are many situations when they are not and if I dare say, I think this is okay. Our society has often made the end of a friendship appear to always be a bad thing, inevitably with one person to blame, particularity in female relationships (thank you Real Housewives) but I have started to look at it from a slightly different perspective, becuase I don't think it's okay to give a lot of time or energy into something that isn't working and isn't beneficial for both people. As difficult or sad as the end of a friendhsip may be, I don't think it should have to be terrible. And at best, it could just be amicable and make your life better or less stressful. I think the way you end a friendship can say a lot about your character, because even after all the long and drawn out conflict, being able to split amicably is a sign of how much respect you have for both that person and yourself. If I am being really honest with myself, most of the mean words I have said in the heat of argument have not been about respect for myself or the friendship but rather to get back at someone and make them feel the pain I feel. This has never helped me or a friend feel better, maybe it has for other people but what if there was a way to fight fair or perhaps not at all? What would that look like? To say how we feel and be honest about the fact that the relationship will just have to change significantly. Some friendships may even be able to end slowly, perhaps even without even discussing it. And for most (not all) situations, I think it's best to remain cordial when reunited whether by other friends, social situations or work. Even when people have really hurt me, I have tended to find a way to remember enough of what attracted me to them in the first place to muster some grace and show respect. If this is still hard to do, I think it's worth some introspection and time as to what might be getting in the way of being at peace. After all, we all deserve to be happy. 



Making new friends... when you are not in school. It seems to just get harder and harder to make good friends as you get older, perhaps because there are less opportunities then pre-21 to meet large groups of women. When I first moved to LA I had my really good friend I came here with and graduate school to help but it still felt like a struggle just finding some decent women to get drinks with. My good friend and I went through quite a few "friend dates" before finding the group of girls we still consider our "la girls" in addition to a few other groups as well. I wish I had joined the Junior League a bit earlier, as I met so many incredible women through that membership. There is no doubt about it - making new friends, quality friends, can be difficult but the most important thing I have learned is to say YES and SHOW UP. If you put in the effort to join a workout class, or go on a awkward brunch friend date, meet the daughter of your aunt Betty's cousin that was recommended, then you really will have a much easier time making friends. It's just like dating, you have to put in 100% to get something out of it and yes there might be some bumps along the road and #awkward moments to laugh about later. But it really only takes one good friend sometimes to make a new place feel like home. Some things I would consider to make new friends, taking an art class (or class about anything of interest), joining a volunteer group like the Junior League, playing on an intramural sports team, finding a church or spiritual group you align with, and maybe even Bumble BFF haha. Even if you just start off the first couple of years in new place with some brunch friends, it's okay for your close ones to live in other places, more reasons to plan fun weekends in another city, with more quality time. And for anyone who meets someone new to a city, job or friend group, remember how important it would be for someone to extend the olive branch to you in the same position. A little kindness tends to go a long way. 


And that was quite a long post, hope some of my thoughts were helpful!

-MGN
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HOLIDAY DRESSES

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Oh the glam this season, so many holiday soirées and cocktail frocks to find. So I made a little guide of some, not so basic, dresses I love that can work for most events, including New Year's Eve, the night I always forget to find an outfit for and then end up running to the mall after Christmas frantically with all the other haggard post holiday shoppers. I am also introducing a new section to my blog, the SHOP tab, which will feature my weekly coveted items with links to easily get to. Enjoy!

Tis' the season, 

-MGN

MASON JAR HOT COCOA DIY GIFT


Every year the holidays roll around and in addition to the many gifts and treats I make for friends and family, I always seem to forget about my co-workers. Fortunately after starting to work as real adult five years ago I started giving out these little jars of heaven that are super easy and relatively inexpensive to make. I love that they are homemade and therefore convey an extra special touch most store bought gifs seem to lack. They also don't take much time and look adorable. I have always used the mason jar gift for hot cocoa and toppings but I have also seen people do it with ingredients for cookies or other baked goods, with the recipe/instructions on the little tag. I also think a little self care kit would be cute too, like filling the jar with small but necessary things like chapstick, tissue paper, bubble bath, etc. I also once made candles in the jar, but that might require a bit more labor and time. So here's what I do with mine, I just add the following items in the following order, wrap with a ribbon, a candy cane and cute message card. I wrote a little message with this gold marker and used my M monogram stamp in gold to give it a more personal touch. Enjoy!

fill the mason jar with
1. decadent hot cocoa mix
3. milk chocolate chips
4. crushed candy canes

And if you love the idea but don't have time, you can buy pre-made ones here!





Stay Cozy, 

-MGN

THE NEW YORK CITY GUIDE


I can’t express how much I absolutely love New York City. Perhaps it’s because I’m from Chicago, which many say is very similar to New York in terms of landscape, architecture, food and weather, but I think it might also have to do with my love of fashion, art, Olivia Palermo and the ability to find the best of the best within 30 minutes. New York is in some ways the most important city in the country, or maybe I’ve just been in Los Angeles for too long. NYC was actually at the top of my list to start my career after college but because a good friend had hollywood dreams I choose to start my life in the anthesis city. But I’ll take any excuse to visit, or manically stalk cute Instagram locations on social media and thus I have created a guide for where to stay, eat chic, and take all the good pics. I'v created this list with most of the areas in Manhattan in mind, however, I will admit I have favored the Upper East Side a bit from my two visits so far. Call me old fashioned but I think there is something so classic about the UES that feels very rich in culture and history. I love all the beautiful museums, the cute coffee stand at Sant Ambroeus, the prestigious townhouses, the lobster rolls in the basement of the Plaza, the proximity to Central Park, the sophisticated Polo Bar, the lovely flower cart outside the Mark Hotel and all the well groomed poodles trotting around like they own the place, or at least more important stock then you do. But the rest of the city is booming and I could totally imagine myself walking around Soho after brunch in Greenwich at Claudette's, meeting the girls for into-worthy cocktails at While We Were Young, and admiring the Le CouCou bar during a romantic dinner (the long white candlesticks got me). The museums in New York have some of the very best collections and I would love the chance to make Broadway shows my new movie theater extravaganza equivalent. So here is my sill very immature list of all the wonderful spots in New York City. Enjoy!


{ photo by Diego Farfan }

STAY

EAT 

{ Le CouCou }

DRINK

COFFEE & SWEETS

{ The Met }

SEE & DO


SHOPS, BEAUTY, & SPECIALTY

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PLACES BY NEIGHBORHOOD

Upper East Side
Greenwich Village
Flatiron/Chelsea/Gramercy Park
West Village
Soho/Noho/Nolita
{ Soho }

Lower East Side & East Village
Tribeca 

Until Next Time NYC!!

-MGN
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