Thursday, December 11, 2014

Top 5 Study Abroad Packing Tips

This time two years ago, I was getting ready to leave for a semester abroad at The University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia. I could ramble for hours about how amazing my experience was there, but I will summarize it with one thought: If you get the opportunity to study abroad, DO IT! You will learn so much about not only the host country, but also about yourself. I grew so much as an individual living 10,000 miles from home.

study abroad australia melbourne

Packing was a huge struggle for me because I could only bring one suitcase under 50 pounds and one carry-on. 
My entire wardrobe, makeup, skincare, etc. was packed in these two suitcases...

packing light for study abroad

I learned a lot about what you should pack from this experience, so I have compiled a list of my top 5 tips about how to pack for study abroad...

Do your research.

Before you put anything in that suitcase, do your research. has a feature where they break down the average temperatures of a city by each month. Also, research if there are any social norms that you should be aware of in regards to how you dress. If you will be of drinking age and want to go out to bars or clubs, look up some of the popular places in that city and look through their pictures to determine what people usually wear. However, you still want to make sure you are true to your style.

Be honest with yourself.

If you never wear skirts, why would you wear them when you are abroad? If you haven't worn it in the past year, do not bring it. Save the limited space in your suitcase for pieces you will actually wear. Be brutally honest with yourself. I knew that I always reach for shorts in the summer, so I made sure to pack my favorite pair of jean shorts, and I never missed my cute skirts I left at home.

how to pack for study abroad

Comfort is key.

As a study abroad student in a new place, you will probably be doing a lot of walking. Pack comfortable walking shoes! (I opted for B.O.C. riding boots and Sperry's) I did not bring a single pair of heels and did not miss them at all. Also, you need some clothing that you feel comfortable just hanging out. Don’t just focus on the cute outfits you will wear on the weekend. Also pack functional clothing for everyday use.

fashion advice for study abroad
At the Rip Curl Pro, a surf competition for surfers from all over the world!

Prioritize Layering Pieces.

When I arrived in Melbourne, Australia, it was over 90 degrees, but when I left, it was around 40 degrees. So, I had to prepare for a lot of different weather conditions. I covered the bases by packing basic pieces that can be layered on top of each other. I brought one black and one brown cardigan that can be thrown on top of tanks and tees as well as dresses and skirts that can be paired with tights when the weather gets cold. 

Towards the end of my stay, when the weather was cooler, I LIVED in these boots, leggings, and jacket. (The B.O.C. boots were my go-to walking shoes!)

what to pack for study abroad

Plan for your return.

As a tourist, you will probably be buying souvenirs for yourself and your friends and family, which means you need space in your suitcase on your way home. It was easy for me to decide on a pile of clothing to donate before I returned home because I had worn my versatile items to the ground. This left me with more room in my suitcase for souvenirs!

Are you studying abroad soon? If so, where? Leave a comment below and make sure to follow me by email or on Bloglovin' to know when I post! 

xoxo Ava

Friday, December 5, 2014

Are Bean Boots Worth The Money? // Review

L.L. Bean “Bean Boots” have exploded in popularity over the past few years. This year, I finally caved and purchased a pair of the L.L. Bean Bean Boots 8” Thinsulate in Tan/Brown.  This particular pair was $139, but the simple Bean Boot 8”, which looks very similar, retails for $109.

(There are a variety of style options, including heights and colors, which are all clearly outlined on the L.L Bean website.)

Spending over $100 for a pair of boots is a big decision for most people, especially a college student like me, so I have compiled a list of pros and cons for you to consider when making your decision.

L.L. Bean Bean Boot Review


Lifetime Warranty & Quality

As with all L.L. Bean products, these boots come with a “100% Satisfaction Guarantee”, which means that if at any point the product is not to your standards (rips, holes, etc.), you can exchange the product for a new one. Additionally, the salesperson told me that if the tread of your boots wear down (which they eventually will because they are rubber), you can bring them into the store and they will replace the sole them for you. This free service is ideal because they keep the leather, which you have broken in to fit your body. L.L. Bean is known for its fabulous customer service, which, along with its quality products, is a strong reason to purchase boots from L.L. Bean. 

2 in 1

For me, the biggest reason I was willing to spend $139 on a pair of boots is the fact that they double as both rain boots and snow boots. Therefore, you can actually save money and space in your closet by purchasing Bean Boots. However, I would recommend not purchasing the $109 Bean Boots because they are not waterproof above the rubber, unlike the Thinsulate style. (Side-note: The popular Hunter rain boots retail for around $150, so Bean Boots are priced competitively.)

Versatile Style

Bean Boots can be seamlessly incorporated into almost any outfit. They look great with skinny jeans, leggings, tights, and even sweatpants! Also, as seen in the picture above, I love adding cute socks that peak out from above the boot. Adding your own flair to these boots can easily incorporate them into you own personal style.



I originally ordered these boots online in a size 8. I normally wear a size 9 or 9 ½, but the sizing chart online suggested wearing a size 8. When I received them in the mail, they were so small I couldn’t even fit my heel in the boot!  Therefore, I would highly recommend that you do not order the boots online, but rather go into your nearest store to try them on.


Trends come and go. Will Bean Boots still be stylish in 5 years? Or will there be another popular boot coming around the corner?

Not everyone’s cup of tea…

Many people, like my mom, do not think these boots are cute at all. If these opinions matter to you, that might be a major factor in your decision.


YES, they are worth the splurge! I have absolutely no regrets about purchasing my Bean Boots. Dreary days are made just a little better when I get to slip them on with a cute pair of socks. I would recommend these boots for anyone who lives in a climate with a lot of rain and/or snow.

Do you have Bean Boots or have considered buying them? Let me know in the comments below!
Also, follow me on Bloglovin', Pinterest, and Instagram! Links to the right.

Happy Friday!
Xoxo Ava

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cozy Plaid

I saw The Nutcracker with my family last night, the perfect start to the Christmas season!
As my first fashion post, here is what I wore! I wanted to dress up a bit, but still be comfortable during the show. (Details below.)

Shirt: American Eagle
Skirt: Cotton On
Booties: DSW
Scarf: H&M
Clutch: Old Navy
Watch: Kate Spade

xoxo Ava

Friday, November 28, 2014

How I Save $86 on Makeup Wipes Alone

Over the past year, I have become somewhat of a skincare junkie. I might be a little too obsessed with making my skin look and feel better, which has led me to try a variety of skincare products (finally settling on one brand in particular, post to come!) 

I am willing to spend more money on skincare, because I have very sensitive skin, including allergies to some ingredients in skincare and makeup. However, I always thought the Neutrogena makeup removing wipes were an absolute rip off. Spending about $7 A MONTH on just removing your makeup seems excessive. 

I heard someone mention the fact that Pamper's Sensitive Baby Wipes can be used as a face wipe for adults too. When I did a quick Google search and discovered that they were under $2, I ran out to Target right away and bought a pack. 

These wipes are now my #1 beauty trick I love to tell everyone. As a person with sensitive skin, these wipes make total sense. If they are sensitive yet durable enough for a baby's bottom, they should be great for my face!

For this post, I decided to calculated exactly how much I save a year and was shocked with the results (see image above for calculations).

I would most definitely recommend that you try out this affordable alternative to the Neutrogena Makeup Remover Wipes! Even if you don't love them, hey, you only lose $1.97.

xoxo Ava

Friday, November 21, 2014

Products I've Used Up // Love 'em or Leave 'em?

For some reason, I have always been fascinated by these posts on other blogs. Using a product completely allows you to formulate a well-informed opinion about the product. Here is the trash I have accumulated over the past 8 weeks, which I have kept in this Bloomingdale's bag underneath my bed. I'm anxious to finally to throw it out (or recycle!) 


First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream: YAY!

This was approximately the third tube of this soothing face moisturizer I have gone through. I plan on writing an entire post about First Aid Beauty, but the short of it is that FAB is finally the heaven-sent skincare line that my dry and combination skin loves. Just purchased the massive tub of it!

First Aid Beauty Blemish Patrol Pads: YAY!
Like the Ultra Repair Cream, this product is a must-have for me. It tones, exfoliates, and fights breakouts. I attribute it to clearing up the under-skin blemishes on my forehead.

Almay Oil Free Gentle Eye Makeup Remover Pads: NAY
Underwhelming. These tiny, flimsy pads do remove makeup, but not any more than a makeup remover wipe. Will not be repurchasing this disappointing product.

Dove Clinical Strength Dedeodorant: YAY!
I have already repurchased this deodorant in a larger size! It does the job without leaving an overwhelming scent.


Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream: YAY!
This is a great BB cream because it provides light coverage and blurs my imperfections. I used this particularly during the summer on days where I did not want to have a full face of makeup. I have not repurchased it yet, however, because I have been attached to my new Bobbi Brown foundation!

Benefit They're Real Mascara: YAY!
This is by far my favorite mascara of all time. I love using the travel size because I have never used up a mascara completely. Mascaras always dry up before I actually use all the product. So the travel size is perfect for me because I can save some money! I have already repurchased a new one!

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer: NAY
Although I was not disappointed with this primer, it definitely did not blow me away. I am still unsure if I am convinced of the effectiveness of primers in general, so I am currently trying some different brands.


Dove Dry Shampoo: YAY!
Apparently I'm on a Dove kick! This dry shampoo is by far my favorite one I've tried. It doesn't leave a residue, which is my main complaint with other dry shampoos (like Batiste, which I am currently trying to finish up before buying another Dove can!)

Tresemme Tres Two Spray Ultra Fine Mist Hairspray (level 3): YAY!
I've had this can for what seems like forever! "Superior hold with a touchable feel" is its claim, which it certainly lives up to. I haven't repurchased another can because I plan on trying a new hairspray. Any recommendations?


VitaFusion MultiVites COmplete Multivitamin Gummy: YAY!
These are very yummy and don't have that medicine taste that a lot of other brands have. I have already purchased another bottle, but a smaller one because by the time I got to the bottom of this bottle, the gummies were dry.

NatureMade Biotin: YAY!
Biotin has completely changed my hair and nails! Both are so much stronger! However, I don't think the brand matters much when it comes to supplements, so I have since purchased another brand.

What products have you used up recently? Any new ones I should try?

xoxo Ava

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mighty Balls, NYC // Broadway Bites

On a recent weekend trip to the Big Apple with my boyfriend, I had an entire day to explore the city by myself. Just last week, I accepted a post-grad job in Connecticut, with just a 30 minute train ride to Grand Central Station, so I was anxious to explore the city more and see what my options are when I visit on the weekends next year. I was wandering the Garment District when I stumbled upon this food festival just as I was becoming hungry for lunch. Broadway Bites is run by UrbanSpace, which runs a variety of food festivals in NYC.

After becoming overwhelmed with all the options, I decided to try "Mighty Balls", for its clever name and endless options to spice up a meatball sub, which are a favorite to me. After about five minutes of an arduous internal debate, I settled on veggie balls on a roll with "tempting tomato" sauce (listed as tomato sauce with a kick). I passed on the normal mozzarella as a topping and went with gorgonzola. Total cost came to $10, an appropriate price for New York City.

After battling the crowds for a small cafe table, I dug in. It was one of the messiest meals I could have chosen, but it was SO worth it. The veggie balls were not mushy as I was expecting and the sauce was perfect. Gorgonzola was the cherry on top. Although this particular food festival is no longer running, UrbanSpace runs other festivals, and Mighty Balls has other locations you can visit!

Through the craziness of the city, I momentarily looked up to see the buildings poking up behind the trees. In that moment, I realized my love and appreciation for New York City. I am thrilled that this will all be at my fingertips next year...

 xoxo Ava

Why I Refuse to Shop at Brandy Melville // Thursday's Thought

As a shopping addict, I was eager to visit the first Brandy Melville store in Massachusetts when it opened on Newbury Street in Boston last year. If you happen to live under a fashion rock and not know of this clothing brand, Brandy Melville is a California-inspired clothing brand that features casual clothing with a beachy vibe, targeted towards teens.

I was particularly excited to try on a popular tee featuring a “stay weird” design, as well as some other items. However, when my sister, friends, and I finally arrived at the store, I couldn’t find my usual size medium. Upon asking a store employee, I learned that Brandy Melville has a “one size fits most” policy.

“Umm, what? One size? Okay…”

As a woman who considers herself to be a healthy and average size and build, I was definitely disappointed to find that the tee I was lusting after was way too tight. Apparently, being a size medium is not in the “most” of the population.

We already live in a society where people are constantly judged on their appearance and feel the need to validate their worth based on their looks. Although men struggle with this issue as well, young girls and women the primarily victims of body image issues. We are constantly bombarded with images of “perfect” women everywhere we look. Brandy Melville is simply feeding this obsession with perfection and making women like me feel like we aren’t good enough. The fact that a healthy woman can not fit into their clothes is a clear indication that their policy of “one size fits most” is not just exclusionary, but also false.

As consumers, we make important decisions daily about what companies we want to financially support through purchases. Therefore, I will not support Brandy Melville by purchasing other items I would like to buy, like their affordable jewelry or trendy room décor. Money is power. I refuse to give Brandy Melville that power, unless they change their policies.

Other companies, like Forever21, have expanded their sizing to service more women. I hope that Brandy Melville follows suit.

What are your thoughts??

xoxo Ava

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Addicted to my iPhone?! // 5 Reasons to Put It Down

Disclaimer: I’m sure that when my family reads this title, they will burst out laughing and say I am the last person who should give advice on this topic. But the purpose of this post isn’t to say I have it all figured out. In fact, I would like this post to be a source of personal motivation for myself to cut back on my phone use.

It seems like every year, kids are getting iPhones at a younger and younger age.  This is a far cry from just 7 years ago when I received my first cell phone at the age of 14, this beauty:

Now, it’s time for me to have one of those “the first step is to acknowledge your addiction” moments.
I am addicted to my iPhone.

Like most of us, I rely on my iPhone too often as entertainment, a source of information, or a means to share a random thought or picture via social media. But, it is time to cut back. It’s time to realize that too much of a good thing can become an issue.

In order to remedy my addiction, here are 5 reasons why I should put it down:

1.) Eyes.
We already live in a society where technology rules. You are reading this blog on a laptop, iPad, or smart phone. All have screens. I’m no scientist, (in fact, I avoid as many science courses in college as possible) but I know that after working 9 to 5 as a summer intern in front of TWO computer screens, my eyes were always thankful for the drive home when I can gaze at trees, the road, and anything other than a screen.

2.) Time.
We all have 24 hours in a day. How we choose to spend it is very important. Our time is the most valuable thing we can give someone, and if we are scrolling through our Instagram feed, there is no way we are giving that person our full attention. Your family, friends, or a random stranger will surely appreciate your attentiveness.

3.) Friends.
Put your phone down while you wait in line for coffee and strike up a conversation with the person behind you! Just as you never know who you will meet sitting next to you on an airplane, you could end up having a great conversation with a person in line. Ask them for a drink suggestion or compliment them on something they are wearing to start the conversation.

4.) Knowledge.
Pick up a book or a newspaper. Learn the old fashioned way. Better yet, pull out a map. Yes, a REAL map, not Google Maps. When I went on a biking trip last summer with my parents, my dad relied solely on a paper map for the entire 200 mile journey. We had a few confusing moments along the way, but it all added to the memorable experience.

5.) Memories.
How many times have you told someone a riveting story about a time you had your face buried in your phone?  Very few, if any. Experience life going on around you. And THEN go on your phone to write some notes about it for a future blog post.

Next time I'm bored, uncomfortable, or confused, I will try to remember:
Put it down, look up.

xoxo Ava

Saturday, November 1, 2014

October Favorites // Fashion, Beauty, Food & Book

I've had a crazy busy October (exam after exam after exam...), but I have found some things that have made October more fun!

Starting from top left:

1.) Boscia Konjac Cleansing Sponge with Bamboo Charcoal
A great addition to my skincare routine, this sponge is rock hard when you buy it, but becomes soft when soaked with water. I find that it makes my First Aid Beauty Cleanser foam up more than it does when applying with my hands. The light exfoliation is a great everyday exfoliating option without being too harsh.

2.) Kombucha
Oh my goodness, this stuff is heaven. Once you get past the initially strange smell, this drink is very yummy and refreshing. There are many health benefits of kombucha, which you can research online. I have found that it helps me on those days where my tummy feels strange, especially the day after having a not-so-healthy meal. The $4 price tag is hard to swallow, but this drink isn't!

3.) Kate Spade Watch
My first "real adult watch" is this stunning one from Kate Spade, which I got from my parents for my 21st birthday. I have worn it every day this month and feel naked without it. I think it looks great with flannels and sweaters and gives my laid back outfits a more refined style.

4.) Flannels
Speaking of flannels with my watch, my favorite day is when the weather gets just chilly enough that flannels and vests are whipped out. This particular flannel is from Banana Republic, which I picked up at their outlet store. You can never have too many flannels!

5.) Benefit Gimme Brow
I'm very thankful that my mom always told me as a teenager not to pluck too much, because thin eyebrows wouldn't always be in style and you don't want to do irreversible damage. (Thanks Mom!) This is perfect to fill in the bald spots in my eyebrows. Not only does the color tint make my brows a little darker, the fibers in the gel adhere to your eyebrow hairs to actually make them thicker. Love this for lazy days or as a final step in my full eyebrow routine.

6.) Grace's Guide by Grace Helbig
Grace Helbig has been my favorite YouTube star and comedian for about 2 years now, so I was thrilled when she came out with a book! For only $11.65, I was laughing out loud during just the first chapter! The pictures are adorable and Grace's sarcastic sense of humor really comes through her writing.

7.) Sam Edelman Leopard Loafers
I have been on the hunt for these shoes for way too long, and I finally found these at Marshall's (I'm truly a Maxxanista...) They are surprisingly comfortable and I can't wait to wear them all fall and winter long!

Hope you had a great October and fun Halloween!
What were your favorite things this month?
xoxo Ava

Friday, October 31, 2014

Half-Faced Skeleton Makeup & Costume // Halloween 2014

Happy Halloween!

As a child, I was a cowgirl for five years in a row. Thankfully, I have become more creative over the years.

In previous years, some of my favorite costumes have been when I dressed up as Kanye West and Boo from Monster's Inc.

This year, with the help of Pinterest (Follow me!), I decided to kick off the Halloween weekend on Thursday by dressing up as a skeleton with a dramatic makeup look. I was hesitant about the makeup and unsure if I could actually pull it off. I wanted the "human" side of the makeup to be very dramatic and girly, so I used a heavy hand when applying bronzer and blush and threw on some fake lashes and a bold lip as well! Two of my friends were also planning on dressing up as skeletons (they did a DIY costume!) so we all met at their apartment to get ready.

We used Pinterest pins and YouTube tutorials to get inspiration for our makeup, and I think it turned out pretty well! 

Have a fun and safe Halloween!

xoxo Ava

Outfit Details:
Dress: Amazon
Tights: Spanx
Shoes: TJ Maxx
Necklace: Burlington Coat Factory
Facepaint: CVS
Lip Color: Revlon Colorburst Matte Balm in 210 Unapologetic

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich // Barista Parlor // Nashville, TN

One of the highlights of the year so far for me was my 21st birthday trip to Nashville, Tennesse with my two older sisters, G and C, G’s then fiancé (now husband!), and two friends. As a country music fan, I chose Nashville for its reputation of a bustling nightlife featuring live bands. And it was so fun!

We had some exciting plans for the weekend, including visiting the Grand Ole Opry and seeing Seth Meyers perform at the Nashville Comedy Festival. However, the highlight of the 48-hour trip turned out to be our Saturday morning brunch at Barista Parlor in East Nashville.

Like any true social media addict, I used Instagram to search for places to visit and I found this picture of a Barista Parlor meal during a quick search of #Nashville. My family will tell you that 2 of my true food passions are iced coffee and a good breakfast sammie, so this picture obviously caught my eye and I KNEW we had to check it out for ourselves. (Thanks, @nashvillefoodfan !)

Saturday morning of our weekend in Nashville came and we were all exhausted from a late night out on Broadway Street (which might have included me singing a country song at a karaoke bar and then dancing to a live band until 2am…maybe). 

As we stepped out of the Uber, we realized that the restaurant was in a converted garage. There was an old pickup truck and small patio with tables and chairs outside, but the garage doors were all open, letting fresh air and light into the space. The walls were white and floors concrete, which allowed the artwork and reclaimed wood furniture to be the focus.

When we walked in, my sister C said “That’s the guy from The Office!” BJ Novak was right there, sipping on coffee and writing in a notebook. He was in Nashville that weekend to perform at the Nashville Comedy Festival, so we decided not to go talk to him and instead creepily stare from afar. He later tweeted that Barista Parlor was his favorite spots in Nashville!

Can you spot him?

The line for food was already about 10 people long and we were surprised to learn that the only menu was right at the only cash register. Seeing as I generally take forever to decide what to order, we all decided to order a few different things and try eachothers’ choices. After we ordered, we sat down at a long wood table and stared at BJ Novak until our food came.

We waited about 15 minutes for our food and boy was it delicious!

The iced coffee was strong, just the way I like it. The waffles were fluffy and the strawberry topping and crème de fresh were the perfect addition, no syrup needed! The presentation of all the food was rustic and simple. A bandana was your napkin, which I had never seen before, and it certainly went well with the décor.

But, the breakfast sandwich. Oh. My. God. By far, this was the best breakfast sandwich I have ever had (but hopefully I will come across more in the “research” for this blog!). The biscuit was the perfect balance of buttery and moist and flaky. It did not crumble as you ate it, which is my main complaint with other biscuits. They also offer a gluten free biscuit, which excludes the lard that their traditional biscuit has, making it a great option for vegetarians and vegans as well. C ordered the GF biscuit as part of her sandwich and loved it! The sausage had a “zip” to it and the eggs were definitely “farm fresh”, as they claim. The serving size was perfect (it would be able to fit in the palm of my hand). The sammie as a whole was mouthwatering. I didn’t want to be done with it!

Everyone was impressed with their meals and the overall experience. Barista Parlor is a gem in this city and I would recommend that any breakfast fan make the ten minute journey from downtown Nashville to experience this unique café. Who knows, maybe you will run into a celebrity!

Check out Barista Parlor here.

xoxo Ava