Boldly Brilliant: How to get good at research

Welcome to my Boldly Brilliant series of blog posts, where I talk about all things smart and slightly nerdy. Caffeinated Californian is all about embracing both beauty and brains, so I created Boldly Brilliant to celebrate the brains. Knowledge is power, babes, so have a seat and get powerful AF. 

Research!! So fun, right? Maybe I’m the only one who thinks that right now, but by the end of this blog post I’ll hopefully change your mind. 

The ability to do good research is an increasingly important skill, now more than ever because we live in an age of misinformation and false reports. It’s up to us to dig through a lot of questionable knowledge before we can get to the real facts, and that’s where knowing how to find reputable, accurate information comes in. Whether you’re doing research for a school paper, or for your job in marketing, or just for yourself (I do research all the time to find beauty products, for starters),

Note: This is all for secondary research, which is research that comes from other sources! If you’re doing primary research, that is a whole other ball game– think interviews, focus groups, experiments, original studies. We can get into that some other time.

Okay, here we go…

How to get good at research

1. Research is not scary!

Get over it. You can do it and you will feel like a genius when you do.

2. Get Googly and start with a basic search.

It is truly shocking how much you can find right off the bat just by doing a plain old search. That is all I’ll say on that.

3. Suss out whether a source is credible.

Once you’ve started Google searching, you have to know how to tell whether the articles you’re finding are reputable. The Information Age is dead. Now we’re in a time of Misinformation, and it’s on you to be smart enough to investigate and fact-check.

Things to look out for:

  • Pay attention to the URL: Is the ending .com or is it .com.co? According to NPR, if it’s .com.co, it’s probably sketch.
  • Read the “About Us” page
  • Look for spelling and grammar errors: I know we’re not all grammar geeks, but it’s easy to tell whether an article is polished or not.
  • Check the quotes and who said them: Credible news organizations use quotes and sources in their stories, often from a named expert. Google the quotes to see where else they pop up. If the story lacks good sources or uses anonymous sources, that’s no bueno.
  • Look at the headline: Is the headline exaggerated or misleading? Clickbait-y? WRITTEN IN STUPID ALL CAPS?
  • Do a reverse Google image search: Right-click on the image to Google search it. See if the image pops up anywhere else. (This is also a pro tip for checking whether apartment listings are legit).

4. Do a Boolean search to dig up the real dirt.

Don’t get scared off by the word “Boolean.” This is how the pros do it. Boolean searches use specific commands like “AND” and “OR” that will help you refine your Google searches. Here are the basics:

Using the word AND: 

This helps make sure that every single term you want will come up in your search. For instance, if I am looking for the perfect face moisturizer that also has SPF in it, I would search something like this:

moisturizer AND SPF

If I want to find results for moisturizers that have SPF and also are for people with acne-prone skin, I might search:

moisturizer AND SPF AND acne

Using the word OR:

This will make Google look for results that can contain either word, but won’t contain both. Let’s say I don’t care whether my moisturizer is from Clinique or from Covergirl. I’ll do search like this:

moisturizer

To search for exact phrases:

Use quotation marks. So if I want to find an exact moisturizer:

“Clinique moisturizer”

5. Go for gold by mining the right resources.

Once you’ve done some preliminary Google searching, you’re probably already feeling pretty good about yourself. But hold the phone, because you have just gotten started. You’ll need expert knowledge, scientific data, trend predictions, and analysis to really give you strong research. And where do you find these nuggets of gold? By mining the perfect resources.

Here’s a list to get you started:

News sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, Newsweek, BBC, Bloomberg

Blogs: Trendspotting.com, Trendwatching.com, or any blogs that a reputable company in your industry publishes (for example, I’m in PR, so I look to PR agencies like Ketchum for good blog posts that share industry knowledge).

Google: Google is a fabulous resource for free research tools. Here are my favorites:

  • Google Trends
  • Google Scholar
  • Think With Google

Databases: Factiva, PEW Research Center, Mintel, Gallup, Nielsen, Deloitte, Accenture, U.S. Census data, Experian

You can also mine bibliographies from these sources– for example, you can totally use Wikipedia as a starting point, but then look up the sources that Wikipedia cites to find the good stuff.

5. Plug that brain in and do some critical thinking on what you’ve found.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What common themes have you noticed?
  • Were there any surprising trends?
  • Does the data from databases and scientific reports reveal anything that the media and news reports might be missing?
  • What connections have you noticed between different data points?
  • If you had to list the three top takeaways from all of your research, what would they be?

6. Summarize what you’ve found by telling a story.

It’s not enough just to list facts without interpreting them. Remember that it’s your job to make sense of the information you’ve found by putting it all together into a narrative. If you’re doing a research paper for a school assignment, this will probably end up being your thesis statement/main argument. If you’re compiling a report for your job, create a story that will make sense to the team that you present it to.

7. Cite your sources.

The only non-fun part of research, but definitely the most important part. Even if you’re not turning something in, you should always keep track of where you find information. Rule of thumb: If it didn’t come from your own brain, CITE IT. I worked as a writing tutor at my college for four years, and it genuinely blew my mind how many people did not cite their sources. Give people credit where credit is due, y’all!

There are different styles for citing stuff, depending on what you’re doing. APA and MLA tend to be the most common, APA being the one that people often use for research projects. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is the ultimate online resource for answering all of your citation and style questions.

Ta-da!! You’ve done legit research like the badass genius you are.


 

Feel smarter yet? I hope this guide has helped you conduct effective research, no matter what you’re trying to discover. Happy hunting!

Boldly Brilliant,

CC

Caffeinated Reads: Books for Bosses

After an insanely busy week, I finally had a Saturday for a good old-fashioned book binge. Not a Netflix binge…a book binge. Because I’m a nerd like that. And also because I ran out of shows on Netflix that interest me. You can only watch so many conspiracy documentaries before you start to lose it. Any suggestions for my next binge, anyone?

In the meantime, I abandoned the Netflix library and hit up the real library, and snagged a few of my favorite books for career inspiration. You guys, I’ve been seriously feeling the senioritis (it’s even worse your last semester of grad school) and my motivation is having some problems. And sometimes there’s nothing like a good book to get your energy back up.

The books I’ve listed below are like self-help books, except way better because they’re written by incredible business figures who have actually been there and done that, and aren’t just writing platitudes like Believe in yourself and the universe will magically make things happen for you. Those are nice and all, but I like action. I like real-life stories. I like authors who have led companies and changed entire organizations. These three books will give you that and more.

Books for Bosses

Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

Okay, so this one is a classic for a reason and I knew I had to read it at some point, so I gave it a whirl. And it. was. amazing. I have never felt so moved by a book, and that says a lot. I think it was the big dose of reality that men continue to hold more leadership roles, and that women face more risk when they try to strive for those top spots.

If you’re in the mood for a rallying cry to reach your full potential and make your impact by achieving your career goals, this is the book for you. Go learn how to save the world. No pressure though.

Onward, by Howard Schultz

Starbucks has a soul, and it’s because of Howard Schultz. The place could have easily been perceived as an evil corporation taking over the world, and it may be taking over the world, but it’s definitely not be evil. I mean, really…how can the company that created the Frappuccino ever be evil?

In all seriousness, though, this book is about how Schultz came back to Starbucks as CEO after having stepped down, and he showed how the struggling Starbucks reinvented itself as a company with genuine values and winning in a good way. It’s awesome for anyone interested in learning about leadership styles and “how they did it” stories. Also awesome for Starbucks addicts.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni

This one is another classic that you’ll find on the Barnes and Noble bookshelf in the business section. It’s not as well known as the first two I listed, but it’s so worth the read. I actually was assigned to read this book in one of my advertising classes, and at first I was not excited at the thought of more assigned reading, but then I picked up this book and straight up binged it like a Netflix show.

The book basically tells an entire story about a CEO who takes over a struggling team, and it reads like a soap opera. Seriously. Gossip Girl doesn’t even get better than some of the plot twists in this thing. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But you get it– it’s a fun read. And then at the end, you get a lowdown of the lessons about solving team issues that the story showed. If you’ve ever felt frustrated in a group project, this one’s for you.


Have you read any books lately that inspired you when you were feeling less than motivated? LMK!

XO,

CC

The Caffeinated Internship Series, Part II: The Resume

Welcome to Part 2 of my internship series! In this series of blog posts, I give advice on the internship search (a lot of which can also be applied to the entry level job search)! I’ve scored my share of life-changing internships, so I’m super excited to pass on what I’ve learned to all of you.

You know how people always go, “Oh, she looked good on paper, but she wasn’t great in person,” or “He wasn’t impressive on paper, but he’s really awesome when you meet him!”?

We’re going to work on getting you to be fantastic both on paper and in person. But first things first: Paper. Because usually before you wow them in the interview, you have to wow them on paper. Starting with a necessary evil: The resume.

The Caffeinated Resume

How does one caffeinate their resume? Two things:

  • Clean design
  • Compelling, specific job descriptions

That’s it. Easier said than done, though.

Clean design

A well-designed resume doesn’t mean an over-the-top resume. The best resumes are often the simplest, and you don’t need to be a graphic design whiz to make sure your resume looks pretty and polished. Here are my best pointers:

  • Choose one or two design elements that stand out. Do you want your name to be in a unique, handwritten cursive font? Do you have a cool logo? Are you all about the borders? Pick a couple distinctive aspects, and make the rest as simple as possible. If you’ve already developed a personal brand, this is a good place to incorporate any colors and designs that speak to your brand.
  • Use a simple body font that’s easy to read on all computers and mobile devices: Like Arial, Calibri, Cambria, Didot, Garamond, Georgia and Helvetica.
  • If you don’t feel comfy in Photoshop or InDesign, use Canva or a similar (free!) online design program that makes graphic design easy for normal people. Canva used to be my best-kept secret for looking like a design wizard.
  • Use an understated palette with one bold accent color. Mine is white, gray and black, but I use pink for a few of the design elements as an accent. I love pink, but I don’t want to overwhelm the people looking at my experience.
  • Put the most important information at the top. Your name, website, and most relevant experience should all be at the tippy-top.
  • Ditch the objective section. Your resume is about what you are doing for the company, not what the company can do for your personal goals.
  • Pretty paper is a plus. We know that resumes should always be printed on nice, heavy paper, but depending on your field, you might want to take it a step up. My resume is a watercolor design, so I print it on watercolor paper!

Above all:

  • Focus on your achievements. Sometimes if you go too crazy with the design, you take away from what the hiring manager should really be looking at, which is your amazing experience! Keep the spotlight on your words and keep the design simple.

Let’s talk about highlighting some of those achievements next!

Compelling job descriptions

  • Keywords, keywords, keywords. They’re like the hashtags on an Instagram post: If you don’t use them, people won’t find you. Same goes for a resume. If you don’t use words in your resume that match the words in the job posting, the hiring managers might not even see your resume. It’s no secret that lot of those online systems will sort through resumes based on whether they match the keywords in the job description, but a lot of people still have no idea that this is a thing. Unfortunately, it is a thing, so play the game and put in those keywords!

For example: If the job description says “Event planning experience a plus,” you can write in one of your bullet points, “Planned events, including blah blah blah.” Better yet, you can include “Event planning” in the Skills section.

  • Use action words: I know you know this one, but I’m saying it anyways. “Organized. Managed. Coordinated. Maintained. Led. Created.” You get the gist.
  • Give examples: Be specific in what you did. Sticking with the event planning example: When you say “Planned events,” you can be more specific by saying, “Planned events with increased attendance and fundraising efforts, including the 5K for the Cure that had a record 17,000 attendees.”
  • Humble brag: The resume is the place to do it. You have no doubt done something great, so stand up and shout it from the rooftops (in the most objective way possible). Numbers are the best way to do this, like “Increased participation by 70%” or in my own PR case, “Secured a placement in Blah Blah Magazine, resulting in over One Gajillion impressions.”

There you have it- my favorite pointers for creating a beautiful resume. There are so many different directions to take your personal style, but don’t forget to let your experience shine! Sound off in the comments if you have your own tips and tricks. Best of luck when you send that baby out!!

XO,

CC

Nailing the Morning Routine

Somewhere between my first year of college and first year of grad school, the unthinkable happened: I became a Morning Person.

I’d always thought Morning People were evil because only the devil could feel so alive at such an ungodly hour.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and last summer I finally had the necessity to get to my summer PR internship bright and early, with a smile on my face, a polished outfit and the ability to jump right into whatever crisis was already happening at 7:30 a.m. So I had to trick myself into becoming a Morning Person. And that was when I realized that Morning People have it MADE. Why? Several reasons:

  • No one bothers you until around 9:30, so you can actually have time to yourself to knock a few tasks out before you get sucked into meetings and new tasks
  • You’re the first one in the office, so you get automatic points just for showing up and being there early. People notice that. They also notice when you rush in out of breath at 9:45 and get to the meeting unprepared.
  • It gives you back an extra hour or two to do personal things like meditate, work out, make a good breakfast, read, or whatever else makes you happy. #selfcare

So it’s obviously beneficial to be an evil Morning Person. But how do you do it? It’s all in the routine. You can’t just start doing these things, you have to establish it as a habit. Just like going to the gym is a habit (a habit that you might even pick up better if you start a morning routine).

A Caffeinated Californian Morning

6:30: Triage: I do a quick skim of my emails to make sure nothing has gone terribly wrong in the day yet, or that there’s nothing urgent I need to respond to. I flag any emails that will need my attention when I get to work. Then I roll back over and go back to sleep for another 15 minutes.

6:45: Beauty: I do my morning skincare and makeup routine, which involves washing my face and brushing my teeth and applying makeup and all that fun hygienic stuff. Then I get dressed– I usually try to pick out an outfit the night before so I don’t have to spend time worrying about what to wear.

7:00: Mindfulness: I meditate for about 3-5 minutes using the Headspace app (it’s amazing) and then make myself drink water, since I’ve needed to get better at staying hydrated and starting with water before I get into the coffee!

7:15: Breakfast Briefing: I make a quick breakfast, like avocado toast or a bagel, and turn on the coffee. Then I sit down and read through all my daily news: The Skimm, New York Times, Fast Company, etc. This helps me know what’s going on from the start and stay updated, so I go into work or class informed.

7:30: Blogging: I do some writing if I have extra time, and it helps me start my day creatively and reflectively. It’s like getting all my creative energy out while I can so I can better focus on my work duties throughout the day.

7:45: Commute: I’ve been lucky enough that my commute has been a walk, whether it was the 20-minute walk to the office in downtown Chicago over the summer, or the five-minute walk to class during the school year. When I’m working, I try to get there around 8 a.m.. My morning walk takes the place of a morning workout, like yoga or stretching, and I do my real working out at night, when my brain is tired of thinking and it just wants to take a break while my body does some working.

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Some tips for creating a routine

  1. Take time for creative outlets. Do you enjoy reading? Blogging? Painting? Listening to music? If you add something you love doing to your morning routine, it will make you actually look forward to mornings.
  2. Be mindful of your health. A lot of people work out in the mornings. Even though I don’t work out, I use my morning to meditate, to take care of a personal health need. I also use the morning to drink as much water as possible (before I start forgetting) and do some stretching to feel physically ready for the day.
  3. Block out time in your calendar. My Google Calendar literally has a slot for “Meditate”, scheduled at the same time every morning. If you don’t defend your morning time as a scheduled routine, you won’t take it as seriously.
  4. Be consistent. While holidays and weekends are different, for the most part you need to get it together and participate in your routine every day. It will suck at first. And then you’ll be shocked at how fast you get used to it.
  5. Prep the night before. Make it as easy on yourself as possible. Fill the coffee maker. Set out your clothes. Make your lunch (I’ve started meal prepping on Sunday nights).

Need more ideas for establishing your morning routine? My Morning Routine is a weekly newsletter that you can sign up for (it’s free), and each week you get a new morning routine in your inbox from a real person in the working world, usually someone successful and productive like a CEO or travel blogger.


 

Have you started establishing a morning routine? How long have you been sticking to it? Is it easier to live your best life? Tell all!

XO,

CC

 

 

The Caffeinated Internship Series, Part I: Doing the research

Welcome to Part 1 of my internship series! In this series of blog posts, I give advice on the internship search (a lot of which can also be applied to the entry level job search)! I’ve scored my share of life-changing internships, so I’m super excited to pass on what I’ve learned to all of you.

Once January hits, it’s go time for internship application season. A few applications might have already opened, especially in the accounting/finance sector, but most companies across industries don’t start the hiring process until late winter/spring. So you’re here at the right time! Welcome, you ambitious badass, you.

Okay, so let’s dive right in. First things first– you need to find internships to apply to in the first place, right? For many, this is the hard part, because it can be time-consuming to find openings. But don’t worry, I gotchu. Here are some of my favorite tricks for starting the search:

Create a spreadsheet.

This is your home base for all things internship search. On a Google sheet or Excel– whichever scares you less– make an Internship Search 2018 sheet, with columns for the following categories:

  • company name
  • internship title
  • a link to the application
  • materials needed (does it ask for recommendation letters? does it have a weird essay or project to test your skills?)
  • deadline
  • extra details (anything interesting about the company or connections you have)
  • status (here is where you’ll fill in whether you’ve applied, gotten a response back, etc.).

Once you have a place to list all the applications and openings you find, it’s time to go find them!

Narrow down your criteria for a good fit.

Do you need to be in a specific location, or are you open to a number of cities? Does it need to be paid? What kind of company are you looking for– a big advertising agency? A small local business? These will all be important to keep in mind as you start searching.

Let the Googling begin.

Start with the basic job sites, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster are all fine and good, but not every company will post their openings there (especially internships). So in many cases, you’ll need to go directly through the company website, which means you should be googling the companies themselves.

When I was looking for PR internships my junior year of college, I knew I wanted to work in fashion, beauty or lifestyle, so I specifically searched for Free People, Nordstrom, etc. Some of these seemed way beyond my reach, but you never know what will happen: Nordstrom reached out to me for interviews, and I ended up making it to the final round even though I was just a junior.

Once you start finding openings, you’ll put them into your handy dandy spreadsheet that you created earlier. Woohoo!

As you keep going, you’ll see new opportunities pop up. Internships are constantly being posted, so you pretty much never run out of things to apply to. It’s also a good idea to set up notifications for new job postings on apps like LinkedIn Jobs and Glassdoor, so that you receive constant updates on what’s opening up.

Network. Network network network.

I know. It’s a necessary evil. But you know what? Sometimes it’s exactly what needs to happen for your dreams to fall in to place. It’s not as scary as people make it sound, especially now that we have LinkedIn. So start reaching out to professors that might have industry connections. Go to career fairs (they’re fun! I swear!) and find out what companies look for. Use your school alumni network. Talk up the guy at the bar who just happened to intern in your dream industry last summer. Yes, even parties are the perfect place to network. See? Not scary. Fun. I can tell you’re not convinced. But trust me.

There are so many networking opportunities that you wouldn’t have even thought about before. Go get ’em, tiger.

Question Time (things you might be wondering at this point)

Q: How many internships should be on my list?

A: Don’t stop ’til you get enough! You should always be adding to the list, right up to when you get that offer letter from your dream job. But if you want a solid number, the reality is that you should be applying to around 30 jobs. I am not joking around.

Q: Are you trying to kill me?

A: Maybe. But okay, you can make this so much more manageable than you think. Break down your list into 7-10 “priority” applications to focus on at a time, based on their deadline/urgency, and how much you want it. Then knock out one or two apps a day. See? Not so bad.

Q: What if my dream company doesn’t have an internship program?

A: List them anyways, and see if you can still intern there by reaching out directly and offering your services. This is where the cold email comes in: You find the right person to contact, figure out what their needs are, and send them an email describing who you are and how you can contribute to filling those needs with your skills. Kinda like a cover letter, but shorter and in email form. You got this.

And FYI, cold emails are often a great idea even when you apply through a formal application system. We’ll cover that next in Part II: The Cover Letter and Resume. Stay tuned!


How are you feeling? Overwhelmed? Excited? Internship/job apps can be stressful, but I’m super hopeful that I can help. The search is on!!

XO,

CC

Seeking Simplicity, Part I: Creating a minimalist closet

Welcome to Part 1 of my blog post series on finding simplicity! In my mission to start simplifying my life, in everything from my career to my wardrobe, I’m writing a new post each week on how I’ve started keeping it simple. This first week might be the hardest: Simplifying my closet.

Less is more. Less is more. Repeat this to yourself, and you just might be able to get through the emotional experience of purging your closet.

Well, it kind of worked for me, anyways. Which was nothing short of miraculous, considering the circumstances: I’m a total pack rat with too much sentimental attachment to my clothes. But this was precisely the reason that I wanted to start with cutting down on my closet. That, and also the basic fact that I’m just literally tired of having all this stuff. There is such a thing as too much stuff, and if you’re feeling what I’m feeling, I think you’re ready for a good old wardrobe overhaul.

We’re going to be shooting for what some call the Capsule Wardrobe. Various lifestyle bloggers have managed to cut their closets down to 40, even twelve pieces. A capsule wardrobe is basically a closet with your favorite versatile pieces that you mix and match. Sounds easy enough, right? Except not, because it totally sucks getting rid of clothes.

Or does it?

Here are the benefits of reducing your wardrobe:

  • You use less time choosing what to wear and more time on things that matter, like actually spending time with your friends instead of being late because you couldn’t decide on a damn outfit
  • It gets easier to define your style and what’s important
  • You can invest in quality pieces that you absolutely love
  • Selling or donating clothes you don’t need is awesome for you, the community, and the environment. Everyone wins.
  • SPACE.

Okayy, so that’s all fine and good, but what about the actual hard part of reducing your wardrobe? Here’s where I step in with my real experience and real advice on making those tough cuts.

Creating your capsule wardrobe

Step 1: Grab a laundry basket and start filling it with the first round of cuts. 

These will be the easy things to get rid of: Tops that are out of style, old t-shirts, underwear you never wear, sweaters that you like in theory but actually hate.

Step 2: Count the number of items you have in your closet. Then decide on a goal. 

My number was unspeakably high when I started this experiment, and decided I’d try to get it down to 50. That was ambitious of me, but you have to shoot for the moon, right?

They say the magic number is 37, but I currently go to college in Missouri and that number just is not fair with the number of coats and jackets I need. So I made a compromise and decided that coats don’t count, since this is really about my outfits and not what I’m throwing on over them. Choose whatever goal works best for you, but remember: Less is more. Less is more. Rinse. Repeat.

Step 3: Choose wisely.

Here comes the hard part. This time, start with the things you love: Your absolute favorites that you are obsessed with and would grab in a fire (note: do not grab clothes in a fire). These should be a combination of versatile, tried-and-true basics that you can always count on (your favorite jeans, a plain white tee, the LBD) and the more fun, fancy pieces you can’t live without. My list looked a little like this:

“Basics”:

  • Black leather jacket
  • DKNY Denim jacket
  • Blazer
  • My favorite flannel
  • Plain black Topshop t-shirt
  • Blush & black lace camisoles
  • Black dress
  • Dark skinny jeans
  • Distressed jeans
  • Leggings
  • Cable-knit sweater

“Fun”:

  • Fur vest
  • Vintage pink bomber jacket
  • Urban Outfitters jumpsuit
  • Striped culotte Loft pants
  • Graphic concert tees
  • Floral kimono
  • Metallic workout jacket (Victoria Sport, my latest obsession)
  • Bodysuits
  • My entire cardigan collection

You’ll be surprised at how fast you decide what your favorite things are and what you can live without.

Once you’ve zeroed in on what you are obsessed with, it’s time to tackle the things you’re less obsessed with.

Step 4: Make the deeper cuts.

Alright, we’ve had our fun pretending this whole minimalism thing will be a breeze. But then we look at that old Charlotte Russe top and think, “But what’s the harm in keeping this crop top?” I hear you. I am with you. I, too, think it is unjust to ditch the going-out tops. But going-out tops are trendy, and you can always invest in two trendier tops to replace the five you threw out.

Are you keeping that cashmere sweater because it was expensive and you keep telling yourself you like it but you haven’t worn it once in the past three years? Pitch it. Do you still have that dress from high school that you share fond memories with, but you don’t seem to be making more memories with it? Time to let someone else love it.

BTW, the more you get rid of/sell, the more money and space you have for sushi. Just saying.

Keep cutting down. Figure out what’s most versatile, that you wear most often without thinking about it. Think about the classics versus the so-yesterday-trends. And remember: LESS. IS. MORE.

Step 5: Enjoy your newfound freedom.

Even if your experiment seems like a complete failure and you’ve only managed to get rid of three things, I consider this blog post a success because I got you to reduce your wardrobe! Well, you got yourself to. I just gave you the moral support.

For more expertise on building a capsule wardrobe, Unfancy has the ultimate guide with beautiful resources and pictures.


Have you ever tried to create a capsule wardrobe, or make your closet more minimalist? Let me know how your experiments turn out!

XO,

CC

Low-calorie coffee drinks that are still 100% delicious

Coffee is a magical thing, but it’s easy to forget that we love coffee for the coffee, not for all the other stuff we put in it. With drinks coming out like the Unicorn Frappucino, we lose track of what made us fall in love with coffee in the first place, and start racking up a scary 600 calories per drink. I’m not normally one to count carbs, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and it starts to get problematic when half my dietary intake for the day comes from a Starbucks order.

As some of you may know from my Instagram, I often drink my coffee black. This is partly because I don’t always have it together and I run out of milk and creamer. But I also just learned to like coffee better without all the sugar. This has not always been the case for a massive sweet tooth like me. I used to be the biggest Frappucino fan on the planet. There was one point in my life that I got my caramel Frap once a day. I’d grab my grande Frappucino with caramel drizzle on top and head to class, feeling happy and caffeinated and just way too sugar-loaded. It had to stop. So I eventually switched to a vanilla latte, and then a skinny vanilla latte, and finally mostly iced coffee.

I picked up a few tips along the way:

  • Hold the whipped cream
  • Order it nonfat
  • Ask for sugar-free syrup
  • Use skim milk or almond milk (you can also do soy milk but I personally can’t stand soy in much of anything)
  • Order the “skinny” version (e.g., a grande skinny vanille latte at Starbucks)
  • Order the smallest size

General rule of thumb: Remember that the more flavoring and dairy you put in, the more calories build up. Keep it simple!

Okay, it’s time to give you what you came for. So without further ado, here’s how to keep it 100 (and under) in your favorite coffee orders. Please note that these are all approximations!

10 coffees under 100 calories

  1. Regular brewed coffee: 0 calories (boring but effective)
  2. Americano with cream: 20 calories (10 calories without cream…I find that Americanos don’t normally need much cream)
  3. Iced coffee with nonfat milk: 20 calories (60 with classic syrup flavoring)
  4. Nonfat cappuccino: 60 calories
  5. Flat white (a shot of espresso with steamed milk) using skim milk: 70 calories
  6. Iced macchiato (a shot of coffee with milk) using skim milk: 70 calories
  7. Skinny vanilla latte: 100 calories
  8. Cold brew with cream:100 calories
  9. Tall Caramel Frappucino Light:100 calories
  10. Skinny caramel macchiato: 105 calories (technically over 100 but WHATEVER it’s fantastic and deserves to be on this list)

Other resources:

Dunkin Donuts DDSmart Menu

Starbucks Delicious Drinks Under 200 Calories Menu

McDonald’s McCafe Nutrition Summary

Have you discovered any coffee orders that taste amazing without robbing your calorie intake for the day? Please spill the beans!

XO,

CC

My favorite California day trips

I was lucky enough to grow up on the West Coast, where you take a lot for granted, including the fact that you’re close by a million different things to do. We have everything. Mountains, valleys, oceans, lakes, deserts, beaches, forests…everything. I have so much love for the Midwest now that I’ve spent my college years there, but California is something special.

Over holiday breaks, I always come home to California. San Diego is my home base, but the best part isn’t the beach: It’s the fact that you can surf and ski in literally the same day. Not that you would actually want to, but you know you can!

I’ve compiled my favorite California day-cations in a quick guide, from national parks to ski resorts. If you get the chance to do any of these, do it. And let me know if you love it!

Desert exploring in Joshua Tree National Park

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This place is famous for its rock climbing and desert views, but I still think it’s super underrated. Many people don’t realize that Joshua Tree has a history, with abandoned mines and houses. It’s like an Old Western ghost town. Even Disneyland couldn’t make this stuff up. While you climb around on giant boulders and explore infinite trails, you can also check out the cool backstories of the OG settlers.

Skiing at Big Bear Lake

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Even though Mammoth is my all-time favorite place to ski, Big Bear is just a short distance from my hometown in San Diego. I grew up learning how to ski and snowboard at Big Bear, and it’s a great place for both beginners and experts. While there aren’t as many runs as there are at a place like Mammoth, they’re a lot of fun, and great for a day of shredding.

Poolside at Palm Springs

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If you’re looking for the opposite of snow? Try a hot tub in an oasis. Palm Springs is one of my favorite places in the world, and I don’t even golf. It’s the ultimate paradise, with forever warm temperatures, cool pools, hot tubs, and (you guessed it) palm trees for days. You don’t even need to book a hotel room– just pop in to the pool. Not that I’m suggesting trespassing…but if you decide to use a fake room number to get past the security guards, I would never know.

Whenever I’m in Palm Springs, I feel like I’m on an island, with no cares at all except when to get my next margarita. Which is rare for an overthinking workaholic like me. You know it’s a getaway when it gets me away from my work.

Sightseeing at Big Sur

Depending on where in California you are, you might be day trip distance from Big Sur, in which case you are very lucky because this place is magical. The rugged coast has some incredible seaside hikes, including one where you can collect jade on the beach, and another where you can see the famous McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall on the beach.

Biking from Santa Monica to Venice

If you don’t want to bother with the touristy Hollywood area, here’s a different touristy area to try: the Santa Monica pier, and Venice Beach. Not Venice, Italy…although you might find a canal or two at Venice Beach! Located about 2.6 miles apart, it’s a fantastic bike ride from Santa Monica to Venice. Start on the pier, where the boardwalk features classic carnival games and rides. Then grab a bike and make your way down to the more hipster-y Venice Beach, where you can watch skaters and surfers do their thing. There is people-watching galore and I can’t get enough.


Honorable Mentions

So those were my fave day trips, but for honorable mentions, I wanted to list some more of the best California destinations that are better experienced in more than a day. These are probably a little more well known, but they deserve to be acknowledged here:

  • San Francisco
  • Yosemite National Park
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Napa Valley
  • Monterey Bay

Happy travels in my beautiful home state!

XO,

CC

Keeping it positive in 2018: How to bring a new attitude to the new year

2018 is coming. Are you ready for it?

I know I am. After what might have been the hardest year of my life, I am so ready for a new start. The funny thing is, 2018 isn’t a new start. It’s just a new number that I have to remember to write when I write the date. But it somehow represents a new chance to change something about your life for the better.

Not that we need an excuse to do that, but New Year’s gives us an excuse to do that with style. It’s not every night you can celebrate life changes with champagne. Or maybe it is. Shoot. I’ve been doing it wrong.

But anyways. My point: New Year’s is a perfect time to think about having a more positive attitude.

How do you know when you need an attitude adjustment? Is it when you wake up and realize you can’t remember the last time you woke up excited for the day? Is it when you break down into tears from one small setback (which may or may not include broken escalators)? Or is it when you just have this general feeling that you’re just not giving enough, to your job, to your friends, to the world, to your life?

Maybe you feel this. Or maybe you don’t, and you just want more ways to feel positive. Whatever your situation, I’ve been there, and I know the power of positive thinking sounds cheesy, but hear me out: It’s legit. Your mind is a powerful thing, and once you believe in that power, you can honestly do whatever the hell you want. This includes eating ice cream for breakfast, and having a positive attitude. Both very important priorities.

And as usual, I’ve got the details…


What you should be doing this year to keep a positive attitude

  • My analytical-brain twist on the whole “count your blessings” game: Whenever something happens that puts you in a bad mood or bums you out in any way, big or small, write it down. Whenever something good happens, write that down too in a separate list. Compare the lists. Did that many bad things actually happen, or does the good outweigh the bad? Were all the bad things that big of a deal?
  • When a challenge or crisis comes up (you mess up at work, you have a big presentation coming up and your team isn’t working well together, your boyfriend is talking to that girl you hate, you drop your pizza…okay, some bad examples in there but these things tend to throw us off), allow yourself to have a private mini freak-out session. This can be as simple as screaming for ten seconds into a pillow. Let it all out. Cry if you need to. But then you’re done. Panic time is over. And then you can focus on solving the problem.
  • Speaking of problems, there is a solution for all of them. Believe this. Make it your mantra. If you buy into the prophecy that there is a solution, you’ll be a lot more likely to fulfill your own prophecy and actually find the solution.
  • Figure out what helps you feel invincible. It can be clothing (I have this gorgeous floral print Free People kimono that for some reason gives me all the confidence in the world when I wear it), a song, a workout, a perfume, a photo, anything. It can be a combination of all of the above. And then keep those things close. I love the scent of rose, and I love skincare, so I keep a rose water face spray at my desk for a quick spritz whenever I need to feel refreshed and powerful. Sounds a little crazy but it works!
  • Heed the wisdom of Legally Blonde: Endorphins make you happy. I’ll let you finish the rest of that line, but the point is, get the endorphins going by exercising frequently. If you feel your mood dipping, take a 5-minute walk and see how you feel after. My guess is you’ll feel magical compared to your mood before.
  • Create a “smile file,” or a list of all the good things people have said to you. I have a folder with emails from my supervisors whenever they tell me I did a great job on something, and I look back at it any time I need a boost.
  • Surround yourself with as much positive energy as possible. This especially means keeping positive people close and cutting negative people out. If some toxic friend is bringing down your mood with constant complaints and anxiety-inducing behavior, distance yourself ASAP because you do not need that around. Even the most optimistic among us can get dragged down by pessimistic people if they let it happen.
  • Focus on a positive vision: It’s like they say with practicing a sport or doing well on a test. If you even just imagine yourself performing the perfect pirouette in the ballet performance, you’re already setting yourself up to do the real thing. Focus on believing in your ability to do what you need to do. Envisioning success and happiness will help you make it happen. Because self-fulfilling prophecies are a real thing and the power is all yours.

What you think, you become.

What you feel, you attract.

What you imagine, you create.

– Buddha (but also Pinterest)


Happy New Year and thanks for reading! I have a lot of things to be positive about, including this blog and all of my readers. I can’t wait to see what the positive energy brings this year. Cheers!

XO,

CC

Stick to your New Year’s Resolutions: 5 ways to start

New Year’s Resolutions basically never work. But when they do, it’s because we actually took real steps to change our mindsets. And the hardest part is figuring out how to take those steps. How will we work out more? How will we actually follow through with our grand plan to learn how to play the guitar?

In my experience, I’ve figured out that I need to set goals that are measurable and concrete. This goes for anything, from writing a paper for school or doing a project at work. I hate the term “SMART goals,” which appears in all my business management classes, but the management experts have a point: SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely, which make them a hell of a lot easier to take on. Which is what needs to happen with New Year’s Resolution goals. For instance: Instead of “I need to work out more,” start with, “I will go to the gym four times a week for at least 30 minutes at a time.” Get it?

Using the logic of SMART goals and general human nature, I figured out how we can actually follow through with the resolutions we make. This post will tackle the most common New Year’s Resolutions, one by one.

Time to get resolving!

The resolution: Be more organized.

The strategy: “Be more organized” isn’t a very clear goal, so let’s tweak it: “Make 5 changes that take real action toward better organization habits.” Or whatever it is you want to do. These changes can be blocking out time each day for cleaning your workspace, or meal prepping before the week starts.

Blocking out time for cleaning was a good example. I’ll start with that.

I hate cleaning. I do. I feel like it’s a waste of my time when I could be doing something useful and creative like doing research for my thesis, or blogging. Like right now. I’m literally writing this post right now because I don’t want to put my laundry in the closet.

But decluttering IRL needs to happen if you want to declutter your mind and your work. You might not think you’re doing it, but you’re worrying about the clutter. In the back of your brain, in your subconscious, you are bothered by the papers piling up on your desk or the dishes piling up in the sink. So do yourself a favor and dedicate time, even just ten minutes, each day for decluttering.

Invest in the perfect planner. Not a good-enough planner, THE PERFECT planner.

Find a daily planner that works well for you. I cannot stress this enough. I found myself making disorganized lists for different things, from planning my groceries to figuring out my long-term project deadlines, and it’s easy to lose track and drop the ball on at least one of those lists. I created the below customizable planner to put everything I needed in one place:

cc daily planner graphic

Download this printable for free here!

Of course, you can always just go with a planner you buy at the store. And don’t skimp: This is something you will use every day, and it should have everything you want. Like a good boyfriend.

The resolution: Work out more.

The strategy: Invest both time and money in the gym and start in baby steps. Again, you’ll want to clearly define the goal: Is it to spend 30 minutes at the gym, four times a week? Is it to attend pilates class twice a week and turbo kickboxing three times? Depending on what kind of workouts you need amd enjoy, set a goal that seems both doable and challenging, with workouts that fit what you’ll realistically follow through with.

Remember that planner we talked about in the first resolution? Use it to schedule your workouts, and defend those workouts that same way you defend your time for work meetings. That way you won’t be tempted to cancel for things that come up.

Finally, put some money into it. Buy a membership. Get some fun new workout clothes, water bottles, and a gym bag. If you paid for the Zumba classes, you’ll feel more obligated to show up.

Be social. Once you keep showing up, you’ll make friends and want to show up! See if you can find a workout buddy, like a friend who already works out and could convince you to get your butt out of bed.

And once you become a regular, you might even be that workout buddy for someone else!

The resolution: Learn a new skill

The strategy: Like I said in my previous post about productive things to do over the holidays, the holiday season is a good time to start a new skill or hobby that you’ve been wanting to pick up. But we pick it up, and then we go back to our real life, and we drop it. Because when our working lives take over, hobbies suddenly seem a lot less important.

The key here is to treat it like it’s as important as working out or getting food. Because it is. You’re not a robot programmed to spend every waking hour on work or food (unless food is your hobby and you’re trying to figure out how to cook like the Pioneer Woman. In that case, I applaud you). You should be dedicating time to your own interests, and take them seriously– don’t just shrug off your desire to learn knitting or baking or yoga or coding as some stupid thing. Be nice to it. Respect it. Give it time. Let it become a part of your routine. Block off time and defend it, and you’ll find yourself practicing your new skill so much that it will naturally become a part of your life.

The resolution: Do more for charity.

The strategy: Of all the common resolutions, this one is my favorite, and also the one that gets dropped the most. When people are in the holiday spirit, they feel inspired to give, and then the inspiration fades when the Christmas lights come down. If you genuinely want to make a resolution to contribute more, here is what you need to do:

  • Pick a cause that you can relate with, whether it be the arts, the food bank, homeless shelters, a health-related nonprofit like the local Alzheimer’s Association office, a domestic violence shelter, a church, whatever you feel most connected with. If you choose a cause you care about, it will be rewarding and you’ll be more likely to dedicate your efforts.
  • Make a SMART goal related to that cause: “I will spend two hours every Sunday volunteering at the food bank.” “I will dedicate a half hour a week toward mentoring young women in a mentorship program.” “I will donate X amount of dollars each month from my paycheck toward the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.”
  • Do some research and find local organizations/branches supporting that cause, and see what ways there are to contribute that use your unique skills and passions. I do PR, so I look out for pro bono PR opportunities– for example, when I was an active member of my sorority, I used my social media skills to help my chapter fundraise for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. If you enjoy leadership, maybe there are leadership opportunities in your area. See what I’m getting at?

In my opinion, sticking with this one won’t be hard if you start connecting with the cause and regularly contributing. Volunteer work gives you a sense of purpose that work/school can’t always give you, and for those of you thinking about this resolution, I hope I’ve made a good case!


What New Year’s Resolutions are you making this year? Are they any of the popular ones above? Or are they more personalized? Sound off in the comments if you have any of your own advice or questions on being resolute!

XO,

CC