Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Favorites

2014 has been a crazy year for me, filled with tons of changes, both good and bad. My goal for the year was to figure out what I really want to do with my life and while I can't say I achieved that  I can ultimately say that I am probably the happiest I have ever been. It's difficult for me to admit but I'm pretty sure that is worth more than ticking boxes off of my to-do list ;) Since it has been such a wonderful year, I thought it would be fun to a short list of my favorite things from the past 12 months...

1//England - I spent more time in England this year than ever before and I love it more and more every day I spend there. Oxford specifically is the most amazing and magical places I have ever been. Moving there is definitely on my bucket list; not sure when or for how but it will happen one day! Looking forward to more visits in 2015!!

Beautiful Oxford
2//Books - 2014 was the year I fell in love with reading again. Books have always been important to me but I hadn't been making much time to read them the past few years. This year I read some really wonderful and inspiring books and, most importantly, remembered how much I truly love the feeling of losing myself in a good story.

Some of my favorite reads this year.

3//My Mother-In-Law - Along with spending more time in England came spending more time with Claire. When I quit my job and spent the whole month of May living with her on the Isle of Wight, I had no idea that her time was limited; it wasn't until July that we found out that she was sick. Regardless of what ended up happening, I was so fortunate to be able to spend more time with her this past summer and get to know her better but, considering what did happen, I feel even more lucky. She was a truly phenomenal woman and I feel lucky to have known her and to be part of her family.

Wedding dress shopping with my mother-in-law, sister, and best friends.
4//Learning - I started taking some community college classes in January and continued over the summer and in the fall semester. It has been amazing to have something to study and throw myself into and remember how passionate I am about learning, just for the sake of knowledge, not necessarily for a degree. While I do ultimately want to go back to school for a Master's degree, it has been and continues to be a great reminder that I don't need that in order to further my knowledge.

One of my choices for a Master's degree.

5//Work - I started off 2014 with the decision to leave my job and try and find something that made me happy. It definitely took more time that I expected, I didn't start my current job until late October, but I could not be happier. I love the company I work for, the people I work with and the actual work I do. It's amazing to feel like I am learning new things everyday and to feel valued at a company where I actually have potential for growth.

A video posted by Elena Drake-Knight (@elenatamsen) on
6//Badminton - Attending Badminton Horse Trials has been a dream of mine since I was a little kid. This year, my father-in-law bought me tickets and literally made my dreams come true. It was honestly one of the most amazing experiences of my life; it almost feels unreal. My friend, Emily, went with me and we just decided to go again in 2015!!! Definitely the start of the best tradition ever.

Can you tell how excited I was? Photo op with the one and only, William Fox-Pitt.

Cheers to a great year 2014! 2015, I can't wait to see what you will bring!!

xx, Elena

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Final Push!

Just a few days left before Christmas!

Time to get wrapping (and packing!). I can't wait to see George and my family and to spend a few days relaxing in Costa Rica. I know it will be over all-to-soon but luckily I will be coming home to an amazing job, great friends, and some pretty fantastic animals (Sirius, Gatsby, and Kanye)!!!

Do you have any exciting plans for the holidays?

Also, planning on making the switch to WordPress for next year, anyone have any tips?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

All I Want For Christmas... a Miniature Australian Labradoodle!!!!

I follow Parker the Labradoodle on Instagram and I am absolutely in love! I think Sirius needs a little brother but I am pretty sure George would not agree:(

What is your favorite dog breed?

Monday, December 15, 2014

My Favorite Christmas Movies

Yesterday it hit me that it was only 11 days till Christmas and I had not yet watched any Christmas movies. Naturally, I spent last night and tonight snuggled up in bed playing catch-up ;-) I realized I don't actually love as many Christmas movies as I thought I did but here are my favorites! I try not to watch these throughout the rest of the year so they end up being extra special around the holidays.

Definitely my favorite Christmas movie and quite possibly my favorite movie of all time. I know it's not a traditional Christmas movie but I feel like a lot of the movie takes place around the holidays. This is the movie that made me fall in love with New York; I still have it on my bucket list to be there in the snow! Probably the best love story of all time.

Heart-warming and hilarious. My only qualm with elf is that it is not on Netflix :-(

Technically not a movie but I am a huge Friends fans and I really love all of their holiday episodes. You just can't beat a Christmas Armadillo!

Another classic. I don't think it's possible to watch this and not be put in a good mood. I just finished it tonight and I'm already ready to see it again! I can never decide who my favorite character is because they are all so lovable and real! Bonus: Snape and Lily are married!

Probably my least watched Christmas movie but a favorite none-the-less. Jimmy Stewart can melt any girl's heart.

What are your favorite Holiday films?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Christmas tree at the Bodleian Library in Oxford
I don't know about you but I always feel like the holiday season goes by much to quickly. I try not to think about Christmas much until after Thanksgiving (a BIG holiday in my family) but then it feels like there is not enough time to really enjoy the pre-Christmas season!

Last year George and I surprised his family for Christmas in England (SO glad we did!) and it was one of the most magical Christmas' I have ever had. The whole holiday feel is much more intense there and I absolutely love it. This year, we will be spending Christmas with my family in Costa Rica, a totally different experience but one I am almost equally excited for none-the-less.

Christmas with George's family!
I had planned on doing a few gift guides for the holidays but then I got caught up in a million things - new job, family visiting, planning for Costa Rica, etc. and decided I would skip those this year. Also, my family does a big Secret Santa Exchange (and this year George's is too!) so I don't end up shopping for a ton of gifts. I usually get gifts for whoever I picked, George, and maybe a couple others I notice on the way.

This year I got got a MontBlanc pen for the person I picked (When I was a kid we were in NYC and saw Shaq outside his hotel. I asked the person I picked to borrow his pen for an autograph, it was a MontBlanc pen and he warned me not to lose it because it was expensive. Well, as my lucky would have it, Shaq's security guards made him go back inside before he could sign my autograph and he took the pen with him!).  I got George this watch and am going to get a couple pairs of Kate Spade earrings for my sisters and best friend.

It's finally gotten colder here in Southern California, which I love! I definitely day dream quite often about living somewhere where it snows but unfortunately I am not sure that is in the cards for me:( For now, I will have to live vicariously through those of you who do and who post beautiful pictures of it on Instagram!

I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season! What are your holiday traditions?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Job Searching - Part I

I've mentioned a few times that I just started a new job (LOVE it!) but I haven't talked at all about how I got my job or how I prepared for my interview (crucial). I spent a couple months off-and-on searching for jobs and I have to say, I had forgotten how tiring and stressful the search can be! I know that job searching is a big part of life for most 20-somethings so I wanted to do a series of posts on different aspects of it. I know I spent a good amount of hours scouring blogs and articles for all kinds of tips from updating my resume to what to wear to the interview.
If there is anything specific you want to know about, let me know!

To start off, I like to research companies in my area that I think seem interesting or fun to work for and see if they have any openings in my field. I know that it seems like "fun" should not be a part of the job search but I cannot stress enough how important it is to enjoy your workplace and what you do. I have worked at jobs where I didn't enjoy one or the other (or both...) and it just did not work out. There are things you can sacrifice short-term but if you are looking for a long-term job you need to be a bit picky to make sure that you will enjoy what you do, and where you work, for years to come.

I highly recommend signing up with a temp agency (OfficeTeam is my favorite). This is especially important if you are not currently working as they can find temporary jobs for you so you can earn some money while you are looking. In my opinion it is very important to have a good relationship with an agency because they often come across temp-to-hire or even direct hire positions and they will do all the work of marketing you and presenting you for the position. They will often coach you with tips for the interview which is hugely helpful because they really know what hiring managers are looking for.

While the temp agency will help you to make you resume as presentable as possible, it is also important to work on this on your own before meeting with them. I am going to do a full post on resume writing but some critical points to keep in mind are that your resume should be simple and succinct, you should have no more than two pages and should keep the design fairly classic and elegant unless you are applying for jobs in a creative field (even then, I wouldn't go to over-the-top with this.) Remember, your resume is just to get your foot in the door, you don't want to show up to your interview and have nothing to add to what is on the paper!

Stay tuned for Part II of my Job Searching series!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Warby Parker Winter Collection

I first came across Warby Parker this past summer when I decided it was finally time for me to take the plunge and get some corrective glasses. I didn't want to spend a ton of money because I didn't exactly need glasses - I have good eyesight but sometimes when I am on a computer for too long (everyday), I get headaches and I am pretty sure it's because I am straining my eyes. One of my best friends had a similar issue and she recommended Warby Parker to me because of their cute styles, affordability and their home try-on feature. Not only does Warby Parker offer an affordable and stylish option for prescription glasses, they also partner with some pretty cool non-profits like VisionSpring and have provided glasses to over 1 million people in need as well as trained over 18,000 people to give eye exams and sell the glasses . As someone who doesn't have a huge amount of disposable income I try to be a bit picky about the brands I choose to support and I am always excited to find brands who pay it forward and I think Warby Parker definitely fits the bill.

You can imagine how excited I was when I was contacted by Warby Parker to write a post announcing the launch of their Winter 2014 Collection. The collection features both eyeglasses and sunglasses in confident and classic silhouettes. These classic shapes have been reworked and redesigned to fit in to any Winter wardrobe, from polar vortex and fleece to frost and plaid to chilly sunshine and a cozy sweater.

I'm loving the Keene in Beach Glass but not sure if I can pull them off!

Loving the Laurel Tea Rose in eyeglasses and sunglasses.

There are so many great options; it's going to be hard to choose! Let me know what you guys end up going with:)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Splurge/Save - Fall Basics

The first of November is when it finally starts to feel like fall to me. I know all you east-coasters have been enjoying the colder temperatures for a bit now but over here in Southern California it has been pretty toasty. This past weekend we got our first (much-needed) rain and the temps have dropped a bit which is amazing. For someone who loves cold weather and cozy sweaters I sure do live in the wrong climate. 

Now that the weather is getting a little chillier I have started swapping out my summer clothes for some of my warmer clothing. I can't justify purchasing any of the really amazing coats I've been seeing everywhere for California weather but I definitely do need to make some wardrobe changes (I pretty much live in riding boots and cozy sweaters from now until Spring). I've highlighted my favorite fall items below and included pricier, as well as more affordable, options for each. I started my new job last week (!!!) and having a paycheck again is definitely tempting me to do some shopping! I may treat myself to one or two items but I am really trying to save for the holidays so most of these will just be going on my Christmas wishlist;)

1. Waxed Jacket
Barbour Beadnell J. Crew Field

2. Chelsea Boots 
J. Crew Chelsea Rocket Dog Camilla

3. Comfy Sweater
Everlane Cashmere Crew Factory Sweater

4. Jogger Sweats
Lululemon Yin Yang Sweat Joe Fresh Sweat

5. Classic Trench
Banana Republic Trench J. Crew Factory Trench

6. Leather Backpack
Frye Backpack Aldo Backpack

7. Riding Boots
Tory Burch Teresa Boots Sam Edelman Penny Boots

Sorry some of the images are a little wonky! I've been having some issues with Blogger but will be making the switch to WordPress and my own domain soon!!!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!!!!

The last Halloween I dressed up for was the night I met my husband three years ago. I haven't been into dressing up the last few years but my team at my new job(!!!) has matching superhero costumes which I think will be really fun! We went to the craft store on our lunch yesterday and then spent the afternoon GLITTERING everything!!!

Tonight I will be skipping the parties and staying in to watch my favorite Halloween movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I hope you all have a very fun and safe holiday!!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Saying Goodbye

I've sat down to write this post a few times and haven't been able to get it into words. To be honest, it wasn't something I was certain I wanted to blog about but then I found that other, less personal posts just didn't feel right to post without acknowledging that I'd been going through a rough patch. Over the summer we found out that my Mother-in-law was no longer in remission from cancer. We new that it was bad and that we didn't have much longer with her but it all happened much quicker than I ever could have expected. At the end of last month George and I flew to England and were lucky enough to spend her last few days with her and the entire family.

I've been home for a few weeks now and I have been struggling to let the reality sink in. Because we lived on different continents I was used to being far away from her and not in daily contact. Sometimes it feels like this is still the case and everything is just as it was. I can only imagine how difficult this is for George and I know we are both lucky to have each other and the rest of our families during this time.

As sad as this time has been, I have been lucky to have wonderful, kind and caring people to turn to. It seems so many of us tend to get Having to say goodbye to someone you love is incredibly painful but I feel so appreciative to have known her.

Goodbye Claire, you are very, very missed.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Oh the Pages I've Read // Book Reviews

I used to be a massive reader but that slowed down a bit when I was in college and working full time. I sort of forgot how much I loved reading for a while which is pretty sad. Luckily, I have rediscovered my love obsession and am now making sure I make time to read every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. There's nothing quite like getting lost in a good book but even reading a few pages will help me clear my mind and relax a bit.

Now that summer is coming to a close I thought it would be a good time to review all the books that I read over the past few months. I didn't read quite as much as I had hoped but I am still plugging along with my goal of 1+ book/month. 

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card - This is the third book in the Ender's Game series and probably my least favorite so far. I really liked Ender's Game and LOVED Speaker for the Dead but this one didn't quite click with me as well. I would still totally recommend the series and this book does have some really strong points in it, I was just a bit disappointed with the ending.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer - I picked this up at a bookstore while traveling (I totally buy books based on their covers, btw) and I really enjoyed it. It's a really touching story about someone struggling with a mental illness. 

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window & Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson - This was my favorite book of the summer by far. I literally could not put it down. I saw this book on Design Darling's 10 Books to Read this Summer and thought it looked fun. The story is great and the writing is witty; I've been recommending this to everyone I know!

Perfect by Rachel Joyce - Not my favorite. The cover caught my eye and the teaser sounded interesting but this definitely wasn't worth the read. 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - This is another must-read. I cannot wait for the movie to come out this fall! The story was totally captivating and Gillian Flynn is a very clever writer!

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - I've wanted to read this for awhile but never got around to it. It's a sad/disturbing story but I thought the perspective made it a really interesting read. Alice Sebold did a really good job of capturing and portraying so many different emotions throughout the book. I enjoyed this but it wasn't as strong as I thought it could be.

What did you read this summer? Any favorites I should add to my reading list?

P.S. You can follow along with what I'm reading on Goodreads.

Friday, September 5, 2014

What I Pack In My Carry On Bag

With all of the traveling I've been doing over the summer it has started to feel like I am constantly unpacking and repacking my suitcase. I'm honestly not the best packer, I always end up bringing way too much stuff and then I never feel like wearing half of it. One thing I am good at though is packing my carry on. I thought I would share what went in my bag this past weekend on my trip to Orlando!

1. Cute Bag - I usually bring a large Longchamp tote or a cute backpack. I pack my essentials from my purse in this and pack a small crossbody in my checked bag.

2. Reading Material - I rarely have time to read magazines at home so I keep a pile of unread ones to choose from when I travel. I always bring two good books, one in my carry on and one in my checked bag in case I finish the first.

3. iPad - I'm pretty sure this is a travel necessity for everyone. I don't like to read on my iPad (I love real books way too much) but I keep mine stocked with my favorite TV show (Inbetweeners), a few movies (I'm always in the mood for Marley & Me), and, of course, plenty of games. 

4. Make-Up Bag - I try to minimize my make-up for traveling and just bring the basics and a small eyeshadow palette. 

5. Notebook/Journal - I'm big on list-making and would rather jot things down on paper than my phone so I always bring at least one notebook with me wherever I go. Plus you never know when someone might suggest an amazing restaurant to try or museum/park to check out!

6. Chargers & Cables - I keep anything electronics related in here and always carry it on it case my bag gets lost.

7. Small Pouch - This has a random mix of little things I like to always have on hand - metro cards, Advil, Chapstick, hand lotion, etc.

8. Wallet - Obviously.

What are your travel essentials? Any favorite movies or tv shows for long trips?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Vacation // Orlando, FL

George and I just returned from a great mini-vacation to Orlando, FL to check out the newly expanded Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Guys, this place is AMAZING! I'm a massive HP fan/nerd but I am pretty sure that even non-fans would be impressed by this place. The rides are some of the best I have ever been on but what really got me is the attention to detail, they do such a good job of making you feel like you are really there!

Last time we went (for our Honeymoon), I took TONS of pictures but this time I was more into taking in all the cool stuff and didn't want to miss anything hiding behind a camera. There are so many neat little details and I'm sure there are still some that I missed! Here's a little recap with the few photos I did take:)

Hogsmeade Station for the new Hogwarts Express. So worth getting park-to-park tickets to ride this! Make sure to go both ways as they are totally unique!

Beautiful Hogsmeade.

I celebrated my birthday while we were there and George writes me a Hogwarts admissions letter every year:) This year I actually got to ride the Hogwarts Express on the 1st (my birthday)!!

Diagon Alley - so amazing. The dragon on top of Gringotts breathes fire every half hour.
Entrance to the Gringotts ride, probably my favorite of them all! The lines were pretty long for this one (30-90 minutes depending) but it was so worth it. Plus, there are a lot of cool things to see while you are in line so it doesn't end up feeling that long.

You can't tell from the photo but the photos under the headlines were actually moving!

Heading to Hogwarts on September 1st!

View of the outside of the expansion - they've got the Knight Bus, King's Cross Station, the shops on either side of the entrance to Diagon Alley and Grimmauld Place.

Love this view of the castle!

I obviously highly recommend visiting the park. However, make sure to take into account that it is a theme park and very busy and tiring. We went for two and a half days which was probably pushing my limits a bit. Also, definitely try to stay close to the park, either at an onsite hotel or one nearby. We stayed at the Doubletree which is across the street from the Universal entrance and it worked out great, we saved a bunch on cab fares and it was close enough to walk to the park for the day and then back at night to go to dinner at CityWalk.

Have you been to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Any theme park tips for future visits?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fall Wish List

Just a few things I've been lusting after for the upcoming season.

LL Bean Boots - Perfect for muddy hikes with Sirius (or walks with Gatsby and Kanye!) or for trips to England regardless of the season:)
Restoration Hardware Robe - I'm imagining wearing this snuggled up in bed with hot cup of coffee and a good book.
Dogeared Necklace - I have been wanting a simple gold necklace and I love (almost) all of the Dogeared ones.
Ralph Lauren Cashmere Sweater - Oversized cashmere sweater, long plane rides, enough said.

Do you have any fall must haves?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Skin Routine

I've gotten very lucky with my skin. I didn't have bad acne growing up and I was able to get away with wearing little to no makeup most of the time. I've always gone through phases where for a few months I would take really good care (I thought) of my skin but then I would miss one day and end up not really washing my face for weeks.

Recently I decided that I needed to take better care of my skin (I even made it one of my 101 in 1001!). My skin wasn't bad per se but it was probably the worst I have ever seen it. I didn't only want to make it better for the present though, I realized that if I wanted my skin to stay healthy I would have to start taking care of it before it got damaged. Through some trial (and lots of error) I have come up with what I think are pretty good morning and evening skincare routines for me. I am still playing around with some things though and definitely open to suggestions or advice!

Morning Routine

ROC Exfoliating Cleanser - This is a cleanser that I already had. I like it because even though it exfoliates it feels light and refreshing, perfect for starting the day! Unfortunately it looks like this product has been discontinued so I will have to try something else when mine runs out.

Neutrogena Pore Refining Toner - Not too sure how I feel about this product...I think it does its job well but it feels a bit harsh on my skin. I might do some searching to see if I can find something better when I finish this bottle.

No7 Pore Refining Serum - LOVE this product! It makes my skin so soft and even and definitely clears up my pores.

Urban Decay Naked BB Cream - I've been using this throughout the summer in place of moisturizer AND foundation. Definitely a staple in my beauty routine. The cream has the perfect amount of color and leaves my skin nice and smooth. SPF is also a plus!

Evening Routine

Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser - This cleanser is amazing. I have really sensitive eyes and have always struggled to find a cleanser that removes my makeup without stinging my eyes and this is definitely a winner. Added bonus, washing it off with the hot muslin is super relaxing and always makes me feel ready for bed!

La Roche Posay Effaclar Astringent - This is another winner. I love the smell and it makes my skin feel great, it's almost as if I can feel my pores getting cleaner.

DDF Acne Control Treatment - As I mentioned before, I've never had bad acne so I'm not sure this step is really necessary for me. A friend of mine had given me a tube of this to try so I thought I might as well use it. To be honest, I'm not sold on it but again that might just be because I don't really need it. Either way, it's a bit expensive for me so I probably won't purchase another tube.

Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic - I received a free bottle of this with my Liz Earle Cleanser and I am totally in love. I don't know how to describe it but it just gives my skin a little extra oomph. I also use it in the mornings if my skin is feeling particularly dry and it does wonders.

Lush Enchanted Eye Cream - I tend to get circles under my eyes quite often so I thought adding an eye cream would sort that out for me. I've had a lot of success with Lush products recently (BB Seaweed Mask & Ocean Salt Scrub are amazing!) so I decided to give this a go. So far I like it and I LOVE that you only need to use a tiny bit.

Liz Earle Skin Repair Moisturizer - This stuff is AMAZING! You only need to use a little bit and it makes your skin feel fantastic and hydrated. I love using it at night because I feel like it really soaks in while I sleep.

What are your favorite skincare products? Any must-haves I should add to my repertoire?