Waking up early: How to do it + why I love it
 
how to wake up in the morning tips, hacks for waking up in the morning, early riser motivation, how do I wake up earlier in the morning
 

Waking up before everyone else is a habit I started when I was pretty young and have continued to my adult life. Today, I wanted to share why & how I think you can add it to your life.

I have to say, when I tell people I wake up before 7am (usually 6am) almost everyday, they seem pretty shocked. They look at me horrified and always ask me why?!!?!

For me, it’s always been this way and honestly mornings are my favorite part of the day. But, I know for a majority of people waking up before you have to (or before 9am) is their worst nightmare. I figured if I shared why I love waking up early and some tips to make the morning the best part of the day, that other people will start this amazing habit.

Tip to help you wake-up early:

// Have a treat for yourself in the morning

The key to getting yourself out of bed so early (especially in the beginning) is to give yourself a reward once you do. For me, it’s a big cup of coffee that I can enjoy myself in the morning. It gives you something to look forward to the second you gain the courage to hop out of bed.

// Go to sleep at a reasonable time

If you are trying to change your schedule around to wake up earlier the best way to start is to go to sleep earlier, so your body will try to naturally wake up earlier. Try starting this on a day where you did a really hard workout or had a long day at work, so you can easily fall asleep.

//Remember the benefits of waking up earlier

Remembering why you want to do this whether it’s to work on a side project, have time before you kids wake up, to train for a marathon, to ground yourself, you have to remember that when you are laying in bed pressing the snooze button. 

Why I love it:

// You truly get alone time

It’s probably the only part of the day where you can truly just be alone. No emails, texts, calls, work, etc because most people aren’t even up!! If you are an introvert like me, this is basically the best thing ever!!

// Everything is quiet and still

In the mornings (even in NYC) everything is still, quiet, and peaceful. You feel like you have time to relax for a second while the rest of the world wakes up. And honestly you feel like you are ahead of the game. 

// You have time to prepare for the day

Waking up early means you aren't rushing around the second you get out of bed which means you aren’t starting your day off reacting to things (which I need to do a whole blog post on). It gives you time to slowly wake up, think about your day, and enjoy your morning coffee. It keeps you grounded.

Also remember to not be so hard on yourself and to sleep in on the weekends :)

x,

Sarah

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Gisou Pop-up: Small Business Branding
 
Small business branding, Small business branding design inspiration, gisou negin mirsalehi, gisou pop up new york city, branding design inspiration
 

Today, I want to talk about Gisou’s pop-up branding and why I feel as though it is important to a business (especially a smaller one). Plus, if you aren’t living in New York and missed out on visiting the pop-up I want to share some pictures I took while there!

If you know me, it’s no secret how much I love the Gisou products (I’ve done a post raving about the hair oil here) and IRL I talk about how inspiring and creative Gisou is as a business. So, when the brand created a pop-up in New York, I had to go visit, knowing that it would be designed down to the last detail. And, I was not disappointed.

Small business branding, Small business branding design inspiration, gisou negin mirsalehi, gisou pop up new york city, branding design inspiration

What I loved about the Gisou pop-up

// Every last detail was thought of

Two of my favorite details about the pop-up were the shopping bag you received after purchase and the napkin holders on the table. I love that things on this level were thought of and it makes, as a customer, you feel like the brand really cares. Plus, as a designer it is so insanely cool to see the amount of creativity that went into concepting everything and gives me so much inspiration for my own work!

// They brought in brand values to the store

Another detail I loved was that they decided to have deals that were special to the New York pop-up. One deal was refills that were cheaper than buying a new product. It was more environmentally conscious (and probably a margin hit) for them to offer this and I feel like it ties into their brand values of working to be better as a business for the planet.

// The real Gisou team was there

O.M.G. I loved that the Gisou team was actually in the store! It felt more authentic to have them there and really gave you a unique experience. 

Small business branding, Small business branding design inspiration, gisou negin mirsalehi, gisou pop up new york city, branding design inspiration

Why Pop-up Branding Is Important To A Small Business

// It is the first time many people are interacting in real life with your brand

I think this title says it all, but really for most pop-ups it is the first time people are able to go into the store and look at the item they are thinking about buying before they purchase. It is also the first time people will be able to really physically see a representation of the brand and I think that can really make a big impact.

// You need to make a statement to attract attention

I loved that Gisou’s store was in a Papaya Dog! Although the concept sounded a little strange at first, I felt like it was a stand-out concept that intrigued me so much that I needed to see it in person. Not to mention how creative it was!

// You want to leave a lasting impression

This one is obvious I feel, but everything I have mentioned above is designed to leave a lasting impression. Without that lasting impression, I wouldn’t feel connected to the brand and am way less likely to purchase again. But, after leaving the Gisou pop-up I know due to their amazing products and even cooler brand, I will be a life long customer.

Did you go to the pop-up? What do you think of small businesses opening stores in major cities? Let me know your thoughts below :)

x,

Sarah

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Pre-Fall Fashion Mood Board
 
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Something about this year has me excited to embrace this season’s change. While I love summer (and hate winter) I’m excited to view fall as a fresh start and a time to get inspired. I feel like all of the green in this mood board represents a new start.

 
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I also love the dreamy air of this mood board with hazy photos, exploration of light and reflection, and the different textures that add warmth.

x,

Sarah

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How To Avoid Burnout In Less Than 1 Hour A Day
 
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Recently with work being extra crazy, I’ve tried to find ways to bring in balance and rest into my life on a daily basis. I wanted to share with you how the smaller things I am doing recently that have helped me with this!

So what brought me to this point?

I feel like my whole life I haven been the type of person who will be super focused and work really hard for as long as it takes to finish the job, then I will go into intense rest where I can’t even think about answering text messages or even talking to anyone. I didn’t really think anything of it because usually I plan my life so far in advance that I didn’t go into these two phases that often (think during final exams). 

Currently, my life is like final exam week 24/7 and I’ve been trying to fight the burnout and fatigue that comes along with working yourself that hard. 

I found that the things that made the biggest difference really didn’t take much time. Really, I just felt so overwhelmed that I didn’t realistically ask myself “how long would this actually take?” Because when I honestly answered the question, everything was around 5-10mins.

// Clean the house

10mins

Being in a clean environment where you don’t have the “I should pick up my clothes” nagging voice in your head is really therapeutic. 

// Plan your meals in advance

5mins

Whenever I decide to go to the grocery store, I always make a list of what meals I want to eat that week. Then, I base my grocery list off of those meals. It makes shopping at the grocery store much more streamlined and helps with not picking up unnecessary items.

// Pack your lunch

5 mins

I think people think that packing lunches is a large task, but realistically, it will usually only take 5 minutes. If you know what you are having every day and plan out meals that are easily prepared (or where you can bulk prepare), then it can be as simple as taking out a tupperware from the fridge and putting it in your bag.

// Spend time alone with yourself in the morning

30 mins

Again, this seems extremely daunting. Getting out of bed 30mins earlier?! But guess what -- it makes all the world of difference. By putting aside time for youself and making the choice to put yourself above everything, it changes the tone of your day (if even only the first half).

//Light a candle

1 min

Wow. Candles make suck a huge difference when it comes to the mood. I feel like when I light a candle it reminds me to just take a deep breath and relax for a second. Plus they smell amazing!

What is something small you do during the week to bring you back to yourself & avoid burnout?

x,

Sarah

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Tie-dye Shirts DIY
 
Tie dye techniques, tie dye patterns, tie dye shirts diy,  tie dye shirts ideas, tie dye shirts outfits summer styles
 

I’m not sure when tie-dye came back into style again, but I am fully on board for it. There’s something about the pattern that is simply nostalgic and when done with the right colors, 90s chic. I want to share how you can create this pastel tie dye pattern yourself.

Supplies:

How To make a pastel tie-dye shirt

1. The pattern:

Swirl your t-shirt to make the pattern of the tie-dye (see the photos below) and wrap three rubber bands around the t-shirt. Each color you choose will need two sections, so keep that in mind! Also, make sure the bands are spaced out evenly.

Tie dye techniques, tie dye patterns, tie dye shirts diy,  tie dye shirts ideas, tie dye shirts outfits summer styles
Tie dye techniques, tie dye patterns, tie dye shirts diy,  tie dye shirts ideas, tie dye shirts outfits summer styles

2. Choose your colors

I went with the classic colors: pink, orange, blue, and green. If you look on Pinterest there is a ton of inspo that will help you pick your colors.

Tie dye techniques, tie dye patterns, tie dye shirts diy,  tie dye shirts ideas, tie dye shirts outfits summer styles

3. The color of the dye

So, I’m mostly into the pastel tie-dye shirts (shocker there) as I’m not really a bright color wearing person. So, to create this pastel color version, you have to dilute the dye. I basically emptied the entire bottle, then re-filled it, tested it on a white paper towel and re-diluted it if needed. You want the color to be a little darker than your intended end result, but not by much.

Tie dye techniques, tie dye patterns, tie dye shirts diy,  tie dye shirts ideas, tie dye shirts outfits summer styles

4. Dying the shirt

Place the colors opposite each other and make sure that the t-shirt is pretty saturated. The folds are what will end up making the pattern, so don’t put dye in them.

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5. Follow the rest of the directions

The kit will come with instructions and I recommend following those from here on!

x,

Sarah

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My Current 2 Product Beauty Routine
 
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I feel like learning about other people’s skincare routines is so interesting these days. Everyone has one, everyone talks about them, but honestly, it’s just so time consuming, not to mention expensive. Around 4 months ago, I decided I wanted to make my skincare simpler, so I literally just started to use up what I had and when I finished it, I didn’t re-purchase. 

Instead, I invested in a great moisturizer and face wash that I use every single day. I will still use a face mask here and there when I feel my skin needs a little extra help and I’m sure I will start adding in a few products as time goes one, but for now I’m happy with my 2 products which I’ll share right now…

1: Face wash

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, $18

I’m not sure why people aren’t as obsessed with this product as me, but I’ve been using it for around 3 years now and it’s my constant go-to. I love that when applied dry to the face it can remove my mascara, but when water is added it takes away all of my face makeup and leaves my skin feeling very cleansed and glowy. It never irritates your eyes and never leaves your skin feeling dry. All in all it’s fab.

2: Face Moisturizer

Tata Harper Illuminating Moisturizer, $100

This brand is my absolute go-to right now. The moisturizer works so well to nourish the skin leaving it hydrated and the extra illuminating specs leave it glowing. Even though it’s on the slightly more expensive side, I really owe this product to the softness of my skin!

x,

Sarah

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DIY Vintage Wall Art
 
wall decor diy, wall decor diy living room, diy home decor, diy home decor on a budget, diy home decor for apartments, vintage aesthetic, vintage home decor
 

Y’all decorating an apartment is no joke. It takes so much thought, planning, and $$$. Today, I wanted to share a really cool (and cheap) way to add a unique piece of art to your wall, without breaking the bank!

Vintage Wall Art:

I had the idea while ago when I first saw these vintage magazines at a work party. I was honestly mesmerized that this little piece of history was so well preserved and I thought it was so cool seeing what used to be on the cover of magazines and what their ads used to look like. So, I thought it was a really cool idea to frame these and use them as artwork and I love how it turned out!

Why I love it:

It’s extremely unique:

  • Since it’s vintage, most likely no one else is going to have this in their home

Really easy:

  • All you need is a frame and the magazines

It’s super inexpensive:

  • Literally, you can but this frame from Target and go to a local vintage shop, Brooklyn flee, eBay, etc to find these.

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Taking Lessons From Vacation To Real Life
 
life lessons for women, real life quotes, real life truths, real talk quotes lessons learned, lessons learned in life,
 

Ugh, don’t we all love vacation? It’s a time to unplug, relax, and not have a worry in the world. Somehow life is always just better while on vacation. After being in Italy for the past week, I felt like I hit re-set on my mindset and learned a few things that I wanted to bring back to my everyday life. So, here’s a post on what I learned and how to implement it into your day-to-day.

Be bored:

In today’s society, being busy is a status symbol. It signals how important you are and if you are successful enough. On vacation, you are the opposite of busy… At first I had no idea what to do with myself, I was so fidgety while laying at the beach. Then slowly I just learned to be still, be bored.

How to implement into real life:

Setting aside once a week to spend 1-2 hours with friends, family, or your bf/gf to just talk, look out the window, drink a glass of wine, etc. No screens, no agenda. Just soak in what is happening around you and be present in the moment.

You can’t plan everything:

Italians basically don’t plan or worry about anything. They have a more laissez faire attitude about pretty much everything, which is the exact opposite of Americans. Yet, in the end everything always works out okay and life keeps moving. I think giving up a little control over everything could give us all a little sanity back.

How to implement into real life:

Anytime you start having time anxiety, feel like not everything will get done, etc remember that it’s not life or death. Everything will be okay in the end. You will make the train, that assignment will get done, and everything will come out in the wash.

Read More:

While IG, Youtube, and FB are all amazing for keeping in touch with people and getting inspiration, there’s nothing like reading a good book. I feel like I haven’t really gotten into a book in a loooong time, but in Capri I started reading Jackie, Janet, and Lee and I was obsessed. Reading it all the time, and it reminded me how much reading brings you into another world, kind of like a form of meditation.

How to implement into real life:

Even though I can’t read as much as on vacation, I still am going to try to read some of my book every night before going to bed. It’s a great way to not look at electronics, but still have a way to wind down.

I’d love to know what you bring back from vacation and implement into your everyday life. Comment below :)

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Travel Diary: Rome & Sorrento, Italy
 
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Hi friends! I wanted to make a travel diary post half to share and selfishly, half to make sure I remembered everything that happened.

So here’s my trip so far from the beginning..

Day 1:

After a long and fairly terrible plane ride (think late take off, barely able to sleep, and a crying baby) I landed in Rome! I couldn’t wait to get to our Airbnb and share where I had lived for a semester with Mike. 

After dropping off our things at the Airbnb, we went to explore the city. It was so weird to start walking and remember where I was. We started off by walking to the Pantheon, one of my favorite monuments in Rome. (I was almost not allowed to go in, because my outfit was too revealing). It is so much larger and grand in person than you would expect and the inside is just so detailed. 

Next we walked to the Trevi Fountain and then the Colosseum. At this point I was so tired (jet lag is real) and the sun was so hot that I was really struggling and wanted to make sure we got a table at my favorite restaurant in the world. So, we took an Uber to our dinner spot.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

Rome Italy photography, Rome travel guide, Rome travel diary, travel Italy photography, pantheon, colloseum, trevi fountain, da enzo
Walking through one of the side streets in Rome.

Walking through one of the side streets in Rome.

Need one of these trees, they are so pretty.

Need one of these trees, they are so pretty.

Mike & I at Da Enzo

Mike & I at Da Enzo

The outside of Da Enzo.

The outside of Da Enzo.

The best burrata ever.

The best burrata ever.

I highly recommend getting the carbonara.

I highly recommend getting the carbonara.

This is my favorite pasta ever!! It’s called gricia and is just amazing.

This is my favorite pasta ever!! It’s called gricia and is just amazing.

Cute little shop next to Da Enzo

Cute little shop next to Da Enzo

Rome Italy photography, Rome travel guide, Rome travel diary, Sorrento Italy photography, Sorrento Italy, travel Italy photography, pantheon, colosseum, trevi fountain, da enzo

Da Enzo, my favorite restaurant, is located in Trastevere which is on the opposite side of the Tiber river. It’s a little more of a quaint area and I love how you can just get lost in the streets. We arrived at the restaurant, which can be easy to miss due to how unassuming it is, and at 6:45pm there was already a couple waiting in line. By the time 7:30 hit — a.k.a. when the restaurant actually opens — the line was around the corner, so I was very happy we got there early. We sat down and I didn’t even need to look at the menu, I already knew what to order: Fresh burrata, gricia, carbonara, bread, olive oil, and house red wine. Seriously the best food in the world and to finish it all off, their tiramisu which is to die for. We walked back to our Airbnb and it was just amazing to be back in such a beautiful city.

Cute corner in Trastevere.

Cute corner in Trastevere.

The cutest set-up just randomly in the streets.

The cutest set-up just randomly in the streets.

Rome Italy photography, Rome travel guide, Rome travel diary, Sorrento Italy photography, Sorrento Italy, travel Italy photography, pantheon, colosseum, trevi fountain, da enzo

Day 2: 

We went to Trastevere again, had breakfast at Bylon Coffee shop (order a cappuccino and chocolate croissant) and walked around all the small streets. I highly recommend doing this as it really makes you feel like you are in a magical place / like you are experiencing what it’s like to actually live there.

Then we took the train to Sorrento where we stayed in a lovely Airbnb right on the water in Marina Grande. We explored town (which means walking a million steps) and sat in the middle of the square at Bar Ercolano to watch the chaos that is all of the tourists walking around. 

After dinner at Ristorante Zi Ntonio we went back down to the marina and watched the amazing sunset. It was fiery red and SO bright and huge. Once it went dark, fireworks were set off which was a perfect ending to the night! The next day however we were woken up at 4:45 to bells and then fireworks that kept going on and off for hours. 

Day 3:

After sipping coffee and eating a croissant by the water — v Italian of me — we made our way to Marina Picolla to take the ferry over to Capri. Which sounds easy, but with a suitcase, stairs, and a burning hot sun it was horrible lol. After waiting around for the ferry we took the 25 min ride to Capri!

I’ll leave off here…but Capri is amazing. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.


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My Favorite Summer Appetizer
 
summer appetizers, summer appetizers for party easy, appetizers easy dips, appetizers easy healthy
 

I love being able to have a go-to summer appetizer recipe and this one is perfect. It’s easy enough that you don’t need to stress, but seems sophisticated because of the perfect combination of ingredients. I started making this one last year after I found it on Half Baked Harvest and it is to such a hit that people have been asking me to make it this year. 

I essentially follow the recipe she created here, but with a few modifications to make it a little easier.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 1/2 cups small cherry tomatoes

  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed

  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • the rind from 1 lemon, thinly sliced

  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

  • pinch of flaky sea salt and pepper

  • 8 ounces feta cheese, finely crumbled

  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, roughly chopped

  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped

  • 1 loaf of fresh french bread

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice french bread into ½ inch thick pieces, drizzle with olive oil, and add salt and pepper. Place into 400 degree oven until golden and toasted.

  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, lemon rind and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes just begin to burst and the garlic is fragrant, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

  3. Crumble the feta into a serving bowl. Drizzle the tomatoes and oil over the feta. Top with fresh dill. Serve with toasted bread and enjoy!

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What Not to Eat
 
healthy eating for beginners sarah gross design
 

The healthy eating topic is an interesting one. A lot of the time if you eat “too” healthily you get judged, but when you eat badly, you feel horrible (for lots of reasons). The past year, I have really been trying to educate myself on what is good vs. what is harmful to my gut health and digestion.

With varying illnesses in my family from diverticulitis to IBS, I’ve always had stomach aches and pains. While the common thing to do these days is just taking a probiotic, which is definitely great for you, but I wanted to do more research instead of relying on a pill to cure all of my stomach issues.

I’ve learned that the best way to make all my stomach pain go away is to eat certain foods while cutting down on others and to drink as much water as I can. There are also specific factors to living a healthier lifestyle that I think some people miss because the information isn’t really available unless you search for it yourself. So, I wanted to share with you the things I look for in my foods:

Do:

Fresh produce:

Basically anything from this part of the grocery store is A-okay with me. I would say try to buy organic, but honestly, you are doing yourself a favor by just staying in this part of the grocery store for a majority of your time. Eating fresh foods means fewer preservatives and random ingredients that you can’t control yourself. I love to snack on veggies and fruit but they can also be used the base of a meal or the side dish.

Clean ingredient list:

You need to be reading the labels of basically everything you eat. Things I try to avoid are natural flavors (literally in everything), dyes of all types (just google it you’ll understand), and that long list of words you legit can’t pronounce. When you start looking at the ingredient list of foods, you start to see all of the random shit they put in the foods you are eating. Add all of that up over time and it honestly freaks me out.

Fish from the counter:

This has honestly changed my life because you can ask for a certain amount and you know that what you are getting is quality fish that hasn’t been sitting in a container for a week. Even the pre-cut salmon they have at the counter I don’t pick up, I’ve tried it and it’s not the same as the fresh stuff.

Don’t:

Processed snacks:

Even at Whole Foods you can run into a lot of processed items. Even when I am there I always try to look for items without a crazy long list and without natural flavors. Some of my favorites are the Simple Mills crackers, Lara bars, and avocado oil chips.

Processed sugar:

We all love some good chocolate after dinner, but even that can be mostly fillers and is something I watch out for. You can find great alternatives that taste just as good at Whole Foods like the Hu kitchen chocolate bars, they are delicious.

Dressings/Dips:

These ones really are the trap, especially salad dressings and hummus. Make sure if you are buying dips and dressings to check for random additions on the labels.

x,

Sarah


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