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Happy New Year! Well, almost…

As we wrap up the 2014 holiday season, most of us have started thinking about the future (such as the immediate future of January and 2015!) as well as looking back at the paths that brought us here. After all, what looks more at your lifestyle than looking at how you want to change it? (Yep, New Year’s Resolution time.)

Thames in London

Thames in London

Looking back, this upcoming year marks a few milestones for me. The end of April will mark 10 years since I graduate middle school (not a big deal for everyone but I went to a small k-8 school where my class—the biggest the school had—maxed out at 38 students who were more like family) which also means September marks 10 years since starting High School and meeting a group of people I still consider some of my best friends.

The beginning of January also marks a year until my London visa deadline. If I’m not employed (substantially) or haven’t run out of money before this deadline, I’ll be heading back home to figure out what I’m doing next and how I’ll be paying off my loans. And it’s looking at these kind of factors that brings me to the always daunting New Year’s Resolutions.

I know most people look at these resolutions as promises you make to yourself that you go back on a few weeks later and when we make promises like “I’m going to go to the gym more” or to overall our lives, we basically set ourselves up to fail.

So I’m sticking with the Resolutions I made last year and change my lifestyle by changing my head-space. This came down to five points:

  1. You Can Only Do You…

Basically, you can’t make other people change; not really. Just get over that now: you are simply not that powerful.

  1. But If You Are Going to Do It, DO IT!

Again, you can’t change others but if there is something you want to do or change about you or your life, stop making excuses.

  1. In the Mean Time, Give Yourself a Break…

If you never take your eyes off the prize, you may never see a better prize that’s more worth your time or a faster way to get to where you want to be.

  1. … And While You’re at It, Stop Hating on People (Especially People You Don’t Know, ie. Celebrities.).

If you get to be let off the hook because you are human and flawed, every one everyone else, so, instead of vowing to go the gym more this year—not that that is a bad thing to do—how about we promise to stop hating on everyone.

  1. …And Finally, Stop Comparing Your Life to Everybody Else’s.

There is only one you and the pace at which you live your life should have nothing to do with a checklist made by anyone else

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I’m not saying I’ve been able to keep to these ideals for the whole year, but they’ve definitely changed my life. I’ve gotten rid of some of those friends who dragged me down and didn’t fit anymore and were causing me stress. I moved to London and really focused on figuring out what I want out of my life and, even when things here haven’t gone quite the way I expected, I’ve learned to roll with the punches and embrace being here. I’ll admit that I still read some of the lists people post online about where you should be in your life and when, but I mostly see them as the writers checklist and laugh at what is familiar and those points that are foreign to my life.

This year I’ll be pushing number two to get the most of this upcoming year before hitting my deadline and really look at what my future holds and where it’ll lead me. Basically I’ll be working on procrastinating less in all aspects of my life from school to work (and finding it!) to just going out and doing more—even when it feels too cold to actually be out anywhere!

Anyway, I’d love to hear some of your guys’ resolutions and hope you have a fun, warm, and (most of all) safe New Year’s.

–Taylor Gallagher

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Fashion

When It Rains…

One of the things I have learned in my three months living in London—which life in the San Fernando Valley never taught me—was the many ways to dress for the weather; namely the rain.

Living in the valley, rainwear was a simple thing: whatever would get you from the house to your car with minimal damage. This usually meant some kind of hoodie or if you couldn’t manage to pull a hood over your head, an umbrella (though, more likely, a quick sprint to the car door).

In London, it’s a whole other story. Not only do I not have a car to run out to to get where I want to go, any old hoodie doesn’t make the cut here (for both fashion’s and freezing’s sake). This means I’ve had to discover some new options to get you through those cold weather woes:

Option 1: The hat.

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A hat is a great option for a few reasons, but also has its draw backs. For rain, you’ll be looking for a hat with a brim wide enough to keep to the rain off your face and a stiffer brim works better for this than a beachy, floppy hat (save that accessory for the summer!). A hat like this keeps your exposed parts dry, your hands free to stay warm in your pockets, and the benefit of looking fashion forward in a fashionable city. Also, if you are going through crowds, a hat is much easier (size wise) to dodge though crowds with without getting caught between a million other umbrellas!

The drawbacks are, however, when the wind picks up, wide brim hats have a tendency to try to take flight so keep your hand ready it you start feeling a breeze. Also, if you aren’t keeping your hat on the whole time you are wherever you are going to, you’ll have to figure out where to keep it while you are doing what you are heading out to do.

But, whether you choose to wear a hat to protect you from the wetter elements or not, covering your head with a beanie, cap or whatever else you may have on hand is a great idea for keeping warm in these cold months. Your head is where (walking around at least) you’ll lose most of your body heat, so keep it covered and your one step closer to looking a bit more chic and feeling a whole lot warmer!

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Option 2: The umbrella.

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An umbrella is a classic option for rain protection, after all, that’s why they were invented, wasn’t it? An umbrella tends to give the largest protection as it had the largest cover area. An accessory that has both fashion and function. If you are living in an area that gets rain on the regular (or not!), it’s an option you shouldn’t skip out on. Plus, an umbrella (unlike the other options here) has room for two and a built in romantic edge (it wasn’t a major player in CBS’s How I Met Your Mother for nothing!).

For all its obvious benefits, however, umbrellas can also be a major pain. Unlike a hat, an umbrella I not a hands-free option, so if you’re hands get cold, you’ll also want some gloves. You’ll also want to check the forecast before you head out as wind is the nemesis of the umbrella. Paired together means two hand navigation, blocked views for head-on wind, inside-out umbrellas, or getting partway to your destination and forced to walk through the wet without any coverage. Don’t forget, you’ll have to look at size when closed as well as open as you’ll be carrying the umbrella with you wherever you go on days you bring it with you.

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Option 3: Hooded coats, jackets and sweatshirts

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Some kind of hood is the simplest type of weather protection. There is no added burden with a hood since you’ll either never take it off or, if you do end up carrying it, it’d be no more of an issue than carrying any coat you’d have any way and, like wearing a hat, it keeps your head dry and warm.

A hood however, gives you the least protection form the rain. Your face tend to have no coverage, the wind can still knock it back (though this stands up best to the wind!) and, while you are dry under the coat, depending on the rainfall and the time you are out in it, you’re still going to end up more wet than dry. For me, a hood is more a precaution if it may rain and I don’t have room to carry my hat or umbrella or if I’m taking a really quick trip outside for something like taking out the trash.

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So there you have it, a few fashion forward ideas for a girl on the go in the wet, winter seasons. And don’t forget you can pair these option up as well for some extra protection!  Let me know what you wear out in these harsher months and the pros and cons you’ve found with them.

–Taylor Gallagher

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Small Spaces Called Home

The places we call home in our early twenties tend to have us working in small spaces. This is a time when you are still in dorm rooms, first apartments, or living back in your parents’ house. No matter the location, this usually means one room that you get to call your own (if that!), as you’ll probably be sharing living, cooking, and restroom space with friends, family, significant other, and/or roommates for the foreseeable future, even if you work like a crazy person to get your own place. This begs the question, how do you turn a single room into your own safe-haven; a place that makes you feel at home?

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DIY Vanity, magnet makeup, & accessories wall

The key I’ve found comes down to making the most out of your space. For one, keeping it clean or at least tidy! A small space is just that: small, so the more floor space visible not only makes the room feel and look bigger, but gives you more space to walk around or hang out in. As part of saving that floor space, you have to really think about the furniture you bring in. At home in the valley, this meant I couldn’t have a vanity—no floor or wall space that didn’t completely block the door. Instead, I built my own which saved space and time fighting over my turn in the bathroom.

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Apartment wall decor

When it comes to decorating your walls, it’s all about balancing simplicity with personal touches that make a room speak to your personality. For some this can mean a collage of photos on pin boards or hanging in frames, while others use art from their favorite professional artists or their own. In my room in London, making my own didn’t mean creating so much as creating both essential storage space as well as add interest to my plain white walls. Using sticky hooks that can be found almost anywhere (in the US, at least), I hung up three hats and all my necklaces. For me it’s a design that gives my room a personal touch and it’s handy to know exactly where everything is and not have to hunt and entangle, which happens a lot with jewelry!

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Jewelry Under Hats

Like I said and hinted before with clutter, it’s all about storage space: making it and using it to the best of your abilities. Overcrowding, whether on your walls or in the room in general, is not your friend and gives the allusion of being too small to contain everything. It’s the same with clutter. Keeping some of the flat surfaces flat will allow for breathing room.

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Hidden Storage Keeps Visible Clutter Down

Finally, if you feel a need to change things, go for it! Bring in a plant (but take care of it or get something fake!) when you find yourself missing spring or warmer weather. Change up your art if your taste changes, or swap out pictures. Your room to really feel like home should grow with you. Just remember, when things go up, they shouldn’t just add—it’ll become too much. Do a swap and see where you can store your older stuff is you need a change up later. Maybe swap art with a friend when your room starts to feel stale. That’s an easy change up and, what’s even better, it costs you nothing.

–Taylor Gallagher

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Fashion

American Thanksgiving in London.

A week has past since said holiday and I’m still finishing the leftovers of my first self-cooked Thanksgiving—not to mention the first in a country that doesn’t celebrate the holiday.

Food:

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Thanksgiving is generally centered on the home, family, and food, but this year as a Grad-student in London, the first two were substituted with new friends and three days of cooking in a dorm room kitchen. But food, food we had. (And some of these recipes I’ll post on at later dates!)

We had hand-pressed turkey patties, creamy mashed potatoes and turkey gravy, prosciutto stuffing, sweet potatoes with maple-brown sugar walnuts, four-cheese mac ’n’ cheese, and Parmesan baked vegetables. Plus some store bought rolls and ciders and, for desert, ice cream topped with leftover maple walnuts.

Fashion:

blockEvery holiday has its own brand of styles do and don’ts and living in a country where you actually have to go outside for things like work and/or school on a day when you usually lounge around cooking, eating, watching football, or a combination of these types of events, this can really be a mood killer. After all, I’m not one who will wear Pjs or leggings out of the house, so how do you balance your holiday wear with the actual business of your day?

I start with your basic color pallet; just like Christmas has red and green, Thanksgiving has its own specifications. When you think about it, it’s a fall festival so think yellow, orange and brown tones (I really like the slightly burnt variety!) For me this meant my burnt yellow sweater and Brown booties. So not to go overboard tone wise, I went with a simple black skinny jean (which can easily be swapped for a pair of black leggings once you get down to the home-comfort eating portion of the day!) and, because it was chilly here in London, a simple American classic—the denim jacket. Throw on some simple yet bold accessories like a vibrant statement necklace and you’ll be setting a chic yet utterly relaxed example of how to dress for the holiday or any other day you feel like it throughout the fall and winter months!

So while I was in the minority here celebrating Thanksgiving, I think I had a successful first go at it! So from this Ex-pat to any of you out there listening, enjoy your holidays and stay tuned for more from London.

–Taylor Gallagher

PS: If you want to read up on my holiday culture shock or anything else related to my travels, check out, like, follow, pin, favorite, or anything else you can do to connect with my other Blog: LeaveontheWind!

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