The Lazy Fashionista: How I came to accept my basicness

I have always liked to think of myself as an individual—I was adamant that I wouldn’t conform to the crowd in middle school and high school. Something changed, though, when I came to college.

At Chatham, no one is really going to bat an eye regardless of what you are wearing. If you want to dress up as a chicken every day of the year, go for it. Sweatpants every day? Sure. Nobody is going to judge you for wearing your pajamas to class.

When I came to school, I didn’t have my mother nagging me to put on real pants, so I turned to t-shirts and sweatpants every day. After a semester, it wasn’t working for me, so I started wearing collared shirts and statement necklaces.

After my first year I realized that neither of these extremes were really me. So for the last year and a half or so, I have been honing my style—finding pieces that work for me, understanding what I am comfortable wearing, and building a wardrobe I’m happy with.

Here is what I have discovered about my style: it’s extremely basic.

Not basic in the solid-colors-class-cuts way. I mean in the every-sorority-girl-in-the-U.S. way.

When I discovered that leggings are extremely comfortable and can function in many scenarios as pants, I immediately bought about five pairs.

I have numerous sweaters that I got multiple sizes larger than necessary in order to wear them with said leggings.

And only last week I put the icing on the proverbial cake: I swapped by destroyed black Converse sneakers for brand new, crisp, white ones.

So, sitting here in my oversized sweatshirt and yoga pants, I have to accept my basicness because, let’s be real; it’s not going away.

Honestly, being basic is the best thing I could do. I am comfortable in oversized tops and leggings. White Converse go with everything and add a little something extra to an outfit. Wearing my hair in a messy bun is functional and allows me not to wash my hair every day.

I think the term “basic” has gotten a bad connotation in the last couple of years. Nobody wants to blend in. Nobody wants to be lumped in with everyone else.

But when blending is this comfortable, and lumping doesn’t make me look lumpy, I think I’m okay with it.

And if someone wants to call me basic?

Well, I guess I’ll be the best-dressed basic they’ve ever seen.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Candy

Candy. It was always the forbidden fruit in my house. I grew up with a complete granola mother who didn’t even allow the pure form of sugar into our house until I was 10. She even tricked us into thinking that frosted flakes (a normal child’s definition of breakfast) were a dessert. We called it “treaty cereal.”

Candy was pretty much out of the question unless it was Halloween and it was time for trick or treating. Mind you, my mom always threw out the candy that was left a couple days later.

Candy has a bad stigma, as it should. The sugar is terrible for your teeth and your overall health. It should be a treat, not a staple. I know during this season, though, we can’t seem to get away from the candy, so I compiled a list of candies that aren’t going to burn a hole in your health entirely.  

Dark chocolate: We all tell ourselves it’s okay to eat a lot of dark chocolate because it has a health benefit…that is true, in moderation. Hershey’s Dark Chocolate bars are nice and small, and they give you that little kick of chocolate that you desire and a dose of antioxidants!

PayDay: Thanks to the amount of peanuts in this little snack, you will benefit from protein and fiber by eating these guys. I would say that is reason enough to buy a bag of them! The caramel and peanut crunch will give you the sugar kick you need, but not leave you feeling guilty later on.

Kit Kat: These are probably my favorite candy by far, and fortunately are not the most sugar or calorie dense. The wafer inside helps to eliminate a ton of the fatty bad stuff. Give yourself a break and eat a Kit Kat bar this weekend!

Jolly Rancher: These treats take up lots of time in your mouth while you are sucking on them, which actually helps you not to overindulge in them or other candies. With 70 calories for three of these treats, you aren’t completely crushing your diet. Just make sure to brush your teeth afterwards!

More like my mom and want to stay clear of the bad stuff entirely? Well, here is the most hippy dippy list of candies you can find out there.

Fruit Snacks: You can find the type that are 100% real fruit juice with added bonuses of being GMO free and also vegan (because we all know children under the age of 12 are worried about vegan candy). Some of my personal favorites are Seitenbacher Fruit Snacks (they use thickened beet juice to make them chewy) or Trader Joe’s Fruit Leathers. Those are like crack for me.

Dark Chocolate Bug Bites: These all-natural squares of chocolate have all of the antioxidant goodness of dark chocolate with an added bonus of education and an added bonus of helping children become philanthropists. Each chocolate comes with an educational trading card with a different insect on it and 10% of the proceeds go towards animal wildlife funds.

To find more, you can go to to find all of your favorite vegan, GMO free, organic products. The website has hundreds of options for your next all-natural Halloween party.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Pittsburgh’s best Halloween parties

Last week I gave you guys some ideas on some tasty food to have at your Halloween party this year, but this week I want to talk about where to go for some good food this Halloween. If you are of age, going out on the town for Halloween is an awesome option. Some of my favorite dance clubs and bars are having amazing Halloween parties where you can go and dance, drink, and, most importantly, eat!

So, if good food is a requirement for your Halloween plans, check out these awesome events happening Halloween weekend.

The Pittsburgh Public Market Soiree: The Pittsburgh Public Market is a local and delicious “food court” consisting of dozens of unique food vendors from sweets, to sandwiches, to authentic Mexican food. On October 30, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., the market is opening their doors for a delicious costume party. Get ready to try samples of food and drinks throughout the store and jam to some music by DJ Donnelly and the band Chop Shop. This event is 21+.

Spirit’s 1st Annual Lost Lodge Dance Macabre: If you haven’t been to Spirit, you are missing out on an incredible time. This dance club/pizzeria is taking over the Lawrenceville night scene. On October 31 from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., Spirit is having a crazy dance party. There will be two floors of music and dancing, a monster maze, and an immersive light labyrinth that will make this party like no other in the Burgh. The yummy side to this entire party is the free pizza buffet that is included in your ticket, and it’s not just any kind of pizza. It’s the fancy kind with multiple cheeses and meats and veggies. Tickets for this party are $15, and it is a 21+ event.

Boos and Brews with the Jews: Join Shalom Pittsburgh at Atlas Bottle Works for a night of pizza, delicious beer, and, of course, Hocus Pocus with our favorite Jewish witch, Bette Midler. The beer and movies are pay as you go, but the pizza is free! Happy Hour begins at 5 p.m. and the movie starts at 7 p.m. Obviously, you have to be 21 to go to happy hour, but you can get into the movie no matter what your age is!

Dinner at the Shiloh Grill: Maybe you’re not into the Halloween dress up gig, and want more of the real deal. Like maybe an awesome restaurant that is really haunted? The story is that the woman, Mrs. Soffel, who use to live in the Shiloh Grill’s building in the early twentieth century, was married to the sheriff in town, but fell in love with a prisoner at the local jail. She ended up helping him escape from the jail, but he was killed in a shoot out and she was captured near Butler County. Now, you can sometimes see Mrs. Soffel in flowing white dress walking all around the restaurant. Also, a woman in a sexy black outfit, whose aura smells like oranges, resides in the basement. So, the restaurant is definitely haunted, but the menu is even better. Their burgers are out of sight and the cocktail list is super fun.

The Lazy Fashionista: 8 definite DON’Ts in the fashion world

It seems like every major fashion publication has its list of “don’ts”—you can’t wear this, these colors don’t go together, people with this body type can’t wear this item of clothing. I take issue with these things; I really do.

Who are you to say that black and brown makes a frown? Or that just because I don’t have a flat stomach, I can’t wear a crop top? Or that wearing Uggs with a mini skirt is a complete faux pas?

Because of my dissent with these lists, I have decided to make my own list of “don’ts” in the fashion world.

DON’T suffer for the sake of fashion: if you can’t breathe or can’t walk, odds are, you are going to spend your whole day/night focusing on that, rather than enjoying yourself. Have fun!

DON’T wear something that makes you uncomfortable: if you know you are going to be tugging on a short skirt or high-necked top, don’t wear it! Again, if you are focusing on something bringing you discomfort rather than having a good time, it’s not worth it!

DON’T dress for a climate other than your own: look, I know that it is still 90 degrees in L.A. at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that all of us in PA should still be in shorts. Stay warm, stay cool—whatever the weather is, you should probably dress for it.

DON’T wear something that doesn’t make you feel confident: trust me, I understand the draw of wearing sweatpants every day for an entire semester—I did it, too! But the thing is, sometimes slouchy pants and ill-fitting t-shirts don’t make me feel like a rock star. But if they do for you, go for it! Find what makes you feel hot and wear the crap out of it!

DON’T wash your jeans every time you wear them: ain’t nobody got time for that.

DON’T piggyback on trends you’re not into: I get it that all of your friends may be into the hottest new trend—but that doesn’t mean you have to be! If you don’t like something or don’t want to wear it, never conform for the sake of society.

DON’T be anyone other than you: fitting in is pretty cool, but being yourself is way better! Regardless of what you wear, make sure you are expressing yourself in the best way possible.

DON’T let anyone tell you what you can and can’t wear: even me!

Foodie on the Half Shell: Party food edition

So I know I said I’d stay away from doing the whole recipe thing in my column, but I am totally breaking the rules. This is actually a public service announcement, and you all should be happy, because this had to be said.

Your party snacks suck. IF YOU EVEN HAVE SNACKS AT YOUR PARTY. Seriously people, just because you are under the age of 30 doesn’t mean you can’t have a good party with some nosh action.

It’s Halloween party season and I am here to advise you all on some easy and lovable snacks to serve at your next costume party. Don’t worry, you can still have your I.C. Light and Doritos, but a dip won’t hurt!

The best kind of dip in the world, according to me, is crab dip. Even those crazy people who “don’t like seafood” will eat crab dip if there is enough cream cheese involved. So here is my Spicy Crab Dip:

What you will need for a big party:

4 Tbsp. of butter

1 small minced red onion

2 cloves of minced garlic

2 minced jalapenos

1 ½ cups of cream

8 oz. of cream cheese cut into pieces (I prefer a light cream cheese to cut the calories)

1 ½ cups of sharp cheddar cheese

1 Tbsp. of smoked paprika

1 Tbsp. of cilantro to sprinkle on top and make it fancy

1 ½ cups of lump crab (add more if you want a very thick dip)

Salt and pepper to taste.

Alright, time to get your hands dirty. Melt the butter over medium heat then add the onion until it is translucent. Now add your garlic and jalapenos along with the smoked paprika. Stir in the cream and bring to a simmer. Now add the cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Now fold in the cheddar cheese, whisking to combine. Lastly, fold in the crab, stirring for a couple more minutes until it is hot throughout. Finish with a few pinches of salt and pepper, and garnish with cilantro. This is super easy to serve if you put in a crock pot with a plate of pita chips and veggies to dip.

Hearty Vegetarian Nachos (a hit for the carnivores and herbivores alike):

1 bag of tortilla chips

1 can of black beans

1 bag of veggie crumbles cooked and seasoned with chili powder

2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese (more is always okay. Always.)

1 small red onion chopped

1 green bell pepper chopped

1 avocado chopped

Pickled jalapenos

Salsa and sour cream for daysss

This is simple. Put the chips on a cookie sheet. Put half of the beans down, half of the veggie crumbles down, half of the cheese on top. Now repeat. You should have two layers of cheesy goodness. Pop in the oven with broiler on low for about 5-8 min. Please check regularly. When it is all gooey, take it out. Spread the red onion, bell pepper, avocado, and jalapenos all over the nachos. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. I like to put big spoonfuls of salsa and sour cream right in the middle of the nachos so it easy access for dipping OR buy some ranch dressing in a squirt bottle and drizzle it all over the nachos in a fancy pattern.

To add to these delicious dishes, buy some cookies, some Doritos, and ask your bestie to bring some stuffed mushrooms and you are in business. You only need to pick one of those recipes, and you have already improved your party by 100%. Please eat responsibly.

Did you try one of these recipes out? Hashtag #FoodieOnTheHalfShell on Instagram!

Foodie on the Half Shell: Pumpkin Spice

As I bite into my pumpkin spice muffin this morning, I ponder what the heck it is that makes this flavor so enticing. Seriously, who doesn’t love a good pumpkin spiced…anything? Pumpkin spice cookie, beer, body wash, and of course the famous Starbucks pumpkin spice latte!

Now, many connotations go with pumpkin spice, such as the distasteful idea of being “basic.” The college girl who likes Uggs, fleeces, and Starbucks, and, oh you know, soft and warm things. God forbid a culture amongst women goes without being criticized. Well, I really don’t want to get into that, but I would like to share that there are true reasons why we love pumpkin spice so much, and it has nothing to do with my North Face.

First of all, pumpkin spice is the unofficial start to the holiday season. When that spice begins to be sold in the stores, we know that Halloween is coming, which brings Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah seems to come right after. The holiday season is a time for family and relaxation, and college students don’t get a lot of either. Pumpkin spice is a symbol for “Don’t worry, you’re almost through this”, or “we love you, Olivia.”

Our sense of smell is so attached to our memories that it has the control to zip us right back to an era that we may have forgotten before that sweet sip of a pumpkin spice latte. The smells of cinnamon and pumpkin swirl together and create the image in our head of fresh pumpkin pies, picking your favorite pumpkin at the pumpkin patch, or that disastrous year where the bacon to your eggs-and-bacon costume dumped you last minute, so you had to go to the party as some sad yolk… Want to take a trip down memory lane? Cozy up with some pumpkin spiced stuff (you may want to bring a box of tissues with you).

Everyone can relate to the tastes and smells of pumpkin spice because it is an international combination of spices and flavors. So no, everyone, you can stop calling pumpkin spice a white person thing. Where does cinnamon come from? Sri Lanka, all the way over near India, actually. Cinnamon doesn’t just flavor your coffee drinks, it’s also a necessary ingredient in most curries. What about pumpkins, you may ask? Yes, they are indigenous to the Americas, but believe me…pilgrims were not the first to plant them. Whether it’s the ginger, the pumpkin, or the cinnamon—pumpkin spice brings to you the tastes of your roots, no matter how close or how far.

So, all of these in depth reasons as to why we like pumpkin spice may not seem very relevant. You might just say, “Shut up, I just like the taste.” Ah, my dear readers, there is always a hidden scientific reason behind everything these days, didn’t you know that? For example, my nephew eats carrots and vanilla ice cream with the same enthusiasm. One of these days, though, he will understand that ice cream is associated with a lot more fun things than carrots are. So cozy up with some pumpkin spiced things with your new found knowledge and taste the flavors of our forefathers and the memories mixed within.

The Lazy Fashionista: The ever-present struggle of Business Casual

Allow me to explain something: when I say I am a lazy fashionista, I don’t use “lazy” ironically. Pretty much anyone that knows me understands that I love wearing cute clothes as long as they involve somewhere around 70 to 80 percent spandex.

The resurrection of leggings was a godsend to say the least. Graphic tees are cute now? Count me in. Wearing a beanie instead of washing my hair is a solid option when getting ready in the morning.

So imagine my dismay when I started having responsibilities that required…business casual. It is heartbreaking waking up in the morning and ignoring my comfy leggings in favor of *gasp* slacks.

One of the biggest problems most people have with biz-cas is that they have no idea what it means. While there isn’t a hard-and-fast definition of what the phrase means, I like to think of it as between corporate and relaxed. By that, I mean that jeans and t-shirts aren’t acceptable, but brighter colors, short or quarter-length sleeves, and flat shoes are acceptable.

Through the weeks, I have discovered a few ways to get ready for big-kid events without driving yourself business-casual crazy.

Embrace the basics: invest (or don’t) in some solid staple pieces. Places like Ann Taylorm Loft, The Limited, and J. Crew are amazing for stylish business casual pieces if those fit into your budget. If, like me, those are a bit out of your price range, check out H&M, Target, and Forever 21 for some low-price options. Pick up a blazer, a nice skirt, a couple of nice blouses, and a pair of nice dress pants, and you’ll be good for weeks.

Pay attention to fit and length: the goal of business casual is to look classy and polished. The goal is not to show off your rockin’ body. Keep skirts to about knee length, nothing should be tight enough to be uncomfortable, and be mindful of cleavage.

Layering is your new BFF: this is especially true for the upcoming winter months. Layering a well-fitting blazer or cute sweater over a collared shirt not only adds some dimension and interest to a plain outfit, but also keeps you warm in chilly weather. And those cute skirts really can work all year round—throw on some thick sweater tights in the winter or a pair of sheer or lace-patterned tights in the fall and spring.

Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize: while a “business” dress code is more limiting to accessories, business casual lets you express yourself through the finishing touches. Throw a statement necklace over that plain sweater, or add some sparkly earrings to add a little bit of personal flare to a potentially boring outfit.

When in doubt, dress up: when going into an unfamiliar environment (interview, new job, important meeting, etc.) it generally better to err on the side of caution with clothing. Keep it neutral and professional for the first day or two until you can get a good feel of the environment you are getting into.

Trust me, you can get used to pretty much anything, including business casual attire. And the best part? You can change into sweatpants the moment you get home!

Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” falls short as a sequel

Many a student has had the pleasure of having Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a part of their high school curriculum. A novel that promotes acceptance, tolerance, and persistence, it has acted as a tour-de-force for decades. However, Lee’s follow-up novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” fails to match up to the standards of her previous piece.

Initially written before “Mockingbird,” “Go Set a Watchman” was a piece thrust away for years and just recently published. It focuses in on an adult Scout, now going by Jean Louise, and the perils that follow being a supporter of civil rights in the deeply racist South. Now the edited final product succeeds in literary style and panache, but has a spotty storyline.

Acting as a sequel to her first novel, it is peculiar that Lee does not draw many ties from the prior novel. Several iconic characters, like Boo Radley and Miss Maudie Atkinson, are not even a part of the piece. The main focus of “Watchman” is Atticus Finch — and his racist tendencies. Atticus, a character who was such a champion for civil rights in “To Kill a Mockingbird” is portrayed as a crabby old white supremacist for the majority of the novel. While the focus of Jean Louise and her story of developing moral ideals stays in tune with her character, many scenes of this book are inconsistent with the characterization of Maycomb County in “Mockingbird.”

A truly disturbing chapter of the piece shows Jean Louise finding a pamphlet called “The Black Plague” and spying on her father attending an extremely racist hate speech. The Atticus Finch we have all grown to know and love as a truly objective and open-minded individual has been reduced to a Southern stereotype with little dimension. Yes, Jean Louise is the main character of the novel, but Atticus helped shape her into who she is.

Alone, “Go Set a Watchman” is beautifully written, telling the story of a young woman learning to deal with a racist neighborhood after coming back from living in New York City, but as a sequel, it is disjointed and confusing. As a fan of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” I can say I was disappointed. Even though “Watchman” is a fantastically written piece, the plot had holes that did not match up to Lee’s initial goal with the books.

Foodie on the Half Shell: Pittsburgh farmers’ markets

You may think that farmers’ markets in Pittsburgh will be closed now that summer is over, but that is incorrect! Most farmers’ markets actually go into November, selling fall favorites, such as pumpkins and apples.

Farmers’ markets are not just a place to go and buy produce; they are also a great place to buy local products such as organic beauty products, baked goods, and fresh pasta. I love going to the markets all around the city to see new business ideas and catch great deals on incredible goods. My favorite markets are Lawrenceville’s, East Liberty’s, and the North Side’s because of their size and the vast amount of unique vendors.

Lawrenceville’s market is unique in the sense that they have specially placed the market in the middle of the neighborhood where there aren’t accessible groceries stores in walking distance. By placing the market there, it allows people who do not have easy means of transportation in the area to buy reasonably priced food near their home. One of the cool features of this market is its broad range of quality vendors, like A519 Chocolate, which makes artfully decorated chocolates and colorful macaroons; and Fallen Aspen Farm, which brings fresh chicken and duck eggs every week. Lawrenceville’s farmers’ market is open every Saturday until Halloween from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Closest to Chatham’s campus is East Liberty’s market, which is easily one of the largest. You can come here and buy veggies and fruit from at least ten different vendors that range from your basic carrots and tomatoes, to the farms that are selling unique items like romanesco and purple bell peppers. Even if you aren’t looking to buy a bunch of veggies, it’s a great place to wander around and maybe get an all-organic basil lemonade slushy (best lemonade I’ve ever had). East Liberty’s farmers’ market is open every Monday until Thanksgiving week from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

North Side’s market is my favorite because it’s in my neighborhood and my favorite farm crew, Freedom Farms, is there. If you know anything about Freedom Farms then you know that they had a TV show, that their produce is incredible, and that you won’t find better looking farmers. Seriously, though, these “farmers” look like movie stars, just with a little more dirt under their nails. You can also get some amazing snacks at this market such as kettle corn and some of the best gyros and pepperoni rolls that the world has to offer. I’ll even go here for dinner, sometimes! North Side’s farmers’ market is open every Friday until Thanksgiving week from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Farmers’ markets are booming here in Pittsburgh, which is a great sign for businesses, farmers, and even customers. Fresh and local food is more important than one can imagine. The nutritional density of fresh food is so much more than frozen or canned foods, and the impact that buying local has on the environment and the economy is incredible. Taking a little extra time to check out these accessible markets can make a huge difference to the businesses in our city and to your own health.

The Lazy Fashionista: Fall 2015 trend predictions

Fall is quickly approaching. The pumpkin spice latte has returned, school is back in session and Giant Eagle already has an entire section dedicated to Halloween (not that we are complaining — Reese’s pumpkins for the win!). You wouldn’t want to be caught in your flip-flops all season, so here is your guide to a few of my predictions for fall’s hottest trends.

Crop tops: yes, your favorite trend for the summer will stick around for a while longer. While it is still warm out, pair them with your favorite high-waisted shorts and some knee- or thigh-high socks. As the weather gets a little chillier, layer them over another top or don a chunky sweater and high-waisted jeans.

Boots: preferably of the combat variety. Whether it’s a hearty pair of Docs, some soft leather ones from Steve Madden, or actual boots worn in combat, don’t expect this trend to be disappearing any time soon. Tuck a pair of skinny jeans into them, wear them with shorts and tights, or use them to add a little grunge to your favorite floral dress. Whatever, whenever, wherever. You need a little combat in your life.

Capes: the wearable way to feel like a superhero. Call it a cape, call it a poncho, either way it is one of the most stylish outerwear choices of the season. These voluminous coat-alternatives are being resurrected from the early-2000s and updated with wool and suede, and you are going to love it.

Hosiery: the kind you don’t want to hide. This is a fantastic way to get a little more wear out of that cute skirt you lived in over the summer — layer it over a pair of printed, lace, or brightly colored tights and not only are you warm enough to brave the chillier weather, you add another dimension to an otherwise simple outfit.

Hats: who knew keeping your head warm could look so chic? Swap the floppy straw hat you wore to the beach this summer for one made of wool or felt, and you will not only have the perfect way to cap (pun intended) off your outfit, but another way to keep your ears and head warm. Bonus: this is perfect for days when your hair isn’t quite cooperating.

Whatever you wear this season, make sure you stay warm, stay comfortable, and stay perfectly YOU.