Wednesday, 12 April 2017

What Am I Even Doing Here? A NYC Update

Rarely do I share chatty life updates here, but as the halfway mark of my current year long visa approaches, I wanted to sit down and share. How do I begin to make sense of these whirlwind six months in New York City? Let's focus on what exactly I'm doing in NYC...

Jacket and Necklace: H&M | Trousers: Thrifted | Shoes: Penneys/Primark

Firstly, I finally got my job signed off by my sponsor CIEE! So I can finally announce that I'm working with the incredible ethical handbag company Hebe Rose New York! While my focus with them is digital marketing and PR, I've been doing a little bit of everything! On any given day you could catch me running around the Garment District picking out fabrics; pulling inspiration looks from fashion magazines; or meeting influencers who could promote the brand. Think Devil Wears Prada but with far friendlier people! So far my highlight was the Brand Reveal, which was attended by a bunch of cool influencers who I identified and invited. It's my first job in the fashion industry, and I'm getting a real insight into how it all ticks over.

But I'm also getting a taste for the fashion industry from another angle: as a photographer's assistant to NYC fashion photographer Joseph Chen. At this job, I'm learning each and every detail that goes into making a beautiful image. From location scouting and securing permits to hauling lighting equipment around the location to retouching and colour grading the final images. It's been an intense few months, but worth it for how much I'm learning.

And on top of working those two gigs, I also do a lot of freelance photography. I recently launched my Facebook page for that so do give it a like if that's your kind of thing. It might sound crazy busy, and it is, but I love each job and I cannot stress enough how much I am learning out here. All thanks to opportunities I just would not have gotten back in Ireland.

From this post it seems as everything is going swimmingly, and in a lot of ways, it is. But, real talk: New York is tough. Tougher than I ever imagined it could be. But it's all part of the experience. I needed toughing up anyway.

Follow my New York adventure on Instagram.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Inside My Notebook Collection: 5 Excuses to Go Stationery Shopping

Notebooks are my favourite thing to splurge on when payday rolls around. Sometimes I think I have more notebooks than thoughts to write down, but most of the time I think: where's the closest Paper Source?

Since this blog is a space for all my loves and obsessions, it's about time I share my current notebook collection with you, and let you in on what I use each one for too. First up it's...

1. The Journal

This A4 beauty is the Kate Spade spiral notebook in which I write down my thoughts, doodle, budget and keep track of my goals. Whether I'm documenting what's already happened or planning ahead, I'm probably picking up this notebook. It might not be the most efficient way to do the serious stuff like budgeting, but adulting is just so much more fun when it's written in a pretty notebook with a scented gel pen.

2. The Morning Pages Notepad

Writing morning pages is now a morning ritual of mine. Morning pages are when you write down your stream-of-consciousness for three pages. It's simply a way to get your thoughts down on paper, clear your mind and see what's important to you for that day. I usually start by writing what I'm planning on getting done, and end by scrawling down a few gratitudes. This little notebook is perfect for the practice because it's pocket-size, meaning that writing my morning pages doesn't take a huge chunk out of my day.

3. The Appointments Planner

Why "The Appointments Planner" and not just "The Planner"? Welp, it's because I have two planners. Could someone organise an intervention for me because my notebook obsession is getting out of hand...

Anyway, this Paperchase 2017 diary is where I note down every single event, meeting or appointment I have coming up. It's the notebook I'll pick up when I need to know where I've got to be. After I've been to an event, I'll strike through and tick it off. If I don't make it to an event for whatever reason, I'll scribble it out. This distinction is important as I like to be able to look back at a day and be able to see where I was and what I did.

4. The To-Do Planner

The To-Do Planner is the sparkly one pictured above - the blue one is my Appointments Planner. Obviously, I use the To-Do Planner to keep track of my daily to-do list. But it's also important for my goals - I choose a realistic day when I hope to have achieved the goal, note it down, and if that day comes and I've completed the goal I get the satisfaction of ticking it off. I have symbols for whether a goal is completed, not-completed or postponed to a later date, kind of like the ones you find in bullet journals. For the sake of brevity, I won't go into any more detail about my system here, I'll save that for another blog post perhaps!

4. The Work Notebook

Of course, most of my freelance work is done on my laptop, but sometimes you need to note things down on paper for ideas to flow. That's why I use this black marble notebook, from Staples, for my work. Admittedly, I don't use it enough, most days I won't even pick it up. But it is great to have by my side for when an idea needs brainstorming.

And that's all my notebooks... For now! Either I've convinced you that you need another notebook in your life or I've convinced you that I have an unhealthy addiction to stationery. Either way, I hope you enjoyed the post and would love you to follow me on Instagram and Bloglovin'! Until next time xx

Monday, 27 February 2017

Bagging a Free Haircut | Skint in NYC

NYC is not a good place for living that frugal life. But alas, here I am with a few cents in my pocket and dreams bigger than I can afford. I thought, why not blog about it? Enter my new blog series: Skint in NYC.

For the first edition of Skint in NYC, it's all about the hair. If you're going to do NYC when you're broke, you're going to have to do it with good hair. Having no money in this city is ten times when you don't feel and look your best.

Skip to the tips or read on for more chats.

The before. Absolute state of that hair!

I was having a bad day in general, but it was also a bad hair day. My buzzcut had grown out to an awkward, untamable length and the rest of my hair was simply greasy and unloved. Oh, and there was no end to my split ends. All these factors were at play when I wandered past a hair salon with a sign calling for hair models. I barged in, ready to sign my soul away in exchange for a new do.

This is only for hair style changes, you know?
Yes, yes okay.
How short would you go?
As short as you want.
Really, okaaay...

...That, my friends, is the conversation of a desperate girl and a sightly bemused Asian hairdresser.

So I put my name down and later received a text from Mami, the hairdresser who would be giving me my new look. I'd since calmed down a bit and started backtracking... I don't want it tooooo short. Luckily, she wasn't eager do an extreme makeover so I was happy to trust her with my unruly mane.

The hairdresser's was the quirky KIDA NYC at 369 Broome St. Freebies aside, it seems like a great salon to get a cut, with its cool decor, chill tunes and lovely staff.

Before and after

After letting Mami know what I wanted, she got to work. The buzzcut was snipped to size with scissors - rather than a razer - to make the ends look more natural. To finish the look she blowdried it to its natural wave, by scrunching the hair as heat was applied.

Since this was a training exercise for the Mami, the supervisor came over to review her work. The two girls nattered away in Japanese about my hair - presumably the supervisor was giving feedback and letting Mami know where she went wrong. The longer they talked the more I worried something had gone array with my hair! Since their conversation was in Japanese, I was left in ignorant bliss. The cut looked good to my eyes anyway...

The final look

All-in-all, it was a pretty stress-free experience, but not one for the faint-hearted! Ultimately, you are letting someone practice on your hair, so mistakes can be made. And with that word of warning out of the way, here are my tips for getting a free or cheap haircut in NYC, if you care to dare with your hair...

How to bag yourself a free or cheap haircut in NYC:

  1. Decide what you want: Are you going for a colour or a cut? And just how wild would you go with your new style? Obviously, the more open to new styles you are the easier it will be to find a hairdresser who wants to practice on your hair! But don't feel pressured to go for a completely new look if that's not what you're after. Just know how flexible you want to be and make what you don't want very clear once you've found a potential hairdresser.
  2. Bookmark this: This handy guide by New York Magazine has a list of all the top hair salons that offer cuts and colours for free or cheap.
  3. Pop in and ask: New Yorkers are a friendly bunch, so if you spy a cute salon that you'd like to try out, why don't you go in and ask if they're looking for hair models?
  4. Search the Craigslist "free stuff" section: I know, I know. Craigslist is full of creepers, right? Well, not necessarily. I've been using Craigslist to find photography gigs for a while now, and it's been great! You can find freebies here by simply typing "haircut" or "hair color" in the search bar. Of course, on a website where anyone can post anything you're going to get some dodgy posts - so be careful! Have an email or text conversation first and if it's at a legitimate salon, you've found a winner!
  5. Don't forget to tip: Just because it's free doesn't mean that you shouldn't give your hairdresser a small token of appreciation in the form of a tip. Since I am still getting used to tipping etiquette here, I turned to @LeHoarder - a blogger who always bags herself freebie haircuts. She told me that while it is optional to tip, if you're going for a cut you could tip $5-$10 and if it's a colour then $10-$20 will do.

And that's it! Let me know if you've ever been a hair model in the comments.

Keep up with my Skint in NYC series by following me on Bloglovin' or on Instagram. Wishing you only good hair days, always! x

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

3 Things I've Learnt From 3 Months in New York

Despite only arriving in New York at the beginning of November, I like to think I've already learned a lot about life in this crazy city. Here are three things that have stood out to me thus far...

Top, jumper and jeans: H&M | Coat: River Island | Necklace: Topshop | Shoes: Kurt Geiger


1. It's not as scary as you think

One thing that has really surprised me is how safe New York feels. So far I've lived in both Brooklyn and East Harlem in Manhattan, and though there have been times when I've been kept up because of shouting on the street outside, in general I've always felt secure in my apartments.

I've also never had any trouble getting from place to place. The subway is a strange place, where you'll encounter people asking for money, blaring music, singing, and even conducting impromptu dance-offs. But these quirks of the New York subway just go on around you. I've never felt singled out by someone on the subway. If you're not one of the loud ones on the train, you're probably just keeping to yourself, head down, eyes fixed on your iPhone. Not to sound terribly anti-social, but that's the way I like it.



2. It's hard as hell to get noticed

In a city of 8 million hustlers, how do you stand out? The harsh reality is, a lot of the time, you don't. Whether you're trying to bag a job or a guy, it's not as easy as brushing up your resume or swiping right on Tinder. There are countless opportunities here, but to get a look in, you'll have to play the numbers game. Send hundreds of resumes and you might just get your foot in the door of somewhere special. Just don't get discouraged. Keep on hustling and I promise you'll find the perfect fit eventually, whether you're looking for a career, apartment or date.



3. It's not just bigger, it's louder

Everyone from Europe knows that in America, bigger is better. Bigger serving sizes, bigger buildings, bigger cars. What I didn't expect was how much louder everything is here. In fact, it's my main gripe with this place. If you as much as look at an approaching car, expect said car driver to beep the bejesus out of their horn. At any hour of the night, you'll hear beep after beep of impatient, trigger happy drivers.

And then there's the emergency vehicles. Apparently, it's not enough that the sirens of the fire engines here can be heard from space, they'll blare their horn for added effect. Noise pollution is a huge issue, so if you're a light sleeper, I'd definitely recommend earplugs.

Ah, the ol' Big Apple, hey? It's loud, it makes you feel small, but it's not actually that scary. Have you been to New York? What surprised you about life here? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Thanks, 2016

Let's be real, in a lot of ways and for a lot of people, 2016 has been the worst. But this post isn't about all the god-awful things that happened this year. Instead, it's a chance for me to reflect on my own personal highlights. To remind myself that despite the terror of this year, there's still a lot to be grateful for. Self-indulgent as ever. Well, what did you expect? I'm a self-declared lifestyle blogger. It's all rainbows and butterflies in this world.

Side note: If you're looking for rants about politics and the state of the world, you're more likely to find that on my Twitter.

This has been the year I made one HUGE change: making the move to New York. But there was also lots of smaller, life-affirming steps along the way. As usual, most of it revolves around travel, it really is what I love most. Let's take a look back at my 2016...

2016, thank you for... My first ever solo trip abroad

With a camera around my neck and a book in hand - aptly, David Ebershoff's The Danish Girl - I had everything I needed for my weekend break in Copenhagen. I was flying completely solo, and I loved it! I could wander wherever throughout the day, with as many pauses for photographs as I wanted: my kind of holiday.

I wish I could travel everywhere twice. Once on my own and once with a companion, because both experiences are worlds apart, and even the atmosphere of the city feels different depending.

Thank you for... The job that took me around the world

This year I was thrilled to have attended two of the conferences in the Web Summit family, RISE in Hong Kong and MoneyConf in Madrid. I was a Content Coordinator for Web Summit, and so, I got to go to the events to create some kick-ass content.

Work hard, play hard. That's my motto and that's certainly what it's like working on one of these conferences. The work is tough - I was interviewing people and turning around the articles within the hour - but when you're getting the chance to talk to your tech idols it's all worth it. I've learnt so, so much from working those conferences, not least how to perform under pressure. And I also got to see a little of both Hong Kong and Madrid in the process. Loved it.

Thank you for... A taste of Croatia


Croatia was a simple girl's holiday all about catching rays and bopping to tunes. It might not sound like much but it was glorious. I think it's because I was in desperate need of a holiday by the time summer rolled around. With the out-of-office auto reply doing its thing, I switched off my work mode entirely. A blissful time was had.

Thank you for... The move to New York City

Wow. I'm in New York City. More than that, I'm settled. It doesn't feel like a holiday, it feels like my life. It's surreal and amazing and scary and countless other emotions that I can't even verbalise. I am grateful that I'm here, and that my family and friends all supported me in this big move. No wait, my family and friends have been incredible, they deserve their own shoutout...

Thank you for... My family and friends


I don't think any of us could of gotten through the insane year that was 2016 without our support network. Personally, I relied on all of my family and friends in one way or another this year, and they were all there for me. They were there for me when I needed reassurance, or a hug, or even just a laugh. So to them I say thank you. You keep me going.

Monday, 19 December 2016

7 Ways to Turn Passion into Side-Hustle

There's something about the supersonic pace of NYC that's got me speaking like I'm the next @GaryVee. I'm all side-hustle this and entrepreneurship that. Finding my inner Gary Vaynerchuk in the go-getting atmosphere of this city has helped me rediscover my passion...

This is Niamh, one of the bloggers I've been shooting, from Cinnamon Soul.

My passion being photography. It all started with a simple email to a friend, asking if they wanted to shoot. Which led to meeting another blogger. Who put me in contact with another. Who introduced me to their friend. And just like that, I've been shooting portraiture every weekend since.

But I'm holding on to my sense of realism. Passion alone ain't gonna pay the bills. And even though I would love to do photography full time, it's not the sort of career that you can just pick up out of the blue. It's all about making connections and building a client base. That's why, right now at least, it's a side-hustle. It's not a career. And that's okay.

Meet Lorna of LC's Closet, another blogger I've been taking photos for.

If you have hobby you love in life, and you're somewhat good at it, why not pursue it? You don't have to quit the day job, just find some spare time to take your hobby a little more seriously. You can even make some extra cash in the process!

And then there's Stephanie, from Snapped Up, the first blogger in NYC that I collaborated with!

Struggling to see how it can work? Here are some ideas to get you started:

    If you can take beautiful photos
  1. Reach out to a blogger in your area and ask if they're looking to collab

  2. If you're crafty
  3. Set up an Etsy or Depop shop and sell your creations on the side

  4. If you can spot a vintage bargain
  5. Purchase a stall at a local market and sell your finds

  6. If you're a songful soul
  7. Find out how much a busking license is locally and sing your heart out

  8. If you know your JavaScript from your Java
  9. Chat to a few local businesses and see who's looking for a website revamp

  10. If you can draw cute illustrations
  11. Post them on Instagram and offer to do custom creations

  12. If you know your way around Adobe Illustrator
  13. Set up a Fiverr account and put your design skills to work

Make 2017 your year of hustle! And let me know in the comments if you have a side-hustle thang!

Oh, and you can follow my photography (DM me for a shoot!) on Instagram, @clairepetersen32.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A Cheapskate's Guide to NYC: A Week of Freebies

I am skint. And I'm living in the 11th most expensive city for expats. Ouch. As much as I've wanted to see the sights of New York, I've also had to keep an eye on my cash. This has meant that over the past few weeks I've figured out how to do NYC on a budget. So I give you, a week of free things to do in NYC...


Monday: Walk the High Line


Would you guess that the photos above are taken from a park? The High Line, to be exact. Technically, the High Line is a park, but you don't really go to the High Line for the nature. You go to wander through Manhattan and take in the city's buildings from its High Line's elevated platform. Grab a spot on one of the benches dotted along park with a view of the city and just watch it all speed by.

That said, it does have some gorgeous greenery, which I captured on my summer trip to NYC a few years ago. And it is, of course, totally free to visit.


Tuesday: Visit the 9/11 Museum & Memorial


The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a must when visiting New York. It is heartbreaking to take in everything. But I think it's important to do, given that the event is such big part of modern history. The memorial itself is free to view. A cascading, infinite waterfall marks where the Twin Towers once stood. When walking around the Memorial, look out for roses, these are tied to victims' names when it's their birthday.

On Tuesdays, you can also get a free ticket into the 9/11 Museum. It's very tough to relearn the happenings of that day, but it's also touching and ultimately a worthwhile way to spend an evening in New York.


Wednesday: Take the ferry to Staten Island

This is one of those "secrets" that every New Yorker knows: the ferry to Staten Island is free! It's a service that is relied on by thousands of commuters with jobs in Manhattan but homes on the island. The route happens to take you past the Statue of Liberty so it's a must!

This is one freebie that I haven't had the chance to do yet - but I'm planning on making the trip soon! I'll be checking the ferry timetable to make sure I don't accidentally board during rush hour when it's uncomfortably jammed.


Thursday: Wander over the Brooklyn Bridge


One of my favourite things to do in NYC is cross the Brooklyn Bridge. I'm big into my photography, and there's so many photo opportunities! Walk from the Manhattan side, towards Brooklyn, and you'll end up in DUMBO. Another spot with an incredible view of the city and, you guessed it, it's great for your Insta-game.


Friday: Visit the MoMA

I love art galleries, especially those dedicated to modern art. So, by default, I love the MoMA. How could I not? Floor upon floor of thought-provoking, surprising, and sometimes downright confusing, modern art. I've yet to visit on this trip - but it was definitely one of my highlights when I visited New York a few years ago.

If you're an art enthusiast like me, pop along on a Friday evening, when the gallery has free entry. You'll need to line up at the Museum’s 54 Street entrance to get your free ticket. The free tickets are released from 4pm but it's recommended that you arrive after 6pm since the lines are crazy-long before that.


Saturday: Explore one of New York's Parks


When you think of New York, skyscrapers might first spring to mind. But surprisingly, New York also does big open spaces pretty damn well. In fact, in my first week living here I spent most of my time in the parks scattered around the city!

Central Park is, of course, a beautiful Manhattan spot that's free to roam. But it's far from the only place in New York City to get your fix of nature. Most notably is Prospect Park in Brooklyn. While Central Park is far better known, the architects who built both are said to prefer Prospect Park. I must say - I think I agree! That said, I'm totally biased. It was the very first place I visited after moving here earlier this month, so it will always have a special place in my heart for that reason alone!


Sunday: Lucky Dip


The thing about New York City is that there's always something new to do. The city never sleeps because the people here never stop hustling. Thus, there's never a day when there's not a new market to browse, exhibition to check out or gig to go to. Time Out has a handy guide of all the free events happening in the city right now - bookmark it and use it when you're next in town.

***

There's plenty to do in NYC on a tight budget. If you've been to NYC, let me know what you got up to - bonus points if it was a freebie!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Visa Talk: 4 Things to Do in Your First Week in the States

If you've secured yourself a visa to the States, congratulations, the hard part is done. But don't get too lax quite yet. There's still a bit of life admin you've got to sort out to make this your new home! Having just lived my first week in NYC, I wanted to share the things you should sort out in your first week in the USA. Tick one major thing off your to-do list a day and you'll be sorted in no time!



Day 1: Unpack

If I hadn't had unpacked my bag on that first night I arrived, bleary-eyed, at my Airbnb, I know I would still be living out of my suitcase. Thankfully, I mustered up to motivation to unpack that night, and it meant that the next morning, I felt that I was waking up in my new home. So whether your first night sleep is at a hotel, Airbnb, or a long-term apartment, get unpacked ASAP. With your possessions scattered around your room, it'll feel one hundred times more homely, helping beat any homesickness you might be feeling.

Day 2: Register for SEVIS

Within 10 days of your visa start date, you need to call your sponsor and register for SEVIS. If you're an Irish grad, your sponsor is probably CIEE, call them on +1 (888) 268 6245. All the details you'll need to have are on your DS-2019 form, which is most likely stapled into your passport, so have that to hand and it'll be a painless process. It's best to keep your sponsor on your good side, you don't want them chasing up after you, so just get this out of the way on your second day in the States.

Day 3: Meet a Fellow Expat

Even if you've journeyed to your new destination with a companion by your side, I would recommend grabbing a coffee with someone whose been through it all before. You probably already know someone living in the city you've moved to - there are loads of expats living in the States. If not, ask your friends back home if they know anyone they can introduce you to. Then meet them for a coffee and ask them for their advice! You'll learn loads by asking someone whose been through it all.



Day 4: Set Up Your Bank Account

Don't worry that you don't have proof of address, you don't seem to need it to open an account in the States! So handy! Just pop in - ideally with two forms of ID - and let them know that you're looking for a no-charge checking account. You may need to wait a little while for an appointment, but it's worth it to get yourself a debit card and bank account in the States. Plus, you can deposit the dollars you took over so you're not carrying around too much cash.

And... You're All Set Up! Almost

You're almost good to go! If it's your first time working in the US, you're also going to need a Social Security Number. You won't be applying for it in your first week though, because it's recommended that you wait ten days after entering the US - and two days after registering for SEVIS - before you apply for one.

So in four days, you're pretty much set up and ready to go! Have I forgotten anything? What is on your to-do list for when you arrive in the US? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

I've Arrived: What a Time to Be Stateside

I've been planning for it, longing for it and worrying about it for countless months, but at last it's here. I'm in New York City! And what a time to be here...

On Election Night I sat down for an all-nighter, surrounded by snacks, to watch America elect its first female President. Except I didn't, of course. What ended up watching was no less than a massive middle finger to women, LGBTs, Muslims, Hispanics, and African Americans. I watched America decide that Trump was to be the next President of the country. Wow.

I'm not going to go into my thoughts too much here, not least because they've already been said by people far more clever and informed than me. But I couldn't put up a blog post - about being in the States no less - without mentioning it. So there was that.

Skimming over the apparent dawn of the apocalypse... I've been loving exploring my new home! Although New York is an extremely expensive city, there's still lots to do if you'd rather not part with your cash. Like crossing the Brooklyn Bridge! It's a great spot to get some beautiful photos of the city, day or night.

I've certainly been keeping a close eye on my money, and in the process I've been finding more and more things to do in New York City that happen to be free! Of course, there will be posts about it all so keep an eye out for that (psst, follow me on Bloglovin').

And when I'm not blogging, I'll sure as hell be on the Insta, so be sure to follow me there to see more of my adventures in NYC.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

I'm Moving to New York, Baby! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

It's a move that I've been dreaming of for years, ever since I first heard about the Graduate Visa. And now I'm finally taking the plunge. In a matter of days, I'll be moving my life - or as much of it that fits into a 23kg baggage allowance - over to New York City.

I've always been a city kind of girl. I remember the excitement I got as a teenager as the 32 bus pulled into Dublin at night. Buildings around me illuminated by the offices still filled with late-night workers, I'd see every lit-up room as another story. It sounds pompous, but it's true. What can I say? I was a pretentious young 'un.

And then there was the first time I visited New York itself. As the Greyhound bus speeded towards China Town, I saw the oddly familiar, yet still awe-inspiring, high-rise buildings creep closer. Familiar, undoubtably because of the hundreds of films I'd seen in which the city outshines the leading cast. But, no matter how many times I watch Andy scurry around Manhattan in Devil Wears Prada or Harry and Sally goofing around in the Met, nothing can knock the thrill of seeing the real deal for yourself.

Lucky for me, I'll get that kick of adrenaline again in a few days! But for now, there's nothing left to do but see if I can squeeze one more pair of heels into my suitcase... See you across the pond.