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The Blog

Approachable inspiration for a stylish life. 

 

So Long, San Francisco

Kristen Berry

For the last five years, I have been lucky enough to call one of the most beautiful, exciting, creative, iconic, and singular places in the world my home. San Francisco.

Of course, I never actually lived in San Francisco. That would have been far too expensive.

Instead I had the best of both worlds. I’ve lived south of the city in the Peninsula and South Bay areas, where the weather is warmer, the rent is ever-so-slightly cheaper, and every stop on the Caltrain (light rail) has a charming downtown district (usually with a farmers market). Meanwhile, all that SF and Oakland have to offer were just a stone’s throw away.

New York is the American city most commonly associated with endless possibility – you know, the whole “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” thing. But having lived here, it’s hard to believe that anywhere in the world is more abundantly stocked with possibility than the Bay Area. Here, side projects are known to become companies valued at over a billion dollars. Here, it is common for people to take sabbaticals from their jobs for weeks on end to travel the world, climb mountains, and embark on volunteering missions. Here, it is entirely feasible to have breakfast by the bay, a lunchtime glass of wine in a vineyard, and dinner overlooking the snow in the mountains, all in the same day.

When I moved to the Bay Area five years ago – nearly to the day – I was a different person in many ways. I'd actually been plotting a move to LA at the time, but when the company I worked for offered me a position in the SF area, I was drawn to it for a number of reasons. Besides being a terrific career opportunity with wonderful people – many of whom are still dear friends – it provided me the chance to start largely fresh in a completely new place. To challenge myself to grow in ways I never knew were possible.

It was only after living here that I ran my first half marathon. That I found the joy in traveling solo – first within California, then to Hawaii, then to and through Italy. It was here that I launched this blog, along with one my my very best friends, and my confidence in my voice began to crystallize. And I owe a great deal of this to the energy of this magical place. This place full of dreamers and doers and phenomenal talent and incredible intelligence and wanderers and wonderers and people who are entirely unafraid to develop their very own drum beat, type a bit of code into a computer to play it in a loop, and then boldly march to it.

Of course, this area isn’t without its challenges. The San Francisco Bay Area is abundant with wealth, but also with poverty and homelessness. And no matter where you fall in that spectrum, the cost of living is astronomical. It is incredibly difficult living in an area where, in my early thirties and with a good education and a strong career, I know that I will probably never be able to afford a house. Where even in the less fashionable suburb of Sunnyvale, I’ve found myself contemplating taking on a roommate to help mitigate the costs of my small apartment. For perspective, if I re-signed the lease on my 900-square-foot, one bedroom apartment, that doesn't even have an in-unit washer or dryer, I would have been paying $2400 each month. Not including utilities. Imagine what it’s like trying to survive here on a “blue collar” salary. Or on minimum wage. There’s also the surprising degree of segregation in many neighborhoods (I’m always surprised when I see another black person at my local grocery store). And the level of drive here can sometimes feel manic, and obsessive.

But it has been a good home to me. And I have truly loved it – especially all of the wonderful friends I’ve made who have truly made the Bay my home. So while I am incredibly excited to start my next chapter in Los Angeles, and all of the new experiences, memories and growth that will come with it, there is a lot about this area that I will miss. In case you find yourself in this gorgeous neck of the woods, here’s a rundown of some of my favorite places, spaces, and things to get into. It would be impossible for me to cram all that the Bay Area has to offer into a single post, but consider these my highlights, and the things that I’m already looking forward to enjoying again on my next visit.

Eats

  • Brunch in SF:

    • Plow – Get the namesake breakfast. The lemon ricotta pancakes are downright heavenly. Arrive super early or super late, though, because they don’t take reservations and the wait gets insane. Or, put your name on the list and grab a coffee down the street at Farley’s.

    • Presidio Social Club – Delicious locally-sourced food (and tasty cocktails), located in a charming former military barracks in gorgeous Presidio National Park.

    • Brenda’s French Soul Food – Two words: beignet flight. Okay a few more words: options include Granny Smith apple, crawfish, and chocolate-filled pastries.

    • Zazie – Cozy French spot where the lengthy lines are worth it. This restaurant also has an adorable garden patio out back for when the weather is nice.

    • Foreign Cinema – Perfect for a truly memorable brunch, dinner, or any meal. The food is incredible, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more romantic restaurant in the city. As the name suggests, the restaurant also projects classic movies on a large screen in its outdoor space.

    • Off the Grid Presidio Picnic – Every Sunday during the warmer months, the Off the Grid folks (awesome roving food truck party) converges on the Presidio, where folks can plop their picnic blankets on the green, sample delicious food, sip a mimosa, and listen to live music while taking in sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Peninsula/South Bay Places:

    • Calafia Cafe – (Palo Alto) California fare in a warm, friendly atmosphere, just a hop, skip and a jump from Stanford’s stately campus.

    • Lure + Till – (Palo Alto) Rumor has it that this restaurant is slated to become a new Nobu location, but stop by while you can for the squid ink and lobster campanelle, and other regional flavors in this handsome restaurant.

    • Joya – (Palo Alto) Tasty modern latin tapas and a creative cocktail menu in a festive, vibrant location.

    • Nola – (Palo Alto) This place offers a great taste of New Orleans, from the cajun/creole/southern menu to the fun atmosphere to the design and decor of the restaurant and bar.

    • San Pedro Square Market – (San Jose) This great food hall provides something for everyone, including a variety of eats, drinks and outdoor seating.

  • East Bay Places (an area I spent an unfortunately limited amount of time in, hence the abbreviated list):

    • Beauty’s Bagel Shop – Amazing breakfast sandos, an assortment of delicious bagels and toppings, and a lively, colorful coffee shop vibe.

    • Mua Oakland – Love this place for dinner. Great drinks and small plates in a seriously fun atmosphere. DJs spin while you eat in this renovated industrial warehouse, covered in pieces from local artists.

Drinks

  • Hayes Valley:

    • Noir Lounge – Warm, jazz era-inspired wine bar with classic movies playing on big screens on the walls.

    • Fig & Thistle – This charming, adorable, neighborhood wine bar is excellent for a sweet and intimate first date or catching up with a couple of girlfriends. Imbibing here feels like grabbing a drink in a large, bright, warm living room.

Shops

  • Ferry Building Marketplace – Yes, you can actually catch a ferry here, but it’s also home to an awesome food hall and a fabulous farmers market. You can sample the wares from some of the best food merchants in SF here – Cowgirl Creamery, Acme Bread Company, Boccalone Salumeria, Blue Bottle Coffee, Humphry Slocombe, Miette Patisserie, Dandelion Chocolate and more. There’s also an awesome bookstore, Book Passage.

  • Azalea – I have a particular love for the Hayes Valley location of this highly-curated boutique, which offers a fantastic collection of totally current, cool girl (and guy) fashion, jewelry and beauty/skincare products (the other shop is in the Mission).

  • Books Inc. – I love this local independent chain of bookstores. The locations are always super warm and welcoming, with an excellent selection of books and magazines alike. I can always linger in these stores for hours.

  • Lavish Boutique – Yet another awesome Hayes Valley find :) This is perfect location to pick out a lovely/funny/witty greeting card, a gift for a friend, or your new favorite coffee table book.

To-Dos

  • Golden Gate Park – Whether you want to visit the de Young or California Academy of Sciences listed below, or are up for a stroll through a Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park is a wonderful place to spend a day. Even though you’re in the middle of the city, standing in this place transports you to a completely different world, full of culture and natural beauty.

  • Hiking Yoga – This awesome program gave me an entirely new perspective of my new home upon arriving in SF, and introduced me to one of my dearest friends. Imagine meeting at the clock tower of the abovementioned Ferry Building on a weekend morning, after grabbing a cup of Blue Bottle coffee. An instructor leads your small group of workout-cloud women and men through the hilly sidewalks of San Francisco at a comfortably brisk clip, pausing at beautiful gems of city parks to guide you through a a few blissful minutes of yoga before you continue on your way. I’ve taken in incredible views of the city that I’d never otherwise witness thanks to this group. The session culminates at a beautiful SF landmark, typically either Coit Tower or Grace Cathedral, before you head off to enjoy brunch in the city. It’s awesome.

  • The Museums:

    • SFMOMA – This newly renovated museum is a must-visit for all modern art fans.

    • de Young – Located in the center of Golden Gate Park, this fine art museum boasts an incredible, diverse collection and has hosted some of my all-time favorite exhibits, including the recent Oscar de la Renta exhibition.

    • California Academy of Sciences – Check out the adults-only, Thursday night Nightlife events. It’s a great way to revisit your inner child without worrying about tripping over actual children. But seriously, these weekly themed events featuring food, music and cocktails offers a unique way to enjoy this incredible museum, which sports a planetarium, aquarium, rainforest exhibit, and a natural history museum beneath a living roof.

  • Running “The Dish” – I love this paved walking/hiking/running trail in Palo Alto, named for the two prominent satellite dishes visitors pass along the way. The hilly trail offers beautiful views of the peninsula and Stanford, and you might even spot a few deer if you’re lucky.  

  • Explore all of the Charming Downtowns on the Peninsula – Burlingame, San Carlos, Palo Alto...they’re all adorable, and offer lots of food, drink and shopping options.

I think this post calls for a part two :) There’s way too much awesome in the Bay Area to fit into one post.

See you in LA!

- Kristen

Sweater Weather

Kristen Berry

Okay, so truthfully the weather isn’t exactly sweater-y yet.  But the second I saw this cozy knit dress draped on a mannequin at H&M, I knew I had to have it for when the temperature starts to dip.

And this hat – it was a lucky clearance find from the Who What Wear x Target collection. I love the flat, contrasting brim.

Open toe, lace-up sandals are perfect for the transition between seasons, and a denim jacket is the ideal lightweight layer. In a month or two, I’ll pair this dress with opaque tights, booties and a leather jacket.

Which pieces are you excited to wear this fall?

  • Dress, H&M, $35 at HM.com.
  • Sandals, Forever 21, $35 at Forever21.com, though no longer available in this color.
  • Hat, Who What Wear x Target. No longer available online, but I found it in-store on clearance for $8!

– Kristen

Something Blue

Kristen Berry

Do you remember that magical time before Facebook when you could wear the same dress to five separate events without fear of anyone noticing?

Yeah, I barely remember that time either.

One of my closest friends is getting married in a few weeks, and I decided to (finally) spring for a new dress for the occasion. After scouring the usual suspects for a few hours (Revolve.com, ShopStyle.com, ASOS.com…), I finally found this bold blue little number.

The detail on this dress is beyond beautiful. I love the tactile, slightly fluttery flowers, and the open weave at the midriff and hem keeps things from being too sweet. And the color...the just-bold-enough hue of electric blue makes just the right kind of statement.

I really love the ultra-feminine cut of the dress, too. The slight fullness of the skirt provides a little extra glamour, and the ever-so-low cross-back straps show just enough skin.

This bold pink trench complements the hue of the dress just perfectly.

  • Dress, Lovers + Friends, $198 at Shopbop.com.
  • Coat, BCBG (old).

- Kristen

The Drugstore Polish That *Actually* Lasts a Full Week

Kristen Berry

I’ve never been the kind of girl who can wear a standard, self-applied, drugstore polish manicure for more than a day or two before it becomes hopelessly, embarrassingly chipped.

Maybe it’s because my nails are dry and brittle and flaky. Maybe it’s because I’m always rummaging blindly in my purse for my keys or my lipgloss. Whatever the reason, I can’t be bothered to paint my nails these days if there isn’t a special occasion involved – not because I like the look of my nude, aforementioned dry/brittle/flaky nails, but because I can’t stand repainting them every couple of days.

When I heard that Essie – my go-to nail polish brand – released a line of lacquer that lasts up to 14 days, without requiring a UV lamp to set it or harsh chemicals to remove it, I had to put it to the test.

Essie Gel Couture Polish in Touch Up, $11.50 at Target.com; Essie Gel Couture Top Coat, $11.50 at Target.com.

Essie Gel Couture Polish in Touch Up, $11.50 at Target.com; Essie Gel Couture Top Coat, $11.50 at Target.com.

I purchased a bottle of the new Essie Gel Couture polish line in “Touch Up,” a beautiful, neutral, pinky mauve shade, as well as bottle of the corresponding top coat. I painted my nails using my typical routine: one layer of a standard clear base coat, followed by two coats of the Gel Couture color polish, followed by a layer of the Gel Couture top coat, with 2-5 minutes between coats.

I painted my nails on a Wednesday night. And they remained perfect through Thursday. And Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday....

I was dumbfounded. I treated my nails exactly the same as always, doing dishes, rooting through my purse, etc. And even when I closely examined my my nails four full days later, I found zero chips or dings or imperfections of any kind. The only other time I’ve experienced this is when I’ve sprung for a pricey shellac manicure at a salon – but they’re not great for your nails, and require soaking your nails in harsh acetone to remove the varnish.

I didn’t spot any blemishes until Monday – one noticeable chip on my right pinkie, and the polish was beginning to grow out slightly from the cuticle under close inspection. By Tuesday, I noticed small micro chips at the tips of some of my nails, though thanks to the neutral color I selected, it wasn’t very noticeable. By Wednesday, I noticed more visible peeling from the cuticle, and additional small chips at the tips of my nails. But this was day 8 – day 8 of my mani with the Essie Gel Couture line looked like day 4 with my standard drugstore polish.

Bottom line – I’m in love. Sure, the range didn’t last a full 14 days on my nails before I was ready to remove it, but the same goes for my shellac manicures. By day 10 my shellac polish is so incredibly grown out that I can’t stand it any more. And when I remove the Gel Couture product, my nails feel just as healthy as when I remove a standard polish – when I remove a shellac manicure, my nails always feel stripped, rough and ultra-dry.

If you’re looking for a long-lasting nail polish at a drugstore price, I highly recommend the Essie Gel Couture system. I’m running out to buy a handful of new shades right now.

– Kristen

Blog for Love, Not for Likes

Kristen Berry

Trying to earn my blogger self-sufficiency badge by managing my own photo shoot, thanks to a tripod and a camera with a self-timer.

Trying to earn my blogger self-sufficiency badge by managing my own photo shoot, thanks to a tripod and a camera with a self-timer.

People frequently ask me what my goals are for my blog. On it’s face, it’s a perfectly innocent question. However, I get a bit annoyed when asked. I mean, no one would ask what my goals are for playing on a weekend basketball league, or taking a Tuesday night pottery class.  What’s wrong with simply blogging as a hobby, purely because it’s something I love?

Of course, this question wouldn’t get under my skin if it weren’t a sore spot of mine. I’m a naturally competitive, goal-oriented, metrics-driven person. And when you’re a blogger, your metrics are your unique visitors, your page views, and, perhaps unfortunately, the number and engagement level of your Instagram followers.

It can feel incredibly narcissistic to care too much about how many people follow you on Instagram, but in the world of blogging, it’s naive to think that those digits don’t matter. Most brands won’t think of collaborating with you unless you hit a certain number of followers. And it can be difficult not to compare your stats with those of countless other seemingly similar bloggers with an astronomical following.

However, there’s a thin, gray line between working to grow your following and becoming obsessed with it. After all, I don’t think any of us aspire to become an Instagram girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse (see Instagram Husband; it ain’t pretty). When I find myself going down a social media rabbit hole, a web analytics shame spiral, or the beginning stages of an existential blogger crisis, here’s what I do/tell myself/ask myself to snap out of it.

Remember Why You Started Blogging in the First Place

I didn’t start a blog to become Internet famous, and I didn’t have any dreams of becoming an Instagram star. I started a blog as a fun creative outlet, an opportunity to take a break from the tech world I work in and revel in my passion for fashion and makeup. I started a blog to share the advice my friends and family often come to me for with a broader audience of people who might find it helpful, or fun, or interesting. And I started a blog to keep learning – to pick up a few skills in web design, photography, video editing, and social media.

When I feel the fog of doubt begin to roll in, I ask myself if I’m still having fun. If I still enjoy playing with makeup and clothes, and writing/taking pictures/making videos about it. And I ask myself if I’m still learning. If the answer to these questions is “yes,” I keep going. And I allow that to be my barometer for success.

I Probably Won’t be the Next Cupcakes and Cashmere – And I’m O.K. With That.

Emily Schuman, the beautiful brains behind the highly successful blog Cupcakes and Cashmere, and her two fantastic books.

Emily Schuman, the beautiful brains behind the highly successful blog Cupcakes and Cashmere, and her two fantastic books.

I’m a definite believer that with hard work, dedication and a dash of luck, anything is possible. But I’m also a realist, and I know that there’s a slim chance that I’ll be packing it all in to travel the world on my blogger money. Acknowledging and embracing this helps me keep a healthy perspective on how important it is that I get a perfect shot of my new Zara purchase, or that I engage with my followers each and every day.

Don’t Believe the Hype

Four incredibly talented beauty bloggers/vloggers who have amassed impressive Instagram followings, and have shared their social media tips.

Four incredibly talented beauty bloggers/vloggers who have amassed impressive Instagram followings, and have shared their social media tips.

There are countless talented bloggers and Instagrammers who have worked incredibly hard for years to organically grow their followings. And many offer tips that you can apply to yours as well (see Teni Panosian, Shayla Mitchell, Karen Sarahi Gonzalez and Marianna Hewitt’s advice). However, not everyone’s methods are worth replicating.

It’s well known that many people buy their Instagram followers, or boost their followings with fake accounts (even Justin Bieber’s social media team was caught making this ‘Gram gaffe). Numerous others follow you on Instagram, just to unfollow you once you follow them back – a notorious method used to keep their followings-to-followers ratio low. Gross, I know. It’s also been frequently stated that the quickest way to boost your following/likes is with a little nudity. And I have no interest in going down that road.

Again, this isn’t to say that anyone with a strong following employs these shady tactics – it’s just a good reminder to take all of those numbers with a sizeable grain of salt.

Apply the Marie Kondo Method to Your Social Media Feeds

I have to admit, I haven’t yet read Kondo’s best-selling book “'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” But I’ve heard enough about it to know that the core of her process is to only keep belongings that “spark joy,” and (lovingly, respectfully) get rid of things that don’t.

I’ll occasionally take this same approach to clean up my social media feeds. Is there someone I follow on Instagram just because I think I should as a dutiful fashion/beauty blogger, but whose posts only irritate me? Buh-bye. Am I still following someone who did the whole follow-back bait-and-switch thing mentioned above? Poof, gone (Iconosquare is a great tool you can use to keep an eye on who has unfollowed you, among other helpful Instagram analytics). Now, when I scroll through my feed, I only see pictures from people I care about, or who inspire me, or who, you know, spark joy.

Set Goals That Have Nothing to Do With Numbers

If you, like me, blog in part for the learning experiences it offers, set a goal for yourself that’s tied to learning something new rather than a specific metric. Maybe it’s tackling a more ambitious or personal project. Maybe it’s recording and editing your first video. Maybe it’s mastering PhotoShop, or Final Cut Pro. Maybe it’s learning to do a bit of your own coding. Or perhaps it’s getting over your fear of taking your own photos, and going out alone with your tripod, a camera with a self-timer and a confident smile (like I self-consciously did to capture the photos accompanying this post).

Achieving goals that aren’t tied to a certain number of readers or followers or likes will not only provide an incredible sense of accomplishment – it will also reignite the passions that led you to blog in the first place.

Stick to an Analytics Schedule – And Leverage Tools to Use Your Time Effectively

Of course, I’m not telling you to ignore your numbers completely, or that you should let your social media presence(s) languish. Instead of endlessly and obsessively checking your metrics, set a schedule for when you review them, and use tools to learn the most from the numbers.

For example, I only allow myself to log onto Iconosquare twice each week. In addition to evaluating the folks I’m following, I can also see what time of day it’s most effective for me to post, which hashtags resonate best, and what types of photos generate the most engagement. This way, instead of simply stressing about my numbers, I can use this intel to use Instagram even more effectively in the days to come.

One of the many, many reasons why I decided to host Faux Fancy on Squarespace is their incredibly useful analytics dashboards. However, I only allow myself to visit this page once a month. Similar to Iconosquare, I can use this data to determine the types of content my readers enjoy most, where they’re discovering the posts (Facebook, Twitter, direct visits, etc.), which keywords are driving visitors to my site, and more. I can use this to decide how to prioritize the type of content I develop moving forward, and where/how I promote it. 

Additionally, I don’t allow myself to check my social media during certain hours. There was a point when the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night was obsessively like, comment, and follow folks on Instagram. Now that I force myself to leave the ‘Gram alone by a certain hour, and don’t allow myself to check my feed before a certain time, I’m sleeping much better, and starting my day much more mindfully.

There are so many areas in our lives where we’re tied to expectations and success metrics set by others, where we have to be constantly serious and results-oriented and stringent in our pursuit of greatness. If you’re lucky enough to have a blog as a side project, something you do for fun, then let it be fun. Obsessing won’t lead to success – it will only lead you to hate the thing you once loved. Taking the approach of blogging for the love of it, instead of for likes, will improve the way you feel about it. Which can inspire you to create even better content. Which, funny enough, might just lead to more likes.

Dress: Xhilaration. No longer available, but numerous other cute, affordable options can be found at Target, here. Location: the beautiful San Jose Municipal Rose Garden.

Dress: Xhilaration. No longer available, but numerous other cute, affordable options can be found at Target, here. Location: the beautiful San Jose Municipal Rose Garden.

- Kristen