A couple weeks ago, some of my Philly friends and I went to New York for a day trip. I went to college in the Bronx, and a lot of my college friends still live in and around the city. For work, I also commuted from Philly to New York pretty frequently. So it had been a long time since I had gone to New York without any obligations — just to walk around and explore with friends.
The day was good for the soul. It’s always nice to have some quality, offline time with girlfriends. It also reminded me what I love about New York, and brought back a ton of memories from my early 20s.
It’s easy to feel sentimental and nostalgic at the end of the year, and even more so at the end of an entire decade. The 2010s also coincided with my 20s — I was 19 at the start of 2010, and I’ll be turning 30 in the fall. So much has happened over the last 10 years.
Taking cues from some of my blogger friends, I thought this was a good time to share an “anti-bucket list” — basically a look back at what I did accomplish over the last decade:
Started this blog! (2010)
Went on two Global Outreach trips (2011, 2013)
Visited Italy & France with my family (2012)
Graduated Fordham (2013)
Moved to Philadelphia (2013)
Adopted two dogs: Zamboni (2013) and Arya (2015)
Was a bridesmaid for high school friends (2015, 2016)
Helped plan the PHLblogger’s Blog Connect Conference (2017, 2018)
Went to the Home Run Derby (2017)
Fostered senior dogs (2017, 2018, 2019)
Got my first tattoo (2018)
Bought a house! (2018)
Saw Dwyane Wade’s last game (2019)
Did a reading at my friends’ wedding (2019)
It’s crazy to think about how much has changed, how much hasn’t and what stands out years later. Not every year was great — like, I’m sure cool stuff happened in 2014 (I just can’t remember what) and 2016 and 2017 were particularly hard years as well. The last decade had its share of highlights and lowlights, but I can confidently say I’m happier now than I was ten years ago. I’m grateful for that, for the lessons I’ve learned and friends I’ve gained along the way.
Photo Pop Philly, the city’s first and only interactive pop-up exhibit, is back for its second season! It’s curated by my friends at Philly PR Girl, and I had more fun than I expected when I checked out last summer’s Photo Pop. I’m excited to check out this year’s “Sweet Paradise” at The Bourse later this week.
Don’t know what to expect? I’m sharing some tips I learned last year!
1. Coordinate your outfit.
This is by no means a requirement (wear whatever you makes you happy!), but I’m glad I stayed on-theme last summer. The theme was classic Philly — red, white and blue — so I wore my favorite cherry red dress from Smak Parlour (also seen here). Each installation was pretty colorful, but by wearing coordinating colors my outfit either popped or matched the decor, instead of clashing. Coincidentally, my friends Chelsea and Cortney also ended up matching the theme, so it worked out even better!
Sweet Paradise looks to be even more bright and colorful (sneak a peek on Instagram), so I’m still debating what to wear. Maybe a white dress? Send help!
2. Bring your friends.
Most of the fun at Photo Pop is taking lots of cute pictures for the ‘gram. Personally, I think friends make the best “Instagram Boyfriends,” so make it a girls’ night. Plus, then you can take a mix of group photos and solo shots, without having to worry about asking too many strangers. To make things that much easier, unlock your phone so you don’t have to constantly use Touch ID.
3. Credit the artists.
Besides Philly PR Girl, many local artists work hard to bring Photo Pop Philly to life. So credit where credit is due! Tag your selfies and Insta posts so other people can find these talented individuals. Some of my favorite installments last summer were by @nero_one and @amberellaxo.
Photo Pop also hosts occasional special events (we went on a girls’ night themed-event) which is another great way to get more bang for your buck. Have you been to Photo Pop Philly or similar exhibits? They’re not for everyone, but I had so much fun snapping pictures with my friends. I’m looking forward to checking out Sweet Paradise soon, and I’ll definitely be sharing on my Instagram.
Even though I’ve been living in my house for six months now, I still occasionally find myself nostalgic for my apartment. It was the first place I ever lived in by myself. When I moved in, I had an idea it would be the last place I’d live before I bought I house — I just didn’t expect that to be less than 2 years later!
Before I moved out, I made sure to take some photos of the apartment. Living there definitely came with highs and lows, but I enjoyed making the space my own. Hopefully some of these photos can give you some inspiration if you’re also decorating or organizing a small apartment!
Some details about my old apartment: it is a third-floor walkup in a dog-friendly building that was recently updated, but originally built at the turn of the 20th century. I also rented a corner unit, which meant the natural lighting in the kitchen and bedroom is 💯 I lived in East Kensington, near a coffee/comic book shop and tattoo parlor, and really enjoyed my time in the neighborhood.
For additional context, I moved in following a breakup in which my former partner and I shared a large house, so unlike most twenty-somethings, I was attempting to downsize. Anyway, here’s a brief walkthrough of the apartment:
My apartment door opened up to my living room. For seating, I bought a gray sleeper sofa from Wayfair and green wingback chair (a hand-me-down, but originally from Target). Above, I hung some of my favorite photographs I’ve taken around Philadelphia, but printed them in black-and-white. My mom garbage-picked the side table and painted it white — it’s one of my favorite pieces. For extra storage in the living room, I used a white Kmart dresser as a tv stand. I acquired an IKEA shoe rack through my local Buy Nothing group. To accommodate it, I disassembled my coat rack and bought this accordion rack from Amazon.
The living room also had a crazy crowded white IKEA bookcase. I was blessed with high ceilings, so I placed a large framed front page from the 2003 World Series, originally from my dad, on top of the bookcase. This was the darkest corner of my entire apartment, but I still had enough light during the day for a silver pothos on the bookcase. Clearly, there was a bit of a green/teal color scheme happening.
When I think about it, my bedroom was actually pretty spacious! But I tried to cram way too many things inside — partly because of the lack of storage space, partly because I’m stubborn. Somehow I managed to fit in: a queen-sized bed, a side table, a chest of drawers and (another) small sleeper sofa. The side table, chest and sofa were all hand-me-downs from friends, because my friends are the best.
I tried a comforter and a duvet set before settling on an all-white quilt for the room. The comforter was just too much work to take to the laundromat (#glamorous), and the quilt was plain on both sides, therefore reversible and easy to bleach. For extra comfort, I added IKEA throw pillows and fuzzy husband from Target. I never got around to adding more decor to the walls by my bed, so it was just a canvas painting from a Paint Nite event on a large wall.
My mom and I hung a matching mirror above the chest, and on top of it I kept jewelry boxes, a picture frame, some small plants and a salt lamp. A mini-gallery wall took shape with a framed map of Colombia (my mom’s native country), a wooden map of Philadelphia and another small mirror and Aztec-inspired plate.
This blue sleeper sofa was my original couch, and I moved into my bedroom once I bought my gray Wayfair one. When it wasn’t covered by my laundry, it was another space for me or Arya (or any of our other dog visitors) to lounge. Above the sofa, we hung another small gallery wall and a larger framed print from Minted (you can read about both here).
My kitchen wasn’t too exciting, but I did love the two windows and I had a decent amount of counter space. While living in my apartment, I started to get into plants more (you may or may not have noticed), and most lived in the kitchen.
To take advantage of the light while maintaining privacy, I used cafe panels instead of longer curtains for my tall windows. A friend gave me papel picado (I love Mexican and other Latin American decor), which I hung in the kitchen for extra color.
Even less exciting than the kitchen, but hey, more plants! I made the macrame hanger for my pothos. Above the toilet, my mom and I hung frames I had in my teenage bedroom. They’e actually small puzzles of famous artworks that we put together and then glued to matting.
For extra storage, I added a corner shelf next to the sink. I picked it up sometime in college, and it has been essential in different living situations. Highly recommend picking one up, like this one from Amazon!
That’s about it. It was fun going back through these photos, because I kept almost everything from my apartment but found new ways to arrange and organize things in my house. Things are still coming together, but I see some room tours in this blog’s future! I hope this helps someone who is looking to decorate their first city apartment!