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Welcome to New York! During our trip to NYC, the Kakacs and I hit up Times Square first thing in the morning. It was early and it was cold, but I was still surprised to find the place so empty! We were able to take our time without feeling overwhelmed or the need to get out of there. The last time I was in New York, I was seventeen years old and Times Square felt gigantic to me. It was fun to see it again, with time to take it all in. I love the energy of New York, the hustle and bustle, the lights, and the sounds. After coming home, I decided I could live in the city for a very short season of life. Just long enough to explore it, discover my favorite spots, hit up some classic shows (I've only ever seen Beauty and the Beast on Broadway!), become BFFs with Jimmy Fallon, and then head out of town. ;)

After exploring Times Square to our hearts' content, we hit up Virgil's BBQ for some good southern cookin'. Sometimes when you're in a big and unfamiliar city, you need to take a break in a spot that feels like home. BBQ has a way of taking anyone back to their southern roots. The food at Virgil's was delicious, and I highly recommend it, but there are also tons of eateries to discover in NYC, so go find them and try them all!

So have you ever been to NYC? Thoughts on Times Square? Overwhelming or no? Have you ever seen a Broadway play? Which has been your favorite? I need recommendations for my next trip up there, so let me know about your favorite spots and shows! XOXO.



1 | Spring is in the air! Trees are budding, flowers are blooming, and my heart is soaring at the idea of warmer weather just around the corner!

2 | BFFLS. I got to see my dear friend Jodie yesterday in Nashville. She lives in D.C. but was in the music city for the weekend, so I drove up for the day!

3 | Road trips for days. I seriously love road trips. Short ones, long ones, with friends, or by myself...I love them all. Time on the road gives you a chance to think, to have good conversations, and to sing at the top of your lungs. ;)

4 | Blogging for books. Have you guys tried it out yet? I just got my second book in the mail from them, and I'm excited to share it with you soon!

-- These puppies melt my heart.
-- Don't miss this giveaway! #happymail
-- The periodic table of Disney.
-- Words to live by.
-- Every Tom Hanks movie in seven minutes.
-- Want to improve your photography? Join the Lens Revolution!
-- Let's go explore this place.

Caramel Iced Coffee
Holders Not Folders | COLOR
The Lens Revolution | Aperture
Bryant Park | NYC
Happy Mail Giveaway




Raise your hands if you follow me on Instagram (if you didn't raise your hand, make sure to follow me here!) If you do, you know how much I love me some snail mail because I post pictures of my letters ALL the time. YAY! I love it so much that I took the plunge and am now on the waiting list for Happy Mail by A Beautiful Mess. I can't wait for my first box! Each month you get a package of unique and creative cards of all kinds! This subscription is designed so you don't have to run out to the store all the time and spend $5 on each card. Now you can have a stash of cards, perfect for each person and each occasion. PLUS every card is different so you are not sending the same Birthday card to all your friends.

Each month ABM throws in a little extra - like a notepad, stickers, and gift tags all to make gift giving and note sending a bit more colorful. With hopes to fill the mailboxes once more with Happy Mail, they only charge $15 a month! #worthit 

TriStyle & CO was started by Beth, Samantha, and I - three bloggers that met via the interwebs and started chatting! Each of us are passionate about community, the TriStyle & CO community, our personal blog communities, and our real life communities. Sending letters is one way that we grow & nurture that community. We all have a passion  obsession for the written word and the postal service. Today we are combining forces to share one of our favorite things - Happy Mail.

Today Beth, Sam, and I want to give you the chance to win a month of Happy Mail! To enter, use the Rafflecopter below and don't cheat! Good Luck my dear friends! XOXO



I've been home from New York for a week and a half and it's all I talk about these days. The Kakacs and I had so many adventures together and I'm still working on unpacking them all. One of our days was spent on a surprise trip to New York City. I might have squealed a little when they told me we were going. The last time I was in NYC I was fresh out of high school, so it's been a while, folks! We had too many adventures in the city for one post, so I'll be sharing then with you a little at a time.

Our first stop off the train was a fun find in Bryant Park. We swung by the library just to see it from the outside and discovered Bryant Park as we walked by. The city was seemingly empty early in the morning, and practically no one was in the park, so we had it all to ourselves. The park feels like such a charming place, and I think it would be the perfect coffee date spot in the warmer months when the trees are clothed in leaves. Oh, and the surrounding architecture is beautiful! I couldn't stop taking photos!

One of the things I love about exploring new cities is finding special spots that turn into favorites and go-to's for the next time I visit. I especially love finding those places with friends. Our day in NYC was full of fun, laughs, photos, and getting to know each other better. I can't wait to show you more of our weekend!

Do you love exploring new cities? Have you been to NYC? What are your favorite spots to visit there? I need recommendations for the next time I'm up that way! XOXO.



One of my goals for this year is to improve on my photography skills. When Samantha over at Elah Tree told me she was going to start a weekly photography series, I was so excited and immediately jumped on board. Each week she is going to be teaching us practical photography skills we all need, and then we'll have an opportunity to practice those skills over the following week and link-up our homework posts. I can't wait to see what Sam has in store for us, and I'm excited to see how we all grow in our photography! Today is the first opportunity to link-up, and the homework over the past week had to do with aperture!

About a month ago, I finally took the plunge and purchased a 50MM lens for my Canon DSLR. I'd been using the kit lens for four years and thought it was time I move ahead and learn how to use a fixed lens. One of my favorite things about the 50MM is the super low aperture! I'm so obsessed with it, that the 1.8 F-stop is all I want to use (because blurred backgrounds are my favorite!) However, Sam reminded me that I needed to practice using the full range of my new lens' capabilities, and this aperture challenge definitely forced me to do that!

F-Stop: 1.8  | Shutter Speed: 1/40  | ISO: 400

F-Stop: 5.6 | Shutter Speed: 1/4  | ISO: 400

F-Stop: 7.1  | Shutter Speed: 0.40  | ISO: 400

F-Stop: 11 | Shutter Speed: 1.0  | ISO: 400

F-Stop: 16  | Shutter Speed: 1.0  | ISO: 800

F-Stop: 20 | Shutter Speed: 0.8  | ISO: 1600

As you can see, a lower aperture setting creates a shallow depth of field, which is what allows for the blurred background. As the aperture number climbs higher, you get a greater depth of field, allowing you to see your main subject and background more clearly. Which photo is your favorite?

I'd love for you to join in on the photography fun! Head over to Elah Tree and see the challenge for this week. Hint: it has to do with the ISO. Do your homework, have fun, and link-up with everyone next week! :)

What is your favorite aperture to use? Do yo prefer blurred backgrounds like me? Are you wanting to sharpen your photography skills? Join the Lens Revolution! Hashtag your photos using #thelensrevolution.


Welcome to our newest #holdersnotfolders challenge. A few weeks ago,  Beth & I announced that we were bringing back our Holders Not Folders challenges! So many of you participated in our Summer 2014 series, and we had a blast cultivating a creative Instagram community with you all.

For this quick, six week series, we want to focus on teaching you something new (or reminding you of something you already know) to integrate into your phone photography. Each week we will announce the new challenge, share a quick tutorial and/ or tips, and then encourage you to practice that skill in your Instagrams! Make sure you hashtag #holdersnotfolders and interact with the others participating!

Are you in? We want to encourage you that you can create fun and inspiring photos with your phone and have a beautiful Instagram that reflects YOU! Join the challenge and get creative.

Written by Meg of Rivers and Roads

Today is the last lesson in this quick six week series, and I really hope you'll join in because it's one of my favorites! We are talking about color. I LOVE color. Color is everywhere, and I'm always trying to be aware of those in my surroundings as I choose what to photograph. I like how color comes in many different forms: rich, bright, muted, earthy, etc. and each color evokes various emotions. While I was getting my degree in design, we learned a lot about the psychology of color and how each color affects us. For example, the color red is proven more than any other to induce hunger, which is why you will notice many restaurants tend to use red in their branding (McDonald's, Chick-Fil-A, etc.) The color blue is supposed to make you feel calm and relaxed. Yellow is considered cheerful, but it can also create feelings of frustration. Isn't it funny how color can affect us so much?

Color is a factor I like to keep in mind when taking photos for my Instagram feed. You can set an overall tone or mood for your feed by being conscious of the colors that you post. This can be done through color blocking or an all-encompassing color theme.

I love to practice color blocking a single row in my Instagram feed. This means I pick a specific color, find ways of photographing that color in various shots, and post them in a row together.  I really like this idea because it challenges my creativity and makes me think ahead and be more aware of my surroundings as I'm searching for different colors.

One good example of color blocking comes from Elsie over at ABM. She was doing a rock star job at color blocking her Instagram feed for a while. Scroll down her feed just a little and you'll see what I mean! She has an incredible knack for finding the same shade of blue, or pink, or green, in various items for her photos.

Below you can see I put together three photos all including the same shade of cheerful yellow. (The photo in the middle I regrammed from the amazing Amy Smith.) My version of color blocking may not be quite as apparent as others', but it is its own thing.

The photos in this row all share the same shades of tan/brown, tying the photos together in a small way.

Now, another color option is to have an overall theme for your feed. Some people go with strictly black and white, others may post photos all having a dark background with their subjects being the pops of color, while other's photos all have a white, light, and airy feel. Maybe all of your photos are bright and bold, or maybe they are more muted tones. There a multiple ways to create a theme and a feel for your feed, and color is just one of them! Have you taken the time to create a theme for yours?

HOMEWORK: Now it's your turn! As you go through this week taking photos with your phone, keep the colors around you in mind. Snap lots of photos capturing multiple colors and see if you can do a little color blocking on your Instagram this week! See if you notice a difference in your phone photography when you think and plan ahead! Look at some of your favorite Instagrams or Instagramers -- do they practice color blocking or creating a theme for their feed? Share with us any photos you are proud of by using the hashtag #holdersnotfolders, and share some love on the other photos you see in the feed! 

Make sure to follow @oakandoats and @megmcilvaine on Instagram. To see the rest of our series, click here!



Starbucks, VIA, instant coffee
As I mentioned yesterday, iced coffee is my jam. I drink it on occasion throughout the winter months, but I go all out as soon as the promise of warmer weather makes an appearance. Ideally, I'd love to drop by Starbucks every day and pick up an iced caramel white mocha (no whip, obvi)...my favorite drink of choice...but that might break the bank. Last summer, in an effort to save moneys but also satisfy my iced coffee obsession, I gave the Starbucks VIAs a try. Of course, I couldn't go with regular old coffee (too bitter for my poor tastebuds), so I picked up the caramel kind because caramel in anything is my favorite.

I know some of you could make fancy iced coffee from coffee you brewed and chilled and turned into wonderful ice cool creations. However, moment of honesty, I don't know how to brew coffee! I don't know how much water goes in, or how many coffee grounds to put in, or what buttons to push. It's a nightmare really. So I take the easy way out with instant coffee thanks to my hero, Captain Starbucks. All you need is your coffee mix, some water, some ice, and a little (or a lot) of milk. Delicious iced coffee in sixty seconds. Voila!

Starbucks, VIA, instant coffee

Starbucks, VIA, instant coffee

Starbucks, VIA, instant coffee

Starbucks, VIA, instant coffee

Starbucks, VIA, instant coffee

Starbucks, VIA, instant coffee

Starbucks, VIA, instant coffee

Starbucks, VIA, instant coffee
So are you a coffee drinker? Do you prefer hot or iced? Do you take your coffee black or cream filled? :) What is your go-to coffee drink? I want to know all the things! XOXO.