4 Tips for Curating Your Ideal Closet (On a Budget)

I would say 87.3% of the clothes I wear come from J. Crew, and a lot of people ask me how I afford to shop there so often. These people are often surprised when I tell them that I VERY RARELY buy things full price. I pretty much have shopping on a budget all down to a science by now and I thought I could share some tips for how you can afford items from J.Crew, Anthropologie, Lululemon, and the likes.

Wait Yup, I know waiting can be annoying. But the item you see on the front of the website will go on sale in about a month (at least at J.Crew). So wait a little bit and check back. This is also helpful in deciding whether or not you really need this item, or if you just wanted the satisfaction of buying something.

eBay– I know eBay scares a lot of people but after you get the hang of it, it becomes a real gem. I have bought quite a few out of stock J.Crew items and Lululemon pieces from here. Most of the time I buy them “brand new” meaning they have never been worn before, but a little bit a wear definitely makes it more affordable. The bidding aspect can become a little addicting at times (the endorphins from winning a bidding war is crazy!) but that is honestly the cheapest way to do things as some of the “buy now” prices are more expensive.

Make a list– Categorize your closet and look at what you really need. Then when you actually get to the store you have specific knowledge of what you actually need and not something that is just “cute.”

Buy in opposite seasons– Clothes tend to go on sale when they are not in season, so this is a great time to stock up. Think things like shorts and dresses at the end of the summer/beginning of fall season and sweaters and jeans at the end of the winter season/beginning of spring.

Current Sales:  

J.Crew: 50% off sale styles 

J.Crew Factory: 40-60% Off and extra 40% off Clearance 

LOFT: 40% of Everything 

Banana Republic: 50% off Sale

Lululemon: “We Made too Much” 

Anthropologie: 50% off Sale 

Old Navy: 30% off Clearance 

It takes time to curate the closet of your dreams but be patient, shop the sales and it can happen!





In a Room Full of Powerful Women, I too Feel Strong

Honestly y’all I have been procrastinating on this post. So much has happened and I just don’t have a grip on my thoughts yet, but maybe this will help. Two weeks ago I attended my first Delta Regional Conference. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was so overwhelming and amazing at the same time. There were multiple times when I was just standing there in awe of this great organization and the intelligent, beautiful, powerful women who are a part of it. I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn and I plan for many similar experiences to come in the future.

I left that conference Sunday afternoon, drove back to school, worked Monday then hopped in the car to drive to Washington DC for another conference, The United State of Women White House Summit!

I have a great friend and mentor who works under the Obama administration who was able to invite me to this event, and I am not sure I will ever be able to repay her (also same friend who invited me to meet and discuss with Secretary of Education, John King.) I also want to thank my old roommate for allowing me to stay at her parents house in Northern Virginia so that I didn’t have to fork out $300 for a one-night stay at a hotel #blessed.

So on Tuesday, I woke up at 4:45am to do my hair and makeup and leave the house with my roommate’s parents by 5:45am so that we could drive into the city and take the metro to the convention center. The event hosted 5,000 powerful women who are all doing incredible work in their respective fields. Due to the number of attendees, it took about 45 min to get into the building due to the airport-like security, so there was a line wrapped around the building to get in. Across from the convention center was a group of women finishing their run with November Project DC, which I understand to be a free running group for women in the city. Before the group left they cheered and yelled in support of all us women in line waiting to get into the building. It was such a simple, yet beautiful image of what women supporting women looks like.

The day was divided into 6 different pillars:

  1. Violence Against Women
  2. Health and Wellness
  3. Economic Empowerment
  4. Entrepreneurship & Innovation
  5. Educational Opportunity
  6. Civic Engagement & Leadership

To name just a few, Connie Britton, CEO of Planned Parenthood Spoke, VP Joe Biden,  PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA, OPRAH, Amy Poehler, Shonda Rhimes, and Gloria Steinem were all attendees and speakers at the event. I simply felt blessed to just be in the room! My favorite podcasters Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedan were also there, as was my favorite journalist Soledad O’Brien (I tried to find them, but was unsuccessful.)

VP Joe Biden spoke on the issue of sexual assault and rape against women and ended up going 30min over his allotted time. In result, the day was way off schedule and probably ended around 8:30 when it was supposed to be over at 6pm.. I left a little early because I had an  hour long metro ride back to NOVA, but I made sure that I heard First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah’s conversation!

You could tell that a lot of thought went into the creation of this conference. All types of women were represented and diverse stories were told. I knew the day was going to be great after a group of Girl Scouts representing different races came out to do the Pledge of Allegiance. One girl even signed (ASL) the pledge. In addition, there were women’s restrooms, as well as all gender restrooms available. Near the end of the day I saw a 14 year old girl take a picture with this sign radiating about how important this was to her and how represented she felt! I don’t care what your politics are, this is what it is really about. All the bathrooms were also stocked with free tampons and pads #freethetampons and there were free snacks and drinks everywhere!

Overall, the past 6 days have been full of so many good, healthy, inspiring feels. I am inspired to be more diligent in my work with youth and young women, to advocate more publicly about the issues I stand for, and continue in the journey of viewing other women as partners in this fight, not competitors. 



P.S After writing this post I listened to Aminatou and Ann’s podcast reviewing their thoughts from the conference. They brought to my attention a few minor issues with the day that I was way too excited to even notice. I hope to continue to work on being critical of what I am consuming, and challenging what seems to be “radical” but really is only adhering to the status quo. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, but I am also thankful for this podcast for challenging some of my initial thoughts.

Operation Get Healthy & Defeat the Pollen

lysseonlife.wordpress.comY’all I’ve been sick forever now. No joke, like since April. My symptoms change about every two weeks and therefore so does my medicine. So far I have taken, Benadryl, Robitussin, Zyrtec, Mucinex, you name it! I don’t feel sick most of the time, probably because I think a lot of it has to do with my allergies. Anyways, so my mom has been helping me get healthy from afar and lately she recommended that I start drinking this lemon concoction.

All you have to do is heat up an 8oz cup of water, squeeze half a lemon inside, then add honey! The lemon water is simply good for digestion, your immune system, and gives you a boost of antioxidants. The honey can help ease the effects of pollen, but ONLY IF IT IS LOCAL HONEY! Because bee’s make honey and bees pollinated flowers, honey can help strength your resistance to the negative effects of pollen in the air. Click here for more health benefits to lemon honey water. I am trying to drink this before my morning coffee, but some days its a struggle.

In the picture you see Goodbelly probiotics, which works similarly to the lemon water, but it has some added probiotics which is especially good for your digestive system. I first tried it in Whole Foods, and today I finally decided to try it. In the store I only had a small sip of it, for sampling reasons of course. So today when I brought it home to try I realized that you’re suppose to drink 8oz of it a day…not just a shot worth. Instead of drinking it alone, I am probably going to add it to my smoothies.

Try it out and let me know if you like it!



Sun’s Shining: Jontell, Photography & The Sun

Hey friends, ‘Lysse here! With the creation of the new Sun’s Shining category on my blog I started to think about all the women in my life who are doing incredible things and my friend, Jontell Parham, immediately came to mind. While photography can simply be picking up a camera and taking a shot, there is a lot of skill and talent that differentiates one person from another, and let me tell you, Jontell has the “it” factor. Not only does she have “it” when it comes to taking pictures, but she is also business savy enough to take things to the next level and make her business official #impressive. You can read Jontell’s post below to learn a little more about what she does and her take on “Shine Theory.”

When she sent me an email of her draft I started reading it and was like wait, this sounds so much like me, did I write this?! No, but honestly I am in love with all she has to say and I am so glad to have her on the blog for the first official Sun’s Shining post. Enjoy!

P.S I promise I didn’t tell her to include anything about “the Sun,” but I think it is fantastic that she did 🙂

Hey everyone! I’m Jontell Parham and I’m the owner of Jontell Vanessa Photography, a wedding and portrait business based in Virginia. I “unofficially” started my business two years ago when I created a Facebook page for my Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 9.43.07 PMphotography work. In my opinion, creating a space where I could finally showcase my work meant more to me than all of the work that would eventually make my business legal. I wanted the chance to take my passion for photography to the next level, but I was afraid being “another amateur with an expensive camera.”

Alysse introduced me to Ann Friedman’s Shine Theory article and I absolutely love it! Every woman needs to read it, understand it, and live by it. My business wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for the amazing women in the industry who operate on the idea of creating a community rather than competition. Natalie Franke, a photographer I admire, said it best: “another woman’s prosperity does not make me inferior.” By building friendships instead of war zones, I’m able to work with other photographers to help us both build better businesses and give more to our clients.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph gorgeous weddings and cherish memories for dozens of people over the short course of my photography business. In the middle of writing this post, I took a quick phone call from a bride’s mom and she ended the call by saying that she knew God led her to the perfect photographer for her daughter’s wedding. That’s something I could have only dreamed of hearing two years ago!

If I’m being honest – between the countless miles of driving to locations, late-night editing, and figuring out how to own a business in college – there are plenty of days when I want to quit. Then, clients come along, just like that bride’s mom, and say just the thing I need to hear to remember that this business is bigger than all of the little bumps in the road. I give my fears and plans for my business to God, and in return, he allows me to use this passion of mine to serve and glorify His Kingdom.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve, fight the fears and go after it. Go start a business, run the marathon, choose the missions trip, get the PhD. You’re capable of remarkable things, but you have to be brave enough to take the first step towards something a little bit bigger than you. I promise you, along the way, you’ll find your people. The ones who will push you forward because they see your potential and love you enough to help you reach it. You’ll find your Cristina Yang to remind you that you are the Sun and you are strong enough to keep fighting and pushing forward.

Jontell Parham


New Feature on the Blog: Shine Theory

I know for a fact that I have talked about Shine Theory before, and if you don’t know what it is please stop now to  to read all about it. The “theory” was created by, Ann Friedman, one of my fav ladies from the podcast Call Your Girlfriend. Anyways, in the name of Shine Theory, I have created a new category on my blog that will highlight women in my life who are doing really rad things! The category will be titled “Sun’s Shining” because y’all know the deal, you are the Sun and you are a shining in life! lols

“Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.” -Ann Friedman

There are already a few posts up there, but keep your eyes open for a lot more to come!

Also, if you are interested in writing a featured piece please email me at alysse1400@gmail.com!



Podcast Party: Can We Talk About Whiteness? 

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 12.36.47 PM.pngI have been following NPR Code Switch on Twitter for a good time now and I have been patiently waiting for them to start a podcast. On May 31st, my prayers were answered. The first episode of NPR Code Switch, a podcast to discuss race, ethnicity and culture, aired. They dedicated the first episode to discussing “whiteness.” On the surface it may seem weird that they started out with this topic, but I think it is important because whiteness is often “both inescapable and invisible,” it needs to be talked about and the nuances should be explored.

In this episode, two college professors share their experience of teaching courses on race, and whiteness. Like most academic conversation about race, Peggy McIntosh’s classic piece, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” became the foundation of the discussion.

This past semester I took a brand new course titled: Racial Performance. Throughout the semester we moved through different racial groups by analyzing  the “racial performance” in various pieces of media. By the end of the semester my Professor consistently mentioned how she wished she would have included a section on whiteness because it Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 12.34.08 PM.pngwould have helped ground our discussion about race in America and how we talked about other races in comparison to the concept of “whiteness.”So for that reason, I appreciate NPR’s decision to start with “whiteness.”

Overall, as a podcast full of voices of color, I am excited for what it can bring to the
podcasting world and I’m interested to hear what other topics of discussion will come in the future.

Read more about the podcast here.


P.S I haven’t listened to the second episode, which came out today, but it is titled: “Black People Don’t Hike?” and that speakes to me on a personal level. 
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Operation De-Fluff

Well if you know me, or have at least read my blog bio you know how obsessed I am about McDonalds. Despite my love for the double arches, I have always appeared to be pretty in shape and “fit.” A lot of this could be attributed to the fact that I have been playing competitive sports since the age of 7. Besides my casual ice hockey participation,  this year was my first year not playing a sport. My eating habits have stayed the same as they were when I was playing a sport, but now my physical activity is very different…which is the problem.

To be honest, the transition from being a competitive athlete to being a normal gym-goer is tough (maybe I’ll write a separate post about this one day). It is hard to get the same type of workout in the gym that you would get while practicing for your sport. The atmosphere is different, the motivation is different, and sometimes it just feels like it is  not good enough. Personally, my motivation to continue working out was decreasing to the point that after hockey season ended in February, I rarely workout out at all. As expected, I gained weight. A part of me was happy because I was back to the weight I was before I started rowing in college, so my clothes started to fit again. But it didn’t stop there, I kept gaining weight, and here I am now heavier than I have ever been.

Let me back up, I have always been very very satisfied with my body. Like stare at myself in the mirror mouthing “dang girl!” satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel like that to some degree. Though I think I want to be back to where I was before I started rowing, or maybe when I was rowing. So this is where Operation De-Fluff comes into play.

This summer I am trying to be intentional about my workouts and mindful of my food. I think the most important step for a successful workout is having a plan. Every night I write out in my little pink moleskin the workout I will be doing the next day. How many reps, sets, and the weight I plan to use. I promise this makes executing in the gym so much easier! To get inspired for the various exercises intended for whatever muscle group day it is, I refer to the following  youtube channels: Brittany Lesser, Nikki Blackletter, and my favorite, Heidi Somers.

In addition, I’m being mindful of my meals. Which is actually hard for me to admit because I am so pro do what you want: eat the Chipotle burrito and the McDonalds fry, and the cookies..all at the same time (my friday night meals during rowing season), I cringe at people worrying about calories, and never have I “felt” better when eating healthier. Honestly, a part of this is because it is forcing me to be organized about my meals which I enjoy (Alysse and organized go hand in hand) and it is saving me a lot of money too!

From my last few posts you can see I’ve been doing a lot of shopping at Whole Foods, which has forced me to buy healthier foods and also not waste it because hello $$$. This in itself has helped encouraged me to cook, and as long as I don’t indulge in too much snacking, my meals are generally healthy. This is not some serious diet, the occasional Big Mac will occur, but I am paying a little bit more attention to my food and the portion size. So yay for growth!

Updates to come!