My College Dorm Room Necessities

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Now that I am going into my senior year at Fairfield U (eeeew how did that happen?!?) I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what is needed in order to be comfortable and settled in your dorm.  I decided to make a little list of the items that I deem essential to have in college.  I know that some of you have already headed off to school but for those still awaiting move in day check your lists and make sure these items are on them!

1. Body Pillow/Extra pillows
At most universities the beds are pushed up against the cold cinderblock walls.  Just trust me on this one, a body pillow will become your best friend.  It can be put up against the the wall, or my favorite use is wrapping it in a sort of donut shape and leaning against it on my bed while I study or write papers.  Having extra pillows in general just makes the space feel so much more cozy and can even function as extra seating for people who come over to visit.

2. Shower Caddy
At most universities, freshman have to share communal bathrooms.  While I really didnt mind it (it was sort of a social place haha) you couldn’t leave your stuff in the shower like most people do at home.  The caddy kept everything organized and in one place.  I personally liked the hard plastic bin caddies because they had little holes in the bottom in case they ever got wet and they are super easy to clean and hold so much stuff (This is what I have and I LOVE it. It is from Bed Bath and Beyond and is super reasonable)   These mesh options from PB teen are so cute and very functional and I know several people that swear by them.  Even though I am going to be a senior this year I still am going to use my caddy. It just keeps everything organized and in one place and keeps the shower clean without having 8 different bottles for me and each of my roommates 😉

3. Lap board
Now, this may sound weird and I am not proud to admit this but I am the type of person who tends to work the best while they are sitting on their bed.  I am not a library person by any means.  While I will occasional sit at my desk, my bed is my go-to study zone (sounds weird I know).  To make this easier and more comfortable I would highly suggest a lap board for writing and typing. It can even be used for eating on your bed (hey, in a  closet sized dorm room it is bound to happen at some point 😉 )  I probably use my lap board almost every single day.  Definitely a must and comes in soo handy.
Options: here // here // here // here

4. Night stand
While this isn’t necessarily a necessity I found that it was nice to have.  I didn’t have one freshman year, but did sophomore year and couldn’t fathom how I didn’t have one the year before.  It is nice to put your phone onto at night and also to put pens or a cup of tea on while you are working.  Plus they double as storage (A win win in my book!) They can be found at places like Target or Walmart for really cheap. ( I have this one in white but it comes in so many different color options and is only $20! You can’t beat it!)

5. Power strip/extension cords
If your dorm rooms were anything like mine, there are very limited power outlets that are in the most bizarre places in the room (like under the bed and behind the furniture) that are next to impossible to reach without an extension cord.  Also it is great to have a power strip so you can add more plugs to the already limited power outlets.
(I have this one and it fits so many plugs!)

6. Command hooks/putty
Like I said before most dorms are cinderblock walls and cannot be drilled into.  For that reason command hooks and putty will become your best friend.  I wanted to feel at home in my room so hanging photos and prints was important to me and therefore command hooks and putty were a lifesaver!  Just be sure to pick frames that aren’t too heavy so that the command hooks can hold them!
(Target has a great selection)

7. White noise machine/Sound machine
Living in a dorm may definitely come with some annoyances, especially those relating to noise.  There will be times you will be trying to nap or even study and your next door neighbor decides to have a jam sesh at that exact moment.  Trust me, I have been there.  There is nothing worse than having a nap interrupted.  To combat that I have enlisted my trusty white noise machine and I have never looked back.  Guys, this thing is life changing.  I brought it freshman year and my roommate (hey Jillian!) looked at me like I was crazy, but months later she actually admitted that she now finds it weird sleeping without it. I can’t imagine life without my white noise machine haha

At Fairfield, the University provides mini fridges and microwaves with each room, but if they weren’t provided I would say that those items would also be necessities!

I hope this helps those of you heading into college. Is there anything else I should add that I missed?!

xo,
H

 

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Valencia Travel Diary

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My last weekend of travel in Spain was intended to be an all out vacation to Ibiza or Majorca because we had 5 days off from school due to Spanish holidays.  However, due partially to our poor planning skills, expensive flights, the realization that our bank accounts were quite low after all our travel over the past 4 months and the fact that I had a final the day we got back, my roommates and I decided to do a shorter more low key trip.  We looked and looked and finally settled on Valencia.  It was only a short 4 hour bus ride away and we found a really cheap airbnb right on the beach.  We headed out early Saturday morning and intended to get back Monday night so we could have a day to study before exams on wednesday.

The first day in Valencia was a bit overcast and cold so we decided we would spent the day exploring the city of Valencia.  I have to say I had built the city of Valencia up in my head for some reason and when I actually got to see it I was sort of let down.  It just wasn’t what I was expecting I guess, not in a bad way or anything. We walked all the way to the city of Arts and Sciences which are a serious of museums with super modern looking buildings.  That was cool to walk around and people watch.  My roommates and I also tried Horchata, a typical milky drink made of tiger nuts that is native to Valencia.  I have to say, I don’t know if I would order it again but I was glad to be trying new things!  We then found a paella place for dinner before heading back to our airbnb for the night. Valencia is known for their paella and it was delicious!

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Day 2 was spent at the beach soaking up the sun and our last girls trip before we had finals.  The airbnb was literally steps from the beach and it was so nice to just listen to music and spend quality time together for one of the last times before we headed back to America.

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OH! YOU GUYS! Valencia had AMAZING sea glass!!! One thing you don’t know about me is that I am a sea glass fanatic.  I could spend hours just walking up and down the water line looking for little treasures and this beach was COVERED! I was in heaven.  My roommates would make fun of me because after every little walk I took I would come back and be like a little kid showing off my finds haha I collected so much and was starting to get concerned about the weight of my luggage with all of the sea glass I had collected during my travels abroad! Also funny story. I had a hand full of sea glass as I went for a walk with one of my roommates and this spanish man on the beach came up to me and put out a plastic bag said something to me in spanish.  It took me a second to process that he asked if I wanted to throw my sea glass into the bag of trash he was picking up off the beach.  I quickly said no thank you in Spanish before realizing that europeans think that it is trash!! the horror!

My roommates and I had a lot of fun cooking in the house and made delicious breakfasts each morning.

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The next day and final day we headed to the beach again.  We had seen people surfing and decided that we would do it that day since the day before was a little windy.  However, little did we know that because it was a national holiday the surf shop would be closed so unfortunately we couldn’t rent surf boards which was a bummer because we had all been itching to try again ever since Portugal.  On one of our walks along the beach I had seen that there were really cute little snack shacks that were painted with adorable blue stripes.  So of course I made my roommates come back to take some #instagrammable photos 😉 How cute are the stripes though?!  Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and we had to take an evening bus back to Madrid that night.

It was such a fun and relaxing trip with my roommates for our last trip before the end of the semester.  It was low-key and full of amazing memories so what more could you ask for!?

Thanks for reading!

xo,
H

Porto, Portugal Travel Diary

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After such an amazing spring break to Greece I was ready for the beach weather to continue!  We had booked this trip wayy in advance which was so out of character for us since my friends and I always did everything so last minute.  We were heading to Porto with a group to 7 to celebrate my friend James’ birthday.  My friend had booked the airbnb and I had not seen it so I was going into this long weekend blind and didn’t know what to expect.  We decided to throw caution to the wind and catch a flight back early monday morning before classes so it was going got be an extra long weekend.

We landed in Porto late Thursday night and after a slight miscommunication with our taxi driver about where our airbnb was we finally arrived.  The airbnb was beautiful! So spacious and updated and the price could not be beat.  Our hosts were so sweet and left us a beautiful spread of appetizers and wine when we arrived.  We finally turned in and slept in late friday morning.  We luckily had a grocery store right across the street from us so we headed over to buy some food to make breakfast.  This was our first time cooking since being abroad (we all were staying in host families so meals were provided!) and it was so fun to all be in the kitchen doing different tasks and then sitting down to a big family meal! Finally around noon we headed to the beach (with a bunch of snacks in tow!)  We were only a 5 minute walk from the beach which was so nice!  The sand was so soft, the water was blue, I was in heaven.  In that moment I thought that life could not get much better than that.  I mean I was in Portugal, laying out at the beach, with all of my close friends!  We spent the day lounging, dosing, swimming, laughing, listening to music and eating junk food.  We finally decided we should call it a day and head back to cook dinner.  Our friend Meg also arrived that night after doing a solo trip to Lisbon for a day!

The next day we got up made another delicious breakfast and then hopped on the metro to go into downtown Porto.  We were actually staying on the outskirts of the city by the beach but we wanted a taste of the culture so we headed into the city.  Once we arrived we walked around a little and then we headed to where we would be catching a shuttle to a winery where we were taking a tour and doing a tasting.  Funny story, it was actually called the magical train wine tour and when we got there we climbed into a little train that drove us around the city and finally to the winery.  We learned about Port wine (hence the name Porto) and then were able to try two different types.  It was really interesting and we laughed as we got the funniest looks at we were transported in the little train.  When that ended my friends and I ate lunch and then just wandered the streets taking in all the beautiful architecture and tiling.  We then grabbed gelato and just sat and people watched for a good hour while we basked in the warm sun feeling perfectly content.  We ended the day sitting by the river watching the sun begin to sink.  We then headed back to our airbnb to freshen up before heading out to dinner.  We found this local restaurant right by the  beach that served the freshest and most delicious sea food I have ever tasted.  They literally cooked the catch of the day out on the sidewalks as people walked by.  I ordered the squid and my friends ordered salmon and they both melted in my mouth.  The portions were so big and the price was so inexpensive we kept saying that this would never happen in America.

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The next day we headed to the beach again.  We had already decided that we wanted to try and find a surf shop to rent from after seeing people surf two days before.  We found a great little shop and spent the afternoon attempting to learn to surf but more on that to come in another post! That night we cooked dinner back at the house and then cleaned up the place, packed and tried to go to bed because we had an early 3 am wake up time to catch our flight. (editor’s note: I had every intention of making it to my early classes that monday buttttt that did not happen, lets just say I decided to crawl into bed and skip setting alarm to make it to my 10 am!)

It was the best weekend full of both relaxation and exploration.  I tried new things (surfing!!) made amazing memories with some of my closest friends and realized that as my time abroad winded down that I had visited some amazing places in my 4 months abroad.

Thanks for reading this lengthy post! As always if any of you are going abroad feel free to shoot me an email with any questions you may have.

xo,
H

Santorini Sunset Cruise

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*Check out my video of our catamaran cruise here!*

One of the highlights and favorite things of my entire abroad experience was the sunset cruise my friends and I took in Santorini.  Once we arrived in Santorini and saw all the storefronts trying to sell sailing cruises we were really interested in doing one but figured that we wouldn’t be able to afford it.  We stopped in at several different tour companies and finally said what the heck we have to do it.  We booked through Sunset Oia and did a semi-private tour meaning that we did not have the entire boat to ourselves but would be sharing it with about 15 other people. Being college students studying abroad we were on a budget but willing to splurge a little and this was a great option!  Because we were still off season for Santorini the sales guy at Sunset Oia gave us a really great deal! We couldn’t pass up such a memorable experience.

We were a little worried about the weather since it can be hit or miss during this time of year but the weather gods were on our sides because we ended up having a hot sunny day!! The Sunset Oia van picked us up at our hotel at about 12 pm and drove us across the island where we would be embarking on our catamaran.

When we arrived we put our shoes into baskets and climbed onboard the most beautiful catamaran.  I felt like I was dreaming.  We all gathered in the cabin while we taxied out of the harbor and were informed of the safety rules.  We were then given free reign of the boat.  The crew served us Greek wine while we laid out on the front of the catamaran.  We were all in heaven and pinching ourselves asking if this was real life.

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When the boat docked for lunch we decided that we had to go swimming.  I mean we were in Greece and were being provided snorkel gear how could we not?!  The other guests on boat and the crew thought we were slightly crazy for jumping in and swimming around but I have to say we were in for a good 30 minutes and I could have stayed in longer.  The water was so clear and fish were swimming around I honestly didn’t know how life could be much better than in that moment.

The captain then called us in to eat.  We were served the most delicious assortment of traditional Greek foods.  The meal was delicious and it was really nice getting to try some local cuisine. We then set sail again for the hot springs.  Since we had dried off and the sun was starting to sink a little it was starting to get a little chilly so we decided against jumping in again.

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Finally we arrived at Oia, the tip of the island and where the sun sinks into the water on the horizon.  We had a great view of the sunset and my friends and I sat in awe of the beauty reflecting on such a fabulous day.

When the sun finally sank into the inky black water we headed to shore where were got a van back to our hotel.  Taking the sunset tour was such an incredible experience and so worth every penny.  It was so fun and so relaxing at the same time.  It is a memory I will have and look back on for the rest of my life.

To see how we spent the day here is my go pro video recap of our week in Greece!

xo,
H

Greek Getaway: Santorini

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Oh Santorini.  Photos do not even do this beautiful island justice.  For our second part of spring break my friends and I headed down to Santorini after a wonderful few days on Corfu (read that article here!)

But let me back up a little.  Before we even arrived in Santorini we had to spend the night in the Athens airport.  There is a first for everything isn’t there!? It was so eery being in the airport into the wee hours of the morning without the normal rush of travelers.  It was quite the experience to say the least but not as bad as I thought it was going to be haha

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We took an early flight to Santorini arriving on the island at 8 am.  It was a chilly, overcast day which actually turned out perfectly because all we wanted to do was to shower and take a long nap.  When we arrived at the village entrance to our bed and breakfast we lugged our heavy bags along a long and winding stone walkway only to find out the owner would have brought his donkey out to pick us up.  We were slightly disappointed that we would not be living out our Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants dream but I think we saved that donkey’s back from all of our heavy luggage 😉

The place we stayed at was the cutest.  It was your typical cave style suite.  It was more like a bed and breakfast.  We had our own room which they came in and tidied up and cleaned each day and each morning they left a picnic basket pull of delicious foods for us each morning to snack on throughout the day.  I loved our location (in a little village 5 min. from Oia!) and would 100% go back and stay there again.

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When we were finally able to enter the rooms we jacked up the heat, each took nice long showers and then crawled into bed to take a nap.  I was out when my head hit the pillow,  and when I woke up several hours later I felt like a new person.  Even though it wasn’t the greatest day we decided to make the most of it and headed out in search of some Greek food.  We stumbled upon this Greek tapas restaurant where we sat on the rooftop overlooking the sea and ate the most delicious food.  We tried all of the tradition dishes and devoured everything.  We then browsed the countless shops that lined the street making wish lists to come back for later in the week.

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The next day we went to Fira (aka Thira)  Funny story.  We took the public bus to save money and when we were on the bus we were having a loud conversation about which stop we should get off, Fira or Thira.  Later we come to find out they are the same place, one is the greek way of spelling.  People must have thought we were idiots!  It was another slightly overcast day but it was still so fun to explore the streets.  We got lost and hit quite a few dead end streets but that is how you truly get to experience a place right?! 😉  Each of my friends and I bought greek leather sandals in a cute little shop and a bunch of other souvenirs.  I could have bought so much stuff but my suitcase was already stuffed to the gills. Later that afternoon we showered, got dressed up, did our hair and makeup and set out to get some good sunset photos and groups pics.  We found a prime location with great lighting and proceeded to have a little photo shoot. We then headed over to the tip of Oia to catch the sun sinking into the water on the horizon.  The place was packed and I don’t even want to think about how crazy it must get during peek season. We then headed back to our rooms where we decided to stay in and cook at our place.  We spent the night drinking wine and watching Momma Mia.

Our third day we did a Sunset cruise on a catamaran so be on the lookout for a separate post tomorrow.  (you can read that post here!)

IMG_8361.JPGHere is a little sneak peak 😉

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Our final day in Santorini we woke up and decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and lay out on the rooftop deck to catch some rays.  Those times laying out and just talking and hanging are some of my favorite memories.  We wanted to catch one last sunset in the most beautiful place before we had to head back to reality so we headed into Oia.  We had a farewell dinner and then just walked the streets trying to take everything in.  When we finally got back to our rooms we began to pack and the power went out. Like not just our hotel but the entire freaking island! It was really scary because it was pitch black.  We used our phone lights so we wouldn’t be sitting in complete darkness and it was a good 30 minutes before the lights came back on. Whew!

It was an early bed time because we had an early flight back to Athens and a long day of travel ahead of us.  (My friends and I were all on different flights. Luckily I was with one of my friends where we made three connections to get home! Santorini –> Athens –> Milan –> Barcelona –> Madrid! See told ya it was a long day!) To make it worse it was Easter Sunday ( My easter dinner consisted of McDonalds for lunch in Athens and McDonalds for dinner in Barcelona! #gourmet) But I wouldnt have changed the trip for anything!

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Santorini was truly breathtaking and everything and more about what I thought it would be.  My friends and I did not want to leave.  We kept trying to hatch ideas of ways we could justify missing our flights and stay!  It was the perfect place to spent spring break and one of my favorite trips from my entire time abroad.  And the people I spent it with only made it more memorable and special!

Sorry for the long post! If you ever get the chance to go to Santorini jump on it because it was a stunning place and so magical.  Also I highly recommend staying in or near Oia and also going off season because it is so much more quaint and less touristy during that time!

xo,
H

 

Greece Getaway: Corfu

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Spring break 2017 was one for the books.  My friends and I decided at the beginning of the semester that we wanted a relaxing, warm destination for our spring break.  We had all dreamed of visiting Greece and figured this week and a half we had off would be the perfect time to do it.  Let me tell you, it took a lot of planning and flight watching and research and deciding to get this trip to happen.  And to only complicate things even more it was Holy Week (Easter week) so everyone in Europe was off on holiday.  But we did, we pulled the trigger and paid a little bit more than we were hoping but we figured, hey this is a once in a lifetime trip!  I will say I was a little skeptical that it was all going to work out and that the weather was going to cooperate but all the worry was for nothing because it was truly a trip of a lifetime.

(side note: here is my video recap of the entire trip! It is one of my favorite videos yet if I do say so myself 😉

One of my friends and I had spent a few days in Rome before heading to Greece so we met my roommates in Athens.  We then took a (long) bus ride to the coast, then hopped on a ferry for two hours to get to our first stop in Corfu.  It was a planes, cars, buses and ferries adventure haha.

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The first part of our Greece Getaway we had known all along we were going to stay at the Pink Palace in Corfu (Yes everything at the resort is pink!! swoon!).  This place is legendary.  My Dad stayed there in the late 80s! The Pink Palace is a mix between a hostel and motel.  It is no 5 star hotel by any means but for college students studying abroad it was paradise.  My friends and I were all able to stay in the same room and breakfast was included! And for a (very) small extra cost dinner would be provided too. I mean this deal couldn’t be beat.

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After a wild ride along the mountain side we arrived to The Pink Place.  We were greeted with welcome shots of a famous Greek alcohol called ouzo.  It was definitely an interesting stay but one full of so many memories and stories we will be telling forever.  We contemplated exploring the island or downtown but once we went to the beach the following morning we were hooked on staying and just relaxing on the deck above the rocky beach below us.  The views of the water were truly stunning.

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Because it was considered off season there was hardly anyone there while we were so it was as if we had the entire place to ourselves.  After a crazy busy last few months of traveling and go-go-going lifestyle it was so nice to finally be in a place where we could just relax and soak up some much needed rays.  Our three days on Corfu consisted of laying out, napping, reading, walking the beach and swimming.  People thought we were crazy to swim but I didn’t think the water was that cold! Oh and the water was soo clear and salty!

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Also the Greek sun is so strong! We all overcommitted in the tanning department day one and ended up looking like tomatoes with the sun burns we had.  Lets just say we had to venture down the road to the market to pick up some aloe and some stronger SPF sunscreen.

We were going to take the bus and ferry back to Athens where we would be catching our next flight but last minute found a cheap flight that would only be about 15 dollars more than the bus and it gave us an extra day at the beach! Score! (the only downside…we would be spending the night in the airport…but more on that later 😉

Our three days on the Greek Island of Corfu were just what we needed mid semester.  It was so nice to catch up on sleep and just relax.  My friends and I made so many amazing and hilarious memories.  One of them being singing the Momma Mia soundtrack nonstop because we were in Greece!

Stay tuned for the next installment of my Greek Getaway tomorrow!

Thanks for reading!

xo,
H

My favorite Clothing Stores in Spain

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(Skirt is from Mulaya; Purse is from Mulaya; Shoes are from Primark)

The shopping in Europe, especially Madrid is like no other.  Being a bigger city, Madrid has anything and everything you could ever want.  It was actually quite dangerous guys…and I am not usually one to spend money shopping.  But these stores were just too good and the deals just couldn’t be beat!

Mulaya

This store was by far one of my favorite stores in all of Madrid.  Being a chain there were locations all over the city and I am embarrassed to say I hit almost every single one.  There was a store located just a 15 minute walk from my apartment and my roommates and I would always reward ourselves after studying with a trip to Mulaya! They had the absolute cutest things, I literally couldn’t walk out of the store without purchasing something.  It was an actual issue!  Also the prices could not be beat! I had to resist myself constantly because the prices were that good.

 

Primark

Just think of this as the forever 21 of europe but 100 times better.  I know how can that be?! But just trust me on this one.  The store located in Gran Via in Madrid was 5 stories and would take me at least two hours to thoroughly go through the store.  While I tried to pack almost everything I would need in the four months I would be in Europe I was bound to forget something and this was the place to go when I realized I was missing an item.  An extra pair of pajamas to wear while mine were in the wash…6 euro for a matching fleece set.  Bathing suit tops for spring break were 4 euro! I mean I felt like I was committing robbery! I even comteplated buying an extra suitcase to fill and bring back with me, but I resisted.  But dont worry friends. I did some extensive research and actually discovered there are a few Primark east coast locations, in Boston and Connecticut.  They also offer limited items online so check it out!

 

Zara

Zara is another spanish store that has become super popular in America.  It is a little more pricey than the other stores I loved but you could definitely find great deals and sales.  Zara is also more high fashion items that make a statement.  They offer shipping to the united states and have stores here in America in a lot of big males and in major cities!

 

Mango

This Spanish store is very comparable to the H&M of Spain.  They have super cute and trendy pieces that are a bit better quality than the more inexpensive stores.  This items are a little bit more classy or more grown up than say the items in Mulaya which I really loved.

 

Pull and Bear

This store is sort of like the American Eagle of Spain.  The clothing are geared to young adult audience and my friends and I found so many cool items with unique details special to Pull and Bear.  When I visited Spain in high school this was my favorite store, however, I feel like now the items are a little bit trendier than I remember them being.

 

Honorable Mentions:

-Stratvarious
-Bershka
-H&M
-Springfield
-Lefties

Have you ever been to any of these stores?! Do you have a favorite store that is not on this list? I would love to know!

xo,
H