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Life Hack

Life Hack

Level Headed Leadership in Crisis

August 1, 2016

Staying level headed and calm in tense, frustrating and/or stressful situations can be difficult to say the least. Maybe you’ve had a disagreement with a coworker or have to mediate workplace drama.  Perhaps an awkward and potential throw down is occurring over politics at a family gathering.  Maybe your business was just robbed and it was scary and now you have employees and customers to calm down.  Perchance your wife forgot every college professors’ warning regarding plagiarism and very publicly stole someone else’s speech. Crisis management nightmares come in all shapes and sizes and always have the potential to spiral out of control quicker than Grandma can punch Uncle Ben in the nose.

Over 6 years of working in customer service and 26 years of dealing with people in general, has helped me hone the craft that is crisis management. During stressful situations the burden of leadership often falls to one person or a small group of people. Don’t be caught unprepared for your next crisis! Below are a few take aways on how to navigate a crisis like a true boss.

  1. Recognize the importance of your actions: It’s in those crucial moments of crisis that we define ourselves as a leader. Recognizing that everything you say and do in this window of time can directly escalate or deescalate the situation you have found yourself in.
  2. BREATHE: basic but important!
  3. Take it slow: Jumping to conclusions, moving too quickly, not gathering all the information first are rookie mistakes. You run the risk of looking like a real ass if you don’t get all your facts straight before approaching a scenario. Additionally, speak slowly. When tensions run high I often find myself  rushing through my words, letting my feelings take over and speeding through my sentences as if the faster they get out the quicker the whole thing will be over. Think about your words as they come out of your mouth and speak as calmly as possible.
  4. Be honest: Be upfront about what you know, what you can share with your team or parties involved, and what you can do to rectify the problems at hand. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t talk out of your ass in an attempt to make something go away. If you don’t have the answers, it’s okay to say “I’m not sure, but let me find out. I’ll get back to you.”  And then make sure to figure it out and get back to them.
  5. Keep a brave face: If you are in a leadership position or get thrown into one, remember that you are there for a reason! Someone trusted you and is looking to you to lead them out of Egypt. This means you do you best to keep a calm exterior and lead the way for those behind you.
  6. Don’t take it personally: Shit is gonna happen. Rude words are going to fly, feelings are going to be hurt, someone is going to be upset and not everyone can win in the outcome. This doesn’t mean you have to dwell on it forever. In the words of Queen Elsa, “let it go.” Once a problem is done and dusted it’s best to keep it that way. If you continue to harp on things it’s only going to hurt more.

Damage control is never a fun task but I encourage stepping up to the plate and dealing with it like a boss rather than stepping to the sidelines. Not only does it build character (like eating your vegetables) but it also helps you build a skill set that is invaluable in family and friend circles, the workplace and during personal crisis.

Life Hack

Learning to Garden (So Far)

June 19, 2016

While I am some semblance of a self-sufficient adult and have even managed to keep another creature alive for a few years now, (Shout out – it’s Albie’s birthday today!) there is one thing I have historically been gifted at killing: Plants. I’m serious – I’ve even killed air plants.

I moved a few months ago and our new place has a really nice deck. I committed to Adulting real hard and setting up a nice spot out there, but once it was all said and done I knew it needed some greenery to really make it awesome. After quite a bit of googling and with fear in my heart, I set out for my local Home Depot.


I started small: a couple of herbs, some perennial flowers, a few succulents, and a lavender plant. (We have a ton of flies in our yard, and I’ve heard good smelling plants like lavender and mint actually can help.) That was over a month ago, and I’ve since added more herbs, more succulents, and a tomato plant. I feel like I went from having a black thumb to a very, very pale shade of green, but green nonetheless!


I’m obviously a level 1 gardener, but I’m proud of my little garden and really enjoying the process. Any expert gardeners out there are going to find some of these tips really obvious, but I’m sure there are a couple other kindergarten level gardeners out there that might benefit!


  1. Get the right plants for your light – I never gave a ton of thought to how much light a given spot would get throughout the day before. When I realized that our deck is in full sun for the majority of the day, I made sure to only get plants that don’t mind a lot of sunning. I live in a traditional row home, so our house doesn’t get a ton of direct light inside, so my indoor plants are fond of low or indirect light.IMG_1072
  2. Water them – Yeah, seems pretty obvious. But seriously, they need to be watered. Pretty much every day!  I’ve made watering the plants part of my get home from work / let the dogs out routine, and it only takes a few minutes. I actually find it very relaxing now and enjoy doing it. (A glass of wine is a good partner in crime in this situation.)IMG_1071
  3. Get big enough homes for everyone – This was definitely the first big mistake I made, as the plants started to grow they didn’t seem to have enough room in the pots I got. Apparently, the size of the pots they come in is not a good indicator. (duh? Have I mentioned that I’m new at this?) My second trip to the garden center involved quite a bit of relocating of the plants I already had, and finding smaller ones to go in the old containers. Now everyone seems to find their roomy homes much more comfortable!


    My personal fave, the Pizza Pot – Basil and Italian Oregano

  4. Enjoy the process – It has been known since pretty much the beginning of time that gardening is a slow but extremely rewarding process. I love using the mint that I grew myself in my mojito and can’t wait to taste my first tomato! I’ve found the more I enjoy the process, the less of a chore it feels like to check on them everyday and water them. I notice if one is looking a little droopy or the soil is too dry because I check often and notice change right away, then I can react to it before its too late.IMG_1062

I’m definitely don’t have a perfect track record – there was one Cilantro casualty (he grew too tall and the wind blew him over) but overall, I’m loving my little city garden. Maybe next year, I’ll get really adventurous and do a raised bed! Any expert gardeners out there, please share your expertise in the comments below – I can use all the help I can get.


Life Hack

Tattoo Care Basics

May 3, 2016

30th & Weldon is no stranger to tattoos.  In fact, all three of us added a little ink to our collections within the last two months.  We are so lucky to live in a city that is home to some incredibly talented and skilled tattoo artists – it makes it easy to get quality tattoo work done without having to travel too far.

Danielle by Emily Aitken of Read Street Tattoo

Danielle by Emily Aitken of Read Street Tattoo

Julie's work in progress by Emily Aitken of Read Street Tattoo

Julie’s work in progress by Emily Aitken of Read Street Tattoo

When I got my first tattoo, I was eighteen years old, nervous as hell, and coming from a background where no one had tattoos so I had no idea what to expect.  The internet holds so many different and sometimes conflicting opinions and tips for tattoo aftercare, it was a little overwhelming to try to decipher what was the ‘right’ way to care for a new tattoo.  Fast forward seven years and I consider myself an ~*almost*~ pro at getting and caring for tattoos.  I’ve had a few folks suggest I do a post on tattoo care, so on my most recent trip to the tattoo parlor one of my favorite artists, Hunter Spanks, was gracious enough to let me pepper him with questions while he blasted my arm.


A little background on Hunter first.  Originally from Miami Beach, he was raised in Raleigh, NC and transplanted to Baltimore in  May of 2006. He has been tattooing for about 25 years and has worked at multiple shops in the city including, Saints & Sinners, Brightside Tattoo, Read Street Tattoo Parlour, and Have Fun Be Lucky.  Other than a brief stint as an usher in a movie theater and a dishwasher, he’s never done or wanted to do anything else but tattoo. We bonded over our love for Butch Walker and Baltimore, and I have been getting tattooed by him for almost a year. His work takes up the most real estate on my body – I have three pieces done by Hunter and I trust his artistic vision and value his professional opinion.  I have tattoos done by a couple of different artists and plan on adding art from many more tattooers over the years, but Hunter’s work has always stood out to me. His advice paired with my own experiences helped formulate this best practices list for tattoo care and advice for someone considering their first tattoo.

Brightside Tattoo in Federal Hill

Brightside Tattoo in Federal Hill

Pick the right tattoo shop:  Not all shops are created equal.  I strongly suggest doing your homework on the location you are getting a tattoo instead of just rolling up to the first tattoo parlor you see. How is the shops’ reputation? Do they do just any tattoo or do they have discretion about who, what and where they will tattoo a client? Do you know anyone else who has had work done there? Even if you do know someone who has work done, do you like what you see? I once stopped in a shop that a casual friend recommended and was not impressed with any of the portfolios I saw.  Needless to say I did not get a tattoo there.  Is the shop clean, well lit and well maintained? A good tattoo parlor won’t mind you looking around the shop if you are a serious customer.  Be respectful, but also feel comfortable in the space.  Most shops have a minimum (base amount for artist’s time and supplies), so I like to ask what that is and then get an idea of what the shop charges hourly.  You pay for what you get so don’t let a higher price point deter you, if you really like a particular artist or shop.  I would also recommend no basement tattoos, no cheap tattoos and no cheap basement tattoos. Do I have one of these? Maybe.  Is it the only tattoo I don’t like and wish I never got? Also maybe.

Trust your artist:  I choose an artist to do a specific piece of work based on how their tattoo style will match the concept I have in my head. If you can’t draw for shit and don’t draft your own tattoos (like me), I find it is best to select an artist whose style you enjoy so they can draw up something based on the ideas you have. Shops usually have photo album portfolios available to clients so they can flip through an artist’s work.  Instagram is another great resource for selecting an artist and making sure you like their style of tattooing.  A good artist knows how to compose a tattoo and make it work for the placement and size you want it. They may also offer their own artistic suggestions that you can take or leave. In my experience I have never regretted taking an artists’ advice; they are professionals so their opinions hold some weight.  The most memorable occasion of this is the Deathly Hallows tattoo on the back of my thigh.  I initially wanted a smaller, simpler design. My artist, Matt Taylor, recommended going larger and more intricate based on where I wanted the tattoo placement. He basically told me to go big or go home in so many words, but without making me feel pressured to take his advice.  Would he have still done that original tattoo? Yes. Am I happy I listened to him and have a beautiful, better looking tattoo than I could have imagined? Absolutely. Ultimately, it’s okay to stick to your guns about something you want – it’s your body and your tattoo and you have to wear it the rest of your life, not your artist.


Have a plan, stick to it: Hunter said that one of the most frustrating things for a tattoo artist is clients coming in and changing their minds multiple times about what they want. Back in the day, artist would have flash work drawn up and a client would essentially pick something off the wall and get it tattooed. Even a custom piece would only be influenced by the client and how the artist interpreted their concept. With the advent of the internet it’s too easy for people to bring ideas to the table during their initial consultation only to go home, find more ideas online, and then go back to the artist with an entirely different concept.  Most tattoo shops and artists only charge for the actual tattooing process, not all the before work that goes into designing, redesigning and tweaking the piece before it’s even touched the client’s skin. “Drawing time is valuable,” said Hunter. “A lot of artists’ hand-draw so even a simple change can mean a good bit of work.”

Care for your body and tattoo: The internet is full of suggestions for tattoo care from everyone and their mom – literally. A reputable tattoo shop will have care instructions available for you to take home after getting tattooed but even those vary slightly from shop to shop.  Every one is different and every body is going to react differently so the right way for me to care for my tattoo may be different from the way you care for your tattoo. The general consensus agrees upon a few things however.  Eat before getting a tattoo -no empty stomachs. No drinking and no drugs beforehand.  Okay if you are nervous maybe, like, one beer before you go if it helps calm you down – it’s important to relax so you don’t tense up or sike yourself out. But a quality shop will not tattoo you if you are drunk so keep that in mind too. After your tattoo, the artist will wrap it up in saran wrap or something similar to keep bacteria out.  Leave the wrap or bandage on for a few hours before unwrapping, gently washing with warm water and a mild, unscented soap. Spread a super thin layer of Aquaphor Healing Ointment over the tattoo before re-wrapping with a fresh piece of saran wrap so you don’t ooze ink on your clothing or sheets. Wash the tattoo 2-3 times a day and use the Aquaphor for the next 2-3 days.Hunter and I shared tattoo aftercare rituals and I found ours were pretty much the same save one thing.  I had been leaving the initial wrapping on but then leaving the tattoo exposed after that.  He told me he re-wraps the tattoo and keeps re-wrapping after washing, applying Aquaphor and letting it air for an hour or so, for another 24 hours after the tattoo.  So I tried it this time around and it considerably sped up the healing process for me!  After a few days of Aquaphor switch to an unscented lotion like Jergens Fragrance Free or Gold Bond Healing Lotion, easing up on the washing as the tattoo starts to crust and heal. Be careful not to over saturate! Your tattoo needs to breathe to heal properly. If you find out you are allergic to lotions and ointments you can do a dry heal. I’m not a huge fan of the dry heal because the lotion helps me with the itching as the tattoo heals but I have friends that swear by it. The area around the tattoo may be swollen and red for a few days but make sure to keep it clean so you don’t get infections. Don’t pick at the tattoo or peel any of the skin off.  Not only will it hurt if you try to peel it, it could also mess up how the ink settles and you will need to get it touched up. Let the skin flake off on it’s own.  Healing time varies but I’ve never had one take longer than a week and a half.


Commit to the experience: Hunter’s final words of wisdom for the new tattoo goer were to embrace the tattoo experience. “Don’t micromanage your tattoo. Don’t stress it, don’t be so picky, trust your artist,” he said. Tattoos are not perfect, it comes along with the medium.  As your tattoo ages you may want to touch it up to refresh it’s color or bold some faded lines but Hunter said that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder and it’s up to the wearer to determine what they want to do. He said “Even if you love it now you could want it different in 10 years. Live for today. It is a piece of art and those imperfections make it art.”



To set up an appointment or consultation with Hunter Spanks you can email him at 

Opinions are strictly the author’s own and she is not a licensed medical professional.  Tattoo care is up to the responsibility of the client – seek medical attention if your tattoo becomes infected. 


Life Hack

Hangover Survival 101

April 24, 2016

So hypothetically you went a little to hard last night. Maybe you mixed rye and rosé, maybe you didn’t have a real dinner. Maybe you suddenly left the party you were at because you started sweating and drifting in and out of conversation and realized it was NOT OKAY for you be in the presence of other people. And since we are speaking hypothetically here, let’s imagine you found a nice quiet place to puke before passing out on the floor of your friend’s bedroom burittoed in a blanket next to the trash can.  So today, hypothetically speaking, you are hungover af because you have no chill and the words ‘self control’ and ‘I’m not in college anymore’ mean nothing to you. Since it’s too late to chug a glass of water and two Advil before bed, what do you do to combat this nasty, purely hypothetical, mother of all hangovers you have?

advil-water1. Chug or gently sip (depending on your status) a glass of water and two Advil – It’s not too late to do this the morning after. Provided you can keep this down, this is still one of the best ways to kick a hangover’s butt.  And don’t stop there. Keep drinking water to rehydrate your poor, abused body and flush out those remaining toxins that you didn’t get rid of the night before.

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2. Sleep – The best remedy by far is to just sleep it off.  This gives your body a chance to rejuvenate itself and do what it does naturally to rid itself of all that alcohol in your bloodstream.  Plus if you can sleep it off, you avoid a lot of the pain and suffering that comes along with your hangover. Pro tip: Own an animal to cuddle with.



3. Drink coconut water – Discovering this hangover cure was a game changer for me.  It’s packed with electrolytes and vitamins and is extremely hydrating. The coconut water will also help settle an acidic stomach and get that awful churning sensation to stop. A lot of coconut waters are pasteurized through a heating process that changes the taste and destroys a lot of the nutrients found in raw coconut water (which is the best possible option but not the most practical).  Harmless Harvest uses a micro-filtration system to process their coconut water and you can taste the difference.  This is my go-to for hangovers.

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4. Take a shower or warm bath – Just washing the smell of booze can help you feel better, plus soaking in water will help calm some of the damage done to your body by a night of drinking. Warm water will relax your muscles and help with some of the aches and pains caused by a hangover. A cool compress over your eyes can help reduce the puffiness that also comes along with a hangover.

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5. Eat something salty and full of carbs and protein – The salt will help your body crave more water, thus getting those hydration levels back to where they need to be. The carbohydrates and protein will restore those depleted sugar levels and give you energy to get moving. This Donut Burger from Smaltimore is the perfect hangover cure.  Obviously this is a stock photo and not one I took this morning at brunch.

Have some tried and true hangover cures? Please share them with us – goodness knows we’ll try just about anything when a hangover hits.

Life Hack

Home Decorating Inspo & Tips

March 11, 2016

As, I have mentioned previously, I recently moved into a new apartment and for the first time, am living alone (well besides the cat). Having so much space to myself was a first a little overwhelming. I’m used to shared living areas, keeping your personal decor to your bedroom and only adding a few things to the common space so it doesn’t clash horribly with your roommates. Now, in my own space, I was forced to reevaluate where center items went, what go hung where and how to use my small space as creatively as possible. Whether you have just moved, looking to re-arraign your space or never really did much at all because it can be so overwhelming, here are a few take aways I have from my decorating experience.


Make it yours:  Pinterest is chock full of wall and picture collaging inspiration. This is great for ideas but it’s important to remember this is YOUR home and YOU will have to look at it everyday so make sure it holds some significance to YOU.  In addition to some those cute pictures I scored for $2 second hand from Goodwill, I also have the flower crown I made with Julie during our workshop with Local Color Flowers.  I worked really hard on that and I’m not about to tuck it away somewhere.

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Take your time collecting:  A home filled with meaningful decor is not going to happen overnight.  It will take some patience but will ultimately be worth waiting to get everything up until you have all your pieces.  You also don’t want to take the cheap way out and just Ikea your way through this one.  Collect when you travel; If you are like me you feel compelled to purchase something to “remember your trip,” as if the memories are not enough. Keep this in mind when you do feel the urge to purchase on vacation and instead of cheesy t-shirts or trinkets, buy something you can hang up or add to a shelf.  Save things people give you; Flower bouquets are easily dried out and hung upside down.  I have a bouquet from a close girlfriend of mine that she gave me when we were first starting to hang out- it back great memories every time I look at it.

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Don’t pass up the hand-me-downs: Some of the best items in my home were things given to me, rather than items I picked out myself. I have a vintage Singer sewing machine that was purchased by my grandmother not long after she moved to the United States.  I don’t know how to use a sewing machine so I would have never purchased this for myself (even at an antique store) but it’s gorgeous and is a family heirloom now. Plus it makes a great addition to my entertainment center. Another great way to get cool pieces for your home is to troll the college towns right before move out.  I have a great lamp and end table I picked up off the curb back when I still lived in an apartment complex of mostly college kids.  They don’t want to haul it back home so you reap the benefits.  I find that a lot of times the kids are giving up great unique items rather than their $50 Ikea bookcase – because when you are 19 you are more focused on how to smuggle a semester’s worth of booze back home rather than thinking about furnishing your 25 year-old-self’s ‘adult’ apartment.

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Get creative: Hang up the unusual.  I have a tortilla press hanging in my kitchen.  I have never used it and probably never will, but I inherited it from someone who most likely did use it. It has a neat story, people ask about it all the time and it looks freaking cool on my wall. I also hung up a wok, that I very much use, in my wall collage.  It helps break up the pictures and flowers, giving a little more creativity and uniqueness to the wall.  Plus, it was a hand-me-down from my father, who always hangs his woks, so let’s call it a little family tradition.  Hats can be hung this way too – it’s the easiest storage, you don’t have to worry about crushing them and it looks pretty damn cool (the internet is full of hats on the wall collages).  I also recommend repurposing.  I got handed down a small copper fire pit – super cool but very impractical for someone who lives in the city without a backyard.  Not wanting to toss it during the move, I threw a rope light in it and made an indoor safe fire pit.

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Lay it out first:  Don’t start nailing until you have measured, laid out where everything will go, and then measure again! I have started to hang so many shelves or mirrors with the double hooks in the back, without measuring, only to get one side up and realize I needed the other nail to be about two centimeters  to the right. Then I end up just massacring my poor walls and having to go back and patch over all the nail holes.  Laying out your collage on the floor first gives you the option to play with composition and move pieces around before you grab the hammer. This is another reason to build your collection of decor over time.  It’s harder to change the play if you want to add another player halfway through the game.  Commit to the biggest and boldest pieces and build around them.  It’s easier to add in that tiny picture you got on vacation, than the oddly shaped mirror you found on sale for $13 at Target and couldn’t pass up.

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Commit to a theme: Part of a put-together home is having a general vibe to all you decor in order to keep it feeling cohesive.  Decide on the feel you want for your home. Do you want minimal and clean lines? Are you big on bold graphics and prints? Do you like a bohemian feel to your home?  Have a passion for antiques? Choose a color story and stick to varieties of those colors.  I like my plants and my dried flowers.  I have a lot of vintage amber glassware and ceramic pots and dishes.  Most of my decorative items are gold or a neutral color.  I’m still trying to commit to either light or dark finished wood but haven’t quite settled one way or the other.

If you are true to your personality and put thought into the items you buy, your home will come together in time.  Don’t rush your art.