One of the first things I learned when I moved on my own to a big city, back when I was only eighteen years old, was that it was easier to love the hustle and bustle of city life when you had someplace to retreat to. Living with roommates in cramped apartments in Brooklyn and London, my homes weren’t always the tranquil retreat I wanted them to be.

Ever since, after moving to New York after college and then to Warsaw, London, and finally settling in Philadelphia, I have sought out places of retreat that, even when filled with other people, help me feel at peace. These are the places I go to think, to journal, to be inspired, and to rejuvenate my love for city living whenever things seem to move too fast.

Here are some of my favorite places to find retreat in the cities I’ve lived in.


Boston Public LibraryEven when it’s bustling with people, nothing beats the tranquility of the courtyard at the Boston Public Library. Some of my favorite summer memories are camping out there with my best friend, Erica, while we worked on our respective novels. There was something about being surrounded by books and other readers and writers that just fueled my creativity.

Rebecca's Bagged Place at Raven Row

Whenever I got overwhelmed in London, I’d escape into a place with art. Even though places like the Tate Modern and National Gallery are almost always bustling, I quickly learned where to find the quiet galleries. One of my favorites was the Wallace Collection, which is also one of my top picks for having tea in the city. The other was Raven Row, within walking distance of my apartment, which always had stunning exhibitions and just the right number of people.

Wallace Collection

Top: Ian Baxter&’s Rebecca’s Bagged Place at Raven Row; bottom: inside the galleries at the Wallace Collection.

New York:

Pierpont Morgans Library

I have a vivid memory of the best cry I’ve ever had: after getting my visa to Poland denied, I left the Polish Consulate and crossed the street to the Morgan Library, and fell to pieces in front of a Dan Flavin beautifully installed on its own in a small gallery. Since that moment, the Morgan Library has been my place of comfort and refuge in New York City, one of the places on earth where I feel most like myself.

Photo of Pierpont Morgan’s Library from the Morgan Library website.


Krolikarnia Sculpture Garden
Warsaw might be the city closest to my heart, partially because it is so easy to escape into paradise in the middle of an otherwise often grey and dour city.  There are two places I would go when I needed a reprieve from city life: Krolikarnia and Wilanow, both former estates of the nobility that have been converted into public parks and museums. Krolikarnia has a beautiful sculpture garden, and Wilanow lovely cafes where I loved to sit and write in my journals.

Wilanow Garden

Top: the Krolikarnia sculpture garden in the winter; bottom: the gardens at Wilanow.


Here’s the funny thing — even after three years of living in Philadelphia, I’m still on the hunt for my favorite place to escape. At the moment, I think I’d have to say it’s Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown, which is right on the Delaware River and has stunning views of the Ben Franklin Bridge crossing into New Jersey.

Now it’s your turn — where do you find retreat, in the city or otherwise?

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When I started planning my wedding, I started collecting vintage postcards that I knew were going to be used in multiple places within our decor. I got so into hunting down just the right postcards that they became a collection in their own right.  I’m even writing my master’s thesis about postcards!

Even so, we don’t have any vintage postcards displayed around our home. In the quest to change that, I started scouring Pinterest for some ideas for utilizing vintage postcards as decor elements.

One of the challenging things about framing vintage postcards for display is that they’re an uncommon size, so you can’t just go and pop them in a standard size frame with a standard sized matte. Unsurpisingly, lots of people have found creative ways to overcome that challenge. Here are a few of my favorites:


In this example found on Country Living, vintage postcards are glued directly onto a canvas to create a unique piece of wall art.

framed vintage postcards

I love how Molly from the Nesting Game used floating frames from Pier 1 in order to completely sidestep the need for a matte.

diy matte framed vintage postcards

Meanwhile, Crystal from the Weathered Fox has a great DIY on modifying the size of commercially available mattes in order to get a custom matted look on a budget.

vintage postcard decor idea

The other option, of course, is not to frame them at all! I’m in love with this stunning installation of vintage postcards hung with fishing wire, as seen on a Martha Stewart home tour.

Chez-Didier-collectionneur-de-design-FrenchyFancy-33 This mobile-like way of hanging them is also so pretty – found as part of a stunning house tour on FrenchyFancy.

If you’re in the market for some postcards to complete your own vintage postcard decor, take a look at my Etsy store! As a blog reader, you can get a 15% discount by using the discount code foundinblog.

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A while back, Chrystina of the blog Chrystina Noel asked me if we could go thrifting together. She was planning on throwing a fancy dinner party, and wanted to thrift all the things she needed for her tablescape. It turns out I also have a dinner party I’ve been planning, so we decided to go together and hunt down all the decor pieces we needed.

A few weeks ago, we headed down to Philly AIDS Thrift (one of my favorite shops in Philly.) Thrifting with Chrystina was a blast, partially because she’s a thrifting novice, and it was so much fun to show her the ropes and to remember what it was like to discover thrift stores for the first time. (You can read all about her thrifted party decor at her blog, including some pieces of advice I gave her while we were shopping!) I’m usually a solo thrift shopper, so it was a completely different experience going through the store with someone else.

philly AIDS thrift furniture room

I love Philly AIDS Thrift because it is HUGE. There are two floors, absolutely packed with stuff. It’s impossible not to find what you’re looking for.

Here’s my advice for other solo thrifters who want to go shopping with friends:

  • Have different goals: The best friends to thrift with are the ones who are looking for different stuff, so you can help each other find what you’re looking for rather than compete for the same items. This can be as simple as thrifting with a friend who’s a different size or has a different personal style. For me and Chrystina, we were both looking for decor pieces, but were planning completely different parties that demanded different decor styles. It worked perfectly!
  • Always follow the ‘who saw it first’ rule: Even when following the above advice, sometimes you’ll find great items that both people want. Agree to stick to the rule that the first person who saw it gets first dibs, and your friendship should last this thrifting adventure.

philly AIDS thrift fabric section

We started off by combing through the linens, and both found tablecloths for our respective parties. I also found some gorgeous 1960’s floral fabric that I’m turning into a romper.

  • Combine expertise: One of the best tools when thrifting is the sometimes esoteric knowledge that lets you know when a good find is a good find. Go thrifting with a friend who has different interests, hobbies, and knowledge than you do, and suddenly you have two times the thrifting acumen. Chrystina is a font of knowledge about throwing parties, while I was the thrifting veteran. Together, we were definitely able to complete our mission more successfully than had we each gone alone.
  • Get a second opinion: Be open to advice and suggestions, and you’ll walk away from the thrift store happier with your purchases. Maybe your friend will hone in on the potential of an item you overlooked, or talk you out of a needless purchase. Sometimes I find that just talking out my thoughts about a potential buy helps me make my decision.
  • Go again: Once you find a great thrifting buddy, make going together a habit! I’m already looking forward to thrifting with Chrystina again in the future.

philly AIDS thrift dishware room

With Chrystina’s help, I started the collection of mismatched china I’ve been dreaming about for years! This is just one corner of Philly AIDS Thrift’s room full of china and silverware.

I love how Chrystina’s party turned out! Chrystina’s blog is a wealth of knowledge about party planning. Here are some of my other favorite posts:

how to go thrifting with friends

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I’ve been keeping a travel journal ever since I can remember, and my journals from my time living abroad are some of my most precious possessions.Even for short trips, I love to bring my journal to record what we’ve seen and done. This weekend, Crystal and I are getting away for a very quick weekend trip to Washington, DC, so I thought it was a good time to share my travel journaling kit.

travel journaling kit
My kit has evolved over the years as I’ve figured out what I need and what I don’t. It’s the perfect balance, I think, of simplicity and creativity. It lets me add sketches and color to my journal pages, glue in ephemera, and jot down my memories while keeping things simple and less intimidating. I like to get more creative later on in my Project Life album, and writing down everything in my journal on the fly helps collect my thoughts for that project later on, too.

Here’s what I include:

  • Parker Jotter Pen – This is my go-to pen that I carry with me everywhere, all the time. The ink writes smoothly and perfectly and I love that it’s refillable instead of disposable.
  • Le Pen and Stabilo markers in black and gray: I love how fine the point is on these markers, which makes them perfect for either journaling or adding lettering to my journal pages.
  • Glue stick: Simple, basic, inexpensive, and perfect for sticking ephemera of all kinds in your journal. Sometimes I’ll bring along my tombow glue runner, too, because you can never have enough adhesives.
  • Sketching Pencils: Sometimes I bring the whole box, but usually I’ll just pack a couple. I love keeping one in my bag along with my journal, so when I get tired from walking I can sit and sketch. I’ll usually journal around the sketches later on in the day.
  • Prismacolor 12-set: My tin is completely dented from being thrown in my suitcase so many times. I love how easy this little set is to pack, and it’s great for adding a small amount of color to lettering and sketches.
  • MagicRub eraser: MagicRub erasers are truly magical. I love using this for carefully erasing away journaling lines in unlined journals, and for cleaning up sketches.
  • Scrapbook ephemera: I don’t use embellishments that much on my actual scrapbook pages, so I always have way too many. I’ve started throwing them in this little tin to add into my journals.

The pouch:

I bought this little pouch from HO::LO in Warsaw while I was living there several years ago, and it’s held up extremely well even after being carried all over the world. HO::LO makes bags out of upcycled advertisements.

packed travel journaling kit

My journals:

I’m currently keeping two journals. The first is a Moleskine journal that I try to write in daily in longform, where I also write down the bulk of my travel journaling. The second is one I bought recently, a Midori Traveler’s Notebook — found used on eBay! This is my blogging notebook, and I carry it with me to write down blog post ideas on the go. When traveling, I find it to be a really useful place for writing down itineraries, because it’s easy to return to when blogging about a trip or doing Project Life pages later on.

how to pack the perfect travel journal kit

Do you keep a journal when you travel? What do you bring with you?

* Links in this post are affiliate links.

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For 2016, my main New Year’s resolution was to buy nothing new. Instead of shopping at any traditional retail stores, I would thrift everything I needed. This came partially out of a need to cut back my budget, being in grad school, but also from wanting to become a more ethical consumer. Now thats it’s July, I’ve gone over half the year buying only secondhand. 2016 has flown by!

circle thrift in fishtown, philadelphia

5 Things I’ve Learned:

  1. It’s often more expensive than buying new. This has been the biggest surprise but also one of the most eye-opening aspects of my project. Even thrift store prices on used furniture can be higher than shopping at Ikea. Thrift stores often mark up the prices on designer clothing, so it could be pricier to buy a used pair of jeans than to buy a new pair at H&M. I thought that buying secondhand was they key to becoming an ethical shopper on a budget. I’m realizing now that this can still mean paying more, even when thrifting.
  2. It makes me realize how much extra stuff is in the worldI touched upon this already in my blog post about shopping at the Goodwill outlet. But even at my regular thrift store, it’s overwhelming to go in on a regular basis and see completely new stuff every time. It makes me feel good about only buying used, but it also makes my contribution to trying to combat our national obsession with consumption to be small and insignificant.
  3. It makes letting go easier. Doing Konmari changed my relationship to stuff, and this project is changing it again. I’ve begun to feel less precious and sentimental about the things I own. I feel less of a need to hang onto things, because I can always find them used if I need them again. Like I mentioned in this post, this is particularly true of books. I’d rather know that books I’ve read will be read again than hoard them on my bookshelves.
  4. You can get almost anything used. When I needed new glasses, I thought I’d have to break down and buy them new — until I remembered about Fabulous Fanny’s, a vintage glasses shop in New York City. I thought house paint would be impossible to find used, until I discovered the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Between buy-and-sell Facebook groups, apps like OfferUp, and eBay, there’s little that you can’t find somewhere secondhand.
  5. Those too-good-to-be-true finds are really out there. My wardrobe has undergone a complete transformation, and is now filled with Anthropologie, a few designer finds, and vintage dresses, all found for $3-5. The secret? Patience and persistence. I outline some of my thrifting techniques in this post.

Moving Forward

I wish that I had blogged more consistently about this project so far, so I think I’m going to start trying to do monthly recaps. The budgeting aspect of this project has definitely been my weak point, so keeping accountable here will help.

Looking ahead to next year, I think my goal will be to consume ethically, whether or not that’s new or used. I really miss supporting local makers and businesses that aren’t secondhand shops. My budget is still a concern, but since there are few things I really need, I can thoughtfully make signifiant purchases occasionally.

what I've learned from buying nothing new

I’m curious what readers have to say about the ethics of buying new vs used. Is this something you think about? How do you navigate it?

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