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Pucker Up!

By beauty, don't waste the pretty, lists, makeup, shopping One Comment

pinklips

I know everyone is all excited about the beginning of a new year, but honestly? These cold, gray, dreary winter days are a little bit of a drag after all those holidays. I need a little pick-me-up, and I hear hot pink is the new “it” shade for lips this season. I suppose it makes sense — it’s past the time for red, but too early for coral, so a bright pop of hot pink might be just what I need to get me through the winter. Well, that or a three-month vacation to a tropical island. πŸ˜‰

I’ve already got #2 and #7 my arsenal, but maybe I’ll add just one more shade of pink to my (already ridiculous) collection this season. Here are a few other lip colors I’ll be testing out this weekend:

1. YSL Rouge Pur Couture – 7: Le Fuchsia, $32
2. Maybelline Colorsensational Lipcolor in Fifth Ave. Fuchsia, $5
3. Guerlain Rouge Automatique Lipcolor in Champs Elysees, $35
4. Chanel Rouge Allure Velvet Luminous Matte Lip Color in L’exuberante, $34
5. Dior Addict Lipstick in Show 778, $30
6. NARS Lipstick in Schiap, $24
7. Dior Rouge Dior Lip Color in Pink Caprice 475, $32 — This one is my favorite at the moment. πŸ™‚

A Few of my Favorite Things

By hair care, life-changing purchases, lifestyle, lists, shopping, skin care, style, wine, year in review 2 Comments

2012-favorites

1. Shelley Kyle Tiramani Moisturizing Body Lotion. Love the way this lotion’s subtle scent reminds me of outdoor beach house showers in summer. Not sure why, but it does. I picked mine up at a local shop here in VB called Simply Selma’s. Love. =)

2. Hunter Huntress Rain Boot in Pillar Box Red. I actually purchased my Hunters at the end of 2011, but from snowy nights to soggy crab pickin’ parties, full-blown hurricanes to just plain rainy afternoons, these boots have certainly seen their fair share of puddles in 2012, and the rest of my shoes are certainly appreciative of that.

3. Longchamp ‘Le Pliage – Large’ Tote. I spent a lot of time this year looking for the perfect travel tote to pull triple duty as a carry-on, a purse, and a camera bag (in combination with my Ona Roma camera insert). I found this one in San Francisco, and it’s absolutely perfect.

4. Collecting seashells. It seems like I collected more shells along the water’s edge this year than I have since I was a kid. This particular handful came from the Florida coastline, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the soft, white sand in front of the Margaritaville Beach Hotel in Pensacola.

5. St. Tropez Everyday Gradual Tan for Body. Started using this tanner one right around Memorial Day weekend, and it kept me glowing all summer long. No streaks, lovely scent. Easily the best self-tanner I’ve tried.

6. Statement pearls. This necklace was a gift from my mom last Christmas, and it’s been an accessory in heavy rotation throughout 2012. This particular Stella & Dot ‘Sofia’ pearl bib necklace is no longer available, but the brand’s ‘Lucia’ necklace is pretty similar. This more affordable Forever21 Graduated Pearlescent Necklace is another one I wear all the time.

7. Bumble and bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil. This product is a game-changer. Just a teeny drop of this product works miracles in my hair.Β  As in, I can replace at least 16 other hair products with just this one. Go to Sephora. Ask for a sample. =)

8. Gap 1969 Always Skinny Jeans. I wore the hell out of these jeans this year. =) They’re comfy, flattering, and I love that they come in lengths.

9. Beach Cruiser #2 (aka 2012 Electra Cruiser 1 in Blue). I bought myself Beach Cruiser #2 this summer just because I had room for an extra bike. I still love my Electra Coaster 7D, but the gears/fenders are a little fussy, and the lower-maintenance single-speed is a bit more conducive to riding on gravel trails and hanging my beach chair on the handlebars. Besides, coaster brakes are sweet.

10. Tommy Bahama Medium Brim Scarf Hat. (seen on me here) This hat was a splurge, but I’ve got to say it was well worth the money I paid for it. It’s so secure on my head that I can wear while I’m riding my bike, which I love. It’s also very high quality and pretty flexible, which means I can lean back in my beach chair without it awkwardly moving around, looking ridiculous or losing it’s shape. All that, and it protects my skin, my blonde locks and my eyes from the sun. #lifesaver

11. Saint James Garde Cote II in Noir. If I had to choose the best article of clothing I acquired all year, it would be this shirt. 2012 was a year of quality over quantity for me, and this shirt is a perfect example. Instead of going overboard shopping during my annual summer trip to NYC, I kept the item count down and put my dollars towards this top. It’s constructed of a UV-protective fabric, so well-made, wrinkle-free and basically the most versatile shirt ever. I’ve worn it to the office, to the mall, to the airport, to dinner, to wineries, and everywhere in between. I’ve folded it, hung it up, washed it, packed it, and crumpled it up in a ball — it doesn’t lose its shape. I’ve worn it with skinnies/heels, boyfriend jeans/flats, skirts, blazers, sweaters, shorts…I even re-created my favorite J.Crew SS13 runway outfit with it (kind of). Maybe I need it in red stripes, too? =)

12. Chandon Blanc de Noirs. Easily the best wine I discovered on my trip to Napa Valley. It’s a delightful blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, and to be honest, my recent shipment from the winery included a bottle of this stuff the size of my torso, so it’s exactly what I’ll be ringing in the new year with. Don’t be surprised if this bubbly ends up on a list of 2013’s favorites, too. =)

12 Things I Secretly Love About Being (Legally) Single at 31

By boys, financial wisdom, lifestyle, lists, ruling at life 6 Comments

20110224_152
{the ring I bought myself in St. Maarten when I just the teeniest bit jealous of all my engaged friends}

In honor of today’s date (12/12/12), my friend Nicole asked me (and every other blogger on the planet) to write a 12-themed post for her link-up party. I knew I wanted to write a list, but I’ve been struggling to come up with an original topic all week. I was even on the fence about this one until I checked in with the boyfriend to make sure he wouldn’t be offended.

I say “legally” single because I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost five years, so I’m not really that single; I’m just not married. Also, this is not meant to be an anti-marriage post or offend any of my married friends. Being married has its pros and cons, and so does being unmarried. You’re only getting one side of one story here — 12 of my personal favorite things about being (legally) single.

When I was in college, all I wanted to do was graduate and get married. When I think about it now, I’m nothing but grateful for the last 10 years and the fact that I haven’t gotten married yet. Here’s why.

1. I’m the only one with access to my bank accounts. For the last six years, I’ve been exceptionally proud of my money management skills. I’ve got several retirement accounts, an HSA, two savings accounts, both a personal and a business checking account, and a few credit cards. I balance my accounts every two weeks after I get paid, and I know exactly what my financial situation is at all times. While I’m responsible for exercising some self-discipline in order to maintain financial order in my life, I also don’t have to justify my spending to anyone else. I can spend or save my hard-earned money however I choose, and I take great pride in knowing that as of this moment, I can support myself financially pretty much indefinitely. It also makes it easy to do my own taxes every year.

2. I still have my own room. You know how some people go back to their parents’ house and get to sleep in their old bedrooms? I don’t really experience that anymore, partly because my parents have moved a few times since I left, but mainly because, while it’s been relocated a few times and evolved into a more grown-up version, I still have my old room, and yes, it is still decorated in Hawaiian print. Also, there are no one else’s clothes in my closet — just mine. It’s all mine. =)

3. I spend plenty of time alone. Anyone who knew me ten years ago can attest to the fact that I hated being alone. I pretty much attribute every anxiety attack I had between the ages of 10 and 23 to being alone. And I don’t mean being single. I just mean being literally alone, by myself, with no one to talk to. Luckily, over the years, I’ve learned to really enjoy spending time alone — so much so, that I spend at least a few nights a week at my own house, doing my own thing, sleeping alone in my own bed. I value time with myself just as much as the time I spend with anyone else, and I’m glad I’ve had the chance to figure that out.

4. I can still plan my future wedding in my head. I don’t do it obsessively like some girls, but I’ve been known to occasionally save a photo of a pretty dress or party favor. I’ve been saving a magazine with a picture of a cake in it since, I don’t know, like 2002. The fact that I’d choose the same cake now as I would have 10 years ago is actually kind of awesome.

5. I’m free to do pretty much whatever I want without asking permission or checking in. If a few of my co-workers ask me if I want to have dinner or go to a movie after work, and I don’t already have plans, the answer is yes. I don’t need to ask anyone else. Being married (or even just living with your significant other) means you’re expected to be there, so checking in or asking first isΒ  a considerate thing to do. Since J and I don’t live together, I never have to do that unless I’m making a change to plans we already have. Most of the time, we do let each other know what we’re up to, but it’s never expected, and it’s always appreciated.

6. My friends and family rarely pressure me about having babies…mainly because they’re still busy trying to figure out when I’m going to actually get married. (Except for Kristy. She doesn’t care. She just wants me to have babies.)

7. Some of my best friends over the last 10 years have been guys. Granted, I don’t have many close guy friends in my life anymore — most of them moved away, some got married, etc. — but I’m thankful for the time we were friends and that I had the chance to meet them. If I had gotten married years ago, that probably wouldn’t have happened.

8. Some of my best friends over the last 10 years have been roommates. Again, some are still close friends, and some aren’t, but the fact of the matter is that I probably wouldn’t have even met any of those roommates if it weren’t for the fact that I wasn’t married and I did need someone to live with. I still have a roommate now, and J and I both consider him a close friend. =)

9. No one else is depending on me financially. Technically, I could quit my job and go wait tables without even asking anyone’s opinion. I’m 99.99 percent certain I’m not going to do that, but some days it’s just nice to know I could. πŸ˜‰

10. My boyfriend and I are still “dating.” You know what that means? We regularly go out to nice dinners, movies, etc. It’s never assumed that we’re going to just hang out at one of our houses and do nothing all the time, and we never get sick of spending time together — probably because we spend plenty of time apart, too. That’s not to say we’re not serious about each other. We live within walking distance of each other; we have a dog; and we share a Costco membership.

11. I’m not obligated to spend time with anyone’s family but my own. That’s not to say I don’t love hanging out with J’s family — I certainly do! But I hang out with them because I want to, and no one ever makes me feel guilty if I have other plans. Neither one of us has to worry about how to split our time for the holidays because it’s pretty much a given that I’m going to go see my family for Christmas, and J is going to stay here with his. We’ve been rotating Thanksgivings, but again…that’s because we both want to, and not because either one of us feels like we have to.

12. It’s a total coincidence that my boyfriend and I have matching cookware. It has nothing to do with a wedding registry, and we don’t live together. We’ve just happened to have matching cookware since before we met. I feel like I just kind of have a strange appreciation for that fact that I wouldn’t have under other circumstances.

Thoughts? J seemed to think this post would be controversial. Like I said, these are just my own personal favorite things about not being married. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan to get married some day or that there aren’t things I dislike about not being married. It just means I’m completely happy with my life the way it is now, and I’m in no rush to make any major changes.

I’d love to know…are you single? Married? What are your favorite things about whichever one applies to you?

Six Tips for Giving Great Gifts

By holiday fun, lifestyle, lists, shopping, skills, you might learn something 3 Comments

to-readers

For the last few years, I’ve put together a holiday gift guide, but this year, I thought I’d try something different. I’m posting these actual gift-giving tips for a few reasons: (1) because doing that scavenger hunt and putting together those collages takes way, way too much time, (2) because I can’t actually post any of the gifts I’m planning to purchase without ruining the surprise, and (3) because your friends and family probably want to receive gifts you picked out, not me. (Well, maybe not so much that third reason — I’m an excellent gift giver, and I bet your friends and family would love getting gifts from me. :))

I knocked out a big chunk of my Christmas shopping this weekend, and while I was at it, I made a few mental notes about how I choose gifts. For me, gift shopping is much, much different than shopping for myself, so most of the shopping tips I normally dole out do not apply. Obviously I’m posting this list in time for the holidays, but I think these ideas work for all occasions — birthdays, anniversaries, showers, weddings, etc.

Anyway, here it goes. How to become the best gift giver your friends and family are acquainted with (unless they’re acquainted with me):

1. Make a Budget

The first thing I do when shopping for gifts is figure out how much I want to spend on each person, and I write it down where I can keep a tally of how much I’ve spent as I shop. I don’t do this because I’m not generous — I do it because I am generous, and sometimes I go overboard. Shopping for gifts should be fun, and it shouldn’t put you in debt for months afterward. As I’ve become more financially stable over the last several years, I’ve gradually increased my shopping budget for my family members. For my friends, I do my best to stay within a reasonable dollar range based on previous gift exchanges with each person. I do this to make sure I don’t overextend myself, but also because the last thing I want to do is make a friend feel awkward, which sometimes happens if one person spends a whole lot more money than the other. If I do go over my budget for the perfect gift, I try to prevent any awkwardness by saying (or, even better, writing in my card) something along the lines of, “I saw this, and I thought it was absolutely perfect for you. I really, really wanted you to have it, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I think you will.”

2. Give Something Special

It’s important for gifts to be thoughtful and useful, but they should also be special. By special, I mean something that the person wouldn’t have necessarily bought for him or herself, perhaps because they would never have thought of it or because they wouldn’t have been willing to splurge on it. A gift is something shared between two people, and it’s a win-win if the giver appreciates the gift just as much as the recipient…because spending money on gifts you personally dislike isn’t very satisfying at all. It’s also good practice to focus on quality over quantity when gift shopping because crappy gifts have a tendency to turn into household clutter or end up in the donation pile. That’s best avoided by purchasing useful items of the highest quality possible in your price range.

Here are some examples:

  • I have a friend who sits on old bath towels at the beach. If I splurge on some extra cute, colorful beach towels for her, I know she’ll use them; they’ll remind her of me because she knows I love the beach; and they’ll also be something special that she wouldn’t have spent money on herself.
  • If I’ve got a $30 budget, I’d prefer to spring for a top-of-the-line $30 amazing-smelling body lotion in a gorgeous bottle, rather than purchase a gift set of three average body lotions for $9 each. The $30 lotion is more likely to be treasured, displayed on a dresser and ultimately used, whereas the $9 bottles are more likely to end up in the bottom of the bathroom cabinet, never to be seen again.

3. Do Some Research
Almost everyone has some kind of social media account these days. Pinterest is an especially good tool for doing a little investigative research prior to choosing a gift. Those who are easiest to buy for might have a “Wish List” board, but even those who don’t may have boards that offer up clues as to what they enjoy and what types of things are important to them. You might pick up on some favorite brands, favorite colors, favorite foods/wines/beers, etc. Facebook and Twitter might not offer quite as much insight, but it’s always worth a peek, and these two offer up the ability to private message a significant other, family member or friend of your target to see if you can get some hints about what he’d like.

Here are some examples:

  • Perhaps you notice on Facebook that your friend and his wife just exchanged anniversary gifts — he got her a beautiful red handbag, and she bought him a black wool coat. The perfect gifts for these two could be a pair of new winter scarves — one that goes with his black coat, and one that has a bit of red in it to go with her new bag.
  • Whenever I look at my friend Heather’s photos on Facebook, I remember that she always wears these multi-colored plaid rubber boots on rainy days. I might consider giving her a collection of cute umbrellas — one of each color in her boots. (No, Heather. I did not get you umbrellas for Christmas.)
  • Maybe you see that your friend keeps pinning bar carts to her “Home Inspiration” board on Pinterest because she wants one for her dining room. A book of cocktail recipes or a few bar accessories may be great gifts to compliment her bar cart once she gets it set up.

4. Localize It
Buying locally inspired gifts is a tactic I’ve been using a lot lately. Who doesn’t love being reminded of their home town, favorite vacation destination, alma mater or even a faraway place they’ve never been before? The key to making local gifts work is subtlety — as in, no “So-and-so went to St. Somewhere, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” apparel, and certainly no touristy key chains, shot glasses or other such nonsense (unless you’re trying to be funny or your recipient is into that kind of stuff). When done right, locally inspired gifts are always well-received because they’re very thoughtful.

Here are a few examples:

  • My parents brought back some 100% Kona coffee from their trip this summer, which would make the perfect gift for a coffee-drinking, Hawaii-obsessed person (hint, hint).
  • A bottle of wine I recently discovered in Napa Valley accompanied by a wine opener or a cheese board would make a great hostess gift.
  • I picked up some pretty flamingo Christmas ornaments and dish towels when I stayed at the Flamingo in Vegas. They don’t say Flamingo on them; they just are flamingos. When I give them, I’ll say, “I thought of you in Vegas and picked this up for you at the Flamingo — isn’t it adorable?” I like to think a gift like this shows recipient she’s important to me because I keep her in mind even while I’m on vacation.
  • A few years ago, I gave my best friend’s little girl a few Jersey Shore children’s books, and she loved them! People don’t often think to buy themselves mementos from their home towns, so they make great gifts.
  • I’ve found that college grads who may be too old to stick decals to their cards always seem to appreciate the subtlety of a license plate frame.
  • A framed map of someone’s home town who has moved away would make a nice gift, too.

5. Personalize It
If you don’t feel like your gift ideas are very creative, personalizing an otherwise mundane gift makes a world of difference. There are thousands of items out there just waiting to be embroidered, etched and customized with all sorts of monograms, names, dates, birthstones, colors, etc. These days you can personalize pretty much anything, thanks to websites like CafePress and Etsy. There are a few things to keep in mind when personalizing gifts, though. First, custom items can rarely be returned, so be sure to double check spelling and confirm dates, birthdays, etc. before ordering. This would be another situation where Facebook may enable you to contact a spouse or parent of the recipient to confirm a date or find out whether someone’s middle name changed after they were married. Custom gifts also take a little more time, so plan ahead, and be prepared to order a few weeks before the holiday.

Some of my favorite personalized gifts include:

  • Monogram and name necklaces
  • Custom iPhone cases
  • Calendars and photo products (Who needs those dog breed calendars? Last year I made a calendar featuring photos of Diesel for J, and he loved it!)
  • Embroidered totes, men’s shirts, linens, etc.

6. Give a Gift Card
Gift cards are the easiest, quickest, least risky gifts to get your hands on, which is why they seem to have a reputation for being the last resort gift or the gift that lazy people give. I don’t necessarily agree — I think gift cards can be great gifts. They say, “It’s the thought that counts,” and the key to successfully giving gift cards is just that. You still have to think before you choose the gift card. If you just grab the Target gift card at the register, it’s extremely likely the recipient is going to use it for groceries, cat litter and paper towels. If you want your gift to be remembered, try to think outside the box a little.

Here are some great gift card ideas:

  • Choose a gift card to a restaurant you visit regularly that perhaps the recipient hasn’t discovered yet. Include a copy of the menu with some notes on your favorite dishes and drinks and the best nights to visit the restaurant.
  • With books, music and movies becoming more and more digitized, gift cards are unavoidable when giving the gift of entertainment. Give an iTunes gift card, along with a list of songs that remind you of the person you’re giving it to. Or give a Kindle-lover an Amazon gift card accompanied by a few suggestions about what to read on his or her upcoming vacation.
  • Purchase a gift card to a salon or spa. If it’s one you frequently visit, and pass along the names of your regular facialist or massage therapist. Go a step further — let the staff know your friend is coming in, and tip ahead to ensure she receives VIP customer service while she’s there.

I’d like to end this post with one of my all-time best gifts ever. I can’t take all the credit for it because I think it may have been my mom’s idea. In 2006, I got my hands on three dresses custom-made for my grandmother years and years ago. I posed for a photo in each one, framed the prints, and gave them to my grandmother. It was Christmas, but her birthday is in December, too — I think it was a birthday gift. Either way, the prints are hanging up at her house, and the they top the list of my favorite gifts given, for sure. πŸ™‚

2006web

If you’re still reading this, I hope you found this list helpful. This was a long post, and I really appreciate your dedication to becoming a gift-giving guru. In fact, I’ll make you a deal. If you read this far, and you still don’t know what to give someone, e-mail me, and I’ll help you figure it out. πŸ™‚ (Or, you could always go back and check last year’s gift guides…)

Thanks for reading, and happy holiday shopping!

Problems & Solutions

By hazards to my well-being, lists 4 Comments

Problem #1: I needed to cram in some exercise last night, but my hair looked kind of amazing, and I didn’t want to ruin it by getting all sweaty. A walk seemed kind of lame, and it was a gorgeous night…

Solution #1: So I hopped on beach cruiser #2 and pedaled down to the boardwalk for a ride. And I’m glad I did because I saw a number of things along the way that made me smile, including: a father and daughter roller-blading together on the bike path; kids pointing in awe at a pelican flying around with a huge fish dangling out of its mouth; people admiring the Naval Aviation Monument and pausing with respect in front of the flags at half-mast for September 11; a bunch of dudes dancing around a boombox on the beach; sunlight playing on the whitecaps in between long shadows cast by the hotels; and three girls running in sync, each one clad in different color neon sneakers — orange, yellow and pink.

Problem #2: The new shoes I wore today started uncomfortably rubbing the insides of my heels while I was walking around on my lunch break. When I got back to the office and took them off, I realized I was starting to get blisters! Never in my 31 years on this earth have I gotten blisters from a pair of shoes, and I sure wasn’t going to let it happen today.

Solution #2: When my co-worker asked me if I wanted to walk to Starbucks later this afternoon, I said, “I’d love to, but I’ll never make it there in these shoes.” Then I glanced around my desk and schemed up a way I could at least make it across the parking lot. “Can you drive?” I asked. I used Scotch tape to secure squares of napkins to either side of my feet and slipped them back into my shoes for the rest of the afternoon pain-free. No one would have noticed if I didn’t go around bragging about it. =) I guess I need to figure out how to break these things in if I’m going to keep them.

Problem #3: I’m not sure what to do with my other blog. First I had this blog, then I had that blog. Now I have both blogs, but I’m only posting in this blog. I think I was doing myself a disservice trying to split my content between two, but now I’m torn about what to do with the other one.

Solution #3:
I’ve merged a few of my more recent outfit posts into this blog, and I’ve decided to eventually take the other blog down. I’ll also slowly post a few of my favorite recipes and how-to posts over here. The only thing left to do is pick which name to keep. I like this new banner, but LDA apparently also stands for Lyme Disease Association. On the other hand, everyone mispronounces “chicster.” Any ideas? =)