Thursday, July 3, 2014

What to Wear: A Sweatshirt Dress Layered Up

I'm not sure if it's a residual effect of last winter's Polar Vortex (aka nightmare winter hellscape), but the weather in the Chicago area has been nothing short of weird lately. 

On some days it's super hot and humid (as it should be in the summer!), but on others, it almost feels as though fall is upon us with chilly winds and misty rain (boo!). 

Reluctant to voluntarily freeze my butt off in the name of wearing summer outfits, I've instead opted to wear some of my summer staples layered with other pieces in order to try to capture the breeziness of the summer without getting frozen out by the literal breeziness of this summer, in particular.

With this outfit, I started with one of my mainstays, this awesome sweatshirt dress from Madewell, and layered a lightweight tee underneath it. In the beginning, I only popped on my denim vest for commuting to work, but once I got to the office, I just decided to keep it on and work it! Anytime it's even kind of warm out and not rainy, I try to wear some kind of sandal, so this particular day was no exception, despite the lower temperature; and as usual, I just threw one some accessories that I felt worked well to complete the overall look.

Outfit Details:
Dress - Old from Madewell (no longer available) - similar, similar
Long Sleeved Striped Tee - J.Crew Factory
Denim Vest: J.Crew Factory
Sandals: Target
Necklace: Old from Target (no longer available) - similar
Skinny Belt - Old from Target - similar in patent leather 

I just need to talk briefly about this dress from Madewell. I bought it two years ago to wear to my bachelorette party (of all things), and at the time I felt like it was kind of pricey for a dress made of sweatshirt material (I think it was $118, but less with a coupon I got in a Birchbox), but while that is kind of a lot of monies to pay for one dress, I cannot stress enough how worth every penny it has been! I can wear it all 4 seasons with ease, and it's great layered or on its own; it has also seriously held up after countless trips through the washing machine. I think that Madewell fans everywhere need to petition the company to bring back another version of this dress, because I have no idea what I'll do when the one that I have finally disintegrates from so many washes and wears (hopefully not while I'm wearing it). 

Lets hope for some warmer weather going forward, but in the meantime, I plan on trying to just make the most the weather we have, and be happy that at least there's no snow on the ground.



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Let's Talk About... Giving Your Hair a Break

Confession time!

As shameful as it is to admit, while in pursuit of the style and color that I'm striving for, I have a tendency to overlook what my hair needs to stay healthy and nourished. This dismissive and destructive behavior often leads to breakage, earning me a stern talking to by my stylist once the time comes for a trim and root touch-up. While there really is no excuse for this conduct toward my tresses, I will say that it's nearly impossible to keep up with the style that I think works best for me without a combination of hot tools and styling products that often leave my hair parched and in need of some serious care.

This is why every week or so, especially in the summer, I have taken to giving my hair a kind of styling vacation; a much needed chance to soak up some products enriched with natural oils and curl enhancing properties. I may not love my hair in it's curly state as much as I do when it's just undergone the flat-iron-treatment, but I'm trying to take advantage of tutorials like this one (which I have adapted in my style below) in order to feel a bit more comfortable while I'm trying to do right by my stubborn locks. 

Here are some of the products that I have found help a lot with simultaneously treating and managing my curls. They all contain natural ingredients, which I love, and they can ALL be found at Target at affordable prices!

Clockwise from Top-Left:
Shea Moisture Curl & Shine Shampoo (cleans all of the crap out of my hair without robbing it of much needed moisture, plus it smells great!) - $9.99
Shea Moisture Curl & Shine Conditioner - (as a companion the the amazing shampoo, this defines curls like nobody's business, before I even step out of the shower) - $11.99
Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Leave-in Conditioner (helps to both detangle and strengthen hair, both of which are crucial when dealing with curls) - $11.00
Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Pure Hair Oil (I like to apply this beautifully scented oil right after the leave-in conditioner to add even more moisture and shine) - $10.00
Carol's Daughter Hair Milk - Styling Pudding (I use this to both define and hold my curls in place lest frizz comes in and ruins everything; a little bit goes a long way) - $12.00
Carol's Daughter Hair Milk - Refresher Spray (for the next day when my hair needs a pep talk, this handy spray brings it back to life without the need to wash and repeat the whole process) - $11.00

I'm sure that while reading this, you may have noticed a common theme: Carol's Daughter, but I really am so appreciative of their products! I had such a hard time finding the right products for my hair type growing up, that I often felt a bit cheated when it seemed like no companies were willing to make products specifically for girls like me. I only wish lines like Carol's Daughter (and Shea Moisture, and Mixed Chicks) were around back then; it would have probably made my (and my Mom's) life a heck of a lot easier!

Curls? Tamed. Hair? Looking shiny and feeling healthy, even in it's natural state.

Of course until the next time I force it through the dreaded Ultra Chi...the cycle continues.



Monday, June 16, 2014

What To Wear: Casual Dinner & Movie Date

Sometimes after a couple of busy weekends in a row, you just need a chill weekend, to recharge and refresh yourself. Dan and I chose to spend this past weekend mostly bumming around our neighborhood, taking the dogs for long strolls, and lounging in front of the TV (what better weekend to do it than that of the kickoff of the World Cup AND the GoT season finale!). 

We did manage to get ourselves decent (enough...) and leave the house to have a casual Dinner & Movie date, to which I tried to wear something that felt casual, while still put-together and fun. I don't wear pants often during the work week, so most of the ones I do own and wear are of the super laid-back, boyfriend-fitted, and destroyed variety, for use on weekends and off days only.

Outfit Details:
J.Crew Factory Airspun Baseball Sweater (I'm ALL about summer sweaters, and you should be too) - $65.00 (currently ON SALE for $31.99)
Gap Outlet Boyfriend Jeans - Old (simliar from Old Navy)
Target Lakita Sandal in Gold Glitter (LOVE these!) - $19.99

With things about to start getting busy for us around the corner, what with Dan on the cusp of a big birthday (30!), and me in the process of planning a family reunion in my hometown, we were definitely in need of a relaxing weekend to do nothing but enjoy our surroundings and each other. We'll surely lament for these kind of days in the near future.



Saturday, June 7, 2014

What to Wear: Dressing for a Concert

Happy Weekend!

I am excited to report that I am in the midst of a 4-day-weekend/mini-vacation with my husband to take in some much needed relaxation and fun times. We had the pleasure of being able to go and see one of our favorite bands, Vampire Weekend, at the UIC Pavilion, and it's safe to say that we had a fabulous (albeit sweaty) time! I tried to choose an outfit that was all-together casual, a little bit cool, and comfortable enough to allow for a healthy amount of booty-shaking! I started with something on the sporty-side with this super lightweight and fun baseball tee from J.Crew, pairing that with an on-trend denim vest. I chose jeans that are stretchy and slimming, so I could still feel at-ease while dancing like a fool, and from there I just chose accessories that I felt kept with the theme of easy and quirky-cool. 

Outfit Details:
NYDJ Stretch Ankle Skinny Jean - Nordstrom - $104 (currently ON SALE for $68.90)
J.Crew Factory Distressed Denim Vest - $75.00 (I picked mine up during a site-wide sale for $37.50, so always be patient)
J.Crew Factory Stripe Baseball Tee - $42.50 (I paid $21.25 during the same sale)
Taupe Suede Booties - Old from Target (similar and similar)
Taupe Crossbody Bag - Old from Coach (similar)
Marc by Marc Jacobs Henry Skeleton Watch - $250 (currently ON SALE at Nordstrom for $187.50)
Statement Necklace - Groopdealz (similar)
Ray-Ban New Wayfarer in Tortoise - $130 (currently ON SALE at Nordstrom for $97.50)

While I got a few decent shots (some of which can be seen on my Instagram), I feel so compelled to write about this one only because I now find myself obsessed with the stage background! I love vintage floral patterns, so it's a given that I can't seem to get this out of my head.

This was a truly fantastic way to kick off a long weekend, and the residual dancing-related soreness was well earned!



Thursday, June 5, 2014

Mixing Prints on the Weekday

When I'm starting to feel that familiar slump toward the middle of the week, I like to try to reach for outfits that are a little bit more fun while at the same time still easy and comfortable. I love that mixed-print outfits are having such a moment right now (thanks, Mindy Kaling), and I'm getting to the point where I basically think of stripes as a neutral that can be made more interesting paired with just about any other pattern.

I bought this dress from Forever 21 several months ago, and what a work horse it's been! It's really one of those four season dresses; it can be made to work with the right accessories just out any time of the year, and it's probably one of the most comfortable things that I own. To make it a bit more fun to jazz up my weekday, I added on a light, floral scarf that I picked up for a steal at Old Navy, and threw on my yellow and gray Seychelles two-piece flats that make me so happy every time I put them on.

Outfit Details:

Old Navy Watercolor Print Scarf - $16.97 (I picked mine up for $12 in-store) (similar)
Seychelles Freesia Flat - $90 (I picked mine up for only $40 on Amazon)
Marc by Marc Jacobs Leather Baker Watch - $175 (currently ON SALE at Nordstrom for $131.25!)

There is also no better way to spice up the monotony of the work week than to do something fun on a weekday for a change! Even if it's something low-key, it's nice to break from your everyday routine here and there. Case in point, when a dear friend at work offered me Cubs tickets (fo free) spur of the moment, I barely even hesitated! I was definitely feeling the lack of sleep the next day, but it was so worth it.

And the Cubs actually won!



Saturday, May 31, 2014

Affordable Crossbody Bags for the Summer

Whatever it is that you end up doing this summer, chances are you'll be busy. Despite the lazy feeling that the season has a tendency to exude, most adults have a packed schedule of parties, weekend trips, festivals/concerts and a variety of other social engagements during almost every weekend between now and Labor Day. 

With constant activity being a given eventuality, I like the idea of scaling down in terms of what I carry around with me when I go from place to place. I carry a huge, gigantic, commuter tote with me during the work week, so when I have free time, I would much prefer to carry a smaller bag that really only needs to hold the essentials. With so many great shape, color and print options out there for small bags, I like to try to purchase more than just one or two, so affordability is an absolute must. 

Smaller, crossbody bags are hard to beat in terms of style and ease of use. With neither of your hands having to hold onto a bag, you'll have the freedom required to, oh, let's say enjoy both a beer and a hotdog at the same time.

Summer Crossbody Bag Picks (clockwise from top-left):

Free People Reversible Vegan Crossbody - $42.00 (this is the smaller version of this bag, that I both own and am obsessed with)
Sole Society "Coco" bag in Cognac - $39.00 (currently ON SALE for $23.97)
Anthropologie Nolina Beaded Crossbody Bag - $68.00 (bucket bags are EVERYWHERE this season)
Zara Mini Bowling Bag in Fuscia - $49.90 (this is the color of the moment)
Target Xhilaration Crossbody Handbag in Leopard - $24.99
Forever 21 Mod Girl Satchel in Pink - $14.80

I hope that you all have some fun summer adventures on the horizon during which you can carry one of these beautiful handbags, and I guarantee that you will both look and feel amazing!



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What to Wear: Summer Maxi

It's safe to say that the maxi dress phenomenon is here to stay for the upcoming season and hopefully beyond. It's no surprise that so many women the world over, both fashion obsessed and style novices alike, have pounced onto the idea of being able to proudly wear something tantamount to pajamas (from a comfort perspective) out in the real world. These days, maxis can be worn effortlessly to the office, beach, and even to a casual summer wedding, depending on how they're styled. 

I recently made some purchases at J.Crew Factory, one of which included this navy blue maxi with a bold, tribal print. I love the stretchy jersey that's both comfy and forgiving, as well as the double side slits that add both a subtle sexiness, as well as some ventilation that will be very much appreciated as mercury continues to rise. 

Outfit Details:
J.Crew Factory Print Stretch Tank Dress: $89.50 (regular price, but if you're paying full price at J.Crew factor, no offense, but you're doing it wrong)
Denim Moto Jacket: Last season from The Gap (simiar, for $69.00 at Dorothy Perkins)
Target Mossimo "Lakitia" Sandals in Gold Glitter: $19.99 (make sure to keep an eye out for Target's bogo shoe sales; they run these promos constantly)
Free People Slouchy Vegan Tote in Brown/Coral (my favorite bag that I can't stop wearing): $68.00
Fifth & Mae Initial Necklace: For sale on Groopdealz (simialiar at Fifth & Mae $14.95)
Etsy Arrow Necklace: For sale on Groopdealz (similar on Etsy $13.00)

I really love to layer more delicate necklaces for a look that makes a slightly bigger statement than a necklace worn alone, but not so much as to overwhelm an already bold printed dress or top. Groopdealz is a great option for purchasing on-trend jewelry that's super affordable. I am slightly addicted to this website, to be honest, so before visiting it, keep that in mind. 

One last point about maxis is that I hear a lot from friends of mine that are of similar height and stature to myself, that they can't wear maxi dresses for fear of being swallowed up and made to look diminished or dowdy. This couldn't be further from the truth! Short and/or curvy women look great in maxis, as long as you find the right cut for your body type. I will suggest to any fellow curvy ladies out there to chose a maxi dress or skirt with some kind of waist defining aspect, or wear a belt around it in order to create the illusion of a waist; this will work wonders for the overall impact of the look, and make you look nothing short of va-va-voom! Also, don't immediately nix a maxi choice that's too long; several Dry Cleaners will hem them up quickly and without too significant of a cost (or you can do it yourself, if you're one of those babes who's super crafty).

I hope that you both enjoy and are inspired by this easy summer look.



Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Breezy Playlist to Start The Summer

Given that Memorial Day Weekend is seen as the unofficial kickoff of the summer, it's around this time when I start to feel like listening to music that's upbeat, and uncomplicated. For this playlist, I chose tunes that make me feel relaxed and happy, and I hope that you feel the same way when you give it a listen.

If you're not a Spotify user, I can't stress enough how much the service has changed the way that I listed to music. I pay for the Premium version, which is a steal at $9.99 per month when taken into account the sheer volume of music that I listen to via mine and my husband's many devices, but you can listen to it for free using the desktop version.

Follow this link to download the service, and you can sign up for a free trial of Spotify Premium!

Here's my Summer Sounds playlist; I hope that you enjoy it, and it makes you start to get the distinct feeling of lazy summer days.

Top Pick: "Good As New" by Vacationer; a song that's as laid-back summer as it gets.



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sneaking Into Summer

Get ready, world! It has reached 80 degrees in Chicago! Let street festival season begin!

A lot of people who live here like to comment that Chicago is a different city in the summer, and it really is the truth. Once we're finally released of our winter-long burdens, we just cannot wait to step out into a whole new world without a coat nor a care. 

Wherever it is that you live, outdoor concerts, fairs, and festivals are more-than-likely a summer staple, and while it would be fantastic to attend all of these events in nothing but cute strappy sandals, doing so will almost always result in foot grime that will make you feel anything but carefree. While, there are clever solutions to this issue out there, such as these wipes that I recently got a sample of in my May Birchbox, many of us would prefer to avoid the problem outright.

Enter: Fun summer sneakers! All of these babies can be styled brilliantly with shorts, skirts, or even casual maxi dresses, and they're guaranteed to keep you looking fly while still feeling clean and comfy from barbecues to outdoor concerts and beyond.

Clockwise from Top-Left:

I'm kind of obsessed with almost all of the Kate Spade for Keds shoes that have come out the last couple of years. They're definitely pricey for canvas sneakers, but there's something about a sneaker with a fun print and a pointed-toe that just gets me. Pair these with a neutral pair of shorts and a chambray shirt and let them be the star of your look (as they should be).

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I love Forever 21 for their super trendy pieces that you don't necessarily want to spend a ton of money on. The high-tops are nailing the floral trend that is currently having its moment, and doing it without breaking the bank. Work these in with a fit-and-flare frock and a denim vest to keep the cool-but-girly factor consistent.

I love the fact that leopard is the new neutral and can now be worn effortlessly regardless of season (I, for so long, equated leopard with the colder months for reasons unknown). These sneaks have been everywhere lately, and for good reason, as they're simple, yet eye-catching, and the pony hair makes them also kind of luxe. I would love these with dark skinny pants/leggings and a striped tunic because I cannot get enough of stripes and leopard mixed together in the same outfit.

There's a reason why these shoes are such a classic. They look great with everything and are inexpensive, so if they're truly hideous with dirt by Labor Day, you can throw them away or banish them as a laundry-day-only wear without feeling ridden with guilt later on. While these look great with almost anything, I imagine them paired with a casual, jersey maxi dress and baseball cap for an easy summer look.

I really like to work in patriotic pieces during the summer, be it a scarf, casual bag, or these super cute, affordable little sneakers. I like the lived-in, muted color scheme of these, and I would go classic American with my outfit while wearing them, meaning a pair of jean shorts and a breezy, swingy t-shirt or blouse.

I had to, I just had to. The wedge sneaker is definitely one of those, 'love it or hate it,' trends among style-conscious gals, and I have to say that I align myself firmly in the middle. For me, it really does depend on what they're worn with, where, and how often. I would love to wear these with a shorter pencil or mini skirt, graphic t, and leather moto jacket to show the world that I'm not one to mess around with.

I hope for several warm days ahead during which I can wear some of these looks and take full advantage of what is always both the shortest and best season of the year.



Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Brunch Rush

Living in a major city is great in so many ways. Chicago for example, while by no means perfect, has so much to offer in terms of things to do, places to go, and ways with which to satisfy your hunger that are borderline staggering. Like many couples of similar means and situation, we often find ourselves on the prowl for brunch that's both satisfying and out-of-the-ordinary on Saturday or Sunday mornings. In this situation, I often think about a part I recently read in Mindy Kaling's delightful book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), in which she writes about wanting to be just famous enough to never have to wait in line for brunch ever again. I'm with her on that 1000%. I cannot handle going to brunch starving (and let's be honest here, possibly hungover) just to be faced with an hour, or more, wait to be fed. Seeing as I'm not famous in even the slightest bit, my only recourse to avoid dropping dead while waiting for my name to be called is to get to brunch super early; to plan my entire morning (and existence?) around getting to brunch before the hoards. 

Please, then, follow me (and Dan, of course) through our 9:00am brunch at the wonderful endgrain on Addison St. in Roscoe Village in Chicago:

This is my, "I'm not waiting an hour for brunch," face

I don't see why I shouldn't try to put a cute outfit together, even when rushing out of the house for brunch. So I decided to go with a mixed-wash denim look that I've been waiting for a good excuse to try:

Chambray Shirt: J.Crew Factory - $68.00 (currently on sale for $39.50!)
Dark Wash Skinny Jeans: Handed down from a friend (similar - $69.50 plus 40% off right now!)
Sandals: Target - $22.99 (currently on sale for $18.39!)
Slouchy Tote: Free People - $68.00 (this bag deserves a post all its own, I really can't say enough about how much I love it)
Sunglasses (a very kind birthday gift): Ray Ban - $155.00 
Watch: Marc by Marc Jacobs - $250.00
Bangle (another insanely kind birthday gift): Marc by Marc Jacobs - $52.00 (currently on sale for $36!)

And onto brunch!

This was our second visit to endgrain in so many weeks, and it will definitely be the second of many because their food rocks! The menu is simple and straight-forward, with biscuit sandwiches as their stand-out specialty. 

This has nothing to do with endgrain at all, but it's startling how many dogs there are in the Roscoe Village area! Both times that we've come to this place, we've spent the entire meal pointing out dogs as they walk by and gushing at how cute they all are.

Here's Dan not hogging the cream at all

Biscuit Sandwich with Fried Chicken, pork gravy, and greens; served with pickles and potato chips on the side (Dan gave me his pickles because I love them SO much) 
They also serve a variety of doughnuts from local doughnut-ery, Enoch's Doughnuts, including a Strawberry doughnut, split and sandwiched with strawberry creme fraiche, half of which is pictured here, the other half having already been consumed. Delicious.

more doughnuts!
Yet another brunch well-done, with plenty of time leftover for a nap (that is equally important).

I hope you enjoyed reading of Dan's and my brunch adventure, and I would love to read your suggestions of brunch spots in the area that are worth checking out, and any stories you might have about how you make the most of your weekends/days off. 



Monday, May 12, 2014

Easy Summer Makeup: The Essential Products

Clockwise from Top-Left: bareMinerals Correcting Concealer - Benefit Cosmetics Watts Up! - Sonia Kashuk Lip & Cheek Tint - Benefit Cosmetics Instant Brow - Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation - Smith's Rosebud Salve - Essie "Geranium" - Burt's Bee's Tinted Lip Balm

Many of my friends and work colleagues can attest to the fact that I'm reasonably cosmetic-obsessed. I don't go overboard with it or anything, but I love to try new products and play with fun new ways to craft a look for a special occasion, and I do have a relatively amassed stash of products that all do a little of this and that.

While it's sometimes useful to have a different concealer for different parts of the face, and the proper mix of bronzer, blush and highlighter to get the perfect contouring effect, I think that when it comes to summer makeup, the less you have to fuss with products, the better.

That being said, when trying to tighten-up the old makeup regimen, it's important to have products that are easy to apply, long-lasting and it doesn't hurt to invest in a couple of staples that do double, or even triple-duty.

Here are my essential products for keeping my face fresh all summer long, and my spin on it is this: all products on this list can be applied, relatively quickly and easily, with your fingers and/or straight from the container, no fancy brushes necessary (because when you only have 100 days of summer, ain't nobody got time to drag out an arsenal of brushes for every single makeup application!)

For Face:

I thought about choosing something more along the lines of a bb cream for this one because I know that a lot of women are a little bit scared off by full-coverage foundation, but this version is whipped and light as a feather, leaving a smooth and powdery finish. Like me, many out there struggle with oily skin, especially as mercury rises, and I think that this does a great job of controlling oil while still leaving an even finish. This applies wonderfully with just your fingers, so that helps in the ease-of-use factor, as well.

When I first sampled this concealer, I thought that it was an obvious knockoff of Benefit's boi-ing! Benefit being my favorite high end brand, I was sort of inexplicably annoyed about it, but I have since come to the realization that even if the comparison is too close to be coincidental, BareMinerals' Correcting Concealer outmatches Benefit by way of their impressive range of shades. You can purchase all shades in a 'warm' and 'cool' toned variation, which is a great option for putting your best face forward. This is another smooth operator, leaving a fantastic finish with a few taps of the fingertips, and it will work wonders under the eyes, on blemishes and even in those pesky areas around the nostrils. Summer is no excuse to skip the concealer, and this one is an easy choice that's also a decent bang for your buck.

For Cheeks:

Oh, this product is so wonderful, I want to write songs about it! If anyone out there is trepidatious about trying Sonia Kashuk's products because they're not technically what Ulta and Sephora refer to as Prestige, this little tint might make you a convert! When its summertime, I just want a simple and fun pop of color that's not too much work, and this little guy is all of that and then some! It's equally gorgeous on both lips and cheeks, and applies like a dream, leaving behind a dewy finish (perfect for summer skin!). My one and only complaint about it is that it currently only comes in two shades, "Charmed," (pictured), and, "Enchanted," which is a fuscia-violet. Hopefully if this gains popularity, there will be a wider range of shades to choose from in the future, but even with just the two offered now at $9.99 a piece, these are a no-brainer.

Another instant classic from Benefit Cosmetics that burst onto the scene a couple of years ago, melting hearts all over the place its path! This stuff, while a little bit pricey, really goes a long way, in that a couple of swipes will achieve such a warm and fabulous summer glow that you would have sworn that you had just come from frolicking in St. Tropez with RiRi (or something...). A bonus for this is that, in a pinch, it will also do double-duty as a shimmery eyeshadow for those times when you only want a bit of a subtle pop.

For Lips:

Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm: ($7)

Another work horse for the busy summer girl! I swear by regular Burt's Bees lipbalm, and this is a nice way to dress up your look with a pop of color, without looking or feeling overdone. All of the colors apply smoothly and look super natural, and they are also SP15, which is a summertime necessity. With so many benefits at such a small price, this is one to stock up on.

Smith's Rosebud Salve: ($6)

There's a reason why this product is the stuff of legends. Smith's Rosebud salve doesn't really have to be confined to any one season, but I decided to include it here, because I find that it's a great lighter substitute for lipgloss, which is something that I just cannot deal with when it's hot and sticky outside already. This stuff gives your lips a healthy glimmer, smells amazing, and can be used in a variety of other ways, such as moisturizing cuticles and keeping flyaway strands of hair in their proper place. You can purchase this wonderful goop in both a tin and a squeezable tube, but my philosophy is that if it's under $10, you may as well just get both.

For Brows:

Benefit Instant Brow Pencil: ($20)

Just because you might be chomping at the bit to get outside and do some summertime-day-drinking, that does not mean that the brows can be ignored! They are the frame of the face, you know... I, for one, have no interest in fussing over a bunch of different products and brushes and setting gels to achieve the perfect brow, so this pencil really works wonders, delivering a natural finish that holds up through perspiration. A(nother) bonus is that it comes with a spoolie on one end for touch-ups on the go. This may be a step worth skipping if you're blessed with a naturally bodacious brow ala Cara Delevingne, but for the rest of us, this is an application that, when mastered, can be done quickly and easily to really pull your whole look together.

A little something extra:

Essie Nail Lacquer in "Geranium": ($8.49)

While I like to keep my makeup relatively natural and simple in the summer, the same does not ring true for my nails. Summer is a time to go for broke, so I usually have some kind of bright red or hot pink on almost all season. This particular red has really grabbed my attention lately, as it's a really nice 'fiery' red without being too orange. Others to check out are, "Style Hunter,"(a darker pink-red) "Watermelon," (a saturated hot-pink) and "Vermillionaire" (a true orange-red).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

One thing to remember is that no look is worth its salt without mascara, so that is not a step to skip, and while I didn't include one in my picks, I would just throw on whichever brand or type makes you feel fabulous in two coats and you'll be good to go!

Please share with me in the comments some makeup products that you think work well for the warmest season; I'd love to read what you think!



Friday, February 14, 2014

DIY: Craiglist Find to Perfect Media Stand

As a couple of crazy 20 30 somethings just trying to figure it all out, my husband and I have a tendency to seek more than what is within reach when it comes to our home. I quite often scour through issues of HGTV magazine and Architectural Digest, trying to mentally build my perfect living space regardless of a silly thing like how expensive furniture is these days.

I find that there is a vast disconnect between lower and higher end furnishings; once you go beyond Ikea, the price point sky rockets to... more than we can afford to spend on a mirror, sidetable or whatever.

All of this being said, the truth that's become clear to us is that if we want to have the kind of eye-catching, difference-making pieces that are found on the pages of magazines, you have to be willing to work for it, and be a little bit creative in the process.

This was actually not our first furniture project (or last), but I have to admit that I really believe that it was our best.

We found this sad-looking Mid Century Modern sideboard on Craigslist for a cool $75 (including delivery!), and as you can see, we had our work cut out for us:

I mean...

I'll be honest, I wasn't even going to give this guy a chance when Dan showed me the listing. It was even missing a handle! It is next to impossible to find the exact hardware to complete a MCM piece. The stuff just isn't out there, guys. As much as we would have loved to keep the original hardware, replacing it with something new was an inevitability that we just had to face head-on.

What follows is a photographic journey through what it took to rescue this sideboard and transform it into something completely unique.

Lots of sanding was involved. I'm going to take this time to mention how unbelievable it is to me that they chose to put veneer on everything back in the day! WHY?!?! It doesn't look good. It cheapens the piece in every possible way! I digress, if I keep going on I'm going to get on the subject of popcorn ceilings.

 The bare wood looked SO good! If you believe it, we did this piece before we owned a power sander (Dan finally got one for Christmas), so the entire piece was sanded down by hand. We burned a few calories doing that.

These 3 drawers were modified by Dan's Uncle in order for it to be used as a media stand. If the gamma rays or whatever from the remote can't reach the cable box, then there would be no point in
any of it.

 In terms of working with pieces with many drawers, one piece of advice I'll give is to number them in some way so you know which drawer goes where. We neglected to take this step, and were left with the fun task of playing a guessing game to figure out where each drawer should go because even the ones that all look the same can only go into one specific place.

We chose a dark brown color to stain the drawers with. For some reason, when drawing inspiration to design this, I thought a lot about old school Girl Scout uniforms. In my head I pictured the classic kelly green color of the uniform with the dark brown color of the sash and when I properly explained it to Dan, we decided to run with it.

The green frame is painted with relatively standard flat paint and then finished with SEVERAL coats of high gloss Minwax Poly applied with a soft brush in slow, even strokes. The bottom 'railing' as I was calling it, we decided to paint black to make the piece appear to be floating and to make the green frame the focal point.

Even though we couldn't use all of the original hardware (which would have been ideal), we were able to salvage some of it to use as pulls for the middle three drawers. The additional hardware on the outside 6 were purchased from Anthropologie for $6 each (found here in cream), which really is a steal if you've ever shopped their hardware section before. Anthropologie is a fantastic place to go for unusual cabinet hardware, and many of the items go on clearance for pretty significant discounts, so check those bins when you go there! I'm still on the fence about the hardware, to be honest, but the beauty in cabinet hardware is that it's a relatively easy change to make.

Here is the final before and after:

Relatively extreme transformation, I'd say.

I feel like it works well as a media stand as well as in the space itself.

The entire project was less than $200 give or take, and what a payoff. I find it hard pressed to even find one online for under $1000 so it was a successful venture, I think.

I hope you enjoy and are inspired to do your own at home, DIY adventures.