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).

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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!