Monday, December 31, 2007

Clean and Green Laundry Soap

Ever since I had a roommate who introduced me to the virtues of recycling, I have been an aspiring Granola. For those of you who didn't go to college in the mountains of North Carolina that means Tree Hugger, Earth Mama or just plain wannabe Environmentalist. Although I'm not enough of an overachiever to go all the way Granola, I still recycle, have a pair of Birkenstocks and I make my own laundry soap. Since this is saving me a bundle of money and keeping the water free from nasties, I want to share this easy recipe with you.



1 cup washing soda--NOT baking soda and cannot be substituted for baking soda
1 cup borax
2 cups ground soap--I recommend Dr. Bronner's Castille Soap

and you can put 1/4 cup Oxi Clean in there too.

I just use my cheese grinder to grind the soap. You mix it all together in a big bowl and use 2 Tablespoons for a load of laundry. It doesn't seem like much because it isn't full of all the fillers that store brands have. Some people add essential oil for fragrance but we prefer no fragrance to help with any allergies.

Generally I use cold water to wash my clothes because I like to save the hot water expense for my scalding hot baths. For fabric softener, get a Downy ball and fill up to the line with White Vinegar. I promise your clothes will not smell like vinegar. I store mine in this canister which is much more chic than a box of Tide. I'm about to start experiments on homemade dishwasher detergent so if you've found one that works, let me know.

My original recipe came from www.modcottage.com.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is your home splitting its seams?


As I drive through our suburban neighborhood sometimes I get to peek into my neighbors home via the garage. Sometimes they are neatly organized and painted a pretty color or turned into a game room, but what I notice mostly is that there aren't a lot of cars parked there. Tidiness aside, because this isn't the norm, most garages are packed to the gills with boxes and stuff.

There is always a good reason/excuse for accumulating all these things and then taking the cars room away to store it. Based on the number of storage facilities I see popping up everywhere, I'm thinking that these people have even run out of garage space. I will never understand why a person chooses to pay a pretty large sum of cash to store, insure, and protect things that they don't need or use.

It's not only garages though. It's closets and drawers too. We all know it. We are a people who need our things. We want, we shop, we buy, then we store. Marketing is genius for making us want what we didn't know we wanted. Marketing makes us buy the last minute items at the store. Marketing creates a need that wasn't a need before. Marketing makes me feel like my house isn't decorated enough if I don't have Santa Claus soap and guest towels.

Oh sure, don't knock the Christmas spirit! I love it when someone goes all out decorating for every season. My first thought though is where do they store that stuff for 11 months out of the year. And, how much did it cost to buy those things? I really hope they aren't in debt if they are buying a couple of $60 Christmas trees, one for the front room too.

There are two things I feel passionate about right now during the Christmas season. One is about all the clutter we accumulate. The other is about the money we are spending. This all stems from a root belief that one holds, and maybe it is because of family rituals and maybe it comes from savvy marketing.

We can't keep buying everything and storing it. Our homes are busting at the seams. As a nation we live in bigger homes, but still don't have room for all the stuff. We need a FLOW in our lives. Things come in, things go out. I always have a to go bag. When it is full, it goes in my car and to charity. If you start small, you won't be overwhelmed by starting to create a flow again in your home. When you touch something that you think needs to go, put it in the bag immediately. Let it go to bless someone else.

We also can't keep buying all these things and paying for it. Most people have debt on credit cards or car loans. We have allowed debt to become an acceptable part of the American way. The truth is that it robs us of peace. It makes us work more so we have less time to enjoy the things we already have. Not long ago I was in Target and had a buggy with a few things in it. I think I was about to spend about $50 total on a wreath that was marked down to $12, a picture frame for a wedding photo, and a couple things that escape me now. As I walked toward the cash register I said "I don't need this stuff right now." and I left. Sometimes I do that online too. I fill up the cart and then exit the website. It's funny how just the act of shopping for it is therapeutic enough. Question yourself, especially now at Christmas. Imagine how much that item will sell for at the yard sale when you don't want it anymore. Is paying $25 now worth the 75 cents you'll get for it later?

Just by having less you will appreciate more and isn't that what the season is really about?


The photo is a dog we encountered in San Francisco. He is giving you the "hairy eyeball" saying "No excuses, clean out those garages and closets!"

Friday, December 07, 2007

Potions from the Pantry


I have been having the most trouble trying to find adequate and affordable skin care. I really love Ren because it is "clean" and all things good, but it is a tad pricey. While I was in Puerto Rico for Thanksgiving, a Clinique counter was giving away their three step system samples to try. I tried them and they are quite stripping. The toner smells like straight rubbing alcohol although I have to admit that it seemed to clear up my skin.

So now that I am back to the States I have been trying to go back to the basics. It just doesn't seem logical that my skin needs to be stripped of all oils and then replenished with serums and potions. In the past I have used plain olive or walnut oil to clean my skin and it worked well. I've also made my own toner from a recipe in the Dr. Hauschka beauty book. But it never fails that I get seduced into thinking that something so simple can't possibly be good enough.

The truth is that I have had occasional cystic acne for years now. It is only during times of extreme stress. Right after I got engaged I got two cystic nightmares that left me two holes that will forever be my engagement scars. It was a very stressful time. Will you marry me? Call your family. Let's stop at Barnes and Noble so you can start planning a wedding. That was all in a matter of hours. Anyway, I digress, but it's just to show I have had some extreme skin problems. The good news is that since the wedding there has been no cystic trouble at all.

This morning I tried a yogurt mask and it does seem to exfoliate quite nicely. I added a little lemon juice. I use plain, full fat yogurt, which is a good all around staple for cooking as well. You can also add some honey which has antibacterial properties. Some other skin care homemade remedies I have tried are body scrubs. You can easily make your own with salt or sugar. Just add oil.

I've been making my own eye makeup remover for awhile now and as I tell my husband, "Do you know how much money I've saved you?" Use an old eye makeup remover bottle and put one fourth baby shampoo and fill to the top with distilled water. I know this probably isnt' the Best because it still has the SLS however it's not much different from the $16 bottle so why not use it practically free?

In spite of many creative ways to make your own potions, I always find myself seduced into a marketing campaign. I start believing that some company has the right answer for my skin. My curiousity gets the best of me and my wallet. The truth is that it is fun to buy things and feel a part of the collective users of something. It's almost like we collect items from a cosmetics or skincare line like my mom used to collect dolls off of QVC. And honestly, I think the skincare costs more.

But this time I'm going to find the system that works for me. I'm open to purchasing skincare or to making it myself, but I'm tired of buying products that are only as good as their marketing campaigns or free gift with purchase. Anyone got any faves to share?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

I'm sending out a little financial warning for those of you who get sucked into marketing traps like me. Ah, but I am smarter this year! Forewarned is forearmed. It is a battle out there, a battle for your money. Be choosy about who you give it to, or might I suggest saving some of it?

Beware of the COUPON. This little harmless and apparently fruitful incentive to get you into a shop can be a big pitfall in holiday spending and all year round. Oh, I've been sucked in too many times. I'm thinking of Bath and Body Works with their buy one get one free. If you are like me, it's very difficult to throw something away that is free. But it isn't free. If you need to stock up, then great, but I don't even care for their items that much. This is how I know that this marketing works. I feel perfectly fine to go buy a lotion for $11.00 so I can get something for free. Ladies, maybe you like the smell, but there is nothing special about this overpriced soap and lotion. It's standard drugstore fare ingredients which is why they can afford to give you something free when you buy an item. So, not just to pick on this store, I'm saying beware of all the 10%, 20% coupons that take you into a store where you don't already need or use something. Open the lid to the trash can and THROW IT AWAY. Save your money for what you really want. Those dollars add up.

Number two is beware of the FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE. Oh a couple of months ago I was salivating for the Nordstrom makeup bag and sample giveaway. I was inventing things to purchase to add up to $100 so I could get that. These free gifts hynotize us! We get the swirly circles in our eyes and can only focus on buy, buy, buy. Nevermind that most of the samples we won't even like or use. There is always justification when you are getting a free gift. Oh, ladies I know how hard it is to resist, but DO RESIST sometimes. Allow yourselves to receive the the goodie bag sometimes, but not everytime. It's not worth it to wreck your budget. And by all means, if you don't like something you get at any store, take it back. It feels a little embarrasing, but you'll all get over it.

I've gradually been hunting products that are just as nice at the drugstore. I'm not generally a fan of most items because I feel they don't compare in quality. However over time I am proud to say that I no longer buy department store mascara. I love Voluminous or Lash Exact mascara just as much as the pricier brands. I've also discovered that I adore a certain Cover Girl foundation more than Laura Mercier, Giorgio Armani or any of them. And it has spf 25. I'm still working on skin care.

Go, shop, and be smart and creative with your purchases especially this time of year when every store wants your money. Look at that FREE something for what it really is, a shiny, perfumed worm just luring you to bite.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Wedding Pictures




Here are just a few pictures from our wedding day. After the wedding in South Carolina and the honeymoon in San Francisco, we came back to Texas and the following week closed on our house. The house is springing to life with every box that is unpacked. Fall is finally arriving in Texas and I couldn't be happier for the cooler weather. Unpacking the wedding gifts has been especially fun. I have to say that my red Kitchen Aid mixer had me jumping up and down. I just want to use it all the time. The other day I made brownies but never got around to cooking them. Did you know if you just leave the batter in the frig it tastes like fudge? Sad, I know, but my sweetie left me for two weeks to go to work in Wyoming. Sometimes a lonely girl needs chocolate eaten with a wooden spoon while watching mindless tv. Got the picture? Yeah, I'm also getting back to the gym because the pounds are creeping on. We are going to Puerto Rico to visit Gustavo's family for Thanksgiving. Putting on a bikini in the midst of feasting on pumpkin pie and turkey just isn't natural, but I will endure!









Friday, October 05, 2007

Naturalizer Shoes Friends & Family Discount

Hi Everyone!

I want to pass on a coupon code to you. I love Naturalizer shoes! They are the impossible find of stylish and comfortable. I always used to think of them as old lady shoes, but they obviously got a new designer because there are many fashionable options now. October 5-8, 2007 you can receive 30% off your total purchase. Go to a store, buy online or call the number on the coupon-- Just give them the code FFJ37.

Maybe you need a pair of boots or a cute pair of animal print flats. This is a great discount to use for fall merchandise or an extra discount for summer shoes.

Of course, if you don't need anything, sorry for the temptation.



Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Nordstrom Houston Galleria Trend Event

If you are in the Houston area, there is a really cool event coming up on October 20th at Houston Galleria's Nordstrom. At 8:00 am before the store opens they are having a fashion show with all of fall's latest. The cosmetics department is joining in with a free train case full of samples. Also, you can sign up with the makeup counter of your choice for a free makeover. Each counter also may have a gift with purchase.

The tickets are $15.00 and redeemable towards product. I know that I'm going to finally get the Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder that I've been wish listing for awhile now. The number is 832-201-2700 to order your ticket.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Wedding Flowers



Gustavo the Groom helping prepare the flowers. Do you see why I married him?

I see that many people are interested in a do-it-yourself bouquet for their wedding so I wanted to update the information on how I did mine. I chose Grower's Box to order my flowers. It was $200 for 250 roses in four different colors. I got pale pink, ivory, two toned pink and peach, which looked like orange.

I'm not going to tell you that it's lickety-split, then you're done. It is a little bit of work, but if you do it right and have some help, I'd highly recommend it!

You get the flowers delivered fairly early in the morning two-three days before the wedding. My wedding was on Sunday and we had them delivered on Friday. They have to hydrate in spring water for a day. We kept ours in the plastic wrap so the flowers wouldn't open too quickly. Honestly, they warn you that they will look dehydrated, but mine looked fine except for a few bad ones.



This picture is what 250 roses in a bucket looks like. Oh, but be careful! There are flowers just underneath the flowers. When you cut the stems the first time, you may cut them all the same length and not notice that they are tucked under there. We didn't notice because they were still wrapped when we made the first cut. For us it didn't matter because they were still too long.

I had a friend who was instrumental and took charge of the whole process. I would not recommend that the BRIDE is that person. There was so much going on the day before that it is too much to do flowers too. I told them what I liked and they basically just did it for me. I could see how it was going to look by bunching them together. Of course a picture would be best. Since I got married in SC and I live in Texas, I had a hard time remembering everything I had to bring. All my wedding pictures got left at home.

Grower's Box has instructions on how to care for the flowers and their customer service is wonderful. We had a bunch of vases and picked the flowers to go in each bouquet, then tied them up.



Here are the final boxes of flowers minus my bouquet which we put in a cooler. In total, we did four bridesmaids, my bridal bouquet, the throwaway bouquet, 10 bouts, and 8 vases of flowers for the tables. We did them on Saturday afternoon and evening. The truth is we didn't go to bed until 3:00 am! Learn from me, START EARLY!

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Here is a photo of how they turned out! I loved my bouquet. It was so fragrant and I adored the ivory roses.



The reason I decided to do my flowers was purely financial. Obviously it would have been easier to have a florist do them and deliver them. Also, I was content to have very simple bouquets for the wedding. If I had wanted a "designer bouquet", it would have been more costly and difficult. I was quoted $850 for a minimal amount of roses in each bouquet and table flowers. For example, we would have had 6 roses in each bridesmaid, but with greenery too. We used about 12 when we did it with no greenery.

I have a feeling that using 250 roses with a florist would have cost me a huge amount of money. The florist quoted me $200 for only my bouquet and that was using 25 roses. Anyway, even if you decide to use a florist there are ways to save. I had considered the bridesmaids only carring a single flower. Everyone I polled thought this was a very elegant way to go. Even when money isn't a consideration, brides are choosing to do this because of the simplicity of the look. You can use a rose, lily, or even a gerbera daisy.

What I struggled with the most when planning the flowers or anything else for the wedding was "What should I do?", instead of "What do I want to do?". I honestly didn't know what I wanted so I just kept researching and looking through magazines until it hit me. What did I learn? Go with your first instinct. There are no wrong answers. All flowers are beautiful. In my opinion, don't spend thousands of dollars on them. Literally, you hold your bouquet for a few moments and that's it. Another piece of advice, don't let people "should" on you and don't "should" on yourself. Again, there are no wrong answers. I got stressed over many details and wanted others to tell me that I made the right choice. If you need that too, I'm telling you that if it is what you think is pretty, then you are making the right choice. There will not be anyone judging the final show!

Other materials that you need: flower tape, floral wire, wire cutters, vases, spring water, and satin ribbon to wrap the bouquets.

**Please email me if you would like me to write about other aspects of wedding planning.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Honeymoon Touring Shoes





Me in San Fran! ***


I found my impossible dream--comfortable and cute shoes. I had been looking for some shoes to wear on my honeymoon. We went to San Francisco and walked up and down those hills all week and these shoes were fabulous. They went with all my clothes even though they are pink. In a pinch I think I can even wear them with a casual skirt.

I'm so over trying to teeter around in heels just for fashion's sake. I find it so embarrassing to see women who wear heels that aren't comfortable and who appear to be in pain. Their bodies are jutted forward to balance themselves. When I wear shoes that are uncomfortable just because they fashionable there isn't enough of a payoff for me.

I know some women who prefer heels and I'm a little jealous that they find them so comfy. For me, heels give me an instant headache because it knocks me off balance so much. I used to be able to walk a mile in 4 inch heels but those days are over. I go through the shoe department now and admire the high heels more like art in a museum. I can't have them in my home, but I still love the way they look.

If you are like me and are constantly on the search for feminine and graceful shoes that aren't high heels, I am your ally. These Puma's are wonderful and come in three colors. They are especially great for traveling because they can pass as dressy or at least fashionable with pants or a skirt.

If you haven't discovered Naturalizer yet, give them a look also. They have beautiful and stylish shoes that come in a range of heel sizes.

www.naturalizer.com

Sunday, August 12, 2007

DIY Wedding Bouquet



I feel like I've just uncovered one of the biggest scams of the wedding industry. Yesterday, after talking with a few friends, I decided to do my own wedding flowers. Just in case I was getting in over my head I wanted to do a trial run. Here is my practice bouquet which took me less than five minutes. It doesn't look perfect because the flowers are almost dead. I left them a little too long.

There is a whole new market of producer to consumer floral companies out there. You can even order roses in bulk from Sam's club. I haven't ordered yet so I can't recommend a specific one, but I have seen good reviews online for Sams and www.freshroses.com.

I realize that I am not going to have a genius floral designer to do my flowers, but the truth is that a modern bouquet consists of tightly wrapped roses with little greenery. I was quoted $200 for only my bouquet. There are four bridesmaids bouquets and bouts also to consider. To give you an idea of the savings, you can buy around 100 roses for $80.

Because I have a friend who feels confident in this endeavor, we are also going to do the boutonnieres. The day before the wedding we are going to have a girly party and do the flowers. It will be five bouquets and 10 bouts.

I'm writing this because I want any other bride who is on a budget to know there are options. There is so much marketing for your "perfect day" that in many ways brides check their common sense at the door. We feel like if we want to save money that somehow we are cheating ourselves of perfection. Ridiculous!

Although I would feel more confident telling you about how my flowers turned out rather than the plan, I have already decided that if they are not perfect that is ok! Aren't all flowers beautiful, even one calla lily or one red rose?

I am using my creativity in every possible way without compromising any part of a beautiful wedding. I have questioned myself along the way, asking what is really important to me. Every detail is another few hundred dollars and it really can get out of control-fast! Just one little example is the Guest Book. There are beautiful silk and linen covered guest books that people can sign in at the door and they are around $100. Of course I would pick that out if there were no price difference, but let's think about it. The Guest Book is OPEN so nobody can see the cover. If I saw it right, the inside pages look pretty much the same as the one that I got at Michael's for 9.99. Besides, what am I going to DO with this $100 book after the wedding? Mine has a place for addresses when people sign in, so that is useful to me, but am I going to go reminisce over people's signatures? NO!

That is one example, but some of the "standards" we nixed were monogrammed napkins, wedding favors, and rehearsal dinner. Still, I wouldn't call our wedding a budget wedding, but we are eliminating the parts that don't matter to us.

We have 21 days to go and then we are off to San Francisco for our honeymoon!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fitness Trick with Audible.com

For anyone who needs motivation to do your cardio, I have a little trick for you. I bought a subscription to Audible.com and I ONLY listen to my book when I am on the treadmill or the bike. If you connect listening your book to exercise, you will be more interested in doing your cardio. Voila!

This is really working for me because I am the type of person who would rather have someone to talk to while I do my cardio. I am currently listening to The Nanny Diaries and it is very entertaining. May I add that buying through Audible is much cheaper than buying from Itunes. Now go!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Beauty News: Free Gift Alert

I have a scoop on a beauty gift coming up. Now, my disclaimer is don't go for the gift unless you actually needed to buy something anyway!! I have been searching around for some foundation and found some I like at NM. I usually detest this store because of the snobby salespeople. But, if you are going to spend money on these products anyway, why not get some free perfume and makeup samples. I don't have the list yet, but I know that it starts on September 6, nationwide. I will be on my honeymoon in San Francisco so I'll try to sneak over there and enjoy the experience. Hold off on any purchases so you can take advantage of the event right around the corner.

Me, I'm still planning my wedding. Today I had another tweak of my wedding dress. I think I've had about 6 fittings by now. The process is much more interactive than I anticipated. Today I also tried on my veil to have it altered too. I actually looked like a BRIDE! It was super fun and I'm finally starting to get excited. 24 DAYS!!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Life's Too Short to Wait

Friday I gave my two weeks notice to my current project. I have been dreaming of this for a long time. First I had to pay off all my debts. Then I had to have some savings for my peace of mind. Then I had to have enough time to do the final stage of wedding details before the wedding.

At first it was exhilirating knowing that my time and energy wasn't going to revolve around my work schedule. I hadn't shared my little secret with anyone at work for etiquette foremost, but also not wanting any unsolicited opinions about my decision. Friday afternoon I was outted by my boss in a casual way within a group of my colleagues. They thought he was kidding until my face proved he was telling the truth. I know they were shocked because that is how I have felt many times when my colleagues leave. But this shock also had an aftershock. Mona said, "So where are you going to be working?". I reluctantly admitted "Nowhere.". She screeched in a high pitched voice, "You're going to be a housewife?". Housewife, me? Um, I guess so, for awhile. Or as Judy pointed out, a House Fiance.

Now that the cat's out of the bag. I can say that I will begin doing my true calling/career. As The Closet Therapist, I am beginning to take clients. My mission is to help you become efficient in your own lives. Achieving goals requires developing processes to make some parts of life more simple so you can focus on the important parts. Also, my goal for my clients is to have peace in their closet, peace in their home, and peace within themselves. Peace to me is knowing my options, making a decision, and then moving forward. I have always loved to clean out closets and declutter homes. Writing about it on this blog has opened up my heart and directed me to this decision even further. Being The Closet Therapist is an art in psychology more than anything else. I want to help you see how you are holding yourself back and then enable you to help yourself achieve your true calling too.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

54 Days




This is one of our engagement pictures we recently had taken. The wedding planning is progressing a little every day. Planning to be a Bride is overwhelming, exciting and certainly called a rite of passage for a reason. I have so many experiences I want to share here, but not a lot of time at the moment. That is about to change because I will have more time very soon!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

New Dresses



I'm so excited about my Bridal Shower dresses, I just had to post them here for you to see! I got them both at Talbot's where I never shop, but I had been admiring their party dresses in the window. The quality is divine and I feel like a princess wearing the one with stripes. A bonus was the shrug from the floral dress also matches the striped one.

Update on Forth & Towne

After I wrote about Forth & Towne's lovely website, you all informed me that they are closing in June. So strangely enough I became all the more enticed to visit this store. I instantly made friends with Kirk, a friendly and helpful salesman that offered me many suggestions as well as keeping Gustavo entertained while he waited. He enthusiastically chose items for me and brought them to me in my size. Sometimes we didn't agree about what looked good on me. I said that I didn't like me in black, he disagreed. I still don't like myself in black but it still was altogether a pleasant experience.

I ended up buying a caramel shirt dress with a tie at the waist and the plaid raincoat that day. The next time I went in they were having a sale. I bought the blue jean shirt dress, some tank tops of various bright colors, jewelry & a few shirts. I said in my previous post that the materials were not that great, but the items I purchased had very nice fabric. So far I am wearing and loving them as well as getting compliments because the style is so unique. I also said that some items lack the finishing touches kind of like two buttons that fell off of the blue jean blazer I purchased. Sewing a button back on would have bothered me more if I had paid the original $98 for this jacket.

When I returned for the sale, the clothes I previously purchased had been marked down! Now listen up! Within 14 days most stores will adjust the price you paid if you take your receipt back to them. So literally, they have given me back about $100. That is my kind of shopping, thank you!

Curious George that I am, I wondered how the going out of business proclamation was going to affect the secondary market, aka ebay. There was one seller already selling items from the distributor. I found a jacket from their holiday collection that is a darling swing model, bought it for $14.99 in a size 16, then promptly took it to my tailor to have it resized. My tailor and I are still working to perfect it so I don't look like the Michelin Man.

I will be visiting Forth and Towne again, especially since everything will continued to be marked down. I am being very careful not to buy clothes just because they are on sale. I have bought some things in the frenzy, and took them back. Ladies, don't be afraid to take stuff back that you aren't going to wear. Why waste your money and take up space in your home?

Next weekend I'll be flying to NC for a wedding shower and I've selected an outfit there that is not yet on sale. I normally would have got it at full price, but I'm going to take my chances that it is going to be marked down soon. Risky, I know.

Speaking of the wedding, it is so much work!! I feel like I am just starting to get back in control of my life. Since the engagement, it has been a whirlwind of emotions, activity, decisions, reading and errands. Since I just started a new work project a month ago, I haven't had a lot of time to write here. There are so many things I want to write and I hope to be posting again soon.

Bisous...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Forth and Towne

We are fortunate enough to have two of these stores in Houston. Forth and Towne is a new concept store owned by Gap. There are four different lines of clothes, each with a distinct personality. It's a fun idea and the customer service is a step above most stores. The dressing rooms are in the middle of the store and full of bright, trendy colors. In there you will find the salespeople in there giving feedback on clothes or adding a necklace to go with a dress. It is a great concept.

Having said that, I'm actually writing this to tell you about the website because it is full of great fashion layouts for new outfit inspiration. They don't have online shopping yet, but don't worry because you don't need to buy their clothes. Just use the formulas they set out for you online. It's also fun to see what personality you express through your clothes. I always love a personality test!

Forth and Towne

I did buy some things there before Christmas. I was impressed with the colors and styles, but the clothing lacks the finishing touches that make it great quality. For example I bought a few lightweight sweaters in fantastic colors, but they are a wool blend and wrinkle terribly. Why is everyone doing a wool blend now? I have a Banana Republic 100% merino wool sweater that is 6 years old and looks like the day I bought it. All these wool/spandex, nylon, acrylic, whatnot blends--pooh on them because they don't hold up to washing or wearing. Another item that I bought was a velvet blazer. The outside is fine, but the inside lining is probaby a polyester, supposed to look like silk, and is wearing out after only a few months. Those are the finishing touches I am talking about. Even though the prices are medium range, I would rather buy a quality fabric that is not going to wear out after one season. Even Old Navy clothes have lasted me longer. Go figure.

But don't just go by my little review. I find they have a very unique selection of clothing and in beautiful colors. If you have a store in your town, drop by and have a look. But either way, enjoy the website. Use their outfits as a paint by number sort of model and fill in your own pieces.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Closet Therapist Home Edition

In a recent get-together of the girls of my Newly Nearly Married Class at Sugar Creek, I heard a presentation by another lady in the church. She was so inspiring that I wrote a summary of it for those who weren't there. I'm still so motivated by her ideas that I wanted to share it with you all too.

I'm brewing lots of ideas for future posts. My new part-time job as wedding planner is only making me see how marketing gets the best of us in this area too. We are trying to counter the "It's the most perfect day of your life" mentality with some common sense, but I'm not sure yet who is winning. I can't wait to tell you the story of my wedding dress.

Here is the message I sent to my friends in the class:

WOW!! What a FABULOSO* presentation Kim had for us Tuesday night. I was intrigued, inspired and impressed! She gave so many thought provoking ideas that I just had to take notes, and this morning I'm even taking more as I remember the pearls of wisdom she shared. I could write a book with all the insights I've gained. Thank you Kim!

First of all, I must say, that I felt a teensy bit intimidated at how Kim seems to have her life running so smoothly. As I looked at this Godly, confident, beautiful, impeccably groomed, vivacious woman, I just kept thinking that she seems so "together". Isn't that how I would like to present myself to the world? Yes!

Although my first intinct was to be inspired, the second was to feel overwhelmed with the thought that maybe I'm not that way. Maybe I can't do that. Hello, FEAR, INSECURITY, & LACK OF FAITH. Don't I know that with God all things are possible to those who love him and are called according to his purpose? With God and the role models in Kim, Kathy and each other, I can grow from where I am right now. There is no need to compare myself to her or anyone else.

Kim actually touched on this issue of comparison. She was talking about not comparing your possessions or yourself to others. Be content with what you have because it makes what you have special. Don't feel less because your house isn't as big as a friend or coworkers. Comparing ourselves to others is dangerous breeding ground for discontentment and disappointment. We must walk our own walk. We can't all have Susie's fabulous hair, play an instrument like Holly, have beautiful blue eyes like Sara, teach like Kathy, or any of the other special qualities that girls in the class possess. :) But we can be the very best of ourselves, the self that God made us to be.

Kim gave the example of her son. He loves everything cars, and wasn't interested in much else. Kim and her husband wondered what would become of him because of his single-minded focus on cars, his passion. What happened was that he decided to start a car washing business to earn money to buy himself a car. To this day, that business is thriving and successful. What a wonderful example of using your uniqueness to share with the world. Don't doubt that him taking great care and love to wash cars enhances others lives too.

Isn't this attitude much more satisfying than lamenting what we don't have! I know we've heard it a million times, but implant it in your heart girls-- embrace yourself, love who you are and what you have to offer. What is your passion? Nothing is silly. Kim also made her own business from her passion for cleaning. Her friend and partner from all those years ago (17 years?) is still operating the house cleaning business that they started in their spare time (Mother's morning out days) to earn some extra money. And now Kim is sharing her passion with us so that we may benefit from what she has learned. Not silly at all.

Kim kept repeating a certain phrase that I love. As she was telling us how to clean our homes more efficiently, she said "a little every day". First, get your house clean, then do it a little every day to keep it that way. She has a routine every morning. Two cups of coffee :), makes her bed, and a load of laundry. These things are on auto-pilot for her and keeps the chaos away in her home. Routines give you peace. We have to make our own schedules to fit our needs. Hers is to rest on the weekend and spend time with her family, pick up house on Sunday night, then Monday morning is cleaning day. She also makes it a priority to cook at least 4 meals per week. Her recipes take less than 30 minutes and they are healthy. Kim made the analogy that our home is like a little business. She treats it with respect and diligence to keep it running smoothly.

Her message throughout was that a clean house gives you freedom. When you have your work done, you are prepared. You have the freedom to spend time with your family, have personal devotion time, have people over, or just rest. Cleaning is not the priority, God and people are, but we must manage cleaning as one of our priorities so we can enjoy other aspects of our life. Nobody needs to live in chaos. I read in a book (Flylady's) that CHAOS means "Can't have anyone over syndrome." So true!

Kim brought her cleaning bucket with her. She had inside Windex, Comet, Fabuloso, a sponge in a plastic cup, toilet scrubber in a plastic cup, lambs wool duster, paper towels, dusting cloths (cloth diapers), and white cotton towels for glass, rubber gloves, a toothbrush and a trash bag. She explained how to be efficient while you are cleaning. The basics are: don't be distracted, clean one room at a time, carry your bucket with you, and clear all surfaces before cleaning. Products don't have to be expensive or complicated. Her recommendations for floors are old fashioned mops and a Hoover vacuum cleaner. She mops or vacuums herself out of the room to signal that she is finished with that space.

As Kim went through her presentation she managed to weave in all sorts of advice about relationships too. She expressed how having her house clean and in order (not perfect!) was nurturing and calming to her family. A clean bedroom and made bed shows her husband that romance is a priority and their space is a restful retreat. She taught her children from a very young age to pick up their toys to learn responsibility. Her opinion on friendships was very clear. We need to also make time for our friendships with other women. Kim makes time for God in the morning because she feels that she is giving him her best at that time. Her husband and her have a date night every Friday night and this is a weekly routine for them. She has been married 26 years!

Aren't we so lucky that Kim came to share her secrets with us? I am so inspired by Kim and Kathy too. These are women that make it look easy, but I know that there is discipline, hard work, and faithfulness that allow them to make time for us and accomplish so much.

The great news? We can do this too! My personal motto is "Progress not Perfection" and I'll add Kim's "A little every day". Now go spritz that final shot of Windex** on your life so it will SHINE!


*For those who don't already know. Fabuloso is a cleaning product. I straightaway went out and bought some. I'm not entirely sure it's not addictive because I've mopped three times since.

**You had to be there, but you weren't, so Kim said she always spritzes the counters, sinks, faucets with Windex at the end because it gives is a clean shine.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dun, dun, daa, dunnnn....

That was my rendition of Here Comes The Bride because I got engaged a few weeks ago!! We were on a trip to San Antonio and Gustavo made sure I had the most beautiful and memorable weekend. We went to the symphony, the rodeo, took a boat tour on The Riverwalk. He also scheduled me a facial at The Valencia hotel, which was divine. We went to the beautiful McNay museum and visited The Alamo along with the rest of the missions on the Mission Trail. He proposed to me in a mansion that is now a beautiful restaurant called The Guenther House. They had this lovely gingerbread house at the entrance. The bride and groom on top had
a striking resemblance to us.

After being in shock for at least two full weeks, I have now embraced that I have a new part time job--wedding planner. I joke with my friends that I must have missed out on the Bride Gene because I am not that girl who has her whole wedding planned already. To tell the truth, I always dreamed of eloping to Italy. Now, most guys would be cool with that, but my dear, sweet Gustavo just loves weddings!

I admit that I am coming around to his way of thinking. When I officially reserved the wedding location today, I felt the beginnings of excitement and wonder of all that is a wedding. So, we have the first two key elements tackled, the date and the location. On September 2 we will be married at The Ryan Nicholas Inn.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Interview Your Clothes

This particular time when you are still in the heart of a season, but you know the end is coming is just the right time to interview your clothes. At nearly the end of each season, I like to look through the closet and see what I haven't deemed worthy to wear for the last few months. The timing is crucial because you have to have enough season left to test out these neglected items. If you wait until the weather changes, you are likely to look at each item, declare your undying love for it and put it away for next year.

So, just stop right there. Take a look at the pieces you haven't worn and put them aside to wear this week. There is a reason you are not wearing them and we're going to find out what it is.

Here is the strategy. First, take the time to combine new outfits. Maybe you haven't worn something because it doesn't go with anything you own. Try to work it in to what you already have without buying anything new. Be creative with colors or layering. I'm always surprised at the colors that can work well together. Trinny and Susanna's book What You Wear Can Change Your Life has many surprising, but beautiful color combinations. Paint chips are also an interesting (and free!) inspiration for color combos.

Try on your outfit. If it makes it out the door, be aware of how it makes you feel. We are investigating why you haven't worn this item all season. Is the color bad for you? Does it not fit well? Too short? Too long? Does it just make you feel yucky? Is it worn out? Sweater pilling? Stain? Pay attention! Sometimes I have done this exercise only to come home at lunch and put the item in the to-go box. If you realize now why you don't like it, LET IT GO. You have given this garmet it's trial and now it is guilty, so bu-bye.

Always have a to-go bag or box. Someone will be very happy to receive these things! My to-go box contains read magazines, lipsticks that don't work for me, jewelry I don't wear anymore, clothes, products I don't like for some reason. I have various people I donate my things to and it's great! I bring magazines to a friend at work who has a teenage daughter. I donate clothes to a charity unless I know someone in particular who would like them. It really is fun! It's important to keep the FLOW going in your home. Bring it in and take it out.

If you haven't realized it yet, this is actually just a sneaky way to get you to start cleaning out your closet. I know it is hard to get rid of things that you purchased. You may be in "I may need it someday" camp and I understand! I hope this helps you to see that if you don't like wearing it today that you will never like wearing it. This also slows down the closet cleaning process to one item at a time which is a pace that some people need. Evaluate each item based on the strategy above, and be aware next time you are in the dressing room to evaluate the same way. Don't be seduced by a great price or a brand. If it doesn't work for you, let it stay at the store.

On the other hand, now is also the time to fill in the gaps of your winter wardrobe. As you go through your closet make notes, yes literally write it down, of what would be an asset to combine with your current pieces.

The sales are on their last leg here, but you can still find wool and cashmere at great prices. If you need a winter coat, boots, sweaters, wool pants, or winter accessories-hat, scarf, gloves, now is the time to find those things on sale. When I am shopping, I already have a list in my head of what I want/need. I like to be open about the details, but I have guidelines. For example, I need some a couple new wool sweaters and I found a merino wool orange turtleneck at Banana Republic for $18.00. It's perfect because I wanted it, needed it, and found it in a color I can combine with my wardrobe.

Ladies, it's not perfect when you have to reinvent your wardrobe to match the great deal. Beware of having to buy more to work around it. This new item should go with many things that you already have. If it doesn't, be realistic and ask yourself if you are buying it for a fantasy wardrobe that doesn't fit your actual lifestyle.

And this is a rule I always apply. If you haven't worn a new item in a week, please take it back. Spend your money on what you will actually wear. I know it may be lovely or a great deal, but what is the point of it hanging in your closet unworn? This action defies logic, but I have done it and I bet so have you.

The exception to the take it back rule is a replacement. When you are interviewing your clothes, make a note of any item that will need to be replaced within the next year. Maybe they are ok to get you through this season because there isn't much season left, but take advantage that you have almost a whole year to find your perfect replacement. You can shop wisely and be selective when you have so much time.

Most of all, have fun! Editing and acquiring a great wardrobe for yourself takes years. Both steps are required to keep your personal style current and your clothes in good condition.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Puerto Rico-Isla del Encanto



This is Gustavo and me in Puerto Rico over Christmas. I am eating oysters for the first time ever. Closing my eyes seemed appropriate in preparation for the rumored sliminess I had been afraid of all my life. The first one I sucked into my mouth, and I said "Do I chew it or just swallow it?" I should have had instructions first. I always heard that you just swallow them, so the first one I swallowed. I didn't really see the point of eating something that I didn't even taste. So the next many, many that I ate, I chewed. I was completely entranced by the freshness of the oyster combined with the saltiness of the ocean and tartness of the lime. If the ocean could itself could be served, it would taste like this.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Very Stylish Girl

Style is hard to define isn't it? It is such an individual pursuit and each of us has to define it for ourself. I believe there are two sides of style or chic. There is the outward expression and the inward expression. The line between the two is crossed very easily because someone who is very stylish outwardly, but unkind or harsh loses their stylish status to me. Of course there is also the phenomenon where someone who doesn't appear to be stylish at all on first glance turns out to exude such passion and warmth that you find yourself looking again.

Style to me is definitely more than what I am wearing, but I can't say that it doesn't include what I am wearing. They are both important, but ultimately being a stylish girl is cultivated inside of me. I propose to you that fixing your inside style will make your outside style glow, and you will be one of the impossibly stylish girls who has it all.

With that I give you my Very Stylish Girl List for 2007.

1. Simplicity is an ever-hopeful goal. I long for simplicity in all areas of my life from my skincare, makeup, wardrobe, cooking, budget and relationships. The irony is that attaining simplicity isn't simple at all. We are constantly bombarded with things that we need or want. Before seeing it on the commercial, in the magazine or in the store we didn't actually need it or want it, but now do. That is good marketing.

Simplicity requires thought, organization and a certain state of mind. Well, I am not perfect, and maybe ultimate simplicity will always be my unreachable goal, but I find it very stylish to manage my life so that I have simplicity where I can.

2. Recycling, because it make me conscious of the impact I have on the environment. I have to take my recycling to the center and it is not convenient, but I consider it important. To me, it is just a basic responsibility. The act of recycling connects me to the cycle of buying. I don't just put it in the trash and consider that it disappears. It goes somewhere.

3. Choosing my purchases in a decided and conscious way. Most of the time (not always!) we are the victims of our own decisions, not victims of circumstances outside of our control. When you choose to purchase a car or house or too many shoes that keeps you working overtime and stressed, know that it is your choice. Part of living consciously is knowing that if you want that house or car or shoes that is ok, but enjoy them fully knowing that you are trading your life energy (or work) to own them. How we spend our money affects us in so many ways, so be informed. Don't just be a product of marketing or competetion with others. Remember that trends always change and you will never really keep up with them. What you decide to purchase impacts other parts of your life.

4. Cultivating relationships with family and friends. Let's face it, family and friends are really what makes life worth living. Connection to others is so precious and valuing them more than things is something we need to work on as a culture. We have become a nation of neighborhoods where people don't know their neighbors, we work too much and are too materialistic. Our focus has turned away from relationships with people and towards relationships with our cars, houses and credit cards.

5. I have been on a mission for a long time to make a campaign against shopping as the national pasttime. I am guilty as anyone except that I don't actually enjoy shopping, but it is necessary if you want to buy something. The point is that shopping as your only hobby is just not chic. It is not living your life. It is buying the illusion of living your life. Think about this for yourself. Do you shop when you are bored or depressed. If you have a free afternoon, do you go to the mall? Do you have other passions in your life? Shopping can be an addiction, and it's not cool, which leads me to my next one.

6. Being debt free is totally stylish. I am personally on a mission to get out of debt in the next six months. I was out of debt 2 years ago, got into debt by investing in a home office for work, moving to Houston & not finding a job for 6 months. The great thing about accomplishing something once is that you know you can do it again. When I graduated from college I had $25,000 in debt. In four and a half years I paid it all off and bought my first condo. Ok, I didn't pay the condo debt off, of course. I did not have a high salary, but I did have a very modest lifestyle. It led me to live a creative life and I loved it.

7. Eliminating clutter. I just read the book Clearing Your Clutter with Feng Shui. She talks about stuck energy. The concept is self explanatory. Clutter leaves you stuck. You need to move it out to move on with your life. This is something that I've instinctively known for a long time. I know how difficult it is to get rid of things. When you look at a pile or an object, describe what you are feeling. There is a reason you can't let it go.

8. When in doubt, just be generous. This is a motto that Gustavo and I came upon while traveling over Thanksgiving. He had his shoes shined and when it came time to tip he gave the guy a dollar for a $4 service. It seems adequate, but he was lamenting about it all the way to the next concourse. It occurred to us, why not just err on the side of being generous. I personally feel that tipping has gotten WAY out of control in many venues, but in some cases it is the right gesture. I'm not sure about tipping on the drivethrough to Starbucks, but why not tip generously the guy who just lifted your suitcases out of the shuttlebus?.

We have to live with our conscience. When it comes to being generous, go ahead and pay the compliment, give the tip, hold the door open, smile at someone, or bake cookies for your neighbor. It isn't always necessary, but do it anyway. I find that I'm the one who actually receives the blessing because it feels great.

9. Forgive. Holding grudges is not chic. Besides the whole wrinkling issue with fretting, be compassionate with your forgiveness and you will feel more peaceful inside and look more peaceful outside. This takes practice and sometimes a good imagination. Not if, but when you feel assaulted by someone just imagine that they have a reason for being so nasty. Be happy that you don't. Stop the anger by putting up your little guard that deflects their energy into another universe and doesn't absorb into you. You choose how to react. You decide who you are, and same for them. Forgiveness is an action that shows that you are in control of yourself. That is stylish. Don't regret yesterday and don't worry about tomorrow. Don't waste your time holding grudges.

10. Cooking is so chic. After all, didn't someone say that food is love? Cooking is a creative outlet that gives immediate rewards and endears you to the recipients of your epicurean delights. This is a hobby that nourishes our bodies, our minds and our relationships. Having a dinner party can be as simples as soup, a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. Where there is food, people gather. Even if you are alone, take pride in your food. Buy yourself the best. What you put IN your body is more important that anything you put ON it. Cooking isn't about perfection, but it is about the experience of enjoying a basic need of life.

11. Smile with your eyes from your heart. Be a sylish girl on the outside, and let your inner beauty come out through your smile. We are in certain places and with certain people for a reason. Smile because you can. You can find joy in your life no matter the circumstances.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Spring 2007 Color Report

Heavens to Betsy, I'm in love! The Pantone fashion color report for Spring 2007 shows a beautiful display of midtone colors. I so excited that I may finally get something yellow in my wardrobe. I adore the grapemist too, looks like periwinkle. Browse through the download on the site and have a gander of what's to come.

Remember that this chart pretty universally dictates what colors will be available for you and me when we go shopping. If you love these colors, save up and buy some investment pieces in your colors. If they are not your colors, take the opportunity to shop your closet and wait patiently until your colors come back in vogue again.

If you like a color, but it doesn't like you, there are fun ways to combine so you can get away with it. Try pairing a color that washes you out with a color that doesn't. Or you can keep the color as an accessory away from your face. Oh, just have fun, but don't feel obligated to buy anything if it isn't flattering. There are always consignment shops.

The most important thing is although colors can be trendy, if it is YOUR color it is always stylish for you. The trick is to buy a classic cut in your colors so they will last you many years. Think cashmere sweater, purse, coat, scarf, or suit. Even neutral colors come in and out of style. Black is always around, but navy, chocolate, british tan, etc come and go, so if you want a suit in these neutrals you have to scoop them up when they are in style.

If you already have your base wardrobe, you can update your look with a few tops in these colors or fun jewelry. I love the look of a basic suit with a ruffle front chiffon blouse and coordinating purse & jewelry.

Yellow!! I'm so happy!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yoga Classes

Happy New Year!

I want to report a website that gives a wonderful gift to us, free yoga. The address is www.yogatoday.com and it is a new, fresh daily class transported from Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I don't make fitness resolutions, but fitting yoga or pilates into my busy life has been a goal of mine for awhile. The cost, the driving, not knowing where to go, etc. kept me from doing anything besides a few positions I learned from pictures and past classes. And trust me, doing Downward Facing Dog for a total of 45 seconds was only effective for amusing my dog.

The true goal of my desire to do yoga or pilates is improving my posture. Years of hunched over a keyboard causes the shoulders to curve in, the neck and head to go forward, and tension to accumulate in the back. I consciously think about my posture throughout the day or when I'm walking, but the fact is that certain muscles need to be released or strenghtened. Willpower to sit up straight isn't enough.

This site has been a Godsend for me. I am so thankful for these women who have the intention for everyone to have access to yoga. Some days the classes are focused completely on the spine, which is personally my favorite. But having the variety of a new class every day is like a belated Christmas surprise waiting for me to open!

The teachers are knowledgeable and the classes are complete with thorough instruction. It is an education because they are constantly giving little tidbits of information, and I boy do I love to learn. The classes are an hour long every day, but don't feel like you have to do it all in the beginning. Just turn it on and do what you can. I'll bet the next day you'll feel inspired to do a little more. Create for yourself some space on the floor with a towel or mat. Wear loose fitting clothes and no socks or shoes. I felt the tension start melting away almost immediately. And the next day, I was l more relaxed and a little sore actually because it is also a great workout.

Nordstrom Anniversary Try On Session

I BRAVED the Nordstrom sale yesterday with two kids in a very large stroller.  I wish I could say it was a fun experience but it was extre...