Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's In Your Tree?

Christmas decorating for me has always been pulling out all the ornaments and decorations that people have given me over the years. I buy lights and the Christmas tree and the rest is a hodge podge of sentimental things. Every item has a story. I had so much fun and a few tears remembering all the people who gave them to me, and of course my Mother, who several years ago gave me many of them from my childhood.

This year was no different, except that I got ambitious and made my own wreaths. I was only planning to do one but my over-achieving competitive husband wanted to do three. We compromised at two and this is what we ended up with after a long but very fun evening of wreath making.

This beauty is the one that I made. It's not as full as I would have liked but we ran out of branches. If you have never made one, it's pretty easy and very inexpensive. I'm a wanna-be crafty person but my desire to keep things simple sometimes interferes with the final product. If it gets too expensive I start to think that I should just buy one that is already made and professional. I would give you a tutorial but I think you'd be better off finding someone that really knows what they are doing. I can tell you that all you need is a wreath wire, which costs a few dollars, some wire to secure some of the branches and all the stuff you want to decorate it.

I got one clump of berries and cut them off, some cardinals and a bow with a bell. The branches are from the Christmas tree. I grabbed them as they cut them off to trim the trunk for us. Next time I'll grab extra if there is any because you can use it all over the house to decorate. It doesn't need water and lasts a long time. This wreath in total costs less than $10. It's so welcoming and smells wonderful when you come through the door.

The other wreath that G and his brother worked on was bigger and skinnier. G is nothing if not an engineer and their joke was that they must "secure the branches". They were so secure that the wreath ended up super skinny. I stashed some smaller pieces into the wire to add some bushiness. It's our Charlie Brown Christmas Wreath!

We got our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. As soon as I saw it was from the Blue Ridge Mountains, I was sold. It was like a little piece of home. Can you spot all those Williams Sonoma boxes under the tree! I can't wait to see what they are! Did you notice that we also have five stockings this year? That is because G's brother, his wife and 11 year old son that are still living with us. Christmas is going to be a little bigger this year.

I've already decided that the day after Christmas I will be shopping for decorations for next year. Even though I love all my hodge podge things, I felt it was time to step it up to some things more reflective of my style. Target, West Elm and Crate and Barrel are definitely on my to do list for that day of shopping craziness. I'll also be reorganizing all the Christmas ornaments so that they are not only protected but easy to pack and unpack every year. Maybe the Container Store will have something that I can afford for Christmas ornament organization in the after Christmas sale.

What is your Christmas style? Are you a keep it simple person or do you go all out with Santa soap in the bathroom and a full set of Christmas dishes? Do you use sentimental ornaments or a designer tree with matching balls?

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas with all your loved ones in person or in spirit. Remember that the day is a celebration of Jesus coming to this world to eventually die on a cross as a sacrifice for all of us. I hope that this new year brings many blessings as well as clutter-free and organized lives for all of us!

P.S. And for something totally off topic, since I'm showing you a picture of our fireplace, I want to take a little poll. Should we paint the bricks white and as Gustavo warns "lose the brick color forever"? Or, should we leave it as is?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Luxury is Space in Your Closet

I'm at Starbuck's getting half-caffeinated and extremely sugared up with this Caramel Brule Latte and wanted to report on a new challenge for decluttering. Bonjour Madame mentioned to me after my last post that there was a 100 Things Challenge going around the blogworld in November. I almost passed it up because I missed it but decided that it's never too late!

After she mentioned it in my comments section, I was so inspired that we started cleaning out our closet right away. I don't need much coaxing to declutter! The items added up quickly at first and for a couple days was in a holding pattern at 70 things. I'm happy to report that we have gone beyond 100 things now and are ready to start over again.

Our to-go bags included everything from clothes, tupperware with lids that don't seal, makeup I don't use, etc. Yesterday I threw some things out of my gym makeup bag. An easy place to declutter was G's overnight bag. I think I'm the only one who cleans it out because there were many expired medicines in there. Maybe I cheated, but I counted things I threw in the trash that I had been keeping. My secret confession is that I have my old positive pregnancy tests, just because those two lines were so special. As soon as I get those two lines again, I will throw the old ones away, I promise!

I think that this challenge is like peeling back layers of an onion. At first you start pitching things that are easy to let go and then you have to go to the next level, which is harder and exposes more of your clutter tendencies. That next level doesn't mean that I'm done, it just means that some things may need more consideration. Would I get rid of more clothes if I knew someone in particular needed them? I definitely would. On my list to go through next, besides magazines (still), are books, a few more lipsticks and socks.

After going through all my things I feel so spoiled and even greedy with all those unopened presents under the tree. I have so much and I'm sure you all do as well. It's a reminder that I want to have a simplified life and exercises like this are necessary to accomplish that. It also helps to see some things we may already have and make some goals to abstain from purchases for awhile. I've already given a moratorium for a couple of years on all perfume purchases for gifts because I have so much.

Why don't you join me on your own 100 Things Challenge? You can do it over the holidays while you are off work and get in those end of year donations and tax deductions! Tell me what's in your to-go bag? Send me a link if you post it on your blog.

Image from here.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Clutter: A disorderly heap or assemblage

I'm at home cooking a pot of soup for dinner and feeling really overwhelmed. I recently hosted a cookie exchange in our home and had to make it presentable for a party and that is when I realized that I need to do some de-cluttering and reorganizing. It doesn't take long for things to start multiplying and getting out of control. Since my sweet Mother passed away, I integrated many of her things into our house which made less space for my stuff. Now that Christmas is coming, I already feel less able to breathe thinking about buying even more.

Magazines have been my nemesis and my delight for as long as I can remember. I used to love receiving a new magazine in the mail, not turning each fresh page until I had devoured every last word. I had stopped subscribing to anything except Domino (RIP Domino!) when along came a letter saying I would lose my skymiles unless I used them. With this threat in hand what could I do with all those miles except order about 7 new subscriptions.

What is it about throwing out unread magazines that strikes me in the "don't waste" nerve? I must read them before giving them away. And then, what about throwing them away? Well, I feel that I am throwing away information that someone else can use. Another element is the magazines that I won't throw away because I use them for reference, like decorating magazines. Oh, and then I have the stack of pages that I have ripped out of magazines for inspiration. Sigh. I used to have them all organized in a binder but gave that binder away because my styles had changed. Something needs to be done about this. Obviously I have issues, no pun intended!

Here is my secret stash of magazine clutter

That's not all my magazines though! I have more in the closet upstairs that I decided a long time ago to keep. I will be going through those after this Mt. Everest is conquered.

It's not only magazines that are making me feel overwhelmed though. It's just things laying around that don't have a home. Because I made room for my Mom's things, I feel like I don't have enough open space for new things. I don't know what this means in feng shui, but I feel a little stifled. One of the main ways I manage to stay organized is having a place where everything "lives". This is where proper use of organizing materials comes in. It doesn't work to just take all the extra stuff and put it in a bin. There needs to be a purpose and a plan for the things you own. Besides that, those organizing things can also be a visual clutter.

Mail can be a definite clutter problem in many homes but I feel like I have that mostly in control. I do look through all the catalogs that come in the mail but don't have a problem throwing them in the recycling fairly quickly. After all, it's all online for me to see again if I have the need. I usually flip through things I want to read while watching TV because it doesn't take my full focus and attention. My mail gets opened, thrown away or paid immediately. I can't risk not paying a bill on time because it's in a stack of clutter somewhere. I pay online when possible so that I don't even get the bill. I file away the statement part of the bill with the check number and date that I paid it.

There are so many places for the excess to multiply quickly. The bathroom can get filled with old potion bottles that didn't work for you. I haven't bought any new shampoo, conditioner, face cleanser and many more things for over a year. I inherited all of my Mother's personal items and I'm enjoying using them but even before that I had a goal to use everything up. It's fun to get rid of those bottles, finally!

The kitchen can become packed and non-functional too when you have too many gadgets. I am so tempted by kitchen items but I analyze what I really need because I don't have a lot of storage space. I almost asked for a mini Cuisinart chopper for Christmas until I realized that my Braun multiquick attachment does the same thing. I admit I do have a lot of kitchen things already thanks to generous wedding gifts!

My first instinct today was to run to Ikea or The Container Store to buy something to make myself feel more organized. I managed to pull myself back and tell myself that I need to go through what I have before organizing clutter. Putting those magazines in a bin in the garage won't help the problem. I must go through them and let them go. I don't have any problem giving them away, it 's just doing it before I read them! My drawers are also getting full and it's not nice to keep shoving things in there. A little clutter problem that would be easy to solve is corralling all the remote controls. I hate seeing them on my tables!

Remote controls are NOT chic!

So what's in your to clean out and organize list? I'm going to start with the pile of magazines and resolve to not subscribe to any more. The truth is that I don't find them relevant to my life any more. There was a time when I pored over them thinking they offered me wisdom but now it's like reading the same thing over and over every month. I just think,"who cares about that?" I'm sure that I am not alone in that thought and that is why so many blog readers have replaced the reading audience of magazines.

I think it's a great time of year to clear out or organize what you have been putting off. We will be getting so many new things and it's time to part with the old, or bless someone else with your things. What's your clutter nemesis? Are you a magazine hoarder like me, or is it jewelry or lipstick? The confessional is open, let me hear about your secret stashes!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Gifts You Leave Behind

I want to write about an essential part of organizing yourself and your home that will affect others more than organizing any other thing in your life. Organizing your personal documents so that when you are gone others can find them, understand them and use them is a morbid thought but necessary too. How you take care of this important matter can let your family know that you prepared them when they are not prepared.

The most basic two things you need are a monthly filing system, and a place for the most important documents that you don't need often. Ideally it would be great if you had a fireproof box with all the pertinent documents like passport, marriage certificate, deeds, life insurance policy, will etc. If you are the one who handles the bills, you need to make your system accessible for your partner to pick up the pieces and move on because the bills still need to be paid. My Mom had all the bills in a little box in the kitchen which was simple but effective. My Stepfather was able to quickly sort through them and see what was due. Fortunately on my last visit in April, my Mom and I shredded a mountain of old papers so that was all cleaned out. Thank you Mom for keeping up with the shredding!

My personal system is to file anything that I still get a bill for in the mail. I don't keep the envelopes. (I hate it when people do this!) Anything that is online, I get the bill through email or have it automatically drafted each month so I don't have a paper copy. You don't need to print it out! I don't think you have to keep long records of utilities and credit card bills. I usually just keep the current year. You don't have to keep records for all the companies because they do it for you. If you do most of your bills online, have a list of websites and passwords so that your spouse can know what is going on and access them easily. The main idea is to have a system so that others can follow it. When that time comes, they will be so thankful that they don't have to be wasting time searching for things. This is going to benefit you too. Make your system easy enough for you to actually use it. Piles and piles of bills laying around is not acceptable! I love organizing "things" but keeping a filing system is really simple and doesn't have to cost a lot of money. For the record, I don't like those accordion files because I find them cumbersome but it's better than nothing.

Something that you may or may not know is that when someone dies there is a lot of paperwork to be done. Besides having to plan the funeral which can take a lot of emotional energy, you have to file for the death certificate. If your spouse can't find the marriage license, they will have to order a new one. It is a simple task but added to the load, it doesn't seem simple at all. My stepfather couldn't find their marriage license and he spent a lot of time and energy looking for it before ordering a new one. When you have been married a long time, this is bound to happen to some people! It's definitely not something you need every day.

The life insurance policy is another document that needs to be found quickly so that it can get started processing to pay for the funeral. Is yours easy to find? Do you have life insurance? If you can get it when you are young, it's so much cheaper and the rate is locked in for 20-30 years. Mine is for $100k and only $102 a year. I based my amount on paying off my condo and paying for my funeral. When we have kids, I'll increase it.

The biggie in planning is a will. As I type this, I admit that a will has been on our to do list for awhile. I had one when I was single but we need one as a married couple. This is so important!!! My Mom didn't have a will. She only used to say "You'll get all my jewelry." When I stood in her room looking at her jewelry armoire with all her jewelry, I couldn't just cart it all away. Not only do I not need all that jewelry but I realize that there are so many important girls and women in her life that wanted something special too. Even if you make a list of your belongings that you would like given to certain people, do it! It just makes things smoother for everyone. To be honest, if I could have read something that she wrote about the certain things she wanted me to have, it would have felt like a message from beyond. At that time, you need to feel contact with the one who passed. Do this gift for your loved ones!

So what about creating a filing system that works for you? I'm not going to reinvent the wheel because I found a great website that already outlines it and I agree with it. The key is to not make it complicated. When you are struggling with tossing something, ask yourself if you can get it again from the company. Most companies have back statements online if you ever want to see them.

Here is a basic file box or you can be creative and match your office or home decor. Mine are in our coat closet so no need to be fancy. I do go crazy for those pretty file folders and have some but you can't see them when things are filed. If you have things you need to carry around with you, then I guess they would be great. I love the idea of this storage ottoman being used as a filing system.

Probably the most urgent thing to do for us is to have a will done. Depending on where you live, if you don't have one it could cause problems for your spouse. You need to make it clear that you want everything to go to them and not the state, definitely not the state! Check out this site for more information about why you need a will.

I wish all of you a very happy Thanksgiving! I have a lot to be thankful for even now. We will be spending our holiday in Houston with my some friends and their family. I'm making pumpkin pie and deviled eggs just to be sure that I get some American traditional food. Puerto Ricans have different ideas of Thanksgiving food and even though it's good, sometimes you want what reminds you of home.

Image from here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Prodigal Blogger

Picture of my Mother and Nancy buttoning up my dress.

It has been a long time avoiding writing and I have really missed blogging, not only because of the creative outlet but because of the people I "meet" through doing it. Thank you so much for your sweet comments asking where I am. I'm here and always brewing posts in my mind but just couldn't make myself post. I think there is just too much bubbling and I find it hard to focus.

Despite that, I am writing and hope to get back to regular posting. I knew that my first post back would have to share the monumental changes in my life. My Mother died. It really hurts to write that and I miss her so much. I never knew how transforming losing a parent is until it happened to me. I could write many words but there really are no words to describe the loss. There is a part of me that wants to make her proud more than ever, and that has to include using my gifts to help others. As silly as it sounds that I love to help people clean out closets and declutter, it is my calling.

Another huge change in our lives is that my husbands brother, wife and 11 year old son moved in with us in August. We have the room in our house but two families living in the same house has been a huge adjustment for us.

So I hope you'll come back and visit me as I try to write more often. When I went home for a few weeks I helped my Aunt Delores clean out her house and I have a lot of advice stemming from that experience! I also gained some perspective on how not being organized can affect your family when a death occurs. More to come!

Monday, August 03, 2009

If you love Anthropologie style, see this

This commercial reminds me so much of Anthropologie. When it comes on I am so mesmerized by her unique voice and her style. I just stare at the TV like a 2 year old stares at Teletubbies, mesmerized.

So if you like Anthropologie, enjoy this commercial.

One more thing if you love Anthropologie style but don't love the prices, try Ruche. This online shop has some really cute and affordable items. They sell out fast but if you get on their email list you can see them when they first come out. I've gotten a couple shirts and a pair of earrings from them.

What about you? Where do you find inspiration and deals on your clothes. I love Etsy too because it supports small businesses. Send me the link to your favorites so I can be inspired too.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Nordstrom Personal Shopping or How I Like to Pretend I'm Rich

As promised, I am here to report the goods on my personal shopper appointment, but first I want to tell you what led me to this moment. In the last year I have been in fashion limbo. It started last August with my first miscarriage, then trying to get pregnant for 6 months, then getting pregnant, then having a another miscarriage, recovering and now trying again has been exasperating to say the least. During this time I've gained 10 pounds and even though I'm trying to get it off, my clothes are tight. Even before the weight gain, I was in limbo because of not wanting to invest in clothes before getting pregnant. So my closet needed a bridge between unworn old work clothes and a little too tight casual clothes and jeans.

Since my life right now is mostly casual, I like the idea of a t-shirt and jeans or capris but it looks so sloppy on me. I needed shirts and pants as easy to put together as a t-shirt but one step above in the way it looks. We go to a lot of parties, as in bbqs and baby showers, and I wanted these clothes to work for that too. When a girl is trying to be fiscally responsible, it's a lot to take into account with a potential changing body to dress.

My Goals: Mission Nordstrom Personal Shopper

1. Buy one cool outfit for going to casual parties.
2. Get out of my fashion rut and be open to new possibilities.
3. Buy some clothes that fit my body now.
4. Have fun and soak it all up!
5. Report back to you.

I have had a few days to process my personal shopping experience at Nordstrom. If I had written about it fresh from the store, you would have felt me bursting with excitement and the adrenaline rush that it was. Even though there were some things that could have been better, I'm not going to discount it because it was an amazing, totally worth it experience. I loved the personal attention and I will definitely do it again.

When I arrived, Scotty Smith, a total doll by the way, met me and escorted me up to the women's department. Since I had already informed him that I wanted to try on some 7 jeans, he started picking those out. He also went through and showed me some tops that would look nice on me. I agreed with most of what he picked but I wouldn't have picked them out on my own. In the dressing room, I tried on and tried on while he continued to gather more items. He brought me different sizes or different styles based on what had worked for me. Just for the schlepping alone, who could resist doing this?

After we finished with the clothing department, he led me through the shoe department, and then jewelry, which I decided to skip, then the purses which I would have indulged had I fell in love with one. A purse purchase was "G Approved"! I did have him hold a coral-red colored Kate Spade but I changed my mind. There were lots of Marc Jacobs buttery leather ones too. I'm so picky about my purses because I don't like to change mine that often so it has to go with lots of outfits.

My husband asked me if it was like What Not To Wear because he knows I love that show. It would have been cool (except for the humiliation) but it wasn't. He wanted me to get the full spiel of style advice and great clothes that work for me. Since it was the first day of the sale my shopper was a little distracted because he is the manager and kept being paged. I think maybe style advice would usually be a part of it though. However, he already chose for me what he thought would look nice so essentially it was unspoken style advice.

One of the big perks for me was being shown different departments and brands than I usually visit. I tend to have certain labels that I look at and ignore the rest. Knowing what brand and size looks great on you can be so useful, especially if you are getting a great deal online. I like to look at gilt.com and ruelala.com and it's essential that you know your size. BCBG and Karen Kane shirts seemed to be what worked for my style the best. He threw in a 100% silk Diane Von Furstenburg that looked great but I had to veto because of the delicate material. I'm a bit of klutz and my clothes need to be cleanable.

Here are some of the items he picked out for me:
BCBG Dress

BCBG Shirt

BCBG Shirt
Link to Nordstrom here

7 for all Mankind Jeans Dojo Petite Style

Steve Madden jeweled flats in Navy

There was obviously a lot more that I tried on but what did I end up buying? I got a Karen Kane top that wasn't in the sale but must be sold out because it is not on the site anymore, a green Halogen blazer above, the 7 jeans above, the BCBG kimono shirt above, and the navy flats. I also got G two pairs of 7 jeans and 2 TD shirts. After I got home, I decided to take back the kimono shirt and get the BCBG dress instead. Also, after trying on the navy flats with my jeans I realized that I would have to have my pants hemmed to wear them so I took them back. I wish they had just a little heel because I love them.

Every year I also take advantage of the reduced prices to get a new bra and underwear. I was fitted a few years ago there in the lingerie department which is another must do experience. Apparently bras don't last forever (who knew?) and should be replaced every year or two. My favorite underwear used to be the Hanky Panky but Natori has become my new love. Of course I always aspire to have bra and panties matching!! G doesn't understand why women wouldn't match them, don't they come in a set? I won't show you what I got but I always go for Chantelle bras.

Right before I had this appointment, I had ordered two pairs of jeans from Rue La La, which came in a few days ago. I got the Citizens of Humanity Dita style which are a bootcut style but petite. I love that the jeans companies are now doing shorter styles so I don't have to have them hemmed. They were a great price at $99 each. I feel funny saying that because I used to think that was way too much money for jeans.

Since Friday I started looking on ebay seeing if I could find some cute BCBG and Karen Kane tops to go with what I got. There are lots of cute ones to be found at great prices. Most of them are even new with or without tags. I have two coming in the mail, one that I got for $17.00 and the other for $41.00.

The Bottom Line--Why Get a Personal Shopper:

1. Get the Right Stuff : As the personal shopper carrying all my items led me through the purse department explaining how the jewel toned purses would accent my fall wardrobe, people were staring at me. (Who's that girl?) It was really cool to be cruising through the section with intention and guidance. If you don't have money to waste and need help selecting some clothes, it is an even better reason to have some help. I did find the jewel tones great but quickly realized that these colors are very trendy and that I would not be spending $200 on a trendy colored purse. That is not an investment worthy purchase for me. So even though the personal shopper might tell you one thing, you still have to use your own noggin to filter it.

2. Personal Service: If the promise of all the schlepping didn't do it for you, how about someone there to only talk about you and how these clothes look on you. There is no impatient husband waiting for you, giving unhelpful comments when asked. There is no friend telling you about some drama in her life, or even trying on clothes too and wanting your opinion on hers. It's all about you and sometimes a girl needs that.

3. Building a Wardrobe: Creating a relationship with a personal shopper doesn't mean that you have to spend thousands of dollars at a time. I'm sure they would prefer that though! I think it would be perfectly acceptable to go in when you are starting a new career, perhaps just out of college, and buy a suit for an interview with shoes, and all you need for that. After you get the job, you could go back for some other building blocks to add to the suit. Maybe you have a wedding, or an event that you need a dress to wear. If you buy that dress well, it can take you through many events for many years.

4. Investment: Everyone talks about investment pieces in your wardrobe which I completely believe in but not every piece of clothing is an investment into the future. Of course you can buy things that are expensive and seem like an investment but they won't last in your closet. Just like I had to walk away from the jewel toned bags in teal and berry, the hot colors right now, you can decide what will be worth spending the big bucks on. For me, jeans are worth it. So maybe you don't need a personal shopper to pick out a purse but if you have trouble navigating some part of shopping, why not use this free service?

5. Finding the Right Fit: Who doesn't want clothes that flatter them? I think this is one of the keys to style that is hardest to achieve. We are really at the mercy of trends and the shape of clothes is part of those trends. The last couple of seasons it is hard to find a shirt that doesn't look like maternity with all those empire waists. How about skinny jeans for a fit that doesn't work for many people. I loved that Scotty chose things for me that fit my body well and flattered my own shape. Since I have an hourglass figure, covering up my waist can make me look really chunky. So if you have a particular body issue that you are having trouble with, maybe they can pick things out for you that you didn't know would work for you. I think having an unbiased person helps get out of ruts and get beyond body image issues.

So that's my report from the "field". I'm so happy to have had this experience. I don't think I'll be doing it again in the near future but I can see myself going back for a seasonal update, or even an event I need to shop for like a Christmas party or wedding. I'm curious if this post will inspire any of you to make your own appointment. If you do, let me know how it goes and of course what you get!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Aspiring to Quirky Cottage Style Decorating

Life has been all about home improvement lately! I wanted to show off our little projects we've been doing around the house. Other news is that we bought another car. We've been saving for 1 1/2 years and we reached our goal to be able to pay cash for a car. It's a sporty two door Honda Accord that G has claimed as "his". He looks so good in it that I can't deny him that! So let's get on to Show and Tell!

Here is the headboard that I built all myself! G was in the field that week. It's super easy, even for me, who pondered how to nail two boards together. I also spray painted those lamps white. They were wooden lamps with a brass accent and have been in my Mom's house since as long as I can remember. They are still a little spindly looking but they'll do until the perfect ones come along. Looking at this picture, I definitely need a new bed skirt too. In the mail are new 2 inch blinds for this room. The whole house has these hideous mini blinds that we are going to replace one room at a time.

This is the view from the other side of the room. I'm still working on this room, and all of the house really. Here are my famous pink chairs. If you are looking for the perfect grey paint, this is Forde Abbey by Ralph Lauren. That is my stack of magazines that I'm working through. Of course some (Domino) I can't ever throw away!

These are our new faucets in the master bathroom. Gustavo labored intensely for several hours prying the bottom pipe loose. Our old ones were so grungy and gross! Now I don't ever want these to get dirty. Those are our new soap dispensers too. They came from Target and I love them! Mine has Dr. Bronner's Almond in it and G's has some Vanilla Bean Bath and Body Works. We have so much of that overpriced obnoxious smelling soap to use up it will probably last us another year.

The view from the other side. I got those topiaries at Target for $9.99 each. The glass canisters were $4.87 at Wal-Mart.

Speaking of soaps and potion bottles, I do have a little goal that I have been "working" on which is using up all those little samples and bits of products I have left. Gustavo is so understanding of my idiosyncrasies that he doesn't bat an eye when I rejoice that a bottle is actually empty. I march it over to recycling and kick it for good measure just so happy for it to be out of my life. Why don't I just throw it out, you ask? Using it is my lesson to be careful of what I buy in the future. Just aimlessly picking up something nifty at the drugstore or the beauty salon doesn't happen because I don't want that bottle hanging around my house forever. I've even proposed that G and I use the same shampoo and conditioner but honestly I don't know if that is going to happen. I'm a bit of a shampoo snob, I admit. It definitely won't happen right now because there are two big imposing bottles of *cough* Pert Plus *cough* in the shower.

I'm even on a no-buy with makeup. After I got my few things from the Mac sale (which I love), I decided to be diligent about using what I have. As it is, I could go until I'm 70 with what I have. I don't like to think of it as excessive, but as having options. (Denial you say? Maybe.) I wonder how long I can last on this no-buy. I do give away makeup though because it's too fun not to share with my Aunts Delores, Karen and my Mom. I even have a picture of my organized makeup collection. It's all here in my little drawer. Ok, it's all here except for what's in my purse. In my defense, I don't collect anything else, not even beanie babies. Actually, I do have a few beanie babies. Nevermind.

I also painted our guest bathroom. I was looking for the perfect green blue grey color just like I did in our master bathroom but it kind of just turned out blue, just like in our master bathroom. It's Glidden Gentle Tide and a beautiful color but not green enough for me. It took me an hour to paint two coats so a super easy project for an afternoon. I love to paint though!

A future project in the works in this dining room table that I bought while I was in NC. My uncle Gerald took it apart for me so I could fit it into the back of the rental car. It was my little miracle! Thanks Gerald for all your sweat and ciphering that went into that ordeal! This will be painted soon and I still have to find dining room chairs to go with it.

This is our living room. Note the beautiful red roses from Gustavo. I was having decorating ADD and decided to take out most of the color in the room. I needed light and white things so I could think in that room. It's a work in progress but we like it.

Facing the kitchen and front door.
Facing the back door and the hunka hunka TV that we got for free from G's college friend.

Living room, much more subdued and calm than before.

Beautiful roses again and Keegan who wanted to get in the picture.

This is Miyagi, G's bonsai, that somehow I always have to take in and out of the house to water.

Besides these little projects, we went on a vacation to Costa Rica. It was our "we're not having a baby" vacation. I hope that isn't too morbid but we wanted to take advantage of our time before kids. We stayed at Mango Moon in Manuel Antonio region and it was divine. Don't let the rainy season scare you away. The prices are reasonable and the weather was fine. It was forecasted to rain every day but it only rained one evening. We had adventures every day which is what we wanted. I'll post pictures later.

In the meantime, I'm happy to be back posting. Tomorrow I'm doing something really exciting that I've wanted to do for a long time. I have an appointment with a personal shopper at Nordstrom. Even though I can look at someone else and really see them, I have a hard time seeing myself. I will try to remember to take pictures and let you know what I come home with tomorrow. My appointment didn't by accident coincide with the first day of the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. It's the best sale of the year because they mark down fall stuff for 2 weeks and then it goes back to full price.

That's all for now! I love reading your comments. I'll even take some decorating advice for my work in progress home. I can't wait to report back on the personal shopping too.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Makeup Frenzy June 15-18 Mac Online 25% Off Friends & Family Sale

I love makeup. I love Mac. I know I write about minimalism and being simple on this blog, but when it comes to makeup I have a hard time restraining my excitement. Mac never goes on sale so to speak so this is a great opportunity to get some things that I've been waiting to buy.

You will need a code at checkout. It's SUMO. If your total comes to $60, then it's free shipping.

I find Mac very reasonably priced for a higher end line and it's so much fun to use. In the spirit of all things makeup, I want to pass along some makeup inpiration blogs and you-tubers.

My first you tube that I started watching is Lollipop26. I think I had a girl crush on her with her British accent and love for all things makeup. She recently did a little challenge which she called Project 10 Pan where she had to use up 10 things before buying anything new. You can see her videos on the subject. I'm always happy to use things up so I love a challenge like this!

I also like Makeup Geek for a little bit of everything. She has endless creativity with makeup and a really sweet spirit of teaching. If you want to play with colors, there are plenty of tutorials to see here.

One great thing about Mac is their recycling program. When you finish 6 products, you can return the empty container in for a free lipstick. If you have a freestanding store near you and not just a counter, you can exchange the empties in for lipstick, eye shadow or lip gloss. There are certain products that you can exchange which you can look up here.

If you need help picking out colors, there is a blog that swatches all the colors for you. She is a dear to do this service for us! It's especially helpful if you want to compare to colors that are similar. Visit Karlasugar here.

The sale actually isn't supposed to start until tomorrow but the code worked today so you can get a jump start on everyone else. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Starting Over

It has been so long since I have written and after the last post I'm sure you know why. Recovering from the miscarriage caused a lot of sadness but unexpected blessings too.  I felt very introspective about my relationships with God, my husband and my family.  The pain caused me to be more compassionate to others with broken hearts.  I leaned on others more than usual because I needed them.  Physically, my body took a long time to recover. I waited 10 weeks for my first cycle to return when the doctor said 4-6 weeks.  So here I am almost 3 months later and starting over again.  I'm actually amazed at the mind and the body's capacity to hope for the future and move on from painful things like this.  But here I am, changed forever because of it and better in a lot of ways too.  Thank you so much for all your lovely comments.  They really were balm to my soul in my time of grief.  The internet can be such a warm place for friendships and support and I'm grateful for that.  

So what's new?  I never thought I would say this but, we got cable!  Not paying to watch TV was something quirky about me and I somehow convinced G to stand for the same principle. In my defense, I still wouldn't have it if the television shows with the converter box weren't such poor quality. There are some conspiracy theories involving cable companies floating around in our home.  The errr errr errr at just the moment we wanted to know what was said was inciting a fury in us that couldn't be healthy.  So we finally had our appointment for installation and I'm already addicted.  

The most unexpected secret pleasure is watching Tori & Dean's reality show. Why do I love this show?  I didn't even like Donna in 90210 but I'm even thinking about reading her books now. Apparently I have been drinking the kool-aid and it's good!

Need I say that the What Not To Wear shows are stacked up in my recording box?  I've been eating up every minute of them, especially the part where they go through all their clothes.  I love the fights and excuses people make to defend their clothes. It's so amusing and pathetic what they want to hold on to yet I totally understand too.

I think that particular process is a lesson on starting over and how it can be stripping yet rehabilitating in anyone's life.  I think that the most essential part is the closet cleaning process in the What Not To Wear show.  During the process they argue and try to steal back their clothes because of the association the clothes have with their inner selves. The clothes are their identity because it comprises what they've done, choices they've made, relationships, sizes, etc. We lose all perspective for an item of clothing if it has sentimental value or financial value or even brand value.  My Mom won't let go of a Liz Claiborne dress from around 1989 because it was the first brand name dress she ever bought.  We all have them though!

When I graduated from college I had the most mismatched, inappropriate for my age (too old) frumpy wardrobe.  I went from wearing jeans and sweatshirts to shopping for suits and button down shirts.  I remember the day I had to cut off my hemp ankle bracelet to put on pantyhose for an interview!  Shopping was even harder because I didn't have a lot of money to spend.  All those items went straight on the credit card and a year or so later I was getting rid of many things before I had even paid them off.  I bought everything on sale which meant I didn't even get a basic "real" suit with matching pants and jacket.  I went to the professional stores like Casual Corner and Petite Sophisticate that had nice clothes but I didn't put them together well.  

I think many people develop their wardrobe from shopping here and there picking up bits and pieces that are on sale.  Buying a suit can be an investment and it's much more fun to get lots of things instead of two pieces.  I wish someone had told me back then that if you start well, then you can build on that.  I thought I had to just get a bunch of clothes and that would be fine.  So the end result in my closet and those I see on WNTW is the same, a bunch of clothes with no cohesiveness.  

A light really came on when I realized that starting over by letting go of the past can be the only way to get to the new you that you want to be.  A lot of the women claim in the beginning of the show that clothes don't matter and it's who you are on the inside.  After they let go, they see that the inside does change and probably their whole outlook on life too.  I see them value themselves more, grow up, and having more confidence.  

So how can we take advantage of the transformative effects of starting over?  It all starts with cleaning out the old to make room for the new.  Imagine Stacey and Clinton were coming to your house.  What would we see in your closet? Why not start over by starting now?  Clear the way for the new to come into your life by letting go of the old, the polyester and the unzippable. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Expecting Hope

I was really excited to get on here in a few short weeks and write about how we are expecting a new baby in October but in the last couple of days everything has changed.  Even though this isn't a blog about babies or really even me as the main subject, I can't help but think if I write this it will help someone else who needs to hear it too.  The pain of a miscarriage is so deep and hidden and I want others to know I understand how they feel.

Two days ago we went for our 9 week 1 day ultrasound and expected to see the baby much bigger than last time with it little body moving around.  I even had gone to you tube so I could have a peek what it might look like.  When we saw it on the screen it had grown so much since the little peanut phase but when the tech said, "Let me get the Doctor", I knew something was wrong.  She said "There are no fetal heart tones." I was in shock.  How could this be?  The old standard for ultrasounds is that when you see the heartbeat, the chance for miscarriage goes down to 5-8%.  We saw the heartbeat two weeks earlier which is when we felt safe to tell our closest family members and a few friends.  We didn't want anyone else to know until the first trimester was over and now thankfully I'm glad we didn't.  Making those phone calls to even those few was the hardest words I ever had to say.

Immediately, the Dr. wanted to schedule a D&C which he did for the next day.  I was in such a fog and in total shock.  I couldn't believe that this was happening to us, again.  We had an earlier miscarriage last September and without all this it was devastating enough.  We never got to the point to see the heartbeat then.  I just started bleeding.  So yesterday was the day that I just had to get through.  I didn't google any information on D&C which is highly unlike me.  I didn't want to hear any one's bad stories or be better informed in any way.  The less that I knew what was coming the better I could get through it.  It was bad enough that I knew this is the same procedure that they give abortions.  Working at a Pregnancy Help Center I knew the risks for that, but I wasn't going to think about that either.  I only trusted my Doctor and God. I knew they would take care of me.

My husband didn't want to believe that this was happening, and neither did I.  We tried to find cases where the ultrasound could be wrong but there weren't any this many weeks into the pregnancy.  He decided that we needed to have one more ultrasound to make sure so we went in yesterday morning to see the baby again.  It was hard to look at it lying there knowing that it wasn't alive.  It did give us peace to know that we made the right decision.  So many times, doctor do misdiagnose a miscarriage, but not in my case.

My surgery was at 2:00 and I couldn't eat or drink anything, not even water.  I must have been plenty hydrated though because my body found plenty of tears to cry.  I think the hardest part was all the lead up to the procedure.  They ask you all the questions, tell you all the risks, make you sign lots of papers that you understand you could get a hole poked in your uterus or whatever random bad thing that could happen.  Then they took loads of blood out of my dehydrated veins.  I wondered what exactly they are testing me for right before the procedure? 
I had to change into a hospital gown and they sent a stretcher up to get me.  The hot tears had already started because I knew now that this was it.  The friendly stretcher guy Abraham covered me with warm blankets and scooted me through the hallways.  I hated it.  I felt like everyone was looking at me, I couldn't stop crying and I knew this was the end of such a joyful time. Tomorrow I won't be pregnant.  

I did want this done though.  I probably could have opted for a natural miscarriage but because I already had a trip planned to NC & SC leaving Thursday, I couldn't take the risk of waiting. Besides, if the baby was dead I wanted it out of me.  It's too much to know it's in there and not alive and I could start bleeding and pass it at any time.  I know that a natural miscarriage is the right decision for a lot of people and I would have liked to see the baby, I think, but for me I needed closure.

Thankfully, they put me to sleep during the procedure so I was gloriously unaware of what was happening.  The nurses, doctors, anesthesiologist, stretcher guy, and even the recovery nurses were all so kind and warm to me.  I was crying so much and they told me their stories of miscarriages or just rubbed my arm to let me know they cared.  I will forever be grateful to them.  

My husband was and is such a rock to me during this whole time.  Yesterday when he went to get my medication, he asked me if I would need more pads.  I guessed I would since I wasn't planning on needing any for quite awhile being pregnant.  He said, "Do you want Poise or Serenity?"  I laughed and told him he was in the wrong aisle.  I mean, do I have to say again what a treasure he is to be looking in the incontinence aisle for his wife, then to browse through the sanitary pads reading me all the brands and virtues of each one-unscented, night-time, ultra-thin; Kotex, Always, Stayfree.  He also brought me home jello, applesauce, grape juice and chicken soup.  He takes such great care of me.  He even set his alarm at 2:00 am so I would take my medication on time.

During this dark time, I have felt lifted up by prayers of the few people who knew this was happening but also by the many women whom I've come to know in the pregnancy sites.  Even the women on makeupalley sent me so much love and prayers.  I really felt it get me through yesterday and still today.  

In our Young Married class at church we are starting to do something called "God Moments" and I've had so many in the past few days.  On Monday when I was driving to my ultrasound, I was nervous as usual but I felt this overwhelming peaceful feeling come over me and I started to cry.  I just felt like everything was going to be ok no matter what happened at the ultrasound.  I certainly didn't expect this to happen, but I did have that God Moment that I can look back on now and know why it was there.     

It still hurts so much and I know that it is going to come in waves and stages.  I can cry at any moment right now and I have the puffy eyes to prove it.  I still haven't cut off my hospital bracelets because I feel like it is one more step to forgetting and I can't do it now but I will tomorrow.  To be honest, I'm a mess but because of this trip I've had to pull it together and just get one thing done at a time.  I know tomorrow we are driving to Louisiana and on Friday I leave Gustavo for three weeks to go home, but I can't think about that now.  He is concerned about me driving the 10 hours alone and wonders if I'll be ok and I guess I will but I can't think about that either.  Right now it seems like Everest just to have to pack tonight.  On Friday I'm sure I'll conquer it though because in between now and then I will have conquered many little things.  

I know that it's my faith in God and Bible verses that I hold on to that have walked me through this week so far.  People keep saying that I'm strong but I know the strength is going to be needed as I keep walking and have to go on with normal life and conversations.  In a way it's comforting that right now can be all about my grieving.  I knew from the moment that this happened to me again that I had to use this experience to help other women.  I don't know yet how I will do that but I have been too touched to let it pass me by and act unscathed by it.  I think this can be transformative and healing if it is out in the open and nurtured properly.  

I'm hoping that going home will be a distraction for me and I can throw myself into something that will take my mind off the sadness.  This trip will be hard for me because it's when I was going to announce the pregnancy to the rest of my family and friends.  I'll even have a pair of maternity jeans I ordered waiting for me at my Mother's house.  I'm just going to hope that the trip will turn into something special still even if it wasn't what I was expecting.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jo Malone Friends & Family 25% Off

Jo Malone is having her Friends & Family Event with 25% off today and tomorrow. My favorites are Orange Blossom mixed with Blue Agava, but I already have some so I won't be ordering.

If you have wanted to try her fragrance AND need a good idea for a Valentine's present, here you go! (To my husband, this is not a hint for you to buy me this!)

There is also a deal on shipping. If you can't read the red box below, just go to the website directly.


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hair Review Houston: Aveda Institute

I recently had an experience I thought might be helpful to share for those in the Houston area. When I moved to Houston three years ago now (!), I had longer, highlighted blonde hair.  I used to pay $75 for a haircut, highlight and style in Greenville, SC, which I don't ever remember thinking of as "cheap".  In Houston, I discovered that I was not going to find a decent salon to charge me that price.  I know I could have gone to a discount hair cuttery, but I've never been to a place like that and moving was traumatic enough. So as I started exploring this huge city, I went to several nice salons and paid for some very expensive haircuts.  One was $100 at the Jose Eber Salon and it really wasn't worth it.  What killed me is that they ask you when you make an appointment if you want your hair dried, because that's extra, $25-$45 extra.  It takes me less than 5 minutes to dry my hair so it wasn't like I needed a "blow-out" or anything.   

When I first moved to Houston, seems like a lifetime ago.

It took me 5 months to even get a temp job here so there was no way I could pay $150-$200 for a salon visit every couple of months.  When I realized that time was going by, my savings were depleting and I still wasn't employed, I just had all the blonde cut off and went with a pixie cut for the first time in my life. Here's a picture.

I actually really liked it although I felt naked on my neck.  

For some people getting their hair cut off or letting their hair go all natural is not a big deal, but I'm one of those whiney scaredy-cats who is always saying "What should I do??"  At least that's who I used to be, before I did this.  Now, if I get a bad haircut, I'm not in tears, but it might make me mad when I'm fixing my hair.  I'm even getting adventurous and quite brave now because I even considered getting a red or purple streak!    It was Allie from My Wardrobe Today who inspired me.

I have a reason for this fear based hairdresser anxiety.  When I was in my budding adolescent years, age 13, I visited my Dad for a summer in Florida and happened to be letting my hair grow out.  We all know that letting your hair grow out is a worthwhile goal to any woman and certainly not easy to achieve as it may seem!   Well my step-mother wanted to take me to get a makeover, and she was nothing if not an embellisher of everything.  I went with her to this very special appointment with a picture of the hairstyle I wanted.  Now that I'm thinking about it, it may have been a picture of Madonna.  I loved Madonna!  Anyway, I got my haircut alright and it was a makeover, into Liza Minelli.  Oh, the horrors for a misplaced girl living in a strange place, growing up and having this happen.  It's not that the Liza Minelli can't be cute but I have fine hair and when my hair is cut into a lot of short, wispy layers with bangs, it isn't a good look for me.  I cried that day, and she made fun of me. My Dad isn't married to her anymore, but not because of that.  After that trauma, not to mention the school picture that followed, I became a nail-biting nervous wreck going to the salon. 

Last summer my husband made it known that he wanted to see my hair blonde again. I informed him over and over how this was going to make me high-maintenance and costly, but he didn't care so when we went home last June I had it done.  I must admit it really is more fun to be blonde.  People are nicer to me than when my hair is darker. Now that I've taken the plunge, I feel like myself again.

Since then I've been going gradually blonder and blonder because every time I had it done, he would say, "It looks nice, but it's not that blonde."  Which I would say that I have to leave some of my natural hair color so I don't get the dreaded dark roots.  He still doesn't understand because that falls into the girly stuff category that he doesn't want to understand, but whatever because I know what's best, don't I?

So imagine my excitement when I found a salon school in Houston, The Aveda Institute, that was so affordable and seemed really luxurious too.  I was counting down the days to my appointment and was so ready to be made over!  

Originally when I planned to do this post, I was going to recommend this place, but now that it's about time to go again I'm not sure I will.  They are so blasted slow that I was there all day. I know I have more time than money, but even I don't have that kind of patience. I was literally there from 9 am until 4:30 pm. I did have a mini facial, mani & pedi too, but that shouldn't have taken long.  

The problem with going to a school is that they are learning and they have to consult with the teacher.  In principle that makes me feel warm and toasty that nothing bad is going to happen, but on the other hand it kind of bothers me that they don't really know what they are doing yet. In fact, they were running so short on time that the teacher cut my hair for her just to be done with it.  I was so happy because I was a little nervous how this girl was going to cut my hair. She just didn't seem to know how to do it.  I thought, how hard is it to cut my hair like Reese Witherspoon in Sweet Home Alabama??

Here's how it looked right before Christmas after I went.  It looks really short but there's a lot of hair hiding behind my ears.  I'm ok with the job they did on my hair because of the low price, but it really wasn't a good job.  If you could see the back of my hair, there is one really thick blonde streak that doesn't belong.  And they basically didn't cut the front side part of my hair at all so it's looking pretty scraggly by now.  But today is 8 weeks since I had it cut and it seems to be growing out the color well.

Opening Christmas presents from my family before going to Puerto Rico

This was my experience and I'm feel that I'm not being completely fair and wouldn't want to dissuade someone from going there to benefit from the savings, but I wish I had been warned before I went. My recommendation is to not take advantage of too many services in one day. Just stick to a haircut or cut and highlights and maybe you'll only spend half the day. Take snacks, drinks and something to read. I rarely have cash on me but I did manage to scrounge up 70 cents, but the vending machine only had 75 cent items. I was starving by the time I left.

I think the lesson here is that that in hairstyling like everything else, quality is better than quantity.  Since I don't want to pay the high prices in Houston for regular appointments, I'll just work with a good stylist so I can come less often. My goal now is to go every 12 weeks and the way it's looking now, it's doable, mostly because I have my natural color showing.  Also, it's less expensive to only have partial highlights.  Since it's the style to have darker hair underneath, this can work for you too.

There are Aveda Institutes in several cities, which you can see when you click here.  I found out there is also a Paul Mitchell school here, but do I dare?  I'll let you know if I do.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

20 Things

20 Things I Love

1.  The clicking sound of makeup jars and lipstick closing.

2.  Clean sheets that are cool when you slide into them.

3.  The sound my phone makes when I get a new text message.

4.  Super hot coffee.

5.  Putting on a jacket that has silk lining.

6.  Taking a shower after a sweaty workout.

7.  Matching bra and underwear.

8.  Comments on my posts.

9.  Connecting and making new girlfriends.

10.  My collection of very girly movies.

11.  When I have a good eyeshadow day.

12.  New lipstick.

13.  Rainy days.

14.  Surprises.

15.  Searching for my signature perfume but knowing I like too many to ever find it.

16.  Having money to pay all the bills, even credit cards in full.

17.  Handwritten notes on personalized stationery.

18.  Sheets with my monogram.

19.  Alison Kraus's voice.

20.  The smell of a baby just bathed.

Care to share yours?  If you put it on your blog, send me a link to post here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Membership to Gilt and Rue La La

If you don't have access to sample sales in your city, the latest way to buy designer duds online is through these websites.  You need an invitation to join so I wanted to give the link to anyone interested.  Even if you never buy anything, it's fun to see what's out there.  The best purchases are the ones that you already know your size and have even tried on in person.  Designer clothes tend to run different in sizing than places like Banana Republic.  

To join Gilt.com click here.

To join Rue La La, you'll have to send me your email address so I can invite you.

Both sites have a return policy if the sizing isn't right which is nice considering the nature of the sale and the discount.  However you will be out the shipping to you and the return shipping so it's not a risk-free transaction either.  

I think it's best to use these sites to purchase brands you already know that you love, or that you feel confident in sizing.  I love Trina Turk and have some of her pieces from 5 years ago.  To me they are classic and I know my size.  Cole Haan is also a sure bet for me because I've generally seen the shoes in person.  I also love Tracey Reese and Nanette Lepore designs. I used to go to a boutique in Greenville, SC called Coplon's where I would find my little designer treasures.  They had a room in the back that was up to 80% off and the prices were still high but I could manage them with that discount.  I always look for statement pieces that will last me years, like a well fitted blazer.

Rue La La tends to have more affordable options, but they are both worth joining and looking at once in awhile.  To be honest, I've put items in my shopping cart but haven't actually bought anything from them yet.  There was a Shoshanna dress that I really loved right before Christmas but I wasn't sure of my size and didn't want to waste the shipping money.  

Online shopping can be convenient and give you access to designers you can't find in your area. Of course it can also open up a whole new way to spend money and fritter your day away obsessing over things you want.  So, be smart about it because if you don't wear it, it's not an investment.

Another tip about online shopping, Saks.com and in stores is having a pretty good promotion if you need some beauty items.  You get $25 off a beauty purchase of $100.  The code online is BEAUTY9 and I'm not sure if you need the flyer to get the discount in store, but you can try without it.  If I end up using the promotion, I'm going to get a Mac blush brush that I've been wanting (129), a lipstick for my Mom and a couple of Mac eyeshadows that I've wanted for awhile.  Then again, I may wait because sometimes that is the best way to go when it comes to spending $75 on beauty products.

I hope I've not tempted you out of a "no-buy"!  I've been reading more and more that people are shopping their closets, thrift stores and going on no-buy binges.  If you are, please forgive the indulgent shopping post.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free Makeup!

OK, I wasn't going to post about this, but my husband convinced me that this is a Public Service Announcement to makeup lovers everywhere.  Apparently some women sued department stores for never putting makeup on sale and won.  I guess they were accusing them of price fixing so now in retribution, major department stores are required to give away products to make up to us poor souls who overpaid.  

I haven't been to get any free makeup and I'm not sure if it's worth schlepping all the way to Galleria, but if I go I'll let you know what I get.

Tempted to Target?

Target is such a great place to browse online and dream about the stylish new pieces for such low prices.  There are so many designers now featured at Target and I love to see what they have to offer.  I always think, why would anyone buy high-end when you can have these designs for less!  

However when I browse through the store I often have a much different feeling.  I touch the fabrics and I'm not usually impressed.  The items are definitely hit or miss.  One of the first designers to team up with Target was Isaac Mizrahi and his quality is usually very poor.  The seams often have threads dangling and the sizing cut is sometimes pretty strange.  The designs are pretty cute but when I've hauled pieces in the dressing room, I'm pretty sure I've never left with any of his items.  Oh, there was a jean straight skirt that I had to leave behind shortly after buying it.  I was informed that it was dowdy and must go, but besides that lapse in judgement, I've often been tempted but didn't take the bait.  

Despite what it may seem, this is not a post to tell you that it's never good to buy at Target because it isn't.  I've found a few cute and enduring items that were closet-worthy and I still have most of them.  There is a red raincoat that I've had for probably 7 years and two pairs of wedges for about 5 years.   Both of those items are Mossimo and I also have some stretchy, v-neck t's that I adore.  The key to finding the gems is being super critical when you are buying. Online, everything looks good, so until you get it home, it's impossible to know what you are getting.  If I see something online, I'll try to find it in the store first before purchasing. They have a lot of styles online that they don't have in stores so it doesn't often work, but after I go to the store and remind myself of the questionable quality, I always talk myself out of it.

So even if Target has it right in the design department, should we save money by buying cheaper materials and scrimping on craftsmanship?  That is always the question I ask when I shop there.  Look at the two shoes below.  They are very similar and I'd go for one as well as the other.  
Mossimo Veta Cut-out Flat Black Patent Retail $24.99

Cole Haan Aleta Patent Flat Retail $150
In the Gilt Group sale today was $64

Now that the economy is in this situation it got me thinking that shoppers may feel that they have no choice but to go with the best buy, which seems to be the cheaper option since design wise they are fairly similar.  I'm not going to analyze the pros and cons of buying this particular shoe but want to talk about the bigger scale scenarios that I use in my life.  The answer isn't cut and dry which of these shoes are better for you, but with everything I add to my wardrobe I ask myself a series of questions.  

1.  Know Quality:  Shop in all the stores, not just the ones you can afford.   It helps to be able to identify the difference in materials when you touch them.  My fingers cringe at bad fabric!

2.  Know Prices:  You might be surprised the great deals you can find in a high-end store, especially right now.  Would you buy the Target shoes when you could have gotten them today for $64 on Gilt.com sale?  

3.  Analyze the Wear:  How well will this item wear with age?  It's important to have durability in many items.

4.  Price per Wear:  How often will you wear it?  Workhorses in your wardrobe are worth investing in because you wear them more.  

5.  Trend Factor:  Don't pay a lot for a designer trendy item that will be so last season in the blink of an eye unless for you it can become a classic.  For example, charm bracelets or scarves may be a trend to some, but become part of your signature look.  That's ok!

6.  Quality over Quantity:  Need I even mention this?  Yes!  These shoes are case in point because if you reason that you can have the black shoes, green ones, red ones & yellow ones from Target for the price on one pair of Cole Haans, then really you might not be following this rule.  If you like disposable clothes, then maybe this rule isn't for you anyway.

7.  Patience:  I don't buy so many things that I like because I'm waiting for that special, perfect item.  I have a finite budget too and I'd rather be able to scoop up freely and without guilt when I find it.

I hope this post isn't too pedantic.  I know many people already have their style and shopping MO finely tuned, but I think about younger girls who need to know how to shop well.  I see them in Forever 21* and Charlotte Russe* with armloads of clothes that probably fall apart after one season.  They probably don't want to spend their money on boring old basics or too much on one item when they can have more choices in their closet.  It's fine when you are a teenager to do this, but when do you learn to shop well?  Who teaches you as you get older if Mom's aren't teaching their daughters?  I hope that this post helps someone to learn how to shop more wisely.  God knows that with people losing their jobs and savings, this is a skill we all need to hone.  

*Love these stores for a sparkly party top though.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Revlon vs. Nars and A Mac Must-Have

OK, I've never been a big drugstore makeup buyer even though I would love to find what works for me there.  One of the big reasons is that you can't test out the colors and it's too much of a bother to have to return it if it doesn't work out.  And I'm willing to admit that the other reason is that I get suckered into the marketing schemes from department store makeup.  It's just so much more fun to buy it from a line that makes you feel luxurious and pampered.  In saying all that, I'm still willing to forgo the side benefits for a really good product and I reason that buying one particular product always from the drugstore frees up money to buy something else I want.  For example I never buy expensive mascara anymore because drugstore is just as good. 

Right before Christmas I became obsessed with Nars and now I have loads of it to play with every day.  I love it and I think I even dissed Mac eyeshadow in one of my last posts, but I am here to recant and give my devotion back to Mac!  I'm a fickle sort anyway.  You should know that.  I just bought a couple of new colors of eyeshadow that are so beautiful which I will show you in a minute.  Anyway, one of my Nars purchases was a set of lipglosses that I couldn't resist because I am a lipstickaholic and this was a set of 6!  I tried them all and I was not impressed. They weren't long lasting and the colors weren't pigmented enough to cover my very rosy lips. I shamefully took them back to Nordstrom and apologized to Conrad, the sweet makeup artist from Nars Nordstrom.  Sorry again Conrad!  I know it must come off of his commission but $50 is still a lot for subpar lipgloss.

All that being said, I am here to report to you a lovely drugstore lipgloss that is supreme in quality.  If you have pigmented lips, I find the colors to cover them well, even the lighter colors. They are not sheer or watery.  I suggest you buy them when CVS or Walgreens has them buy one get one free because, well because you can.  Why pay more when you don't have to do so?

It's Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss shown here.  My favorite colors are Foiled and Glossy Rose and I think the packaging is so chic.  It reminds me of Chanel glossimers, but shorter.  One thing that could be annoying is that they are always bringing new colors for collections and then they are discontinued.  I don't want to fall in love with a color and then never be able to find it again.  But like I said, I am so fickle that I hardly ever buy the same thing twice, even if I loved it.  There is always something new to try!  So ladies, let me know if you try this out and like it.  

Yesterday, I had some Nordstrom Notes to burn and I decided to visit Mac.  I've been looking for a plummy eyeshadow that didn't give me an allergic reaction. There is something in purple eyeshadows that makes my eyes ooze and seals them shut at night.  Not pretty!  Mac's Cranberry and Sketch have already proven to me that I just can't use those type of colors so I stay away from those.  But if I stay towards the more brownish red I seem to be ok.  I've been waiting to try this color for awhile.  You could say that I stalk them awhile before I buy them as I'm not a spontaneous buyer, much to the dismay of my very patient husband.  I always leave the store with swatches all over my hands.  The color I got is called Embark and is a matte formula.  It's just what I was looking for and perfect with my hazel eyes.  I also got Satin Taupe which I've wanted forever.  Now that I have it at home, I see that it's very similar to Nars Kalahari, but that's ok because I love that one too.

Another discovery I have and wanted to share has transformed my eye-makeup look.  Usually I carefully put on my eyeshadow only to have it disappear later in the day.  I've used several primers which worked ok, but I think this one is my favorite.  They are called Paint Pots by Mac.  Not only does the eyeshadow stick to them and make them stay, but they can intensify the colors you are using. I think the most popular for being neutral is called Painterly, but I also have Rubenesque which is a gold color, and Girl Friendly which is a rosy color.  If you don't have much time to devote to makeup, they are great because you can use them on their own as a cream eyeshadow.  I haven't noticed any creasing and they are super creamy to put on with your finger.  These are a must-have if you are having trouble with your eyeshadows staying on. I bet they will even make drugstore eyeshadows look better.

What's your favorite drugstore product?  I'm always willing to try a recommended product and I bet a lot of others will be too with this economy.  Leave me a comment and let me know if the drugstore item replaced a high-end product.

Our Trip to Rosemary Beach, Florida

I'm linking up again with  Erika ,  Andrea  and  Narci  for the Friday Favorites!  I love reading everyone's favorites too! ...