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.






Saturday, January 10, 2009

Quirky Girl Closet





Hello everyone!  I'm back from our trip to Puerto Rico and happy to be in a new year.  Puerto Rico was so wonderful and we had a great time with G's family.  As expected, we ate a lot of food every day and it was totally worth the diet I am on now.  Christmas was so much fun too.  I wasn't with my family, but they sent lots of presents and it was fun to open them with Gustavo. I have tons of old movies to watch when G goes to the field.  He no longer allows me to subject him to girly movies very often.  Anyway, before I start rambling because it's been so long I want to share a lovely blog post that inspires me and I know will inspire you to have closet organizing as one of your New Year's Resolutions!

I just found this site this morning called Making It Lovely.  If you click on the link it will take you directly to the closet post that will make you drool.  There are several reasons I adore this post.  The most obvious is that it is so organized with the uniform hangers and sections for each type of clothing, but what also inspires me is the personality of the pieces in the closet.  Her closet to me is the paragon of quirky-girl style.  She obviously knows what looks good on her and is focused on her personal style.  How many of us can say that with the trends coming and going with the wind?  When you know your own personal style, you can build a wardrobe over years and actually invest in pieces that will last.  

The other part that isn't shown here is that she says she got rid of loads of things that weren't working for her.  She tossed shoes that hurt her feet, but I wish I could see a picture of all the items she let go.  This is the hardest part sometimes, but you have to do that to get to a personalized, workable closet space like this.  She also moved items to the closet like her perfume so they could be near her while she was getting ready.  Don't you love to see what other people use for perfume?  Maybe it's just me because I adore perfume so much.  That reminds me, I got a new one for Christmas by Bulgari.  It's called Rose Essentiale and it's just dreamy!

We are going out today to do lots of errands, still catching up for being away for two weeks. The pictures of this closet have affected me so much that I'm going to keep them in my mind's eye so that I can replicate it in my own style.  I do love quirky girl style and I know a good place to start for details like organizing jewelry that she has is Anthropologie, Ikea and Urban Outfitters.  My take away is:

1-Always first-purge what isn't working for you.
2-Focus on your personal style so you can build your wardrobe over time.
3-Use your space wisely by adding items to help organize.

4-Take a picture of your closet so I can see it!

Enjoy the weekend everyone!



Carolina's Fifth Birthday

We have been busy celebrating someone's much anticipated birthday around here!  Carolina has been longing for five since her classmates ...