Monday, June 29, 2015

June Budget

Fun fact -- I have no idea how much I spent this month! And I could barely remember what I bought when I tried to put this post together. My goal of spending mindfully sort of went out the window this month, so I'm on a mission to do better in July. Anyway, let's see what the damage is together, shall we?

Starting Budget:



clockwise from l to r:

J. Crew Perforated Drapey Crepe Dress ($75, on sale) -- this dress, oh, this miracle dress. The perfect combination of sexy, sweet, and sophisticated. I actually bought it in the Sweet Persimmon color (a perfect tomato red), but for some reason J. Crew decided to style it like a potato sack in the online photo. This dress really loves a woman with curves, so the poor waif models are really drowning in it. Hence the miracle -- it is a dress that looks so much better on real women than on models! It is in and out of stock online, but keep checking -- I'm definitely on the lookout for one of the other two colors (black, and a cool nude-y walnut color).

Forever 21 Tonal Patterned Dolman Top ($20) -- sheer and lightweight and very pretty.

Zara Soft Shopper ($25, on sale) -- spotted this on sale in NYC and bought it as I was headed to the register. I will certainly get lots of use out of it and love it for years; debatable about whether it was a good purchase this month, but oh well.

Zara Perforated Clutch ($25, on sale) -- I actually went to Zara in search of this cute clutch I wrote about a few weeks ago, and I was thrilled to spot it on sale as well. It has a crossbody strap as well, so quite versatile.

Old Navy Cross-Strap Slides ($20, on sale) -- I'm obsessed with snakeskin print, and these seem chic but still practical.

Kohl's Graphic Scooped Tee ($12) -- I love a slim fitted graphic tee, and this watercolor-y endless summer print just made me smile.

Old Navy Faux-Leather Capri Sandals ($10, on sale) -- mine are black, which are sold out online. I'm obsessed with sleek, minimal sandals even though I don't think they always work on my feet -- I was happy these do!

Old Navy Palm Print Shorts ($18, on sale) -- summer is the perfect time for a pair of crazy print shorts.

Juicy Couture Burnout Henley ($7, clearance) -- this is definitely a lounging around the house top -- so light and sheer, with the sweetest rhinestone buttons.

Old Navy Slub Knit Hoodie ($10, on sale) -- this is one of my problem areas -- I can't seem to stop buying comfy lounge tops. This one is cozy and adorable, but so are the other 4 nearly identical ones I have in my closet. Note to self: knock it off.

Total: $222

Welllll....close. I actually both the 2 pair of Old Navy shoes today, so if I hadn't made that impulse buy I would have been on target. I can justify by saying my size is hard to find, sizes were limited online, blah, blah. I should have been keeping track of my total throughout the month so I knew that I'd already hit my limit. Room for improvement.

Next month's budget may be spent pretty quickly -- I'm waiting for this pair of shoes that seems to be taking the scenic route from J. Crew, I am hoping to score another miracle dress, and I just snapped up this gorgeous piped jacket after Ann Taylor taunted me with a great 50% off deal (there's always a chance that I'll hate it when it arrives, but something tells me it's a keeper). Oh, and Zara is having a massive sale? Sigh. How much can you get for selling a kidney these days?

Any good buys this month? Are you going to try to fight me for one of those fab little J. Crew dresses? Let me know!

Linking up with Fran and the budget bloggers -- go see what the ladies bought this month!

PS -- are you new here? Don't judge me on my poor budget skills alone -- feel free to take a look at my most popular posts this month:

Bite Lip Lab: 50 Shades of Red
Wednesday Wishlist: Tell Me About It, Stud
Florida Girl Problems

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wedding To-Do List

Skipping my usual weekend to-do list post (after a busy week of travel, my weekend was pretty low-key and involved a lot of Mad Men bingeing) and swapping it for a wedding update (particularly appropriate thanks to Friday's joyful Supreme Court ruling -- #lovewins!). My little brother got married last weekend, and it was lovely! It was sweet and simple and pretty low-key (ceremony was on the beach and the reception was a backyard BBQ), so I wanted to share a few of the things that made it a great day...


OK, of course the wedding is all about the bride and groom, but I think one of the best ways to honor them and show your love is by being the best-dressed guest. I mean, you can't really see yourself so looking great is practically a gift to them. (Kidding!)

But seriously, you need to wear something, I was initially a little stumped by what to wear. The ceremony was dressy, but the reception was more casual (a lot of people actually changed into regular weekend wear)...but as the sister of the groom, I knew I'd be in a million pictures and I didn't really feel like changing, so I wanted to find something that would work all day long. If you need to dress for a casual fancy event, here are a couple of options to consider. On the left is what I wore, on the right is another option I played around with:
LEFT: This pretty ombre dress was an absolute steal from Anthropologie a few months ago -- it's sold out now, but this Elie Tahari dress has the same soft, watery effect. The style and color of the dress felt right for the casual reception, so to make it work for the ceremony I added a few sparkly accessories -- earrings, wedges (similar), and a conversation starting bag (note: I actually forgot the bag I wanted to carry and had to raid my mom's closet, but I definitely would have carried this crazy one!). I kept my makeup simple, finished off with a pretty rose lipstick (and...subtle fake lashes. What, these pictures will last forever!).

RIGHT: This dress reads very pale on screen, but it is definitely a soft shade of rose and should not earn you any dirty looks from the bride. It is so light and airy, I really hoped it would go on sale before the wedding but no such luck. I would add simple flat sandals, a clever bag, and oversized glam sunglasses (I hated these when I first start seeing them but now I keep looking for reasons to buy myself a pair). And this bright and creamy red lipstick is perfect for daytime.


A slight twist to this event is that my brother and SIL didn't want it to feel too much like a wedding, so they cut out some of the traditional a registry. This made gift giving really tricky -- when I asked for ideas, my brother said "workout clothes and a new golf bag". Thanks, kid.

I decided to get them a nice hefty Visa gift card so they could buy something they need or splurge on dinners on their honeymoon, but I wanted them to have something to open. Here are some of the ideas I came up with that might work for the tricky couples that you have to buy for:

TOP: Sure, everyone loves their Keurig, but a french press makes a really great cup of coffee. It is also a lifesaver during an unexpected power outage or if you want to bring along your own coffee option when you're traveling (I know people who do this -- yes, they're a little crazy). And then you can add these classic Anthropologie Monogram Mugs with a little twist -- whenever these use these "LOVE" mugs, they'll remember their happy day. (My actual gift to my brother and SIL was very similar -- I bought this adorable mini pie maker and "LOVE" dessert plates, a nod to the pies they served at their wedding).

BOTTOM: I haven't found the right person to give this gift to, but I will -- a beautiful, practical cutting board made special with an engraved recipe. You can provide any handwritten recipe and have it engraved right into the board. Handwriting is so personal and special, and this is the perfect way to celebrate a beloved family recipe. It would pair wonderfully with a great set of knives -- I love these colorful ones.


There were a few other little touches that I loved about this wedding. My SIL wanted the reception to feel simple and a bit rustic, and she found some great ways to achieve that. She was really smart about the flowers. Rather than work with a florist, she decided to do them herself. She gathered a bunch of mason jars, bottles, and other little glass vessels from friends, relatives, and garage sales, and then went to a local farm and asked to buy some wildflowers. She got three enormous buckets of flowers that she used to make tons of little arrangements, a small bouquet, a boutonniere for my brother, etc. She spent exactly $75 on the flowers and just a few dollars on glassware. A traditional florist will charge more than that for the bride's bouquet, so this was a great deal. The ladies in the family helped make the arrangements the night before the wedding, and I think they looked pretty great (and it was fun spotting "my" arrangements in various places throughout the reception):

The finished arrangements, ready to be deployed

Both of our families are filled with earthy crunchy treehuggers, so I was thrilled to see these charming and environmentally-friendly bamboo plates and cutlery. And how cute are these palm leaf bowls?? Everything was really affordable and incredibly sturdy, and it was nice to have the convenience of disposable without feeling guilty about the waste. Would be great for any big parties, BBQs, etc.

PS -- I surprised my future SIL with one of these hangers (hers was a Mrs. X, with her new last name) -- it was perfect for a few great photo ops and her wedding dress is still hanging from it today! A very affordable little luxury that makes a great shower gift.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bite Lip Lab: 50 Shades of Red

At this moment I'm heading back to Orlando after a fantastic week in New York (love JetBlue's FlyFi!). It was a busy few days that included my brother's wedding (more on that soon!), some quality time with family, a bit of work, and a great day with best friend. I hadn't seen her in a few months, so we made plans to spend the day doing a little shopping, having lunch at one of our favorite spots (Cilantro on the Upper West Side -- just a great little neighborhood place that makes a KILLER Cobb salad), and an appointment at the Bite Lip Lab. I feel like this little gem is one of NYC's best kept secrets, so I wanted to share a quick review.

Bite Beauty is a super hot beauty company that makes all kinds of amazing lip products -- they are known for their rich, creamy lipsticks, but they have pencils, glosses, and treatment products as well. You can find their products at Sephora and some other online retailers in a great range of colors, including bright bold reds, pretty pinks, and soft neutrals. But perhaps you can't find just the right shade that you've been looking for...that's where the Lip Lab comes in.

I discovered the Lip Lab when searching for a gift for my best friend Sara -- she celebrated a Big Birthday a few months ago and was adamant that she didn't want anyone to acknowledge it. No party, no presents. But what are BFFs for other than knowing you better, ignoring that directive, and surprising you with just the right gift? I put together a little box of goodies that included some silly stuff, favorite candy, little indulgences, this fantastic makeup bag, and a gift card to the Lip Lab. As long as I've known her Sara has been a lipstick lover and constantly on the hunt for the perfect red. Thanks to the Bite Lip Lab, I was able to gift her with a fantastic luxury: a custom lipstick mixed and blended to just the right shade, made to order on the spot. How amazing, right? (Note: she cried tears of happiness when she opened it. That's what best friends are for!).

We made an appointment for a custom lipstick consultation (this is highly recommended as the lab is small and quite popular) and met on a sweltering hot NYC day to let the lip technicians work their magic. Our technician Jackie was fantastic -- super friendly and eager to please. The first step was for Sara to use Bite's lip treatment scrub to soften her lips and get them ready for lipstick. And then came the fun!

Sara knew that she wanted a great red lipstick, so Jackie asked a few questions to help figure out just what kind of red (she also gave described the options for finishes -- sheer, cream, and matte). I was a little surprised that she didn't offer any suggestions or direction, but I guess the lab is really there to just fulfill the wishes of its customers. Who cares if flamingo pink lipstick isn't the most flattering color on you -- if that's what you want, they aim to please!

Jackie started mixing up reds on a little transparent worksheet by pulling colors from a rainbow of pots at her station. It was like the best crayon box ever! Each time, she noted the formula on her worksheet so we could keep track of what worked and what didn't.

The first 2 shades were very wrong, and I could tell Sara was a little nervous that she wasn't really going to get a color she loved. As we were sitting there, I realized it might have helped for her to bring a few images with colors she loved as reference (this can be a great way to communicate since everyone describes color differently). Soon though, we were getting closer -- Sara didn't want a brick red and she didn't want something too pink, she wanted something bright and punchy, with a slight orange twist. The third and fourth colors were better, but number five was AMAZING. It was great to witness that magic that happens when someone puts on just the right shade of lipstick. She lit up and couldn't stop smiling -- so fun!

We were pretty sure this was it, but Jackie suggested we try going one step further (with a bit more orange) as a comparison to see if that really was the right shade. I think that was a great idea -- that way Sara would have no doubt in her mind that #5 was the right one, Number six was nice, but it was clear #5 was the winner. Now that we'd found the right shade, it was time to customize and create!

The next step was choosing the essential oil(s) used to give a hint of flavor to the lipstick. There were 6 options, including cherry, berry, citrus, and mint (cherry was my favorite, I think Sara got citrus). You choose the shape of your lipstick tube and then the color is mixed up and sent for a whirl in the centrifuge (it really is a laboratory!). The final mix is poured into a mold and placed in some sort of blast chiller to set. Jackie wrote up a little card with Sara's specific formula so she would always be able to come back and repurchase her perfect red. After just a few minutes, the lipstick was ready and carefully placed into the plastic bullet. Sara was now the proud owner of her perfect red lipstick - voila!

Did I manage to get a good photo of the finished product? No, of course not. But here's a slightly blurry one:

So to sum up, this place is AWESOME. I really wanted our visit to be all about Sara, but I am dying to go and get my own lipstick. Not sure what color I'd want...Jackie said people come in asking for all kind of colors, from the classic nude to bright teal and funky silver. I'd love to find a really wearable red (never seem to be able to find the right shade), but I'd also love a really pretty, feminine coral. Or maybe something super practical -- that "my lips but better" shade that I am always looking for.

The cost for one tube of lipstick starts at $36 (that included the appointment and the finished product) -- you can opt for a super premium formula or shimmery finishes that bump up the price another $10 or so , but $36 gets you all of the basic options (sheer, cream, or matte). That's about $10 more than you average tube of high-end lipstick, but totally worth it in my opinion since you know you're absolutely going to love it.

If you are a makeup junkie or just love a great tube of lipstick, the Lip Lab should be a must-visit the next time you are in New York. The tiny space is located in SoHo, which is super convenient to all kinds of great shopping and dining. You should definitely just go, and have a great time!

The details...

Location: 174 Prince Street

Hours: open 7 days a week, roughly 11am-7pm (make an appointment, especially on the weekend!)

Price: $36 and up

Other services: none (I'd hoped there would be some of their standard lipsticks and products available for testing out and purchasing, but no luck)

More info: Bite Lip Lab

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wednesday Wishlist: Clunky But Cute

Growing up, my best friend's mom was a fun, free-spirited hippy mama. She did things differently than other moms, and that included wearing her favorite chunky clogs in all seasons. These were authentic Swedish clogs, and they were hideous but fabulous. I didn't have the vocabulary then, but they had that amazing jolie laide quality that lots of the most memorable fashion trends possess.

Chunky, clunky clogs are perfect for summer -- a good pair is comfortable enough to walk in for miles and provides a nice contrast to your light and airy warm-weather wardrobe.ww: clunky
clockwise from l to r:

Topshop Lauren Cross-Stitch Clogs ($80) -- this pale tan leather will read as nude on a lot of skin tones, which will give you a nice leg-lengthening effect. With a nice platform, these seem really walk-friendly.

Old Navy Women's Criss Cross Clogs ($26) -- a really affordable way to add a fun summer shoe to your wardrobe. I wouldn't expect these to be the most comfortable shoes ever, but the bright red color is fun.

Thakoon Addition Bassy Clog Sandals ($475) -- of course, my favorite pair is the most expensive. Sigh. I love these with my favorite black romper, or maybe a sleek little mini dress at night.

Zara Leather Studded Clogs ($99) -- a nod to those classic studded clogs that our moms wore in the 70s.

Swedish Sandal Clogs by Hannah ($62) -- practical but fun. The gold metallic leather keeps things from getting dowdy.

Swedish Hasbeens Braided Skyhigh Clogs ($90+) -- you'll see Swedish Hasbeens everywhere in NYC in the summer, I really like the braided detail of this pair, perfect for showing off your summer pedicure.

Anthropologie Gee Wawa Paige Clogs ($168) -- here's a slightly dressier option that would be great for outdoor weddings, graduation ceremonies, vacation date nights, etc. The sky blue color would be so pretty with a soft pink dress, right? 

Monday, June 22, 2015


Ooh, where did this month go? After a handful of crazy busy days I sit down and realize I haven't posted in almost 2 weeks. I have a few posts rattling around in my head, but for now I'll just share a little peek into what I've been up to:

A little bit of pixie dust and silliness with girlfriends...

Lending a hand for a great cause...

Flying the friendly skies with my tiny pal...

Channeling my inner Martha with some wedding crafts (my baby brother got married!)...

Running pie-related errands (the best on Long Island)...

Bargain hunting (this dress is amazing if you have curves -- looks a million times better than on the model)...

 Laughing, sobbing, and reflecting on how wonderful and difficult it is to grow up...

Mixing it up at the Bite Lip Lab (I'll post a review soon!)...

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wednesday Wishlist: Tell Me About it, Stud

We're just days away from summer and three carefree months of relaxed summer fashion: pretty florals, gauzy dresses, billowy pants. Not typically associated with summer: studs. This edgy look is always popular in the fall and winter, but right now I'm kind of digging pieces accented with a little heavy metal to add some attitude to my sweeter summer wardrobe.

House of Harlow Crystal Stud Earrings ($34) -- I adore these simple earrings with an art deco vibe -- I'd love to wear them with a slim tank and skinny leather pants. Sadly, I don't wear leather pants, but I will definitely wear them with a simple wrap dress at work or a billowy column dress on the weekends.

Linea Pelle Double Wrap Mixed Studded Bracelet ($25) -- you can add this to just about any outfit for the perfect little wink of edginess.

Express Pyramid and Pave Stud Earrings ($9) -- super affordable little basic studs that you'll wear for years.

Urban Expression Lula Stud Drawstring Handbag ($40) -- this adorable pouch is a little bit rocker and a little bit boho. I think it's the perfect bag for summer evening shenanigans. Carry all of your essentials without being totally weighed down.

Orciani Wallet ($101) -- here's an incredibly subtle way to work this trend. Every time you pull this out of your bag you'll flash just the right amount of badass-ness.

VC Signature Calada Studded Leather Slipons ($100) -- when you arrange the studs to look like flowers, you get a perfectly pretty and practical pair of summer shoes.

Society of Chic Stud Crop Top ($38) -- what can I say, Madonna was my first style icon. This could easily go costume-y or trashy, but I'd try keeping it simple with a floaty skirt and some simple flat sandals.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Weekend To-Do

weekend todo

Another weekend - yay! Pretty routine stuff, but lovely nevertheless. Here's what was on my list:

1. My second Summer Friday got off to an unceremonious start -- a massive thunderstorm only Florida can whip up. This happens almost daily this time of year, but Friday's was particularly violent and slow moving, so I decided it would be a good night to cuddle on the couch with Netflix and takeout. I'm cruising through season one of Mad Men and it is as wonderful as everyone says. Such a great show to binge watch -- the pace is deliberate and slow, so it is satisfying to gulp down 2 and 3 episodes at a time and still be able to delight in all of those juicy details. So many smart women, so many thick men -- it is frustrating and satisfying and the same time. And the makeup is everything. Note to self: figure out how to wear red lipstick without looking like a clown.

2. Saturday morning got off to a good, sweaty start (I'm letting Shawn T kick my ass these days) and then headed out for a few hours to catch up with friends. We ate and shopped, which was perfect. I was happy to find quite a few gems without putting much of a dent in my June budget -- I loved this sweet t-shirt with a relaxed 'endless summer' vibe, a surprising Kohl's find.

3. I spent Saturday night having some grown-up fun at the Orlando Science Center -- they host a regular "Science Night Live" event. Basically you can run around the center and play with all of the exhibits while enjoying some tasty food and adult beverages. Just some good nerdy fun. #orlandodoesntsuck

4. Finally, Sunday was spent doing mostly un-fun grown-up things. I've been slacking on housework lately and I'm embarrassed to admit that things were getting a little crusty en la casa. I spent a few hours getting things sparkling clean -- a few loads of laundry, tons of dishes, vacuuming dog fur from every crevice of the sofa, and a little elbow grease and things are feeling much better. I'm not a neat freak, but since I work from home I have to look at the dust bunnies all day long and I can't really relax when things are out of order. 

And now I've got the Tony Awards on while relaxing in bed. Not a bad way to end the kind to us, Monday.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Florida Girl Problems

florida girl problems

Since moving to Florida I've had to make some adjustments to my beauty routine to combat some of the less than pleasant effects of a, let's say, "challenging" climate. Central Florida is well known for abundant sun, plenty of heat, and ungodly amounts of humidity. These extreme conditions definitely take a toll -- I'm not going to lie, in the first few months of my life as a Floridian I had some days that were just incredibly un-cute. 

After some good advice from new friends and a bit of trial and error, I've found some miracle products that help me look and feel good under the most extreme I'd thought I do a quick roundup. Even if you don't live in the Sunshine State you might be headed out on a tropical vacation or just gearing up for summer to come to your corner of the world, and having a few of these products tucked away in your medicine cabinet will help keep you looking and feeling fresh as a daisy:

Neutrogena UltraSheer Sunscreen Stick ($11) -- This Snow White definitely fears the sun and it's incredibly damaging rays. I learned early on that I have to be really diligent about slathering on the sunblock before spending time outside, but on some of the hotter and sweatier days, I needed more. I wasn't keen on the idea of reapplying that thick pasty liquid sunblock on top of makeup, sweat, etc., but then I found this genius little stick. You can keep it tucked in your purse or car and apply the solid sunblock directly to the areas that are feeling exposed -- no goopy mess, plenty of protection.

Lush Vanilla Dusting Powder ($7) -- this is genius. A finely milled talcum powder with a light vanilla scent. Just dab it in any places that you normally get a bit sweaty (I like a couple of puffs in my bra to keep the girls nice and fresh) and you're good to go. 

Monistat Chaffing Relief Powder-Gel ($11) -- OK, stick with me on this one. I first heard about it on a running forum where talk had turned to some of the uncomfortable side effects of skin-on-skin contact while sweating, but chaffing can happen to anyone under the right circumstances. This miracle product is just the thing you want if you have some raw, tender spots -- you apply the gel, which has a powdery finish, and the healing begins almost instantly. Ahhhh....

Phytodefrisant ($28) -- this old favorite has become my hair's new best friend. Apply a bit to wet hair before drying to prevent moisture from ruining your blow out. Listen, this isn't going to save you if you get caught in a downpour, but it really helps prevent your hair from turning to cotton candy on those withering humid days.

Wet n Wild Color Icon Bronzer ($4) Confession: until fairly recently, I was a bronzer virgin. Never used the stuff, never thought I needed to (did I mention I'm pale, pale, pale?). But after moving here, I found myself feeling a bit dull. A bit pasty. I wanted a pick me up, and I came across a beauty product discussion in the comment section of good old Jezebel. This super cheap product came up again and again so I decided to give it a shot. I loved it immediately -- I chose the lightest shade and it just adds a hint of color and glow in all the right places. I'm thinking about experimenting with some fancier brands, but for now I'm happy with this little bargain.

Essie Clambake ($9) -- Now that my toes are almost always on display, pedicures have gone from a fun luxury to must-have maintenance. I'm too lazy/cheap to go to the salon every month, so I've had to learn a bit of DIY action -- a little buffing, a little clipping, and a nice thick cream do the trick. When it comes to the polish I am a loyal Essie girl -- they have the most vibrant colors and the polish stays chip-free and glossy for days. One of my all-time favorites is Clambake, a saucy little orange-red shade -- amazingly flattering on so many skin tones and packs a good punch of summer fun.

Do you have any special products in your summer beauty routine? Let me know -- I still have room on my shelf for a few more goodies!