8 Pretty, Embellished Dresses

There's something about pretty dresses that just makes you feel good. When I need a fast pick-me-up during the day, my first go-to is a Vine compilation on YouTube but when that doesn't work, I look at pretty, usually embellished, dresses. Maybe it's because I've always loved fairytales, but the sight of a romantic, bejeweled dress just strikes warmth in my heart. 

Dream Weekend: Santa Barbara

I would start the day with a bowl of Bircher muesli and fresh squeezed orange juice at Our Daily Bread on De La Vina Street. The rest of the morning would be spent on a long ride on the coastal bike path. For lunch, I'd pack a picnic with provisions from Public Market to be eaten at the most scenic viewpoint on the path. Later, I'd head to Float Luxury Spa for a massage and body polish. For dinner, I'd go to Lucky Penny for pizza and salad then to McConnell's for a cone of Boysenberry Rosé Milk Jam ice-cream.

Breakfast would be at Backyard Bowls, where I'd have a berry bowl or oatmeal. Then, I'd spend the morning at the beach before heading to Mesa Verde for lunch. I'd fill up on a tempeh BLT on flatbread plus salad and lemonade. Then, I'd shop for clothes and decor at Diani (they carry brands like Isabel Marant, Rag & Bone and Mother) and Jenni Kayne. Finally, I'd go to Scarlett Begonia for pasta and Meyer lemon granita before seeing a concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

What to Wear

Planning My Next Trips

If I had it my way, I'd have a trip planned for every other month of the year. I've been lucky to travel more than average and lucky that I typically get to do 2-3 trips per year. Like I said though, I honestly wish I could travel for a living. Fortunately, planning your trips is nearly as fun as actually taking them so there is some consolation in having to wait. I currently only have one trip set in stone, but I also wanted to talk for a bit about the bigger trips I'm planning for the next few years.

Florida
I'm going to my parent's house in Florida for my birthday in a few months and I'm so excited! I went for the holidays and had the best time, so I can't wait to do so again. The weather was great then and should still be wonderful in May before the summer heat really begins. The plans are pretty loose when I go to Florida, but they typically include the beach, the pool, watching movies, bike riding, cooking, and having brunch with friends. My dad's birthday is later in the month, so I think we'll do a dual celebration and make Rich Roll's strawberry mint cacao cheesecake.

Cape Town, South Africa
I've decided that my next big trip will very likely be to Cape Town. It just seems like the most laid-back, beautiful place for a beach vacation plus there are tons of gorgeous Airbnb options. Most of the trip would consist of eating avocado toast and drinking iced tea outdoors, laying on the beach, and hiking in the mountains but I really want to see the penguins at Boulders Beach too.

Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh has been on my list for as long as I can remember. I flew over Scotland once (the Hebrides, I think) and wished that I could parachute out of the plane immediately. I'd love to visit the Highlands, of course, but Edinburgh is my number one priority. Surprisingly, this doesn't have anything to do with Harry Potter although the connection is a huge plus. I just love the architecture---it seems like being in Edinburgh might feel like being in another time. 

Japan
A multi-week trip to Japan is in the early planning stages, as well. It would be hard to plan anything less because there are so many incredible places I'd like to see in Japan. I want to do Tokyo, of course, but also stay in a ryokan in Kyoto, and visit Hokkaido as well. Just the thought of staying in a ryokan gets me super excited for this future trip!  

California
I've surprisingly never been to California and have been jealous of my parents' upcoming West Coast road trip. I think I'd also like to do a roadtrip---from San Francisco down to Santa Barbara, then Los Angeles. I especially look forward to Carmel and Big Sur because the photos I've seen are incredible. Those oceanside cliffs are amazing!

Are you planning any fun trips?

 

A Skincare Routine for Every Budget

No matter how much you're willing and able to spend on your skincare, I think it's important to have a routine which includes solid products that work well and also look nice on your counter. The importance of skin health is clear, but additionally having those products be ones that look, smell, and feel good can truly enhance your mood and add value to your life. I've put together sample routines for three budgets. The "Bills to Pay" segment is perfect for girls who love beauty and want a great skincare routine but who have a smaller budget to work with. Trust me, you can have a beautiful collection of skincare without spending a million dollars. But for those who are able to spend a little more, there's two options for you as well.

Disclaimers: I know that not every human will consider my budget options to be budget-friendly, but I wanted to be sure that every product I recommend is good quality, has a decently clean formula, and nice packaging. Plus, many products in the routines will last quite awhile which increases their value.

Bills to Pay

Cleanser
Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18)

Sunscreen
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen ($10)

Mask
Aztec Indian Clay Mask ($10)

Makeup Remover  
Simple Micellar Wipes ($6)

Moisturizer
Neutrogena HydroBoost Water Gel ($19)

Facial Mist
Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater ($7)

Tool
Boscia Konjac Cleansing Sponge ($12)

 

Mid-Range

Cleanser
Kate Somerville Purify Cleanser ($34)

Moisturizer
Avene Cicalfate Restorative Cream ($28)

Facial Mist
Caudalie Beauty Elixir ($18)

Tool
Clarisonic Mia ($129)

Makeup Remover
Bioderma Sensibio H20 ($17)

Serum
Caudalie Premier Cru The Elixir ($99)

Sunscreen
LaRoche Posay Anthelios 60 Sunscreen ($30)

Mask
Caudalie Instant Detox Mask ($39)

 

 

No Limits

Cleanser
Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm ($110)

Moisturizer
Omorovicza Rejuventing Night Cream ($235)

Facial Mist
Sisley Paris Floral Spray Mist ($100)

Treatment
Fillerina Replenishing Treatment Grade 1 ($150)

Makeup Remover
La Prairie Cellular Cleansing Water ($95)

Serum
La Mer The Concentrate ($460)

Sunscreen
Lancer Sheer Fluid Sun Shield ($55)

Mask
Chantecaille Jasmine and Lily Healing Mask ($84)


Tool
NuFace Trinity Facial Toning Device ($349)

Favorite Fictional Characters & What They'd Wear Today

All of my favorite characters from fiction have several things in common---they're independent and have a strong voice, yet in many ways reserved and gentle. In their respective eras, their appearance and style played a role in their stories whether obviously or not. It's fun to think about how they would dress today and what sort of stories they would tell through their clothing choices.

Jane Eyre

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Forever my favorite book and character, Jane is my literary idol and inspiration. From beginning to end, she rises up from her troubled past and present by the grace of her fiery, independent spirit. She is self-reliant, optimistic, strong-willed, and can hold her own in an intelligent conversation. I also love that such a character is depicted as also being loving and nurturing in her relationships with Mr. Rochester and his ward Adele). Today, I think her style would balance tough utilitarianism with femininity---romantic blouses with structured trousers, boots, and sturdy wool coats.

Jo Stockton

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Jo from Funny Face is another character I very much identify with. She's a shy, standoffish bookshop clerk who is rather intellectually snobbish and always armed for a philosophical debate. She agrees to work as a model only so that she is able to go to Paris to attend a famous lecture on empathicalism. I'm honestly obsessed with her. A modern Jo Stockton would wear her famous black turtleneck and cigarette pant combo with ironically fashionable pieces like a trench from Vetements and the furry Gucci loafers as a statement about the absurdity of fashion.

Blair Waldorf

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I'm not alone in idolizing Blair. Someone in high school once referred to me as Blair and I took it as the world's greatest compliment even though it probably wasn't meant to be. Like the other characters I love, she's independent (mostly), ambitious, and always has a pithy comeback. I like to think her style in 2017 would still fall along the lines of preppy Upper East Side flash, relying on classic brands with feminine touches---wool coats and skirts, ruffles, gold accents, and all of the it-girl bags.

Gretta (Begin Again)

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I first saw this movie when I was interning in New York (at The Angelika, where you can often feel the subway underneath your feet) and I so related to the scenes of Gretta riding her bike around the city on her own. Her style is an even blend of masculine (loafers and boyfriend jeans) and feminine (floral tops and round collars) with a hint of bohemian, since she is an indie musician after all.

Who are your favorite fictional characters?

8 Things You Need for a Relaxing Night at Home

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One of my greatest joys in life is having a relaxing night at home in comfy loungewear with one of my favorite meals and a chill movie. Having these nights fairly often allows me to recharge and to prevent any kind of burnout. I've gotten the formula down pretty well and have perfected my relaxing evening routines. It's super easy and you only need a few things!

Candles
Candles are the number one requirement for a relaxing night and the candles from D.S. & Durga recently caught my eye. The packaging is very pretty and, like many favorite fragrance brands, each scent comes with a story. My recommendations for a relaxing night candle are Burning Bazaar (inspired by a fictitious fire that broke out at the Fabledorf holiday market in 1261, the scent is supposed to smell like a birch table found in ashes) or Spirit Lamp (with notes of white ginger, coconut, musk, and bohea tea). 

Cozy Blanket
Outfit your couch or bed with the coziest blanket you can find. There's nothing more relaxing to me than wrapping myself in a blanket and hibernating. It reminds me of sick days as a little kid when you'd stay home under a blanket all day watching daytime television. I'm typically partial to mock fur throws but I also love the hand loomed blankets from Jaipur Spirit.

Essential Oil Room Spray
Create a zen environment by spraying your space with a calming essential oil room spray. You can either buy a bottle or easily make your own with water, vodka/witch hazel, and drops of essential oils. Some great relaxing scents are lavender, vanilla, rose, chamomile, bergamot, and vetiver.

Chill Playlist
Create or find a relaxing playlist that suits your taste, whether that's zen spa music, classical, jazz, acoustic, or anything else. There are tons of chill playlists in the mood section of Spotify, such as: Relax & Unwind, Your Favorite Coffeehouse, and Calm Vibes but my go-to's for relaxing music are Damien Rice and Chet Baker.

Healthy Comfort Food
Now that your environment is set up, put together some snacks or a comforting yet healthy meal. Pick up some popcorn or vegan candy from Whole Foods or a brand like Sakara Life. Or try baked vegan mac and cheese, Chloe's avocado pesto pasta, or a healthy cookie dough milkshake. Dish it all up in cute serve ware are head back to your cozy place. 

Comfy Loungewear
Put on your favorite, coziest loungewear. My favorite loungewear brand right now is Eberjey because all of their pieces are feminine and super pretty, but also soft and comfortable to lay around in. Uniqlo also has amazing loungewear---my favorite thing to wear is definitely my Uniqlo fluffy yarn pants. Add a pair of cozy socks and you're all set.

Movie / TV Show
On relaxing nights, I think it's important to watch something light. I always find Miyazaki movies to be the perfect movies for relaxing. They're beautifully animated, but the Japanese animation is slow and easy on the eyes plus they're so cute that you can't help but feel happy watching them. Personally, I also like to watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on relaxing nights because it's funny, outrageous, and so intellectually insignificant that it gives your brain a rest.

Face Mask
Finally, multitask by using a face mask while watching your movie/show. The exact mask obviously depends on your concerns, but it's fun to use something luxurious like the Herbivore Brighten Mask or the Omorovicza Deep Cleansing Mask.

5. Spirited Away DVD
6. Eberjey Tank Top
7. Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth Speaker
8. Herbivore Brighten Face Mask

1. D.S. & Durga Burning Bazaar Candle
2. Jaipur Spirit Throw Blanket
3. Balance Lavender Room Spray
4. Sakara Life Salty Popcorn

5 Skincare Tips for Dull Winter Skin

So often, the winter elements leave our skin dry and dull which add yet another element of discomfort to the season. The lack of sun exposure strips skin of its color, which leaves blemishes far more noticeable. Luckily, there are a few ways you can counteract the elements and create summer skin in the dead of winter.

Add a drop of self-tanner to your moisturizer. 
I love using self-tanner all over in the winter for a subtle glow and recently have been adding a small amount to my moisturizer once a week. It doesn't make your face look much darker, but it does add a glow that hides small blemishes and makes you look brighter and more alive.

Use a vitamin C serum.
On mornings when your face looks particularly dull or tired, try a drop or two of vitamin C serum to instantly look brighter and more awake.

Mix an oil into your moisturizer.
Similar to the self-tanning trick, blend a few drops of oil into your moisturizer depending on your concern. I typically use Caudalie's Premier Cru The Elixir but when I feel a breakout coming on, I like Jurlique's Skin Balancing Face Oil.

Exfoliate in the morning.
Taking the time to slough off dead skin cells is an easy route to brighter looking skin. In the winter, you will typically need more exfoliation than usual because skin is so easily dried out. I typically use a face polisher every other morning, focusing on the driest spots and then follow up with moisturizer.  

Try a deep cleansing mask.
At times when my face is a mess due to the elements or stress,  I use a deep cleansing mask for 10-15 minutes. Not only will it clean out your pores and help ward off breakouts, but it also leaves your face bright and smooth.

What to Wear: Art Gallery

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

I've talked before about how my college semiotics course made me want to wear black turtlenecks. The same goes for really any gallery outing. Dressing is almost always playing the part and at the galleries, it's to capture the vibe of the serious purveyors, both real and imagined. Dark colors, woolen fabrics, and menswear inspired shoes are the go-to, with little feminine touches a la Carolyn Bessette Kennedy.

Black Dress + Loafers + Scarf + Delicate Jewelry

Jacket + Tee + Black Skinny Jeans + Flatforms

Black Turtleneck + Wrap Skirt + Ankle Boot 

Bookshelf: I Think You Should Read...

These bookshelves often follow a pattern, focusing on a specific theme or central idea. However, this bookshelf is a little different in that it is a collection of books that may not have fit into a specific category thus far but that I highly recommend you read! 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
When I read this book, I loved it much more than I had expected. It's about not only the aftermath of civilization's collapse but the actual moment that causes it. The story follows multiple characters including actors in a traveling Shakespeare troupe and people who have built a society inside an abandoned airport. It's magical and incredibly engaging.

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
In high school, I was completely obsessed with Chuck Palahniuk and, thus, I've read almost everything he's written. My favorite is definitely this one. Apparently there is an updated, "remixed" version of the book, but I've always stuck to the original. Palahniuk's acerbic tone is the real draw, but the story follows a girl whose face is destroyed in an accident. She meets transgender "queen supreme" Brandy Alexander who becomes her spiritual guide. The description doesn't really capture how bizarre the novel is. 

Girl Land by Caitlin Flanagan
I picked this up years ago after reading several Caitlin Flanagan articles on The Atlantic. I recently found that this book isn't very well rated on Goodreads but try not to let those comments dissuade you from reading the book. In all honesty, I found the Goodreads reviews to be a bit hypocritical. Flanagan discusses the transition from girl to woman and the outside influences that can impact that. 

A Separate Peace by John Knowles
One of the great classics, this book follows a group of boys at a boarding school in New England during World War II. It's beautifully written and is ultimately a novel about war that features no gunshots or battles, but rather an inner battle experienced in adolescence when you become aware of the small wars taking place in your everyday life.

The Magus by John Fowles
Years ago, I read this book because I saw it in the background of (I think) a Sea of Shoes post and thought it looked so magical. I discovered that the story follows a young Englishman teaching on a Greek island who meets a mysterious local millionaire. It blends fantasy and reality to the point where you're not sure what is truly happening.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
I absolutely loved this book when it was first released and think that, especially now, it's an important read. It follows a woman from Nigeria who goes to study in America and goes on to experience American racism, something she was not experiencing in Nigeria. The story features posts from the main character's blog about race in America, which provide some very interesting thoughts.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl
This is a great, not-too-scary but really thrilling book about the daughter of a famous horror filmmaker. When she is found dead in an abandoned warehouse, a journalist sets out to solve the mystery of her death while falling into the weird world of the horror films. This is the perfect book for a winter weekend and I guarantee you'll finish it quickly.

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford
Stephanie Clifford's debut novel is great for plane rides and vacations. It's about Evelyn, a young woman from a prep school/social climbing background who goes on to work for a status-oriented app (similar to The League) and, in turn, tries desperately to be accepted into the circle of the uber-wealthy. It reminded me a little bit of Gatsby!

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld
This is perhaps my most recommended book. It is loosely based on the life of Laura Bush, following a girl from her childhood to late adulthood, during which time she marries a young Senator who eventually becomes President. If you've read and liked anything by Curtis Sittenfeld, you'll love this.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This is my other most recommended book and one of my very favorites. It follows a group of college students in Vermont who study Classics and murder their friend. Throughout the book, you slowly unravel what led to this and why they did it. It's subtle and incredibly cozy. If you like anything involving boarding schools, New England, and academics, please read this.

What book do you most recommend to your friends and family?

Minimalism for Every Area of Your Life

This article about millennials and minimalism on Becoming Minimalist is a really great overview of why I've opted to pursue minimalism in the past year. I've watched older generations succumb to unfulfilling careers because of a society driven obsession with the pursuit of more things. It's apparent that a subsection of millennials (i.e. the subsection so often discussed in the media) are moving away from this, opting to pursue their passions and spend their money on travel and experiences rather than expensive furniture and cars.

However, minimalism goes beyond just consumerism and buying habits. It can be applied to every area of your life to clear out the physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental clutter that builds up in modern life. I've put together a list of simple ways to use the philosophy of minimalism to improve every area of our lifestyles.

Beauty: Use up all of your products before buying new ones. This will help you keep your bathroom and vanity areas clean and simple and, of course, save a lot of money.

Fashion: After determining what you want your wardrobe to look like, categorize different pieces by Own, Replace, and Need. Make the Need category your top priority, think hard about buying things from the Replace category, and avoid buying anything from the Own category.

Consumerism: Consider every single purchase an investment. Before you make a purchase, evaluate the long-term value of that item. Will it be useless or go out of style within the next year, five years, or ten years? Will it contribute to any facet of your well-being (financial, health, creativity)? Do you already own something that will suffice? I've mentioned above my philosophy on buying clothing and the same can be applied to any purchase.

Food: Nutrition is an area that I believe is commonly over-complicated. There are endless fad and deprivation diets, complicated meal plans, and foods that are good for you one day and bad for you the next. I suggest following the simple philosophy of Michael Pollan which states: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

Living Space: Keep in mind the idea that the traveling eye in a minimalist space should not be distracted as it moves across the room. Minimalism doesn't necessarily mean an empty apartment with nothing but the bare essentials---decor is welcome! Just give it some thought beforehand and only display the very few things that you absolutely love and that make your space feel calm. 

Waste: Keep reusable bags in your car so that you always have one on hand. This will prevent you from having to use plastic bags if you forget to pack a reusable or if you make an impromptu trip to the store. Additionally, buy a few mesh produce bags to reduce your grocery footprint. Finally, create a zero waste kit to keep in your bag. This would contain things like a reusable metal straw, metal spork, reusable water bottle, and a cloth napkin. 

Mind:  I read a great quote on Becoming Minimalist in which Farnoosh Brock said, "We should start choosing our thoughts like we choose our clothes for the day." And another good thought on Cup of Jo about having a bouncer for your brain. It certainly takes practice, but through meditation and intention, we can control our thoughts. You have to find what works for you, but here's one method that works for me. For general mind clutter, I like to go through the alphabet one or two times, assigning a name or word to each letter (i.e. Apple, Banana, Cauliflower, etc). This sounds silly, but it distracts your mind by focusing it on something simple and meaningless, thus creating a sort of mental reset.

Technology: Delete any apps that you haven't used in the past month. Clear out old numbers from your contact list. Each month, upload your photos to your computer and start fresh with an empty camera roll. 

Fitness: This area's complexity is similar to nutrition. Of course, it's totally fine to have in depth fitness routines that you follow but I think that it can be so overwhelming for most people that they often choose to do nothing instead. The simple truth is to move more. Take a walk with your coffee/tea in the morning or go for an evening run after work. Choose leisure activities that involve movement---bike riding, hiking, tennis, swimming, skiing. If you feel tired and unmotivated to do an intense HIIT workout, then don't do it. Do a nice yoga routine instead. 

Relationships: Approach your relationships (family, friendships, romantic) with the intention of simplicity and value. Take stock of the relationships that drain you and the ones that fulfill you. Disconnect from the former and cultivate the latter, focusing on removing the ego from the equation. Strong relationships can, in fact, be simple provided both parties focus on connecting, loving, addressing problems, and practicing gratitude. 

5 Hygge TV Shows

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I know a lot of people are probably tired of hearing about hygge and I agree that the word has become a bit overexposed. However, I always say I've been doing hygge since birth so ultimately it's just the way I choose to operate and I base most of my decisions on the quest for hygge. Here are a few suggestions for hygge television series to keep things cozy this week.

The Crown
The opulent sets, high-brow conversation, and rich costumes evoke a warm feeling despite the apparent coldness of British politics.

The Killing / Forbrydelsen
The original Danish show Forbrydelsen is ideal (see: Sarah Lund sweater) but the American version The Killing is a good alternative. I guess the weird thing about hygge is that it doesn't necessarily connote joy. For instance, these shows are rather dark and, yes, they clearly revolve around murder (in a way not at all similar to tame British murder mysteries) but they're somehow cozy to watch because of the sweaters and the fog.

A Series of Unfortunate Events
In keeping with the dark theme, this series has an odd element of cozy because of its steampunk aesthetic and literary references.

Gilmore Girls
Because Stars Hollow is cozy beyond belief.

This Is Us
This could possibly be the most hygge show of all time. It has cozy sets, warm lighting, sentimental storylines, and incredibly likable characters. It's very timely that it should have premiered around the same time that hygge was gaining traction in the States.

What do you watch when you want to feel warm and cozy?

The Girl Friday: Sophia

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Sophia and I were interns together a few years ago and when I first met her, I immediately knew that she was as elegant and cultured as she turned out to be. I fondly remember going to Brooklyn together once to watch one of France's games on television at Bar Tabac during the World Cup. The place was so packed we could barely see, so we ended up watching the France game at a deserted Irish pub down the street. I also have her to thank for my obsession with Stromae. Whenever I think of my most sophisticated friends, Sophia is definitely one of them and I think her thoughts below will make that quite clear.

Favorite Beauty Brands
Bumble & Bumble, Clinique, Stila.

Favorite Indulgence
"McDonald's is my guilty pleasure. I'm probably there once a week!"

Go-To Snack
An apple or a peach.

Favorite Piece in Wardrobe
"My black Ralph Lauren sweater shirtdress. I've had it for years and the quality is still amazing and it goes with everything!"

In an alternate universe, what career would you pursue?
"If we could dial back time a few centuries, I would definitely be a cartographer or an explorer."

Who are your five ideal celebrity dinner party guests?
Priyanka Chopra, Hafiz, Socrates, Michelle Obama, and, of course, David Beckham!

Who is your wellness idol?
Jessica Alba

Who inspires you to be healthier?
"People who run marathons. I find long-distance running so inspiring, and I figure that if people run for miles on end, working out once in awhile is the least I can do."

Most Recent Binge Watch
"Orphan Black--so addicting!"

What album are you listening to?
The Weekend's Starboy.

Top 3 Places on Current Travel Wish List
Madrid, Spain; Samarkand, Uzbekistan; Isfahan, Iran.
 

What do you currently do?
Student, currently studying for a Master's degree in International Development.

Where are you located?
Paris, France

Astrological Sign
Libra

How would you describe your aesthetic?
"Definitely classic, lots of black with pops of color and I never leave the house without earrings (the bigger the better)."

Girl Crush:
Alicia Vikander

Boy Crush:
"I've been crazy for David Beckham for more than a decade!"

Favorite Scent
"My favorite scent is probably fire but my favorite perfume is hands down Armani's Acqua di Gioia."

Favorite Film
"I recently saw a French movie called Divines and it blew my mind. Incredible."

Favorite Book
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Favorite City
Toulouse or Barcelona

Favorite Restaurant
"I love Italian food (who doesn't?) and there's a great place in my neighborhood called Ober Mamma. Unfortunately, everyone else has also realized how great it is, so the line is always out the door."

Go-To Workout
"Soccer! I've been playing since I was five."

My Makeup Wishlist

I don't wear a lot of makeup and when I do, it's typically the same look again and again. Therefore, I don't have the biggest makeup collection and really don't have a huge wishlist either. However, some of my previous go-to's are running low and I'd like to swap them out for something a bit different. 

MAC Cosmetics Lipstick in Ruby Woo | This color is one of the most universally loved shades I know of. It looks great on every skin tone and is the perfect shade of red---not too orange, not too pink, not too bright, not too dark. Plus, Jeanne Damas wears it.

Anastasia Brow Wiz in Taupe | I'm a big fan of Anastasia but have never actually tried any of their brow products. I hear a lot of great things about this one from bloggers and YouTubers. In the past, the only brow product that's worked well for me has been Glossier's Boy Brow which has the texture of a pomade whereas the Brow Wiz is a retractable, precision pencil. 

rms beauty Living Luminizer | I currently use the Anastasia Glow Kit (Gleam) as my one and only highlighter but would love to try this cream highlighter as I imagine it creates a more dewy, fresh look.

YSL The Shock Volumizing Mascara in Asphalt Black | I love my Perricone MD mascara, but once I run out I think I'd like to try something new. Since I wear glasses most of the time, I'm in need of a more dramatic mascara look in order to look like I'm wearing any at all. I think this mascara, with its volumizing formula and hourglass shaped brush, might do the trick.

What's on your makeup wishlist?

Sustainable Minimalism with Sydney Brown

I absolutely love finding those rare brands that offer beautifully designed, minimalist-inspired products that are also eco-friendly, sustainably designed and sourced, and vegan. With the surge in popularity of wellness in recent years, one would think there would be a proliferation of eco-friendly companies for every style but that just isn't the case. 

Bearing this in mind, I'm very excited about the relaunch of Sydney Brown, a luxury footwear brand with a minimalist, sculptural aesthetic and a commitment to sustainable production. In keeping with Japanese-inspired design, the brand feels deeply rooted in nature. The use of shaven cork, grains, and cotton has a way of grounding you closer to the earth when you wear the shoes. Plus, some of the designs feature iridescent wooden platforms which reflect a glowing rainbow in the light which is such a fun surprise.

Lucky for us, the new relaunch will include the brand's first line of sneakers. They're incredibly cool, too----there's a sneaker with cut-outs!

I find that Sydney Brown's shoes are great for the modern environmentalist---the girls who demand eco-friendly products but who are also very concerned with design. These are just as much for the California girl as they are the New York girl, the Tokyo girl, and the Bondi Beach girl. I can see them with white boho dresses, jeans and a t-shirt, or even just a swimsuit on vacation. They're classic with an edge, simple with a twist, and most importantly, you can trust that your spending is a vote for ethical fashion.

Want to Wear Now

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As the cold returns, I'm kind of feeling a Penny Lane vibe, wanting to wear shearling coats with ankle boots and floppy hats. Even though it's almost February, I'm craving autumnal colors perhaps because I feel as though we didn't have a long enough fall season this year.

10 Instant Pick-Me-Ups

Like many people, I've found myself going through a range of emotions lately from frustrated to disappointed to annoyed and even a bit nervous. It's actually been kind of weird for me to write blog posts about makeup and clothes when, right now, my thoughts are really centered around the ways I need to get involved with the causes that are vital to the progression of our country and our earth. But, we're in the midst of very strange times and now more than ever, I think we all are in need of some pick-me-ups, so here are some of the things I like to do when I need a mental/physical break from the nonsense.

Do an at-home facial steam and clay mask.
During the times that I feel gross or exhausted, I love to do an easy, at-home facial steam. I don't currently have an actual steamer, so I simply fill a large bowl with a few drops of essential oils and fresh herbs, then add boiling water. Place your face over the bowl and cover your head with a towel for a super easy DIY steam. You can do the clay mask before, during, or after the steam but I suggest using the clay mask during so that it doesn't tighten your skin too much. Your skin will feel so clean and fresh afterwards that it's hard not to be in a better mood.

Watch Just Add Magic on Amazon Prime.
I started watching this show at the beginning of 2016 and fell in love with it. It's about three girls who find a magic cookbook with spells in the form of recipes. If you look at the Amazon comments, you'll see that there is a huge variation in the fan base from moms with young daughters to 68-year-old male retirees. The show is so calming but entertaining and I find that it has a subtle tone of female empowerment. It's all about friendship and the relationship between three girls and the three older women who owned the cookbook when they were girls. It's also the only show about and geared toward young girls that doesn't focus all of its storylines around crushes and mean girls.

Listen to 24k Magic.
I don't care who you are, this song is a mood lifter.

Listen to Muna.
This girl band is so good. They only have a few songs but they're all catchy and upbeat with a an 80s pop vibe. For a pick-me-up, I particularly love "I Know a Place" and "Loudspeaker" which, if you ask me, should be the female empowerment anthem.

Wear the fluffy yarn pants from Uniqlo.
Ever since I bought these fluffy yarn pants, I've been in a happy mood. They are so cozy and perfect, please buy a pair because it'll be one of your best decisions. 

Go to the salon or spa.
I go to an Aveda salon so every time I go for a service, even if it's just a brow wax, it feels like a mini spa day with tea, heated chairs, and a complimentary scalp or hand massage. I, of course, suggest going for a real spa day as a pick-me-up but at the very least, it's amazing to find a salon that makes every visit that relaxing. 

Play a chill video game.
I tend to cycle through games on my phone because they bore me after awhile, but playing a relaxing game (like Stack, Daily Celebrity Crossword, or Two Dots) is an easy pick-me-up. However, my go-to since elementary school has been playing various iterations of The Sims. I could honestly write a whole post about this. Maybe I will.

Plan a trip.
If you're doing this as a pick-me-up, perhaps refrain from portions of trip planning such as budgeting and logistics. Rather, just think about the places you'd like to go, where you want to stay, and what you'd like to do while you're there.

Make a fruit smoothie.
Find a blender and make an ice-cold fruit smoothie. If you're in the mood for chocolate, try banana, almond milk, and cherries with a little spoonful of cacao powder. If you want a full-on fruity smoothie, I love the combination of mango, pineapple, banana, spinach, and fresh squeezed orange juice.

Sit in a coffee shop.
To me, there's nothing better than spending a few hours in a cafe. Even if you're working on a project, it still manages to be relaxing. 

How to Get the Haircut You Want

I know I'm not the only one who feels a bit nervous going in for a haircut. Most of us have experienced a terrible cut and I'm sure all of us have left the salon with a look that is not exactly what we had in mind. Having had a brief stint at the Aveda hair school, I have a few tips when it comes to effectively communicating with your stylist to get the haircut that you actually want.

Be realistic when choosing your haircut.
This may seem obvious, but keep in mind things like your natural hair texture and growth patterns when you are browsing through Pinterest for haircut inspiration. No matter what your stylist does, they aren't magicians and some cuts just may not work for you. Try to find haircut inspiration by looking for photos of people with face shapes and hair texture similar to yours.

Schedule a consultation.
In my experience, most Aveda salons require a pre-service consultation when a client books a color treatment. Although it may not be time sensitive, I think it's wise to have a bit of time before your appointment to talk with your stylist about what you want. This way, there is a scheduled bit of time to have a conversation about it rather than just a 30-second window while you're in the chair.

Bring photos of the cut you want that show multiple angles.
Showing your stylist one photo of a girl with cute hair you found on Instagram may not allow them to see exactly what you're trying to go for. In addition to verbally communicating what you want, I suggest finding photos of haircuts from different angles so that your stylist has a better general idea of what's going on.

Tell your stylist about your daily routine.
Informing a stylist about your lifestyle and schedule can be helpful in determining whether or not certain cuts will work for you or just add stress to your life. It's helpful for a stylist to know if you swim often, if you are a gym-goer or an athlete, or if you style your hair with hot tools. Additionally, let them know if you are willing and able to spend an hour styling your hair each morning or if you simply want to wake up and go. This makes a huge difference and will prevent you from getting a high maintenance haircut that you are unable to maintain.

Describe how you want your hair to feel.
As we all know, there's more to a haircut than just looks. Some people find a fringe irritating, some get irritated when their hair feels heavy on their neck or too much in their face. Let your stylist know if you want your hair to feel lighter or if you would like it to have more natural movement. This is a crucial factor in choosing what kind of layers, if any, to add.

Mention the hairstyles you want to be able to do.
If you are going shorter, but still want to be able to style a high ponytail or topknot, let the stylist know so that they don't take off too much hair to create short layers that will fall out of and updo. The same goes for fringe which can make certain hairstyles more difficult. 

5 Healthy, No-Cook Desserts

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While I love to bake, sometimes I just want a healthy dessert that involves few ingredients and minimal effort. I simply want something that I can assemble and enjoy. After a long day, there's nothing better. Here are five of my go-to desserts that don't involve cooking or baking.

Berries + Cream
You can come up with all sorts of variations for this dessert. Start by making a coconut cream or cashew cream. Then, all you have to do is assemble it in a bowl with macerated berries of your choice. I especially love blackberries or balsamic-glazed strawberries.

Apple-Banana Bowl
This might be the easiest dessert of them all. Simply chop one apple and one banana, drizzle with honey and dust with cinnamon for the most delicious, guilt-free treat.

PB&Banana Sandwiches
If you have a little more time to wait before dessert, slice up a banana or two then spread a bit of peanut butter between two slices like a sandwich. Dip in melted chocolate, then put them in the freezer until the chocolate hardens.

Chocolate Chia Pudding
Chia pudding is my all-time favorite breakfast and it's fun to have for dessert, too. Add 3 tablespoons of chia seeds to 3/4 cup of almond milk and about a teaspoon of cacao powder, then whisk really well. Refrigerate for a few hours. If the chia seeds seem to be clumping together (leaving the mixture too runny), simply put the mixture in a blender for a few seconds, which will result in a perfectly thickened pudding. Another variation is vanilla chia pudding (replace cacao powder with vanilla extract) which you can top with all kinds of seasonal fruit.

Fruit Popsicles
The variations are endless here so long as you have fruit on hand. Simply blend fruit and a liquid in a blender then pour into popsicle molds. Some ideas are coconut strawberry, blackberry maple, green juice, blue spirulina, and creamy chocolate mint.

Frequently Asked Beauty Questions

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When you work in the beauty industry and write a blog that focuses a lot on it, you tend to get a lot of questions about the topic. I always get excited when someone approaches me with questions about what products they should use because, honestly, I just love talking about beauty and I've tried so many things that it's fun to share. I'm not a dermatologist or esthetician, so definitely consult one if you're having more severe skin issues. 

Here are a few of the questions I get asked most frequently:

What foundation should I use?
I typically recommend BB/CC creams for a more natural look and my favorites are the Dr. Jart Black Label BB Beauty Balm and the IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+Illumination Cream with SPF 50+. If you are a fan of fuller coverage, try the MAC Pro Longwear Foundation.

What products do you most recommend for a good skincare routine?
The very basics that I think everyone should be using are just a sunscreen, cleanser, and moisturizer. But for a solid skincare routine, I'd suggest sunscreen, cleanser, toner, serum (specific to your skincare needs), and moisturizer.

If I'm using a cleanser with salicylic acid for acne, should I be using a moisturizer for oily or dry skin?
Unless you have very sensitive skin, I don't necessarily suggest using a specific oily-skin or dry-skin moisturizer. Instead, I would recommend switching between two different all-skin type moisturizers---a lighter product for the warm months and a heavy moisturizer in the colder months. 

What exfoliating products do you recommend?
There's two that I love, which I use every other day or so in the winter and a few times per week in the summer---the Clarins One-Step Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser and Refining Facial Polisher. Lancer's The Method: Polish is also great.

What hair products should I use along with hot tools?
Regardless of your desired style, use a heat protecting spray. In most cases, you will find styling products that double as a thermal spray. For curls, waves, or straight hair, I love the Sachajuan Finish Creme.

What are the best products for dry, cracked lips?
My go-to is Smith's Rosebud Salve. A good drugstore pick is the CeraVe Healing Ointment.

How often should I use sheet masks?
As always, it depends on your skin type but a safe answer is 1-2 times per week. I will usually do one per week in order to make it feel special.

Does a face oil exacerbate an already oily, acne-prone face?
No. On the contrary, oily skin is typically a side effect of skin dehydration. So, while it may feel counter intuitive to put oil on an already oily face, it actually helps the situation. My personal favorites have been Caudalie's Premier Cru The Elixir and Jurlique's Skin Balancing Oil. They both smell great and feel light enough that even the most oily skin won't feel greasy after a few hours. However, on the nights that I use facial oil, I do skip moisturizer.

 

5 Things I Ditched in 2016

Watching all of the Best Picture nominees.
Now, this wasn't intentional nor is it something I necessarily ditched for good. My tradition for the past few years has been to spend the year researching which films will be nominated for the Oscar and seeing them all before the show, usually before the nominations even come out. In 2016, I didn't do that. Not really sure why, but I didn't even see one of the films that will likely be nominated. I'd like to bring the tradition back soon, but I'm not sure if I will for 2017 because, honestly, it's rather expensive. 

Buying magazines.
I used to love buying a magazine almost every time I went to the grocery store. I'm a fiend for content, so just imagining what was beyond the cover was like a drug to me. Ultimately, the magazines would form a pile on my dining room table when I opted to read books or do something else instead. So, the time finally came and I have stopped buying magazines. Now, I'll just stick to reading magazines at places like News Bar Cafe in Union Square which stocks all sorts of material.

Purchasing primarily from fast fashion retailers.
This is not to say that I won't buy a pair of Zara shoes or an accessory from H&M every once in awhile, but I've gone ahead and stopped looking at the websites altogether. The negative impact of fast fashion really hit me. Instead, I've added a line to my budget so that I'm saving a bit of money each month to buy fewer, better quality items. Since starting this, I've pared down my clothes buying habit and have only purchased a cashmere turtleneck from Everlane and a pair of high-waist jeans from Madewell. 

Feeling totally perplexed by meal planning and grocery shopping.
For the longest time, I would get so overwhelmed by the thought of putting together a grocery list. It was totally weird. I couldn't figure out what to buy or what to make that was healthy, affordable, and sounded appealing (there are times when literally nothing sounds good to me). I would get frustrated because my produce would get soggy and slimy, my bread would get moldy before I could finish it all, and everything I brought to work just seemed disgusting by lunchtime (still kind of a problem, actually). More recently, I think I've gotten the hang of it and now know the amount of food I need to buy so that I have options but nothing rots before I can get to it. I've also been able to find more recipes that sound good and that are still edible by lunch.

Watching TV shows and movies that are bad for my mood.
I'm the type of person who is really sensitive to my environment and to the kinds of things I consume. So, I've made the simple decision to stop watching things as soon as they put me in a bad mood even if they're critically acclaimed or everyone else is watching them. Because honestly, Westworld is just depressing.