Lesson #5: Splurge on Quality Products If You’ll Use Them

You’re getting two lessons in one day, folks! (I missed yesterday because I pulled a double at the theatre and passed out on the couch before writing up a post.)

Lesson #4 was finding a qualified dermatologist and putting your skin in their hands. This lesson ties in very closely to that, I think: if you find a beauty product you love and know you’ll use it repeatedly indefinitely, then it’s ok to splurge a bit. Am I saying I spend $500 on an eye cream? No. (Oh hell no!) But I will spend $27 on a foundation that’s in my shade exactly and helps treat acne that I’ll use every singe day for at least six months. Or $34 on the only conditioner I’ve ever used that was moisturizing without making my head look like a greasy mop (and I knew would last me, literally, a year and a half). Or $22 on the most enduring eye liner I’ve sampled.

While these prices aren’t outrageous to some of you, my lovely readers, they would have been to me ten years ago. But my more adult logic is this: when I was in my early twenties, I would go to the local drug store and buy a handful of products for $5-$10 each. None of them would work as well as I would hope for (the lipstick would bleed, the foundation would be blotchy, the shampoo would build up after one wash, etc.), so I would go back the next month and buy similar products in the same price range and repeat the whole scenario ad nauseam, wasting so. much. cash.

When I discovered both Birchbox and Sephora, my beauty buying habits changed immensely. Getting monthly samples for only $10 from Birchbox allowed me to try so many different things without investing in a product until I knew it worked. And Sephora… Well, their sampling and return policy is to die for wonderful, so I’m never afraid to buy merchandise knowing I can bring it back, no questions asked (like the Clarisonic brush that I despised!). The fear of spending $20-$30 on one thing dissipated as soon as I knew that the price met the legitimate quality. While I spend too much money on beauty stuff (true fact), it’s all stuff that I use regularly and can rely on to work, as opposed to those products that would linger on the shelf and get tossed after six months.

 

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Hi, friends!

I’ve taken a bit of sabbatical from the blog (two weeks!), but trust me, I’ve been thinking about this place every day since my last write-up!

We’ve been having weird weather the past few weeks in New England: warm, balmy, comfortable. While I know it probably signals the reality of global warming, I can’t help but admit the fact that I love the nice days! They’ve been entirely livable for someone who is bitterly cold once winter hits, to the extent that B and I often joke I’m reptilian: my body temperature is dictated by the outside world.

With that all said, I was able to wear this adorable outfit to a recent networking event put on by a local library.

Let me set the record straight: I’m a huge dork who hates hate HATES networking. Like. Pit in my stomach and about to wretch at the idea of having to do something like meet and engage with strangers. I would rather be at home with my books thankyouverymuch. But I’ve promised myself that I would stretch myself beyond my comfort zone this year and make friends who weren’t, like, Anna Karenina and Vronsky. And what better place than a library networking event!

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Dress: TJ Maxx

Cardigan: LOFT

Shoes: TOMS

Bag: TOMS

Belt: H&M

Watch: Fossil

Necklace: Homemade!

I was super nervous at the prospect of having to socialize and be normal with people I didn’t know in a context I wasn’t used to (neurotic!), so I made sure that I wore an out that was comfortable, pretty and totally me. I really loved the bright white paired with earthy browns — the cardigan, belt, shoes, and jasper necklace — because I think they balanced each other nicely. I also pulled out this bag — one I’ve had for years — because the brown leather paired nicely, but the yellow and green fabric popped. It also allowed me to pattern mix with not two but three parts of my outfit: the larger, linear lines of the dress; the smaller, softer, repetitive arches of the bag; and the small, organic leopard print in the shoes. A super simple outfit to throw together, but one that, I thought, had some nice depth and subtlety to it.

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I liked the outfit enough that I made B bring the camera with him to take outside photos! It was breezy, but temperate. We were able to laugh and goof around, putting me in a more comfortable mood before schmoozing. In our adventures, B tried out an intense version of downward dog with his newly operated knee!

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After this second round of photos, we ambled over to the networking event, warm and happy, and had a great time! It was awesome to meet new people in the city, connect with some other folks I’d met recently at a book club get-together, and check out a hip new hotel in town (where the event was being held). By the end of the night, my cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing — and I didn’t even partake in the wine!

As I’m approaching 30 (two months!), I’ve really been considering how I live my life, especially habits that I like that are healthy versus ones I really should rethink. If you haven’t gathered yet from this post (and you don’t even need close reading skills for that one!), I can be totally anxious, neurotic and nervous in social situations; this was a certainly an exercise of “faking it” by putting myself into a good place before I had to face something scary and uncomfortable and, in the end, I totally “made it!” I learned how valuable laughing and smiling on the outside can be to actually feeling better on the inside. Lesson learned for the future, especially the next library event in a week!

Stitch Fix #10 Review

Number 5 with Alessandra — while not exactly right, I’m still pleased for two new additions!

For this fix, as I’m about to head into the cold months of November and December, I asked for some lightweight sweaters with fun details (lace overlay, button-backs, etc.), as well as a “bum-covering jacket” and a pencil skirt with thicker material. Alessandra was awesome on delivering what I asked for, which I so entirely appreciate; I’m not disappointed that everything didn’t work because I know I’m being heard at least. (My first handful of fixes were messes pretty much — including the one where I sent a scathing email to the company!)

Item #1: Brixon Ivy’s Fierro Elbow Patch Crew Neck Sweater ($58)

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I won’t lie: I peek at the listing of what’s coming in my fix before it arrives! This was the one item that I was excited about: it looked cute with a touch of whimsy.

When it arrived, it was the first item I tried on. While I wish it were cream instead of grey, I couldn’t resist the sweet lace embellishments. It’s a little longer that I like, but I like it with a pair of jeans, vest and flats. With the weather turning even cooler quickly, I know I’ll soon switch out those jeans and flats for cords and boots! Kept.

Item #2: Market & Spruce Riga Ponte Jacket ($78)

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I couldn’t find a single image of this jacket pre-delivery — so it was a total surprise!

Pretty simply: t’s a lightweight peacoat-type jacket. (Sorry the color is off — it’s navy and not black.) Alessandra sent me a size medium, which unfortunately was a half-size too small for real life. While I can certainly wear a tee or a thin sweater with this, I won’t be able to layer as much as needed in New England. Alas, alack! I do own a similar jacket from H&M in tan, but I know that they do have it in navy as well. Maybe, if I’m feeling a navy jacket, I’ll opt for that? We’ll see. Returned.

Item #3: 41Hawthorn McQue Solid Lace Sleeve Blouse ($48)

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I really, really wanted to like this blouse. I’ve been looking for a flirty navy blouse for a couple of months and hadn’t found the right one just yet.

When I pulled this out of the box, I thought it was the one. Lace sleeves! Button in the back! Swoon! But. Alas. I put it on — and saw right through it (there’s no no give in the bust area for me, so it really highlighted what it should have hidden). The material is a touch scratchy too. Such a bummer. It’s definitely a pretty shirt, but I don’t think it’s right for fully-chested ladies. Seeing this on other reviewers’ sites, I know it’s a hit for them, but they’re generally not as curvy as I am. Returned.

Item #4: Renee C Alondra Ruched Pencil Skirt ($58)

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I’ll admit that I like this skirt a lot better in the photo than I did in real life. Maybe it’s because I asked for a bottom with thicker material and this one is awfully thin. Or maybe because it’s grey and I specified wanting to avoid grey in my fixes. Or maybe it’s the ruched style AND stripes wrapping around the fullest part of my body. I tried it on, and quickly took it off. I felt like an ice cream cone. Returned.

Item #5: 41Hawthorn Presley Colorblock Button-Back Sweater ($68)

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The anomaly of this fix. When I saw that I was getting this sweater, I was slightly disappointed. I don’t like colorblocking generally and most of the reviews showed a yellow/grey or pink/cream mix — alright, but not great.

When I opened my fix, I was surprised and intrigued: I really liked the plum/pinky mix of this top. They’re not colors I would have chosen for myself, but that’s refreshing about Stitch Fix! I was always endeared to the sweater because it’s so soft! I was expecting something a little scratchy for some reason, but was happily delighted by the lovely feel of this piece.

I hemmed and hawed for a bit, but I decided to keep it in the end. It’s just beyond my comfort zone without being outrageous. Kept.

Overall: Two out of three — not too bad! I kept two sweaters, what I wanted and needed more than anything else. I wasn’t head over heels in love, but, then again, I hate winter dressing anyway, so it has to be summer manifested in a box to make me happy once the weather goes cold.

Native Resident

Where have I been? Just out pushing every limit I’ve got — and, hell, it’s been interesting!

Today is “17 of 20,” meaning I’m working day 17 of a 20 day streak. (Oof! It was only supposed to be 12 days, but morphed when I spent A LOT of time prepping for a group on Sunday.) While working 17 days is a lot, I somehow packed the schedule with more than usual tasks and meetings. In that period of time, I have:

  1. Hosted six private museum tours: three adult groups, three school groups.
  2. Managed four theatre performances.
  3. Attended my first book club meeting, during which we discussed Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s newly translated Tram 83.
  4. Attended tea at the house of two 90-year-old former professors and heard about their life escapades.
  5. Heard from an old friend who I thought I’d lost a long time ago.
  6. Was formally interviewed on views and takes of my fair little city for a community video by a local real estate company. (More below.)
  7. Was offered, negotiated, and accepted a promotion. (Wait, wha…? I’ll get back to this one in the near future.)
  8. Saw a heartbreaking production of A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as a performance of Beethoven’s Pastoral.
  9. Watched three movies: Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak (great actors; not the best script, though it falls in line with my gothic lit frenzy lately; oh, and Tom Hiddleston — swoon!); Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs (can’t go wrong with Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet); and National Theatre’s filmed production of Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch. (Just add James McAvoy and I’d have seen all of my favorite — and dreamy — leading actors in a week!)

So that’s where I’ve been!

But you’re here for clothes! Back to the main topic!

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by a local real estate company to be interviewed for a city-specific promo to help soon-to-be-transplants decide what region in which to settle. In addition to having worked in my little city for a couple of years, I also grew up in the area; seems appropriate, I guess, to explain the ins and outs to newbies.

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Dress: H&M

Sweater: H&M

Belt: Target

Tights: Target

Shoes: Naturalizer via DSW

This is a pretty no fuss outfit. The dress doesn’t wrinkle easily and the sweater is comfy without being dowdy. I added a little punch with the leopard print belt (which, admittedly, was buried in some chub when I was sitting for my interview — oops!). While I love pops of color and punches of pattern, I didn’t know how well that would play on camera, so I erred on solids.

When I walked into the museum that morning, I looked as I do here: specifically, sans lipstick. My colleague pretty much pulled me aside and asked if I was going to put some on because I wear it so often! Glad to be known for that trademark! I went with Model Co.’s Peony because it’s a great pop of fuchsia without, I think, being comical. (I hear “fuchsia lipstick” and think 1980’s Barbie cartoons.)

(B and I finished watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt this summer — but every so often, I reenact Titus’ “Circle of Life” scene with our cats. They are not as accommodating as his feline, though.)

The Cat’s Meow

We have three felines. I think their nicknames give you a sense of each personality. (When TS Elliot wrote that cats have several names, not just the ones we give them, he wasn’t kidding.)

  1. Lenka, aka “Cat-Face,” “Baby Guurl,” or, when she’s particularly naughty, “Lenka-what-are-you-DOING?!” (all one word).
  2. Sweetie, aka “Sweetheart,” “Skinny Minny,” “Vomit-a-tron 1” (yeah, gross, but apt).
  3. Violet, aka “Shrinking Violet” or, lately, “Miss Meows-a-lot.”

In my “about me” page, I mention that sometimes our cats photobomb these mini morning shoots. Usually it’s a casual walk through or sometimes they roll a ball at me to play. But, for some reason, this morning all of our cats decided that they wanted to hang out with me in front of the camera.

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Top: LOFT

Skirt: Stitch Fix

Tights: Target

Flats: TOMS

Necklace: The Knotty Owl via Etsy

Sweetie is the demure tuxedo I’m holding in the first photo, while Lenka is the photogenic Maine Coon. (Yes, I’m holding her on her back upside down: we’ve developed a weird gymnastic routine for her because she loves attention so much.) And Violet is the flash of black fur.

I don’t know why they wanted to join me today. Maybe it’s the skirt? Sweetie liked it last time I wore it. Or maybe they liked my raven’s skull necklace from The Knotty Owl?

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I really like this outfit because it’s a fun way to play with texture and pattern. The shirt has a great iridescent sheen to it, which plays well against the grain of the skirt: each light up in various ways as they shift. The skirt also has a larger, geometric pattern, which fly right up against the organic cheetah print of the shoes. And the tights? They provide a dark background for the shoes to pop and I like that the neutral color of top and the black of the tights are both picked up again in the shoes. Oh, and it’s autumn in New England and they’re part of the uniform now.

Finally: the necklace! I bought this stunner a couple of years ago when Ashley listed it on sale for 40% off. I simply couldn’t decline a beautiful hand carved replica of a ravens’s skull at reduced price. (I mean, really?!) When it arrived, B named this guy “Lookout” after the rook’s skull in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. I didn’t know the allusion readily, but I loved that there could be such a reference made. He “looks out” for those cats all the time, making sure they don’t bat all my other gems and trinkets around.