Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dinner in New Orleans' Garden District

It never fails that as much as I try to give plenty of time to pack and I try to make packing lists, I always forget something! This trip to New Orleans was no exception and I was mortified when I realized that I forgot to bring a pair of Spanx for this dress. I discovered LA Made Clothing right before LuckyFABB last year and while I received my first dress (last seen here) from the company, I've since bought two more. This is my most recent find and just like my other two, I love the silk jersey fabric.  In particular in this case, where the dress was still flattering even thought I forgot my compression garments. I do admit that their sizing is very inconsistent. Last year, when I received my dress, I also received two tees that were sized Large (same as the dress) and those were the most shrunken t-shirts I've ever seen.  There was no way I could fit into them and I ultimately gave them to my little sister's best friend because she is tiny.  In contrast, all the dresses I own are also Large and they fit very well except in the torso, but I am very short and I have a short torso so I have to take everything up in the shoulders anyway.  This is no exception and I realized when I looked at these photos that the cleavage is much more revealing than I prefer.  We went back to our room and picked up my shawl before we headed to the beautiful Garden District for our delicious dinner at Upperline.   Even though my husband made eyes at me all night, this dress is still in the alterations pile!
Dress: LAMade Clothing (I want this one or this one on sale)
Earrings: c/o Lavishy; Necklace: c/o Jane Basch Jewelry (both from LuckyFABB 2013)
Bracelet: Fossil (old); Clutch: c/o D'Andrea Handbags (LuckyFABB 2013)
Wedges: Lauren Ralph Lauren Dover; Nail Polish: OPI Skyfall
Don't forget to enter my Fresh Effects Giveaway here. I received the prize package this weekend and was pleasantly surprised that they sent one of each products featured in the giveaway post! So the winner will receive not only my favorite Fresh Effects products, but also the CoverGirl products seen before!
I hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day Holiday and take a moment to pray and give thanks for all the men and women who bravely defend our country. Freedom isn't free.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Walking New Orleans

My husband and I love New Orleans and we usually take any opportunity to visit. We took a quick roadtrip over to Lousiana this past weekend and took advantage of the wonderful weather in the middle of May.  In the past we've taken tours of the cemetaries, the 9th ward and done the Jazz Dinner cruise. This trip we decided to do a walking courtyard tour and it was really worth it.  There were so many places that we didn't even know had courtyards and it was great to hear about the family that the tour focuses on.
Tank and Lace Bandeau: Victoria's Secret; Denim: Joe's Jeans; Scarf: Converse (old); Watch: c/o LaMer Collection
Hairwrap: c/o FranceLuxe; Earrings: c/o Kluster; Sunglasses: Marc by Marc Jacobs (old)
Bracelet: Fossil; Bag: Rebecca Minkoff; Sandals: Cole Haan (all old)
I wanted to be comfortable and cool while we walked around, so I went with flat sandals, a crossbody bag, tank top, jeans and a ponytail.  I probably shouldn't have picked white jeans, but I didn't see any stains on them until I was tossing them in the washing machine.  Can you tell it was very windy?
Don't forget to enter my Fresh Effects Giveaway here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

#FaceTheWorldIRL: Professional Beauty & Fresh Effects Giveaway // CLOSED

It's that time of year when we unleash new college graduates upon the workforce.  As they proofread their resumes, dust off their briefcase - or tote bag!- and dry clean their interview suits, many will not know that they are going to blow their first impression and even miss a chance at the interview.  I always tell my friends that first impressions matter and it's because they do.  I am thrilled to partner with Olay Fresh Effects, Covergirl, and LinkedIn for their #FaceTheWorldIRL campaign.  The campaign is geared towards helping new college graduates professionally define themselves in the digital world and appeal to a broader group of prospective employers.

After years in the HR field, I can't tell you how many times I saw applicants lose the job before the interview even materialized. Your online persona plays a significant role in your job search. While many employers will never admit to it, I can tell you that you will be googled and anything found on the web will be scrutinized to determine your intelligence, judgement, and good character.  The top result when you google your name, should be your LinkedIn Profile. If you have limited work experience, reach out to any professors that you did research for or those who assigned particularly large projects as well as supervisors or coordinators of any volunteer work you have done and even co-workers at part time jobs or partners in group projects who can attest to your ability to work in a team and pull your weight. Finally, your profile should have a photo.  The #FaceTheWorldIRL campaign recently conducted an experiment which found that profiles with a photo saw a 63% increase in profile views vs. those without a photo.  Olay Fresh Effects and Covergirl have put together this beauty tutorial to help you put your best face forward with a look that is both simple and sophisticated to help you make the best first impression.
Olay Fresh Effects will be giving one reader a set of my favorite Fresh Effects products that are featured above.  To enter, please leave a comment with your best advice for recent college graduates to best define themselves online. Entries will be open until next Tuesday and one commenter will be selected at random to receive a Fresh Effects set of Everything Off Wipes, Dew Over Hydrating Gel Moisturizer, and Bright On Time Eye Awakening Cream. Giveaway is open to all US residents. Winner must be following this blog on GFC, Twitter or Bloglovin and all entries will be verified.
How do you advise college graduates to Face The World In Real Life?
This post is in collaboration with Olay Fresh Effects, Covergirl, and LinkedIn in support of the #FaceTheWorldIRL campaign. All advice and opinions are entirely my own. I'm grateful for your support of the brands that support this blog.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wine and Dash

The last day of our wine tour was a travel day as well.  I may be the only wino who refuses to give up white or light colored pants for wine, but I've been lucky so far.  Before coming home to Texas we squeezed in two more wineries and didn't regret it for a second!  We joined two other couples that we only see for my husband's work, and visited Stonestreet Winery and toured another cave including a cheese pairing at Lancaster Estate.
Top: Victoria's Secret (old); Sunglasses: c/o ZeroUV; Earrings: c/o Kluster Happy Jewelry
Jeans: Citizens of Humanity (old); Bracelet: Lauren Ralph Lauren; Tote: Rebecca Minkoff (old)
Cork Flats: Neiman Marcus (last season) (identical option by JCrew) (The ones I wanted by Stuart Weitzman)
I am not a fan of stripping for TSA, so I kept my jewelry minimal and wore my favorite ultra-low shoe liners from Hue because there are so few things that gross me out as much as walking barefoot at the TSA checkpoint. I am already on the smaller size scale for shoes (I wear a 6) and while I could stand to take a size smaller, the S/M size works with most flats I own, including these.
On Him - Shirt: American Eagle; Jeans: Banana Republic; Sunglasses: Maui Jim; Shoes: Johnston & Murphy                      In this photo, we are at Stonestreet Winery where the rosebushes are HUGE and the views are beautiful.
Cheese Pairing in the Cave at Lancaster Estate
Headed to the Cave Tour at Lancaster Estate
I have to say that I was favorably surprised to discover that we were often the only people at the vineyards we toured on this trip.  I don't know if that is typical of May in Sonoma, but it was a completely different experience from when we visited in October.  The biggest difference aside from the privacy on this trip, was that we never stood around a counter while someone poured wine and crossed off our sheets the way they did at Castello di Amorosa in the fall.  At each vineyard, we got to sit with our friends, enjoy a gorgeous view, and we were presented the wines we were tasting by our  guide who then left us alone in between sips to discuss amongst ourselves.  It was great to see how many wineries use caves to store their wines and host events.  We were often told that the savings in energy, storage, and taxes alone pay for the caves in 3-5 years after which the savings are pure profit.  We didn't want to leave the gorgeous wine country, but we were running late so we had make a quick getaway to catch our flight home.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wedding in the (Alexander) Valley

The primary purpose of the trip to Sonoma was to attend the wedding celebration of some friends in Wine Country.  The vineyard where the wedding was held rests atop the Alexander Valley and the views were simply breathtaking.  The dress code for the wedding was "Smart Casual" and the guests' attire ranged from khakis and sundresses to cocktail dresses and pumps.  We were somewhere in the middle as I wore a long chiffon maxi-dress and flat sandals while Mr. Fantastic wore khaki pants and a striped button down.  Because the wedding was celebrating the union of my husband's business associate, I wanted to look relaxed but put together. I decided on the maxi dress and kept all other accessories simple, but elegant. My favorite were these lapis lazuli stud earrings that I received from Kluster Happy Jewelry.  They were the perfect color and complemented my outfit very well without calling too much attention to themselves. In hindsight, the bracelet might have been a bit much. I found it during the sales at Neiman Marcus Last Call the week before the wedding and I think the pave was more formal than the look I was going for.
Dress: BCBGMaxAzria (took up shoulders, waist, and hem) (also love this pleated option)
Sunglasses: Balenciaga (old); Earrings: c/o Kluster Happy Jewelry; Necklace: c/o Jane Basch Jewelry
Bracelet: Panacea; Clutch: Magid (old)
Sandals: Cole Haan Halsley (old); Nail Polish: OPI Skyfall
We love weddings because it's usually a great time when friends come together to celebrate our loved ones and this was no exception.  Since our husbands all work together, although some virtually from remote locations, the wives only get to see each other during holiday parties.  It was so much fun to spend time together away from the office touring wineries and of course admiring the beautiful wedding venue while catching up.
Mr. Fantastic is wearing: Khakis: JCrew; Shirt: John Varvatos; Belt: Ralph Lauren; Shoes: Johnston & Murphy
The views of the Alexander Valley were breathtaking and could be seen from everywhere on the vineyard.
This is one of the most beautiful wedding cakes I've ever seen and it was delicious!
The groom and his beautiful bride thanked everyone for coming from all around the world representing countries like Switzerland, Turkey, China, and TEXAS!  Then they cut their gorgeous cake and opened the dance floor.

Have you been to any cool weddings lately?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mother's Day: The Beautiful MOMents

Happy Mother's Day! I normally try to focus on celebrating all the moms around me, mine and my husbands in particular because they are truly incredible women who have not only guided us through every step of our lives, but continue to help us raise our children.  My husband's sister is a mom to a vivacious and spirited little girl who makes us laugh beyond belief and we both have sisters-in-law, cousins, aunts, and numerous friends who leave us amazed every time we think of how much they take on just by being moms to the rambunctious and over caffeinated children in their lives.
Dress: Diane von Furstenberg New Julian Two Wrap Mini in Diamond Blue
Sunglasses: Balenciaga (old); Earrings: Blue Nile; Necklaces: Dogeared Jewelry & Jane Basch c/o LuckyFABB 2013
Clutch: Mr. Player c/o DeAndrea Handbags (2013); Bracelet: Lauren Ralph Lauren via eBay
Shoes: Christian Louboutin Simple 100's in Camel
I used to feel awkward accepting salutations from others for myself on Mother's Day. After seven years together and living with our boys for that entire time, it started to change in the last couple of years after I lost my full-time job and took over more and more of their day-to-day activities. This past year in particular was tough as our youngest has asthma and behavioral issues and I will never forget the enormous depth of emotion that I felt when he woke me up in the middle of the night crying because he couldn't breathe and called me, "Mom." And have I mentioned that I am somehow on the board of the band for our kid in High School?!?!? So much for "I'm not a mom." I might as well embrace it. :)
Photo from Instagram (I changed into my Old Navy Glitter flats) Can you tell I color coordinated?
I was thrilled to be a part of the celebration this year and tried to be gracious as I accepted not only my awesome dress as an early Mother's Day gift from my husband, but also gift cards and gifts from the boys and my in-laws.  We went to the park and spent the afternoon there with the whole family. This is the first year that I really felt like it was my MOMent.

What is or has been your favorite MOMent? Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Vegan Cuts Beauty Box - April

I was introduced to VeganCuts at LuckyFABB last month. While there, I received a sample of their Acure Shampoo & Conditioner as well as the Pure Natural Diva Botanicals Polished Organic Sugar Scrub.  Then a couple of weeks ago I received the April Vegan Cuts Beauty Box and was thrilled to discoved some products that I already used as well as some new ones.  One of my friends is a vegan and it is always so hard to shop for her on birthdays or holidays.  I think I know exactly what to buy her now, because almost all of these products are awesome.

The April box featured Montagne Jeunesse face masks for both men and women, which thrilled me because as I mentioned in my Product Junkie post, I love these and I had no clue they were all organic.  You can find them almost anywhere for just a couple of bucks. I had Mr. Fantastic try the Dead Sea Mud Masque and while he felt awkward having a mask, it made really softened his skin and he commented that it was easier to shave afterwards.

I really liked the hair products by Jane Carter Solution because the Curl Defining Cream was great to use on damp hair to bring out the curls in my layers and it smells wonderful, while the Nourish & Shine cream can be used for both dry hair and dry skin. I ran some through my hair taking care to emphasize the ends which tend to split and then I massaged all left overs into my elbows.

From the cosmetic section, I was happy that Vegan Cuts carries NVX nail polish because that is another product that I already used before knowing it was organic and this month's box included a sample of the Dazzle Dry top coat which dries really fast and protects my polish longer than any other I've tried. My most recent manicure lasted almost a full week, which is completely unheard of for me.  And lastly, the Glam Natural Lipgloss in Poco Loco Lip is very moisturizing and just feels good.

Sign up before May 12 to receive your May Vegan Cuts Beauty Box and try it for yourself! Each month's box is $19.99, but I believe the product is worth at least $35-40 individually and it is a great way to try new products and see if you like them before you commit to buying the full-size bottles that will wane in your bathroom.  I loved this month's box because I definitely found products I want to continue using, but also because I found multiple items that I can now gift my friend and her birthday is right around the corner! Here is a sneak peak at the items that will be in this month's Beauty Box:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Wine Country Heaven

Mr. Fantastic and I spent this past weekend in the Sonoma Valley attending the wedding of one of my husband's business associates.  While it was our second time in the area, we felt like we really got to experience everything that Wine Country had to offer us so much more this time than last fall when we were there for his brother's wedding.  I almost didn't go because the fall had been so crazy with everyone in the bridal party being busy for two of the three days we were in town.  Fortunately, my husband made me see that we weren't in the bridal party and we weren't traveling with children or family who couldn't or wouldn't tour the vineyards or wineries.  Even though we technically had less time than in October, we did sooo much more.  It really felt like we fell into wine country heaven.
Sweater: J Crew Factory; Dress underneath: c/o LA Made Clothing (2013) (current)
Earrings: c/o Tacori (2013); Necklace: Fossil (mixed metal)
Bracelet: Fossil (old); Bag: Rebecca Minkoff Wine & Bread Tote (old); Wedges: Lauren Ralph Lauren
Friday, we flew into San Francisco and met up with another couple in Calistoga for lunch before heading to Michel-Schlumberger for a guided tour of the vineyards and winery. We practically had the vineyard to ourselves and after the wine tasting (we bought both Brut and Cabernet Franc) one of the winemakers called a nearby restaurant, Catelli's, to sneak in a dinner reservation for us.  Unfortunately, I accidentally turned on my camera for the duration of the flight and my battery was completely drained when we arrived. I had to make do with iPhone pics of the vineyard and we didn't do outfit photos at all. Don't worry, it was a boring outfit: jeans, flats and a KU top.  I wore this on Saturday as we toured two vineyards on our own: Trentadue Winery, where these photos were taken; and Alexander Valley Vineyards. After the tours, we met up for lunch and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding.
We bought a couple of bottles of my favorite chocolate wine, Chocolate Amore, at Trentadue, and some Pinot Noir and Merlot at Alexander Valley Vineyards.  While I enjoyed all the vineyards we visited, this was my favorite day because I got to spend it alone with my husband and we really took our time enjoying the wines and the views before meeting up with our friends for lunch.

Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Wrap Story! Conversations With Mr. Fantastic

I can't remember how long I've wanted a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress.  I remember that when I first wanted one, the average cost of one was about $200, maybe $220 and that was way more money than I could spend for a single dress.  A couple of years ago, I wrote about how envious I was when helping my mother-in-law sort through her friend's closet and we found a vintage wrap dress in her closet here.  Last month, I made Mr. Fantastic take me to the Journey of a Dress exhibit at the LACMA while we were in LA for LuckyFABB, post is here.
Catherine | Sarah Jessica Parker | Coco Rocha (all photos from Google Images)
After a lunch in which I gushed about which ones I wanted, he thought I had more than one because I wore a wrap dress on our first date and he has seen this one numerous times, but neither one is by Diane von Furstenberg. He questioned how come I had never bought one before, even on eBay, since I've bought things that are way pricier than a $300 dress like shoes and handbags for way less than retail.  I replied that I was scared of buying one on eBay because one of my friends bought one on eBay and it turned out to be a counterfeit and it is so hard to tell.  They have launched so many different lines of the Diane von Furstenberg brand (Diane, Vintage, 1974, etc.) that it is hard to know which tag is supposed to have what watermark! He asked me if "everyone" has one, and I said, "Yes! But not anyone I know in real life." After laughing, he asked, "So, who exactly do you know that has one?" So I told him of my obsession with Blair of Atlanta-Pacific's collection of DvF wrap dresses (one, two, three, four and my fave), I am too short to rock the maxi's like her, but her collection is probably the one I most want.  Also, my fashion idols: Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Obama, and Miranda Kerr. The night before we had run into Coco Rocha after our dinner and when I told him she was part of the "Journey of A Dress" campaign, he said, "So you DO know someone who owns one in real life!" and we laughed, because that doesn't count!  Then we came home and that very next week, both Jean and Fran debuted their new DvF wrap dresses and I sent him the links to their blog posts.  Unbeknown to me, he bought me my first DVF dress that week so that I could have it for Mother's Day!
Jean of Extra Petite | Fran of Franish | Blair of Atlanta-Pacific
The following week, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge famously wore her Patrice wrap dress in Australia and the dress sold out in 8 freakin' minutes! Seriously?!?!  I sent my besieged husband yet another link asking why Catherine has a DvF wrap dress and I don't? I know, I am such a brat. And lastly, we were catching up on previous episodes of one of my favorite shows, Bones, and Temperance AKA Bones, wears the black Jeanne wrap dress to a funeral in The Turn in the Urn. Coincidentally, I believe it is the same dress as Fran is wearing in the pic above.  He told me after he gave it to me, that he almost replied that I was as much a princess as Catherine, and then he almost pulled it out to shut me up when we were watching TV.  Instead, he very sweetly, brought the UPS box to me as I was packing for our current trip to California.  He said, "Why don't you pack this, too?" and I have to say I was more than just a tad in disbelief as I opened the package.  There are very few things that he will pay retail for, but he admitted that the link to Jean's post included an alert to a 25% sale and he wanted to make sure neither of us had any doubts about the authenticity of it.  The only other item that he has ever bought at the source (boutique, website, etc.) are my wedding shoes.  He confessed to being completely overwhelmed with the print selection and he didn't think I would want exactly the same dress as my online "friends" so he picked a solid color and went with the blue because he likes it. I love it! Mine is the New Julian Two Mini in Blue Diamond.  I have a short torso and it needs to be taken up at the shoulders so that it doesn't gape open at the bust. I will take it to my tailor as soon as we are back from our weekend in Sonoma and hopefully I will get to wear it for our Mother's Day family brunch.

So that's my Wrap Story. :)

What's Yours?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Product Junkie: Skincare

Ever since I can remember, the smell of Oil of Olay brings me the BEST memories. It always takes me right back to visiting my grandmother who used to wear Oil of Olay everyday.  When we would ask what gifts she wanted for birthdays or Christmas, she would ask for a jar, and later a bottle, of Oil of Olay.  It was the first cream I ever put on my face. I always remember the wonderful way she smelled.  Fortunately for me and my face, Olay has come a long way since the days of Oil of Olay.  While I haven't worn cold cream on my face in years, I am certainly a product junkie and I am always looking for ways to slow the effects of aging now that I am a young babe no more.  These are some of my favorite products and items you can find in my crowded share of the bathroom cabinet! Full disclosure: I moved my skincare items to the guest bath to photograph them. :/
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair and Oil Free Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub; Bliss Fabulous Face Lotion with SPF 15
Face Wash/Scrubs:
I suffer from Rosacea and while I don't need daily medication, I have to be very careful about what I can and can't put on my face.  In addition, I also have a very oily T-Zone and very dry cheeks.  I alternate between Neutrogena's Oil Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Scrub and the Oil-Free Cream Cleanser (not pictured) because I can't scrub everyday.

After I wash my face, I always wear a moisturizer with SPF. In the summer, I love Olay Fresh Effects Dew Over Moisturizing Gel because the cool gel feels really good against my skin and it also soothes the skin on my cheeks and nose, which tend to redden the most.  In the winter, I switch to the Fabulous Face Lotion by Bliss because it is thicker, but soaks right into my skin and doesn't feel sticky or greasy afterwards.

Undereye Treatments:
At my age (36) I worry about fine and not so fine lines on my face, particularly the crow's feet at the edge of my eyes and the dark skin under my eyes.  In the past I've regularly used Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream. Recently, I started using Olay Fresh Effects Bright On Schedule Eye Awakening Cream.  I love that it has a trio of stainless steel pellets on the top of the applicator which give your under eye area a gentle massage as you apply the cream in the mornings.
Olay Fresh Effects Dew Over Moisturizing Gel, Everything Off Wipes; Bright on Schedule Eye Cream c/o P&G
Other Products I use nightly and as needed:
One of the hardest things for me has always been remembering to wash my face at night.  Academically, I know that shouldn't sleep with my make-up on, but realistically, I don't always remember to wash my face after I brush my teeth at night. Several times I've heard that I should keep make-up removing wipes by the bed so I don't have to jump up when I remember and last year at LuckyFABB, we all received a packet of S'Wipe Out cleansing wipes from Olay Fresh Effects.  Keeping them in my nightstand has made a huge difference in my skincare routine. Once I ran out of wipes, I was happy to discover that I could buy them at Target, Walgreen's, even my grocery store for only $5.  They have become a staple and I was thrilled when P&G Beauty gifted us another pack of the Olay Fresh Effects Everything Off Delux Make-up Removing Cloths at this year's conference.  I know I will be upgrading mine as soon as I run out.
c/o Algenist Algae Brightning Mask; Murad Acne Spot Treatment; Montagne Jeunnese Mask

For face masks, I alternate among a number of brands. My current favorites are Algenist Algea Brightening Mask,  almost all peel-off masks by Montagne Jeunesse - found at grocery stores for $2, and homemade ones that include honey & lemon or papaya & pomegranate seeds.

Finally, another product that I discovered at LuckyFABB two years ago at the first FABB West was Murad's Acne Spot Treatment. I probably would never have tried this product on my own, but it is nearly magical in its ability to get rid of zits and blemishes almost immediately. It is also the single most stolen product from my medicine cabinet! I always share it with my sister, the boys, or friends who visit and complain about life-threatening pimple and then I can never find it when they leave and have to go to Sephora to buy another tube. ;)

So that is my skincare routine. I admit to being a product junkie, but I try to listen to my body and especially my face when I am trying new products. If something feels like it burns, I immediately wipe it off because I know that my skin isn't liking it and I will likely end up with red welts on my face from something that was not Rosacea-friendly.

What are some of your favorite products?
*I have received some of the mentioned products to try for free, but this post reflects only my own experiences and opinions and I was not paid to write any portion of this post by any brand named above.*