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Olay and my Good Life Bucket List

Hi my name is Alison Gary and I’m 37 years old.
I’ll be 38 in January.
And I’m darn proud of my age, my life, my self.

In the past, I wasn’t very kind to my skin. Drinking more beer than water, going to sleep with my makeup still on, visiting tanning beds on a daily basis, even washing my face with hand soap. But as I have gotten older, I have realized the importance of caring for my skin. Yes, it will keep it looking younger, but it will keep it feeling and looking healthier, and that’s what my body deserves. I care for my skin, and I believe I am aging with grace. In celebration of Olay’s 60th anniversary, Olay continues to empower women to challenge what’s possible and to be proud of their age. Olay is encouraging and rewarding women for checking items off their bucket list– not in the negative aspect of the bucket list but in the empowering aspect of ‘I’m knocking things off my list—living a good life’. Olay and BlogHer asked me to share my own bucket list accomplishments. Being 37, I have a few wrinkles, a little less elasticity, but in trade I have some amazing life experiences under my belt:

  • I created a human being (and a pretty awesome, smart, and funny one at that)
  • I traveled to many places I dreamed of back in school – Italy, France, Norway, Costa Rica and more
  • I’m an ordained minister and have married several wonderful couples
  • I taught myself how to use computers – from being an English major in the decade where a Brother word processor was pretty hi-tech and going straight into jobs that didn’t require computers, it still amazes me that I now work in digital communications and keep a relatively modern blog
  • I made good on a promise to myself. Always wanting to write but afraid to have it outside my journals, I read The Artist’s Way in 2005 and committed to blogging on a regular basis. I have been mighty good over the past 37 years at having great ideas but letting them go by the wayside, and this blog is the first project I have started and continued on my own

A great aspect of this blog is it forces me on a daily basis to notice myself. It’s easy to get so caught up in work, family, and life to forget who we are, and that we deserve self-care. Blogging reminds me that I am one of the good things in my good life, and I deserve to care for my appearance, my body, my soul. It reminds me that I am 37, and I am beautiful and proud of my age and accomplishments.

Giveaway
This giveaway is now closed.  Stay tuned, I will have more great giveaways in the future!

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#Blog4Good: Suppporting Goodwill Come Rain or Come Shine

A while ago, to maintain balance (and my sanity), I decided to stop attending blogger events unless they were really worth it.

An event for Goodwill is always worth it.

Why Goodwill? Because this January, the unemployment rate in the District of Columbia was at 8.1% compared to 5.5% just six years ago; the unemployment rate in DC’s Ward 8 is 18.9% and is one of the highest in the country. The people Goodwill serves want to work, but lack the skills, education, resources or opportunity. A purchase from Goodwill can offer the resources to get these people back to work.

Last week I sloshed my way through a torrential rainstorm to the Pepco Edison Place Gallery for the VIP Launch Party of #Edited4Goodwill, a spring Trunk Show featuring some of the very best fashion from local Goodwill locations. Racks and racks of curated fashion for men and women, bags, and shoes galore.

Shocker, I’m checking out the shoe selection!

I eyed an amazing embroidered silk caftan but knew I was too short to even consider it; my friend Alison tried it on and even Catherine Meloy, President and CEO of Goodwill Greater Washington and Debbie Jarvis, Vice President Corporate Citizenship and Social Responsibility of Pepco told her she HAD to get it, it was so perfect (see on my Instagram). My friend Deb went home with adorable pink studded Sam Edelman flats and I was thisclose to buying a buttery soft black leather jacket but held off knowing it’s not the right time of year for such a piece. I saw brands like Victor Costa, Cynthia Rowley, and Ralph Lauren, and amazing vintage one of a kind pieces like the caftan Alison got, as well as an adorable navy summer dress.

Check out her fab pink heels – Goodwill score!

A clear example of how a purchase from Goodwill was shared at this event. A representative from Goodwill Young Professionals Council stated that the adorable pumps she wore were purchased from Goodwill for just $20; that one shoe purchase can provide an hour of one-on-one resume building (and by the way, those shoes mentioned were a still in stock style from J. Crew!).

A view of the crowd socializing and scoring great fashion.
Perusing the racks with Alison and Deb holding the leather jacket I almost purchased

It was fun to connect with other fashionistas and fashionistos who know that you can have great style and make a difference at the same time. I will always make time for Goodwill, come rain or shine because Goodwill is a way to look good and do good at the same time.

May 4th through May 10th marks Goodwill Industries Week, an annual celebration of Goodwill’s mission to provide free job training and employment services to people with disabilities and disadvantages. In support of Goodwill Industries Week, I am participating in #Blog4Good – a social media campaign designed to help put the most vulnerable members of our community back to work by devoting a blog post this week to explain how Goodwill impacts lives and communities in the Washington, DC area.

We support #blog4good to help end unemployment

Images via the Goodwill of Greater Washington Facebook page .

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Review and Giveaway – Olay

I’m not afraid to admit the behind-the-scenes actions I take to feel feminine and beautiful on a daily basis. The steps I take to prevent sweat, smell, and yes, unwanted facial hair. Every two weeks I pull out my tube of smelly white cream and slather it over my upper lip. I hate it; it stinks, it often causes redness and breakouts, and usually leaves that part of my face numb for the rest of the day. Not an enjoyable act, but it gets the job done.

So when BlogHer contacted me asking if I would like to try the New Olay Smooth Finish Facial Hair Removal Duo, I jumped at the chance.

I read that New Olay Smooth Finish Facial Hair Removal Duo is a uniquely formulated two-step system designed to gently, yet effectively remove unwanted facial hair, leaving skin smooth, conditioned, and visibly hair free. This gentle hair removal system contains a Skin Guarding Balm, applied before the removal cream, that hydrates the skin to minimize irritation, redness, and other tell-tale signs associated with hair removal creams. It sounded like perfection!

This weekend I tried it out. The box comes with two products: a tube of the Skin Guarding Balm and a tube of the Hair Removal Cream. The balm is a stick, similar to lip balm; I applied a thin layer to my upper lip and rubbed it in completely. Then I applied the cream for six minutes. After six minutes, I removed the cream with a washcloth.

After those six minutes, I was a New Olay Smooth Finish Hair Removal Duo convert.

I have used many different drugstore depilatories, and they all were the same cream in different boxes. Olay is the first one to be drastically different. The Skin Guarding Balm really does work; it ensures that the hair remover doesn’t touch and irritate your skin. As for the actual hair removing cream, the scent is hardly noticeable.

New Olay Smooth Finish Hair Removal Duo didn’t cause redness, irritation, breakouts, or numbing of the skin. It just left smooth, happy, hairless skin. As a busy working mom I find this awesome; now I don’t have to block out time on the weekend so I can heal in the privacy of my home, I can do it in the morning while getting ready for work. Gentle on my skin and it simplifies my beauty routine? Who could ask for more?  How about getting this product for free? Today is your lucky day, BlogHer and Olay are offering one Wardrobe Oxygen reader a $50 gift card!

How to Enter:

To be entered for a chance to win, please leave me a comment explaining how you express your inner beauty through your beauty routine!
Rules:
No duplicate comments.
You can enter to win up to two (2) times, using any combination of the following methods:
  • Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  • Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  • Blog about this promotion and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  • For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

The sweepstakes runs from 1/3/2012 – 2/3/2012. This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here.  Also be sure to visit the Promotions & Prizes page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ reviews and find more chances to win! Good luck!

While we’re on the subject of looking good, you might want to check out the “Looking Your Best” posts in the Life Well Lived section of BlogHer.com. There are some great tips and expert posts!

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My Personal Mertaugh List

I am a huge fan of How I Met Your Mother, I feel this show is highly underrated. Every time I watch an episode, I fall more deeply in love with it.

Roger Mertaugh Lethal Weapon Danny GloverA recent episode was called, “The Mertaugh List,” after Danny Glover’s character Roger Mertaw in the Lethal Weapon movies. Many times in those films, Mertaw would catch himself having to do something and he would say, “I’m too old for this s**t.” Ted had created his own “Mertaw List” of things one shouldn’t do after a certain age. Barney decided to do all of them, and made a list of things that they were too young to do (which Ted then decided to do).

My husband and I have been using this catchphrase ever since, seeing and experiencing things, and saying, “that is SO on the Mertaugh List!” This morning in the shower, I was thinking about how certain fashion should be on the Mertaw List. I went to Facebook and saw a friend of mine was selling many of her old witty sayings tee shirts on eBay – one thing that I feel should be on anyone’s personal Mertaw List. With that, I decided to share my personal style Mertaugh List:

Allie’s Style Mertaugh List:
Witty tee shirt- Any tee shirts with witty sayings

- Any pants or shorts with writing on the bum

- Going braless

- Embellished jeans – embroidery, blinged-out pockets, bleach spots, fabric insets, purposeful holes and tears, etc.

- Baseball caps when not at a sporting event

belly button ring- Belly button rings

- With that, piercings anywhere other than the nose and ears (and the nose better be very small or for cultural reasons)

- Cheap bras that are bought because they look pretty, not because they look pretty AND lift & separate

- Any skirt or dress that can’t let me pick up something I have dropped on the ground and still maintain some dignity

- Lacrosse shorts

home hair color- Having a bad dye job – be it blue or blonde, there is a point where no matter your favorite color of crayon, you better have some serious talent or else leave it to the professionals

- Anything tight enough to show the dent where your cleavage is, where your belly button resides, the separation of your butt cheeks, or the cellulite on your thighs

- Cheap boots – tall boots made of obvious pleather, stretchy microfiber, faded suede; boots with flimsy buckles, plastic heels, cheesy details; boots that are too loose, too short, too tall. Cheap shoes can often times be played off as good quality; cheap boots are too much of a focal point to get away with it

Messy updo ponytail- Messy updos and ponytails – the type made with an elastic or *gasp* a scrunchie while talking, eating, driving, or doing something else where your mind and time is focused on anything but your hair

- Cheap club tops

- Hello Kitty/Disney/Warner Bros.

Gossip Girl Ray ban Sunglasses- Ray Ban Wayfarers

- Anything from Hot Topic

- Gummy bracelets

What is on your personal Mertaugh List?

Good News

My sister is out of surgery, currently in recovery. She had a meningomia, they were able to remove 100% of it. We hope to see her in the next hour or so.

Thank you so much for all your well wishes, thoughts and prayers. I feel so blessed to have connected with you all through this blog. Thank you. Thank you so much!

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Good Morning…

Emerson and I are chillaxing this morning. She has been on a bit of a feeding frenzy – yesterday it seemed as though I constantly fed her from dawn to dusk. Well, not constant feeding, but constant fussiness between the feedings so there was no break. Somehow she realized we were a bit exhausted, and she decided to take a three-hour nap after the 8pm feeding and since then has been taking naps between eats. Whew! I got a few rounds of sleep and now I am letting my husband crash for a few hours. He decided to crash on the couch downstairs so Em & I are hanging out in the bedroom, which means I have time to hop on the Internet while she coos in her sleep next to me.

Camera is downstairs; must say these pictures are from last week but she doesn’t look like this any more. She has gotten so much bigger, and now makes so many more awesome facial expressions – smirks and smiles and such. She has also grown into that nose more… she is all cheeks (good eater!).

Tomorrow is my 34th birthday. It’s funny, usually I would be considering drinks with the girls, sushi or some cool restaurant with the husband, my annual gift to myself (usually from Sephora). This year… my best friend Shelly said we could go for pedicures (close enough to home that we could dash between feedings), and on the actual day I plan to go to Target.

I know, TARGET? But do keep in mind that I have been in the house with Emerson for almost three weeks, only leaving for the pediatrician or my own doctor appointment. Spent a week prior in the hospital, and before that I was on bedrest for like a month – again only leaving the house for hospital appointments. Through all this my house has been renovated and I am in desperate need of certain things like shower curtain rods, bath mats, trash cans, deodorant and razor blades. I look forward to wandering through the aisles, getting what I need and checking out what’s new. Maybe I’ll even get a decaf latte from Starbucks on the way home!

My mom is coming over that night with dinner – her fabulous mac and cheese and spinach (since I am on a spinach kick) and dessert. My dad used to always get me a Boston cream pie for my birthday. Well I asked her to get me one. He passed away in ’98 and I think I have only had that dessert once since. Often I see my dad in Emerson’s face, especially when she yawns or looks concerned. It would be nice to start up that tradition again.

As for my present to myself, I can’t think of any material item I really want or need right now that is pampering and indulgent. I know… not too much fun especially for this type of blog. But really, life is pretty good and I want for nothing. Once I head back to work, I may be craving some new clothes or a fab lip gloss but right now I have what I need to be happy.

For those who asked, I will be going back to work full time; since my husband works for himself (photographer and yoga instructor) and makes his own schedules, he will be staying home with Emerson. My mom will watch her if he has any shoots that are during the day, but he plans to try to keep classes and shoots to evenings and weekends.

I know my birth story was scary to many who have yet to have children. Do know it’s less than three weeks after the fact and I am feeling pretty good and for over a week have been pain meds free. I won’t go into details, but I can tell I am healing well and progressing nicely. I would do it all over again in an instant for the end result that is squirming and cooing on the bed next to me. :)

Olay Regenerist MicroSculpting Cream Review and Promotion

Review and Giveaway – Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash

This winter has been relatively mild – hardly any snow and few frigid days. However, my skin feels otherwise. While I have been able to spend some days this winter walking through Washington, DC, with only a light jacket, my skin has been as dry and flaky as it was during last year’s Snowpocalypse. I have been trying a variety of body lotions and creams, but nothing really seemed to do the trick. When I was asked to review Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash, I jumped at the chance, hoping it would help make my skin happy again.

Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash is a soap-free formula that has the equivalent of more than a jar or moisturizer in every bottle. Not only that, Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash contains shea butter, a natural moisturizer that I know the skin absorbs more easily than many popular synthetics. The body wash is thick, and you only need a little bit to get a ton of lather. The fragrance is light and smells expensive, like a line sold in a high-end department store (fragrance didn’t linger post-shower).

I could feel the hydration while lathering – the suds were creamy, yet they rinsed away clean. A squeaky-clean feeling after showering is not what you want, but neither do you want a greasy film; Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash created that happy medium of smooth clean skin without feeling greasy. After my first shower with the Body Wash, I used my regular moisturizer. The next shower, I decided to see how my skin looked and felt sans additional moisturizer. I was amazed that my skin felt soft and hydrated, enough so that I went without lotion all day.

After a second shower with the product, my skin felt so amazing I was able to go without lotion…and even wear bare legs with a skirt! Seriously, this product hydrates THAT well! My husband has even become a fan; the other day he asked me to touch his elbow. “I don’t think it has ever felt like this,” he said, rubbing the much-softer skin. He doesn’t use post-shower lotion, so I bet it is a drastically different change for him.

A week of use, and I now regularly go without post-shower lotion. Time is of the essence as a working woman and mom, and I love having to spend less time on my beauty routine yet still end up with the same results. Rarely do you find a budget-friendly product that also gives you more time to focus on life! My skin feels better now with Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash than it did when I was trying every moisturizer in the book. No flakes, no scales, no dryness – just soft, smooth, clean skin!

If this sounds awesome to you, well, now it’s your turn to try Olay Ultra Moisture Body Wash. BlogHer and Olay are offering one Wardrobe Oxygen reader a $50 Visa gift card that you can use toward your own bottle of this skin-softening goodness! Just leave me a comment letting me know how you simplify your daily routine to carve out more “me time.” For example, I love using this moisturizing body wash because it leaves my skin feeling great without spending time on post-shower moisturizing.

How to Enter:
This giveaway is now closed.

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Ask Allie: How to Style a Kilt

I have a knee-length red plaid woolen kilt I picked up on a college trip to Scotland almost 20 years ago. I trek it out once a season or so, usually around the holidays, but I like it and am trying to think of ways to get more wear out of it beyond the expected “Going to the Nutcracker” kind of look. Any ideas?

Yes, that skirt deserves to come out more than once a year! However I do understand the issue with looking too holiday, as though you’re wearing a costume, or trying to be Mid Life Crisis Britney. The best way to wear accomplish this is to style it as though it is not a kilt. Steer clear of traditional pairings and add something unexpected and it will look fresh and modern.

how to style a kilt women

Gray will tone down the red and keep it from feeling Christmas-y. While a cashmere crewneck and white button-front is pretty classic, pairing the look with modern black leather ankle boots keeps it current. Hair and makeup can really make this look; keep both relaxed and a bit disheveled. Beachy waves and a bit of kohl will go a long way and look far more modern than polished hair and red lips.

how to style a kilt scottish woman

Add a bit of a tough edge to your classic kilt with leather. A black leather jacket and biker boots will be a modern contrast. Unlike the above look, style such an ensemble with very polished hair and face to keep it from looking like a costume; smooth hair with red lips and gently flushed cheeks will look fresh.

how to style a scottish kilt women

A bit of purposeful rumpling will take a look from prep overload to modern cool. A gray tweed blazer with a tailored fit is a great pairing for your kilt; roll the sleeves and maybe pop the collar to keep it from feeling like a uniform. A classic Breton tee is a pattern that will mix nicely with the plaid and also keep it from feeling too much like a uniform. A pair of tall boots with a solid heel will finish the look and keep you warm.

Change for Good: Dry Brushing

While I was on disability, I went down a bit of an internet rabbit hole (well I went down quite a few because there’s not much else to do when hopped up on Percocet and on bed rest but let’s stay on topic). I was looking into natural looking and gradual sunless tanners (the results can be found in this post), but many articles and reviews I read discussed the importance of exfoliation before application, and a few recommended dry brushing.

the benefits of dry brushing

Oh yeah, dry brushing! I used to do that back when I worked for The Body Shop! I was a trainer for the company so I ended up trying every product we had including the body brush (FYI that painfully stiff natural body brush isn’t for lathering your back even though they advertise it as such) but when surrounded by hundreds of beauty products and being young and able to look fresh after six cocktails and three hours of sleep, I didn’t stick to much of a skincare regimen. But now in my late 30s and full of painkillers and chemicals from surgeries, the detoxification and skin improving properties of dry brushing sounded mighty appealing.

As I mentioned in this post, I read the eBook The 10-Day Skin Brushing Detox after seeing so many rave reviews for it online and purchased this $10 body brush. Once the brush arrived in the mail, I started dry brushing the very next day. I started with a very light touch – that brush can feel pretty scratchy on the skin! But with time, you find you can handle and even enjoy a rougher brushing and may adjust the method to your needs. I wake, use the toilet, and right away dry brush. If I wait, I end up having on clothes or moisturizer or sweat from walking or it just seems like a burden. But keep the brush in the bathroom (it has a loop, I hang it on the back of the door), strip, brush, and move on. Within a week it should be as much habit as brushing your teeth.

I start with my left leg, brushing from the tips of my toes up to my hips, the side, and then my rear. Then the other side. I then do my arms from tips (or cast), to shoulders, putting focus on my elbows which get dry. I then brush my neck from face down, circles from the middle of my breastbone out to my arms, light brushing over the breasts, brushing from below the breasts to the abdomen, counter-clockwise on the abdomen, then from the pubic bone up (over the “mama pooch” and post-baby stretch marks). Sometimes I do my face (light stroke on side of nose from forehead to chin, then three swipes from nose out, then other side), sometimes I just go straight to back of neck and shoulders, try to scratch as much of the back as possible, and another go at the bum to tackle the cellulite.

The Benefits of Dry Brushing

The external benefits: Your skin needs less moisturizer – if you forget to lotion up after a shower it’s not that noticeable. Your skin will look more taut; I noticed this most on my thighs, hips, and upper arms. You will have a glow, thanks to better circulation, and that glow lasts all day. Fewer ingrown hairs and if you have Keratosis Pilaris it can help reduce it without inflammation. Many find their cellulite is reduced and it supposedly helps prevent spider and varicose veins.

The internal benefits: Many of us live pretty sedentary lives sitting at a desk all day and driving in cars. Dry brushing helps the body detoxify itself through the skin and the lymphatic system, something that your body may not do as well as it should with your lifestyle. Pregnant women are encouraged to dry brush to prevent swelling and edema. I find that dry brushing gives me a buzz that works like a small cup of coffee and helps me be motivated to go on my morning walk.

I’ve been dry brushing almost daily since June and my skin looks younger, firmer, and healthier than it has in years. I now look forward to it, and have increased pressure. Oh, and to go back to the original reason I started dry brushing, it does exfoliate the skin perfectly for an even sunless tan or to better absorb any moisturizer!

Have you tried dry brushing? What do you think of it?

Ask Allie: Creating a Wardrobe Wish List

How do you go about making a ‘wish list’ for each season? I’m at a loss as to how to kick it off. In fact, I’m not even sure what I want. I know what I like when I see it but I don’t know that I can conjure it up in my head first.

First things first, before you create a wish list be sure your closet holds only that which you can wear. You can use this post on honing your personal style through a closet clean-out as a guide.

Once you have cleaned out your closet in this manner, you should have a better idea on what is missing, what you need to make the current closet more cohesive. Before you have wishes and dreams, you need a secure foundation. Clothes to get you dressed for work, for ordinary social events, for the grocery store and your son’s playdate.

Once you have that, you’ll get a feel for your personal style. With a wardrobe full of things that fit and work with your life, you’ll start gravitating toward certain pieces because they make you feel great or are so perfect for your life. Note these feelings, be it in your mind or in a journal. Be aware of colors, patterns, cuts, and silhouettes that feel right and those that garner compliments (sometimes a great piece doesn’t get a compliment, but you may get one about how you have lost weight, look rested, possibly changed your hair when you didn’t).

Only then, should you be able to craft a wish list. Each season you’ll pull out the clothes you already own, try them on, see what still fits and flatters and what holes are in your wardrobe. As you scroll through blogs and flip through magazines you’ll see current trends. This is the perfect time of year because every fashion website is sharing what is hot for the season; check Harper’s BAZAAR, Style.com, Glamour, Fashionista.  Note what appeals to you, be it a certain color, a popular pattern, a fresh new accessory or silhouette. It’s not about if you can wear the exact item or afford the specific designer, it’s about using it as an idea launching pad.  Can a similar item or trend work with your wardrobe and personal style? Sometimes it’s better to admire than to own.

When you do have down what you like and will work with what you have and who you currently are, make the list and carry it with you. Don’t veer off course, use your wish list to stick to your budget as well as your personal style. Cross off items as you get them, and adjust as you actually try such pieces and find a better alternative.

Personal style is not something you figure out over night, in fact it is something that is improved by taking the long route. Baby steps, small revelations will make the most impact over time and help you figure out not just your current style, but what items you desire to better hone it. Best of luck!

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Choosing a Positive Life

It’s amazing that it’s 2013 and we still have people commenting and criticizing our choice to have me be the parent who works outside the home, and Karl the one who cares for Emerson. At least once a month I have someone ask if my husband had to because he was laid off; if it frustrates me that I am not the one at home; if he feels emasculated by my career. When I hear such feedback I get ragey, but Karl takes it in stride. “The only people I wish to impress are you and Emerson,” he says, and goes on with his day. He’s so calm, so zen, he really helps me to see the big picture and redirect my energy.

The thing is, this isn’t who either of us were less than a decade ago. We married in 2004, and I remember Karl joking on our honeymoon that we were spending more time together on that vacation than we had throughout the past year. I worked retail, which meant crazy hours, long days, and no consistency. As a regional trainer as well as manager of a high-profile location, I regularly worked double shifts and weeks at a time without a day off to cover flaky staff or to support other locations. Karl worked in management for a shipping company; he had the night shift and was often driving over an hour each way to get to his assigned locations. He hated his job, I hated my job. We lived together, but spent most of our time apart. When we did see one another, we were tired and often fought. We were angry people, high stress people, frustrated people who lived in the same house but didn’t really have a life together. I figured this was real life, being an adult, and it was… fine.

Then one October, Karl up and quit without another job lined up. I was terrified for financial reasons and upset because he didn’t discuss it with me first, but I realized that he did it because we were more important than money. We were failing, even though our bank account was thriving. If we discussed it, I would have likely encouraged him to at least work through the holiday season, build up some overtime and find a new job before he left this one. Instead, his immediate freedom gave us the freedom to reassess our life together, our priorities, and really think about the future instead of just letting life happen to us.

Karl began working with his father at a photography company and freelancing on the side. A couple months later, he took his love of yoga and trained to be an instructor. Within a year after his leaving his job, I had left retail and had an office job where I was learning new skills and feeling challenged yet stable. We were regularly practicing yoga together, we pared down our wants and focused on needs. Our relationship improved, deepened, became a true union and partnership.

Karl inspired me by doing something scary to follow his dream and change his future. He inspired me to follow a dream I had since high school – write about fashion. With my retail experience, I wanted to write for the every woman, those women I assisted all those years who couldn’t necessarily afford designer, but desired style and confidence through their wardrobe. Women I styled and shopped for, who needed a wardrobe that worked as hard as they did, and didn’t necessarily fit into a size 6. I already had a personal blog where I’d write about my weekend or what I made for dinner, but thanks to Karl (and The Artist’s Way – seriously I recommend this book to any person who feels stuck or has lost their creative side), I started this blog where I could share my thoughts on personal style.

When we decided to start a family, we knew we wanted one of us to stay home and raise our child. As for who would be the one to work, there was no question that it would be me. I really liked my job, and I knew my work was doing good things for others. Karl could make his yoga classes and photography gigs work around my schedule, so we could make Emerson’s well-being our priority. We realize that life doesn’t have to be just fine, things don’t make us happy, and the only people we really need to impress are those who love and wish to impress us in return. Karl uses positivity to inspire his students, educate our child, and help our marriage thrive. He’s proof that positivity creates more positivity, and it is possible to change your mindset and help change others in the process. He changed me, and he’s teaching our daughter to be a positive change in this world.

The Best Part is an online community that’s dedicated to brightening your day—every day. How? By spreading optimism, one share at a time. The Best Part posts inspirational stories, encouraging quotes, good news and other upbeat items on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram—and encourages fans and followers to share that optimism with their friends. Because when optimism is shared, it grows, making an even more positive impact on our world. Check out what others are sharing on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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Thursday: Real Life

Sweater: Hinge | Tee: Old Navy | Jeggings: Old Navy (similar) | Boots: DUO (similar)

I read recently on a forum that people are finding fashion blogs to become more and more false, more like catalogs. Perfectly airbrushed girls skipping through leaves drinking lattes and wearing Karen Walker sunglasses. Where’s the outfits people really wear to the grocery store, on Casual Friday, when sick?

Well here you go folks, this is what a fashion blogger wears when she has the flu yet still has to go to work. I am drugged up, hydrated, full of vitamin C and in the office even so I feel like death. And this is what I am wearing. Comfy tee shirt (yeah, I now have 6 of these tee shirts), jeggings that are so old and soft they feel like knit leggings, flat boots, and the coziest most comforting sweater in my wardrobe.  And yes, I wore this same sweater almost all day yesterday when at home, wrapped up in an afghan watching Ricki Lake and coughing my head off.

Tuesday I came to work and hardly brushed my hair or washed my face and felt and looked awful. Every time I bumped into a coworker they took a double-take, I looked so dreadful and not me. I knew I had to be at work today even though I feel worse today than Tuesday so I made some effort – I curled my hair in large sections and did my makeup. It’s amazing how much better I feel knowing I don’t look as horrible as I feel.

Many blogs show real life – what we wear to work, to the market, and when we are sick.  Not every blog is an airbrushed faux reality, you just need to dig a little deeper into the blogosphere and you can find us women in grandma sweaters and faded black jeans, sniffling through a day at the office.

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Tuesday: Fact of Life

Dress: Gap
Cardigan: LOFT (similar)
Boots: Fitzwell
Necklace: Gift
Bag: Sabina (similar)

I was tempted to title this post DONT CURR; today is that kind of day. Instead the theme to The Facts of Life played in my head – you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the Facts of Life. Well today’s outfit is a fact of life – some outfits aren’t fun or chic or terribly flattering, but they get the job done. This is more of a weekend look for me, but it was raining cats and dogs this morning, I have a complicated project today at work, and I really didn’t care too much how I looked doing it. Revlon’s Matte Lipstick in Wine Not makes the look a hair more purposeful, but really I’m just glad I have had my coffee and got to the office without a car driving in the gutter and splashing me from head to toe!

FYI, this dress does shrink in the wash.  I washed on cold and tumbled dry on medium and it shrunk most everywhere.  Personally, I like the fit much better than before (size Large regular) though wish I still had that extra half inch of length. Speaking of which, this dress is currently on sale and Gap is offering 30% off today (code THANKYOU).

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Living the Savvy Life Promotion

My friend Melissa Tosetti is the founder of The Savvy Life, a great site that gives tips on how to live a full life without living past your means. I have learned so much from her site, as well as her recent book, Living the Savvy Life (you can read my review of the book here). I am honored to be partnering with her and many other fabulous online budget-savvy folks (hello Flylady!) for the promotion below.

I own Living the Savvy Life and find it a great resource for anyone (and hey, it’s cool that I am mentioned on page 191 of the book!). I encourage you to check out the promotion below, you won’t be disappointed!

and receive $190 in Free Bonus Downloads
Offer valid July 12th-13th, 2011

For details including how to take advantage of the offer visit www.LivingtheSavvyLife.com.

Melissa Tosetti, the author of Living the Savvy Life – The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Smart Spending and Rich Living has created a brand new online program that brings the international best seller to life.

Melissa is launching the new program with a special limited time offer. Purchase a copy of Living the Savvy Life from Amazon.com on July 12th – July 13th and you will receive a one month free subscription to the Living the Savvy Life Coaching Program. The new program guides you step-by-step, day-by-day to gain control of your finances, focus your spending on what you truly want and enjoy your life to the fullest.

As an added incentive, some of her savvy friends (like me!) have offered valuable downloadable gifts (worth $190) for free to help you on your savvy path.

Additional Bonus Gifts
  • Free copy of The Working Woman’s eCookbook from Leanne Ely of Saving Dinner ($20).
  • Free 90 Day Membership to FFIT at home, an online exercise, nutrition and support program ($149.85).
  • Free copy of Healthy Beauty Spy, the phone app that helps you choose healthier beauty products while you shop ($2.99).
  • Free French Breakfast & English High Tea Menu and Recipe Guide from The Rich Life on a Budget. (unavailable anywhere else).
  • Free Article on the 10 Must Have Wardrobe Staples and How to Wear Them from Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen (unavailable anywhere else).
  • Build Your Own Control Journal – Instruction Manual courtesy of Marla Cilley, The Flylady.
  • Favorite Savvy Websites Directory compiled by Melissa Tosetti

For additional details including how to take advantage of the offer visit www.LivingtheSavvyLife.com.

Remember, this offer is only valid for July 12th- 13th, 2011.

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Too Much of a Good Thing

I am getting lots of emails and comments from women excited about the spring trends. They are wondering how to fit all of them into their current wardrobe and want to know my opinion.

I agree, there are some really wonderful trends this year that can add a lot of style and personality to a simple wardrobe, that are flattering and wearable.

But do know, you do NOT have to follow any trends if you do not want to! A stylish woman is not a slave to trends; she only accepts those that she honestly enjoys.

That being said, if there is a trend that does fit your personality, your lifestyle and your wardrobe… too much of it can be a bad thing.

Yesterday on my way home I popped into Filene’s Basement. My eyes hurt from the carnival of colors in the bag section; bags women were grabbing up as though they were free. There were patent clutches, patent slouch bags, patent frame bags in bright orange, lipstick red, canary yellow, apple green. These bags had the hip patent, the current shape that is in style, the popular bright colors and plenty of shiny hardware to boot. The yellow was the most popular, and I overheard one girl saying to her friend, “a yellow patent bag is the must-have for Spring.”

Please ladies, this is how Ugg boots, leggings, distressed denim skirts and giant white plastic sunglasses become items of disgust. A magazine or a TV show tells everyone they are new and fresh and Paris or Lindsay or Sienna (or all three) is seen running around town in it. Suddenly every teen girl and her mom go out to buy that item, thinking that owning it will mean they will suddenly have a bit of the “It Factor” that these celebs have. Cheap versions are sold at big box retailers to supply the demand and now every female in a mall seems to be wearing these items as though they are a mandatory uniform.

I would be so saddened to see yellow be ruined in this manner. It is exciting to see a fresh new color for spring, but if you abuse it’s powers, it will be the next Ugg boot. Yellow is for a solid-colored, well-made dress, a spring coat, a pair of peeptoe heels or round-toe girlie flats. It’s for a skinny belt over a cardigan and pencil skirt, or even a tube top to wear to that summer concert. It is not a color that should be made into everything under the sun, and honestly becomes quite hideous in large quantities and out of ostentatious fabric. Unless you are a really artsy girl who lives in primary shades and cartoon-inspired accessories, you do NOT need a big yellow patent purse.

Speaking of patent leather and its cheaper cousins… again in moderation. A patent clutch is a great piece to use for nights out and with a dress for a day wedding; I find a pair of black patent heels a useful and stylish addition to a woman’s wardrobe, and adore the look of a patent accent like a belt against more subdued fabrics. However unless you are a True Fashionista, you should not be sporting any larger pieces of patent leather. I don’t care what Hayden Panettiere is shelling out for Dooney & Bourke or what they put on page 234 of Vogue, it’s not stylish. It is a fashion victim look waiting to happen. A large piece in this sort of material can easily look cheap and easily look dated. Yes, we have been wearing patent leather for decades and almost every woman reading this probably remembers her black patent Mary Janes from grade school, but large doses of patent will not stay in style for many seasons. A pair of shoes or a small accessory will add style and shine to your wardrobe; a large piece will be the equivalent to… well to Ugg boots in less than a year.

A new season should not be a time for manic shopping. Slowly look through magazines and store windows, and as with any other time of the year – only purchase that which you love. The world will still rotate and you will still be quite stylish if you decide to not purchase any yellow, green, patent, enamel jewelry, floral pieces, metallic leathers or safari-inspired garments this season. Shop in moderation, and if you find a trend you love, don’t abuse it to the point that the rest of the world will despise it. Your fellow women will thank you.

Life Well Lived – Skincare Streamlined

Recently BlogHer asked a few of us bloggers about our skincare routines how to we care for our skin if we don’t have any “me time”? Working full time, chasing after a toddler, blogging and maintaining relationships with friends and family means my “me time” is few and far between, but I try not to let it affect my skincare routine.

After having Emerson I was looking for ways to get my skin back to normal. Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding creates all sorts of hormonal imbalances and my skin was looking dull and I was getting breakouts around the jaw line and under my nose. I found that what worked better than any cream or serum is water. I now have a Camelbak reusable bottle on my nightstand, one on my desk at the office, and one in my living room. When at work, I force myself to drink at least two refills of the 32 oz. bottle; at home I consume at least one refill before bed and another before I head off to work. Staying so hydrated, my skin is getting back its glow, cleared up my adult acne, and even plumped up my skin to hide fine lines. On top of that, staying well-hydrated has also helped me lose the baby weight!

I loved reading all the other responses to this question – lots of great tips on how to streamline my beauty routine. If you too would like to learn other bloggers’ tips for keeping skin looking and feeling great with little “me time,” I encourage you to check out this post. I’d also love to hear from you – what are your best tips and tricks to care for your skin when you’re low on “me time”? I always learn so much from your comments, and would love to hear how you handle your beauty routine when you’re in a rush!

I also encourage you to enter the Life Well Lived Moments Sweepstakes – share your Life Well Lived Moment and you may win $250!

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Book Review – Living the Savvy Life

I don’t remember how or when I met Melissa Tosetti. Maybe it was through a forum about living a chic French-inspired life, maybe she was a reader of my blog. All I know is that once we connected, we realized we were kindred spirits. Melissa has spent the past several years mastering the art of living a savvy life. She doesn’t sacrifice style, quality, or pleasure to stay within her financial means.

Melissa Tosetti is the editor of the fantastic online magazine, The Savvy Life. The Savvy Life focuses on helping women achieve the balance between being overly frugal and exceedingly lavish. I always look forward to The Savvy Life’s blue e-newsletters in my email inbox, and The Savvy Life has quite a team of article contributors (like yours truly!).

When I heard that Melissa and The Savvy Life’s Managing Editor, Kevin Gibbons were going to write a book, I couldn’t wait to read it. I knew they wouldn’t rehash the same junk from The Savvy Life, but create a useful guide for women who want to live rich lives while staying within their means. I was psyched when Melissa sent me an advanced copy of Living the Savvy Life: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Smart Spending and Rich Living.

The book did not disappoint. Like The Savvy Life online, this book is an easy read, but chock full of helpful ideas and suggestions. Melissa keeps it real by sharing her personal experiences and those of her friends and family (be sure to check out page 191 where I am mentioned!). The book is broken down into chapters covering different categories – wardrobe, beauty, food, home décor, entertainment and more.

Melissa and Kevin give realistic suggestions – no immediate saving a crazy amount of your paycheck when you can hardly make ends meet. They offer ways to slightly change your current spending, saving, and shopping habits; tips to slowly build up a nest egg; and ways to have a really fulfilling and satisfying lifestyle.

This book completely fits in with the premise of Wardrobe Oxygen – the ability to be stylish no matter your lifestyle, figure, age, or budget. Living the Savvy Life doesn’t expect you to have the same interests and priorities as the authors. The advice given is universal and can work for any woman.

Living the Savvy Life: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Smart Spending and Rich Living by Melissa Tosetti and Kevin Gibbons will be available on January 11, 2011 but you can pre-order a copy today through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-a-Million. Click here to read a bit more about the book’s concept, and please come back and let me know what you think of the book if you read it!

UPDATE: I heard from Melissa and it will be offered as an eBook, though she does not yet know the date of availability.

Review – How to Look Good Naked

“I liked that better than that mean show with that lady with the silver streaks in her hair,” said my husband after watching the premiere episode of How to Look Good Nakedon the Lifetime Network. “They let the hot girl stay hot.”

Yes, they did let “the hot girl stay hot,” but this show hosted by Queer Eye’s Carson Kressley did more than that. They did what I think is missing in all these makeover shows – they didn’t change the exterior of the woman, but the interior. They let the hot girl stay hot, AND have her finally realize her hotness.

Hallelujah! A show where women aren’t beaten up, changed and reassembled into a different person! A show where a woman is made to feel comfortable in her skin, shown that she is attractive, and taught to celebrate her shape and work with, not against it.

For those of you who may a life on Friday evenings and weren’t home to see this show, I’ll give you a brief summary:

  • - Cute girl with normal figure (think your office mate, your best friend, your sister who is constantly dieting and beating herself up and oblivious to guys checking her out at Happy Hour but complaining that no man would want to date her and her hips) meets up with a kinder and gentler Carson Kressley (not as flashy and in your face as he was on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”) who seems to totally respect and adore women and their bodies.
  • - Cute Girl is told to strip to her skivvies in a large room full of mirrors. Cute Girl cries, admits all the parts of her body she loathes, and is told by Carson that what she sees is not so bad an is offered some figure-friendly solutions (such as a different sized bra to support breasts and prevent back rolls).
  • - Cute Girl is given row of about seven women of varying shapes and sizes, also stripped to their skivvies. She is asked to stand in the row where she thinks she fits according to size. Cute Girl heads to one end of the line, stands between two women and is told that actually, she is far smaller (about 5” smaller) and moved to a different part of the line where the smaller sized women are located. Cute Girl realizes she has body dysmorphia.
  • - Cute Girl’s body is projected onto large wall in busy shopping district (sans face) and people are asked to rate her body and say what they like about her figure. She gets good ratings and compliments about her breasts.
  • - Cute Girl sees on a monitor three women walking down a city street: one in a sexy black dress with red belt below the bust and sassy heels; one in a shlumpy blue sweater and baggy pants; one in a very hum drum outfit of cardigan, corduroy pants and a tee. Cute Girl is asked to pick which woman (all three have their faces hidden) is the heaviest, which one is the slimmest. She picks shlumpy sweater to be the heaviest, sexy dress to be the slimmest. We then see the faces of these women and come to find out… it is the same woman in all three pictures. Cute Girl realizes wardrobe does affect how your body is seen to others.
  • - Cute Girl goes shopping for lingerie at Lane Bryant and realizes she had on the wrong size of bra AND can look sexy in a bra and panties. Cute Girl then goes to New York & Company and Marina Rinaldi and is put in many sassy and bold outfits that flatter instead of hide her figure. Cute girl gains confidence and Carson picks her up below her bum and spins her in the air. Husband turns to me and says, “dude, I sooo wouldn’t want Carson to do that to ME!” I agree, but am thrilled to see Cute Girl not be ashamed of weight (cuz I know when my hubby tries to pick me up the first thing I think about is how heavy I am, ruining the moment).
  • - Cute Girl and Carson go for a day at the spa, then they do Cute Girl’s hair and makeup (nothing too extreme, nothing too different or unlike her true self).
  • - Cute Girl does a photo shoot in the nude (with strategically placed body pillow)
  • - Cute Girl’s photo is again projected onto city wall, this time one of the “boudoir” shots, showing her face, skin, but not really her body. She asks several people on the street with her new-found confidence if they like how she looks naked and points to the building. She gets rave reviews, she smiles, she feels good.
  • - Cute Girl is not beaten down, forced into Spanx, told what colors she can and cannot wear. She was not given hair or makeup to hide or camouflage any part of her. No one attacked her current wardrobe (except admitting her bra was too small) or sense of style. Cute Girl left show surprisingly with all her dignity, even though she was shown in hardly any clothing and was even paraded around Lane Bryant in sheer skivvies.

How could this be? Because she is a normal-shaped woman who is naturally beautiful and this show actually helped her realize that. Adding confidence to an already beautiful body and face, she totally glowed. She was supported, praised, given helpful advice for life, and not one episode of a show. She wasn’t given rules, she wasn’t told that Old her was bad and New her was the only acceptable choice.

Carson was the best friend that every woman wishes she had – the one who wasn’t afraid to cinch a belt below her breasts, tell her those panties weren’t flattering, to sashay into a store an command the attention of every salesperson to ensure all purchases and experiences are perfect. Though Carson may be the attention-seeking flamboyant one on “Queer Eye,” on this show he is the Fairy Godmother; entertaining yet shining the spotlight on the woman and making her dreams come true.

This show was great to watch as a curvy woman who teeters between accepting and herself and attempting to diet and exercise into an unrealistic ideal placed upon her by the media and glossy magazines. I watched the show because I felt that I WAS Cute Girl – similar shape, similar body issues. When Cute Girl was given a “support system” of several other women in underwear to compare herself to, I know that she was seeing herself as larger than she really was, but was surprised when I judged where I would stand if in that studio, told my husband and found that I too was wrong about my size.

The lingerie portion was well done – not just showing well-fitting bras, but also showing styles of sets that are flattering AND sexy for a curvy figure. I adored that the shopping took place in typical mall stores that are accessible to most Americans, with realistic prices and styles that would work in a typical life for a young adult.

The whole episode was meant to bolster this woman’s confidence and educate female viewers with similar body and confidence issues, and I honestly think it did just that.

If you weren’t able to catch the episode, the Lifetime Network website has the episode available for viewing. “How to Look Good Naked” is on the Lifetime Network Fridays at 9pm Eastern Time.

Allie Don’t Feel Good

She didn’t take a shower, she didn’t fix her hair. She didn’t put on a ton of makeup, and her clothing choice isn’t too stellar. Allie stayed up late with husband who doesn’t have to work today. We watched movies, had marital relations and drank very strong Grey Goose and tonics and fed each other sushi. It was a lovely evening, but resulted in a less than lovely Monday.


Black merino v-neck from Ann Taylor. White ribbed tank from J. Crew.

I know, I know I despise the look of a tank under a sweater – it is so childish and suburban and stupid. You never see celebrities or fashionistas with tanks under their tops. They either accept their cleavage or don’t purchase the top. I feel this fashion was created for little girls trying to dress like Britney but their parents are trying to cover their little bits. A tank under the belly top is like the bike shorts we wore under short skirts and babydoll dresses in the 80’s. Lame and just for kids or people insecure with their feminine curves.

But I am sick and I am tired and I don’t feel pretty and I have a chill. So I wear a tank under my sweater for comfort, not an attempt at fashion. I do like gray, black and white with silver jewelry – nice impact, but normally I wouldn’t achieve it in this manner.

So the pants are Tahari. The shoes are black leather pumps from B.P./Nordstrom. Silver hoops and silver cuff – my jewelry uniform. I wore an aquamarine pashmina with this to ward off chill in the drafty office. Lovely contrast to the neutral drab colors.

Hair? Hair is not even brushed. It is yanked up into a messy topknot with a black covered elastic. no frills, no fuss, no fashion. Pure function.

Makeup? L’Oreal True Match foundation. A touch of Chanel concealer because I am running out. I ran out of my MAC concealer, I ordered more and they accidentally sent me a foundation stick. I am desperately in need of a trip to the mall pronto. I wore Almay bronzer in place of blush because I looked sickly, sallow and pale. No blush because I feared I was actually sick and didn’t want o be looking more flushed or feverish than necessary. A touch of Lancome’s Juicy Tubes in Daiquiri on the lips, Clinique Snow in the corners of the eyes, The Body Shop’s Fawn Pearl on the lids, and a good coat of MAC’s X mascara on the Shu Eumura’d curled lashes.

Hot stuff.

I hope to be far more fashionable on tomorrow.

I cannot believe I wore my hair this way. I always said that the adult women who always wear their hair in pony tails and top knots are those who have a bad hair cut. Nah, just dirty hair this time.

Speaking of which, I do need to schedule my routine trim……