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The Girl on the Train, Blogging, and the Whole Story

the girl on the train paula hawkins

I heard about The Girl on the Train on NPR; I caught the last bit of an interview with the author Paula Hawkins and was interested. I had finished the second book in the Outlander series and was looking for a change of pace before I delved into the third. I listened to The Girl on the Train via Audible on my commute to and from work and ended up not just with a change of pace from Dragonfly in Amber, but a new perspective on blogging, social media, and its audience.

The Girl on the Train is a thriller, very reminiscent of Gone Girl, but it’s also a great example of how looks can be deceiving and what happens when people become invested in the lives of strangers. Rachel Watson is a lonely, lost woman; she’s recently divorced and her life is a mess. She takes the train every day, and every day she passes the same row of houses next to the tracks. One is her old house, still inhabited by her ex and now accompanied by his new wife and baby; but the one that interests Rachel is a few doors down. A couple lives there, a couple that she sees as perfect. She doesn’t know them, but she imagines their lives between glimpses of them sipping wine or coffee on their patio or rooftop terrace. In her head she imagines their relationship, their professions, their hobbies; she even creates names for them – Jason and Jess. When tragedy strikes, Rachel ends up being involved in the life of this couple and realizes they aren’t the people in her morning commute fantasies.

Unlike bloggers and social media celebs, Jason and Jess don’t realize they have an audience. But like bloggers, what Rachel the audience sees is only a snippet of their life and she is making the decision to fill in the blanks.

While listening to this book, I couldn’t help but think about how bloggers and Internet personalities are analyzed, criticized, and sometimes idolized. I see on Twitter, on message boards, and on fan/hate blogs how people like Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train make the decision to fill in the blanks. That somehow, if one looked hard enough at the photos chosen by a blogger for their blog or how a paragraph is phrased they can determine if someone is having an affair, miserable at their job, upset that she can’t conceive, a terrible friend, a neglectful parent. Or the opposite, that by examining one’s Instagram account enough one can determine if someone’s husband really loves her, she’s such a nice and giving person, or she’s a really good mother.

The thing is you don’t know why someone chooses to share what they do. Maybe all the pictures turned out terrible except the one where she’s looking down at the ground. Maybe she always wears sunglasses because even after all these years she’s still awkward in front of the camera and the oversized shades hide her deer in the headlights gaze. Maybe she doesn’t share her husband on Instagram because he’s uncomfortable being photographed.  Maybe the post was written in a rush before the baby woke from his nap and she hit publish before proofing.  And maybe she knows how to play the game and sees from her analytics that she makes more sales when she has that smug smile than when she shows her teeth, or that when she writes something controversial she gets more pageviews, more hate followers, more fame, and more money.

The Girl on the Train is a good reminder that with those we follow on the Internet, and even those we know in real life, we make assumptions and fill in the blanks. And often, our assumptions are dead wrong.

I’m not saying getting invested in a blogger, vlogger, or even reality show star is a bad idea. I love blogs, and I have many favorite bloggers and personalities on social media, some who have become friends in real life and some who feel like a friend though I have never met them and likely never will. This isn’t bad, the Internet is a way to not feel so alone or unusual, to connect and relate to others across the globe. To find kindred spirits and gain inspiration. But it’s important to remember you don’t really know them, you only know what they choose for you to know and through the filter they have picked. It’s entertainment, it’s art, but it’s never the whole story.

The Girl on the Train was a well-written psychological thriller. I don’t want to share much more because it’s definitely the type of novel that is more enjoyable when you have no idea what happens before you start reading. And it’s clear I enjoyed how stereotypical characters were proven to be far more complex than originally thought; something that holds true for everyone you meet in real life, and on the Internet.

Guest Post: Birchbox x Rent the Runway Georgetown Launch Event Recap


Birchbox’s new location, located on the bottom floor of Rent the Runway

Last Friday, Nov. 6, I had the opportunity of representing Wardrobe Oxygen at the grand opening of Birchbox in the Rent the Runway store in Georgetown. The event started at 9 a.m., so naturally, I got there way too early (8 a.m. in fact…), but fortunately, M Street has a great selection of stores, so I window shopped (and plotted my post-event trip to Georgetown Cupcake) to pass the time.

The event took place on the bottom floor of the Rent the Runway shop, and when I arrived, I was instantly greeted by every member of the Birchbox staff (they were so welcoming!). The main part of the event was the featured “Build Your Own Box” table, which allowed each guest to create a Birchbox of their own. I was amped – free stuff and food all before 10am?! Every college student’s dream.

Birchbox has a mission to help its subscribers find products that they love. Each month, subscribers receive deliveries of beauty or grooming samples, which are tailored based on your personal preferences. With this new store, customers are now able to physically select their options and subscribe to a Birchbox in person! This was definitely a change of pace from my past experiences with Birchbox. Growing up, my sister received a Birchbox subscription as a Christmas present, and I was always envious when she got her monthly box in the mail. Before long, I began commandeering the items she didn’t want, and eventually, my mom loved the idea of Birchbox so much that she got a subscription of her own! Looks like I’m the last Balimtas girl to jump on the bandwagon…

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Left to right: Stila Huge Extreme Lash Mascara, Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, Madamia Weightless Moisture Leave-in Conditioner, I am Juicy Couture Perfume, and Esfoliante La Da Corpo Tocca Body Scrub!

At this kickoff event, each guest was able to pick an item from five different sections: hair, skin, makeup, fragrance, and body. My selections included samples of the Macadamia Professional™ Weightless Moisture Leave-In Conditioning Mist, the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, the Stila Huge Extreme Lash Mascara, the Juicy Couture I Am Juicy Couture Eau de Parfum, and the TOCCA Esfoliante da Corpo Nourishing Body Scrub – Bianca. Not being that hip to a lot of these items, I was a little nervous at first. I’m the kind of gal who typically buys her cosmetics from the local Target or CVS, so having all of these brands in front of me was a little overwhelming. But, with the helpful hints from some of the Birchbox employees, I carefully made my selections, and so far, I’ve used each of the samples I picked out. And I adore all of them!

Now, to be perfectly honest, I’ve never really cared much for body scrub or skincare treatments besides the standard acne treatment and drug store body wash I use on a regular basis (can you tell I’m a little new to this game?). But after using the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, I’ve discovered a whole new meaning to skincare. After just one use, my skin felt fresher, more exfoliated and rejuvenated. Immediately after, I yelled to my sorority sisters, “you guys, come try this stuff it’s life changing!” Needless to say, the sample size I received only a week ago is now gone.

The TOCCA Esfoliante da Corpo Nourishing Body Scrub – Bianca was also perfect for getting all of the dirt and grime off after a long day. Which is nice, especially after a rough week of classes. After a couple uses, I felt a noticeable difference between using this and the soap I use when I shower. And although I’ve mainly stuck to body sprays in the past, the Juicy Couture perfume was clean, feminine and lasted hours on end, which came in handy after running around in DC all morning! I may never go back to the standard body sprays I’ve been using for years and years. Looks like Birchbox may have changed me for good.


Me with my very first Birchbox! It really was the best day ever!

While I’m not a huge fan of body scrubs and lotions, I do take pride in my makeup and hair. The Stila Huge Extreme Lash Mascara was a nice change of pace for me, as I have generally stuck to other mascaras in the past. I was gifted with naturally long eyelashes (shout-out to my mom for that one), and this mascara really accentuates that quality! And while it gave me tremendous length on my lashes, it didn’t clump up, which allowed for a more natural finish.

And as someone who has very fine hair, I was elated to stumble upon the Weightless Moisture Leave-In Conditioning Mist. It made my hair feel softer and thicker, which is something that I’ve found hard to achieve with other hair care products. Also, it was an easy fix to regenerate my hair without showering. As someone who basically has every minute of her day scheduled, this was nice to spray quickly and then be out the door.

After browsing the Birchbox event for awhile, I had a few moments to ask some of the employees some questions, including the store manager, Anna Fraser. She mentioned that Birchbox and Rent the Runway originally partnered together because both began as e-commerce, but aspired to enter the retail world in stores. Birchbox currently has a year partnership with Rent the Runway and has since opened up stores in New York and Georgetown.

I loved having the opportunity to represent Wardrobe Oxygen at this event and give some insight on some of the products I received! This will definitely be a store I’ll be returning to, especially since it’s right by some other great shops on M Street. To learn even more about Birchbox or their new location in Georgetown, be sure to visit their website here.

Leyla Balimtas for Wardrobe Oxygen: Birchbox x Rent the Runway Georgetown Recap
Leyla Balimtas is a Junior Communications – Public Relations major at the University of Maryland College Park. She is the Vice President of Public Relations for the Gamma Theta chapter of Alpha Chi Omega, a tour guide with Maryland Images, and a member of the Science and Global Change Scholars program. Leyla is the Blog Assistant for Wardrobe Oxygen.

Hive on the Hill: The Shoe Hive’s DC Pop-up Shop

Like fashion, I believe in quality instead of quantity for my social life.  My evenings and weekends are primarily dedicated to my family, and only a few choice blog events.  Last night I attended a fabulous and quality event; Hive on the Hill from The Shoe Hive.

While The Shoe Hive has the most adorable and welcoming boutique in Old Town Alexandria, they are taking the next few days (through Sunday the 16th) to have a pop-up shop at The Tabula Rasa on Capitol Hill. While yes, you can find fabulous shoes (Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Hunter boots, and many more popular brands), they also have a wonderful selection of accessories and gifts. From candy-colored crocheted berets to drool-worthy Alexis Bittar jewelry, there have something for everyone, and every budget.

Last night was Opening Night for The Shoe Hive’s pop up, cleverly titled Hive on the Hill. The Shoe Hive asked me and Alison from DC Celine to co-host the event and curate a wish list to be on display. A mix of popular music with holiday tunes, plenty of white and red wine and three adorable men pouring Allagash White beer in Hive on the Hill pint glasses (which were adorable favors for us to take home), sweet treats and some of the most stylish women in DC… it was a wonderful event. While it was fun to see friends and chat over drinks, it was also fun to shop and meet new people. The Tabula Rasa was the perfect venue – crisp, white, modern, and beautiful. The Shoe Hive decorated with white birch branches and ribbons and the whole affair was tasteful yet so much fun. I was thrilled to finally meet social media/blogging friends Amy, KC, and Rosanna in real life and again see loveies like E, Lexa, Christen, and Vyque (and spend QT with my sister!).

A big thanks to Elizabeth from The Shoe Hive and her amazing team for a fun and successful event; rarely have I attended a shopping event that made me laugh to the point of tears, met so many new and wonderful people, while being surrounded by some of the most gorgeous shoes and accessories. If you’re in the area, stop by Tabula Rasa for Hive on the Hill or visit The Shoe Hive’s warm and welcoming shop in Old Town!

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What I Wore: The Bee’s Knees

Wardrobe Oxygen featuring a Vince Camuto shift dress and Dagne Dover tote Wardrobe Oxygen featuring the Dagne Dover Tote Wardrobe Oxygen wearing a Vince Camuto shift dress and Dagne Dover tote Wardrobe Oxygen outfit post featuring Vince Camuto dress and Dagne Dover toteDress: Vince Camuto (same print in blouse, plus size option) | Shoes: Nine West | Bracelet: Gorjana | Bag: c/o Dagne Dover | Lipstick: ‘Justice’ via The Elixery

I wore this dress last Thursday to work and my mom came into DC to have lunch with me.  We sat outside at a cafe enjoying the gorgeous weather… and the bees were surely enjoying this dress!  It’s like every insect in the Nation’s Capital was drawn to my marigold-hued frock.  Even with such buzzing attention, I’m still a big fan of this dress.  It has great drape, an exposed gold zipper in back, and the fabric resists wrinkles; I was crease-free after a while day plunked down at my desk!  I think this dress will transition nicely into the colder months, looking great with black tights or worn under a blazer or cardigan.

I loved pairing it with this bright blue tote from Dagne Dover; I’ve been using the heck out of this brilliantly-designed bag.  This is the perfect work bag; it’s big enough to hold your laptop and anything else you could use for your work day.  I can tuck in there my reusable water bottle, a pair of commuting shoes, my lunch and still have space for my purse essentials.  No matter what is in it, the bag never tips over and there’s a place for everything (including a cord for my keys!).  The straps are the perfect length to feel good in the hand, in the crook of the elbow, or over your shoulder.  I carried this bag at the BlogHer conference and people stopped to ask me where I got it; the other week I had a few coworkers in my office oohing and aahing over it.  I’ve become a big fan of this company, impressed with the quality and intelligence behind the bags as well as the great people of Dagne Dover and their amazing customer service.

I want to know more about you, and what you like/dislike about Wardrobe Oxygen. I’m trying to plan out 2016 and what I should focus on at the blog.  If you’d take a moment to fill out my anonymous feedback form I’d be eternally grateful! Click here.

Shop My Picks for Vince Camuto Printed Dresses:

Stacy London’s The Truth About Style Book and Tour

Thursday night I had the pleasure of seeing Stacy London speak at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC. Her book, The Truth About Style came out this past Tuesday and after seeing the book trailer I knew I had to be at the speaking engagement.

I met Stacy London a few months ago when she was at a local mall promoting the partnership between her company Style for Hire and Westfield Malls. The experience made me a London fan for life – she’s so real, and she truly cares about helping women feel beautiful and comfortable in clothing. Thursday night, I realized that she cares even more so about women feeling beautiful and comfortable in their own skin.

I don’t want to give much away about what she discussed or what the book is about because I truly think this is a style book that you should read. Borrow it from the library, loan it from a friend, sneak into a nook of Barnes and Noble or splurge on a copy – you won’t regret it. I can just say that Thursday night gave me such motivation regarding this blog.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t terribly happy about my body. I had a lot of opinions about fashion and style, a lot of rules, and a lot of snark. Through blogging, I got to know so many readers – you weren’t pageviews but people. I saw that I wasn’t alone in not liking the body I was in, and I saw that my snark wasn’t benefiting anyone. What’s the point of a fashion blog (or book for that matter) that dismisses those who don’t “get” fashion, that pigeonholes all women into one lump who needs a white shirt, tan trench, and a strand of real pearls?

Through blogging and through changes in my life (hello new awesome job and new awesome child) I began loving this body.  It’s not perfect… but then no one has a “perfect” body. I came to terms with it, and decided to work with it. And I also changed my voice on this blog – women don’t need another person telling them what they’re doing wrong, we need voices to give us food for thought and tips on how to feel comfortable, feel ourselves, and recognize our beauty.


I still have strong opinions on fashion and style, but now when I write I don’t just think about me and my little patch of Earth, but I try to make it more universal, more accepting. And Thursday night I learned that through her ten years on What Not to Wear, Stacy London has had the same experience. Dealing with real women has made her more sympathetic, sensitive, and understanding to others and also to herself. And her book The Truth About Style is about just that. This book won’t give you a list of ten must-have items in your closet, or tell you how to hide your hips or tummy. It won’t tell you what color to wear if you’re a brunette or redhead, and it won’t inform you of what items should be purged from your closet. But it will help you realize how fellow women have learned to find personal style… and may help you find yours along the way.


At the event with friends and fellow bloggers Nancye, Heidi, Alison, Chelsea, and Dana

And if Stacy London’s book tour is coming to a city near you, I encourage you to get a ticket to attend. She is funny, she is raw, she is honest, and she is inspiring. And she may just renew your faith in fashion, style, and yourself.

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Guest Post – Committed to Consciousness – The Case for Ethical Fashion

One of the topics requested in the reader survey is tips for purchasing ethical fashion.  I’m still learning, so I reached out to my friend KC Sledd, a DC fashionista with a conscience to write a post on the subject.  I look forward to your comments on this post; also share if you have any specific questions or topics regarding ethical fashion you would like addressed in a future post.

committed to consciousness: the case for ethical fashion by KC Sledd for the blog Wardrobe OxygenIt’s not easy to be an informed consumer. In fact, it can be downright disheartening, particularly when it comes to something you love.

For example: Fashion. I lovingly sketched clothing designs in the margins in my notebooks as a child, I cried when I first touched Chanel, and my mother bought be a Marc Jacobs handbag for my 18th birthday because she knew it would complete me (it did).

I typically subscribed to the cost-per-wear principle, and frequently eschewed Forever 21 for after-Christmas sales at Saks; however, I still indulged in inexpensive impulse buys pulling at my wallet from J. Crew, H&M, Ann Taylor, and more. How could I turn down the siren call of $5 t-shirts or handfuls of wear-once sundresses for that weekend trip? Behind the giddy high of scoring a bargain, a tiny voice scratched at me, wondering how these clothes could be so cheap.

In April 2013, I found out.

Bangladesh has approximately 5,000 garment factories that employ more than 4.5 million people—80 percent of them are women. Many of these women come from rural villages and have little education, and earn around $37 a month.

On April 24, 2013, an eight-story garment factory called Rana Plaza collapsed on the outskirts of Dhaka, killing at least 400 people and injuring many more. It is the worst disaster in the history of the garment industry. Workers at this factory produced clothes for brands such as Primark, a British retailer, and Joe Fresh from Canada. Authorities warned that the building was unsafe, and factory owners responded by threatening to fire people who did not carry on working as usual. Almost 3,000 people, most of them female garment workers, are believed to have been in the complex when it suddenly came down.

I am a feminist and a shopper, social change in stilettos. My personal convictions, I realized, were at odds with the clothes on my back. As an advocate for women, I couldn’t support an industry that threatened them. And I certainly couldn’t feel good knowing that what I was wearing, stylish as it may be, came out of hurting someone else.

From then on, I committed to doing my best to support brands I could feel confident and positive about wearing. It’s not always easy, and I haven’t always succeeded, but that’s why I believe in conscious consumerism. If we can add a layer of knowledge, of understanding, of empathy, to our shopping we can be more confident feeling good and looking good in our clothes. And that truly is something to love.

Where can you turn when you’re looking to invest in your own ethically styled look? Here are a few of my favorite spots:

  • Zady: The leader in conscious consumerism, Zady exclusively retails “slow fashion” for men, women, and the home. Zady also recently launched its own in-house label of American-made, ethically sourced closet essentials.
  • Everlane: Best source for classic trousers and tops perfect for work AND made transparently in factories around the world. I live in their Ryan tees and button down shirts, and both my husband and mother have gotten Everlane cashmere sweaters for Christmas.
  • The Reformation: L.A.-based retailer known for super sexy dresses. They use deadstock, or vintage, fabric for beautiful gowns or grab-and-go weekend minis.
  • H&M: Including H&M might be controversial, but I believe in their commitment to the environment and ethical production as a company. The Conscious Collection reuses fabric and renewable materials. Bonus tip: Recycle any fabric (read: old clothes, socks, and dirty dishtowels) at your local H&M and they’ll give you a discount for your next purchase.
  • Verdalina: A Richmond, Virginia boutique with an expertly curated collection of eco-fashion goods.

KC Sledd - Guest post on Wardrobe Oxygen Committed to Consciousness - the Case for Ethical FashionKC Sledd is a mostly healthy blend of Peggy Olson, Olivia Pope, and Pepper Ann. She thinks about communications for a living and believes that every pair of black ankle boots is a special snowflake. She and her husband live in Washington, DC with their two cats. You can follow her on Twitter at @kcesledd.

Mick Rock & Fitz and the Tantrums – W Hotel DC

Last night I had the opportunity to attend an exhibit for Mick Rock at the W Hotel in DC. Mick Rock is a music photographer, known as “The Man Who Shot the Seventies.” He has photographed music greats over the past few decades, and some of his pictures of folks like Iggy Pop, Queen, Blondie, David Bowie, and even Lady Gaga are iconic. To celebrate the exhibit, the W Hotel had a performance by Fitz and the Tantrums and had Thievery Corporation DJing.

I really like Fitz and the Tantrums’ soul sound, Money Grabberwill get stuck in your head and never leave. I had heard they were great live and was looking forward to seeing them this past summer at the Silopanna Festival, but the fest was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene. I was happy to have been invited to this event to see them… and I was not disappointed.

The W Hotel had Mick Rock’s work blown up to wall size glossy prints, placed on the walls of the hallway and two rooms. Incredible lighting, amazing music, and complimentary Absolut cocktails. We walked around and saw musical greats in such vibrant, engaging larger-than-life images. We headed into the less-crowded room and saw it was set up with a stage – we were able to get right up front where we found a cocktail table to park our purses and drinks. My husband brought his camera and was able to get some amazing shots of the performance:

Mick Rock himself, capturing the show

Fitz and the Tantrums were amazing, so full of energy and they sounded amazing.  It was awesome to experience them in such an intimate setting.  I was so glad we got a spot up close to really experience the performance, I hardly captured a photo myself because I was so busy dancing!

The set ended and Thievery Corporation took over spinning tunes. We decided to go up to the W rooftop bar and on the way I saw Michael Fitzpatrick near a bar. I just had to go up to him, and thank him for a great performance. I mentioned how I wished I had seen them this past summer and asked for a picture. He is so nice and charming in person, so happy to have gotten the chance to meet him!

The rooftop bar is amazing, with views of the White House and the Washington Monument. Even though I was born in DC and have lived in the area all my life, such a view made me a giddy tourist and we took a lot of pictures of ourselves in front of the White House.

We headed back downstairs where I saw Mick Rock mixing with the crowd, but never got a chance to meet him. However I was pretty close to him while he was shooting the Fitz and the Tantrums set; it was cool to see such a famous photographer at work!

Thank you BrandLinkDC and The W Hotel for a stellar evening of music and photography!

Photography by Karl Gary

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Weekend Getaway: Enjoying the Sights and Tastes of Columbus [Sponsored]

Karl and I took a little couples’ getaway last month to Columbus and it was just what the doctor ordered. Only a six-hour drive or 1-hour flight from DC, Columbus is a thriving city with plenty to do and see. Their culinary scene is amazing, with so many unique restaurants, food trucks, and talented chefs.  It was the perfect city for a quick getaway where we could relax, recharge, and celebrate as a couple.

le meredien columbus the joseph reviewWe stayed at Le Méridien Columbus, The Joseph, a gorgeous boutique hotel conveniently located on High Street in The Short North. Staying here was a real treat; because I am a Starwood Preferred Guest member (seriously join those free loyalty programs they’re worth it), we were upgraded to a Deluxe King room. The room was spacious and gorgeous, with a beautiful view of the city and the staff had macarons from Pistacia Vera and a bottle of Chardonnay on ice waiting for us.  I don’t think I’ve ever before taken so many showers in one weekend; I was obsessed with the shower’s perfect rainshower head, strong pressure, and plenty of hot water.  We took advantage of the room service one evening and the food, prepared by the adjoining Guild House restaurant, was astounding.  Even the lobby was great; cool furniture and decor but comfortable enough to chill and read the paper, drink a cocktail, and do a bit of people watching.  The Joseph staff was warm, friendly, and extremely helpful.  I would stay at this hotel again in a heartbeat and recommend it completely if you’re coming to visit Columbus.

A review of The Pearl Restaurant in Columbus #lifeincbusthe pearl columbus oyster roomEvery time Karl and I visit a city, we get oysters.  The Pearl is located directly across the street from The Joseph, and was recommended by many as the place to go in Columbus for oysters.  The place was busy, but in just a couple minutes we were able to get seats at the oyster bar.  The place was well staffed, and everyone was very friendly.

the pearl restaurant oyster review columbus ohioWe started with a mixed dozen of oysters and then got a second dozen of the ones we liked best.  Karl got the restaurant’s exclusive Pearl Oyster Stout from North High Brewing and I chose a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  We were both pleased with our selections.

DSCF0981The bill arrives in a hardback book; I loved the randomness of the one we received!

forno kitchen bar columbusWe also got a chance to check out forno kitchen + bar, an elegant and modern space that is still inviting.  We stopped by between meal times for a cocktail and appetizer.  We sat at the bar and found that our bartender Jimmy was a true mixologist who is passionate about food and drink and quite knowledgeable about the Columbus culinary scene.  While Karl got a Woodford Reserve neat, Jimmy recommended forno’s Kiwi Mule, which was delicious, crisp and refreshing on a warm summer day.  We shared the Ahi Tuna Tacos which were phenomenal, and made us wish to return and try more from their menu.

the pint house columbusforno recommended we check out Short North Pint House & Beer Garden.  Run by the same folks as forno, but a completely different experience.  The Pint House is ginormous – a front room with a ton of light, tall tables, and the funkiest fountain made from beer taps.  A bar goes along the wall of this area into the main part of the place,  and juts out to hold at least 30 stools and continues down the wall to the back.  Over 70 different beers on tap and dozens more available in bottles and cans, the place is a beer lover’s dream.  I don’t drink beer any more, but I had a Moscow Mule.  I know these drinks are popular nationally but I had never seen so many people drink them before I visited Columbus.  It seemed everywhere I looked someone was sipping out of a copper mug.  I had never had one before, and now I see the appeal.  Karl tried a few different local brews, and the folks at the Pint House were kind enough to treat us to their Short Rib Nachos, which were tasty and plentiful.  This place was hopping even in the middle of the day, and the staff was super energetic and friendly.

DSCF1038The first night in Columbus, we met a couple who recommended we check out Stack City Burger Bar, a new restaurant part of the Hyde Park Restaurant Group, which also owns a half dozen other restaurants in Columbus.  Thinking this would be your run of the mill bar and burger joint with a bunch of TVs showing sports, we were pleasantly surprised.  The location is warm and modern but somehow made big screens part of the decor.  Plenty of outdoor seating, but we decided to sit inside, though they opened up all the walls so there was a gorgeous breeze.  We each got a Bloody Mary which was really delicious and made with coconut vodka and just the right amount of spice and heat.  Karl got a bison burger with goat cheese, caramelized onions, and a side of onion rings; I chose the Red White and Blue burger (lettuce, tomato, onion, bread and butter pickles, cheddar) with fries.  They cook their burgers medium well, but they are not dry.  Incredibly flavorful and juicy, a bit reminiscent in flavor to Shake Shack, though the buns are slightly toasted and have the perfect amount of firmness.  We each could only eat half of our burgers and just a bit of the sides; the burgers were so good the leftovers tasted great a few hours later after sitting in our hotel minifridge!

katalinas cafe columbus ohioWe were informed that one of the best breakfast destinations in Columbus is Katalina’s. Located in the Victorian Village (less than a mile and an easy and pretty walk from the hotel), Katalina’s prides itself on using local and fresh ingredients.  Katalina’s is a casual and cheery place; you order at the counter and they bring it to your table either inside the small cafe or on the outdoor patio.  We got there around 9am and the place was pretty full but we didn’t have to wait in line very long and snagged a table indoors.  If you want to eat outside, I recommend getting there as close to open as possible.  We were psyched about our seat; there was a sign there from a regular customer who was in Italy for the summer; he provided his SnapChat and Instagram handles and wanted to hear from those who enjoyed the restaurant from his favorite table.  How adorable is that?  We took a selfie and I mentioned him on Instagram and he wrote back the same day!  Such an example of the fun and friendly people of Columbus.

katalinas columbus breakfast reviewI got the breakfast tacos with chorizo, which were amazing.  Everything was so fresh, and it came with a side of the most amazing corn on the cob I have ever enjoyed; steamed so it was juicy and plump and coated in spices that had a hint of heat and tons of flavor.  Karl got Hens in a Basket and couldn’t stop raving about the Brussels sprouts slaw side.

DSCF1064The other place we knew we had to try for breakfast was Northstar Cafe.  With three locations in Columbus, we visited the one in the Short North, which was just a few blocks down from our hotel.  Northstar also has indoor and outdoor seating, a casual atmosphere, and a focus on organic ingredients.

northstar cafe columbusI got The Standard Egg Sandwich with sausage, Karl chose the Sweet Potato and Turkey Hash.  The sun was strong and while we got there early enough for outdoor seating, we chose to sit in the airy and inviting dining room.

zencha tea salon columbusThere’s plenty of fabulous independent coffee, tea, and juice shops in Columbus.  I didn’t see a single Starbucks and it was AWESOME.  Our hotel provided illy coffee pods and a little machine in our room that made phenomenal espresso and coffee so we didn’t visit any coffee shops.  However, we stopped by Native Cold Pressed Saturday morning and got some delicious green juice to counteract our Friday night cocktails.  On Sunday Karl got delicious Jasmine Pearl iced tea from ZenCha Tea Salon.  ZenCha was so relaxing and the art in there to show awareness for human trafficking was powerful.

north market columbusA must-visit when in Columbus is the North Market.  Established in 1876, the market has over 30 vendors offering local and fresh food.  The main floor is like other markets I have attended; stalls for fishmongers, butchers, bakers, coffee roasters, pastry chefs and yes even the famous Columbus Jeni’s  Ice Cream.  Upstairs has plenty of seating (and a great view of the booths below) and Hot Chicken Takover, one of the most buzzed-about restaurants in Columbus.  I could have spent all day at North Market, and could have spent my entire paycheck.

north market columbus ohioAnd you know you always wanted to know what I looked like as a goat! We saw this upstairs in North Market and I couldn’t resist!

columbus collageThe weather in Columbus was perfect – in the 80s, sunny, with a light breeze.  Being from DC, we loved having a break from the humidity and all the mosquitoes!  We walked a LOT, often with no place in mind, just checking out the city.  It’s an easy city to walk; we never drove our car and had CoGo Bike Share available for longer treks.  To be honest, we forgot to take pictures on most of our adventures, we just enjoyed a new city full of some of the nicest people.  Columbus is creative, colorful and modern.  The culinary scene rivals larger metro areas like DC but is not at all pretentious.  While all the current trends can be found in dining, art, and fashion, it’s shared in such a friendly manner. (That last picture Karl said I had to share of me in Magnolia Thunderpussy.  He says that’s my “face” when I’m plotting a scheme or justifying a purchase!)

DSCF1077We had a great time Columbus; thank you so much for having us!  We look forward to returning and enjoying more of your wonderful city!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of LifeInCbus via RhythmOne. The opinions and text are all mine.

Concert Review: Rocco DeLuca/The Feeling/Mat Kearney

Last night my husband and I attended the VH1 You Oughta Know tour at Rams Head Live! in Baltimore. I bought the tickets because my husband and I are big fans of Rocco DeLuca; not until after I purchased the tickets in January did I ever hear a song by Mat Kearney or The Feeling. What I heard from both (one or two songs) seemed pretty good; kinda boppy but nice.

Doors opened at 5pm, but the first act wasn’t to perform until 6. We got int here and the place was not packed; doubt if it sold out. We decided to go to the tavern on the 2nd floor of the place and have a quick bite to eat. Rams Head is known for good food yet horribly slow service; we were happy to see only three other tables occupied in the joint. We sat down, a waiter came by and quickly got our drink orders.

We didn’t see him for ten more minutes. My beer was either flat or had been sitting at the bar a couple minutes waiting to be picked up; lucky I am a weirdo that likes semi-flat beer and I don’t care too much as long as it’s cold. It was still semi-cold so I drank it. We placed our orders – vegetarian burrito and a side of stir-fry veggies for the spouse, a small baked potato and a side of spinach with kalmatta olives and feta cheese for moi. We placed the order around 5:20.

We received our food at 5:58; bit into my first piece of potato and heard Rocco DeLuca come on stage. And he started with “gift.” Are you kidding me??? We flagged down our waiter and asked for our bill ASAP. We gobbled down our food, realizing it was not up to Rams Head snuff; my potato was not completely cooked and hard in the center, my spinach and my husband’s veggies were almost soup from the amount of liquid. And not surprisingly, all of our food was lukewarm. I got the bill, didn’t even look at it, left EXACTLY 15% and we dashed out to find a place to see the show.

We missed the first song and a half, but found a great spot on a ramp right to the left of the light/sound booth. Since it was angled, I could see over the crowd and I find it fascinating the watch the lighting techs at work. There was a railing so we shoved our jackets between it and the wall and could prop our beers on it.

Rocco was awesome. He sounds even better live than on his CD. He holds his steel guitar really low and at one point when he was playing it, it almost looked as though he was jerking off. Strange, but sort of exciting to see how he personalized his style and had such passion. Also when he sings and plays his face gets so contorted, this music comes from the pit of his belly… this is not cheesy VH1 pop music. He filled the whole three-story concrete general-admission place with passion, intense sound and utter talent. After his set (which was only 6 songs. Waaah!) he went to a table to the side of the stage and we got in line to meet him. My husband had a Rocco tee shirt that was signed on the shoulder, I only had my ticket but he signed it. Not too personable, but not cheesy. He thanked us for coming, we told him we’d see him at Bonnaroo.. it was nice to have the chance to meet him.

Then next band that performed was The Feeling. I only knew one song of theirs – the one on VH1 where rope is wrapping around the band as they sing very calmly. I didn’t love it or hate it; my husband though the video was cool and Tool-esque and was looking forward to seeing the band. Boy was he disappointed. We personally felt that this band sucked. They were skinny cocky little children from the UK in Western shirts and tight lowrise black jeans jumping all over the stage trying to be every band that had success before them, but not being themselves. They did a bunch of harmonizing and “bah bah bah” singing that made me think later Beach Boys or even the Beatles. Too bad they weren’t as talented or innovative. Their songs all sounded the same, lots of harmonies, bee-bopping in place of real lyrics, and cheery simplistic riffs while they made the appearance of rocking out (jumping off amps and falling to their knees). It was if Motley Crue dressed up like Oasis and sang Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hears Club Band. It was stupid. My husband asked if I was ready to leave, but we decided to stay to hear Mat Kearney.

Mat was the headliner of the show, and therefore had 14 songs to sing (I saw the song list in the light booth). When he came out, I suddenly saw how young the front of the crowd was. Dozens of girls with big black Xs on their hands (under 21) were screaming and flailing around when he hit the stage. He reminded me of John Corbett (best known for playing Aidan on Sex in the City); he was tall, plain-faced yet attractive, in a black fitted button-down and black jeans. His hair seemed to be thinning in the back and he had a slow stoner smile that made the girls go ga-ga. He came out, started playing and did a bit of chatting between sets, all in a slow way with a slight smile. He sounded good, the songs sounded good, but the location was totally wrong for him. Mat’s set had more fancy lighting than the other bands, which seemed inappropriate for his quiet sweet songs. It also was too… loud. His music is to be heard somewhere like Rams Head Annapolis where everyone is seated, drinking wine and enjoying the tunes, not in a stale-beer and smoke-filled concrete box where his voice and lyrics were drowned out by his band. He doesn’t scream when he sings, so all his singing just sounded like noise with the acoustics. It got boring after about three songs and then he sang “Renaissance” and forgot the lyrics. At first I thought he was being cute trying to get the audience to participate, and then we all realized that he honestly forgot the words to the song and a good third of the song was purely instrumental as he said “I can’t believe it, this has never happened to me before.”

This is when my husband and I decided to make it a night. We hadn’t heard the songs we knew best, but we figured we would just listen to them on the stereo on the car ride home.

All in all, worth the $18 ticket just to see Rocco DeLuca. It wasn’t crowded, but there were enough people to get energy off them. We met some cool cats in line to meet Rocco, and though our dinner wasn’t the absolute best, we had good conversation while we waited for it and all in all a nice Date Night.

True Fashionista: Zoe

I was a pretty creative teen when it came to fashion and style. I wore sweaters as skirts, sewed some of my own clothes, embellished and drew on my denim, even pulled down one of my bedroom curtains to fashion it into a cummerbund for a school dance. I’m eternally grateful that my parents gave me the freedom to express myself sartorially; while it made for some awkward social moments at the mall (strangers can be so cruel) it helped me be strong, believe in myself, and take risks.

I’m always thrilled to come across a blog of a younger woman or teen who has a bold and clearly defined personal style. I know it’s not easy at that age to buck the norm, and I understand the passion and creativity and drive that goes behind such outfits. Some young bloggers you can see are still feeling things out and finding their way, and others you can clearly understand their message and can be in awe by their voice and maturity. When I came across Zoe Schlacter’s blog, Girl With The Flower, she stopped me in my tracks with her incredibly creative, unique, and inspiring personal style. I subscribed, I became a huge fan, and asked her to be part of my True Fashionista series.

Zoe has always been a fan of fashion, in fact her second post on her blog, Girl With the Flower is from December 2009 when she met Tim Gunn. It’s fun to scroll through her archives and see her personal style progression. Doing so you see that Zoe has always been a step ahead of the rest – her outfits in 2009 and 2010 look very much like what many personal style bloggers are wearing today, and I can bet that her current ensembles will be imitated in a couple years.

“In middle school, I went through an awkward insecure phase, like most middle-schoolers do. I wasn’t quite as daring then; it’s been a gradual progression up until now. I’m becoming more courageous with what I wear, and I’m more confident in myself.” (source)


Zoe doesn’t just put together creative outfits, but she is also an artist. She shares many of her photography concepts (like those googly eye images in her header), film projects, textiles she has designed, and handcrafted headpieces on her blog, and even has an Etsy store where she sells her unique headbands and other wearable art. She has been featured in Teen Vogue, Nashville Scene, the front page of Chictopia, and Metromix and I can bet that’s just the beginning of this fashionista’s deserved press.

I look forward to Zoe’s continued pushing of sartorial boundaries, and her inspiring mix of art and fashion. I was honored to have Zoe be a part of my True Fashionista series and asked her the same five questions I ask of each participant; her answers:

How would you describe your personal style? 
I cant really classify my style into one genre, but I like things that are colorful and patterned and shiny. I really love everything floral; I’m a big fan of flowers.

Where did you get your passion for fashion? 
I’ve always been really interested in visual art. My parents are creative people, and they’ve always been really supportive of my creative endeavors. I started getting into fashion when I was about ten or so, and I’ve gradually become more and more courageous in my fashion choices over the years. I got into fashion for the wrong reasons; when I first became conscious of my appearance, it was to fit in… to be like everyone else… to be beautiful to others. My passion for fashion has evolved into something more meaningful. Now, I dress for myself, and I wear things that make me happy. Additionally, my interests in visual art and fashion have coincided in recent years, and treat fashion like another form of art.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration? 
Recently, I’ve been interested in Japanese street style… everything “kawaii.” And I’ve been inspired by Frida Kahlo for a long time now. I admire her art, and I admire her ability to stand up for her unusual viewpoints.

What is the difference between fashion and style? 
Fashion is on runways; style is what’s in your closet.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style? 
Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid to go with your gut instinct when making clothing decisions. If you want to develop a personal style truly your own, you need to stop caring what others think of you. You have to do it for yourself- not for other people.


The purpose of the Friday True Fashionista series is to show women who use clothing to express their personal style. Each woman has a different, unique look and opinion on clothing and fashion. These women inspire me in my clothing choices, and possibly their bold sartorial statements will inspire you. Stay tuned, there will be a featured True Fashionista every Friday. And if you know of a True Fashionista in your life, tell us about her in the comments you never know she may end up being featured!

True Fashionista: Denisio

Sometimes in the blogosphere, it just seems like more of the same. Every woman has a slightly different personal style, but with so many fashion blogs out there, you can grow tired of the same trends, same poses, same sameness. So when you come across a blog like The Ravenous Creator, it is like a breath of fresh air.

The Ravenous Creator is a peek into the mind of Denisio Truitt, DC-based blogger, business owner, creative spirit. Denisio sees fashion as a form of art, by reworking vintage (and selling it at 8 Vintage, a business run by she and fellow fashion blogger Krystin Hargrove), sketching designs, sewing garments, photographing provocative portrait (and self-portrait) series, and pushing every possible sartorial boundary.

I couldn’t carry off 90% of the things Denisio wears on her blog, but that is one reason why I like her personal style so much. Her combinations are what I would never consider, she plays with proportions, colors, and textures. She embraces her curves, her freckles, and rocks the short hair (which often changes colors). She inspires me to think outside the box, give a new life to a garment collecting dust in my closet or even consider wearing lingerie as part of a streetwear ensemble.

Denisio is proof that Washington DC is a city full of creative, fashionable, and fabulous women. I am honored that she was willing to be a part of my True Fashionista series. Here are her answers to the same five questions I ask of each True Fashionista:

How would you describe your personal style?
Eclectic, feminine and sexy. I love embracing my curves and wearing things that showcase them. In short I like looking and feeling like woman.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
My mother and grandmother. They’ve had me looking sharp since birth.

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
Two words: Karla Deras. Her style is more simple and clean than my aesthetic but her love of vintage, unique accessories, and attention to the feminine form is a constant source of inspiration.

What is the difference between fashion and style?
Fashion are the items, the ingredients. Style is the execution, the way in which you cook and put said ingredients together.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Know what works for your body, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone while still remaining true to your aesthetic, and have fun!

What I Wore: Slither

Wardrobe Oxygen wearing a snakeprint Karen Kane dress via Gwynnie Bee Wardrobe Oxygen wearing a snake print dress from Karen Kane via Gwynnie Bee Wardrobe Oxygen featuring a snakeprint scuba knit fit and flare dress from karen kane via gwynnie beeDress: Karen Kane c/o Gwynnie Bee (standard size, plus size) | Bag: HOBO (similar)  | Earrings: Amazon | Bracelet: had forever (similar) | Shoes: Nine West | Lipstick: ‘Justice’ via The Elixery

When I stopped by the Gwynnie Bee Inspired By You Tour last month, I had the chance to try on this dress (this is an 0X).  I liked it so much I raced home and put it in my virtual closet.  The fabric is a heavyweight scuba knit that gives the dress a great shape.  I like it styled this way for a “desk to drinks” sort of look, but this dress also looks great paired with a blazer or cardigan.  If you want to check out Gwynnie Bee, use this link for a 30 day free trial of the program.

This lipstick has become a fave for fall; this limited edition color from The Elixery is the perfect burgundy for the season, not too cool but not too warm.  Not only that, 50% of the purchase from this specific color goes to support Lady Parts JusticeThe Elixery is a Minneapolis-based cosmetic house that handcrafts their lipsticks and other vegan and cruelty free products.  This lipstick is an amazing formula; it’s creamy but it stays put far better than many of my Sephora-brand lipsticks.  And the case!  Gosh there’s something awesome about whipping out a gorgeous lipstick tube for touch-ups, and this vintage inspired gold case will have people asking what brand you’re wearing.  I bought this lipstick to support LPJ, but now that I’ve tried the brand I know this will not be my last purchase from The Elixery.

Forecastle 2012 Recap

While I have attended Bonnaroo several times, I had yet to attend a city-based music festival like Forecastle. Unlike Bonnaroo where you camp on the same grounds as the music festival, you have to stay offsite with Forecastle. We chose to stay at The Galt House, which was less than a half mile from the grounds and also had a great price for festival attendees.

The Galt House was HUGE! Two giant towers, restaurants, spa, gym, shops, pool and more! We reserved a room with a king bed but it wasn’t ready at check-in time. They apologized, gave us a room with two queen beds and a river view and even comped our parking as an apology. Even better, our new room ended up right across the hall from my sister!

The room itself was lovely – pretty basic but a huge bay window overlooking the Ohio River.  We bought a bottle of bourbon (when in Louisville…) and had cocktails enjoying the view.  My husband said it was looking at a live train set with the bridges, barges and boats, trains and more.

The music started just after 5pm; we arrived around 5:30 to get a lay of the land. The festival site is predominately under a major highway which was actually pretty awesome because it shielded attendees from the sun and possible rain (it was set to rain all weekend). While the stages are far enough apart to prevent too much audio bleed, the grounds are small enough that you can easily dash from one stage to another to see every set you desire. The two biggest stages are right on the water, so through the stages you saw the Ohio, the bridges, and the most spectacular sunsets.

We bought a packet from the My Morning Jacket fan club which gave us access to the MMJ sound check, pit access for their performance, and access to the VIP entrance the whole festival. Friday when we went into the festival for the first time, we handed them our ticket and got a black bracelet. Then a woman saw our Roll Call cards and said we were missing a bracelet and gave each of us an orange VIP one. We were confused but soon realized that either they messed up or the package was far better than we expected because suddenly we had VIP access all weekend! We were able to get into VIP which had tons of seating, an air-conditioned lounge tent, air-conditioned bathroom trailers and their own beer and food vendors. I swear, this festival kept getting better and better!

We did a lot of bouncing around from stage to stage Friday night and caught a bit of Rebelution, The Head and the Heart, Atlas Sound, Atmosphere, Sleeper Agent, and Bassnectar. The only show I saw in its entirety was Sleigh Bells, and I got a great spot about a dozen people from the pit, a little right of center. I loved every artist I saw except Atlas Sound and Atmosphere. While both are extremely talented and put on a good show, Atlas Sound was bibbing about the “digital” coming from Atmosphere’s stage, and when we left and went to Atmosphere, we found that he was being a of a Gloomy Gus too, with negative snarky lyrics and conversation between songs. Such things wouldn’t usually bother me, but it just felt like a bad way to start the first night of a festival so I moved on.

After jumping up and down for a full hour at Sleigh Bells, I ended up catching most of Bassnectar from VIP – not a good view, but good sound and it was fun to watch the crowd (and also take advantage of VIP!).

I was already impressed with Forecastle by the end of Friday. Most of the grounds are gravel or concrete which means no mud and little dust. The views of the Ohio were amazing and we were treated to spectacular sunsets each evening. Enough water, more than enough porta-potties, plenty of food and trinket vendors. However the best part was the people – real music fans, few pretentious hipsters, no age-ists who looked down at us parents rocking out – a real mix of happy music lovers.

As previously mentioned we splurged on a special pass for members of the My Morning Jacket fan club to attend their sound check and get pit access for their actual show. The sound check was at 11am, before the festival grounds opened to other attendees. We got there… and it began to storm. They couldn’t let us out to the stage with lightening so they had us wait under the overpass until it blew through. Soon it was clear that the storm wasn’t going anywhere, but instead of cancelling and disappointing their biggest fans, My Morning Jacket gave us a special treat – they came to us! Jim James and team walked over to our group under the overpass and did an intimate acoustic set for us! It was amazing – they sounded phenomenal and did some of my favorite songs – they started with Tonight I Want to Celebrate With You (me and my husband’s song), even did Old September Blues, and everyone joined in to sing Wonderful (The Way I Feel) (do check out the links, they are YouTube videos of the actual sound check!).

After that amazing experience and being in blazing sun and then rain, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the evening. And what an evening it was! We did a bit of wandering, catching a bit of Justin Townes Earle, The Ravenna Colt, Galactic, Dr. Dog, Andrew Bird, and Real Estate. However, we were all feeling a bit distracted thinking about later that evening. As previously mentioned, we had a package to go into the pit for My Morning Jacket – they had one side of the pit for those who waited in line, and one side for us. This made for a very comfortable pit – not too packed, and only holding those who truly love the band.

The show was epic. I have seen My Morning Jacket in concert four times prior, and each time the show is different. I think that since they did most of their lower-key songs for us in the morning they amped it up for the evening show. The craziest part of the set was their cover of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” where they started changing the “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah” part to “Ba-na-na-na-na” and started throwing bananas at us!  Here’s a link to the entire performance.

While many of our friends went to see Preservation Hall Band and MMJ play on a paddle boat, we didn’t splurge on that and instead headed back to the hotel to rest up for the next day.

Like Saturday, the day started rainy, but cleared up in time for music. We had no major plans in the morning so we headed into town for brunch and ended up at Dish on Market. I had the most utterly sinful corned beef hash and one too many Bloody Marys; thank goodness the food was amazing because the place was understaffed and service was at a snail’s pace. Later, my husband and I went for a walk around Louisville and stopped at two different bars – one for a cocktail, and one for a lunch of oysters, tuna tartare, and another cocktail. Why? Because we COULD! Seriously, it feels so utterly decadent to be eating oysters one moment and rocking out in the pit of a festival the next.  As I said in my previous post, we really felt like we were festing like a boss!

We headed back to the festival in the afternoon, and again wandered around from stage to stage. Ones that stood out were Fruit Bats, Gramatik, Beats Antique, and Clutch. As a DC-native, I love me some Clutch. Since they were playing at the same time as Wilco, I was able to get right up in front in the pit, and have plenty of room to rock out. I often felt that Neil Fallon was singing right to me – at one point I jumped off the yellow jackets (the plastic things that cover wires and a great riser for short folks at concerts) to get out of the way of moshers, and Neil looked out into the crowd a bit confused. I jumped back on the yellow jacket and started cheering again and he went back to singing – I doubt he missed me but it was fun to think so!

After Clutch I watched Wilco from VIP. They sounded great – so great that this gal who is pretty “meh” about Wilco now wants to see them live again. However I was wiped from the weekend and my VIP futon was too comfortable to leave and venture into the crowd. Oh well, next time!

A big thanks to Cate, Allison, and Krista for connecting with me and offering suggestions on where to visit and eat while in Louisville. Much love to Hollie, Sarah, and the other Inforoosters I bumped into at sound check and didn’t get enough time to hang with while there – next festival for sure! And finally, a big thank you to Louisville, AC Entertainment, and My Morning Jacket for putting on a well-run, fun, and friendly festival. We had a blast and will be back!

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This is 40: My Winter Skincare and Beauty Routine


This is what 40 looks like… and my skincare routine mentioned below after a couple hours of wear and no touch-ups. Mascara, liner, a bit of matte taupe shadow and Revlon BalmStain in Romantic.

After I shared a selfie last week on social media, I received a bunch of questions asking how I take care of my skin. I’ll admit I get tempted by new and shiny products and reviews on blogs, but I’m trying to stick to my current routine because it works, and for the first time in years my winter skin is happy and hydrated.

Night Skincare Routine:

  • Garnier Clean + Nourishing Cleansing Oil – I use this almost every evening. Two pumps in dry hands, rub on dry skin, and then rinse off. Okay, you don’t “just rinse;” rinsing isn’t that easy and you will be left with what feels like a film of oil on your skin. Trust me, this isn’t a bad thing. Unlike other drugstore-brand oil cleansers, Garnier doesn’t clog my pores and it does remove all my makeup, even mascara and liquid liner. I emulsify and rinse with tepid and blot (don’t rub) my skin dry.
  • CeraVe Cleanser (Normal to Dry) – I use this from time to time, just to switch things up. I’ve used it for years and like how it’s budget friendly, gentle, and cleans thoroughly without stripping. Once or twice a month and after a day where I wore hardcore makeup, I’ll use it with my Clarisonic, and then follow up with the Garnier oil cleanser.
  • Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream – I keep trying other brands, get disappointment, and return to this product. No irritation, absorbs nicely, makes the skin feel soft and I think helps with wrinkles and dry skin.
  • Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum – Again, I try other products and come back to this one. It works, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and it doesn’t make my skin angry. I apply this after the eye cream to my entire face, neck, chest, and the top of both hands.
  • Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads – I don’t use these as often as I did in the fall and early winter because the rest of my body has gotten so pale it looks fake. But I do it sometimes if I have an event to go to, I’ll use in place of the Neutrogena serum. I wear a dark bra, and wipe it on my face, neck, and chest inside the lines of the bra for an even finish. Then I take the almost-dry pad and wipe down my arms and tops of my hands to give a touch of color and then wash my hands.
  • L’Oreal Youth Code Youth Regenerating Skincare Serum – I’ve written about this many times before. I’ve tried other serums and they don’t compare. I can’t clearly explain what this does but it makes my skin happy. Two pumps, on face, neck, a bit on chest and leftover on tops of hands.
  • L’Oreal Collagen Moisture Filler Cream – This is a day/night cream but it hydrates nicely without being greasy or clogging pores. I find the heavier night creams cause breakouts and this doesn’t but it still keeps me from cracking or getting red and miserable in cold weather. And how can you resist a decent cream under $10? I run on face, neck, chest, and tops of hands.
  • Random Hippie Clove and Vitamin E Cream – I got this at a local shop made by a local artisan not online. But it’s a cream made with Vitamin E, cocoa butter, clove oil, and has a consistency that’s a mix between Chapstick and Vaseline. I rub it on my lips and sometimes I rub it under my nose if it’s red and raw, and I rub more on my hands and around my cuticles.
  • Water – I have a Kleen Kanteen next to my bed. I fill up, drink half, refill, and then sip on it while I read before bed and at times when I wake up. Water is a necessity to happy skin.

Morning Skincare Routine:

  • Water – I finish the Kleen Kanteen before I do anything else. Water, water, water and then more water!
  • Fish Oil – I take one Fish Oil pill first thing in the morning, and another when I get home from work. I often deal with dandruff and psoriasis in winter; taking these help greatly and make my skin and hair look better too. These don’t make me burp salmon; they’re big but I don’t have any trouble swallowing them.
  • Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel – I’ve used this for years. I apply it with a reusable cotton round. It’s way more gentle than traditional witch hazel, and smells great too! This is all I use to cleanse my skin in the morning.
  • Neutrogena Eye Cream – Same eye cream from the evening
  • L’Oreal Youth Code Serum – Same serum from the evening
  • L’Oreal Revitalift Day Moisturizer SPF 30 – This is the first time using it but my winter skin really likes it. It’s far too heavy and greasy for the summer, but right now my skin sucks it up and it leaves a dewy finish that works well with foundation for a nice healthy day look. I rub on face, neck, chest, and tops of hands.

My Basic Makeup Routine:

  • L’Oreal True Match Concealer – I don’t love this, but it gets the job done. I like how lightweight and creamy it is because it doesn’t crease or look weird over my fine lines and creases. I dot under eyes, under the nose, around the mouth and on any zits. Then I tap, not rub until it’s blended but still visible. I use Fair Light Warm, the warmer color balances my dark circles better.
  • Revlon ColorStay Foundation for Normal/Dry Skin and Jojoba Oil – I put the tiniest dot of jojoba oil into my palm, then add foundation and mix. I then apply with my fingers. The jojoba oil was an idea I got from my beauty guru friend Sarah and it gives a dewy finish without causing the makeup to slip away throughout the day. For the foundation, right now I’m using Fresh Beige.
  • Ben Nye Banana Luxury Powder – I sprinkle a bit of this in its cap, and use the MAC 190 foundation brush (much softer than others I have used yet still has a precision edge) and apply it under my eyes, between the brows, and under the nose. If I want a very finished look I’ll apply some elsewhere – the forehead, the chin, over the lips (helps lipstick stay). I don’t have to work hard to blend, and it doesn’t leave a powdery or overly matte finish. The yellow tone really helps to cancel out my dark circles and redness under the nose.
  • NARS ‘Orgasm’ Blush – I am not committed to this blush. When I turned 30 I bought this blush for the first time. A couple years ago I decided it was too warm and too sparkly and switched to creams, to pinks, to all sorts of things. But this winter I am embracing my paleness, and liking a dewy face, and the subtle shimmer and peachy glow of ‘Orgasm’ feels right again. I apply with a fluffy blush brush (not sure the brand, it wore off the black handle), smiling and applying just below apples of my cheeks and up towards my temples. A very tiny pat on the top of the nose and one on the chin.
  • TheBalm Mary-Lou Manzier – A reader told me about this product and I have been a fan ever since. Thanks to a six-year-old who finds my dressing table utterly fascinating, this compact fell on the floor and the product crumbled. So now I shake the compact, carefully open, and tap my finger on the mirror to get the right amount of product. A swipe on each cheek bone, a dot at the inner corners of my eye, a tiny bit below the brows (VERY tiny bit) and a bit at the bow of my lip. This gives a very natural highlight that just looks like healthy skin.
  • Tarte Amazonian Clay Brow Mousse – It comes with a brush but I prefer to apply it with my Trish McEvoy brow brush because it’s shorter and stiffer and I have more control and it doesn’t look like I put liquid liner in my eyebrows. Dash dash dash from center to arch, then draw the end. I then go back and dash dash to fill in, and then use a brush to brush the hairs up, then in an arch. I wear Rich Brown.

The rest really varies on my mood. Sometimes I wear shadow (and don’t have any I really love and swear by right now), sometimes I don’t. I have mascaras for thick drag queen lashes, waterproof mascaras, lengthening mascaras. I do always curl first (I use Kevyn Aucoin’s lash curler), it makes a difference. And if I wear liner, it’s Maybelline Line Stiletto in Brownish Black; it’s not too shiny or black for day, it can do a very thin precise line right at the lashline, or get bigger for a cat eye. Mucho love for it. And as you know from my outfit posts, I switch up my lips all the time.

I’d love to hear from you as to what your favorite skincare and beauty products are. Some of my favorite products are recommendations from readers and your Holy Grail may be a HG product for me or another reader!

What My Brain Has Been Absorbing – Spring 2013

I’m not going to become a lifestyle blog, but I have read and seen and listened to some pretty fantastic and interesting things lately (and some not so awesome but popular things) and wanted to share. My friend Nicole calls her music reviews All Up in My Earholes and I love that; this is my less catchy way of describing what media I have been enjoying…

Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
Of course I had to read this. My mom got it for me for my birthday and I was SO EXCITED! It was on every stylista’s must-have holiday gift list, it had to be good, right?

Eh… I think it was on everyone’s list because they needed more orange-colored fashion books in their colorblocked bookcases, or because it’s a book that adds contrast to the solid black Manolo that is placed upon it for a home shoot. I feel that Coddington phoned it in until around page 275 when she began sharing tales of her time at American Vogue. Only then, did we see a peek into her personality and get fun stories about her colleagues. The entire time I read it, I felt that she wrote the book purely because she became a household name after The September Issue and some publisher told her to do this so she could have a cushy retirement. I always liked her work in Vogue and The September Issue really made me like Coddignton as a person; this book made me like her less. If you read this book, I’d love to hear your view on it.

There are some movies that are just so charming they stick in your brain for a long time. You remember parts almost as though you lived them. This happens often for me with books, but rarely for movies; I can think Little Miss Sunshine, Amelie, The Science of Sleep, Waitress, a few others. Well now I can add Goats.

Maybe it’s because I live in a hippie town with some folks who remind me of characters in this movie, maybe because I like goats, but I found this movie utterly charming. It’s a movie I would re-watch on a rainy Sunday, curled up in an afghan. This isn’t a movie with suspense or passionate love or an exciting twist but I loved it, and think I loved it because it meandered the way in which it did.

Regions of Light and Sound of God by Jim James
Fear Fun by Father John Misty
My husband has a habit of wearing an album out. He’ll put six CDs in his car’s stereo and not switch them out for six months, and will play one album on the iPod or Spotify until he knows all the lyrics. While this can be good (really getting to know a new band or learning the lyrics of cool songs), it can get you to the point where you never want to hear the band again (sorry Tool fans, but thanks to Karl I have had enough Maynard for the rest of my existence). So when I hear an album 40 times and still look forward to hearing it again, it’s gotta be pretty unique and pretty good.

I don’t think any of you are surprised that I love Jim James’ solo work (he’s the lead singer of My Morning Jacket). The thing is, the first time I heard it I felt very meh. The second time, I liked it. Now that I am on the 40th listen, I am a mega fan. This is why I like My Morning Jacket so much – there’s depth and weird little things you notice each time you listen that makes you like it more, makes you think more, makes you react differently each time. The same holds true for this album. I’d love to write more, but I can’t hold a candle to those who write music reviews professionally, and those I have read I agree with wholeheartedly.

And now we turn to J. Tillman, the crazy and obnoxious and weirdly sexy ex-member of Fleet Foxes and now performing at Father John Misty. A friend whose music tastes I respect mentioned he was playing Fear Fun nonstop so I decided to check it out. This was another album that did better with Karl playing it on non-stop repeat. I went from feeling ambivalent to becoming a mega fan and am psyched to see him in May at The 9:30 Club. I would never compare Father John Misty to MMJ, but this album is another where each time you listen you catch something else; with Tillman it is his lyrics. And then if you head to YouTube and watch some of the videos of his live performances and interviews you too many find him weird, obnoxious, but strangely sexy.  Again, if you want more detail about the album, check out professionally written reviews, I have found most to be favorable.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I am totally the type to pick up a book or download an album purely because someone I follow on Twitter or Instagram mentioned that they liked it or are reading/currently listening to it. And I did that with this book. I knew nothing about it, didn’t know the plot, never read anything before by the author, didn’t know it was considered a YA novel, just so happened I had finished my current book on Kindle and just got paid and downloaded it after seeing it on social media. And I couldn’t read it fast enough, I was so engrossed and in love and interested to see how it ended and I cried and I even cried just thinking about the book a week after finishing. After months of reading just for work or blog with a random chick lit or 50 Shades of Crap tossed in, it was a lovely change and made me make the switch back to the occasional emotional and well-written novel for a break from the 9-5.

The Sweet Valley Confidential “The Sweet Life” Series
If you’re around my age, you likely gobbled up every book from the Sweet Valley High Series while in high school. You knew they were sort of lame and cliché and unrealistic and a teenager’s version of a Lifetime Movie but you didn’t care, they were fun. The Sweet Valley Confidential series came out, got bad reviews and I wasn’t very interested. And then I saw a SVH mention on the forums of GOMI, went to check them out in the Kindle store, saw the first of the series was only $1.99 and decided to read. And I read the entire The Sweet Life series. And I want that part of my life back.

I HAD to keep reading to see what happened. And what happened wasn’t very interesting or very well written. I understand if you too feel the need to read them, I fully get it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you…

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Lazy Tux

Blazer: The Limited (similar) | Tee: Old Navy | Ascot: Belonged to my Dad | Silk Bracelet: c/o lifetherapy | Boots: DUO (similar) | Jeans: NYDJ | Lipstick: Revlon Matte in “Really Red”

I prefer rain to blustery cold days, especially in April. April showers bring May flowers, right? It rained all night and was still gloomy and wet when I left for work so I wore boots to be on the safe side.

Still playing with this hair, today is Day 2, I curled large sections with a standard curling iron, angling away from the face. Finger combed, then added Jonathan Silky Dirt for a piecey/Mandana from Rachel Zoe Project sort of look. The bangs are still wrong, I need to make an appointment with my stylist to fix this cut, but I just have not had the time. Even this weekend is booked solid but I need to figure it out before I go on a 2am hacking spree with my cuticle scissors!

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend, thank you so much for all your support, emails, comments, and tweets this past week. I blog because I love it, and because I love all of you. I love connecting with you, knowing my writing benefits you, and making new friends through technology. I seriously adore all of you and am so incredibly grateful to have you in my life!

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My Wardrobe Today – Friday

Jacket – Limited (at least 10 years old – similar)
Tank – Caslon (similar)
Necklace – J. Crew via eBay
JeansGap “Long and Lean” via the DC Sip & Swap
Shoes Miss Sixty “Jaiden”
BraceletsLauren Ralph Lauren and Ann Taylor

So um… two things going on here. You’ll see that not only am I wearing my engagement ring, but also my wedding band! I was able to get it on this past weekend and have been wearing ever since. I haven’t been able to fit it since my first trimester and even then it was a tight fit!

Second… these jeans? I picked them up in a rush at the DC Sip & Swap and got home, hoping they would run large. I couldn’t even get them over my butt and thighs. This morning I was looking for my old Gap Essential jeans, thinking maybe I could cuff them like boyfriend jeans. Digging through the “To Donate/Swap/eBay” bag I found these jeans and gave them a chance. They FIT! Me, in a size 10 pair of jeans? This hasn’t happened in YEARS! Happy Friday to me!

This weekend is my friend’s baby shower, and there is a blues music festival in town. Otherwise pretty free. I hope me and the fam can relax, get this bug past us 100% (Emerson is pretty sick again and my husband is also battling it). What are your plans for the weekend?

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My Holy Grail Beauty Products

Many moons ago, I was a regular on Makeup Alley. There, members would often talk about their HG, or Holy Grail products. That mascara that dreams were made of, the moisturizer that truly did transform, the hair product that finally made tresses manageable. Many moons ago, I spent a ton of money at Sephora, CVS, and Nordstrom looking for my own personal HGs but rarely gave any product the time needed to truly get to know it. As I have aged, I’ve stopped with the manic shopping for perfection. Lack of time, lack of funds, and lack of thinking such items will be so life-changing. But with that, I’ve used products until I “hit pan” or emptied the tube, I’ve repurchased items if they have served me well, and given products time to really prove if they’re good for me. I’ve also learned that Holy Grail doesn’t mean a product that will change my life, but products that fit me, my lifestyle, my budget, and my personal style.

The other day as I was doing my face, I realized I do have plenty of Holy Grail beauty products. I have a pretty set skincare routine and makeup face, one that gets the job done, feels good, looks good. My HG beauty products:

My Holy Grail Skincare Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Beauty Products for Skincare

  • DHC Deep Cleansing Oil – This stuff isn’t cheap, but I have yet to find a cheaper alternative that works quite as well. Garnier is fine, but when I splurge and buy DHC (or get a sample from the BlogHer conference, thank you Rakuten!) I realize there is no comparison. This product gets my skin clean, takes off all makeup (even that kohl that seems to reappear five minutes after cleansing and then again in the morning), leaves my skin feeling softer than before cleansing, never causes breakouts, and when I use it, the next morning my skin looks phenomenal – hydrated, plump, soft, even, dare I say younger? I’ve used off and on for five years and have wasted so much money trying to find a cheaper alternative.
  • CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser – I keep this in the shower as cleansing oil doesn’t work well in such a situation. This also does a great job of removing everything from my face without stripping it, though I sometimes need to do a second wash if I wore any primers or setting sprays. I like using this with my Clarisonic. It’s cheap, it doesn’t dry me out, no breakouts, not too harsh but effective. However, if I only use this and don’t switch every so often my skin does start to dry a bit. The best combination is me using DHC most nights and a wash with CeraVe and my Clarisonic in the shower 2-3 times a week.
  • Clarisonic Mia – I’ve gone through periods where I don’t use this, and times when I’ve used it daily. Over time I have found that my skin benefits from using it, but not too often. I like it best in the shower; I’ll do a quick wash with CeraVe especially if I’ve used primers and setting sprays, then do a second cleansing with CeraVe and the Clarisonic. It makes my pores appear to be smaller, makes my skin glow (and true glow, not scratched irritated red), and really gives me a deep clean. I buy replacement brush heads on eBay from well-rated sellers and always make sure to have an extra one in the linen closet for replacement.
  • L’Oreal Youth Code Serum Intense – I’ve now purchased this product six times, I love it that much. I have tried other serums, and they don’t compare – too greasy, ineffective, irritating. I still don’t know exactly what Youth Code does to improve my skin, but when I use it, my skin is happy. It’s a very light serum that absorbs quickly and plays nice with moisturizers. It makes my skin glow a bit, pores seem reduced, skin feels hydrated but never greasy. I use it morning and night under my moisturizer.
  • Thayer’s Rose Witch Hazel – I’ve used this for over a decade and nothing else compares. I don’t wash my face in the morning, I just wipe it with this witch hazel. It smells nice, it leaves my skin feeling clean yet soft, and the price is very nice. Also feels good on a sweaty gross day; I’ll wipe down my neck, cleavage, behind my ears and feel refreshed.
  • Reusable Cotton Rounds – I am still using the same set I featured in this post, and they only get softer and more absorbent with washings. I store the rounds in an oversized mason jar (so hipster… well actually it fits nicely in my medicine cabinet), and I have a mesh bag hanging off the bathroom door and put the used rounds in there. Zip it up when I’m down to just a few clean rounds and throw in the next load of laundry. Wash and dry in the bag, and shove back in the mason jar. I use these for anything that needs a cotton round or ball except polish remover. Better for the environment, and better for your wallet!

My Holy Grail Makeup Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Makeup Beauty Products

  • Revlon ColorStay Makeup – I’ve used both formulas of this product; since turning 40 I switched to the Normal/Dry version (my color is Fresh Beige) and I find it has as much staying power as the oil-free version. The color looks natural on me, it blends well, doesn’t cause breakouts or get weird around my eyes and you can’t beat the price! Best of all… it lasts. It lasts through crying, through humid DC days, through dancing and sweating at a concert, and I can put it on at 6am before heading to the office and still have a set face at 7pm for an after-work event.
  • Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stain in Romantic – This stuff is amazing, and many of you have purchased it after I reviewed it and agree. It’s that perfect soft red that looks good on most every one. It’s not a lipstick, not a balm, not a stain but a combo of them all that can be applied without a mirror, be layered without being sticky or gross, and it has a bit of a menthol feel to soothe dry lips. I feel like Snow White when I wear it.  I have Romantic in my purse, Romantic in my desk, and Romantic in my dressing table at all times.
  • NARS Blush in Orgasm – I’ve been using this blush for over a decade. It has a bit of shimmer, but it’s subtle and only gives my skin a bit of a dewy finish. The coral color looks natural, but isn’t too orange to clash with cool-toned lipcolors and outfits. I have a couple other blushes in my makeup drawer for different looks but I always come back to Orgasm.
  • Maybelline Stiletto Liner in Brownish Black – I have contacts, allergies, and rub my eyes often. Pencil liners always end up a mess on me, and as I have gotten older I’ve found glossy black liquid liner looks too harsh.  I went through a ton of liquid liners from department stores, Sephora, and yes Makeup Alley-highly rated liners and none really wowed me.  I tried Line Stiletto by chance and became a loyal user for many years. It’s a felt tip that is flexible enough adjust the width of the line and get in that tiny area next to the lash line. It holds up through rubbing and sweating and tears and all that jazz, you can reapply over it later in the day if you want a darker or thicker line, yet it washes away easily at the end of the day. I keep one in my purse and one in my dressing table; I replace every three months.
  • e.l.f. Makeup Mist and Set – This is by far the best makeup setting spray I have tried. A combination of this and the Revlon ColorStay and my face can last for 24 hours even in high heat and humidity. Unlike other setting sprays and primers, I never get breakouts or clogged pores from this spray. And it doesn’t hurt that a bottle is under $5.00!

My Holy Grail Haircare Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Haircare Beauty Products

  • Rusk Thick – While I have a lot of hair, it’s relatively thin. A few spritzes of Rusk Thick before blowdrying gives me lift and body without it feeling as though I added anything to my hair. I keep trying different products and they’re always… fine. But Thick gets the job done without making my hair feel gross or look gross on Day 2. I’m on my third bottle in the past few years and I’ve learned to not waste my money on other products and stick with what works.
  • Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray – I raved about it in this post and I still adore it. I like messy rocker hair, and it helps me get that. I sometimes like full loose curls and it helps me get that. And when I am on Day 2 or 3 and want it to look purposeful and not greasy or limp, it helps me get that too.
  • Clairol Natural Instincts in 20 Hazelnut – While my stylist can give me the best color with depth, dimension and multi colors that look more natural and shiny, I’ll use Natural Instincts Hazelnut between sessions to cover gray and when my haircolor fades. It’s a bit darker than my natural brown, but I like that. I also like that this is a cool brown, not auburn or golden. It’s not the best on grays, but it’s a good in-between sessions color that isn’t completely permanent and doesn’t dry out or fry my hair.

My Holy Grail Body Care and Fragrance Products

Wardrobe Oxygen Holy Grail Body Care Fragrance Beauty Products

  • Neutrogena Body Oil – I love the smell, I love how it makes my skin look dewey and silky, and I love the ritual of applying it in a steamy bathroom post-shower. I tire of fragrances quickly, but not Neutrogena Body Oil. When I was pregnant it was one of the few scents that didn’t bother me; Karl would use it as a massage oil when my back bothered me and when I feel stressed I’ll take a bath and add some to the water for the aromatherapy as well as the moisturizing properties. Heads up, don’t waste your money on drugstore versions; they don’t smell the same. At ALLLLLLL.
  • Body Shop Coconut Body Butter – This stuff takes scaly alligator winter skin and makes it soft, silky, and happy. It’s great on sunburned, irritated, or sensitive skin; slather your feet in it before bed and put on socks and wake up with lovely tootsies. I’ve been using it since I worked for the company as a trainer 15 years ago.  I buy the jumbo tubs now and one lasts me almost a year.
  • Burberry London Eau de Parfum – I always wanted a signature fragrance, it seemed so feminine and elegant and stylish. This is not the fragrance I would have thought would be “the one” but for almost a decade it continues to be a scent I love and never tire of.  I wrote more about Burberry London EDP in this post.
  • OPI Nail Color in Big Apple Red – When summer comes I like to switch up and do the occasional fun color (right now wearing OPI’s Stop for Red), but Big Apple Red for two years has been my signature color. I don’t tire of it, it’s the perfect red that’s not too flashy, too mature, doesn’t look bad on my pale skin, and it’s a color that stops strangers on the street to compliment and ask the brand and name.
  • CertainDri – I’m a sweaty gal, and have tried dozens of natural, clinical, men’s, women’s, unisex, fancy, basic, and all kinds of deodorants but they all miss the boat (and usually leave me smelling like B.O. plus chemicals or B.O. plus baby powder or lavender).  CertainDri continues to be the one product that leaves me smelling just like skin.  If you used in the past and found it drippy and irritating, the formula has been updated and improved.  I swipe it on at night and then in the morning use a regular deodorant (usually Dove because it’s gentle, relatively effective, and the smell doesn’t make me want to hurl).

Now it’s your turn to share. Do you have any Holy Grail beauty products? Your favorite may be the one thing we’re missing in our lives, let us know what you love in the comments!

2013 Music in Review

As you know, Karl and I bond over music. About once a month, we get an overnight babysitter and have a date night of dinner and a concert. Our big yearly vacation is to a music festival, our house is full of vinyl and CDs, our phones and iPods with MP3s, one of the best splurges on our home remodel five years ago was outdoor speakers so we can listen to our tunes on the back deck. I thought I’d do a little 2013 music recap post, sharing the best things I experienced music-wise this year.

Favorite Music-related Stuff of 2013:

This year we upgraded to a Spotify subscription and we adore it. I know, Spotify pays a millionth of a cent in royalties to artists, but the way we use it is to check out new and new to us artists, and then we buy the album. Spotify has a lot of smaller artists so it has been a great way to explore lesser-known musicians and I love the “Discover” feature which has introduced us to a lot of new bands.

Karl’s dad Chief (what we all called him, a nickname from when Karl was a little kid) was a music geek, he went to concerts with us, his car was littered with CD cases, and he could spout so much music knowledge we’d call him Google Chief. When Chief passed away unexpectedly at the end of 2008, we inherited his album collection, and you can bet it was a pretty impressive collection. We had a few records of our own, but never listened to them. We couldn’t get our turntable to fit in our entertainment cabinet, we never listened to music in the office, the albums collected dust.

At the beginning of 2013 we bit the bullet and bought a turntable; we chose the Ion Audio iPTUSB Portable USB Turntable because it was cheap, was portable (even battery operated so we take it down to the fire pit in our backyard), had a built-in speaker, and could turn records into MP3s. I gotta say, we haven’t made a single MP3 from it, but we use the heck out of this little guy. It usually resides in our bedroom which is next to the office/album room, but we have carted it all over our house and even taken it on trips with us. We plan on investing in a higher quality turntable, but for now it gets the job done.

Then, I hit the mother lode of all Freecycle scores (yes even better than my brand new IKEA chair and compost bins)… my friend’s parents decided to give away their record collection. I didn’t at the time know it was her parents, but when I pulled up I recognized the house and her dad. We left with four wine crates of vinyl in good to excellent condition with awesome music from the late ‘50s all the way through the mid ‘80s (if you followed me on Instagram back then you likely remember me sharing all the amazing albums).

Since then, we have bought new records, have gems at thrift stores, and some of Karl’s yoga students have brought him albums from their collections as gifts. After Emerson goes to bed, we regularly hole up in our bedroom listening to records and decompressing. Often we bring down the turntable and play records when we have friends for dinner, and the turntable is so easy and Emerson so technologically inclined that she will often spend an afternoon rocking out to Alvin and the Chipmunks, Disco Mickey, or one of those, “BONG turn the page!” records that accompanied books and hasn’t scratched a single album. I love the portability and sound quality of digital, but there’s something so beautiful and comforting of a vinyl record.

Favorite Albums of 2013:
Here’s a roundup of my favorite albums this year – some are new releases in 2013, some are just new to me. I won’t go into deep reviews because that’s what Pitchfork and Sterogum and Rolling Stone and Consequence of Sound and all the other great music sites and publications are for.

  • The London Souls – The London Souls. Listen with friends in the kitchen while drinking red wine and preparing dinner.
  • Drenge – Drenge. Listen when you’re cleaning a bathroom or raking leaves or pounding the elliptical.
  • Lorde – Pure Heroine. Lorde’s album is far more than “Royals.” Listen at pretty much any time.
  • The Sea and Cake – Runner. Listen to while driving on a sunny day on a smooth highway that lets you comfortably cruise over 55 MPH.
  • Savages – Silence Yourself. Listen to when in the car by yourself after a shitty work day. Play it loud.
  • Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends. Listen after the kids have gone to bed and you have an hour to just get lost in thoughts, hear the words and maybe check out a few of their videos on your phone and have a conversation with a friend or your partner about what you think of it all.
  • Father John Misty – Fear Fun. Love me some FJM, saw him live twice this year and would see him again if he came to town. Listen when doing something else, then listen again when you have some time to hear the lyrics. Listen with a friend so you can discuss the man and the music.
  • The National – Trouble Will Find Me. It took this album for me to understand and love The National. I like listening to this when driving in the morning, it helps me relax and think.
  • Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg. He has a brand new album out and it’s good, but it feels like a lot of the same. I’m partial to the original. Saw him live, think he sounds even better in person. Listen when you may normally rely on classics like Dylan.
  • HAIM – Days are Gone. Listen when making pancakes on a Sunday morning and the sun is shining through the kitchen window and you already had your cup of coffee. Then listen to again when you’re driving to run errands later in the afternoon.
  • Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City. It took their third album for me to come around. Listen when you got to leave work early, the sun is still up and rush hour traffic hasn’t really started yet.
  • M.I.A. – Matangi. Listen when you have a project at work you don’t want to do but have to power through.

Favorite Concerts of 2013:
As for live performances, I saw quite a few, but my favorites for 2013:

  • Jim James at 9:30 Club, April 2013. Well this is a duh if you know me. Didn’t hurt that Karl “finger rimmed” Jim James and got mocked on a message board for being an obnoxious hipster and it was a fun and fabulous date night for us kiddos.
  • Bombino at the Forecastle Music Festival. Best part of music festivals is discovering new artists. Never heard of Bombino but found their performance at the fest amazing and ended up researching them, buying some of their music, and loving them.
  • Father John Misty at 9:30 Club, May 2013. Even with a freshly torn calf muscle, the show was amazing and my adoration of J, Josh, Joshua, FJM grew immensely.
  • Robert Plant at the Forecastle Music Festival. Bucket list and he exceeded my expectations. Wish it didn’t rain because I think it would have gone longer.
  • My Morning Jacket at the Americana Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion (not pictured). As an MMJ fan who has seen them several times, this ranks as one of my top performances by them. First time I saw them in the daylight, and they were an opener, not headliner. Imagine your favorite band on stage for a high school talent show, it felt like that and was awesome and fun.
  • Morrissey at Strathmore, January 2013. Haven’t seen him live since 10th grade, thanks to Emily for selling me her tickets and making a gal’s dream come true.
  • Clutch at 9:30 Club, December 2013. I haven’t gone yet, but based upon every other time I’ve seen Clutch (including same time same venue last year, a great Christmas gift from my sister along with overnight babysitter), I know it’s going to be hella amazing.

And now I ask you your favorites of 2013. I have learned about so much great music from all of you, and I know you have learned from each other. Share in the comments your favorite songs, albums, artists, shows, and gadgets from the year!

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Bonnaroo 2011 – Friday

I was really glad I brought Benadryl and Claritin to Bonnaroo as that the grasses were really aggravating me. I woke up middle of the night unable to breathe, and with earplugs in it’s a pretty freaky experience. However two Benadryls got me breathing and back to bed in less than 30 minutes.

I headed to the bathrooms and really got to understand the beauty which is VIP. The bathroom trailers weren’t very close to our camp, but there was never a line, the trailers were freezing cold, always super clean and stocked with toilet paper. They also had sinks which is such a pleasure when you’re covered with sunscreen, dust, and grime. I also could take a shower which wasn’t hot, but I could take my time and really scrub, shave, and even condition my hair.

Friday morning outfit: Green print spaghetti strap maxi dress (from Ross), cowboy hat, black Reef flops, silver hoops, same wrist of bracelets
Living scarecrows – me and my husband on the way to the Inforoo brunch. 
Me and my sister
My husband carrying his portable cooler – a grocery bag full of ice to keep the champagne and OJ cold.

We started the day by heading to the Inforoo message board’s annual brunch. We got a bit of a late start (my husband and I forgot it was Friday and went to get breakfast from a vendor, checked out the VIP lounge, etc.) and showed up after what seemed like half of the people left. However we saw some folks we knew and I got to meet reader Megan! We brought mimosas for the brunch – a carton of OJ picked up at Walmart on Wednesday and our contraband champagne.

On our way back, my husband and I found two glass bead necklaces hidden in the grass. Ground score! We each put one on, planning to wear for the rest of Bonnaroo.

We then decided to explore and find out all the perks of VIP (which I will get into in another post). En route, we got a bit lost and ended up walking almost the entire perimeter of VIP camping. Instead of getting to Centeroo like planned, we just got worn out and stopped by camp again to recharge. We then went the entrance we knew into Centeroo.

The plan was for us to all go see Bela Fleck but by time we got to that stage we just weren’t feeling his music. So we headed to the What Stage (the biggest stage at Bonnaroo where all the headliners perform) to check out the VIP offerings over there. VIP has a fenced in area right to the left of the What Stage – there’s a hill where you can pull up a chair and see the show, a tent where beer and beverages are sold (and you can get some shade), and a set of air-conditioned bathroom trailers. There is also a gate there that goes right to VIP (we were confused and lost earlier because that gate had yet to open). This became a favorite spot for all of us and we usually had a front row seat on The Hill for all the shows at this stage.

Me & my husband trying to keep cool while waiting for Grace Potter
Our view from the VIP Hill
The view from behind our chairs – that tent is where there is shade & beer sales for VIP; past that is a slope with bathroom trailers at the bottom.  There is also the exit back to VIP camping.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals

The first show we saw on Friday in its entirety was Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, and we saw it from the VIP Hill. I have seen Grace perform several times before, the last time just a few months ago at the 9:30 Club. I have been a fan of hers before she became popular and a VH1 Diva, but the last time I saw her I left underwhelmed. She wasn’t even on my “must see” list for Bonnaroo. However, she totally redeemed herself as that Grace and her band totally kicked ass and gave us all a great show.

I would love to tell you what I did after Grace Potter, but for the life of me I cannot recall. I remember hearing some of The Decemberists and contemplating going to see Matt and Kim, but the next show I recall is My Morning Jacket which was 3.5 hours after Grace. I know at some point I changed my clothes… it may have been at this time. Ah Bonnaroo… I always end up with lost pockets of time while on the Farm!

EDIT: After publishing I remembered that during that time I went to see Florence + The Machine!  HOW COULD I FORGET?!?!   She is phenomenal but unfortunately because we were arriving late, we didn’t get great seats and couldn’t see the stage.

Friday evening outfit: Brown floral Old Navy sundress (sleeveless, empire waist, cotton, worn it to all 4 Roos), DUO “Bern” boots, same jewelry, green glass bead necklace
Me & my husband at MMJ in our matching necklaces. We’re starting to look a bit more dirty and sunwashed from the weekend…

For My Morning Jacket, we again chose to view from the hill at VIP. We got there early and scored seats right on the lip of the last tier of the hill for a view over all the crowds in the field, but as close as possible. I know many people prefer to be in the throng for shows and I do enjoy that, but with my height and my sister’s bad foot we found that for many shows, we preferred the Hill.

My Morning Jacket is probably my favorite band and they didn’t disappoint. At the beginning of their set, the audio was off a bit but they plugged through and gave a great experience to all in attendance.

We stayed where we were so we had a primo location for Arcade Fire. I know many obsessively adore Arcade Fire, I have never been one. I “get” them more after listening to The Suburbs in its entirety, and many people have told me that I MUST see them live to really understand them. So I made a decision to have them on my “must see” list, which wasn’t hard since they were playing unopposed at Bonnaroo.

I am glad we stayed put because we got to experience one of the coolest ad campaigns ever. Suddenly in the sky it looks as though there are a million twinkling blue lights, shot out in a stream. And then another stream. The twinkling blue stars start falling towards the earth, to us. Everyone is getting excited, reaching out to catch these falling stars. They were blinking blue LED lights attached to a piece of paper with a QR code. This video really shows what it was like:

Back to Arcade Fire. I liked them. I wasn’t overwhelmed and I didn’t fall in love, but they do sound amazing live and put on a great show. My husband on the other hand was not impressed and finds them “creepy.” So we left a bit before the end to head to camp to charge up for late night.

For those who have not been to Bonnaroo or another music festival, late night is where all the action is. Rules are broken and artists will perform past their schedule, other artists will join and jam with them, light shows are intense and the crowd is psyched. Glowstick wars in crowds, folks dressed up in crazy costumes and if you think the people watching is great by sunlight, it’s even more amazing when the sun goes down. Many people go to Bonnaroo and never head to Centeroo until 5pm to ensure they have enough energy to dance until dawn. In the past I have only been able to survive one and a half late nights; call me old but this body shuts down pretty early, no matter how many naps and 5-hour Energies I have.

My goal was to see part of the Black Angels, a bit of Lil Wayne so I can say I saw him, or Bassnectar, and then maybe head to Pretty Lights. Instead I got to camp and my allergies were killing me, my feet hurt, I was sweaty and grody. I took a shower hoping it would revive me but the hot water instead got me feeling all cozy. Came back to camp, had a beer, and almost fell asleep in my camp chair. Yeah, I’m a real wild child.

For more info on Bonnaroo 2011, check out:
Next Bonnaroo Post – Saturday!

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