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The past couple of weeks have been very busy, stressful, and overall exhausting. But thinking of spending my weekend here with my family immediately lowers my blood pressure. We moved into this house Spring 2001, married three years later, January 2009 marked the birth of Emerson and the completion of a major renovation confirming that this is not a starter house, this is our life home.

Last night Karl grilled steaks; I sat on a bench at the foot of the deck stairs outside those double doors and looked up into this living room all lit up and thought, THIS is my dream home.  The old couches that sag and creak, the mismatched wood furniture decorated with nicks and some crayon lines, the bookcases jammed full with no rhyme, reason, or color coordination.  Every square foot represents the three of us (actually four, can’t forget our dog Cindy!), and every square foot represents love.

Saturday mornings, I wake up before everyone, go for a walk and then and enjoy a cup of coffee and a chapter of my latest book in that crazy chair I bought from the Annapolis Mall Structure when it was closing.  The rest of the house wakes, Karl heads off to work and Emerson and I sit on the couch together and watch TV with our twin bowls of oatmeal, or lie in the hammock (that’s what that rope is to the right, the other part of the hammock is hiding behind a curtain) and watch the woods, pointing out birds and squirrels.  Later in the day day you can find us working on a craft at the coffee table or lying on the floor playing.  In the evening after Emerson is in bed, Karl and I snuggle on the couch and watch an episode of Vikings or Once Upon a Time (we’re catching up on Once, currently on Season 2 via Netflix so no spoilers please!). This room is called a Living Room for a reason.

I sometimes get caught up in the land of decor blogs and Pinterest, but a home is one of the most personal things in one’s life.  I like how it’s becoming more and more odd and mismatched and worn in, how there’s no real theme or concept except us.  When I start feeling off, I look at our living room and get grounded.  Home IS where the heart is!

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Best Beauty Buys of 2012

As I get older, I purchase fewer beauty products. When I find something I like, I stick with it. So when a new product not only is on my radar but purchased and re-purchased, it’s pretty fabuloso stuff. I did a beauty product recap last year; here’s my favorite beauty products from 2012:

1. L’Oreal Youth Code BB Cream
Eventually there will be a full review on this site for this product (pending approval since I got my first tube free via L’Oreal and BlogHer), but I can’t not mention it for 2012. I tried the Garnier BB Cream, got a sample of the Smashbox one, and I just didn’t get the BB Cream hype. When L’Oreal sent me their version, I didn’t have high hopes. Well, I get the hype now, and I am a BB Cream convert. This product is thicker than a tinted moisturizer, but far more sheer than a traditional foundation. The L’Oreal Youth Code BB Cream is thick and hydrating but doesn’t get greasy or slide during the day. Unlike other BB Creams, I can apply this one over moisturizers and still get great coverage. It makes my skin look pretty, not just tinted, and I think it does help minimize dark spots and breakouts. I love having a face product I can just rub in and go, this was awesome in the warmer months as well as the winter. My tube is almost empty and I know I will be purchasing another.

2. Dr. Brandt Pores No More
I bought this on a whim, thinking it may reduce the appearance of pores on my nose. Tried it on my nose, HATED it (cakey, false, smelled like tea tree oil and didn’t do much) and considered giving this to my mom. Then I tried it again on my forehead… and I fell in love. This product doesn’t work well on the nose or under the nose where it can be greasy and the pores large but it ROCKS on cheeks and forehead to hide pores and also hide fine lines. I apply a thin layer by patting it onto the skin with my ring finger; I wear on bare skin or over foundation and under powder. You can reapply during the day without it looking cakey if you dot it on and apply sparingly. It dries a bit like a powder so no shiny spots on your face. I really think it does a great job at making my skin look a little less bumpy and wrinkly and such without looking false. And yeah, Pores No More does smell like tea tree oil but the scent subsides and the scent is far less noticeable when not applied directly under your nostrils!

3. Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain
I used to be a beauty product snob and went to the drugstore just for things like a trendy lip color or brow powder. However, in the past couple of years drugstore brands have really improved and the quality often rivals department store and Sephora brands. These crayons from Revlon have better consistency, color choices, packaging, and lasting ability than similar products I have tried from higher-priced brands. Romantic is my jam and as long as Revlon makes this product I will likely purchase it. It makes me feel like Snow White with soft red lips with a hint of natural shine. These crayons also work great under lipsticks or glosses for a completely different effect.

4. Laura Mercier Creme Lip Color in Sparkling Pink
Once I got a mini Laura Mercier lipstick from a Sephora GWP – it was called Champagne Pink and was a beautiful cool mauvy pink. It was tiny, I wore it occasionally, it got lost in a purse. A couple months ago I found it, the cap now cracked in half and the lipstick smashed into said cracked cap. I tried it with a lip brush and still loved it. I loved it so much I wore every bit of smashed lipstick in that smashed cap and the little bit still in the tube. I treated myself this Christmas to a full-sized version of this lipstick, now called Sparkling Pink. Don’t worry, not a single dot of glitter in this creamy, elegant cool rose shade. A perfect daytime lipstick, a perfect nighttime lipstick to pair with a dramatic smoky eye. Feels great on the lips, doesn’t have a strong smell, elegant case. Laura Mercier has yet to do me wrong, I am always a fan of products I buy from this brand!

5. Neil George Detangle Nourishing Spray
I reviewed this product here, but I am STILL a raving fan. Curly hair, straight hair, wet hair, dry hair, this product just makes my hair look better. It smells like coconuts, it lasts a long time, it’s a great style refresher when I go out after work. I am almost finished with my second bottle and already have a third waiting in the linen closet as I can’t imagine a day without this spray!

6. Maybelline Line Stiletto
I know, I am so late to the game with this one but it is now my favorite liquid liner on the planet (original review here). The Brownish Black makes a statement but isn’t too intense or shiny for the office. Now that I wear glasses, I wear this liner almost daily to make my eyes stand out. You can get a really skinny line right against the lash line or a dramatic cat-eye swoop with little effort. I consider this a Holy Grail product – I have found my liner for life.

7. Olay Smooth Finish Facial Hair Removal Duo
I reviewed this product here, but I know many of you scroll right past my sponsored posts. No worries, I get it, but do know what I state in those posts may be a bit glossy, but never false. This is another product I received for free, but loved so much I repurchased when I ran out. I have hair on my upper lip, and I don’t like how it looks. Every few weeks, I use this product and the hair is gone. No redness, no numbness, no irritation, no terrible smell. I can do it, slap on my makeup and head to work without any worries. It gets the job done, is reasonably priced, and easy to use. Big fan.

8. Phyto Phytophanere Dietary Supplement – Hair & Nails
I think I bought this at the same time I purchased the Dr. Brandt No More Pores. Had a good month on the blog and splurged on a couple beauty products. These pills get mixed reviews, but my hair had been looking old and tired, dry and brittle. A doctor said it’s normal for my hair to be like that as I age, especially with the changing seasons. I couldn’t just accept straw, so I started washing my hair less frequently, tried changing my shampoo, used hot tools less often, added more good fats to my diet, continued my water intake… and started taking these pills. I am now on my second bottle. Yes, they are pricey, but now, I just have strong hair and nails that are naturally shiny. Go ahead and look through my outfit posts and see the difference in my hair the past few weeks (I really started seeing the difference around the time I went to Key West). It took about a month to see any results other than a bit of constipation the first week and excessively oily hair the first two weeks (just used more dry shampoo), but after that the body regulated itself and in about a month I really noticed a difference.

And now I ask you readers, what are your favorite new beauty products from the past year? 
Many of my Holy Grail products are thanks to your recommendations, and I’d love to hear what you are loving and buying!

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My Favorite Simple Style Tips

Over the years I have learned a few things from trial and error, many from fellow bloggers, and a heck of a lot from you readers. A few style-based lessons I have learned that have improved my life that I thought may also help you:

Apply Dry Shampoo Before Bedtime. Colored dry shampoo can drip and gets on my hands if I forget and scratch my head and “invisible” dry shampoo makes my brown hair look ashy. One of you readers suggested I try applying dry shampoo before bedtime and let it work its way into my roots while I sleep. Brilliant! I prefer Klorane Dry Shampoo because it has a soft mist and subtle smell, but this also works with cheaper brands like Salon Grafix and Suave. I apply, I don’t really rub in so I go to bed looking as though I have gray roots. However when I wake… awesomeness. Enough time for it to really work in, not leave an ashy look, it’s not as sticky/dry feeling and gives that dry/full look I desire.

Buy Leather a Size Too Small. Leather stretches. Even lined leather stretches. My lined pleated leather skirt I almost returned because I bought a 10 and it was skin tight and I couldn’t fully zip it. So a couple days after work, I came home and changed into it. Made dinner, watched TV, and stretched it out enough to zip. Three nights and the skirt was ready to wear to work. Since then, the skirt has grown even more to where it sort of sits on my hips. Same holds true for leather pants – all my size 10 leather pants (that I shall wear again!) are actually 6 and 8 because they stretch and I broke them in with this method.

Buy Boots a Half Size Too Big. A little more room in the boot means you can wear thick cozy socks without an issue. Come winter, I often wear a pair of knee-high socks and then a pair of thick snuggly anklets over them so I have warm tootsies; the extra space gives my feet plenty of room to wiggle with all the layers.

When Line Drying Pants, Hang Upside Down. Fold the legs seam to seam and hang them in this manner, use those hangers with clips, and the waistband won’t stretch out and you end up with a nice clean crease down each leg.

Store Costume Jewelry in Plastic Bags. Fake gold and silver tarnish easily, and don’t shine back up like the real thing. If you store in Ziploc baggies (or save the plastic bags from purchases and shipments) you can see what you have and also make it look nicer longer. This especially holds true for rhinestones, which can dull over time. So you don’t have a pin-worthy jewelry collection, but at least your collection will last more than one season!

Polish Silver Jewelry with Toothpaste. Works so well, gets the job done fast, and you don’t have to dig around under your kitchen sink for the solution or in your junk drawer for the polishing cloth. Paste, not gel. Rub with your fingers, rinse off, dry with a towel or soft cloth.

Get Out Any Stain with Peroxide and Dawn. Here’s the recipe, and yes, it works like a charm on most any fabric, stains old and new.

Wash Your Makeup Brushes Regularly. When is the last time you washed your makeup brushes? I wash mine once a month with baby shampoo, swirl them on the bottom of the sink to get out the suds, and let dry on their side with the brushes hanging over the edge of the counter or back of toilet so they get good air flow. Try to not get the metal part of the brush (where the bristles are attached) wet, but wash regularly for better pigment, more even application, and fewer breakouts.

Coconut Oil is Awesome. I get allergic reactions to metal from time to time, usually on the back of my neck or on my fingers. This especially happens on my hands, and I’ll end up with raw, red, flaky and burning skin. I have tried cortisone, prescription creams, and the only thing that has really worked is coconut oil. Take off my wedding bands, apply some coconut oil, go to bed and wake up with happy skin. I also use it on my hands and elbows as an intense moisturizer, as well as a hair conditioning treatment. My friend also told me it cleared up her Keratosis Pilaris (those little bumps on the back of upper arms). We use coconut oil in place of butter and most oils at home, so it’s easy to stop in the kitchen and scoop some out for beauty use. Google or Pinterest search coconut oil and you will be amazed by all its health, beauty, pet and home benefits!

Don’t Fold Your Bras. It’s so tempting to fold your bras, especially if they have molded cups, but this stretches them out and changes their shape. Lay them flat in your drawer and they will maintain their shape longer and be less likely to have the wires poke out of the fabric.

Stitch Witchery. It’s the bomb. Tear off a strip, stick it in a fallen hem, can even make it work with your hair iron. Good stuff.

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My Home Away From Home

Four years ago, I changed jobs.  It was a scary change, but a really great one. While my last company was a good one filled with great people, it just was not a good fit for me. This current company really feels like a home away from home. As the company has grown, my office has moved around a bit – I am currently in my third location, but have been happily residing at this desk in this office for about two years. I share my office with this awesome woman who is a transcriptionist – she’s only here once a week so usually I have this room to myself.

The only thing bad about my office is that my back is to the window, and I have a pretty awesome view of a main street in the city. Unfortunately the way this room is configured, there’s no way to adjust that.

This is what I look at every day.  I usually have two computers up at all times – I need redundant Internet for work projects.  Always have headphones plugged in – either I am listening to Spotify, or I am editing audio recordings.  Have a headset for my phone for crisp audio when I need to speak on projects.

The lamp is from my college days – a cheapy $19.99 torchiere from Kmart or Target.   It still works great, uses a standard bulb and has three settings.  Proof you can get quality at any pricepoint!  The chart on the wall is a list of to-dos I have created for my team – we’re getting into some pretty quiet weeks before the new year and I keep adding randomness we can do now to be prepared for 2012.

Do you think I have enough beverages?  The reusable Starbucks cup was my morning coffee that I drank on the commute.  The mug (a super cute gift from my mom two years ago) is for when I don’t have coffee from home.  I usually spend the rest of the day consuming 2-3 refills of my Camelbak bottle, but because it’s been a crazy week, today I treated myself to a Diet Dr. Pepper.  And now you know the truth – most of my bracelets and earrings end up on my desk within an hour of arriving at the office.  It’s hard to wear headphones and type with them; I do put them back on when heading to lunch or a meeting!

It’s almost 2012 and I still rely on a Rolodex.  I have had this same Rolodex since 2001 and carry it with me from job to job.  While I do have an Excel spreadsheet with the same information, I find a Rolodex to be faster and easier.

The picture is of my husband and I in 1994 when I went up to Great Lakes for his Navy boot camp graduation.  We were at the Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago, both exhausted but happy.  The print on the wall is from Ork Posters – they have these in a variety of colors for different cities all over the world.

Above my desk is this board.  Tons of randomness – birthday cards from coworkers, pictures of my family, badges from conferences, etc.  The flowers are those decals you can put on windows – I had them up when my old office’s desk faced a window – it helped me recognize which office was mine from the street below.  The shoes are from my sister – in college she managed a shop near campus that sold them and I acquired quite the collection.  My coworker saw my collection and gave me the shoe keychains to the right to keep them company.  The blank space on the ledge is because two shoes have fallen behind my desk and I keep forgetting to go back there and retrieve them.

To the right of my desk is a tall bookcase and short file cabinet.  I have a second phone in my office for when I need to stream audio for a live web event.  A bit more Georgia O’Keeffe, a Picasso print that represents how I sometimes feel on busy days at the office, and a bit more plant life.  At my old job, a coworker gave me a small Christmas cactus; I brought it to this job and it’s still living.  I have broken off some of the long tendrils and put them in a vase to sprout roots – I need to bring in a larger pot and some soil to transplant them!

The frames are Liberty of London for Target – one picture is of me and my husband at Bonnaroo in 2008, one is of the three of us a year ago.  Two glass insulators (I have quite a collection of them at home).  The second shelf is a dust-covered pile of randomness – training manuals, HR binders, a vase from flowers my husband sent me almost a year ago… should be cleaned up.  Maybe I’ll do that next week when it’s going to be super quite in the office.  Maybe I would be able to find a smaller bookcase hiding at the office as only two shelves are really being used!

***

So now you know where I hang out from at least 9-5 every week day.  Where I gulp down Lean Cuisines while completing blog posts on my lunch hour, where I chat with you on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s a good place to be, surrounded by good people doing good things.  My home away from home!

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Go Big or Go Home

Shirt: Gap | Skirt: Etsy | Shoes: Miss Sixty via eBay (similar) | Bag: Banana Republic via eBay (similar)

I was on the hunt for a maxi wrap dress, and decided to check out Etsy. I didn’t find one I liked, but I found this skirt and I just couldn’t resist. At first, I thought my life didn’t NEED a big skirt like this, but I indulged and this is the third time I have worn it. I like it on weekends with an Old Navy vintage tee (white and charcoal) knotted at the waist, and think this summer will be cute with a tank, and maybe a different print scarf tied at the waist like a cummerbund. It has one pocket, the only think I don’t adore about this skirt is that there aren’t two. But reasonable price, looks just as it did online, didn’t have to wait too long for shipping. I definitely favorited this seller and may look to have her make that elusive wrap maxi dress for me this summer!

There is an historic Art Deco theater in my community that holds a lot of good memories for people in our community. I remember seeing movies there when I was younger, and we love being able to walk down to see an indie hit or an Oscar contender.  The Greenbelt Theatre is up to receive a $100,000 grant from Partners in Preservation and we’re in our last week of voting. We keep teetering between 4th and 5th place; I doubt we’ll be win (we’re up against the National Cathedral), but there’s funding for runner ups. I’d really appreciate it if you’d take a moment to vote for the Greenbelt Theatre. The login process is pretty simple, anyone across the globe can vote, and you can vote every day. I thank you in advance!

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Friday: Work from Home

Sweater: Rafaella c/o Gwynnie Bee
Tank: Caslon (similar)
Brooch: Ann Taylor (similar)
Jeans: Gap
Shoes: Ivanka Trump
Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Crush Begun

Friday I worked from home. While it’s tempting to stay in pajamas, I like to wear something appropriate so I can answer the door, say yes to a friend who asks me last-minute to lunch, or step out to run errands. On this day, I knew after work I would be heading out with my husband (and Emerson!) to photograph a friend for an upcoming True Fashionista post.

I decided to wear comfortable clothes that look put together; this ruffle-trim cardigan arrived in my most recent Gwynnie Bee box. This is NOT a color I usually wear but I always love. Good use for Gwynnie Bee – try out a new color! I ended up loving this color so much I bought another sweater in the same shade. This sweater is pretty awesome – it’s free of closures, so you can wear hanging open, belt it, or do as I did and cinch it with a brooch. I bought this pin at Ann Taylor a few years ago and love that brooches have come back en vogue so it can get more play!

This weekend was pretty crazy – we found out our hot water heater was slowly leaking so we had some major cleanup to do (and still do), and Sunday we helped my mom take down her 30-year old steel toolshed. But to make up for the weekend, tonight I am going with my friend to see Gossip at The 9:30 Club! Woot!

As a reminder, if you are interested in trying Gwynnie Bee (read more about it here), they are offering your first two months half-price!  Just mention Wardrobe Oxygen when signing up to get the promotion.  Deal valid until September 30, 2012.

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There’s No Place Like Home

One of the best parts of going on vacation is coming home.

A little over a decade ago, my then-boyfriend asked me to live with him in a town very close to where we both grew up. This was a town lovingly called “The Two-story Trailer Park” by locals because of the very small row houses. Our town is a co-op that was created as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal and most of the housing (my home included) was created only to be temporary housing for new families after the war. That was the ‘40s. The thing is, cheap manufacturing in the ‘40s seems to be more sturdy and higher quality than cheap housing manufacturing of today. We have hardwood floors, solid walls and foundation. The co-op maintains the roof, the gutters, and any repairs necessary to maintain the structure.

I wasn’t looking forward to living in the “Two-story Trailer Park” but it was all we could afford. We found that living there was actually cheaper than an apartment. We purchased a two-bedroom home that was around 750 square feet, smaller than my bachelorette apartment. No central air or heat (window A/C and baseboard heaters), tiny galley kitchen, dated bathroom, and closets that were probably small even by 1940’s standards. However it was an end unit that backed to woods so it felt pretty remote.

Over the years I have come to love our home. When we found out we were pregnant, we realized we would need to either move or put on an addition to accommodate an additional human being in the pad. We decided an addition would not only be cheaper, but it would be smarter as that the co-op will maintain the house, even the new part of it. We ended up doubling the size of the house, adding a master suite, a large living room, extended the kitchen five feet, and added a half bath/laundry room to the main floor. Though our home is still smaller than most (around 1,400 SF), it is now the perfect size.

We came home from Bonnaroo around 10pm on Monday night. Two of our neighbors shared the duty of dogsitting so we had a nice stack of mail on our dining table and three very happy and excited dogs there to greet us. The house surely smelled like dog (we washed them just before they left so it was a strong scent of clean yet wet pooch) but otherwise… coming home was amazing.

After almost a week away, I saw my home with fresh eyes. The Oriental rug I got cheap on Overstock didn’t look out of place but homey in the living room. The kitchen looked like something off a shelter blog. Our bedroom was a wonderful respite, and a great merging of our two personalities and décor tastes.

The next morning, we took our coffee out to the deck to enjoy the best part of our home. We really are blessed to live right on top of our Nation’s Capital yet live in a small town in the woods. My husband also felt inspired and decided to build a hay bale garden in our back yard. We had all our veggies in planters so he transplanted them so they could be happy and have plenty of space and nutrients.

I looked around at our yard, our trees, our plants and felt so at peace. I grabbed my camera and took a couple pictures. I know I usually write about fashion, but the longer I live here the more my home and my town are a part of me.

Our tomato and basil plants.  We made DIY Topsy Turvy pots last year from paint buckets, but the tomatoes didn’t do well.  This year we decided to do them rightside up and they are performing far better.  We kept them up high because with all the trees there are few places with lots of sunlight.  This way they get sun 80% of the day.  
(The cord hanging from the plant is my husband’s jump rope.)
Our new hay bale garden.  It’s hay bales as a frame, the center is filled with compost, and soil on top.  Again this is the only place in the back yard that gets a decent amount of sun.  We have a couple types of peppers and I believe squash growing.
These pics were taken from my deck chair so you could see exactly what I see from my back deck.  As you can see, I am a fan of old glass insulators and collect them at yard sales.  They decorate my deck, my office at work, and our living room.  The brown jars are from B&M baked beans; we put tealight candles in them for festive (and eco-friendly! Always great to recycle!) evening lighting.

Amazing that we live in such cramped quarters in this community, yet I can sit on my back deck and not see another soul and they cannot see me.  I will hear the occasional Metro bus or lawn mower, but the main sounds in my yard are woodpeckers, birds chirping, and squirrels twittering as they scamper up trees.  Ahhh, nature!

I really think one’s home is a reflection of its inhabitants; I will occasionally be sharing parts of my home on this blog. Don’t worry, this won’t become a shelter blog or even a general lifestyle blog. However, when I am inspired or do feel as though my home is affecting my sartorial choices, I will be sharing little bits of it.

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The Home of the Future… With a Wardrobe Consultant?

My friend Adam sent me this story and I wanted to share it with all of you. Pretty interesting! What will they think of next… a home that shops for you as well?

Disneyland Revives ‘House of Future’

GILLIAN FLACCUSAssociated Press Writer

Source: General Financial/ Business News
Date: February 13, 2008

ANAHEIM, Calif. Millions of Disneyland visitors lined up a half-century ago to catch a glimpse of the future: a home teeming with mind-blowing gadgets such as handsfree phones, wall-sized televisions, plastic chairs, and electric razors and toothbrushes.

The “House of the Future,” a pod-shaped, all-plastic dwelling that quickly seemed quaint closed its doors a decade later. Now Disney is set to open a new abode in Tomorrowland – this time in partnership with 21st century technology giants.

The 5,000-square-foot home scheduled to open in May will look like a normal suburban home outside, but inside it will feature hardware, software and touch-screen systems that could simplify everyday living. Lights and thermostats will automatically adjust when people walk into a room. Closets will help pick out the right dress for a party. Countertops will be able to identify groceries set on them and make menu suggestions.

The $15 million home is a collaboration of The Walt Disney Co., Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., software maker LifeWare and homebuilder Taylor Morrison. Visitors will experience the look of tomorrow by watching Disney actors playing a family of four preparing for a trip to China.

“It’s much different than a spiel that you would get at a trade show,” said Dave Miller, director of alliance development for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “We won’t get into the bits and the bytes. It will be about the digital lifestyle and how that lifestyle can help you.”

The actors will be in a flurry of cooking, packing and picture-taking designed to emphasize cutting-edge features in the home’s two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, dining room, study and back yard. Much of the project will showcase a network that makes the house “smart” and follows family members from room to room, even adjusting artwork, to preset personal preferences. When a resident clicks a TV remote, for example, lights will dim, music will shut off and the shades will draw as the network realizes a movie is about to start.

The system will allow residents to transfer digital photos, videos and music among televisions and computers in different rooms at the click of a button. Other applications still in development could include touch-screen technology built into appliances, furniture and countertops, said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s vice president for entertainment services. In the kitchen, for example, touchpad software on the countertop would be able to identify groceries and produce recipes and meal suggestions. Similar programs could turn a desktop into a computer screen, allowing residents to load photos, music or e-mail onto a cell phone by placing it on the desk. Mirrors and closets could identify clothes and suggest matching outfits, complimentary colors or track what apparel is at the cleaners or in the wash.

The home will also feature new uses for devices that many visitors may already own, as well as technologies that are still five or 10 years down the road, said Mike Seamons, vice president of marketing at LifeWare, which makes home automation software. “If people walk through there and say, ‘I don’t have anything in this house at all,’ then we’ve totally failed,” Seamons said. “We’re not waiting for robots to happen in order for it to be a reality.”

When it comes to aesthetics, designers decided to stray from the Jetsons-style House of the Future; an all-plastic cross design with four wing-shaped bays that appeared to float. The house was so tough that wrecking balls bounced off it when Disney ripped it down in 1967. The new home will be made of wood and steel and finished in muted browns and beiges, said Sheryl Palmer, president and chief executive of Taylor Morrison in North America. “The 1950s home didn’t look like anything, anywhere. It was space-age and kind of cold,” she said. “We didn’t want the (new) home to intimidate the visitors. We want the house to be real accessible to our guests.”

APviaNewsEdge

Inside Our Home: Our Kitchen

Next in the series of posts about our home is my favorite room in the house – the kitchen! To fully understand my love for this room, you have to see the “before” pictures of it:

When we did our home remodel at the end of 2008, not only did we add to the back of the house to create a living room and master suite upstairs, but we added five feet off the front to have a main-floor half-bath and extend the kitchen. As a reminder, the original house was just over 700 square feet so the kitchen was teensy. So teensy that the stove only had one large burner and I could never find a cookie sheet to fit in the oven. So teensy that when the refrigerator died a month after moving in, we had to custom order one small enough to fit in its place. When the old dishwasher died, we would have had to custom order it so we just used it as a dish drainer.  Not only was it teensy, it was cheap. Peeling laminate counters, pressed-wood cabinets that were sagging and pulling from the walls… I could go on and on. It all just made me love the remodel even more.

The new kitchen makes our house a home. I saw this in a boutique in Rehoboth Beach in 2009 and had to get it for our “new” home.  Little did I know that this “unique” sign was mass-produced and now every single townhouse in America has one like it, but at the time I saw this sign as a proper and unique representation of how our house had developed with our family.

The bulkhead shows where the house used to end. Emerson’s Rody keeps watch at the front window while looking tres festive.

Just five additional feet meant a full-size range, a full-size refrigerator, and a reasonable amount of counter space. We put the most thought into the kitchen – we researched appliances, cabinetry, and drafted up layouts multiple times.  The cabinets were an overstock – not our original choice but such a great deal (and now we ADORE them).  The floor was a must for me – my husband wanted to do something cheaper, we compromised, but then our contractor scored the very same tile I lusted after at a great price (it sometimes pays to have a small kitchen).  By purchasing our appliances through the company that provided the cabinetry (and the bamboo flooring we have in the bedroom and throughout the downstairs – also an overstock), we saved a lot of money.

Oh to no longer deal with drip pans on electric burners, to have a dishwasher that works, and a built-in microwave so the entire counter isn’t lost?  Heaven!

The paint was a sticking point for me.  I picked this color out before I was on full maternity bedrest.  We went to Home Depot and I decided I wanted a deep shade of berry, I could just imagine it with wood, brushed stainless, and the floor tile.  My husband thought it too crazy and wanted a cadet blue.  The contractor also found me crazy, and the painter found me annoying because I made them paint the room almost a dozen times to get the really deep hue I desired.  But it’s totally worth it – I have yet to tire of the color, and as soon as you walk in the house you see this amazing color.  I think it really fits our personality, and yes now my husband too loves the color!

I love our extra-deep sink.  And this kitchen comes with a garbage disposal!  So very 21st century!  You can see when we finished the kitchen, we still used paper towels – the paper towel holder is now a nice towel bar for our reusable dish towels (we keep a basket in the nearby half bath/laundry room for cleaning rags).  We also use reusable sponges (can find great ones on Etsy), and make our own foaming hand wash from a combination of Dr. Bronner’s and water.

When we moved into our house in 1999, I bought these canisters from Williams-Sonoma as a housewarming present for myself.  You can see my tastes in kitchen decor haven’t changed much in the past decade.  They hold regular flour, steel cut oats, and brown rice.

It’s amazing to have this much counter space! The French press is a recent addition to the home – a Christmas gift to my husband from my mom to replace our old press which was getting wonky. The Le Creuset artichoke holds sugar. Have to have music – we have iPod speakers in many rooms of the house so we can carry our music everywhere. The knife block is Henkels for Target, but there’s a real random variety of knives now residing in it. Most of our cutting boards were in the dishwasher at the time of this photo – the ones we use most often are bright colors like lime, orange, and turquoise.

The other housewarming gift I bought myself back in ’99 was this same Le Creuset teakettle in yellow.  Back then, I wanted a sunny yellow, blue and white kitchen and slowly collected a lot of yellow accessories.  That teakettle had an untimely death – I forgot about it, it boiled all the water out and melted the bottom.  By then, I was on a green kick (pretty clear from the kitchen I am still on that kick) and got a lime replacement.

Two years ago, our toaster kicked the bucket and I got this toaster oven for only $25 on Overstock.  We love it – we use it a lot so we don’t have to use a ton of energy to heat up the full-sized oven.  The coffee and tea pots belonged to my husband’s paternal grandparents – we use the teapot regularly.  And you can see Emerson’s bottle drying rack hasn’t gone to waste once she stopped drinking milk – we use it to dry her sippy cups and our travel mugs and Camelbaks.

Okay, finished with the pretty pictures – now to the nitty gritty and not so pretty.  We love our kitchen, and we use it a lot.  Here’s how we organize it (or attempt to organize it).  Starting with the cabinets closet to the window (the ones above and below the toaster oven):

The top cabinet.  You’ll soon see a pattern – things I use are on the bottom shelf, things my husband uses or I rarely use are higher up.  Bottom shelf are sippy cups and travel mugs, higher up are baking tools.

The drawer below the counter keeps a hodgepodge of spices, powder mixes, and leftover sauces from Chinese take-out. Probably not the best place (right next to and below a heating element) but we’re working with limited space.

The bottom cabinet holds our appliances and most of our cookware (we store cookie sheets in the oven, and the really large cookware in the drawer below the oven).

This cabinet is directly to the right of the microwave.  Bottom shelf holds our cooking essentials, while the top shelves hold baking supplies, coffee and tea.

First drawer below the counter holds our silverware and most-used utensils.

The next drawer holds bulkier utensils, tools we don’t use as often, measuring cups, and most of our dish towel collection.

The bottom drawer holds our reusable food storage containers.  We’d like to switch to glass, but it’s pretty pricey and not in our budget.  I found the idea of containers in a drawer so strange, but my husband was raised with a drawer for them and we have never had enough cabinet space to stack them on shelves.

Under the sink is typical under the sink stuff.  Above the sink are these five little drawers and a glass door that opens up.  My husband chose these details for the kitchen and I thought they were both really goofy; now I love them.  Obviously we use the glass cabinet as our liquor cabinet (also stores our olive oil which is too tall for the other cabinet); the little drawers hold things like beer cozies, toothpicks, drinking straws, and wine stoppers.

And here is where we keep all our plates and glasses.  Again, a few are in the dishwasher.  Our glasses are these from Williams-Sonoma – my cousin got them for us for our wedding.  The small square bowls are Crate and Barrel, the round ones are Anthropologie.  The plates are a mix – the dark ones are these from Crate and Barrel – they were on our wedding registry and while they are beautiful we hate them.  We recently inherited a gray stoneware set from my husband’s paternal grandparents that are far more our style – they have a navy brushwork pattern on them.  I think I’ll sell the C&B plates on Craigslist – I know many people love them and may need a few cheaply-priced plates or bowls to finish their collections.

The drawer below the counter is our junk drawer – pens, scissors, business cards, rubber bands, that sort of thing.  Below that is our trash can – this was a biggie for us with the remodel.  Ruckus used to be able to knock over and open any sort of trash can we ever got and this “trash drawer” is completely Ruckus-proof.  We use regular grocery bags for our trash – we compost so we really don’t have a ton of trash – maybe two or three bags max per week.  The grocery bags fit perfectly in the plastic can in the drawer.

And then we have the refrigerator.  The cabinet above it holds things like serving bowls and vases and lunch bags.  I was so happy to be able to get a brushed stainless fridge that was able to hold magnets – we have a pretty big collection of them and it makes our kitchen look more like us and less like a model home.  Your typical collection of baby announcements, family photographs, and receipts.  The white door is our pantry.  The pantry opening is very shallow and just has shallow shelves holding canned goods and pasta; below the shelves we store dog food and unopened bottles of wine.  The pantry then leads to a deep short space below the stairs – in there we store cans of paint, gardening tools, camping equipment, and a bin to collect cardboard and paper for recycling.  We use the slatted door to display birthday and holiday cards – usually I display Christmas cards in the living room but this year I was lazy so they ended up here!

That mishmosh to the right of the pantry has been part of our kitchen from the get-go.  It’s a dinner bell that my husband inherited.  After his first marathon, he slung his medal around it and the rest is history.  The “bar” is pretty much a catchall for keys, wallets, baby monitors and the day’s mail.

And that, my friends, is my kitchen!  All the nooks and crannies, the less-than-exciting parts (which I personally love to see myself which is why I shared), and the fun parts.  My happy purple and green favorite room in our home!

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Inside Our Home: Our Hallway

Our house was built in the 1940s; three years ago we decided to stay put and build an addition instead of moving to a larger home. The original home was a bit over 700 square feet – the size of a basic two-bedroom apartment but on two floors. After the remodel we are now around 1,400 square feet. One of the best parts of the remodel was the opening of the hallway. Originally where the banister is, we had a solid wall. That wall housed our entertainment center for the living room – now it opens to our dining room.

 

While this remodel was taking place, I was on bedrest for my pregnancy. Paint colors were chosen by my husband collecting a few paint swatches from Home Depot and asking me to pick which one I liked best. One color that I liked better in the swatch than in real life was the color for the hallway. I thought this color would be darker, but over time it has grown on me. If the bathroom and Emerson’s room doors are closed, the hallway can be quite dark; the light color opens it up.

Before the remodel we were so frustrated with the stair risers. When we moved in, they were dingy white and covered with globs of glue from having stained carpet removed. We tried painting them white but they still looked dreadful. I then tried to be creative and painted them French blue, which was just as horrible. I then painted them over with red, which was fun, but still not right. One of the best parts of the remodel was that they sanded them down, properly painted the risers, and refinished the oak stairs. I would like a runner, but don’t want basic beige Berber or an Oriental look and most runners I see are either out of my price range or not our style. Until I find the right thing, they stay bare.

 

As soon as we had the hallway redone, I knew I wanted to do a collage of frames along the wall. My husband’s dad died during the remodel and I wanted to display some great pictures of him, along with other great pictures of our family.

 

 

My cousin Arielle took this picture one summer and I just loved it so much I had it blown up and framed.  She totally captured the chubby cheeks and arms of that age, and how curious and newly mobile she was (she was examining a Slip N Slide at the time of the photo).

 

 

Me and my sister as kids, my husband as a baby, me and my husband with the groomsmen from our wedding making silly faces, a member of Kings of Leon (no not really, it’s my father-in-law but I think he would fit in the band perfectly!).

 

 

My husband and his dad, me throwing a temper tantrum as a toddler, my husband’s maternal grandfather (picture taken by my father-in-law).

 

 

We don’t have many wedding photos up, just the two in this hallway.  This is right after we were declared husband and wife, one of the only pics of the event where we were together.  Funny how a wedding is about the union of two people, but you get so busy greeting family and friends you often don’t see one another except at the ceremony, first dance, toast, and cake cutting!  I guess that’s what the honeymoon is for…

***

As you can see, I never finished this hallway project. In our home office I have a stack of black frames – ones I buy on clearance at Marshalls and Target or pick up when I stop by IKEA. I just haven’t had the time to pick the photos and put them up in the right place. Maybe this post will inspire me to finish!

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Inside Our Home – Our Bedroom

Many moons ago I said I would be featuring photos of my home. And then work got busy, my life got busy, and a tree fell through our bedroom. Well finally we got the bedroom back in order, and I captured a few images of it to share with you. This room is still a work in progress – we have more art we want on the walls, are in search of the perfect rug to fit the space, and still need to go through all the boxes under the bed that we inherited when my husband’s dad passed away. Even so, this is my favorite room in the house:

I bought this bed from IKEA in 1998 when I left college; I have been toying with painting it another color but can’t decide what shade.  The dresser on the left is from Hood College – when they replaced their dorm furniture my husband’s grandfather (who was a professor there) grabbed it; when my husband’s parents divorced my father in law got this chest for his new home’s bedroom. It was his bedside table for the almost 20 years he lived alone, when he passed away my husband took it for his nightstand.  My nightstand was my husband’s bureau from his childhood bedroom.  Curtains are from Target – we had this room created and painted while I was on bedrest for pregnancy; I bought the curtains on clearance online hoping they would be a gray that would complement the wallcolor, I couldn’t believe they were an exact match!

The cedar chest has been in my mom’s family for a long time; it stores my husband’s sweaters.  The quilt is from Overstock.  The two paintings on the wall are of my husband and his father, painted by his grandfather in the ’80s.

My nightstand – I always have a bottle of water, a couple of journals to write my random thoughts, and a book (I have been trying to get through Eating Animals for what feels like a lifetime – I won’t replace it from the nightstand until it is finished!).  The picture in the silver frame is one of my favorites of me and my husband – we even used it as the photo on the water bottles we passed out at our wedding!  Under it is a jewelry box that belonged to my husband’s grandmother.  The books next to it are old diaries of mine and Emerson’s baby book – by keeping it near the bed I remember to fill it out every so often.  The photo cube was a gift from an old coworker, the picture showing is of me and my dad at my high school graduation.  My cousin made the stained glass pencil holder, and the teddy bear is “Tina,” my teddy from childhood.  The framed record?  That’s my dad and his first wife on the cover – his friend was the photographer and needed models… some props and a red filter later and two Jews from Brooklyn became gypsies!

My husband’s nightstand – he’s always in the middle of 50 different books.  Right now he’s obsessing over The Devil in the White City, which was recommended by a neighbor.  The reading lamp belonged to his father.  The lampshades are from the Liberty of London for Target collection – I bought them back when the whole room was in shades of blue and gray.  I loved them so much I started decorating around them!

When we inherited many of the contents of my father in law’s house, we got his record collection.  Eight of these are ones from his collection that my husband remembers listening to (and loving) as a kid; the one in the lower left corner is Peter Frampton – my husband saw him in concert a couple years ago and was able to meet him and get his signature on the album.

The duvet and shams are from Marimekko for Crate and Barrel, the print body pillows and red sheets are from Target, the paisley pillowcase is from Lands End – we have the whole set (back from the original color scheme of the bedroom).

My dressing table is the bureau mirror and the desk from my husband’s childhood bedroom.  The bench is from the Shabby Chic collection from Target, the lamp is also from Target (both must be at least a decade old).

My dressing table is my little domain – my perfumes, my makeup (in the drawer organized in boxes), all my brushes in a coffee mug from my sorority days, pictures that mean a lot to me (framed picture of me and my sister as kids and me with my mom on our cruise to Bermuda in ’98, and then a photo of my husband the summer before I met him – reminds me of when we were high school kids).  I also have a vase full of perfume samples – when I was in high school we visited a family friend who had a fishbowl full of them in her hallway bath – I was inspired and have been casually collecting since.  Not sure what to do with them yet, but figure when I have amassed quite the collection I will do something crafty and fabulous!

The top of my husband’s dresser.  The glass bottles and the leather box belonged to my dad, the box still contains some of my dad’s cufflinks, tie tacks, and coins from trips to foreign countries.  The lacquer box was a gift from a friend who was stationed overseas.  The small Buddha statue I made in Sunday school back as a preteen – it has been through quite a lot, you can see it has had its head break off numerous times; I still find it to be good luck.  Tucked in the mirror is my husband’s really dreadful fake ID from high school – I found it while cleaning out his dad’s house and it just cracks me up so much!  The photos to the left are of my husband, and then me and my sister.  The picture in the frame is from our friend’s rehearsal dinner – we found out the next morning that we were pregnant.  It’s the last picture taken of us before we became a family and a great memory of an amazing time in our life.

This bookcase is the top of a hutch we inherited from my father in law – we have the bottom part in the living room as our entertainment center.  I don’t really like it in here, but am not sure where to put it elsewhere in the house.  As you can see, this has really become a catchall of randomness – books too tall for the bookcases in the living room and office, photos yet to be placed in albums (which is pretty much the past three years), CDs that we never listen to but can’t bear to get rid of, cigar boxes filled with odds and ends and change.  The statue my husband got me as a gift when he was in St. Maarten, the cameras we inherited from my father in law who was a photographer.

The frames behind everything on top of the bookcase used to hang in our old bedroom but they look weird in this larger space – the one behind the cameras are pictures of me and my husband in front of the Eiffel Tower in 1999, the one in the center has pictures of me with my mom and sister in Italy, the one on the far left are three pictures of my husband in front of Niagara Falls from our three trips there over the past two decades.

The chair… it is the BEST Freecycle score!  It’s the IKEA EKTORP chair and storage ottoman, we got it with shrinkwrap still on it, as well as two more  slipcovers.  When we went to pick up the chair, my husband commented on the woman’s new composters sitting next to her garage – she said she was going to Freecycle them as well so we took them!  I am forever in debt to the Freecycle Gods for these scores, and regularly give back to the Freecycle community.

A view from the back wall of the room to the entrance to the master bedroom.  The door to the left is the master bathroom, the door to the right is our closet.  You can see my jewelry armoire, above it is a shadow frame of our wedding invitation with flowers from the day – my best friend made it for us.  The two framed images next to the door are sand art that my father in law got when he was on a trip to New Mexico – one was a gift for us, the other was his that we inherited.

The view from the main windows (we have two on the back wall and one to the right of the dressing table).  If you sit in the chair you can see a view of beautiful treetops, from the bed you can see the sun rise through the trees.  The stained glass I made back in college.  The glass horse is one of two bookends from my husband’s childhood home (there is one on each sill).

There is still much work to do on this room – we have a huge painting from my husband’s grandfather that we need to pick up from his house – we plan to put it over the chair.  We have many concert posters we want to frame and hang up as well.  Slowly we are feathering our nest!

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Inside Our Home: New Bedroom Lamps

Almost a decade ago I complimented Karl’s Grandma on her living room lamps; I never thought she’d remember and gift me with them. Since that compliment, Karl’s grandparents moved from their home to an assisted living facility. Last year Grandpa passed away and Grandma moved into a smaller apartment. This year Grandma has had some health issues and moved into a different room that didn’t have space for the lamps. Grandma remembered how much I liked the lamps and gave them to us.

Our old bedroom lamps were… fine (you can see them here). The bases were brushed silver, a Target special we bought 12 years ago when we moved in the house. The old lampshades were from the Liberty for Target collection and while I ADORE them, one had broken and was being held together with binder clips. One of the old bedside lamps is now in the office in place of the old desk lamp (which used to be on my dressing table and has now returned to that location), the other base up in the attic for possible future use. I love how these new lamps are very tall and solid, making the airy bedroom look more grounded. We like how the lampshades give such a warm glow to the room.

While they’re beautiful looking lamps, they’re so special because they represent my relationship with Karl’s Grandma.  We didn’t really start off as best friends, but over the years we have gotten close. I love Grandma, and I love that her lamps are now in our bedroom and a daily reminder of the fabulous woman she is.

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Inside our Home – Main Floor Half Bath

It sounds strange, but one of my favorite rooms in our home is the half bath on the main floor. Before the remodel, we only had one bathroom; I begged to have a half bath on the main floor so we could keep our personal bathroom private, and have one for guests to use.  I also was adamant that the bathroom be orange.  Not pumpkin, not coral, not rust. Orange.  While this gave our contractors heartburn, my husband loved the idea and we have yet to tire of it.  The room is cheery, airy, fun, and so very us.

When we completed our house remodel in 2008, we added five feet to the front of the house.  This extended the kitchen (seen here), and also gave us room to make a bathroom on the main floor.  Previously, we had accordion doors in the dining room which hid our washer, dryer, and hot water heater.  We flipped all those appliances around so the closet for them would now be in the new bathroom, making it also our laundry room.  The location is perfect since it’s right at the front door and across from the kitchen, making it easy to wash up after playing or gardening outside, switching a load of laundry while cooking dinner, or tossing dirty napkins and dishtowels into the empty washer.

The sink, cabinetry, and light fixture are from IKEA – I desired very clean, simple lines that would be kid-friendly and provided a ton of storage.  I also wanted a really big sink so I could soak stained clothing or clean hand washables.  IKEA isn’t the best quality, but the pieces have held up and are easy to clean.  I also love that there is space under the cabinet – while it can collect dust bunnies and dog kibble, it’s also where I store my hand weights for those times when I am inspired to whip out an exercise DVD.

The trash can is from Target – it was the kitchen trash can in the old house and we always found it to be an awkward size.  It fits perfectly in this corner of the bathroom, and is small enough that we can use old grocery bags as the trash bags.

The floor is industrial-grade linoleum.  Budget-friendly, durable, comfortable, and doesn’t look like your grandma’s kitchen floor.  Seriously, even people who are standing on the floor are surprised when we tell them it’s linoleum and not tile.

And heck, I’d want to know what reading material is in another’s bathroom so I’ll share it with you.  No fashion magazines because Bazaar is upstairs and the others I finished and passed on to others.  Since the time of this photo, the latest issue of Elle is now residing in here.

On top of the medicine cabinet are two blue glass bottles my father-in-law gave me.  He attended a flea market on one of his travels and felt they looked like something I would like.  He was right!

This little shelf was a big reason why I chose this medicine cabinet.  Then I got home and realized how very small it is and how few things we owned that looked right in the space.  We started using it as a place to display cool rocks and shells we find on our travels.  Now that Emerson is old enough, she contributes to the collection (the biggest rock to the left is one she picked out on our trip last summer to Vermont).

We make our own foaming hand soap with one part Dr. Bronner’s to 10 parts water.  We just keep reusing these Method bottles, and give them a trip in the washing machine from time to time to keep them fresh.  It saves money, and reduces waste.

To the right of the bathroom door is our rag bin.  In here are old towels, dish cloths, cloth diapers, and cut-up receiving blankets and tee shirts that we use for cleaning around the house.  They work better than paper towels, are reusable, and easy.

This painting is by our neighbor and friend Barbara Stevens.  She had an art exhibit at a local cafe and my husband and I were both drawn to this painting.  A few weeks ago she gave it to us as a gift.  Some may find it strange to have such a painting in your bathroom, but I love how it looks against the orange walls, this is the sunniest room in the house, and a place where all visitors will be able to see and enjoy it.

I have had this poster of Georgia O’Keeffe since at least college, if not earlier.  O’Keeffe is one of my favorite artists, I wrote many papers about her in high school and college.  My husband once joked that Georgia O’Keeffe was my spirit animal.  I love this photo, showing how badass she was, not letting age hold her back from fun experiences.

The bathroom window is right at eye level at the front step so it needs some sort of privacy shade.  Problem is, traditional blinds would block the sun and that is one of the most appealing parts of this room.  The window is an unusual size, so we couldn’t find off-the-shelf plantation shutters to fit.  These are the ones from the old kitchen window, but they are a bit short for men standing at the toilet.  One day my husband was putting Emerson’s window crayons away and became inspired.  He did this crazy rainbow pattern on the windows and it has remained ever since.  Eventually we will have custom-made plantation shutters, but the rainbow is quite the conversation starter!

Hrm, looks as though a little potty training person lives in this house!  These are the doors to the laundry closet.  I was super budget conscious during the remodel, and freaked when I saw new doors up in this bathroom – where were the old, perfectly good ones?  The contractor had these leftover from a previous project so they were free.  And while the old ones were perfectly good, these were perfectly new and shiny and made of real wood!  And because I know you like to see what is inside closets…

The utterly glamorous inside of the laundry closet.  The washer came with the house, the dryer we bought a year after moving in.  We keep meaning to organize the closet with shelves and storage containers, but have yet to get around to it.  So instead we have a mishmosh of dog leashes, bike equipment, driveway chalk, hats, and such.  Emerson’s sand pails come in handy – one holds gloves, the other holds dryer lint (we add it to the compost).  You can also see our two dusty rolls of paper towels – both are three years old.  We never use paper towel, but when people dogsit we bring it out in case of accidents and because it seems to wig people out to wipe their muddy paws on an old towel.

Here’s all the cleaning supplies in the house.  Seriously.  There’s nothing we can’t get sterile and sparkling with a combo of white vinegar, Dr. Bronner’s, oxygen bleach and baking soda.  I’m a big fan of Biokleen products, which smell amazing, are reasonably priced, and seem to always be on sale at Drugstore.com (and if you use Ebates you get 6-12% cash back on your order!).  The Biokleeen spray bottle in front is just a vinegar solution we use to wipe down counters and mirrors.  Biokleen’s Bac-Out takes care of pet accidents and tough stains and smells with ease.  And Dawn liquid with peroxide is the BEST stain removal (see recipe here).

I didn’t show the contents of the under-sink cabinet or medicine cabinet because they are pretty standard.  Benadryl, Band-Aids, lightbulbs, cleaning buckets, extra toilet paper and hand towels.

And that’s it! Small, but bright and sunny and very much us!

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What to Wear When Working From Home

Many readers write to me, stating that my staples and many of my posts do not work for them because they either work from home, or are stay at home mothers or wives. As someone who never did work from home, I would always respond back that there is life outside of your house and you should be prepared; anyway you will feel better and be more productive if you are well turned out.

I often got responses back that I didn’t know what I was talking about; to be in your home comfort is key, style is not important.

Well I am now working from home, on semi-bedrest no less. As I type this I am in my bedroom, my laptop on a tray table. I have been like this for a bit and will be until my baby arrives. Once she arrives I have six weeks of maternity leave at home and a couple of transition weeks – working from home, part time working at the office until I return back as a full-time office employee.

As I type this, I am in black ponte trousers, a gray silky jersey empire-waist top, black socks and diamond stud earrings. My hair has been blown out, I am wearing tinted moisturizer, rosy lipstick and mascara. There is a good chance I will see no one but my dog and husband all day, and that the only time I leave this bed is to use the rest room or refill my water bottle.

However when I started working from home, I relished in the idea of not having to worry about my attire. I often worked the day in a variation of what I slept in – knits, sweats, garments better made for my Saturday yoga classes. It was fun, decadent to not put on a bra, not “do” my hair, and just be comfortable.

My schedule was one day working from home, next day working from the office. I started noticing that the days I had to go to the office, I was dreading them. I wasn’t dreading the office or the work, but the need to pull myself together and look professional. I started having more difficulty pulling together a decent outfit from the clothing I already owned and knew so well. The days I worked form home seemed to drag on longer than necessary – often because I would get distracted with a non-work Web site or the desire to do housework instead of payroll work.

I decided that each morning that I felt well, I would try to pull myself together. Shower, an easy wash-and-wear hairstyle (for me is letting the hair air dry with a tiny bit of product and then come back later to smooth the bangs for 5 seconds with a round brush and dryer), small bit of makeup to make me look alive (amazing what a quick swipe of blush and mascara can do for the face). As for clothing, well I wasn’t going to endure bedrest in constricting denim, but I could do it with dresses and leggings, and pants made out of knits.

My morning routine is less than ten minutes because for me, showering at night works better with my schedule. Those ten minutes each morning make me a more productive at-home employee, have less concern with having to leave the house last minute or sign for a package when the UPS driver comes to the door. With my exterior organized, my interior seems to be more organized as well. I feel less tired, less sluggish, and more receptive to visitors.

The easiest way to be polished at home, is to start with the purchases. Be careful with every purchase you make – can it handle time on the floor, in bed, and to be accidently tossed in the dryer by your spouse? Keep away from that which will fade, requires ironing or special washing instructions. Also keep away from that which resembles gym attire, sleepwear, or something that your husband would wear. It’s better to have less that is quality than more that is junk. As you find great durable and flattering pieces, donate those which aren’t up to snuff.

A few pieces I have found to be great while being at home:

Old Navy’s Stretch Ponte Mid-Rise Wide-Leg Trousers – I love love love these trousers. They look elegant, but they are made of fabric that is as comfy as sweats. The fabric is heavy enough to hide lumps and bumps and look work-worthy. They have a classic waistband and zipper, but they don’t dig into your tummy, even when sitting or reclining. They are machine washable – I usually hang them to dry, but they have also gone in the dryer when I have been in a rush and they haven’t pilled, shrunk or faded.

I usually despise slash pockets, but these lie pretty nicely. Best of all – they come in petite and tall lengths! $34.50, currently only available in black. Get yourself two pairs so you have some ready while the other pair is in the wash.

J. Crew Merino Sweaters – Their turtlenecks are cozy while looking elegant, the crewnecks are a stylish alternative to a sweatshirt, and the v-necks add femininity to your simple outfit. Unlike cotton, merino usually keeps it shape and color through many wears and washes. Unlike cashmere, it’s usually at a reasonable price point. The tight weave glides over curves, isn’t itchy like shetland and looks polished. Come winter, I often layer with a tencel, silk or fine jersey tee or camisole underneath (a silk undershirt is incredibly warm without bulk). Black and gray are always chic, but bright colors are always nice to see and wear. Consider a jewel tone that pleases your eye – it will go with black, gray, camel, denim and other neutrals just as nicely as a more subtle or predictable color. Though the sweaters usually say Dry Clean Only, I have always washed my merinos on the gentle cycle in the machine with Woolie or a gentle landry wash, and either hung them up on a padded hanger or lay them on a towel on top of the dryer to dry. This specific merino turtleneck has select colors on sale for $39.99 – not too shabby!

Wrap Sweaters – This one is from Target. Wrap sweaters are great because they offer the layer you want, but flatter your feminine shape far better than a sweater coat or hoodie. This could work over a nursing tank, a cami, a tee, a turtleneck all with ease and look elegant and feminine. Sweaters and tops that wrap to the side give the illusion of a smaller waist; lightweight sweaters add warmth without bulk to your frame, and again this is a great way to add a pop of color to your basic neutrals. This specific sweater is under $25; I have found great wrap sweaters at Gap, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and more usually under $50. Another ting – if the sweater is layered over a cami or tank, you don’t have to wash it as often. Have a Tide to Go pen at the ready, and you can get more miles between washes!

Mossimo Ultra Soft Long-Sleeved V-Neck Sweaters – I learned about this sweater from another blogger and agree that they are fab! They are super cozy and soft like cashmere, but far less in cost. They come in a good range of colors and seem to flatter a variety of shapes of women.

Very nice with trousers, jeans or even with a simple pencil skirt for church or dinner out. Layer with a cami or tee, dress up with a strand of pearls or a scarf tucked into the neckline. You very well may find that a sweater like this will get more wear and bring far more joy than your most snuggly fleece pullover!

Lands End Fine Gauge Twinsets – Lands End is awesome – they have the best selection of colors, most of their pieces are made of great quality and are easy to wash, their pieces run a bit big, they have an amazing return policy and their styles are classic without being dowdy.

A very easy way to look polished is by wearing a twinset – the shortsleeved crewneck and matching cardigan from Lands End is a great choice. I was mine in the wash on the gentle cycle and hang it up to dry overnight. The colors never fade, the shape maintains, and it dresses up or down nicely. Pair the set with capris in spring, wool blend trousers in winter, a pencil or a-line skirt for brunch, toss the cardigan over a sundress on breezy summer evenings, wear the crewneck alone with trousers and pearls for a simple Business Casual look. Again, consider a cheery color that will bring sunshine to a dreary winter day. Lands End carries most styles in petite, plus, and other extended sizes. The cardigan is $39.50 and I think worth every penny. Keep up with the site, Lands End often adds pieces to this line of fabric so you can get things like sleeveless shells or 3/4 sleeve cardigans come summer and turtlenecks come winter.

Merona Black Leggings – Okay, the leggings under the dress look is gone and done. It was hip for a season and now it looks pretty dated and desperate on most. The thing is, the look is pretty awesome when you are at home. Suddenly you can get on the floor with the kids, chill in bed, hang out at the playground and more without worrying about a breeze. A dress in knit or matte jersey with black leggings and ballet flats is still more chic than a velour jumpsuit or your husband’s favorite hoodie. If paired with a solid color dress that has a simple silhouette, the look can be artsy and elegant. I love wearing my black leggings with a dove gray dress and a long scarf at the neck; my friend’s weekend look is a black jersey dress with bell sleeves, black leggings, red ballet flats and a long silver necklace with red pendant. She looks polished, but is jsut as comfortable as she would be in her pajamas.

These leggings are less than $10 and get the job done. They aren’t miracle workers, but they will last you through a season quite nicely.

What to Avoid:
Memorable Prints – It’s hard to wear the same things week after week if they are so unique. Find creativity in your going out pieces, or your accessories. Choose great colors, flattering neutrals, and then detail piecves to add personality.

Bedazzlement - Just because a tee shirt has fake gems at the neckline does not mean it’s fun or cool. In all honesty, most embellishment (embroidery, jewels, grommets, patches, accent fabrics, ribbons) makes the garment look cheap, not more stylish. Again, find your style with actual accessories to have versatility, style and polish.

Logos – A woman of style NEVER advertises what brand she is wearing. Style comes from the garment itself, NOT the designer.

Anything that Sheds, Pills, Fades or Creases – This means most khakis, cotton button-downs, angora blends, low percentage of cashmere blends, some silk blends, and cheap knits. If the black jersey already has a slight tint of gray or green, you can be sure that it will head further int hat direction after a few washes. Knits with at least 5% of lycra or a synthetic are less likely to shrink thank 100% cotton.

Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have time to blow dry your hair after a shower, will you have time to properly iron that oxford shirt? If the answer is no, then don’t buy it in the first place. It won’t smooth out from wearing or if you pull it down and press it between you and the car seat. Stay with knits and synthetics if your lifestyle doesn’t give you the time for ironing.

Polo Shirts – Unless you have a very slight frame or a slightly athletic build, these shirts are NOT flattering on women. Yes, they make feminine cut ones, but they still are not as flattering as a basic knit. The collar shortens the neck, the sleeve rounds shoulders and draws attention to larger arms, the neckline makes a large bust look matronly and a small bust look more obvious. The cut is usually too boxy or too tight at the belly, and the length is more often than not at the worst part of a woman’s body (somewhere around the middle of her bum or right at the love handles). Want to get away from the tee with a creative knit? Try a wrap style, one with puffed sleeves and a scoop neck, one with lantern sleeves or a notched neck.

Cropped Cargo Chinos – These do not flatter a woman’s frame in any way; the shortened length makes calves look bigger and legs look longer. The extra pockets add bulk (and usually end up wrinkled after the first wash). Want the cargo pockets for day tripping at the park or in the woods? Go with a jacket or a full-length pant or even a small backpack or sling. Want the cropped look? Consider a heavy jersey, a ponte fabric or a synthetic in the same fabric as a jacket or cardigan for something just as comfortable but far more flattering.

Best Beauty Buys of 2013

I bought a lot of beauty products this year. Maybe it’s getting closer to 40 or maybe it’s changing my makeup to change my personal style, but I did a lot of experimenting, watching more YouTube tutorials, and subscribing to more beauty blogs. Through it all I lost some money, but I found some real winners. Some of these have been mentioned before on the blog, some have better reviews now than they did last time I reviewed them, some were never before mentioned which is crazy since I love them so much…

Revlon Revlon ColorStay Whipped Foundation in Natural Beige
So good. So good I’m buying a second jar this week.  It’s rich and creamy but doesn’t slip off your face by lunch or even by 5pm. It blends really nicely, doesn’t enhance my fine lines and pores, stays all day and gives a natural finish. You don’t have to head to the department store to find quality makeup, and this foundation proves it.

BeautyBlender
So my friend Lexa emails me and tells me this is a “gamechanger” so I order one the very same day. And I get it and I feel meh for a week or so, then for some reason it kicks in and I understand the gamechanger status. It doesn’t rub everything away or rub product into your pores (which your fingers can do), it doesn’t leave a weird finish on your skin (which I find with brushes), it doesn’t soak up as much product as a traditional makeup wedge, and its shape makes it easy to gently blend around your eyes and nostrils. Also if you do any contouring, it does a good job of blending without muddying it or rubbing it all away. It’s not cheap, it takes a while to get the hang of it, but I gotta agree with Lexa, it is a gamechanger.

BareMinerals Tinted Touch-up Veil
Yes, I am still obsessed.  I have a compact in my dressing table, one in my purse, and one in my desk. I don’t use it as much in the winter, but in spring and summer I swore by this compact. I used as powder to set my face before leaving the house, at noon to powder a shiny nose, and at the end of the day to refresh my look for an after-work event. It doesn’t cake, doesn’t look false, doesn’t make the dry parts of my face look more dry, and doesn’t make me itch like other mineral-based products.

NARS Light Reflecting Pressed Setting Powder
Sometimes I have a lot of fun with my makeup and the time to play with it. Primer, multiple concealers and contouring products, foundation, highlighter, blush… and even with proper blending I can look pretty made up. But then I take a fluffy powder brush, swipe it over this compact and cover my whole face and everything suddenly looks toned down, cohesive, natural, finished, polished, and pretty. It doesn’t dull any shine or dewy-ness, it doesn’t cake or get weird in lines and pores, it just airbrushes everything and makes my skin look pretty and it lasts for a couple hours before needing a touchup.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
I reviewed this before and received many suggestions on cheaper alternatives. And I tried a bunch of them and sorry… they don’t compare. Other oil cleansers left makeup on my face, irritated my eyes, wouldn’t rinse off, came in a bottle that made a mess. DHC really sticks to makeup and dirt and oil and removes it from the face. It rinses off nicely, not leaving goopy eyes or greasy cheeks. A little goes a long way, and when I use it I have fewer bumps and a nicer complexion overall. While it seems to be best when removed with Avene, it still works great with regular water.

Reusable Cotton Rounds
Still using the same ones I bought a year ago and work even better after several washings. I keep them in an oversized mason jar on the back of my toilet, and keep a mesh lingerie bag hanging in the bathroom with the towels to hold the used rounds. When I’m down to just a few, I zip up the bag and throw it in the laundry with other linens. I don’t use them for nail polish remover, but use for makeup remover, toner, removing face oil, and anything else that will wash off without staining.

PSSSST
Still the only dry shampoo I like. Blends into my dark hair, doesn’t leave it gummy or overly fragranced. It works best if I put it in before bed and let it rub into the scalp while sleeping, but I can still put it in my hair in the morning (if straight/brushable style) and a few swipes of a brush will blend it nicely.

Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette
Wrote about it before, but so good it needed to be in my Best Of list!  I use W.O.S. for the top part of my lid, Naked 2 on the lid. I will create a subtle smoky eye for day by adding Faint in the crease and along the lash line, a more intense smoky eye with Crave and a bit of Venus in the inner corners of the eyes, or wet a slant brush and use Faint or Crave like a liner. The shadows are the perfect color and last all day.

Two Faced Better than False Lashes
Good enough to mention twice!  It’s messy, it needs eye makeup remover to get it all off at the end of the day, but by golly does this product give me amazing lashes! Once you get the hang of it you can get full-on drag queen lashes, light fringy long lashes, or just a bit of oomph on the outer corners. I don’t recommend putting it on your lower lashes, I don’t recommend going to sleep wearing it, and you want a good eye makeup remover so you don’t have to rub to get it off, but it really does give you fab long lush lashes without falsies.

Kevyn Aucoin Lash Curler
I don’t even miss my Shu Eumura any more, this lash curler is fantastic. Can’t go on and on because it’s only a lash curler (and I already wrote about it), but it gives a natural curve, doesn’t pinch, doesn’t stretch out after a week of use.

ARCONA The Solution
I got a sample from Beauty.com and liked it so much I bought it… and I still love it. At night after cleaning, I put on eye cream and then choose some treatment before my night cream. Sometimes it’s retinol, sometimes it’s a sample I received, but every other night it’s The Solution. Two pumps and rub into the face and it keeps away little bumps, makes my skin glow, and I think helps keep my skin looking healthy and happy.

So what were your best beauty buys from 2013? I’d love to hear as many of the products I buy are from your recommendations. And stay tuned, I asked a few of my friends to share their favorite beauty products from 2013 and will be sharing them next week!

FYI I noticed that Beauty.com is having 20% off all BareMinerals products today, and if you first go through Ebates, you’ll get 4% cash back from Beauty.com (you also get 4% cash back from Ebates for Sephora, there’s no point to NOT use Ebates when shopping online!)

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Summer Beauty Survival Kit

Living in the DC Metro area all my life, I am no stranger to sweltering temperatures and mega-high humidity. Over time, I have learned ways to work with crazy summer weather and not have it wreak havoc on my style. Many of you have been asking what I do to not be a sopping, frizzy, grody mess each summer day, here’s my favorite beauty products and tips to look cool even when the temps are up:

1. Certain Dri
I apply the roll-on version of Certain Dri every evening before bed. I keep it on my nightstand next to my lipbalm, hand cream, and water so I do not forget. This is NOT a product to apply to freshly-shaved pits, even when my skin is calm it can still sting a bit. I tried the stick formula, but I couldn’t handle the smell (very powdery, might not be as problematic for others). Certain Dri has been a summer go-to of mine for over a decade. I don’t wear it in the cooler months because I don’t think it’s terribly healthy to stop sweating, but it keeps me from being a sopping wet stinkpot during the hottest time of the year.

2. Dove go fresh Cool Essentials Deodorant
I find it’s best for me to switch up deodorants every few months, it seems my body becomes accustomed to them and they stop working. During the fall and winter I often try out new deodorants to see if I can find a new favorite, but for the past three summers as soon as June hits I go back to Dove Cool Essentials. It’s one of the few deodorants that doesn’t have a smell that nauseates me (and the last smell I can handle on a hot day is the “unscented” smell). That plus Certain Dri keeps me funk-free for at least 24 hours, and Dove doesn’t irritate, even when applied right after shaving.

3. Neutrogena Body Oil
I’ve written about Neutrogena Body Oil before, it has been a beauty staple of mine for years. Now that I am older, it’s not enough on its own come winter, but in summer, it’s the perfect light moisturizer that gives my skin a soft healthy sheen. Not only that, the scent is quite lovely, even when my body heats up. Most summer days, this is the only fragrance I wear. I lightly towel after showering and apply it from neck to toes, concentrating on elbows and knees. then I usually stand in front of an air-conditioning vent and mutter about the humidity and check my email (TMI?) until it has dried and then get dressed.

4. Awapuhi Wild Ginger by Paul Mitchell Texturizing Sea Spray
This is a new product for me this summer, but it’s now a staple. With my last Drugstore.com purchase I ordered three bottles of it, since I ran out mid-trip to NYC and almost cried in my hotel room. While I’m mentioning this product (which I also raved about on The Average Girl’s Guide), I might as well share my summer hair routine:

  1. Wash hair with shampoo maybe once a week, twice if I get really sweaty. In the summer, I water down shampoo before I put it on my head, and concentrate on my scalp, especially the hair line where I get greasy.
  2. Condition like crazy. Once a week I do a hair mask, maybe Neutrogena because it rinses easily and can be done in the shower, maybe coconut oil if I have an hour to myself (rare). Every other shower, I “wash” my hair with conditioner. I switch between Biolage which is light, and Aveda which is thick and smells strange but gives my hair lots of body and control.
  3. Dry hair with an old tee shirt, or a quick-dry towel to reduce frizz.
  4. Add seven drops of Frizz-Ease Sheer, a tiny amount of argan oil (like a quarter of a pea and concentrated on ends), and a thousand sprays of Sea Spray to damp hair and scrunch.
  5. Stand in front of A/C, mutter about the weather and check my email.
  6. Get dressed, do makeup, eat breakfast.
  7. Come back and use the curling iron on any pieces that look less beachy and more Kip Winger, using TRESemme Heat Protectant Spray before each curl.
  8. Finger comb, and occasionally use a bit more argan oil to smooth.
  9. Day 2 or if I have plans that evening, I can usually revive my look with a few spritzes of Sea Spray with some scrunching, maybe a couple curls of the iron, if it’s really bad, a bit more argan oil. My hair is bigger and crazier on Day 2.
  10. If I can survive until Day 3 or have somewhere to go Day 2, I may use some Psssssst on the roots for lift and to suck up the sweat and grease.

So yeah, Paul Mitchell Sea Spray is my jam. It totally gives me the crazy beachy waves I crave without weighing them down or making them look dirty or greasy (which happens with many other surf sprays). I like the dry look in summer, it makes frizz seem more purposeful and I can better get away with dry shampoo and going without washing. Glossy hair will return when the humidity drops!

5. Coty Airspun Face Powder – Translucent
My mom had this when I was little, and I can remember the iconic floral container on the dressing tables of most women I knew when I was a child. I picked it up earlier this year on a whim, and I am glad I did. It’s an awesome summer powder. It has a very strong scent, and by smelling it you may realize that your aunt or grandmother or elementary school teacher wore it, the scent is very memorable. If you can get past the scent and crappy powder puff (use a brush, sponge, or a higher quality puff to apply), this is a powder that can set your makeup (or bare face) almost all day.

During the week, I do my normal face of primer, foundation, and concealer and then set with Airspun. On weekends, I often just do a bit of Dr. Brandt Pores No More and then the powder just to give a bit of an airbrushed but natural look. Since Airspun comes in a pretty big and messy container, I do touch-ups through the day with Bare Minerals Tinted Touch Up Veil.

6. Bare Minerals Tinted Touch Up Veil
Few powders work on sweaty skin. Often they create weird little beige globules, or look really obvious. With this compact, I can pat skin dry, swipe on Touch Up Veil and look pretty decent. As I sweat more, it doesn’t get strange, it seems to take my sweat and diffuse it so I just look glowy in an almost purposeful way.  I wrote about Bare Minerals Touch Up Veil before, still a big fan.

7. Waterproof/Water Resistant Mascara
I don’t wear waterproof mascara often, but come summer it’s sort of a necessity when it’s a long day or an outdoor event. I was using Mary Kay Lash Love Waterproof because I received a free tube and I do like it a LOT – it makes my lashes long, separated, and just plain lovely. However I am using Clump Crusher right now in the regular formula and am totally loving it and when my Mary Kay runs out I am thinking of getting the water resistant version of Clump Crusher. Before I put on my mascara, I always curl my lashes.

8. Maybelline Line Stiletto
Best liquid liner ever. Loved it then, love it now.  It’s a good day liner because it’s not shiny, it’s not super thick, and you can get a really thin line right against your lash line. It’s great for summer because it won’t drip or fade with sweat and humidity, but it washes away easily with most any cleanser.

9. Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romantic
This chubby pencil (that doesn’t need a separate sharpener!) is the best beauty product I have purchased in eons. I am on my fifth, and I have one in my purse, one in my desk, and one in my dressing table. It gives a pretty soft red color on the lips that looks great even as it wears away. I can apply it without a mirror, and it’s matte enough that it doesn’t smear or get on my teeth but shiny enough that it looks right with a sweaty… I mean glistening face. I have this pencil in a few other colors and while I like them, I LOVE Romantic. Oh, and in a pinch you can rub a bit on your cheeks for a natural flush!

10. Baking Soda
My face often feels disgusting at the end of the day – dirt from the city, sweat, makeup put over makeup… it’s tempting to scrub my face with a hardcore cleanser to clean out the pores but I know it will stress out my skin. Instead, I shake a bit of baking soda into my CeraVe cleanser. It is the perfect amount of grit to really clean the skin without stripping it. Best thing, keep the box in the bathroom and add it to a bit of cleaner (we’re a Dr. Bronner’s family) and it’s also a fabulous tub scrub!

11. Footpetals Killer Kushionz
I have these in most every pair of shoes I own. I put a new set in at the beginning of the summer, and replace them once the temps cool. They soak up sweat, keep my feet from sliding around, and protect my shoes from being grody. They come in several colors, so you can slip them in peeptoes or even sandals and have them practically invisible. There’s special styles of Footpetals for sandals and thongs and such, but I’m a fan of the full-size Killer Kushionz because they absorb more moisture and also cushion the heels.  By the way, I find these cheapest on Amazon (the link in this post is to what I buy but know it’s an affiliate link.  If you don’t want to click, search Footpetals, and there’s a three-pack that is free shipping if you have Prime).


I’d love to hear from you! I always learn about the best beauty products from the comments. What are your favorite products for beating the heat and humidity?

As a reminder, before you shop online, check Ebates.  I buy much of my beauty products from Drugstore.com/Beauty.com and they often have 12% cash back through Ebates (and both stores offer store credit for future purchases based off current purchases and free shipping!).

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Greening Your Beauty Routine

In a previous post I mentioned how you can replace disposable cotton rounds and cotton balls with reusable rounds. A few of you were interested to hear more about such a product.

When I found out I was pregnant, I did a lot of research on healthy ways to rear a child. I learned so much about the chemicals used and waste created when having a baby it floored me. Karl and I felt we lived a relatively green and healthy lifestyle, but in those few months we made major changes in how we cleaned our home and laundry. One big thing was getting rid of paper towels. Seriously, we still have the majority of the last roll we bought, which was in May of 2008 (we keep it to put on the dining table when folks dogsit in the chance there is a grody mess they need to clean, and yes it’s dusty and crinkly from age). So it was a given that we would cloth diaper our child.

And cloth diaper we did, and had great success with it. Emerson’s newborn diaper stash was predominately purchased used, was loaned to two different friends and then sold – half to a sorority sister across the country, half to a blogging buddy. The remainder of her stash survived three years of heavy use and some was sold, the rest Freecycled to a crafty parent who could replace worn-out Velcro. But the greatest thing about cloth diapering was the cloth wipes.

Cloth wipes are two-ply squares of cloth, serged together. Some are cotton, some knit, some flannel, some velour, some terry. Cloth wipes are sold on most sites that sell cloth diapers, but you can also find great cloth wipes on sites that sell handmade products, like Etsy. Though Emerson is potty trained, we still use the same cloth wipes I purchased back when I was pregnant and use them for drippy noses, sticky fingers, and when I have slacked on laundry and am out of washcloths for her. Over four years of use, being thrown in the washer and line or dryer dried, the only wipes that have fallen apart are the fancy store brand ones I got as part of a baby shower gift. The rest, mainly via Etsy, are still holding strong.

I worked for The Body Shop in a past life, and even worked as an at-home sales consultant when they had that business going in the States. Through them, I could get packets of cotton rounds mega cheap – I think I paid 50 cents per package. I have been using my leftover packets for all these years and well, this January I opened my last package and started thinking about what I would use in its place. We don’t buy paper napkins or paper towels, we sure as heck aren’t going to buy disposable things to wipe my face each morning.

So I went to Etsy and typed in reusable cot… and it autofilled “Reusable Cotton Rounds” for me. Suddenly I saw dozens of shops, many who make cloth wipes for babies, who sold such things. Same size as popular cotton rounds, made of flannel or terry, serged around the edges to keep from fraying. Some even sold little mesh bags to keep them wrangled together in the washer and dryer.

I bought a pack of 30 rounds from Green Little Nest for just $13.00 and they arrived very quickly, tied with little adorable yarn bows. The prints are hysterical, they are likely made from remnants from baby-based crafts like cloth wipes, so I wipe witch hazel and Avene with peace signs, puppies, and cartoon flowers. I specifically chose these rounds because with my experience with cloth wipes, I find flannel to be the most durable yet soft and absorbent.  I chose not to get the mesh bag and instead have a standard mesh lingerie bag hanging from a hook in my bathroom. Use a wipe, drop it in the mesh bag, when I get down to only about 5 wipes, I zip up the bag and drop it in the hamper and wash them with whatever the next load of laundry may be. Since they are so small and I want them to be soft, I dry them in the dryer, leaving them in the lingerie bag. This makes it easy to take them back upstairs.

Right now, the reusable rounds are stored in a bowl, but I’ll be seeking out random containers this summer at yard sales and thrift stores to see if I can find something more creative. But so far, so good. They absorb, they don’t scratch, and they are just as durable as the cloth wipes we use, and like the cloth wipes I bet they will just soften and get better with time!

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Recent Beauty Buys

I like to do some beauty splurges on my birthday – a good way to start the new year off on the right step. A lot of my purchases I make based off you – reviews on your blogs (I may not always comment but I do lurk!), your comments here, Tweets about new purchases. I trust you more than an ad in a magazine or a sponsored post, and I like to share my reviews for the same reason. And so, my recent beauty buys:

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
A couple years ago, I decided to try the Oil Cleansing Method after hearing rave reviews. I found it time consuming, complicated, messy, and then my little bottle of castor oil slipped out of my hands and smashed in my sink and I saw that as a sign to just give it up. But a friend kept raving about DHC’s oil cleanser saying it was a revolutionary experience and not complicated, I decided to give it a try.

Big fan. Two pumps on dry hands and then massaged onto my dry face. I can really feel it sucking gunk out of my pores and it dissolves all makeup, even waterproof mascara. It also rinses quite easily by splashing water on your face, or using a cotton pad/washcloth (or used with another product, see next review). Since switching to this cleanser, my fave seems softer, less dry (I deal with dry and irritated patches under my nose and between my brows in the winter), and more plump/hydrated. Also a little goes a long way – I have been using for almost two months straight and have only used half an inch of product in the bottle.

Avene Thermal Spring Water
Karl said I was insane for buying “fancy water,” but when reader April recommended it, I couldn’t resist. See, April has never steered me wrong when it comes to beauty products. So yeah, it’s water put into an aerosol can for a pretty penny with a bunch of hefty claims… and well, it’s pretty awesome.

When I started using the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, I was wiping it off with Avene Thermal Spring Water and cotton pads. That combo was perfection – my skin felt AMAZING, it was so soft and happy. I did it for two weeks, and was amazed with the change. Then I started worrying about the cost of Avene – I can’t justify a bottle every month of fancy water, so I switched to regular water. And that worked… though not a nicely. For a week, I used tap water instead and after two days got a zit. After four days, I started getting redness and sensitivity under my nose. While the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is pretty awesome, it is even more awesome with Avene Thermal Spring Water. I can’t afford to use it every evening, but I am using it every third day to keep my skin happy through the winter season.

So is it an overpriced bottle of fancy water? Technically yes, but it is also a pretty magical product. Really great for those with sensitive skin or live somewhere with hard water. It seems to hydrate and soothe skin unlike regular water. And the bottle is well designed, giving a fine controlled mist.

Kevyn Aucoin Lash Curler
One I switched from my old Revlon curler right after college to Shu Eumura I never looked back. Shu Eumura gave a more natural curl, didn’t pinch, and was worth every penny. However, they don’t sell Shu Eumura curlers in the US any more. I looked around for a worthy alternative and saw Kevyn Aucoin’s received positive reviews. And after using, they are well deserved. It’s not as curved as Shu Eumura, and I actually like that. I never pinch with it, can get an even more natural curl than with Shu Eumura, and it feels better in my hand. Fan.

Tarte emphasEYES Inner Rim Brightener
I have been dealing with insomnia for a couple months off and on, and it has gotten so my eyes look tired and haggard. Wearing glasses draws more attention to my eyes, and any bags or darkness from lack of sleep. Reader Claudia said she swore by this pencil and I should try it as well.  I figured it couldn’t hurt to try this stuff – I used white liner back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s to try to make eyes look more open and it just looked as though I lined my eyes with chalk, this being a peach color I figured would look more natural.

And it does. Used with a light hand, emphasEYES Inner Rim Brightener can open your eyes and make you look less tired. It’s pretty natural looking and stays on for a couple of hours. Thing is, the product is VERY creamy, so it moves and slides. If you try to put it in the inner corners of your eyes it may creep onto the skin and make you look like you have eye boogies. It fades after a couple of hours and if you recently switched to contacts for astigmatism you may find that it smears all over your contacts after wearing about 45 minutes so you’re yanking your contacts out at a stop light and digging in your purse for your glasses. Completely hypothetical, just an example, not like I have done this on an early morning while driving down Rhode Island Avenue or anything…

Point is, I really like this product but will only be wearing it when I wear glasses!

L’Oreal Infallible Le Rouge Lipcolor in Coral
I wanted orange lips like Jessica Alba and took a chance with this. I wanted a long-wearing formula that wouldn’t leave me looking as though I had nude lips and orange liner. This did the job. The color lasted for about three hours before needing to be reapplied, and as it faded it did so evenly, leaving a nice coral-colored stain. When I reapplied, it didn’t feel cakey or gross. And the color is a pretty red-orange that stands out, but doesn’t look crazy. It’s a bit more orange and a bit lighter than NARS Heat Wave, and will be a super fun lipstick for spring and summer.

CoverGirl Lip Perfection Jumbo Gloss Balm in Rose Twist
I trust The GlossarieLara has mastered being a successful blogger and providing helpful honest beauty reviews. She mentioned she’s been wearing this product so I figured I’d give it a try. I like the Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stains and was happy to try an alternative in a more neutral shade.

While I will always love and trust The Glossarie, I don’t like this product. It has a more powdery feel than Revlon’s similar crayon, and the color is far too matte, gray, and pale for me. Lara and I do have different coloring and I didn’t take that into consideration, but I’ll just have to admit I’m a Revlon fan when it comes to the drugstore brands of chubby gloss crayons!

L’Oreal Voluminous Power Volume 24h Mascara, Black Smoke
Lara didn’t steer me wrong when it came to mascara! I ran out of Mary Kay, I had a tester size of Bare Escentuals that wasn’t impressing me, and I couldn’t justify the cost of another bottle of DiorShow. I then saw Lara’s review of L’Oreal Voluminous Power Volume on The Glossarie and decided to try it out.

It’s not DiorShow, but it’s the best drugstore mascara I have used in a long while. It’s a matte black finish that I like because it doesn’t look as spidery. It holds curl, it elongates, it makes the lashes really soft and thick and glamorous looking without appearing false. The brush is the type I like that reminds me of a fat fuzzy caterpillar. The only issue I have had is it occasionally flakes a bit into my contacts, but not so much I have to stop using it. I like it enough that I would buy it again.


Have you had any great new beauty buys?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments and may take your suggestion and buy it in the future!

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Ask Allie: Office Beauty

I am about to start my first internship in D.C. this fall and can’t wait. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for subtle office-appropriate lipstick? Preferably something by Revlon or an inexpensive brand. I love wearing red lipstick but don’t want to look too crazy in the office. Thank you!

Red lipstick doesn’t necessarily look crazy if you do it right. I love Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butters for they provide sheer color that you can layer for strong pigment – one swipe of Cherry Tart is cheery without stopping traffic; add a few more layers for drinks after work. I also like matte reds for the office – they may have the pop of color but don’t have the added shine to really call attention to your face – Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stains are a great budget-friendly option that can let you wear color without the color wearing you.

For at least the first week though, I would steer clear of a bold lip. Get a feel for your office culture. Choosing a brownish pink is a wise choice – something similar to your natural lip color yet a bit darker or more intense. A shade that has mauve, dusty, or natural in it is a good choice. CoverGirl Continuous Lipcolor is a great budget-friendly lipstick that will last through your morning cup of coffee without drying out your lips; Iced Mauve and It’s Your Mauve are great choices for women with fair to medium complexions that are neutral to cool in tone.

Finally, I am a big fan of Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balms and now own four different colors. Rose is a sheer red that is playful yet office-appropriate, Red Dahlia is more of a sheer wine, Hibiscus is a sheer candy pink, Tiger Lily is a warm neutral that looks fantastic with a hint of a tan.

You often wear very bold makeup at work. I can’t imagine smokey eye or magenta lips in my office yet you do it and from what I assume you have a managerial position at your company. Is such makeup now acceptable in the workplace?

Each office environment is different. I work in a very relaxed environment where people are free to show their personal style as long as it is within the dress code guidelines. I also work in a position where I don’t meet with clients every day and only interact with my teammates.

Before you decide whether to wear a smoky eye or bold lip in your office, take a look around. Are there any colleagues who wear bold fashion? How are they perceived by upper management? Do they get the respect they deserve?

While I may wear a smoky eye once in a while and this winter did rock quite a few bright lipstick colors, I keep most of my “fun” makeup for after hours. No sparkle or shimmer, no intense or bold eye colors, no false lashes, nothing overly trendy. While my workplace may not blink at hot pink lip gloss, a peer company with a similar clientele may freak out over navy eyeliner. Respect your office, your position with the company and the position you desire to have in the future before going bold with your office beauty.

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Recent Beauty Buys

I have bought a few new things, figured I should share my views on them with you guys!

Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion: Fellow blogger Toya swears by this stuff – she wears it on stage when she has a performance and says her shadow doesn’t budge. Enough for me, I was sold and grabbed a box of this goodness right away.

Girl was right, this stuff is amazing! It is a sponge applicator – I apply it with the wand and then smooth it with my finger. The product is nearly invisible on my semi-pale skin and shadow applies perfectly over it – no creasing or uneven pigment. As for it lasting all day – I must say the other evening I was a bad girl and went to bed with my makeup on. Woke up – still had a full shadow application down to the darker color in the crease and the line of color on the top lash line! I have tried other shadow primers before, but nothing has lived up to it’s claims as well as this bottle of perfection!

Cargo Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife: I love a bit of bronzer in the summer, but a traditional brown or terracotta product often looks dirty on my complexion. Too much shimmer and I get looks from the bigwigs at work. This blush/bronzer from Cargo seemed like a perfect choice – it has a range of colors that one can swirl together for a healthy glow without the disco glitter.

Now, as you can tell by me wearing it on a near-daily basis, it’s a nice product. The color is natural, the product feels like nothing on the skin, and it lasts through the day. Problem is, it’s a bit potent. I mean, use my traditional Sephora Bronzer brush with it (what I use for any other bronzer) and I have bright coral cheeks and peach-hued spots all over my face. I have switched to a Bare Escentuals brush that was made to lightly apply loose powders like their Mineral Veil to get decent application of this BeachBlush. Now, that’s not a terrible thing – this product will give me over a year of good use and I didn’t have to buy a new tool (already had the b.e. blush), but it makes it hard to transition to pale-skinned months and I can’t have the slightest bit of perspiration or unabsorbed moisture on my skin or I will be wearing tiger stripes.

I have always been cheap with bronzers, thinking they’re all the same. Cargo’s products feel better of quality, the product lasts through the day and the color is true to the package, but maybe I am just better suited for my Physician’s Formula and Body Shop bronzers because I can apply them practically with my eyes closed and end up with a natural glow.

Pop Beauty Eye Class for Brown Eyes: If I didn’t have Toya with me, I would have never even looked at this brand or this compact of shadows. Forgive me, but I have never heard of Pop Beauty until I couple of weeks ago, and I feel that if I haven’t heard of it, I feel it mustn’t be that phenomenal. I read Allure, Lucky, Jane, Vogue and Bazaar almost monthly… I feel slightly in the know regarding cosmetic brands.

Well Toya mentioned that the shadows for this brand are quite good, and I tried some on my hand and was impressed by the pigment, the lasting power and the variety of shades. I am not a fan of kitchy casing (gold pleather case to look like a wallet or billfold), or of compacts claiming to have every shade work for a certain coloring, but I was willing to be open-minded. One shade is an acidic green-tinted yellow (last color on the right) that I would normally never purchase, but it reminded me of a color Kevyn Aucoin applied on a curly blonde in one of his makeup books so I decided to try the collection.

Note to self – I do not look good in red eyeshadow. I tried the mauve and cranberry shadows one day and looked tres rabbit-esque. However the other shades are mostly ones I would normally purchase and I am very pleased with how they look (especially the acidic yellow), the moderate level of shimmer and the long lasting crease-free wear. Yes, the shadows are very small and I can’t wiggle my crease brush (Trish McEvoy #29 blending brush) into the pot to my heart’s delight, but these shadows still pack a punch and when wetted, make a wonderful liner. Surprised, and pleased!

L’Oreal Color Juice Stick in Berry Spritzer: I am a creature of habit. Strong eyes, light glossy lips is the way I go. I am a klutz, a nail biter, so not the poster girl for a colorful lipstick. However with these new hydrating and sheer formulas on the market, I am considering a change to my daily routine.

I already had a Color Juice in a sheer pale pink (Strawberry Fizz) – color so light it looked more like a gloss than an actual lipstick. The smell was divine, my lips felt soft and juicy, and I thought it was good enough of a product to venture into darker territory.

Well it’s a bit more… berry than I expected (which is pretty ridiculous since it IS called Berry Spritzer), it looks almost like a shade that my Aunt may favor, but I still like it. With a very minimal eye and dewy skin, it can be quite beautiful. my favorite part? it gently and evenly fades away so I don’t end up with stained or uneven lips. The scent is far less obvious than the Strawberry Fizz, but still quite pleasant. It feels creamy on the lips for a long time, and doesn’t dry me out like traditional lipsticks. The shimmer is minimal – enough to make it look soft and girly, but mild enough that it is totally appropriate for a conservative work environment. Because it’s a sheer product, I am not afraid to apply it sans mirror (very important for me because though I love all things beauty-related, I hate being high-maintenance). A great summer lipcolor!

Find great deals on Cosmetics at Shopzilla…

Oh, and to let you know, you can sign up on the right to get my blog posts delivered to you via email. Kinda a cool feature I found on the ‘net. I find it hysterical that this weekend someone unsubscribed from this blog for the reason of “not frequent enough of posts.” I thought I was a bit of a blogaholic on this site! That’s what I get for not posting on Thursday! :-)