Beauty + Style

I’ve never described myself as particularly “crunchy” of a gal. I appreciate modern medicine, I don’t always buy organic, and I’ve made peace with the fact that I live in a big city and probably consume a million pollutants a day. That being said, I do appreciate when I can cut out any harmful chemicals from my life, and that goes double while I’m growing another human.

Recently, a friend and her mother started a company that produces more natural pharmaceutical and skincare products called Branch to Nature. I had never had the opportunity to try their goods before, but they recently launched a Mommy Collection, and my friend asked if I would be interested in trying their natural deodorant in exchange for a review.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Total confession: I have always been skeptical of natural deodorants. One time, in the seventh grade, our science teacher told us that regular deodorant would give us alzheimer’s because of the aluminum, so I scoured the drugstore shelves for one that didn’t have the metal ingredient. Two days later, I was running back to my chemical-laden version because, folks, I was a sweaty beast. I have never strayed since then.

But I have always felt a twinge of guilt using the regular brands. And, as I said, guilt is twofold when you are eating (and, I guess, deodorizing?) for two. So I readily accepted her offer.

My first impression of the deodorant was that the smell is very strongly herbal. I actually came to like the smell in the next couple of days (the lavender and chamomile smell much fresher than what I was using before), but initially I was a little concerned about smelling like potpourri. Fear not, though, the smell doesn’t linger.

The Branch to Nature Mommy Collection Deodorant is not only aluminum-free, it’s also without parabens, sulfates, and triclosan — in fact, it’s made virtually exclusively with natural oils, herbs, and butters.

Of course, it’s not as strong as that prescription-strength bottle you picked up at CVS. But it does work pretty well. You just might have to apply once in the morning and once in the evening. I did this on days I worked out and had no issues. And it is nice knowing that you’re not putting anything harmful in your (or your baby’s) system.

To my readers with kids: Did you switch a lot of skincare products when you got pregnant? I also switched out my facial regimen for products made for pregnant women (AKA, no more anti-aging products…sigh.)

To my readers in general: Do you use (or have you tried) natural deodorant? What did you think?

I hate the skirt I’m wearing today. I hate it every time I wear it.

It looks even worse in person. (And yes, I'm in a bathroom. DON'T JUDGE ME.)

It looks even worse in person. (And yes, I’m in a bathroom. DON’T JUDGE ME.)

It’s not that it’s just ill-fitting — this skirt is the definition of frumpy. I originally purchased it from a thrift store for BEANS. It was at least two sizes too big, but it was from Banana Republic, and I figured even with tailoring (it’s an A-line skirt — HOW HARD COULD THAT BE?) it would still be significantly cheaper than buying it retail.

Spoiler alert: Even tailoring has done nothing to alleviate the frump-factor of this skirt. It has these pockets, which I would normally love, but that stick out like a pair of book-size bat ears, giving my hips the appearance of being as wide as the day is long. (Note the weird pocket bulge on the right side of the above photo. I do not make this up.) Not exactly flattering.

In general, I have no problem getting rid of clothing that does not actively improve my life. You guys know this.

So why would I keep (and regularly wear) a skirt I feel like I’m in my own personal blood feud with? I like the challenge.

I’ve had an ironically torrid love affair with modest skirts in the last couple of years. Midi skirts? Those are my jam. And all of my pencil skirts run at least a couple of inches below my knees.

What I love about these skirts is that they are undeniably ladylike AND they force me to be more thoughtful about the rest of my outfit. I’m a firm believer that successful fashion is all about the give-and-take: shorter hemlines are ALWAYS paired with full-length sleeves and a lower neckline looks gauche with too much leg showing. Modest skirts require more effort to also look chic.

Which brings me back to the skirt in question. I’m telling you guys, I’ve tried my DANGDEST to get that thing to look fashionable. Sometimes, I think I’m close. A cute pair of nude heels and a fitted sweater will almost get us there. It ALMOST works because the skirt is so huge it makes my waist look tinier I GUESS? But the fact is, I’m constantly reaffirming in my head that I don’t look like a bag lady when I’m wearing it.

That is not the desirable effect of any fashion choice.

Am I the only person who has a piece of clothing with which I have this relationship? What would YOU do to make this skirt work? Or should I just accept that it IS ill-fitting and throw in the (frumpy, lumpy) towel?

You ARE our only hope.

I’ve mentioned my (wedding planner) friend Cynthia a few times on my blog. She’s an incredibly talented event planner, and everything she puts together seems to go off without a hitch.

The adorable Cynthia!

The adorable Cynthia!

This is never more clear than at her annual tea party. This was the first year I was able to attend, and Cynthia asked if I wanted to share the details on my blog. Y’all know I love a party, so I happily obliged. Here’s what we ate (and drank), how she decorated, and what we wore.

The Details

invite-edited

mxHfI9KfADJi6g2Tskr9FUtTPdJCSoxIXqbF9TBjDmI

ASg4ihhehlidv4XjukNKVv2c05PWiVTg5CQT2e4S0Ew

IhVjQDNAplPfav5BV_LYZVO3yqnGWTQSlsRdVBgpBtM
Like me, Cynthia appreciates the value of a paper invitation. A couple of weeks before her fete, she sent out these sweet invites. Each invitee was instructed to wear their “prettiest dress and loveliest hat.”

For decor, Cynthia created rustic-style centerpieces out of a variety of colorful flowers. The shabby chic theme continued with the place settings, which she created by combining about four different sets of china.

My contribution to the party was a game I dubbed “Tea (and Questions) for Two.” On slips of paper, I printed a variety of “getting to know you” questions. One person would draw a question that they would have to answer, and then they would pick someone else at the party they didn’t know as well to answer the question as well. Then the selected person would draw a new question that she would answer, and then she would pick a new person to answer, too. It was a simple, fun way to learn a little someone about every other person at the party.

The Food

jyPFqPmO0izUmIGbv-JY30cKtEKSZBAupx4bXz1dENU

4UiRLG-l_ujtCiJKYOp6g7rBfWBFQXKR2bbZlL_PHAc
I can personally attest to the deliciousness of the food. We started with a strawberry, spinach, and feta salad, followed by three kinds of tea sandwiches (cucumber, smoked salmon, and chicken salad), lemon squares, Greek and black-and-white cookies, and, of course, scones. Here’s the recipe Cynthia used to create the scones:

Blueberry Scones (adapted from Robert Irvine’s eat!)

FQS4WSU1v4LiGoUGRafbgdpqDsaq6_qVj4o-nB8hB6M

Ingredients
1/4 cup butter, cold and cut in pats
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 egg, beaten
zest of an orange

Directions
Step one: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Step two: In a large bowl, blend the butter pats with the flour, sugar, grown sugar, salt, orange zest, and baking powder by hand until the butter has been combined.

Step three: Add blueberries and mix well. Don’t crush all the berries!

Step four: In a second bowl, blend the cream, half-and-half, and egg with a whisk. Stir in flour mixture until dough comes together.

Step five: Remove scone dough from bowl and knead on floured counter, rolling 5-6 times. Do not overblend, or the dough will be too tough. Divide into 12 triangular shaped portions and arrange on a cookie sheet.

Step six: Bake until the tops are slightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Step seven: Serve with jame and clotted cream, flavored mascarpone, or creme fraiche. (We had the creme fraiche, and I can HIGHLY recommend it.)

The signature drink was (obviously) tea.

The Style

UfHtRt6Axz-JaFiM8eW700LycZgHd88gL5D84caVGIQ

MAyYS7LWXAq4sMUn0BB7vQtf4ZguAy4MRwDnDqIbM-Q

-zD0z5tC_PvuL3f_-GPe2L-TVjg39na-ehqsCI35_kw
I tell you what — you tell these girls to bring out their tea party best, and they will not disappoint. Cynthia even brought a selection of extra hats for anyone who didn’t have one on hand. I wore a floral dress from Forever 21 (a million years ago…but you can find a similar style here or here), a double strand of vintage pearls (okay, okay, they were just beads), and the world’s cutest hat from Fascinators First on Etsy. If you need a hat or fascinator, I can highly recommend her — the hats look exactly the same as in the picture, and shop owner Rita is willing to customize just about anything.

Over all, everyone had a lovely time at the party, and it’s always a great way to get to know a new group of gals. Thanks again for planning, Cynthia!

C8qlKskk1nGuInxaqtOdcHYjJC6W3CQU8dRfTnSfQow

 

Photos by Monica Vasquez — Contact me for her info!

I’m not particularly proud of this, but I have to admit, the hardest part about my newly reorganized money priorities has been not shopping.

Fall is my favorite season, and, as I’ve said before, a lot of this has to do with how much I love fall clothes.

Now, I’m not cracking (I swear), but for whatever reason, I decided it would be helpful for me to just put down everything I wish I could buy. Sort of like when you can’t sleep until you write out a list of everything you need to do. (I’m not the only one who does that, right?)

So, anyway. Consider this my sartorial catharsis.

Here are the 6 things I would buy if I was fall shopping but that I won’t buy because I’m being responsible. (Sigh.)

6 Things for Fall

1. Wool coats. 
Specifically these two from J.Crew. I’m dying for a camel-colored funnel neck coat and a ladylike mint wool number. Dying.

2. Wool dresses with sleeves. Why am I so obsessed with wool? Maybe it’s leftover post-traumatic stress from last winter, but whatever the reason, I can’t get enough. And I LOVE dresses with sleeves. These three from Boden are in particularly striking shades.

3. Distressed jeans. But not just any distressed jeans. Subtly distressed. So they can still be dressed up for the office or a night out with a pretty silk blouse and heels.

4. Blazers. I have been coveting a white/cream blazer for, I don’t know, three years, but never pulled the trigger for some reason. And lately I’ve become mildly obsessed with blush tweed jackets. I mean, how polished would I look ALL THE TIME?

5. Wear-all-the-time fall shoes. I really want to find a fall equivalent of the brown wedge sandals I wore all summer long, and a pair of low-heeled ankle strap black shoes and a suede stacked heel seem like the perfect solutions to me.

6. A bulky gold statement necklace. Again, the wearability of this piece is what appeals to me — it’s perfect for dressing up literally everything from a white button-down to a cotton T-shirt to, let’s say, a simple wool dress with sleeves.

It might sound weird, but I actually do feel better getting this all out there in the open. At least it’s out of my brain, ya know?

Join me in my dreaming — what are you shopping for this fall?

Ladies and gents, I need a favor.

Don’t worry — I’m not hitting you up for money or anything that requires actual effort on your part. (I wouldn’t do that to you on a Monday.)

What I need are your opinions. I know — I’m actually asking for you to judge me! Or more specifically, my glasses.

Bogey recently chewed up my glasses rendering them very difficult to wear without risk of impaling myself. I’ve also been wanting to try out Warby Parker, a service that sends you frames to try on before you buy, pretty much since it launched a couple of years ago. If that’s not the stars aligning, I don’t know what is.

The point is, my five try-on frames arrived today, and I need your help choosing which ones to buy. Let’s get right to the options, SHALL WE?

 

Chamberlain in Whiskey Tortoise

Chamberlain in Whiskey Tortoise

These are the biggest of the bunch, though as one of my coworkers said, they don’t seem too heavy. Definitely a front runner.

Duval in Whiskey Tortoise

Duval in Whiskey Tortoise

To me, these seem the “heaviest” on my face.

Haskell in Woodgrain Tortoise

Haskell in Woodgrain Tortoise

The only round pair in the bunch, requested mainly to add a little variety. I don’t think I’m feeling it, but what do you guys think?

Holt in Striped Sassafras

Holt in Striped Sassafras

These just seem really big on my face. Are they really big on my face?

Finch in Violet Magnolia

Finch in Violet Magnolia

These cat-eye lenses are the ones I’m leaning toward the most. BUT AM I MAKING A HORRIBLE MISTAKE?

You see why I need you guys. Please comment and let me know what I should do with my life glasses I should buy!

{I want it all.}

{I want it all.}

As per my money simplification goals, I’ve been trying to not only be stricter about what I spend money on, but also more aware of the areas where I tend to overspend.

My Mint account has been really useful for identifying the areas of life where this happens. The biggest offender to my budget? Lack of planning.

How many times have I had to buy a $1.50 bottle of water for the gym because I forgot my refillable one at home? How many times have I had to buy a $12 lunch because I forgot to pack something the night before? How many times have I impulsed shopped to kill time, only to realize later that I only bought what I did because it was on sale or something?

The answer to all three of those questions is “way too many times.”

Joey and I have decided to be really strict about spending for the rest of the year, only really spending money on a pre-planned trip to California in November. The first thing I cut out of my spending plans? Shopping — especially of the impulse variety.

This is especially hard for me as fall (my FAVORITE season) approaches, and with it an onslaught of fall clothing (also my favorite). In order to keep myself in check, I made a list of the things I am allowed to buy for the remainder of 2014:

1. Two pairs of jeans — a lighter denim and a blue denim. I bought these yesterday — one pair was only $18! (Prior to this purchase, I had two pairs of jeans, and one had a broken zipper I still need to get fixed.)
2. A gray t-shirt. This was also bought yesterday (for $8!). I can’t tell you how many times I find an outfit on Pinterest and all I need to recreate it is a gray T-shirt. For whatever reason, I’ve never had one.
3. Underwear. TMI? Whatever. I needed two new bras (bought these for the price of one with a coupon) and regular underwear (yet to buy).
4. A black, semi-casual, sleeveless fit-and-flare dress that I can wear to work and basically anywhere else. It’s really only in the last year that I’ve acquired a few LBDs (a dressy strapless version, a dressy sleeveless version, and a long-sleeved cotton version), and this is the one staple I am still missing.
5. Nice pajamas. One of my coworkers told me I don’t actually need these, but I’ve decided I’ll feel better about myself if I’m not going to sleep in ratty gym clothes every night. I’m weird, but suffice to say this is important to me. And I’m planning to buy them at H&M or Gap anyway, so it’s not a huge expense.

That’s it. You might notice a lack of sweaters, boots, jackets, scarves, and all other fall paraphernalia that brings me joy. (I will allow that I will also probably buy a couple pairs of black tights, though.) It’s honestly a sacrifice for me, but the results (debts paid off and a more substantial savings account) will be worth it.

The biggest thing I’ve found to be helpful in sticking to this list is actually writing the list down and keeping it as a reminder. That way, even if I’m presented with the opportunity to shop, it’s much easier for me to resist because an item isn’t on my list. The more I prepare, the easier it is to keep focused on my goals.

Besides, it’s just one fall season, and if I’m totally honest, I already have an abundance of fall clothing that is still in style and perfectly fine. This should not be so hard!

Do you make shopping lists each season? What’s on your must-buy list this fall?