Crafts & How-Tos

For whatever reason, summer seems to have hit New York with a fiery passion this last week. It’s supposed to rain sometime Friday, so hopefully we’ll get some relief, but as of last night, things were a bit, shall we say, steamy.

And not in a sexy way. There’s nothing sexy about the backs of your legs sticking to whatever you’re sitting on from the sweat. Just sayin.

The point is, the hubs and I were looking for some refreshment.

I’ve never been a huge beer drinker, and since my favorite brew isn’t even available in New York, I’m more inclined to order a cocktail, wine, or cider out at bars. The first drink I legally purchased (just moments after turning 21 my first summer in New York) actually happened to be cider.

Don’t believe me? Check it.

Photo taken by my darling friend Susan. Yes, I had short hair. Yes, I was fatter. Let’s move along, shall we?

The point is, I really love cider, especially in the summer. What I don’t love? The extra calories. Which is why I was really excited when I heard about Michelob ULTRA Light Cider.

In case you haven’t heard of it, Michelob ULTRA Light Cider is a less sweet, lower calorie alternative to traditional ciders. In fact, it has one third fewer calories than the average cider. Well played, Michelob ULTRA. Well played indeed.

We enjoyed our cider with homemade shrimp fajitas, which is quite possibly the easiest dinner ever.

Simply saute sliced peppers and onions for about seven minutes whilst lightly sauteing the shrimp in another pan.

I added a few dashes of paprika, cumin, and cayenne to each while cooking for a little kick. Once the onions and peppers are soft and the shrimp are pink and curled, you’re done with the cooking portion.

Add chopped veggies (like tomatoes and lettuce), freshly grated cheese, and some non-fat plain Greek Chobani in place of sour cream, and you’re done!

And I have to admit, Michelob ULTRA Light Cider made a pretty great pairing with the fajitas. It’s really refreshing (ideal for heat waves) and will appeal to anyone who likes traditional cider. (Translation: It doesn’t even taste like alcohol. Proceed with caution.)

Want to try it for yourself? Michelob ULTRA Light Cider will be available nationwide (excluding CO, UT, WY and OK) beginning May 7, 2012, and will be available in six-packs of 12-ounce clear glass bottles. And in case you like your drinks really cold, it can also be served over ice. Just got a little chill, didn’t you?

Have you tried this cider? Which favorite summer meal do you think would go best with Michelob ULTRA Light Cider?

Well, I guess this is the unofficial week of how-tos. I’m okay with that. Let’s begin.

I always say that it’s really hard to get a candid photo of me. For whatever reason, I am almost always acutely aware of when a camera is in my vicinity and especially when it’s pointed in my direction.

Okay, the “reason” is that I grew up in the age of Facebook and Instagram. And I know you’re going to put that picture online and probably tag me, and no amount of sepia filters is going to save it. This is a pre-emptive strike on unflattering photos.

People sometimes tell me I’m photogenic (*hair flip and heavy sigh*), but the fact is that I just know how to look like a normal, reasonably attractive human in a photo. Because, yes, it takes some forethought and effort for most of us.

AND TODAY I SHARE MY SECRETS WITH YOU.

(I know. I just got a little chill too.)

Actually, I’m really sharing tips from my photographer/model little sister. Yeah, she IS obnoxiously cool/attractive. Don’t believe me? This is her:

{photos (left-to-right, top-to-bottom) by Jake Blomberg, Figment Art Photo, Alyssa Smith, and Ben Blood}

Aaaand this is me:

So…yeah. But the fact is, girl knows how to take a pretty picture. Let’s let the professional give the REAL advice, shall we?

So without further ado, here are Joelle’s tips for not looking ridiculous in photos. (With my two cents where it’s relevant.)

1. Know your angles!
Everyone has good and bad angles. Everyone. Sure, some people have more of each, but everyone has at least one of each. Don’t believe me?

{source}

Obviously, this is not really an UGLY picture. (It’s Adriana Lima, folks. Like I said, some people just have a lot of good angles.) But it’s certainly not the most flattering picture of her you’ve ever seen.

The fact remains, it’s important to know that you have bad angles as well as what they are. As a girl with a crooked nose and a wide jaw-line, I know that 75 percent of my angles can be disastrous. But when I hit that sweet spot? I’ll break your heart.

Joelle had this to say: “You usually don’t want to face directly onto the camera. Always focus on your angles. [ed note: SEE YOU GUYS? I KNOW STUFF.] Even if it’s just slightly turned. And if it’s face on, cock a shoulder up or back so it isn’t a straight line.”

Fortunately, the best part about growing up with Facebook is that you’ve probably seen a lot of photos of yourself from different angles. You can tell which ones work best for you, or at least which ones you prefer to dwell in the public sphere. Don’t be afraid to insist on those angles. It’s a running joke with my friends that I insist on being on the left side or in the middle of group photos. Remember that crooked nose? Photos from the right are not kind to it. (AND THE INTERNET IS FOREVER.)

A bit vain? Perhaps. But I don’t see why purposely taking unflattering photos helps anyone.

2. You have the right to skinny (looking) arms.
I talked a bit too much on the last tip. Here’s Joelle’s advice on this one:

“People seem to have picked up on popping their hand on their hip to make their arm appear slimmer.. Try bringing it down a little lower to elongate the arm. To avoid the cliche altogether, just hold your arm away from your body slightly to avoid the smooshed look.”

Smooshed being the technical term here.

Again, my friends tease me about the “hip pop” being my signature photo move:

But if it ain’t broke, amiright?

3. Have fun with it.
When it comes to Facebook photos, you’re (most likely) not working on your modeling portfolio, but rather capturing a moment. Joelle recommends laughing (or faking a laugh) right before the picture to give your grin some sincerity.

“If you’re having a good time, it will come through in the photo,” she says.

Examples from our respective engagement photos:

{figment art photo}

{Ben Blood}

And finally…

4. Look up.
“If all else fails, photos from above are fun!” Joelle says.

Plus, the chances for an accidental double-chin are greatly diminished. Just saying.

What are your tips for taking better photos? Do you agree that it’s unfair how attractive my sister is?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

If you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of in to online shopping. I love the ease of searching for exactly what I want (instead of getting super overwhelmed in a department store), and I find that there are so many more ways to save money when you online shop.

And just because I’m feeling super generous, I’m going to share my online shopping wisdom with all of you. Because I’ve found that most people, you know, enjoy spending less money for the same stuff.

1. Figure out what you want.
Whether you’re figuring out what to wear to a bridal shower, upgrading your spring wardrobe, or shopping for a friend, you want to narrow down your options. Usually I’ll check out my favorite online retailers first (Banana Republic, J. Crew, Gap, Macy*s, Nordstrom, etc.), but if I want something super specific (like, say, an inexpensive, bright green, backless, floaty-sleeved dress), I find I have much better success with a Google shopping search. (Sometimes an image search can also be helpful.)

This also helps me narrow down what is available and sort by price. Hint: Sorting by price can be very helpful in that it keeps you from falling in love with anything above your budgeted price. Not that I’ve ever done that…

2. Get cash back.
I know, I know, I’m beating a dead horse here. But I really don’t understand how everyone doesn’t use Ebates when they online shop. As I’ve explained in the past, Ebates gives you cash back for virtually all online retailers. They get money for referring you to the retailer’s site, and they split the profits with you. Every couple of months, I get a check for around $30.

I know it’s not really free money, but it sure does feel like it.

So once I’ve figured out where I want to purchase my item from, I always check to see if it’s an Ebates retailer. Nine times out of 10, it is. Simply click the referal button (it’s the giant orange “Shop Now” button), and shop like you normally would.

3. Find coupon codes.
You know how every time you check out online, there’s a field that asks you if you have a coupon or promotion code? If you’re like me, you used to always think, “Dang. That would be useful.”

Because, as we’ve covered, EVERYONE likes spending less than they have to.

But the fact is, I very rarely have an actual coupon, and I usually only get those emails from stores with coupon codes when I don’t actually need to buy anything. (I swear they time it that way.)

Then, one day, I got wise.

I started by simply Google searching “Banana Republic coupon code”, or whatever store I was looking at at the time.

You guys. Did you know there are entire websites dedicated to curating lists of coupon and promotion codes around the web? Well…there are.

My search brought up dozens of sites, but some of the most popular (are most inclusive) are RetailMeNot.com, Coupons.com, and FatWallet.com. I would recommend just searching the store because some sites will have more coupons for certain places. Even Ebates lists their own coupon codes on each retailer’s profile.

What I’m saying is, there are a lot of opportunities to save.

So those are my three steps to online shopping. Anyone else have any tricks to share? (You know, to feed my addiction.)

Let’s get one thing straight: I have never really known what to wear to concerts.

I didn’t attend my first real, standing-room-only-sweaty-crowd-with-a-mosh-pit concert (Sorry, Christina Aguilera at the Iowa State Fair, I’m not counting you. My parents were there, and my belly was full of pulled pork and funnel cake.) until my senior year of high school, and by then my fashion sense was fairly solidified in the preppy/classic category. I think I wore a T-shirt and jeans, but I know I stressed for a week that I would stand out like the wannabe I was. (Am?)

Honestly, sometimes I feel like I missed teen trendiness altogether. No one is surprised.

Anyway. Concerts. Teen fashion. The point is, I don’t get it. Obviously.

Which is really unfortunate because I’m going to a The Wanted concert on Thursday.

Did I just blow your mind a little? Trust me, no one is more surprised at this turn of events than I am. Here’s how it happened:

My dear friend Erin works for a major entertainment magazine. One of her editors had two extra tickets to the show and offered them to Erin. Erin sent me the following correspondence:

Erin: Would you have any interest in going to a The Wanted concert on Thursday? Or are you too old to even find that amusing?

Me: Actually, the amusement factor is EXACTLY why I would go to that concert. Let’s do it.

So, I am excited. Because sometimes crazy tweens can be funny. But I’m also concerned.

BECAUSE WHAT DO I WEAR?

Not wanting to resort to the belly shirts, I turned to the internet. I tried searching “what do wear to a the wanted concert,” but it just turned up pictures of the guys. Not helpful. Next, I broadened out and searched “what to wear to a concert.” Here are a few common denominators I noticed.

1. Leggings, flowy top, booties.

{source}

Skinny legs and billowy  tops are apparently in right now. And booties seem to be the shoe of choice for teen concerts. (Probably smart considering the likelihood of getting stomped by a crazed fan.)

2. Black tank, skinny jeans, long necklace.

{source}

This is the look I feel I can most confidently replicate. Plus, I totally have all those things. (Minus the patterned clutch, which I actually think is pretty cute.) My inner teen is so proud.

3. Flowy tank, vest, fedora.

{source}

I actually have a vest that I have maybe worn once. I never know exactly why I’m keeping it. MAYBE IT WAS FOR THIS MOMENT. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I don’t have a fedora. I have a big head, and they tend to fit weird. So…yeah.

4.Chambray, bangles, short black skirt.

{source}

I’ve started collecting a lot more bracelets lately, and maybe I could swap the skirt for shorts? They’re also pretty in, especially with tights underneath. (OR SO I’VE READ BECAUSE I’M SECRETLY NINETY YEARS OLD.)

5. Mini dress, jean jacket, combat boots.

{source}

I have a denim jacket. But that’s about it for this look.

So there you have it. Look #2 is probably going to be the winner. Unless my oh-so-wise readers have better advice for me?

And don’t worry, I’ll be sure to tell you guys all about the experience on Friday.

Thanks for reading one of my blog’s most popular posts! Don’t miss my other Style+Beauty posts here. Welcome to Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One!

You know what we haven’t had on the blog in a while? An experiment. Let’s remedy that, shallll we?

Anyone who pays any attention to the care of their hair has probably heard that you’re not supposed to wash it every day. Daily lathering strips your hair of natural oils, leads to dryness and breakage, and (for those of us who color our hair) fades color and shine faster. Washing your hair too often is actually what causes oily hair (I know; the irony…) and makes your mane more difficult to manage over time.

As a medium-maintenance girl who spends a fair amount on the care of her hair, the last thing I want is to make that investment and then undermine it by doing something as simple as washing my hair too much.

So last week, I skipped shampoo-ing for six days.

Just to clarify, I did not skip showering for six days. (I’m not a mountain man, y’all.) But no water, soap, or conditioner touched my head for the duration of the experiment. (If you’re thinking of trying this out for yourself but are nervous about things getting…well…stinky, you could continue to condition your hair once or twice during the six days. Just leave the shampoo bottle alone until the end.)

The kicker to this experiment? No one knew what I was doing. Even my husband didn’t notice for the first four days (though after I told him what was going on, he did say he’d noticed that my showers had been much faster…and my hair seemed to “dry” very quickly). By the end of the fifth day, I think it’s safe to say things were getting a little…ripe. But unless someone has their nose buried in your hair, you’re probably safe from detection.

How did I do it? Here’s a quick breakdown.

Day 1: I knew this would be my only day to really style my hair, so I blow-dried it as perfectly as I could. The closer to perfect your hair starts out, the longer it will last. I used all the products I normally do (leave-in conditioner on the ends, heat protectant spray, and root boosting spray) but with a slightly lighter hand because I didn’t want things to get weighed down too early on.

Peace, y’all.

Day 2: As you can see, I didn’t really do anything on the second day except brush out my hair. (I almost always wear my hair in a high bun overnight to keep if from tangling while I thrash around in my sleep sleep, and this also helped maintain the blow-out.) I did use a few shots of hairspray on my roots to keep the style from looking too flat. If your hair is especially oily, a few shakes of dry shampoo also wouldn’t hurt on this day.

Nerd alert.

Day 3: Though my bangs are nearly completely grown out, I still have a few shorter layers that spend much of their day touching my forehead. Which means they tend to get oily much faster than the rest of my hair. To hide the evidence, I twisted back my bangs and pinned them out of the way. (Use this technique to hide the pins if you prefer.)

Day 4: Because I worked out the night before, this is definitely the day when my hair started to need a little more help. Which is why day four is when I started embracing the updo. By pulling back my bangs and cinching everything in a ponytail, I still managed to look pulled together despite feeling a little unwashed. (Ugh.)

Day 5: Not going to lie; I almost broke on day five. By this morning, I had worked out twice without washing my hair, and I was feeling a little grimy. Determined to stay the course, I just did whatever I could to keep my hair off my face (and to keep myself from touching it, thereby exacerbating the grease problem) by braiding everything back and to the side. Bonus: The extra grit actually helped the braid stay together better than it does when my hair is clean. Who knew?

Fingers got cut off…whoops.

Day 6: I was pretty happy this would be the last day of the experiment. Rather than even attempting to style my hair, I settled for my favorite “my hair is too dirty to do anything with” style and went with a top knot. The good news is that dirty hair is easier to style in an updo and the extra…gross-ness made the bun fuller. The bad news is that if you got too close, my hair was definitely a little pungent.

And it has to be said, the first shower I took where I washed my hair was practically a religious experience.

Ok, not literally, but it did feel pretty darn good. And my hair felt softer and looked a bit shinier than it had prior to the great hair-washing experiment of 2012. As for the specifics:

– After the second day, I didn’t add any additional products to my hair, though you could use hairspray or a few bursts of leave-in conditioner or dry shampoo as necessary (and to cover any smell if you need to).

– I went to the gym days 3-5. I think if I had gone every single day, I wouldn’t have been able to go the full six days without washing, but everyone’s hair texture is different. To get through at least a couple of workouts without shampooing, wear your hair in the highest ponytail or bun possible while you’re working out, and then, when you’re done, take your hair down and let the whole thing air-dry. Most of the sweat will have collected at your temples and the nape of your neck, but that’s fairly easy to conceal.

– As I said before, I didn’t wet my hair at all during the 6 days (my hair air-dries kind of wonky and I avoided heat styling after the first day), but you certainly could if you chose too. I also think adding some curl or wave to your hair the first day would help hide grease throughout the week. Just be sure to brush your hair out every night to distribute natural oils, remove any dead hairs, and keep things from getting matted.

– One of the biggest pros to this experiment was that my showers literally took four minutes. And since there was no hair-drying, I was ready to go the second I toweled off. (Ok, and after I put clothes on.) Less water and less energy usage? That’s right, folks; we’re also saving the environment while we reduce our split ends.

While I don’t know if I’ll do the full six days again, I’ve definitely been making an effort to go at least three. I think before I was just concerned that if I didn’t wash it after every workout, it would be super noticeable, but now I don’t have that concern anymore.

What’s the longest you’ve gone without washing your hair? Anyone else going to try this out?

Thanks for reading one of my blog’s most popular posts! Don’t miss my other Style+Beauty posts here. Welcome to Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One!

Speaking of updates, remember the rug?

Well, it sure is looking mighty cozy on our living room floor:

But what about the other updates we discussed? Well, after much deliberation, I decided to forgo the turquoise pillows in favor of the green ones we received from our wedding registry. (Thanks, friends who chipped in to buy them for us!) Adding the third color made the room look a little random, and the green pillows tie in the green chair nicely.

As for the wall art, rather than investing in a new piece (when Lord knows I’ll probably change my mind again this winter), I decided to get crafty with a piece I already had.

Remember the blue bird wall art from this post? I decided he could come back out of the closet (where he’s been for a few months) if I changed his colors. Here’s how it went down.

{bird picture, acrylic paints}

I started by mixing a coral paint with a bit of orange to keep the color from looking too pink. I had white paint on hand in case I messed up. To fill in the color, I used two thin brushes. (The smaller the brush the better since I was painting over some pretty fine lines.)

Verrrryyyyy carefully, I started painting the coral color over any blue in the painting. It was surprisingly relaxing work. I basically dotted the paint on because basic strokes looked too smooth compared to the rest of the print.

The finished painting! Looks pretty good, right? Here’s how the room looks currently:

As always, sorry for the lame “photography.” Someday I’ll get a better camera, I promise.

Anyway, the room is definitely feeling springier and ready for warm weather.

Anyone else make any decor changes over the weekend?