I won’t lie to you — one of the best parts of having a daughter is getting dressed up.

I wasn’t super girlie growing up, but I’ve definitely embraced all things dresses, makeup, and accessories in my adult years. Fortunately for me, my little lady seems to already have gained an appreciation for most things pretty and sparkly.

And there’s nothing like a tea party to bring out all the girlie goodness. (That sounds dirty? It’s not…moving on.)

Recently, we were invited to attend my friend Cynthia’s annual tea party. (You might remember her last one here.) This year, I was super excited to be able to bring Vivi to her first high tea — and even more excited to dress her up for it.

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IMG_7414Per usual, Cynthia’s hosting was superb. We ate a combination of finger sandwiches, blueberry scones, and four different types of cookies with our tea and champagne. I love how Cynthia always uses a mix of pottery and flatware to give the whole event an Alice in Wonderland effect.

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Now for the style! My favorite part of the tea party is that we all wear some kind of hat. Last time, I wore a fascinator. But this time, I borrowed a pretty striped sun hat to go with my white sheath. (My dress is from LOFT two years ago, but similar styles here, here, and here.)

Blah blah blah. Honestly, the only thing I want to talk about is Vivi’s outfit!

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I mean, come ON. As soon as I knew Vivi needed a hat, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I have been eyeing these glittery gold crowns from Peekabloom Baby for months now, and I was so thrilled to have the occasion to get one.

The crowns are lined with felt (either pink or mint) and held on with a matching elastic strap. I was a little nervous that Viv would rip hers off as soon as it went on, but she actually didn’t touch it the entire afternoon. The strap is a little long on her now, so I was able to tie it to a comfortable size.

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The crown itself is just as adorable in person as it looks in photos. It’s super well made and can even stand up to a bit of baby-style handling. I’m planning to reuse it for the next photo shoot we do with my sister. Plus, Alysse, the fabulous crown maker, is offering my readers a 20 percent off discount code! Just use SUNNY20 at checkout. (She also has a whole collection of adorable bows that can stick on even the baldest baby’s head — they’re almost magic.)

Vivi’s dress is by Carter’s (actual dress no longer available, but similar styles here and here).

Thank you again for having us, Cyndy! Everything was perfect!

It’s funny how life teaches you things. Sometimes, they are profound things. Sometimes, not so much.

A few months ago, I started having doubts about our living room arrangement. When we first moved into our tiny two-bedroom, we struggled with a few things.

For one, this apartment is really weirdly shaped. Ignoring the labyrinth hallways leading back to the baby’s nursery, even our “open” spaces are strangely laid out with a variety of weird pockets and wall extensions that leave us with very few open expanses of wall.

Our initial idea was to use our couch to create a bit of separation between the kitchen and the living room. We also weren’t sure where to put the TV, and the one big open wall seemed like the best option.

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That’s an old picture (we didn’t even have the rug down yet), but you get the idea.

But as time went on and Vivi became more and more mobile, the couch breaking up the room seemed like less and less of a good idea. For one, if I tried to do a few dishes in the middle of the day, it was hard to keep an eye on Vivi if she was sitting on the carpet. And if she wanted to get to me, it meant getting her tiny body around our 7-foot couch.

So I started making plans to move the couch to where the TV had been and the TV to the wall with the window. It’s still not perfect, but the end result is much more open.

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But this isn’t a style post or even a DIY post. This is a story post. Because, let me tell you, rearranging your furniture is a regular excavation for stories.

Here are a few things we learned whilst shoving our stuff around:

If you ever think you’re not important enough to have a long-term impact, try breaking a glass in your apartment. You will find shards of glass for the next calendar year.

A few months ago, I broke a jar of salsa. I had just bought it and was putting away groceries when it slipped from my clutches and smashed onto our tile floors. (Side note: Those are the moments in life when you honestly think about just getting in your car, stepping on the gas, and never looking back. Where do you even BEGIN?) Because I have a dog and a baby, I’m especially conscientious about trying to keep, you know, hazards from lurking around on the floor. So I cleaned up the salsa, swept, vacuumed, and then got down on my hands and knees with a wet paper towel to try to scoop up and remaining splinters of glass. I did this for the better part of an hour.

I STILL find pieces of that dang glass jar from time to time.

And when we moved our couch last week? GLASS CITY. I don’t even know how pieces of glass got where they were without having actual legs to walk there. We may never know.

The point is, broken glass. It’s there, you just have to find it.

You really should measure everything before you try to move it. And then measure again. And did I mention you should measure?

I wish I could tell you it only took us moving one thing (and then having to move it back) for us to learn this lesson. But it took about three things.

If you ever want to feel real dumb, make the same mistake three times in the span of about an hour. And be SHOCKED every time you get the same result.

But after moving our file cabinet and then having to move it back and then moving our pantry and having to move it back and moving pictures and having to move them back, we finally got it. Life lessons, folks.

Babies make even the simplest tasks harder.

I know, you’re STUNNED by this revelation. But, seriously. I think most people expect that having a baby will make going out to dinner harder or saving money harder. But if you think you’re going to move your couch from one side of the room to the other in one fell swoop, you’ve got another thing coming.

Vivi was in some kind of mood when we were trying to move things and wanted to be held every second or she would scream her fool head off like she was being murdered. We would have to move something for a few minutes (while she wailed), then hold her for three minutes (while she sulked), and then put her down and repeat the process about a dozen times until everything was in place.

At one point, I was like, “Should I just strap her to my back while I move this 200-pound couch?” And then I realized that was insane and put her down again.

Sometimes they gotta cry, folks. That’s the life of a baby.

But these difficult lessons aside, we got the room rearranged. And it’s one of those changes that makes you smack your forehead and wonder why you didn’t just do this in the first place. Because now we can open our bathroom door all the way (we moved the bar that had been slightly blocking it next to the couch), use our gateleg table more easily (it can also double as extra counter space in it’s new location), and fit more people around the coffee table for dinner (there is SO much more open floor space).

You live and you learn, right?

What? You don't mop in pumps?

What? You don’t mop in pumps?

I know Memorial Day is not actually the start of summer, but it certainly feels like it. It might just be the humidity, but especially in the city, things just start to feel a bit more festive.

Of course, there is a downside to summer sneaking up on you: You may have officially missed the boat on spring cleaning. (I know. I’ll give you a minute to stop weeping and pull yourself together.)

But just in case you didn’t get around to deep cleaning the curtains and finally organizing that back closet you’re afraid to open (what, just me?), I have a solution. Recently, I discovered three areas of one’s home that can be cleaned and/or organized in about 15 minutes (TOTAL), meaning you can invest a little and feel smugly superior in less time than ever before.

Let’s. Get. Clean.

#1 Your magazine stash: 2 minutes

Maybe it’s a rack, a basket, or just a big pile that doubles as a side table, but odds are that you’ve got a pile of old magazines lying around somewhere. You’ve probably been telling yourself for a year or so that you just can’t toss those old issues because one of them has that recipe you’ve been meaning to try/haircut you want to show your stylist/workout you’re going to do in your living room/etc. But, let’s be real. It’s 2016. We have Pinterest. It’s time to cut ties and set those pages free. In about two minutes, you can whittle down that pile to a handful of favorite issues or even dump the whole thing. Just remember: Magazines can usually be recycled, so do the earth a favor and do that.

#2 Your makeup bag or under your bathroom sink: 3 minutes

Did you know it can actually be dangerous to use cosmetic products after they’ve hit a certain age? Unless you like slathering bacteria all over your face, it’s a good idea to toss makeup after a certain point. (Here’s a guide for how long to keep each item.) Today, spend three minutes checking every item in your makeup bag and throwing out anything past it’s expiration date. Don’t have a makeup bag? Settle for clearing out the area under your bathroom sink (you know you’ve got a million-year-old bottle of shampoo or something under there).

#3 The fridge: 10 minutes

Is there anything worse than getting a whiff of something foul every time you open your fridge? Today, spend ten minutes tossing all the old food and organizing what you want to keep. (Hint: Store all leftovers at eye level or on the top shelf so you’re more likely to notice them and actually eat them before they go bad.) In ten minutes, you’ll probably even have time to wash any newly emptied Tupperware, too.

Look at you! Fifteen minutes later, and you’re surrounded with evidence that you’re a responsible, neat adult. Well done.

What are your favorite quick cleaning chores?

I haven’t done a product round-up in ages, and I always love peeking into people’s makeup bags, so I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favorite cosmetics and tools for flawless skin. Or, you know, as flawless as one can get without the team of Beyonce behind them. (Sorry, dude readers, this post is probably not going to be your favorite.)

Like most things in my life, I try to make health-conscious choices about what I put on my skin, but I’m also balanced. (Or maybe just a bit lazy. But “balanced” makes me sound reasonable, doesn’t it?)

What I’m saying is, that my makeup bag, like so much of my life, is the perfect picture of a high-low collection. In general, I tend to invest in the products that go directly on my skin (as in concealers, foundations, tinted moisturizers, etc.), but for everything else, I’m perfectly comfortable prowling my local drugstore’s cosmetics department.

In today’s round-up, I’m focusing on the items I use to create an “everyday” face. Also known as the “non-makeup makeup.”

If there are still any dude readers hanging on, what I’m saying is that these are the products girls will use and you will think they’re not wearing makeup. We ladies are wizards, I tell you.

Of course, they can also be supplemented with a heavier regime of mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, lipstick…the list goes on. But a good face needs a good foundation, you know? Let’s begin.

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1. Velvet 59 Contour is a Girl’s Best Friend – $45

Pretty much everyone with skin this side of the wester hemisphere is familiar with the concept of contouring these days. What started out as a Kardashian’s right of passage has quickly been embraced — and finessed — by the masses. This pretty contour palette was actually developed by someone I know, and what I love most about it is how easy it makes it to bring a subtle contour into the real world. The cream-to-powder finish feels silky on skin and blends easily, meaning the definition can be subtle or dramatic, depending on your mood or occasion. Plus, all of Velvet 59’s products are cruelty-free, which means you can feel good about your newly defined cheek bones.

2. Maybelline Master Fix Setting + Perfecting Loose Powder – $10

Remember what I was saying about high and low? This translucent powder is available at your local Walgreens, but I think the finish is just as quality as anything you could shell out big bucks for. I don’t use setting powder all over my face every day, but I haven’t found anything that sets under eye concealer quite so well. (Because creasing is real, folks.)

3. bareMinerals bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation – $30

There’s no way to say this without sounding slightly brag-y, but I don’t need (or want) to use a heavy foundation. For most of my life, I’ve used a tinted moisturizer and called it good. (Because while my skin is mostly even, it could always use a little more evening, ya know?) In the past, I had actually steered clear of bareMinerals products because I felt like they had a cake-y, heavy finish that left me looking overly done. And then I discovered they had a liquid line. And, you guys? This serum foundation has the silkiest feel of any foundation-like product I have ever used. It’s super light, and you only need a few drops to cover your whole face. The end result is dewy without looking slick, and, the more I use it, the more I feel like it actually makes my skin look better. Win-win!

4. Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer – $36

I’ll be honest: I’ve never actually purchased this product. I received this tiny sample version for free. But actually, that’s one of the pros: This tiny bottle has lasted for weeks because you only need a little drop for your whole face. And the result? A smooth, flawless palette for your makeup — and matte skin for hours and hours, which is really saying something when you’ve got a slick T-zone like I do.

5. Real Techniques by Sam & Nic Chapman Stippling Brush – $10

Before buying this brush, I had been using a more paintbrush-like foundation brush to apply foundation. Then a girlfriend told me about stippling brushes and promised it would change the way I used makeup. She didn’t overstate this. Whereas the paintbrush tended to smear the foundation more (at least in my experience), the stippling brush made it easier to swirl on the product, resulting in more even coverage. I know there are better quality brushes out there, but, honestly, this brush works just fine for me. And $10? Can’t beat that.

6. beautyblender Original – $20

Speaking of pricier makeup applicators…the beautyblender gets a lot of hype. But, I have to level with you: I really think it lives up to it. Not only is the material perfect for applying almost anything to your skin, from contour to concealer to powder, the shape makes it possible to perfectly apply to every surface of your face. (Looking at you, tricky corner-of-eyes area.) If you’re not sure how to use one, I highly recommend this tutorial from The Beauty Department. The only edit I would make to that article is how to clean your beautyblender. They recommend glycerin soap, which might be fine, but I’ve had great success with castile soap. Apply a few drops directly to the blender, and then use your fingers to work the soap through the sponge. Rinse thoroughly for a pink-like-new result.

7. Maybelline Eye Studio Brow Precise Shaping Pencil – $7

Like contouring, eyebrow products are really having a moment. For the last year, I used a pricier version of a brow pencil that I got for a dollar at a work beauty sale, but when it ran out, I decided to see if I could get a similar result with a drugstore product. I liked that this Maybelline pencil has a similar shape the the version I used before with a brush on one end, and I actually think it shapes my brows better than the pricier option. I’m fortunate that my eyebrows don’t need a ton of help (the shape is decent and they are thick enough not to warrant any strange stares)(brag-y)(sort of), but I’m always impressed how a little bit of eyebrow maintenance can make my whole face look more defined and pulled together without a lot of other products. And for $7? What’s not to like?

 

Have your own favorite drugstore products? Is there a high-end item you think is totally worth the price? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below!

A funny thing happened when I decided to planning my blog posts: I started seeing potential projects everywhere.

A bunch of leftover bottles? That could be some kind of cool vase, right? A messy closet? A total how-to waiting to happen. By choosing to try to be more creative, it seems I switched my brain into constant maker/doer/creator mode.

The same is true of when I go shopping for my home. Typically, I’ll have an idea in mind based on something I’ve seen in a magazine, on HGTV, on Pinterest, or in a friend’s home, and I do what I can to bring that idea to life. In the past, I might just buy what I wanted, but now I actually look for ideas that I can create.

Then again, sometimes I’m also just struck with inspiration.

A few weeks ago, I was strolling through Target for items I needed for our master bedroom redo (as one does) when I decided to take a spin down their crafting and DIY aisles. One of their sub-brands, Hand Made Modern, was having a 20% off sale, so I decided to peruse in case there was anything I could use. In the ceramics section, I spotted an unfinished vase/container and a small octagon-shaped tray. Immediately, I knew they would be perfect details for our new nightstands.

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The paint was on sale, and I was excited to find a gold paint and a rose gold paint. If you know me, you know I love gold. And if you REALLY know me, you know I love rose gold.

I knew I wanted to turn the container into a pot for succulents and the tray into a jewelry tray. I started by taping off an asymmetrical line on the container to give it a dip-dyed effect. For the tray, I created a heart stencil out of a piece of tape.

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It took about three thin coats of Hand Made Modern’s metallic acrylic paint to achieve the opaque finish I wanted. Be sure to peel away the tape before the paint dries to avoid pulling off any paint later on.

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I gave each piece 48 hours to dry before handling. The paint says it takes about a month to fully cure, but I knew, even in use, the painted parts of my ceramics wouldn’t get a lot of handling.

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I also used a Sharpie to add a little message on the jewelry tray. Because who doesn’t need a daily compliment from their decor accessories?

The final results were exactly how I hoped they would be:

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And they look even better in their new homes on our newly painted nightstands.

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Not bad for an impromptu DIY, right? So what have you been making lately?

I’m going to be honest: I do not have the best track record with household plants.

Pets? I can house train a dog within a week and my family once had a carnival goldfish for two years. Babies? I mean, I don’t exactly have years of experience, but Viv is by all accounts thriving.

But a houseplant? This is the last houseplant I had:

RIP

RIP

Not a good look. But when I decided to redecorate our bedroom, I knew I wanted to layer in some texture in the way of greenery.

And that’s how I found my way to succulents.

Like the rest of the millenial western hemisphere, I’ve found myself charmed by this chubby little flora in the last couple of years. But I was wary against bringing them into my home because, to be honest, they look complicated. Fortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Succulents are oft lauded as nearly impossible to kill and for being able to survive in almost desert-like conditions.

Sounds like my kind of plant.

As hardy as succulents are, though, there are still a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when growing your own. Here is what I learned:

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1. Choose the right soil.

Most guides agree that you can either opt for a cactus potting mix or make your own by blending equal parts gravel and traditional potting soil. Even though these little plants don’t need a lot of moisture, they do need a good drainage system. A grainier soil will provide that.

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2. Keep the succulents high in their container.

Unlike other plants where you want a bit of space between the dirt line and the top of the pot, succulents do best when they grow right along the edge of their container. In fact, most of the pros recommend placing the plants so that the succulent hangs over the edge a bit (also called a “spiller”). This prevents the leaves from getting trapped under any water and rotting or discoloring.

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I also planted an aloe vera plant in another container. These don’t need to be planted quite so high up in the pot, but they do need the same cactus/gravel-and-soil mixture for proper drainage — they can’t take standing water of any kind. Be really cautious against over-watering both plants. To be safe, only water once a week or so when the soil feels dry.

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3. Get the right light.

Succulents don’t need constant bright light, but it is good to give them an hour or so of sunshine a few times a week. Ours will live on Joey’s nightstand most of the time, but I’ll make sure they spend some time near the window. Aloe vera, on the other hand, need plenty of light. Since our bedroom tends to be a little darker, I’m planning to keep this guy on the window sill full time.

And really, that’s pretty much it! I’ve had the plants for a little over a week, and they both look just as healthy as they did when I planted them. Giving myself a big green thumbs-up over here.

Also, did you notice that cute gold-dipped succulent planner? Wouldn’t ya know it, that’s a DIY post for another day. (AKA, next week.) Stay tuned!