Friday, November 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes

So I'll be joining Jen again this week for 7 Quick Takes...

I hope that everyone has had a great week, and that the holiday hangover from Thanksgiving wasn't too bad! For me, it's always so hard to see visiting family go. If you need a bit of cheering up, check out....

This link. It is a virtual makeover tool. Just upload a photo of yourself and go crazy. I was laughing out loud (or is it aloud?) as I tried hairstyles on my virtual self.

In the combox of Wednesday's post, a dear reader asked for a pic of my little lips in all their be-lipsticked glory (not as strange as it sounds). I aim to please, so here we go.

I am wearing Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Cha Cha Cherry (I didn't use a filter on this pic, so the color is fairly accurate). See, even little lips can do it!

I am also wearing Audrey Inspired Everyday Eyes and CoverGirl Instant Cheekbones in Refined Rose. It was a rough night with the babe, so a little extra color was needed!

For my quick takes quote I usually choose something a little more profound, but I'm rolling with a theme here... So from another thin lipped woman, I give you, "Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin.  That, or a kick-as# red lipstick."  (Gwyneth Paltrow)

On a completely different note (or is it?), I came across this other quote that made me smile, "A puritan is a person who pours righteous indignation into the wrong things.”  Thank you, as usual, Mr. G. K. Chesterton.

Have a great weekend my sisters and friends!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Little Bit of Luxury (or Lipstick 101)

Want to change your look, but don't have money for a shopping spree or a trip to the salon? Try lipstick. Seriously. You don't wear lipstick, you say? Even better, more bang for your buck, so to speak! What's that? You think you look clownish in lipstick? Your lips are too big? Your lips are too small? Don't insult me with that one, you don't know small lips until you have met me, or at least my upper lip... Okay, okay, just hear me out. I'm new to the lipstick game myself, but I've tried it, and I love it. Let me give you a few basic pointers, and then give it a go, please. It may make you feel different. It may be the key to adding a bit of glamor to your holiday get ups without breaking the bank.  Just try it. You be the judge.

First, pick a color. It doesn't have to be too matchy - matchy with your outfit. A better rule of thumb is to stick with something that flatters your natural coloring. If you have cool coloring, go cool. Warm coloring, go warm. If you're new to this, and nervous, choose a color that is just a bit darker than your natural lip color (give your lip a little bite to actually see what this color looks like).

Next, exfoliate those lips. There are lots of suggestions on how to do this, some involving Vaseline, coffee grounds, and other such ingredients. My favorite way to go is to use a bit of white sugar - just gently rub on wet lips. In 20 seconds you will have soft lips and a sweet taste in your mouth!

Now, moisturize. Use a moisturizing lip balm on those babies. I like Smith's Rosebud Salve, but whatever you have will work.

And apply. There is some debate out there about whether to line or not. In my brief experience with lip stick I have not used liner. From what I've read, the pros include prevention of "feathering", or lipstick bleeding into the fine lines around your mouth, and the ability to give greater definition to your lips. Giving definition to lips via liner went scarily awry in the 90's; just be aware that this is a fine line to walk (I can't help myself). If you decide to go this route, choose a liner in nude or in a color very similar to the lipstick you plan to use. You can either apply the lipstick straight from the tube or with a brush. A brush gives you greater control and you use less lipstick, so it lasts longer. I use the one from my Sephora brush set (great Christmas gift from my sister in law, Nicole, once upon a time). There are inexpensive options out there, such as this one from e.l.f ($3), or this one from Sonia Kashuk ($6.99).  Apply evenly over lips, staying within God's boundaries (i.e. don't draw a new pair).

Blot with a tissue. Perfect lips! I will leave you with a few budget lipsticks to try. I have the first one on the list, so I can vouch for it. The others have received consistently high reviews and seem to be great options in the budget category.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick ($6.99)
Revlon Color Burst Lipstick ($7.49)
e.l.f. Essential Lipstick ($1)
e.l.f. Mineral Lipstick ($5, no parabens, preservatives or chemical dyes)
NYX Round Lipstick ($3.99)
Maybelline NY Color Sensational Pearls Lipcolor ($7.49)

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Twelve Days of Christmas Gift Guide: Part II

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, I bet you are ready for Part II of the Twelve Days of Christmas Gift Guide: Chic Wrapping and Presentation [for next to nothing]. You may have to do a bit of modification based on the gifts you have chosen, but here are the basic ingredients: 

Glue Stick
Index Cards
Standard white envelopes
Red Sharpie (or even just a red crayon)
Roll of Kraft Paper
Twine or Ribbon
Optional: Boxes (again, depending on what you have chosen to give, you probably have some sort of boxes around the house that can be used)

my supplies

I am guessing that you will have most of these items in your home already, except maybe the Kraft paper and the twine/ribbon. Kraft paper comes in rolls and is often used to wrap packages for mailing. In my experience, cheap wrapping paper (think dollar store) feels cheap. Kraft paper looks and feels classic, but is cheap (you can find it at the dollar store). I have used twine, also for a classic package feel, but if you go with ribbon, I suggest picking some up while you are at the dollar store. Stick with one color; simplicity is elegant.

The How-To

Gather your gifts and wrap them in the Kraft paper, just like you would wrap anything else. 

For bottles, I suggest cutting a strip of the paper and taping it around the bottle to hide the label (see below).

For the Love List or the coupons, place them in a regular white envelope. Cut out a rectangular piece of the Kraft paper and glue it to the front of the envelope. You will be putting a number over this paper, so size it accordingly (just look at the pic below and you'll catch my drift).

Create a label for each gift. Simply cut 6 index cards in half and number them. You can copy my numbers below (Freehand, or you can click on the image, and then right click to download the numbers to print). Feel free to do so, or get creative on your own. I think Roman numerals would also look very cool (and they are easy to write). Need to brush up on your Roman numeral skills? See this chart.

the numbers. nothing too fancy. 

Affix a number label via glue stick to each gift. Et voila, it's as easy as that!

And the final product:

And a little bonus: my Love List heading.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What I Wore

I wasn't going to post today, but then I heard Grace was hosting a "What I Wore" and of course, I obliged.

the full body sans face

Sweater looks a bit bulky here. I'm not pregnant, if anyone was wondering...



The Details 
(trying to play by the rules)
White button down - NY and Co.
Navy Cardi - Eddie Bauer
Belt - ?
Skinnies - Mossimo
Shoes - Etienne Agner
Bracelet - ?
Watch - Citizen Eco Drive

And my little sis, Virginia, is here!

isn't she lovely?

The Details
Striped button down - Converse
Belt - Echo
Jeans - Forever21
Boots - ?
Bracelet - Handmade by my brother, Luke

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Few Words on Wine

This week it becomes official - the holidays are upon us. And holidays mean parties. Whether you are entertaining or being entertained, it's a good idea to have a few inexpensive yet delicious wines as go-to's. They come in handy as a host or hostess gift, or if you are having a get together and are short on time and expertise. I myself am no wine aficionado; I enjoy a good glass now and then, and I know a bad one when I taste it, but that is about the extent of my knowledge. So, for you and for myself, I sought some advice from the family's wine expert - my husband's uncle, John Simmons. I asked him to recommend three wines that are really enjoyable, yet less than $10. Here is what he suggested:

Vidal Fleury, Cotes du Rhone ($9.99) 


Running With Scissors, Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.99-$14.99)

Matua Valley, Sauvignon Blanc ($8.99-$11.99)
(New Zealand)

I also wanted to see if I could discover a wine for under $5 that would be truly tasty.  I came across some really promising reviews for this wine, and plan to give it a try soon: 

Rex Goliath, Cabernet Sauvignon ($4.99- $6.99)

Do you have any favorite wines that balance value and taste? I would love to hear your suggestions in the comment box below!

Friday, November 16, 2012

7 Quick Takes in Images

(Consider yourself spared my usual verbosity)

Have a great weekend!

Okay, one more thing (you know I can't resist), don't forget the Thrifting Challenge. Send me photos or link up if you are a blogger. Check out the awesome ladies who have already linked up. And don't forget to join me next week for the 

Now I'm done. Go in Peace.








Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Twelve Days of Christmas Gift Guide

I know, I know, we haven't even celebrated Thanksgiving yet, but there is a reason I'm busting out the C word early. Now that I'm an adult, I realize that the "magic" of Christmas - the sights, the smells, the traditions - don't just happen. Behind the magic is planning, creativity and effort on the part of someone. Now, to avoid becoming crazy right around the day itself and distracting from its true meaning, it helps to think through some gift ideas a wee bit beforehand. Let's focus today on the most important man in your life and the twelve days of Christmas.

The twelve days of Christmas occur from December 25 to January 6, the feast of Epiphany (even if you think you know about Epiphany, check out this article - beautiful). The idea of giving a gift on each of the twelve days has always had me smitten. Beyond the fact that we all love thoughtful gifts, this approach to Christmas gift giving strikes a chord for another reason. By really living up December 25 and the days that follow, it allows Advent to remain a time of spiritual preparation

Hence the idea of this post: a 12 days of Christmas gift how-to for that man in your life (you can thank me later, gentlemen). This how-to will be two parts - Part one: ideas for  small gifts for each of the days and tips on how to do this on a tight budget, and Part two: chic wrapping and presentation for next to nothing.

A book
iTunes gift card
An alcoholic beverage
A homemade book of coupons
A framed pic for his workplace
A coupon for an activity together
A gift certificate to a restaurant for a future date
A "love list" (a list of the things you love about him)
A toiletry bag filled with minis of his favorite toiletries
A cup for his morning beverage, with a love note tucked inside
Beer or wine or rocks glasses (depending on your man's style)
Something for personal comfort - slippers, a throw (because I monopolize this!)
A homemade treat
A kind deed for someone in his family

So that is actually fourteen gift ideas, but everybody is different, so maybe some will be more feasible than others. It may seem like a lot of time and money, so let's break it down. 

A book - check the local used book store.
iTunes gift card -I actually cash in my change jar as part of my pre-Christmas cleaning. I discovered last year that Coinstar machines (usually at your grocery store) will convert change to gift cards for NO FEE! There are many options, including iTunes, Amazon, Gap, Old Navy, Starbucks, Lowe's, Regal Cinema, the list goes on and on...
An alcoholic beverage - this one is easy.
A homemade book of coupons - a little bit of labor, but free. Here is a free printable.
A framed pic - thrift a frame and print a pic at the drugstore, all for about $1.25.
A coupon for an activity - sign up to receive emails from Groupon, Living Social and other such sites (I recently paid $15 for a day of indoor climbing for two, including all gear). You also might get $5 off your first purchase.
A restaurant gift certificate - again, go with Groupon and such, but also check out This site has discounted certificates to local restaurants, and occasionally runs promos for even further discounts. So far this year I have purchased two $25 gift certificates, one for $4 and one for $1.60.
A "love list"- list what you love most about him, gloriously free.
Toiletry bag - make trips to the gym or out of town easier. Amazon has some leather options for under $20, and I actually love this canvas one (only $6.76 - who needs rounded numbers!). These bottles ($7.20) have a nice masculine look. Another option is to buy minis of the products he already uses.
A cup for his morning beverage - a to-go mug or a tumbler, with a love note tucked inside. Both of these items are ubiquitous and inexpensive. The love note, on the other hand, is priceless.
Glasses (the drinking kind) - surprisingly inexpensive. We just bought a 12 pack of pint glasses at Wal-Mart for $9.99. Four packs are $5. Or, if your man likes specialty beers such as barley wines, check the local thrift store for brandy snifters (these are fairly expensive new, yet I always see them in thrift stores). 
Something for personal comfort - use your imagination (and budget) here, think slippers, cozy throws, and the like.
A homemade treat - inexpensive and self-explanatory.
A kind deed for someone in his family  - either free, or the most expensive item on this list, you be the judge!

Since the original publication of this post, Hallie over at Moxie Wife created a link up so other bloggers could share their man gift ideas. Head on over and check it out! Or, looking for some other Christmas on a budget ideas? Check this link up.

Don't forget my Part II if you need some budget wrapping inspiration to complete this project!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sweater to Snood DIY

After seeing the fur neck warmer in the Celine fall collection (pic below),  I mentioned via 7 Quick Takes that I was going to try this faux fur neck warmer DIY if I could find the time. 


Well, I stopped by the fabric store and I wasn't super impressed with the faux fur options that I found, or with their prices. I didn't buy the fabric and I just put the idea aside. Last night I was struck with the notion that maybe I could use an old sweater. I raided my sweaters and found an angora and wool blend Express turtle neck sweater that I had thrifted about eight years ago. Sorry bunnies, this project did involve you after all... 

I cut off the neck and the sleeves. The result looked like this (I apologize for the poor tutorial pics; I did this on a whim at 9pm last night): 

I quickly stitched the neck hole and the bottom shut. I then folded it into thirds and stitched the layers together. It looked like this: 

And finally, I turned it so the folded over parts were on the outside, sewed the two ends together to create a ring, and flipped it right side out. The whole process took fifteen minutes. Please let me assure that I am not an experienced sewer or crafter, and it still only took 15 minutes! Here is the end result:

As I was sewing, I was also skyping with my sister Virginia, who suggested that I use the turtleneck portion as an ear warmer. Good call, Gin, good call. She also suggested that I save the sleeves for leg warmers. Nice.

So there you have it, old sweater to chic snood (sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it...) in fifteen minutes! What do you think? Would you try this?

UPDATE: Since living with this snood for a couple of months, I decided to make a change. It was just too warm, too substantial... So I pulled out all of my stitching, and cut the front and back apart along the existing side and shoulder seams. Doing this effectively gave me two pieces of fabric for two snoods. I then re-sewed the snood following the same steps as above. I really like the result; check it out HERE. Need some more crafts? Check out Ana's Link-Up!

Friday, November 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes: My Post Process

So I will be joining Jen again this week for 7 Quick Takes...

I am constantly asking myself how other bloggers do it. How do they consistently create written content while managing homes and/or an outside job and children and husbands and all those other elements that life is made of?  In a word, what is their "process"? Then I thought maybe some of you out there are wondering what my process is. Well, folks, today is the day you find out.

In the morning I put a notebook and pen out on the table. As I go about my business of tidying, feeding, diapering, you know, the whatnot of caring for my three children under four, I jot down ideas as they hit me.

A back section of said notebook is random to-do lists and thoughts regarding the blog. The front of the notebook is where the magic happens. Every time I have a post idea I jot it down at the top of a fresh page. At any given time there are many such pages going.

I use that "post page" to brainstorm, record research, and make a [sometimes very] rough outline.

I use my phone to do online research piecemeal throughout the day when I have an odd moment here or there, and I glance through relevant books while the kids play.

I set aside two hours one or two evenings each week, in addition to a naptime or two, to do the actual writing.

Working off the post page and relevant webpages that I've bookmarked, I sit down and start writing. Whether or not I feel confident in the opening or the direction of the post, I force myself to write for 20-30 minutes. Usually by then the wheels are turning. I may need to tweak what I have, but having something is the key to confidently creating a great post. I use the rest of my writing time to finish the post and polish it.

If you are a writer and/or blogger I would love to hear about your process!
Have a great weekend all!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Friday for Fifteen

Before my husband and I were married, we really enjoyed dates at  Sharp Edge in Pittsburgh, which offers a wide variety of craft and import beers. We enjoyed trying new things and broadening our knowledge and palette (and that lovin' feelin') at the same time. This week's Friday for Fifteen is a sort of take home version of that date; if you don't have a date, do this with one or more friends. It's a lot of fun! 

us on one such date to Sharp Edge

The Drink: Sampler 6-Pack of Beer. I have several recommendations based on value to quality ratio, availability, and accessibility in the sense of taste (pun completely accidental). Try the Saranac Adirondack Trail Mix Variety Pack ($7.99/6, $13.99/12), The Dundee Craft Pack ($10.99/12), or the Great Lakes Sampler Pack (I'm having a hard time pinning down a price online, but its not an expensive brand). These beers are gateways out of the land of Bud Lite and into the land of the connoisseur. Another option is a "choose your own" six pack, which some grocery stores offer (usually around $9.99, depending on the brands). Whatever you go with, you want to make sure that you have at least four different styles (such as IPA, Porter, Stout, etc, you get my drift) represented in the mix. 

The How-To: Pour a bottle of each of the different beers in the pack. Put them on a tray, unlabeled, moving from least to most intense in terms of flavor (you might have to take a nip in the kitchen if you don't have enough experience to make an educated guess based on type - life is so hard sometimes...) Make sure to keep the bottles in the same order and out of sight.  Smell a beer, and then sample it, letting it swirl around the inside of the mouth and over the tongue. Sample the beers, seeing who can guess the style of the particular beer and pull out some of the key flavor components (e.g. citrus, chocolate, coffee, etc.). And finally, drink the beer!


The Food: True beer experts like Michael Jackson (the other one), recommend just nibbling bland crackers between beers to avoid influencing how you experience the beer itself. If you plan on drinking the [at least] four beers that you just opened, you will definitely need something more substantial. Try this simple nacho recipe (under $7). 

Preheat the oven to 425*. 
Spread a layer of tortilla chips on a cookie sheet. 
Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle on some garlic salt. 
Add any extras you like, such as chopped (and drained) fresh tomatoes, olives, hot peppers, or whatever sounds good to you. 
Cover liberally with shredded cheese. 
Bake until cheese starts to melt and then switch to broil to brown the cheese. 
Remove from the oven and squeeze a lime over the nachos. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Thrifting Challenge

This morning I had two realizations as I was rushing out the door to vote (if you haven't done so, git 'er done): One, I really like this outfit, and two, this outfit is head to toe thrifted (except for the watch). If you have read my Thrifter's Apologia, you already know how I feel about thrifting. Now, the lady in me doesn't like to talk numbers and brands, because it's my personal philosophy that the correlation between those things and style is not a direct one, and the images I post are meant to express my personal style and/or illustrate some fashion point I am making.  I will break my code though, this once, and give you the fiscal facts (still no brands, désolé), in hopes that it will impel you to give thrifting a go. 

Black wool coat - $15
Electric blue button down - $1.50
Black skinnies - $4
Black leather belt - $1.50
Black leather shoes - $5
Total - $27

And now, I have a challenge for you, my friends. Here it is: 

Go thrifting. 
Make an outfit. 
Take pictures.  
Record the fiscal facts. 
Send them to me ( or to Mary Boctor on Facebook). 

And I will post them. 


If you are a blogger, you can participate link up style.

Friday, November 2, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Style Edition

Today I will be joining Jen for 7 Quick Takes. Let's just call this "Style Edition."

If your coat has a collar, pop it. It almost always looks better and gives an air of old world mystery.

Try wearing two scarves (so says Ines de la Fressange). When it comes to scarves, a thicker wrap feels more luxurious, so try combining two shorter/lighter complementary scarves (so says me).

If your coat has a belt, don't worry about buttoning, just tie the belt.

Layer pieces with pronounced necklines, such as a collared shirt under a cowl necked sweater, or a half zip pullover.

If you try #4, wear an updo to keep the look sleek and clean.

Borrow something from your husband, such as a scarf or a watch.

Roll the sleeves of your blazer back just a bit to reveal the cuff of your shirt.

See some of these suggestions in action here.

Have a great weekend, and if you are in the mood for more style reads, click the button for a fun style link up!