Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pics Sartorialist Style - Men

Merry Christmas! I hope that all of you good readers are still enjoying the Christmas season. As for me, I have and am. For today's post, we are joined by my sister Elizabeth,

My sis Liz, in case you didn't know...

for some Sartorialist style pics. I love seeing street style photos, and Liz captured some great shots in her European travels.  


Rome, Italy

Vienna, Austria

Salzburg, Austria

Krakow, Poland

Krakow, Poland

Rome, Italy

My favorite thing about each of these looks is that the men seem as though they dressed with intention, without looking contrived or less than masculine. What do you think?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday for Fifteen

It's about time for another Friday for Fifteen, don't you think? For the newer readers on the block, Friday for Fifteen is a semi-regular feature in which I give you a food, a drink, and a bit of entertainment that come together to create a cohesive, pleasant experience for two, and for $15 or less. I'm putting a new spin on it this week, though, because it's a season of multigenerational gathering and cozy evenings with visiting family. So this is the first Family Friday for Fifteen. I'm gonna make this short and sweet, because I'm short on time with last minute Christmas preparations, and maybe you are, too.

If you've been out slogging through the slush, fighting traffic and hordes of shoppers at every turn, burning the midnight oil making candies and cookies, read on, this is for you.

The Drink: Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout ($9.50/4 pack - at 10% ABV you only need one!). This Russian imperial stout style beer was made for cold nights! It's thick and chocolatey (without being cloying) goodness in a glass that will warm you from the inside out and give you a glow to rival that of your Christmas tree. For the underagers among you, try this superbly satisfying [literally] hot chocolate.


The Food: Christmas cookies. Don't have any on hand? Whip up these 3 ingredient shortbread cookies in 20 minutes!

The Entertainment: The Adventures of TinTin (2011). Based on the comics by Belgian artist Herge, this film is packed with adventure and foreign intrigue. Check out a fuller synopsis here. I'm not usually one for computer animation, but this movie is truly entertaining (and appropriate) for viewers of all ages, so go ahead, watch it with your nieces and nephews!


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guest Post: Blush Up Your Skills!

Today we are joined by Sarah Hoyt, a friend of mine from college days at FUS. She is an Independent Sales Director with Mary Kay Cosmetics. Let's give her a virtual round of applause!

Thank you, Mary, for allowing me to be a guest on your blog! My job is all about consulting women on how to bring out their natural God-given beauty through the avenues of skin care and cosmetics. ​So today, I want to give you some tips on blush - everything from choosing the right color for your skin tone to brush technique and application.

The first tool you need is a good, natural bristle brush that has a slight angle to the tip. You want this angle because it provides a natural contour that matches with the shape along your cheekbones.

The next step is looking at your cheek structure and determining whether your cheeks are more prominent or if your face shape is quite slender. You will find various schools of thought as far as where your blush should be applied, but I have somewhat simplified it. Here is my rule: if you have a rounder/ cheekier face, you most likely do not want to put blush right on the apples of your cheeks because it will accentuate that roundness.  If your face is very narrow and your cheeks are not prominent, then the apples are a great place for blush!

Here is a visual for you:

blush on cheekbone line

blush on apples

Blush application on the apples of your cheeks is done in a circular motion on the center of your cheeks.  However, most peoples face shape is better suited for the cheekbone area, so when in doubt, apply on your cheekbones. Here is how you find your cheekbones: Make a fish face, and start at your temples and in a crescent shape start angling in towards the center of your face. So to apply your blush you want to start towards your temples with the tip part of your brush pointing to your hairline and start blending down in the crescent shape towards your cheeks.  Avoid getting close to your nose!

Lastly what I would like to teach you is what blush color your should choose for your skin tone. If you have Ivory skin: here are colors you would want (these are Mary Kay Mineral Cheek Colors, but you can find similar ones!):

If you have Beige skin:

If you have Bronze/Ebony Skin:

So hopefully what I have shared with you all today is NEW and helpful! For those of you who never dabble in the blush world, I highly encourage you to play with it;  it can really add great contouring to your face and highlight those beautiful features God has given you!

Thank you for your time, and I am giving Mary this Limited Edition Color Quad from our Hollywood Mystique Collection for one special winner! This is great because it can be used for both eyeshadow and blush, and is great for any skin type! Enter to win below!

the Mary Kay Hollywood Mystique look

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 17, 2012

What I Wore Sunday [or What is a Maronite]

I'm linking up with the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for What I Wore Sunday. I've been wanting to do so for awhile, but getting to Mass on time is difficult enough without throwing in a photo shoot. My solution? A Monday re-creation of what I wore to Mass yesterday, and a little explanation. 

I am a Maronite Catholic. What is that, you say? Well, within what is commonly referred to as the Catholic Church there exists the Latin church and 22 other churches (notice the small "c"). Each has its own liturgy, hierarchy, and laws, yet they share the same profession of faith, the seven Sacraments, and the Roman Pontiff as their head. The Maronite church is one such church, and traces its origin to Antioch (modern day Turkey), one of the five centers of early Christianity. Beginning in the fifth century, the Maronite Christians went to Lebanon, at first to evangelize, and then increasingly to escape persecution by monophysite heretics. The seventh century saw the rise of Islam as a political and imperial force and the beginning of centuries of Islam / Maronite conflict. In modern day Lebanon, Maronites comprise the biggest group of the 39.9% Christian minority.

You are probably wondering how I became a Maronite. Well... by marriage. Maybe more on that later, but things have gone on too long in the word department as it is, so now for a few pics. Okay, a few more words.  Many of my fellow parishioners are immigrants from Lebanon, or are children of Lebanese parents. In case you don't know, Lebanese women are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, and very well dressed. This doesn't mean that everyone wears dresses and skirts (though that is common), it means that most dress with the intention of dressing beautifully. Intimidating, I know. I was in a super rush yesterday, so I threw on what is a standby non-dress Sunday outfit for me: basic black top (v-neck t, in this case), simple dark trouser jeans, and camel colored boots. I finished it with a camel colored coat. What do you think?

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes: My Philosophy

Inspired by Jenny, I decided to use this week's Quick Takes to reveal a little bit more about myself - though not nearly a "pulling the curtain back", as she so eloquently calls it. Instead, you get a peek into my personal philosophy. Hold the boo's; you know my barely restrained verbosity guarantees that there wouldn't be anything quick about a full bio. So here goes. What I believe:

Every woman has inherent dignity and physical beauty.

The more a woman believes her own beauty and acts accordingly, the more others will recognize it.

Our clothing and makeup choices should augment our natural beauty.

Style is the harmonization of personal tastes with one's given physical attributes and current trends, or fashions.  

Affluence can become the enemy of style, because it allows for excess and errors. Conversely, necessity is often the mother of invention in creative personal dressing.

Less is more and simple is elegant. 

Comparison leaves only casualties. 

Sorry, no pictures today. Can't go without some, you say? Ok, ok. Look here and here. And if you just can't get enough, here.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Book for Break

The other day I was adding labels to previous posts, and I realized that I haven't thrown that many book titles your way. I must rectify this situation immediately! I've picked three titles to share with you, keeping in mind that many of my readers are just finishing up finals and heading home for the winter holiday. In my mind, nothing is more necessary to a nice, cozy, and relaxing holiday than an easy read. So let us begin.

The first book is Emma Brown. This novel, based on an unfinished manuscript by Charlotte Bronte, was completed in 2003 by Irish author Clare Boylan. The story centers around young Matilda, a girl mysteriously without origin, identity, and family. The reader is taken on a whirlwind of plot turns and unexpected secrets until Matilda's past and true identity are discovered. I found this book to be a truly melodramatic page turner - a real "chic flick" of a book!


The second book is Return to Paris: A Memoir with Recipes by Colette Rossant. In this delightful little book, Colette tells the story of leaving Egypt as a teenager and going to live with her French grandmother in the foreign world that was 1940's Paris. If you have a fascination with Egypt, France, post-WWII Europe, and / or good food, you will love this book!


The third and final offering I have for you today is quite possibly my favorite fiction of the last two years - The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Ah, where to begin in describing this book... Maybe I should take the easy way out and hope that my fervent endorsement and the title alone will move you to read this book. If not, go here to read a well put summary of this complex and compelling work. As an aside: I have not read Krauss' debut, A Man Walks Into a Room, but let me assure you that this recommendation is nothing like her third, Great House. I found Great House to be all of the complexity, struggle, and pain with none of the humor, hope, and redemption that is the hallmark of The History of Love.


If you have read any of these works, or do so at my recommendation, drop me a line and share your thoughts!

Monday, December 10, 2012

What I Wore

Yesterday I went to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra for a  Christmas show especially geared to young children. A Jolly Holiday, it was called. We had a great time, and it was a good opportunity to practice what I was preaching last week. The first pic is from this fall. I wanted to use that LBD to create a winter look that was appropriate for an afternoon at the orchestra. I added a super thick and wooly [very] dark brown sweater and belted it for a bit of definition. Black cap toe heels and a black clutch completed the look. What do you think?

Friday, December 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Outfit Pics

Today I will be joining Jen again for 7 Quick Takes, with a focus on "outfit pics." Why outfit pics, you say? Well, because it has been on my mind lately for obvious reasons, but also because there has been some chatter about it in blog land. Ever since the ladies over at Fine Linen and Purple began hosting What I Wore Sunday (great idea, ladies, by the way),  many people are for the first time taking full length pics and posting them on the web. I offer genuine kudos to you! Maybe because I have only been at this blog business for a few months, each time I take such pics and post them there is a rush of embarrassment and self doubt.

"My face looks weird."

"I'm so awkward."

"People are going to think I'm such a poser."

"Why was I making that expression?"


"Is that how my nose (undereye circles, hair, insert any physical characteristic) really looks?!"

You get my drift. Yet I persist, and do my darndest to make them look the best I can despite the fact that I'm working with an Iphone and a four year old photographer. Since many of you are working under similar constraints, I want to share with you a few things I've learned in the last three months (and here's where the 7 Quick Takes come in):

Silence the inner voice of self-doubt and criticism. 

Avoid straight on pictures. Most of us are widest at the hips and nothing showcases this fact like a picture taken from said angle. Turn slightly to the side and put your hand on your hip. This is the classic red carpet pose for a reason. Thank you, Rachel Zoe, for pointing out the obvious!

Play with other angles and poses. Tilt your head up. Look to the side. Face away from the camera and look over your shoulder. You get the picture (I can't help myself, as usual). Do not feel weird doing this! If you need to, read #1 again!

Take photos while in motion. They look more natural, and that usually means better.

Natural lighting is best.  Take advantage, if possible, of the softer light that occurs earlier in the day, or before sunset. Or find a spot indoors where the strong light of mid day is filtered in a flattering way.

Take lots and lots. More pics equals more possibilities for good pics.

Edit pictures and create a montage of sorts. Have a pic where your face looks weird but everything else looks great? Crop it at the neck (less weird than it sounds). Good face shot, but midsection looks like there is a baby hiding in there (and there isn't)? Sounds like a cropping candidate! Lay accessories on a simple surface and get a close up of those. Now put together a group of photos that tells the whole [outfit] story. 

I will leave you with something my husband said the other day (who I have never discussed this issue with or asked to photograph me because I am too damn self conscious) that put new wind in my picture taking sails:
You know that runway thing you do (translation: take pics of yourself and put them out there for the world to judge)? I'm so proud of you. That's gotta be, well, way out of your comfort zone.
Yes. Yes it is. And that's why I can't stop doing it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nothing to Wear [and How To Fix It]

The holidays are upon us, and so is the pressure to buy, buy, buy - gifts, celebration food and drink, clothes and shoes for parties and get togethers, the list goes on and on. Though not altogether unpleasant (isn't there just something nice about NEW?), it may be stressful if your budget is already tight. It's not purely a fiscal matter, either, maybe your space is also tight and your closet is bulging. And yet... You have nothing to wear!

The classic problem of "nothing to wear" knows no season or economic status, because it is largely a psychological problem. Yes, there may be times when you literally have nothing to wear. You may have just experienced a shape altering experience such as pregnancy. Maybe your house burned down. Maybe your luggage didn't arrive. Those things happen. This post deals with the more elusive mental side of the problem.

Why do we feel we have nothing to wear when we clearly have plenty of clothing? Several reasons. Maybe your existing wardrobe doesn't really reflect you. If this is the case, you need to be your own personal stylist and figure out your coloring, your body type, and your style personality. Then go through your closet with these things in mind, weeding out what doesn't work for you. This may leave you with a skeleton wardrobe, but I guarantee you that it will be 10x more functional than your previously overstuffed closet of no-go's.

Maybe you are uncomfortable with the way you look. Again, you need to be dressing for your body and your coloring. If you are doing so and are still displeased, examine your attitudes toward yourself. Are you being overly critical? Is there one part of your body with which you just can't reconcile? I knew one woman who would never buy pants because she loathed her hips. Buying shirts was easy because it wasn't emotionally loaded. Eventually, she really did have nothing to wear (on the bottom, at least). Try to love your body, but if you can't, pretend you do and break the cycle by staring whatever it is in the face. There is no such thing as a "perfect" body (in the geometric sense); women the world over have been working with the same basic body shapes since forever. As a result, there are thousands of resources, tricks, and tips out there for minimizing and maximizing, hiding, and otherwise tricking the eye. The Google, ladies, the Google!

Or maybe you're just in a rut. You get dressed and your outfit feels... blah, bored, meh. The magic is gone. Try these tricks and see what happens.

Play dress up. Try new and unusual combos. Be unexpected. You don't have to be anywhere, so relax and have fun. Have a drink. Think you found a winner? Take a pic to get a second opinion (I mean yours, but from a more objective angle) and to remind you of this outfit the next time you have somewhere to be.

Build from the bottom up. Start with a pair of shoes that always makes you feel fabulous, and work from there. Don't underestimate the power of heels, even small ones. If you don't ordinarily wear them, the visual and psychological effects will be even greater. Who doesn't have days when they want to be taller and feel more confident, feminine, poised, and powerful?

Go basic, then accessorize. Build a blank canvas with a monochromatic outfit or a simple dress in a solid color, and go "bigger" than is your norm with accessories.

See in terms of color. Lay out some clothing items on the bed. Ignore what they are (top, bottom, etc) and see if any combos really pop or create a pleasing look. Grab the items and build an outfit around them. An example from [my] real life: A pair of indigo wide leg pants really pops next to a blue and white patterned shirt. They can't be worn together because the shirt isn't fitted enough to wear with those pants. Throw a neutral vest on over the shirt, cinch the sides, and voila, a waist re-emerges. Use your creativity to make it work.

getting that "second opinion"
There is a one pic-per-post minimum, right?

I hope these tips help! Please share your suggestions in the combox!

P.S. I'm over at life in mod. this week with the lovely Camille. Check it out!

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Birth Story... Sort of.

I have been blogging for three months now - wow, time flies when you're having fun! I thought that maybe it was time for a post or two about me, since I can no longer operate under the assumption that most of you good readers actually know me personally. So, let's start at the beginning. Maybe a bit before the beginning.

I am the second child in a family of seven children. Or more accurately, the second surviving child of nine children. My parents met and married in a small town in Indiana, and ten months later had a bouncing baby boy. Shortly before this baby was to be delivered, the OB/GYN informed my mom that she would have to find a new doctor. Luckily, my mom found Dr. M. , who was willing to take her as a new patient.

Five months later, my mom conceived again. My parents were very excited; they had both dreamed of having a big family, the kind baseball teams are made of, the kind that make the bus driver blink in amazement and ask if your house is really an orphanage, or hint that your parents may not know what's causing "it".  But after only 10 weeks, the baby miscarried.

Following the miscarriage, Dr. M. preferred to let nature run its course before utilizing the procedure known as Dilation and Curettage (D &C), which most doctors at that time routinely recommended. D & C is an invasive procedure in which the cervix is dilated and then the lining of the uterus is scraped. D & C (or  "dusting and cleaning" as it was sometimes cavalierly called) has valid therapeutic uses and invalid ones, but is much less common today due to the risks associated with it and the availability of other options. Ahead of his time, Dr. M. examined my heartbroken mom, and sent her home, advising her to contact him only if she felt something wasn't right.

Fast forward six months or so... My parents found that they were expecting again. But almost four months along, another miscarriage occurred. My mom was devastated.  Dr. M. tried to console her and again sent her home without a D & C (this time even more unusual because of how far along the pregnancy was), assuring her that her body could handle it.

Days passed, and my mom felt awful, so she called the doctor to set up an appointment. Dr. M. did an examination, and told her again that it was best not to have the D & C, though for a different reason this time - she had been carrying twins, and one was still alive! The routine procedure would most certainly have aborted the baby that was thriving in her womb.

And that baby was me, in case you hadn't guessed. One physician's decision to stop delivering babies and another's trust in the female body coincided to spare my life, but I don't really believe in coincidence. I believe in blessings.

My sister and I (I'm on the right). Excuse me for not finding a baby pic in time to post.