dust

 
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Don’t worry- I’m not going to start this post with an “I’m back after a little hiatus!” bit. I’ve played it and it’s gotten old. The truth is, I just stopped writing. Not because I didn’t enjoy it or have anything to say, but simply because life got busy. Right after I published my last post in November, I finally got a job in Nevada. A job I love, and I decided early on I would give it my all. I put all my focus not just into my job, but also my marriage, which was finally back on the ground after a difficult move, and immersing myself in our new community. The last few months have flown by, and it’s almost a year-to-date that we found out we were leaving Detroit. And guess what? I’m happier than I’ve ever been, and it completely snuck up on me.

In all my contentment, I still I felt an itch to put pen to paper again (I write all my posts in a notebook before typing. Eat your heart out, Shakespeare!!!) Every day when I would walk into my closet, I would pass a framed copy of “The Nines” logo that my friendly so sweetly made me for my birthday one year. I would walk by it, think “I should write soon”, and then just go in my closet and get distracted by a sweater. But yesterday as I walked past it, I noticed all the dust that had accumulated around the frame, and it hit me. I was letting the dust collect around something I loved. I gave up on something that was supposed to be growing. And in true “Carrie Bradshaw” style (even though she is THE WORST, don’t get me started) , I had to wonder “When being content stunts your growth-is it really such a good thing?”.

No-one made me stop writing. It was actually the opposite. My husband would ask if there was anything new to read, my boss said she really enjoyed my writing. I feel supported by the people around me. But I used all the things going on in my life as a crutch to avoid doing something that was enjoyable, but required a lot of effort. I was so busy with life and happy with just-the-way-things-were that I forgot that growth requires doing. That in order to have a voice, you have to speak. I neglected the piece of me that loves to talk about women’s rights and skincare and how not needing a bra until 8th grade ruined my self esteem- we’ll get to that later, OH WILL WE EVER!

This post isn’t about “being back, guys!”. It’s meant to serve as a reminder that if you have let dust collect around something you love, something that makes you who you are-you can always clean it off and pick it back up. You can also hire a cleaning company. That has no double meaning- the dust was so alarming that we literally hired a cleaning company. Talk soon. xx

The Shopping Rule That Put an End to My Impulsive Purchases

 
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A few years ago, I was looking through my closet when I realized- I hated just about everything in there. Most of us have had this moment. It’s not that we truly have nothing to wear, it’s that we have nothing we WANT to wear. My closet was so chalk-full of items that it was an arm workout to go through it all (am I a fitness influencer now???). I stared at it all, seeing all the wasted dollars and credit card charges, and I started taking pieces out one by one. 4 garbage bags later, I knew I was still lacking that satisfaction of going in and effortlessly picking something out. Not one-offs, but clothing that could carry me through a multitude of events.

We all have the one-offs. Your friend calls you and tells you she has an extra ticket to the John Mayer concert (it’s still 2010 in my mind)! And in my totally sane brain, I convince myself there is not one thing in my closet that could impress the throngs of moody 18-year-olds in attendance. I go to the mall, find some perfect $25 tank top that will be the envy of a pre-pubescent crowd, and John Mayer, if a miracle happens. I wear it to the concert, get 1000 photos in it…and proceed to never wear it again. Repeat for a bridal shower. Repeat for a job interview. Repeat for another John Mayer concert (I went to a lot in youth- I’m not ashamed). I’m here to help you avoid the one-off, and possibly explore the psychological meaning behind needing something new for every occasion. Just kidding! I don’t have enough time in the world to get into that.

After my garbage bags full of my one-offs were donated, I sat down and made a list in my phone. A list of things I felt I needed to really create a “Capsule” wardrobe, a few items I would be happy to pull out and wear to work, to drinks, to run errands in. I think my original list was something like a great oversized blazer…nice black ankle boots…jeans I felt comfortable in and could wear causal or dressy… a tailored white blouse. I went for the basics, and I vowed I would not buy anything that wasn’t on my list.

A few months went by, and I truly bought almost nothing that wasn’t on that list. Every time I was tempted, I would ask myself if it was on my list, or conductive to my closet-building. 99% of the time, it was not, and I would put it back or exit out of the browser. If I were in “Game of Thrones”, I would be dubbed “Alexandra Ayaub, First of her Name, Queen of Adding to Cart”. It’s my favorite past-time, other than eating Macaroni and Cheese in bed and watching “Grey’s Anatomy” for the 100th time. My “Seattle Grace” nickname would be McCheesy, in case you were wondering.

Make a list every season, or as frequently/in-frequently as you need it- but be fully realistic about what it is that you need. I constantly hear from other women “I need dresses!” “I need more tops!”. Write it down when you think of it. When you are tempted to buy something, go back to your list. Is it on there? When we get sidetracked and spend our money on things we don’t really want or need, there’s nothing left for what we DO desire. I’m not saying other items don’t slip in every now and again. My AMEX knows the importance of a vintage beaded bag. But having a list helps us control those impulsive purchases, curbing our spending from being a free-for-all.

Here’s what my list looks like right now:

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My list might take a few months to fulfill, and financially, a few might have to wait. But that means in the interim, I’m not buying other wasteful things to take their place. Not everything on the list needs to be expensive! That over-sized blazer on my original list? I found at Target for $25. I know for the loafers, I’ll spend a little more, because I want them to last forever. Just make sure whatever you find, you love, feel good in, and can wear it with other pieces you already own.

Ever since I started this exercise, I have been building a closet full of things I love, wear continuously, and I am actually saving money. We create “To-Do” lists all the time, to help us focus on what we need to get done, and feel accomplished when we’ve done so. Why not do the same with our wardrobes? 

Thanks to my list, I know EXACTLY what I’ll be wearing to my next concert (it won’t be John Mayer, ok!! …mostly because he’s not on tour)- and it won’t be a tank top that some 17-year-old ends up buying from Plato’s closet.

 

Here's What to Buy From the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale: 2018 Edition!

 
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It’s the most wonderful time of the year- no, not when the Home Depot Hot Dog stand puts up summer hours, but the other most wonderful time, The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

As I wrote last year, this sale is one of my favorite shopping events of the year. It’s NEW fall merchandise, on sale before it hits stores at full price. This was my first year not living in Michigan for the sale, so I let a few tears pass as I scrolled by delicious, heavy winter coats and cozy sweaters. I had to adjust what I was buying due to my change in climate (did you know even your fingers can sweat? ME EITHER!). I may have let a sweatshirt or two slip in there, but I am only human and a change in scenery cannot change me!

My purchases were carefully curated, and I’m sharing what I got, plus a few. I’m still in my period of (F)unemployment, so I had to shop responsibly  (somewhere, my husband is smiling reading this. Hi, Mike!).

 

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ASTR The Label Button Front Midi Dress: $52.90 (After sale: $79)

 

This was the first item that caught my attention. The price was right, print is a perfect Fall-floral, and I love the vintage silhouette of it. It is a tad low cut, but I think the length and sleeve detail make it more Lady than Tramp (but if Tramp is your thing, I’m here for that too- women doing what they want 2018!!). The buttons from bust to hem make it possible to even wear this dress as a top. I wore it over jeans, unbuttoned from the hem to my waist and voila! Now you have a blouse and a dress! You’re welcome!

Transition this from summer to fall with sneakers or boots instead of sandals, or layered with a turtleneck or tee underneath.

NIKE Sportswear Rally Sweatshirt: $51.90 (After sale: $70)

The extent of my sweatshirt wearing now is slipping one on when Mike’s not home and I turn the AC down to 65. But this limited-time activity did not prevent me from adding this perfect pull-over to my collection.

The high-neckline allows this sweatshirt be a more refined, and less sloppy. If I didn’t live in the pits of hell, temperature-wise, I would pair with a midi skirt and sneakers come Fall. Until then, I’ll wear it in front of my freezer.

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ASTR The Label Twist Front Bodysuit: $35.90 (After sale: $55)

I live for bodysuits. They’re easy to throw on, comfy and great for layering. I’m always looking for ones I can wear for going out, as it’s a one-stop-shop to a great outfit (well, you’ll need pants or something. Hopefully.).

This one from ASTR is a rich, metallic silver-grey, and will look great with black high-waisted pants or baggy jeans. The front-twist detail is extremely slimming, and it DOES have a snap closure. Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than going to the bathroom and sitting naked in the stall, because you had to pull down your entire bodysuit. It's peak vulnerability. There is probably no other frequent-situation that makes me reevaluate my life and choices more. Snaps make this a sure purchase.

Rebecca Minkoff Koso Bootie: $99.90 (After sale: $149.95)

I have long been looking for a perfect white Western-inspired boot, but everything I found made me look like a Dollar-store version of Jessie from "Toy Story". They were either too tall or too pointy, and I looked more ready to two-step, not for two drinks.

These are the ideal heel-height for every day, a perfect shade of non-stark white. The low cut of this boot makes it much more accessible to wear with multiple pieces. White boots are a big-time accessory right now, and you can wear them with anything from flowy dresses, to mini skirts or jeans and an over-sized blazer. Just stay away from anything Fringe. You are Rodeo Drive honey, not a Rodeo Clown.

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VANS Old Skool Sneaker: $42.90 (After sale: $64.95)

I love that Vans became not-just for the skater crowd, but a true cool-girl staple for women and men. It’s like the modern version my pink "Etnies" from 6th grade, but without the Happy Bunny sketches on them. THANK GOD FOR PUBERTY!

I immediately took to this updated-version of the plain black Vans. The body of the shoe is linen, giving it a great textured look. It’s a fresh take on a white sneaker, which goes with just about everything already in your closet. The gold-logo detail dresses it up a bit, making me feel like the COOL girl at the skate park, not the one riding by on her bike on the way to the Aquatic Center, kick board in tow.

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Diptyque Mini Candle Set: $55 ($75 value)

This deal is the true reason I began stanning (linked that to the Urban Dictionary definition because there are sweet moms reading this) this sale in the first place. I put these in our bathroom, on my nightstand, just about anywhere in our apartment. They are small with a big impact, the scent will still fill any room. Don’t forget to de-wax them when you’re done! They make the perfect holders for Q-tips, earrings, or even a holder for dipping sauces, when everything else is in boxes and you’ve got sweet potato fries in the oven. SO I’VE HEARD!

They also make perfect gifts, but I’m feeling stingy this year so sorry friends! This one’s for me.

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Dior Addict Lip Glow Set: $75 ($90 value)

I am the laziest when it comes to lip product. Yes, lip balm is essentially attached to my right hand, but when it comes to lipstick, I’m lazier than 7-year-old me during "T.G.I.F". on ABC (Why hasn’t  “Sabrina the Teenage Witch gotten her reboot yet? For another time.). That doesn’t stop me from owning about 20 lip colors, however! Old habits die hard, or in my case, they don’t die at all because I’M STILL BUYING THEM!

Dior Lip glow is the one lip product I use up, every time. I own 4 shades, and each one holds a special place in my heart and purse. It’s the easiest and most non-committal way to wear lip color. It moisturizes and enhances your lips natural color, while giving you a natural flush of perfectly pouty shades.

They can be expensive on their own- $34 a pop. But in this set, you get your choice of Lip Glow in Coral (my favorite for summer) or Pink (the OG), PLUS, a lip lacquer (a very light-weight lipstick with mega-shine and high pigment) and a mini lip-plumping gloss. This set is your introduction into the addiction of Dior Lip products and I’m so sorry but also, you’re welcome.

 

And in a dark turn: Thank you to this sale for distracting me from the world essentially being on fire! At least I have my sweatshirt to keep me warm. Happy shopping!

"Thanks! It's Vintage!"

 
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I love vintage shopping. It gives me a such a high that sometimes I'm amazed it's legal. There's just something about finding that perfect piece that seems like it stuck around all these years just for you

But as someone old once said, "nothing worth having comes easy". The same can be said for vintage apparel. I have spent hours rifling through racks and racks of vintage clothes, with nothing to show for it but tired arms (clothes are heavy and I have chicken arms, ok?). I started vintage shopping when I was in high school, and over the years I have learned many lessons about what to look out for. And with the birth of online vintage shopping on sites like Etsy, my education has become even greater.  After having been burned by one-particular 60’s dress in 2010 (I’m not emotionally ready to explain that story yet), I have decided to share my tips with you all. Someone call Dua Lipa because here come the rules!!

1. SNIFF IT REAL GOOD

Vintage clothes can naturally have a musty smell. It's not your grandmas fault that she didn't know she had a “Reformation”-esque blouse sitting in her basement for 30 years. She was too busy handing you money under the table to care. Vintage clothing has that distinct scent, and sometimes it's fixable. However, sometimes it's not and LET ME TELL YOU FROM EXPERIENCE, you don't want to be the person at the party that smells like your Great Aunt Bertha’s attic. When you find a piece you like in-person, be sure to sniff it. Sniff it real good. If it has a faint scent, you can do the following:

  •  Send it to the dry cleaner and be sure to tell them it's a vintage piece. Most places will be able to use a deodorizer. If it's any kind of fur coat, take it to a furrier to deodorize, too. 
  • If you have a garage, hang it in there a for a few days. Sometimes if the piece is not that old (90's is apparently vintage now so that makes me 100 years old I guess), it just needs some fresh air.
  •  Activated Charcoal. VERY CAREFULLY put some in a bowl and put the bowl and your garment in a plastic tub or storage bin, any container that will seal. Again, be careful because if you spill the charcoal, well then I can't help you and you'll  use my name like Voldemort. Leave them in the bin together for up to 10 days, and the charcoal will help absorb the smell.
  •  Your freezer is your friend! The lowest shelf on our freezer is meant for meats. The other 3 shelves are all my clothes, it is my second closet. The coldness of the freezer can deodorize and sanitize your clothes. Seal your item up in a large Ziploc bag and let it sit there for a few days. One time, I forgot I put a vintage caftan in there and found it when I was taking out some burgers. Talk about mystery meat (please stay).

Be honest with yourself about the degree of the musty-scent. I bought a PERFECT 70's cocktail dress once, and I did notice that it was especially ~scented~. I tried everything to make it better, but every time I went to put it on, it made me smell like a 90-year-old chain smoker. Cigarette smells are nearly impossible to get out of clothes that have been sitting with it for years, so try to stay away. 

 

2. THE ROBERT MUELLER OF VINTAGE

When I find a vintage piece I love, I inspect that thing like the head of the F.B.I.. I go over every inch making sure there are no visible stains, marks, holes or rips. It's really a non-negotiable to me, there are so many pieces out there in great condition. Vintage doesn't have to mean dirty or sloppy, and brown spots or stains can take it there real fast. My only negotiable stain can be yellow spots on white articles of clothing, because I've found I can spot clean with Oxy Clean or Bleach. But honestly, I can barely remember to move my clothes from the washer to the dryer for 2 days so who has time for that? Make sure the clothes are clean and in excellent condition. Regardless, I always take whatever I buy right to the dry cleaner. Someone has worn these clothes before you! And it probably wasn't Audrey Hepburn, ok?

Some of my favorite vintage pieces! A mix from Lost & Found Vintage (Royal Oak), The Vintage Twin, and Etsy Stores:

My Soft Parade, Your Sweet Caroline, & Hungry Heart Vintage

 

3. VINTAGE IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Online Vintage is a whole new game. I do all of mine on Etsy and have found some incredible pieces. But since you can't touch, smell or try on your find first, you must be especially cautious 

  • All great vintage Etsy sellers will give you exact measurements. The tag might say it's a size 8! But a size 8 in the 1950's might as well have been a 0. Take your own measurements and compare them to what they have listed. 
  •  I always, always, always message the buyer to ask if the item has any smells or odors. I got a blouse once that I could smell through the packaging. Turns out they shared a space with a perfume factory, which made me smell like 10,000 flower arrangements dying. When you message the seller, you're safe for a refund if you get the item and it does in fact smell. It's just a security blanket, which I love because I still sleep with an actual security blanket. 27 YEARS YOUNG, BABY!
  • Look at the seller’s reviews. People will say if they received an item that wasn't as described, and you can see how the seller responds. 

Try to pin down exactly what you’re looking for, to make searching easier. My favorite key searches are:

  • Vintage white blouse
  • Vintage eyelet blouse/dress
  • Vintage 1960’s sundress/party Dress/cocktail dress
  • Vintage beaded handbag
  • Vintage circle skirt
  • Vintage slip dress

Once you’ve found a potential winner, be sure to check if the seller has listed any stains or damage, and don’t be afraid to message if you’re unsure! I usually also put a filter on for just sellers in the  United States. I’ve had some issues before with customs and shipping that just weren’t worth it. So sorry Russia!! You’ll have to hold onto some great vintage wiggle dress AND the Pee Tape (#RELEASEIT!!).

Vintage shopping can be incredibly rewarding. Not only are you finding something original and supporting small business, but it’s a huge help to the environment. So to my future children, you can thank mommy later for her vintage- shopping addiction. Because of me and my 8 eyelet blouses, you’ll be able to see a polar bear and trees and stuff. Happy shopping! 

 

Viva Las Vegas!

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That's right- the Ayaubs are moving from Detroit to the desert! We are living the dream of being closer to Celine Dion...OK, OK, Michael got a really great job, too. This summer, Mike and I will be moving to Henderson, Nevada to pursue the next stage in our careers. 

When Mike initially got a call about a job in Las Vegas, I stubbornly declared that I could never, ever move to Las Vegas. I had images of someone handing me naked-lady cards on my way to get coffee, or running into one of those giant "Elmo" characters on a morning walk. And although this new job sounded like this would be a great opportunity for him, what about my job? We are both two very career-driven people, and I got overwhelmed with the thought of not finding an opportunity for myself out there, too. 

When we flew into Las Vegas for his interview, we drove about 25 minutes from The Strip to Henderson. I was ready to hate it. I told you guys- I'm horribly stubborn. We toured around the town and even looked at a few apartments. My ego was displeased to find that I didn't hate it at all- I actually loved it. It was nothing like the flashing lights and endless buffets that The Strip boasts. It was very comparable to our life here in Birmingham, just with more palm trees and a bigger "Whole Foods" (put that near the top of our "pro" list). We saw an apartment we loved, and now we had a decision to make.

When we got back to the hotel that night, I completely shut down. We cancelled our dinner reservation. We got room service and I cried. The overwhelming sadness of leaving all our friends and family behind hit me like a true Vegas hangover. I couldn't imagine not being able to call up my parents and meet them for breakfast on a Sunday. I couldn't fathom not being able to drive 10 minutes to my best friend's house, or meet my sister for a pedicure, or visit my in-laws for dinner. And what about my job? What was I going to do? 

I realized I was using the word "I" in my thoughts far too much. I wasn't in this alone, I had my husband, who had this really exciting opportunity, and I cried all over it. I will say, I haven't quite mastered some parts of marriage yet. This isn't to say we aren't happy. Being married to Mike has been my favorite 6-months ever. But anyone that says this is easy, is probably lying. It's not just about you anymore, there's two people that need to be considered in every single situation. You have to compromise, work together, and always keep in mind that it is the two of you fighting against the problem. Not fighting against each other. You work on these things everyday, and sometimes you fall short.

When we got back to Michigan, I felt calmer, more excited about this next step in our lives. I knew moving was the right thing to do, and so did Mike. We applied for the apartment and started calling moving companies.  We came to terms with the fact that our parents won't be a drive away for dinner, and we will go a while without seeing our siblings and friends. But we thought of how fun it will be when they visit, or we road-trip to California to meet up with them for vacation. This is going to be a huge change for us, and not every day will be butterflies and swimming pools (ok, we will have a bomb a$$ swimming pool though). But change is just a part of life, and we can choose to panic or embrace it. 

I am going to miss the hell out of Detroit. I tear up just as I type that, because I have grown to love this place after complaining about it my whole adolescent-life . I'm going to miss our neighborhood in Birmingham, and walking to get our favorite coffee. I'll miss driving downtown to a cool new restaurant, or store, and experiencing the thriving, beautiful culture of Detroit. I'll miss movie night with our friends, brunch with my girlfriends, Mediterranean food-binges with my sister, seeing our parents almost every week. I'll miss the people and places that made our life here so hard to leave. 

But I am excited- WE are excited! I can't wait to find a new pizza place together, decorate a new apartment, not experience winter (sorry guys), see Celine Dion more often (sorry, Mike), walk outside and sit by the pool with a book in January, experience all the ups and downs of change with my husband. I'm excited to see what's next for my career, while watching Mike's take incredible steps forward, too. 

We don't know how long we'll be in Nevada. Or if we'll move to California next, or London, or Idaho, or back to Detroit. We are taking this all as it comes, and I can't wait to see how it all turns out. 

To the desert! 

I Went to Paris and All I Got was 1000 French Beauty Products

Bonjour!!...From a café 2 blocks from my house, where I am pretending to still be in Paris. Armed with a double espresso and a pastry probably meant for two, I’m taking an inventory of all the beauty products I picked up while I was abroad. I was in Paris for work, having very little time to myself. So when I showed up at City Pharma at 8:30am, laminated list in-hand, with only an hour to get it all done, I was ready to rage.

City Pharma is essentially God’s gift to earth- or at least to tourists. It’s a large pharmacy stocked with all the best brands, at a fraction of what we would pay in the U.S.  When I arrive up 10 minutes before open, hopped up on caffeine and carbs, there was already a line forming. What I found when the doors open could only be described as beautiful, organized chaos. Caudalie, La Roche Posay, Klorane, rows and rows of all French beauty staples that are nearly impossible to get here at home. I saw multiple people combing through their own lists, strategizing what we could get through TSA.

I quickly filled a basket to the brim, high off the thrill of inexpensive prices of my favorite beauty, or just way too buzzed from the double espresso. I also found many new favorites-in-training, thanks to the advice of a few experts I enlisted from my Instagram. City Pharma was pretty overwhelming, so I wanted to share my finds today to ensure you don’t find yourself crying in the Caudalie aisle. Unless it’s tears of joy- then we’re on the same page here.

 

Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum

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A creamy, refreshing serum meant to help brighten skin and treat dark spots. I’ve found that Vitamin C serums have really helped with my acne scarring and overall skin-brightness. This one contains"viniferine", which is said to be even more effective than Vit C.  I apply in the morning after washing my face and it feels like what coffee feels like to my soul, but for my face. It’s the little luxuries, people!

*It is $79 here in the U.S....I paid the equivalent of $32 at City Pharma.

Caudalie Overnight Detox Oil

I bought this for the first time a few months ago, and have been using it religiously every night. After about a month, I noticed my skin was smoother, more even-toned, even a little redness around my nose had dulled. I wake up feeling dewy and plump, and possibly a little drowsy because I had to take a melatonin at 2am after spending all night thinking of how horses sit. ANYWAY- it’s the real deal, and about half the price in France. I stocked up.

*Paid $50 at Sephora originally, $27 at City Pharma. Caudalie is insanely less expensive in France, I highly recommend stocking up on this brand.

 

Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentrate

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This was the #1 suggestion from my Instagram outreach. It’s essentially in the makeup bag of every makeup artist, as this cream is praised as the perfect primer & moisturizer. I can now attest that this is true. I have been applying right before my makeup, and it creates a smooth, supple base for product. I really enjoy using it on its own too, after I shower and am just lounging around the house. It’s extremely hydrating and light, and suddenly gives me the urge to turn on French coffeehouse music and light a cigarette. Don’t worry mom, I WON’T!

Bioderma Hydrabio H20

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Duh. I use as a makeup remover and it gets every last bit of it off, leaving my face smooth and fresh feeling. Incredibly inexpensive, wonderfully luxurious. Like my feelings, my skin is extremely sensitive, so I use the one with the blue lid.

Klorane Dry Shampoo

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This is something I had bought in the States previously, but when I saw the significantly-less price tag in the Pharmacie ($10 here vs. $3, I grabbed a few bottles. You can’t go wrong here, it’s a great dry shampoo.

 

Klorane Smoothing & Relaxing Eye Patches

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I live for an eye patch moment. Waking up and throwing a pair on my tired, puffy eyes is very much near the top of my favorite hobbies list. Eye patches can be really expensive, considering you typically use them once. These cooled my tired, jet lag eyes at a very nice price ($10 for 7 sets).

Nuxe Dry Body Oil

This seemed to be on display everywhere and a friend had asked me to pick her up a bottle. I got one for myself and now I wish I had filled an entire suitcase with it. A silky, smooth, luxurious dry body oil that comes in a PUMP! No more messy-hands, spilling it all over the place. It smells like a fancy vacation and makes skin supple and glowy. Use any remainder on your hands on the ends of your hair. 

Hexomedine

When I got home from Paris, I had this weird red little bump under my chin. I applied this with a q-tip and by morning, it had almost disappeared completely. Touted as a staple for the French, it is an antiseptic for acne. If I have a stubborn zit, I’ll just put a little bit on and then hydrate the area. It’s extremely drying, so only use once a day if necessary!

*This product will be behind the counter, you’ll have to ask a pharmacist for it! Thanks Google Translate app!!!

*P.P.S- I think it’s rude to ask French people if they speak English. You are in their home, after all! Try “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French” first and see how they respond.

Homeoplasmine

Your chapped lips need this, trust me. Insanely hydrating and healing. I can’t remember fully because I was drunk with power at the time, but this may have to be asked for from behind the counter as well. Perfect for chapped lips, itchy or irritated skin!

Avène Thermal Spring Water

An absolute staple, the perfect skin-refresher. I stocked up on travel sizes for my purse, car and desk. I sweat a lot, okay?

Nuxe Reve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm

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Another recommendation from a friend, this applies like sheer butter on your lips. I keep it on my nightstand and put on a few coats right before bed. This + my pimple pads bedtime look probably gives Mike nightmares. The price of beauty, baby!!

Le Petit Marseillais (Bar Soaps)

 I picked up a few of these as gifts. They’re inexpensive, and the scents are luscious and fresh.

Above all, the thing that Paris taught me is that beauty really lies within. JUST KIDDING! I carefully curated this list through research and recommendation, I did enough sweaty laps around the pharmacy to definitely categorize it as exercise. Now with my face coated in vitamin C, freshly sprayed with mineral water, I’ll be getting back to my never-ending carb-fest. VIVE LA FRANCE!

 

Mask On, Mask Off.

It was a wise, wise man who once said “Get a hobby!!!!!”- it was my husband, and I think he said it to me when I finished all re-runs of "The O.C." in one week. Little did he know, my hobby would become skincare & masking, and I could do it all while re-watching the Chrismukkah episode. Take that!

I’ve tried many masks, some good, some bad, some smelly, some making me look like a straight-up serial killer in the night. But I found myself coming back to the same five masks every time, keeping them on rotation for my skin-needs at that moment. I thought I would share with you all today my holy grail of face masks, which is not to be taken lightly! I’ve tried a ton, and somehow these five have survived the test of time, which is more than I can say for my violin hobby, my drawing hobby, and even my horseback riding hobby (didn’t end well, don’t want to talk about it).

 

1. Glossier Moisturizing Moon Mask- $22

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This has been my ride-or-die mask for a few years now. I do it at least once a week, preferably before an event or on a lazy morning. I am addicted to how this mask makes my skin look. I call it “Botox in a bottle” (NOT IN A BOTTLE BUT I MAKE MY OWN RULES), because it tightens, firms up and moisturizes all in 20 minutes. It also just feels incredible on your face. When I fly long distances, I put it on mid-flight and let it soak in like moisturizer.

Hot Tip! Put it in the fridge for the ultimate masking-experience.

Sometimes my skin goes into a meltdown more epic than a 6th grader at Hollister trying to cop a pair of jeans from their mom (me, that 6th grader was me). It needs serious work, but I don’t have time for or can’t afford a professional facial. This Tata Harper mask gives me almost the same results. It’s like a refresh button for your face. It helps me to get rid of little bumps, calm acne, and get my skin glowing again. Expensive price tag, but you’ll spend just as much on a new candle! No? That’s just me? Got it.

 

3. Kiehl’s Rare Earth Cleansing Masque- $30

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This is it ladies and gentlemen- a mask so good- that it got my husband into the masking game. Refreshing, purifying and effective. 86% of my summers are spent in this mask, because after .2 second of being outside and getting sweaty, this mask makes me feel clean again. On occasion, I do get a small breakout after using, because it’s bringing things to the surface. But for the most part, it helps balance my skin and unclog my pores.

 

4. Dr. Jart Water Replenishment Sheet Mask- $7.50

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The first time I did a sheet mask, I hid behind a door and waited to scare Michael (here’s those serial killer vibes!!). He ended up working late so I sat behind that door for a long time, but on the upside my skin looked UNREAL after. This mask has become my post-travel ritual. It restores all moisture to your face, leaving it plump and glowy.

Another hot tip- save the packaging to use the leftover serum as night cream the next day!

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Sometimes I come home from work and have so much to do (or just need to take a nap, it’s usually the nap), there is simply no time to sit down with a 20-minute mask. This is just as powerful, in less than half the amount of time. The directions say to leave it on for 2 minutes, but I leave it on for about 5 minutes- rules are made to be broken, baby. This stuff is a miracle. I wake up in the morning with bright, even skin. I really can’t believe the difference it makes overnight, it feels like it breathes new life in to your face. Major pay off with minimal work- the ideal face mask and also my resume objective!

 

So here’s to starting off 2018 with your best face forward! Unless you go out and drink your weight in $6 bottles of champagne this weekend. You get a pass for a few days.

September 30th, 2017.

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Hello, world! It’s me...Alexandra Ayaub! Yes, I am now a married lady, cozied up in my post-nuptial life. The last year was a whirlwind, and I truly enjoyed planning our big day, which made the wedding itself all the sweeter. Today, I not only wanted to share with you my favorite wedding photos, but my personal experience with planning a wedding without losing my mind, my hair, and my fiancé!

*I’ll be doing another post on all of our vendors in a few days. I loved everyone we used and am currently trying to get them all to be friends with me post-wedding. TBD.

From the day we started planning, I tried to never take any of it too seriously.  I went in to this knowing that the flowers, the centerpieces and the linens were the icing on the cake- the cake being that I get to marry Michael, truly the man of my dreams (he watches me open boxes from my online shopping and tells me what he thinks for God’s sake) no matter what the table numbers looked like. We wanted to have fun, and that was the “theme” of our wedding. And pizza, donuts and love, OF COURSE. Everything was chosen and decided upon based off the simple idea of “What do we like? Let’s do that”. We just wanted to be surrounded in love by our family and friends and have a great time. We were both very lucky to have supportive parents on both sides, who wanted the same thing.

September 30th, 2017 was truly the greatest day of my life. I didn’t know my heart could feel so happy and full as it did that day. From the warm, intimate rehearsal dinner at my parent’s house, to the very last song at the reception (in which everyone at the wedding surrounded us on the dance floor while Michael and I danced in the center, and I belted Celine Dion’s “Power of Love”. A DREAM!!) I was bursting with happiness and love. We had the most fun we’ve ever had, dancing to all our favorite songs (turns out my mom DOES know Cardi B!!) with our friends and family, scarfing down pizza at midnight, getting ready with our incredible friends at the hotel, and laughing and smiling the entire time. Not a single thing went wrong or didn’t work in our favor that day- it was perfect beyond anything we could have imagined.

I don’t know if anyone will remember the centerpieces, or the flowers that lined each table, or what the cake looked like. But I do think that everyone will remember what a wonderful time they had, and how each part of our wedding had a little piece of us in it. So Mom, grab your tissues, here is a collection of my favorite photos from the day we became man and wife:

Click to enlarge the photos and scroll (mom,again).

All photos by Sandra & Grant Floering of For The Love of It. 

The Millennial's Guide to Wedding Dress Codes

Weddings have drastically changed in the last 20 years. We get married in barns, carry puppies as bouquets, we even dance down the aisle to Drake. But the biggest component that’s changed, that no-one seems to be talking about, is wedding dress codes. Dress codes are kind of like Voldemort. We don’t want talk about it, but we know it’s coming and we’re probably just going to wing it and hope for the best (RON!).

When you Google “Wedding Dress Codes”, you’re often left with the Emily-Post etiquette of "get your long, opera gloves on and shine up your spats". But in the last 20 years, even in the last decade, fashion has changed radically. Style has changed. We, as a society, dress more casually than ever. So the words “Black Tie” can be scarier than an avocado shortage. The old rules- they just don’t apply anymore. They’re outdated, out of style and frankly, confusing. I’m here to lay out, in the simplest way possible, what that dress code on a wedding invitation really means. So, sorry, Emily Post, take a seat (probably on a doily or something).

A QUICK NOTE:

When I mention a “cocktail dress”, I am speaking of a dress that falls above the knee and higher. It’s realistic to what what’s in stores today.  It is incredibly confusing to read online that you can wear cocktail length to a black tie wedding, but that it must be below the knee. Walking into a store today, most cocktail dresses are above the knee, and we’re usually left wondering if this friend is really that important to us, and if we should just send a gift, stay home and binge GoT instead. A lot of other “guides” are probably going to contradict what I am saying. But they all seem to just be repeats of one another, stemming from years back. I am writing this guideline based on what fashion is now, and what you would find in a store today, not 20 years ago.

 

BLACK TIE

If you get a wedding invitation that says Black Tie, not followed by “optional”, or “preferred”, these people are not messing around. You have probably been invited to a Socialite’s wedding, so good for you, social climber! 

Women: Floor length dress, preferably some sort of gown. You basically need to act like you are going to Beyonce’s house for dinner. Or you’re Elizabeth Taylor on her way to the supermarket. Have some fun with this! It’s rare to get this dressed up, let it be fun. (*Dresses aren’t your thing? Do a chic tux look). 

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*I don’t know one woman with a closet full of gowns. I have three black tie weddings this year alone, and for that, I have enlisted Rent The Runway. Their StylePass has saved my closet and wardrobe. $65 a month, 3 month commitment (doesn’t have to be in a row, you can skip months), and you can rent ANY dress on the site. A lot of formal dresses on the site rent for over $200 + shipping+ insurance. With StylePass, you get it for $65, free shipping & insurance and a free backup size. You’ll look incredible and your wallet will too.

Men: A Tuxedo. Don’t fear a cummerbund, you can skip it for suspenders, which looks WAY cooler when you take off your jacket to show everyone you've memorized the "Single Ladies" dance. Or to have less restriction when eating cake. Whatever you’re into! 

 

BLACK TIE PREFERRED/BLACK TIE OPTIONAL

My own wedding invitation requests “Black Tie Preferred”. Why? Because it’s what our venue caters to...that and I get dressed up to go to the CVS. What did you expect from my wedding? Black Tie Optional/Preferred gives you a little more wiggle room. In most cases, the hosts just don’t want you showing up in your club dress, ladies, or khakis, gentlemen. This is the cooler, more lenient sister to Black Tie.

Women: Floor length or tea-length dresses. Cocktail dress, not quite appropriate here. “But Alex!! It has rhinestones on the collar!”. How Nice! Not here. Your dress should be below your knee and under. * I want to specify that gowns do not have to be big, tulle-filled affairs. And a floor-length dress, does not mean a Massimo from Target Maxi. Look for fabrics like chiffon, silk, or crepe. It can be chic without being debutante.

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Men: Surprise! You don’t have to wear a tux (you don’t have to shave your legs and NOW this?!). It’s smart to own one-you can get a beautiful tux for around $200-$280 at most stores-, but in this situation, you can get away with a nice dark suit and tie. I love your chic khaki linen suit as much as the next gal (you guys are doing amazing, sweetie), but if your girl is in a gown, be the man candy she deserves.

 

FORMAL

Formal is very tricky. It’s like a good Tinder date. You don’t REALLY want to commit to the full thing (Black Tie), but you still want it to be nice. It’s that in-between space between Black Tie and Cocktail, which leaves you with a goody-bag of options. 

Women: Remember the Britney Spears hit “Not a Girl…Not Yet a Woman”? When you get an invitation that reads “Formal”, think of this song. It’s not QUITE a gown, but not quite a cocktail dress. You can do floor-length, but tea-length, midi (hits around lower calf-area), at or just above the knee is more standard. But just like my principal in middle school used to say “Above the knees, detention, Alex!!” Okay, it’s not that serious. Or maybe it is, some Brides are wild.

Men: Again, you have it very easy. A tux is not needed here. Wear a nice suit and tie. Black, blue, navy, midnight blue, it all works! Bonus points for a cool pocket square.

COCKTAIL

TAKE THAT, PRINCIPAL! It’s time to show off those gorgeous knee caps of yours, ladies! Cocktail is one of the easier-to-understand-dress codes, as who doesn’t like cocktails?! Cocktail is the chill, younger cousin of Formal that just came home from a semester abroad. Isn’t she the coolest?

Women: At or above the knee dresses are standard. Chances are you probably already have a great cocktail dress hanging in your closet. Change it up from wedding-to-wedding with different hair, makeup, and shoes. If dresses are not your thing (very chic of you), I’ve worn nice pants, heels, and a beautiful top to a cocktail wedding.

Men: You can have a little fun here. You should still wear a suit, but you can play around with different fabrics and styles. Linen, Khaki suits, bright blue- go to town!!...as long as that's where you get your suits from. 

CASUAL/DRESSY CASUAL

This wedding is most likely in the day-time, which is considerate, because it will give me more time to recover from the 3 glasses of champagne that it takes to give me a hangover!

Women: Take your cue from the bride. She will probably be in a more casual-style of wedding dress. Cotton sundresses, linen midi skirts and a blouse, flowy silhouettes- you can have some freedom with this. I hope it goes without saying no shorts, t-shirts or tank tops. If not, message me privately. I’m here for you.

Men: Nice Slacks and a button-down shirt. You poor, poor things.

Weddings are supposed to be joyous, exciting occasions. Too often they can be dampened by confusing dress codes and even-more confusing guides online. Still have questions? Here’s a few guidelines to follow, for any dress code:

 

1. If you know the Bride, think about what she will be wearing, and what her bridesmaids will be wearing. You don’t want to be fancier than the wedding party. If the bridesmaids are in long dresses, you probably will want to be, too. The bride is going for Bohemian Chic, barefoot with a flower crown? Your cute Anthropologie dress is a winner. Adapt to the wedding and its hosts, they will always be the perfect indicator of what the attire will be.

2. There's a lot of crossover between different dress codes when it comes to dress length (even in the photos I used, most of those dresses cross into each other's category). If you are still frazzled by it, pay attention to the fabric and style of the dress, and how you're going to accessorize. 

3. Take the venue into account- this is for Brides and guests! If you want to get married at a rustic, 100-year old chicken farm, you can’t expect your guests to come in tuxedos and gowns. Cater the dress code to the venue, so that everyone is comfortable and content.

4. DON’T WEAR WHITE. DON’T EVER WEAR ALL WHITE. Unless the Bride is cool like that and requests it. I’ve been to so many weddings where women show up in white gowns. Don’t be that girl. Be the girl that slams 5 slices of late-night pizza and then leads the Wobble. We like that girl.

5. Don’t take it so seriously. Yes, with all these “rules”, it can seem very intimidating to attend a wedding. Don’t be afraid of getting it wrong. The bride is just happy to have you there, if she’s not a total bridezilla. Your dress, or suit, will not make or break the couple’s day. Getting too drunk and knocking over Grandma? That might make or break it. I don’t suggest it.

Don't worry, Emily- you'll always have napkin folding and fork placement.

 

* All photos from renttherunway.com

Here's What to Buy From The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is one of my favorite holidays. I have even gone as far as to take a vacation day from work on the first day of the sale. I’M NOT PLAYING AROUND HERE! It’s one of the greatest sales of the year, because it’s not on old, bottom-of-the-barrel-merchandise. It’s the beautiful, new, shiny things for Fall, offered at a discount. Every year, I do my research. The second that catalog hits my mailbox, I study it. I strategize. I hydrate. And when sale day comes, I’m ready to rage.

In the past year or so, I have really been trying to pull the reins in on my shopping (do not ask Mike if he agrees). I make fewer, more careful & calculated purchases, as I’m trying to build a closet based on quality, not quantity. So for this year’s sale, I’m doing the leg work ( PUN INTENDED BECAUSE I’M DOWN A LEG RIGHT NOW) for you, and have carefully curated the best things to buy- just ask my Nordstrom card.

 

 

Chelsea28 Pleated Velvet Skirt- $52.90 (normally $79)

As soon as I saw this in the catalog, I knew it was going to be the piece-of-the-sale. There’s always that one piece that sells out on the first day, even in the first hours. Last year it was a Green DKNY Utility Parka. I was online at exactly midnight, adding to cart- I told you, this is not a game. This skirt is even better in person. It’s like Gucci, when Gucci was Gucci (who have I lost here?). Velvet is a YUGE trend for Fall, and this skirt is the perfect way to ease into it without looking like your Grandma’s Casino tracksuit. The color is a gorgeous yellow-gold. It will pair perfectly with a tee, oversized sweaters, a leather jacket, etc. Highly recommend sizing up- the waistband is not friendly after a mostaccioli bender (I’m looking at you, grad parties).

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WAYF Satin Pajama Top- $45.90 (normally $69)

Pajama shirts have been around for a few seasons now, and I have no complaints. I will wear anything that allows me to feel like I could sleep at any moment, but also look good in public. When I originally saw this online, I had it in my cart and decided not to go through with it. I really am trying to be careful! HOWEVER, when I went into the store, I couldn’t believe it was the same shirt I saw online. 1000% better in person. It is the ideal pink-pajama shirt. Just pink enough, so that I don’t look like I’m in some kind of doll-matching Pajama from American Girl Doll. The lapel is gorgeous and chic, and I can’t wait to wear it half-tucked into some jeans, under a sweater, or for travel. YES, for travel. I plead with the people, please wear anything but your sweats and Volleyball t-shirt from 2008. True to size. 

ASICS Gel Running Shoe- $119 (normally $159)

I live for my Asics. Once, when I was in the gym, some snotty teenager told me she liked my "dad shoes”. I don’t think she was expecting me to take it as a compliment, but dad-things are very on trend (otherwise my nightly Jeopardy habit and bad puns are in…jeopardy.) These are by far the most comfortable tennis shoes I have ever owned. They are perfect for exercise, or a solid Sunday-brunch athleisure look. They feel like you’re walking on a cloud, even if you’re just walking to the neighborhood Taco Bell. I recommend going a half size up.

 

The beauty buys are where it's AT this year. Nordstrom really stepped up their game, and I came to play (do I need a hobby?).

 

Evian Facial Water Spray- $21 (normally $46)

Do you want to feel like Meredith Blake, poolside, from "The Parent Trap"? If you don’t, go re-watch the movie and reassess. That’s what this spray does. It makes you feel like a refreshed, riche, together person. Who knew spray could be more helpful than my therapist? This deal is insane- six for $21. I keep one in my purse, and always in my carry-on for travel. Not to mention my beach bag- who’s that famous girl spraying EVIAN on herself at the pool? Oh, it’s YOU!

I am addicted to Crème de Corps, which I think is French for “you will literally feel like a corpse without with lotion”, right? It’s incredibly hydrating, and leaves skin smooth and glowy. This bottle is the size of a small child, with less commitment! It will last me about an entire year, and the pump is KEY to assure I use it everyday. A solid investment in your skin.

Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencils- $59 (normally $110)

These are my ride-or-die lipsticks. I'm horrible at lipstick. It always ends up all around my mouth, and not in a cool, ironic way. I look like I went face deep into a burger after applying a nice summer coral. These could not be any easier, or longer lasting. They glide on like a dream, the application is easy and precise. I own multiple colors, and am always adding to my collection. There's two colorways you can chose from- if this is your first experience with the pencils, go with the "Tribulation" set. Pencil Pro? "Mustang" is calling your name. 

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Diptyque Mini Candle Set of 5- $55 (normally $75)

 

THIS IS THE MONEY RIGHT HERE! I really may have saved the best for last. When I saw these last year, I had to do a double take. FIVE mini Diptyque candles?! These babies prove that size ISN'T everything (oh, hi mom!). Just one of these will fill your entire home with their delicious scent. These also make the perfect gifts- if you can bear to part with even one. If I've given you a "Feu de Bois" mini, you know it's real. Don't forget to fulfill your Tumbler dreams by de-waxing these when you're done! They make for the perfect canisters for Q-tips, perfume samples, even a shot glass. Don't knock it till you've tried it. 

And there you have it! My heart, and Nordstrom card, runneth over. I've come a long way! A few years ago, the only "runneth over" I was doing was over some pre-teen for Michael Kors boots. Raise your Diptyque shot glass, here's to progress! 

Take Your Time.

I'm officially back from a little writing hiatus, and to say I've been busy is an understatement. I'm planning my wedding, my mom's wedding, I'm the maid of honor in my best friend's wedding, AND I started binge watching "House of Cards"! How does she do it?! 

When life gets busy, I tend to feel like someones pressed fast forward (and not that weak 2x sh!%, but the lightning speed you use when you're with your parents and people start getting naked), and I'm just catching little moment here and there. I know I'm not alone- I know a lot of people get this way. Between work, friends, family, trying to be healthy, and keeping your house from looking like an episode of "Hoarders", how are you supposed to find time to slow down and appreciate the little things? 

We usually don't. Until we have to. 

A few weeks ago, I went to the dermatologist for some laser treatment for a few scars on my back. I had noticed lately that my underarms had gotten extremely dark, and I casually mentioned it to my doctor. I was sure it was some sort of allergic reaction to a new deodorant or just my Italian genes catching up with me. He took one look at it and said I needed to go see my Endocrinologist right away- that it was something internal causing this sudden darkness. It's like I got the Voldemort of armpits. I still thought nothing of it-until I did the worst thing you can do- I got on WebMD. Cancer! Tumor! Divvy up your things and say "Goodbye"!! I wouldn't admit it, but I was scared. But- I had been down this road before, thinking the worst and all it ended up being was a bad hot dog. I wouldn't worry until I had something to actually worry about. 

I got into the Endocrinologist the very next morning. She gave my underarms the once, twice, three-times over. She asked me a plethora of questions, got on her computer and got very quiet for what felt like hours. She admitted she was completely stumped- I didn't have any symptoms other than my dark underarms. I didn't match the criteria for someone that usually has this (BTW, it was diagnosed Acanthosis Nigricans . No need to bore you with words I can't pronounce). She took my hands and looked me square in the eyes: " I don't want to scare you, but I want to seek out if this is symptom of a tumor". And now I had something to worry about. 

I couldn't breathe. 48-hours-ago all I cared about was what I was going to wear to my bridal shower, if my room needed a new rug, and if Mike would be mad at me because I watched-ahead on Netflix. This can't be true. The doctor is just being careful. I feel absolutely fine. What if I'm not? I didn't sleep that night, and was exhausted when I showed up at my Internist the next morning. For the third day in a row, I was looked over, my eyes meeting those of a confused doctor. I took a blood test. To my relief, it came back 100% normal. I thought I was in the clear. If something really was wrong, it would have showed up on a blood test. Nope- now I was sent to my gastroenterologist, to get an upper scope, and look around for some scary, WebMD predicted tumor. That feeling of relief was over quicker than my "Crazy Bonez" addiction when I was eight.

My Internist, one of the smartest, most kick-ass women I know, assured me that the chances of an actual tumor in my gastrointestinal tract just doesn't feel likely. It just wouldn't add up, but let's do this test to be safe. She put my mind at ease, taking away some of that crippling fear when you have to think: "but I haven't done anything yet". 

Last week, I had my upper scope- and it came back 100% clear. I burst into tears as soon as my doctor told me. Also I was not fully off anesthesia yet and I was having a dream I met Nick Jonas so things may have gotten mixed around. 

It's no secret that life moves fast, and it can change in the blink of an eye. After my appointment with the Endocrinologist,  I laid in bed that night with Mike, crying, thinking I hadn't appreciated enough our dinners together. Or morning walks. Or doing the dishes together.  I hadn't taken the time in the little moments to realize they are the big ones. That life is good even when it's Monday, even when I'm not on vacation, even when I'm up to my eyeballs in work. If we do not take the time now to appreciate the people in our lives and the moments they create, what are we living for anyway? It's not the clothes, the new beauty products (can't deny they bring me overwhelming joy, but THAT'S NOT THE POINT!) or the Instagram moments. It's the everyday, mundane things with people you love that will fill your life. There's a real argument to be had for the in-between. 

So what's the takeaway here? IF YOUR ARMPITS SUDDENLY BECOME DARK DON'T JUST RUB LEMON ON THEM BECAUSE MARTHA STEWART SAID TO. GET THEM CHECKED OUT. Okay, no. It's something more important. I know it's impossible to be grateful and appreciate everything every minute of every day. Some days are really really tough. But this is your reminder, your sign, if you got off track like I did, to not sweat the small stuff, and to use that extra time to enjoy your boring, beautiful life. Don't wait until it's Instagram levels of excitement to enjoy it. Speak kindly and with purpose. Realize that true love is not just reserved for a significant other, but for your family and friends as well. And let them know.

I feel so unbelievably blessed that my results came back clean, because I know there are so many people that aren't granted that same relief. This entire ordeal has forced me to slow down a little bit and realize that the things that keep me from enjoying life, aren't important enough to give them that power. So wedding flowers, take a back seat. I'll be enjoying this boring-ass episode of Jeopardy curled up my couch while I yell out the wrong answers- and loving every minute of it. 

*Photo by Ava Ranger Photography 

 

 

Equilibrium Pilates Challenge: It's Only Just The Beginning.

 

360 Pilates classes- that’s what I’ve been up to for the past three months. Well, I’m on the other side now, and am doing a little "Mulan" style ~reflecting~ on how my life, body, and mind have changed in the last 90 days with Equilibrium Pilates Studio.

I’ve said it a thousand times, I am not athletic. You’re looking at the Assistant Manager of every single basketball, softball, and volleyball team from Middle School to High School (yes, I tried out for each one- CAN’T STOP ME). It mostly has to do with my orthopedic disability from birth defects.  I also am just extremely uncoordinated, and in a game of H.O.R.S.E, I’m usually out faster than you can say Kobe. Or is it Lebron now? SPORTS.

So when I entered this path to Pilates, I was understandably nervous. I equated Pilates to tall, perfectly slender dancers, moving through each exercise with more grace than “Swan Lake”. It was much to my surprise, that most people in my classes at Equilibrium were just like me, and the teachers, although slender and graceful (but also with bad ass muscles that could crush a man), didn’t make me feel for one second that I wasn’t just like them. I never felt out of my league, or like I didn’t belong. The teachers were kind, helpful, instructive and supportive. They helped me move through each class with the same grace I reserved for dancers and people who can walk with books on their head. It makes me tear up to think about one teacher, Rachel, who literally held onto my waist, supporting me, and moved me through a standing position on the Reformer, as I was physically incapable of completing the move myself. The kindness, patience and understanding that was shown to me at Equilibrium was not just good for Pilates, but I found it resonating in my life in so many other ways.

Did I wake up every morning, leaping out of bed like a kid on Christmas, ready to roll to Pilates? Hell naw. In the first few weeks, my mind still equated Pilates to a “workout” which translated to “burden”. But by the end of the challenge, I was itching to get to Pilates every day, and missing it when I couldn’t attend. I found that my mind needed it as much as my body did. Walking into the studio and knowing I had an hour to work on me, free from work or other obligation was an absolute game changer. Some people do their best thinking in the shower- I would now like to think I do mine on the Reformer. The low-impact (but high results) of Pilates make this workout anything from a burden. I actually found myself choosing Pilates over Happy Hour- and if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know then I don’t know what to tell you. It’s some of the best work I do all day.

Now for the physical results. Let’s be totally open here: I went into this challenge at 98 pounds- which is far too low for me. I was weak, no muscle tone, frail and scared that if I fell, I would be the youngest person that ever screamed “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!!!”. In just three months, I have more muscle than I’ve ever had- 7 pounds more of it to be exact. Moves I couldn't do in the first week, I was doing with ease on the last. I feel strong, capable, and safer on my own two feet. Again, for the sake of being honest- this wasn’t an easy adjustment. I felt AMAZING. But seeing weight get put on your body, even when it’s good weight, can be tough. Society equates being thin to being fit. And even I, fell victim to this archaic notion. I had, wrongly, associated my slenderness with having a “good body”, even though one big gust of wind and I was out of here. When I started to get more muscle and put on weight (which was the necessary thing for me to do), it took adjusting. I had to really come around to appreciate this new, stronger, healthier body. Like most women, I am hard on myself. Every lump and bump and dark spot I am critical of, to the point of stressing myself out over the smallest of things. Through Pilates, I’m learning to appreciate my body not because of its size or weight, but because it is mine, and for the first time in a long time, it’s healthy. It’s an ongoing effort, and I truly encourage you all to do the same. Equilibrium has jump-started the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had with my body, and that in itself is priceless.

Maybe you’re thinking you want to try Pilates, but like me, you’re a little unsure. Do you have stretch pants? A pair of socks? Well then honey, you’re in! To ease the “first class jitters” of starting a new form of exercise, the wonderfully kind people of Equilibrium are offering a FREE Pilates barre class with me! Here’s the info:

SATURDAY, JUNE 3RD

8:30am

Equilibrium Pilates Studio, Birmingham

189 Townsend Street #100 (just go down the stairs and you're there!)

Email JessicaP@Equilibriumstudio.com to sign up! 

 

If you even have a HINT of “I want to try this”, please join me for this class. I don’t promote anything I don’t fully support, and I can promise you this could be the start of something really, really great for you. It’s a low impact class, so don’t be nervous! You’re going to get through it thinking you’re basically the Calvin Johnson of Pilates (Again, SPORTS??). And then 24 hours later, you’ll be wondering while you’re so sore. Those are your muscles, and they’re back, baby.

I would sincerely like to thank Equilibrium for the gift of this partnership. The kindness of the studio and its staff has made this a life-and-body-altering experience, and I am forever grateful. I plan to continue practicing Pilates for a long time to come, until I’m frail when I’m actually supposed to be.

Renee Rouleau Skincare: A Review

Nothing makes me happier than seeing humans on a leash-less walk with their dogs- how do they follow along so loyally? I can hardly walk down the sidewalk with Mike without straying to something shiny in a store window. Another great joy in my life is finding new, effective skincare lines. So when I stumbled upon Renee Rouleau Skincare via Instagram, my tail immediately starting wagging. Okay, wait, no- I’m getting these all mixed up.

It was a few months ago that a post-Renee-facial-selfie of Demi Lovato shook me to my core (I was also eating an entire box of Thin Mints so that might have contributed to core happenings). I was so curious about the Renee Rouleau skincare line, since it was born from the mind of a esthetician- Renee herself. I was generously given some product, and my skin will never be the same.

Before we dive into product specifics, let’s go over a couple things.

1)      You can go to ReneeRouleau.com and take your skin quiz. It’s more fun than a “what toast topping are you!!” quiz, and it will guide you to which products would be most beneficial for your specific skin type.

2)      All Renee Rouleau (Roo-Low) products are lightweight, with formulas using herbal plant extracts and essential oils.

3)      No parabens, bad alcohols, synthetics or synthetic fragrances

4)      They don’t test on animals! Bunnies everywhere rejoice.

5)      The product packaging is beyond chic- rose gold is basically a Millennial girl’s bread and butter.

 

AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser

I am (almost!) 26-years-old, and I am still dealing with these little white bumps all over my chin at all times. They weren’t quite white heads, but little bumps that sat beneath the skin, crushing my dreams of a concealer-less day. I tried creams, lotions and potions and they never seemed to disappear, even as my skin was generally improving. Within two weeks of using this face wash, the bumps are gone and have not returned. This wash is creamy and gentle, with a light exfoliation (made from plastic beads- so not harsh or harmful to environment), gentle enough for every day. It’s more soft and soothing than a fresh pint of Halo Top. It really deep cleans my pores and fights against acne and yes- my annoying bumps. Leaves your face cleaner than Martha Stewart’s counter tops and softer than what I imagine Usher’s abs to feel like. $31.50

Anti Cyst Treatment

LADIES- you know that feeling, once a month when it feels like your uterus is going to fall right out of you and walk away? As if that isn’t bad enough, with that blessed time of the month comes the cystic, throbbing bumps that no matter how much masking I do, they pop up to the party they weren’t even invited to (I will remind my children every day of all the suffering I did for them). It usually takes me 4-5 products, praying and a lot of waiting to make them go away. This anti-cyst treatment was God’s way of answering. I apply 2-3 times a day, and the cyst is gone in half the time. I saw my usual forehead attendant go down in half the size in just one day. It’s an easy to apply, clear serum that’s made with gentle, yet effective ingredients (Citric Acid, Methyl Gluceth 20 and Ethyl Lactate) to calm, reduce redness and prevent scarring. It’s like a cortisone shot in a pump- but less money and painless. When I really want to give that bump the boot quick, I apply the serum and top with M-61’s Power Spot Blemish Lotion. AND STAY OUT! $45.50 (and it will last you a LONG time.)

Skin Recovery Lotion

As we know by now, I have sensitive, oily, acne-prone skin with redness on my cheeks. I am the total package…. to a greedy dermatologist. I’ve found in the past, I tend to overdo it. In a desperate attempt to get my skin under control, I do mask after mask with oil after oil piled on top. I now know that does my harm than good, and I’ve been trying to simplify my routine to just a few products- which was why it was a relief to find that this lotion is also the total package- gentle on sensitive skin, calms acne and reduces redness. Some nights I need deep, deep hydration, and I’ve expressed my love for Glossier’s Priming Moisturizer Rich for that. But at night, when I need my skin to essentially take a Xanax, this is my gal. It’s oil free, doesn’t clog my pores, hydrates, and leaves my skin calm and cozy- like me during an 8-hour marathon of “Say Yes to The Dress” on my couch. So now, even if I overdo it, it takes my skin back to base camp one, providing a perfectly calm complexion come morning. $41.50

 

BHA Clarifying Serum

Sadly- I couldn’t test this one out. It has a Mushroom ingredient in it- which I am allergic to! Basically my allergy ruins my skincare fun and my pizza but that’s just life. So this one, I’m giving away to one of YOU! This serum is designed to clear clogged pores, lift scarring, lessen oil production (I am seriously depressed right now DAMN U MUSHROOMS), and even out your skin tone. Over time, it is meant to help with your clarity and texture, minimizing your pores and blemishes. How do you win? STARTING 3/21: Head on over to my Instagram (@alexandramauro), like the photo that goes up tomorrow morning, tag a friend, your mom, meme-soulmate, WHOEVER!, and be sure to follow @reneerouleauskincare. I’ll be picking a winner this week! 

 

I may never have the pipes of Demi Lovato (it’s more like William Hung or Mariah Carey NYE edition), but now I can at least rival her flawless complexion. Skincare is important- not only because I want to look 30 when I’m 50, but because it helps me be more confident on the day-to-day. Renee Rouleau gets that- and helps me put my best face forward. Not in a Neutrogena commercial way-where a girl magically and excitedly splashes water on her face- but in an every day, maybe you spilled salad dressing on your silk shirt but hey my skin looks great-way. And for that- I am forever grateful.

 

* Thank you to Renee Rouleau for providing the products. These are my honest opinions and experiences after one month of use. 

 

Pilates or Bust (literally)! My Partnership with Equilibrium Pilates.

 

 

I’m not totally lost when it comes to working out. Yes, some days my idea of a crunch is the one I get from a Lay’s potato chip. But I’m no stranger to fitness- I’ve been doing physical therapy pretty much since birth. Here’s the story: I was born with severely clubbed feet, which led to a whole plethora of orthopedic issues, and here I am, 10 surgeries later with a better walk!! but the osteoporosis and severe arthritis in my feet and ankles that come with the territory of being laid up, and in and out of wheelchairs during my youth.

During my last surgery in high school, I was pretty immobile, and I became extremely frail- even getting down to 75 pounds at one point. During my recovery, I was able to put weight back on, and I was actually feeling pretty healthy, stable and good on my feet- then I went to college. Four years of no physical therapy, minimal exercise, maximum servings at the cafeteria, an introduction to beer, an even bigger introduction to late-night Jimmy John’s. I left college with a degree, 20 extra pounds and feet that couldn’t take me more than 3 blocks.

When I got my first job out of college, I was definitely feeling the effects of my poor health. I was tired all the time, none of my clothes fit, I was feeling sick quite often. It was New Year’s Day of 2015 when I joined the popular fitness program, “Tone It Up”. I went HARD. I ate according the to the recipes, did the daily workouts (which really are great), and in 8 months, I lost 20 pounds, toned up (they really do live up to their name), and completely changed my eating habits. I felt incredible. I was walking easier, getting out of bed with less effort, not limping so often. Then, SURPRISE!! I got colitis.

For a solid 6 months I was sick every day. I’m not going into the gross details because they are well, gross. But I was having trouble eating just about anything without getting violently ill. I had a JOYOUS Colonoscopy (I really do hate getting my picture taken), where I was diagnosed with Colitis. I was asked to cut out dairy which was basically my worst nightmare because, cheese. However, I learned to substitute with alternatives and have been able to manage it pretty well. But I stopped working out, was eating less and started losing more weight quickly. My bone mass was rapidly declining and I could feel it. I could hardly get out of bed in the morning, limping my way around the house, at work, etc. I felt like an 80-year-old woman- which had nothing to do with my Jeopardy obsession and in-bed by 9pm habit. I could feel myself deteriorating to my osteoporosis and arthritis- and I just couldn’t motivate myself to do anything about it.

Then I got engaged! And let me tell you- having someone want to spend the rest of their life with you really puts things into perspective. I started thinking about our future, all the things I want to be able to do, and now it wasn’t just about me. It was about Michael and our future family and our lives together. THAT and I tried on a wedding dress and was horrified by the frail thing staring back at me. My family made me promise to take care of myself and my bones, and here we are.

I didn’t really know where to start. My exercise abilities are limited due to my orthopedic disability.  I basically knew I needed to lift things and gain muscle. I tried remembering when I felt my strongest, and realized it was before my last surgery, when I was doing Pilates to gain some strength for the recovery process. I started asking around about different studios in my area, and stumbled upon Equilibrium Pilates in Birmingham. I reached out to the owner, Nancy, who was like a lifeboat in a sea of bad choices and bad bones. Nancy expressed they were looking for a studio challenger- essentially someone who would come to classes, and document their progress over three months. I was thrilled when she asked me to be the Challenger- and relieved. I felt like this was the first step to getting my bones back in business. So what is my commitment? I will attend classes 4 times a week, varying form Pilates reformer, to barre and mat classes. I will check in on my social media whenever I’m at the studio- which is not to annoy people with look at me!!! I’m working out-bro photos. It’s to hold myself accountable, and to keep you guys in the loop on my progress. I will also be meeting with a personal trainer once a week to lift said heavy things.

I’ve been taking classes at Equilibrium for about two weeks now and I can’t believe I’m saying this- but I notice a difference. I’m standing up straighter, I’m not as achy in the morning, I can get up from the couch or a chair a little easier, without having to pause for as long to get my feet moving. Listen- I know I’ll never be 100%. I’ll still have to use a wheelchair at theme parks, take a cab for anything over a mile, and my “run” will always look like a horse that was rejected by 11-year-olds at Equestrian camp. I have good days and bad days and everyone has their own struggles. But could I get out of bed easier? Walk to get ice cream with Michael? Fall down without worrying about breaking a bone? Yes- and I do believe Equilibrium will help me get there. I’m doing this for me, for the future, and yes, for a wedding dress. Also because I don’t think they give Life Alert to 26-year-olds.

The Winter Beauty Edit

Ahhh, the inevitable flakes of winter- and I'm not talking about the snow. As the weather gets colder, my skin gets flakier than a Pillsbury biscuit. I'm flakier than that girl you run into at Target from high school that says "we should get coffee sometime!!!". Get the ugly, gross picture? Good. Now we can proceed with what we're going to do about it. 

I'm a firm believer that some of your skincare and beauty need to change with the seasons. I've compiled a list of my favorite skincare and beauty products for winter to get you through these next few months (let's face it, Winter lasts until April).  So crank up your heat, ignore your unshaven legs as you pull on some big wool socks, and enjoy: The Winter Beauty Edit. 

 

Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich -$35

You all know my obsession with Glossier's Priming Moisturizer. I use it every morning before my makeup for a perfect base every time. So when Glossier came out with a richer version, you know I pressed “order” on launch morning before my eyes were even open. This is my top-winter product. It healed my dry, flaking skin overnight. It’s unbelievably rich, creamy and luxurious feeling. The best part is, you can’t use too much. It melts into skin like butter, bringing life back to dry, dull, winter face. I also use on my neck because I am in constant fear of Tech Neck (it's a sickness). It feels like a $300 cream Kim Kardashian probably uses- but it's only $35 and you don't have to act like Kanye makes sense.

* Psst: you can get 20% off and free shipping through my rep page here: https://www.glossier.com/reps/alexmauro

 

Milk Cooling Water- $24

Again- getting hydration on your skin in the winter is hard, because we’re indoors, cooped up under blankets just trying to get through it. Milk Makeup Cooling Stick is an easy, fun way to not only reduce redness and perk up tired skin, but it adds an extra layer of hydration. I keep mine in the fridge, swipe all over my face-especially under eyes- in the morning after washing. Also a perfect gym bag companion for after a workout.

 

Laura Mercier Face Polish- $32

Back to the flakes. You know the ones, you scrub and you moisturize and they just appear again like a stage-5 clinger at a party- BUT THEY WEREN’T INVITED!  When my skin needs a reboot, I scrub with this and it does exactly what it says it will- polishes your skin. My winter-dream team is washing clean skin with this, then Glossier Priming Moisturizer Rich. You will wake up with a whole new face (not in a bad Heidi Montag way. It an awesome, how am I this glowing? in the winter way).

 

Kiehl's Rare Earth Pore Cleansing Mask- $30

Sometimes, you need a good detox, from harmful harsh heat in your house, from layering on makeup, etc. This is my ultimate. It detoxes skin without stripping it, it just leaves a nice, smooth, matte finish. It makes me feel so CLEAN afterwards. But because winter is a fickle biotch and will ruin this moment for you, follow up with Glossier Moisturizing Moon Mask. If you don’t’ have that in your arsenal already, skip this whole post and order that. Baby steps- and that is the first one.

 

Elta MD Suncreen- $20

Yes, you do need sunscreen in the winter. And fall. And all other times of the year. People always ask me what they can use to prevent wrinkles, and sunscreen is it. We don’t realize the damage those harsh office lights make, the sun when we’re in the car- etc. You can drive yourself crazy trying to avoid it or worry about it- or you can wear sunscreen daily. This one was recommended to me by multiple friends, and for good reason. It is unbelievably lightweight and silky. I put it on before my priming moisturizer, and you can’t even tell it’s there.  It blends in beautifully and protects all day. Get on it.

 

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Eye Cream- $37

The top question I am asked is “what can I use for under-eyes?".  In service to all of you, I’ve tried just about all of them. This one is the only cream I have ever noticed a difference with. I do feel it helped with my dark circles over time, but more than anything it just made my under-eye area look not so tired. It smoothed the skin, actually making it look younger and healthier. A little goes a long way too- I've had it about 4 months and haven't even made a dent in the tube. 

Mermaid Perfume Body Oil- $50

Some days, you walk outside and are immediately assaulted by ice-cold wind, sharp, sleet-y snow and frigid temperatures. You think to yourself “I need a damn vacation”, but you check your bank account and it says “Girl lol no you need a BUDGET”. So how do you get away without actually getting away? Treat yourself to something tropical. On those miserable winter days, I crank up the heat in my apartment, take a bath (this is the best bath companion), and follow up with Mermaid Perfume Body Oil. It smells like you just left the beach, Mai Tai still in hand. It soaks into skin in seconds and leaves you with a lingering vacation smell all day. Not to mention crazy soft-skin worth of putting your bathing suit on (you can walk around your house in one, I won’t judge). Bonus points if you get their candle- it will fill your whole home with beach bliss. 

Boy Brow in Clear- $16

In the winter, I’m all about a more natural look- like an Eskimo with natural beauty just oozing from my pores. But as we all know, sometimes it takes a little work to make natural look polished. This is why I love Boy Brow Clear. I am faithful to Boy Brow in brown, but I do have some little baby hairs in the front that don’t quite need color, but just a little lift. Voila, Clear Boy Brow. All the same gorgeous, effortless, just a little messy brow, without color if you don’t need it (bless you).

Milk Makeup Eye Vinyl- $20

I had been coveting a glossy eye for months, but couldn’t seem to figure it out without looking like I had some weird disease. Then I was recommended Milk Makeup Eye Vinyl, and it changed the game. PERFECTLY glossy without looking oily or sick. It gives you the ultimate cool-girl look, because let’s face it, you are cool and should look like it. My favorite shade is the nude. Glide it on eyelids and pat in and BAM! You’re an Olsen (without the chain smoking, bravo).

 

Winter is tough- but taking care of your skin doesn't have to be. All of these products can be easily integrated into your routine, without sending your face into panic mode- because it's stressful enough just trying to keep your socks up in your boot all season.

 

* Title photo via Into The Gloss

Pink is the New Prozac

Here we are, in that deep, depth of Winter when it seems like we are just as far into it, as we are from getting out. Cold, icy temps, dirty sloshy snow covering the sidewalks. Every day seems like a scene from “Frozen” (and not the cool, singing parts. Just the shit weather). Yup- seasonal depression is in full swing. It may be vain, but during this period, I make it through with little pick-me-ups. A mascara here, a coffee before work, etc. My bank account may hate me but my soul is (possibly falsely) nourished. But recently, I found the holy grail of all mid-winter pick-me-ups. Hear me out:

During this time of year, I do notice one thing: I am in all black, all the time. Constantly sifting through a pile of black clothing, looking for that same black turtleneck, black jeans and of course, black socks to go with my black boots. Its become routine, and frankly, it’s a little boring. This winter, I decided to challenge myself and brighten my mood by brightening my wardrobe. I wanted one universal piece I could throw on my "Wednesday Adams" inspired looks.

Enter, the Pink Coat.

 

I'm going to need everyone to stop saying “I have too many coats!!!”. No- there is no such thing. When you live in Michigan (any other cold-weather state applies here), your coat is your wardrobe, and quite literally your outfit most days. I am sitting in a Starbucks right now, black turtleneck, black sweats and PINK COAT. There’s no way I was going to come out in this blistering weather and not flex on these high schoolers ordering hot chocolates- and all it took was one, simple piece. A pink coat is the new staple, and instant outfit brightener, a fool-proof way to look like you know what you’re doing. It’s the thing you need to get you through these next few months, and the options are much, much cheaper than a therapist.

Because I believe that "more is more and less is a bore" (Iris Apfel, my idol)- I have two options I can throw on over just about any outfit: a pink faux fur from J.Crew, and a wool pea coat I got in Ireland.

For warm, wool coat, I recommend finding something in the lighter, or “Millennial Pink (Glossier did it first tho)” range. It looks expensive, chic and well put-together.

If you're a little more adventurous (or in my case, fashionably obnoxious), opt for a bright, faux fur version. There is no way to be basic in a pink faux fur, it is instant FASHUN.

Consider pink your new base. It can be worn with black, white, red, blue, stripes, pajamas, sweats- YOU NAME IT. This is the easiest cure for mid-winter outfit ruts.

Here's a few options to get you through these next few months (let's face it, Winter goes until April. Don't live in denial).

Topshop Biker Jacket (on sale for $99!)

Style Nanda Pink Overcoat with Strap Detail, Asos ($264)

Via Spiga Faux Fur Coat (on sale for $139!)

 

Improve your mood, update your wardrobe, and make sure that when you inevitably end up in some 9th grader's Snapchat background at aforementioned Starbucks, you will STAND OUT.

 

Photos by: Ava Ranger

 

Gift Guide GIVEAWAY!

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Didn't get what you wanted for Christmas (I don't know why socks get such a bad rap. I got two new pairs and I am PUMPED)? The Nines is here to help! To celebrate the end of the local gift giving series, here's one big, local loving giveaway!

 

What it includes:

1 Neroli candle from Detroit Rose

1 Citrus, 1 Hibiscus, and 1 Pineapple Jalapeno cocktail mixer from Wolf Moon Mixers

A laundry bundle from The Old White House, including linen spray, dryer sachets, laundry soap and a scoop!

 

How to Enter:

Head over to my Instagram, @alexandramauro, FOLLOW and TAG a friend in the comments of the most recent post (photo of a Neroli Candle)! By following/commenting, you will be automatically entered to win. Winner will be announced Thursday, 12/29. 

 

Regardless of the winner, I hope that this series inspired a few of you to start shopping local. I love to give, and giving local this holiday season made it that much sweeter. That, and the chocolate Santa overdose that took place.

Good Luck! 

 

Detroit Rose

WHO WE'RE GIFTING... Your Girlfriends or Sister.

(let's face it, you're going to want some too)

 

There's not much I enjoy more than beauty, skincare, candles, and Disney Channel Original Movies. When I stumbled upon Detroit Rose, and it checked three of those four boxes (the last one was out of their control)- I was instantly hooked. 

My love affair started with the candles. If I am home, I am burning a candle. I would have really thrived in the Pre-Edison days. I'm not ashamed to admit I've spent upwards of $70 on a single candle. I found Detroit Rose via Instagram, and one look at the gorgeous packaging, had me getting my credit card out faster than you could say "Shopaholics Anonymous". To my delight, these beautiful candles were only $24. AND they're made right here in Detroit? SOLD. 

But like any great candle, it needs a great scent. I can confidently say that Detroit Rose's scents are unparalleled. They fill the entire room and wrap you in comfort and peacefulness. They have somehow managed to take that perfect "Sunday morning, wrapped in a blanket, watching Harry Potter with absolutely nothing to do today" feeling, and give it life in a candle. There are so many delicious scents to choose from, but here's my favorites I have burning on repeat:

*I know it's hard to choose a candle without smelling it first. For this reason, I have associated each scent with a notable person, to make choosing easier. Or just more entertaining. 

Cinnamon & Chai:

It smells like wrapping your house in one giant, cozy blanket. A spicy but comforting scent of vanilla, cinnamon and clove. This is the candle that's going to get you through the winter.

Who would burn it: Rory Gilmore. Before the revival garbage. 

Bourbon Orange Spice:

This one is Michael's favorite. It's a rich, buttery scent, made with the zest of orange, clove and anise. It's like the candle equivalent of melted butter (the feeling, not the smell). Smooth, and so delicious.

Who would burn it: Brad Pitt. In the Jenn days.  

Fig Tree:

I light this one every morning in my "Diva Den" (this is what Michael calls the spare room we had to make into my "dressing room", because I have SO.MANY.CLOTHES.) while I'm getting ready. It's clean, simple and earthy. Instantly turns any room into an oasis.

Who would burn it: Charlotte York. While she rearranges her flowers and makes brunch plans with the girls. 

Bergamot: 

The best way to describe the scent of this candle is "bright" (no, not a candle pun). It has the most delicious citrus notes, sure to perk up any space. It's energizing and inspiring. I love to light one when I write or am getting work done around the house. Currently lit as I write this (the candle, not me. I am an old lady and boring AF).

Who would burn it: Ina Garten. I light this and fantasize that she's about to make me a Quiche. Then my timer goes off for my bagel bites. 

BONUS burner: Lin Manuel Miranda. Rumor is he had this going while writing "Hamilton". That rumor was started by me.

Neroli: 

With hints of sandalwood and musk, this is the candle to bring out your inner goddess. It's sensual, peaceful and intoxicating. Side effect is that you may never want to leave your house. It's that good. 

Who would burn it: Serena van der Woodsen. Also Blair approved (but NOT Jenny. Forget her.). 

Tobacco & Bay Leaf:

As I write this, Michael yells from the kitchen that THIS is his favorite now. It smells like we live in a Restoration Hardware catalog (aka, the DREAM). Herbal, with hints of musk and citrus, it makes me feel warm and cozy on the inside. Also makes me want a giant reclaimed-wood bookcase filled with Sylvia Plath's best works. 

Who would burn it: My idol, Emma Watson. HOW CAN ONE PERSON BE SO PERFECT.

There are multiple other scents as well: Lavender, Rosa, Moss, Mistletoe, Leather, just to name a few. Each candle is hand poured here in Detroit, made from all-natural, vegan soy wax and premium fragrance oils.

 

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! 

Detroit Rose has launched a "Ritual Line". A line of skincare products, all natural, organic and filler free. 

Rose & Coconut Milk Bath Soak ($26):

Up there with naps, baths are the most underrated childhood pastime. There is nothing like taking a bath to make you feel like you have your life together. Funny thing is- I usually take one when it seems like my life is falling apart. It is the perfect way to unwind, clear your head and get back on track. And now I know there is no better companion to bath time than this bath soak. I didn't know I needed to bathe with real rose buds UNTIL I DID. This scent of this soak alone is enough to send you into a spa-like bliss. But the coconut milk, melting into your skin is absolute nirvana. Just a few spoonfuls in the tub leaves skin impossibly soft. 

Bergamot & Lavender Oil ($28):

After taking my soul-saving bath, I thought my skin couldn't get any softer from the coconut milk. Then came this body oil. I usually can't get down with lotions- I think they're a hassle and sticky and never seem to absorb or moisturize. This oil made my skin hydrated and glowy on impact. It's easy to apply and quickly melts into skin.  And the scent....it's what I imagine Blake Lively to smell like naturally (no wonder Ryan Reynolds loves her so much, also why do I think about Blake Lively so much?). It's just a hint of sweet citrus and lavender that provides you just enough light fragrance. 

Find it! 

Let's be honest- you're ordering some for yourself. You'll get the best selection on their site, and won't have to stress about shipping times. 

Need it by Christmas? 

Lark & Co.: Birmingham

City Bird: Detroit

El Dorado General Store: Detroit

Farmers Hand: Detroit

SMPLFD: Detroit

Knot and Bow: Brooklyn, NY

Asrai Garden: Chicago

Lillstreet: Chicago

A full lists of stockists, here

 

If it wasn't already obvious, I am now a faithful follower of Detroit Rose. The entire brand is dedicated to channeling your inner goddess (Yaaasss queen, I'm in here!!!), loving and appreciating yourself, and finding peace in the shit storm of life. Whether it's a candle, body oil, face mask (next on my list to try) or a bath soak- we all could use a little something to help us find balance in the day-to-day. That, and something very chic for your bathroom shelves. 

Busted Bra Shop

WHO WE'RE GIFTING...YOU!

(this one is for the ladies...or men- it's 2016 and I'm not here to judge. YOU DO YOU.) 

 

It's no secret that I am a proud member of the itty-bitty-you-know-what-committee (keeping it G here, my future in-laws read this. Hi guys!!!). I kept waiting to grow, but eventually I realized this is as good as it's going to get. I'm not bummed about my size- after many years, I've learned to love and appreciate my body. But there was always one thing I couldn't get behind- or under, I suppose: bras. I was a Victoria's Secret, 32A, push-up ride or DIE. They measured me countless times- 32A, year after year. But if I was wearing the right size, why was I always so uncomfortable? I was constantly playing with the skin-grabbing straps, or adjusting the cups. I thought it was normal I could fit some snacks, my phone, lipstick and an ipad mini in there. I was uncomfortable, but at least I had storage, right? I accepted that bras suck, but they're a right of passage to being a woman. Then, I saw the light. 

On a bender to my favorite vintage store with a girlfriend, we were just about to leave when a trip to the ladies room ensued. Right next to it, was Busted Bra Shop. To this day, I don't know what made me go in there. It was most likely divine intervention (I really think God could be a woman sometimes, good looking out). 

Upon walking in, the first words I heard were "I bet you're wearing a 32A. And it's the wrong size". I was baffled! I wore the smallest size that existed, what's a concave girl like me supposed to be wearing? Sadly unknown to me, there is a whole other world of bras outside of the pink and white stripes. I let Lee, the owner, take me into a fitting room (my friend, waiting outside the bathroom wondering where I went, sorry girl). Less than 5 minutes later, I was standing in there, sans shirt, with my Miracle Bombshell Gorgeous Miraculous 32AAAAHHH bra in the trash. Let me tell you- you are never more vulnerable than when you are in a fitting room, girls out, having a full on conversation with a woman you just met. Trust level is at an all time high.  I think I told her things I had never told anyone- like how I used to ride my bike by my crushes house blasting Ashlee Simpson (okay, now everyone knows). BACK TO BRAS. 

Well folks, as it turns out, I am a certified 28B. A size I didn't even know existed. The second I put on my new, perfectly fitted bra, it was love at first hook. For the first time, I was comfortable- that really does something beautiful for your own body positivity. The right fit is everything, and it turns out that the majority of women do NOT fall within standard retail sizing. Busted has sizes AAA-N, and bands from 26-56. With that range of sizes, how can we honestly accept that MILLIONS of women fall within the standard FOUR sizes mass retailers carry? Secret's out- we deserve more. 

WHERE TO GO...

The Park Shelton Building- Midtown

15 East Kirby Street, suite A

Detroit, MI 48202

 

When you shop at Busted, you are not only getting top notch service, quality product and a life-changing experience, but you're supporting a locally owned, Detroit business. A bra that supports you AND the local economy? Truly, Busted Bra Shop is the gift that keeps on giving. 

 

 

*Photo credit: Man Repeller