ASK ALEX: "I'm in a Job Rut".

 
“Does this filter make me look wise??”

“Does this filter make me look wise??”

It’s been tough for me to write lately. I feel like every time I put pen to paper, something angry comes out. With the state of our nation, it’s been difficult to care about much else these days than the atrocities that are taking place at the hand of our own government. It feels like everything I have to say comes back to the fear and heartbreak I feel for our country.

Last month, I asked you guys on Instagram what kind of advice you were in need of. I got a multitude of answers, ranging from how to find the best sunglasses for your face shape, to help with getting rid of toxic people from your life. I’ve sat down a few times to start writing my answers, but every time I got sidetracked and ended up on more of a tangent than a talk. But last week- something shifted. After the El Paso & Dayton shootings, and the round-up of undocumented immigrants in Mississippi which left a dozen children without their parents, I felt a burning helplessness to do something. And I realized the quickest way to do something was to start spreading kindness, compassion and empathy. And I know I can do so with my words. I also bought a stranger a cookie last week- only to find out they “don’t EAT COOKIES”!! So, here I am, back on my computer!!

So, without further ado, here’s my first article with “Ask Alex” or “Advice from Alex” or “Talking Out of Her Ass, it’s Alex!”- whatever we want to call it- I’m answering your questions!

 

“I’m in a job rut. I’ve been with my current employer for a few years, and I really hate my job and want to look elsewhere. How did you end up finding a job you like?”

 

If you would have asked me a few years ago (hell, even a few months ago) to dish out job advice, I would have laughed and then gotten in my 2001 Saturn Station and popped in a Jonas Brothers CD. SIMPLER TIMES! But I didn’t start out very strong in the job-scene (does anyone?). My first job, I diverted away from fashion, which I had gone to college for. I took a job that paid well-enough and gave me experience and I was grateful- but I was miserable. It wasn’t for me. And I remember in that time, everything felt so final. I felt like I had chosen my course and I let my job dictate my moods and my life. I never shut the job off, I came home every night riled up and angry.

Eventually, I left that job and got back into fashion, working for Linda Dresner. Out of college, I had pretty much stalked Linda, emailing and calling her store until she agreed to meet with me. At that time, she didn’t have any work for me. But I offered to come in and help with sales and whatever else she needed, and we formed a relationship. Three years later- she called me and I left my job to work with her. I worked with Linda for almost three years- and it was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. Linda brought life back into my goals.

When we moved to Las Vegas, I was convinced I would never find a job in fashion here. I was applying for anything and everything, sitting in coffee shops almost everyday firing off my resume. After about 5 months of nothing, I took a seasonal job working in the Zappos Call Center. I had really wanted to work for Zappos, and I felt this could be a good foot in the door. The hours weren’t ideal, I sat 8 hours a day in a call center, fielding customer service calls. I surprisingly enjoyed it- but I think more-or-less I was just happy to be working again and talking to actual people, not just yelling wrong answers at Alex Trebeck.

Three weeks into the 8-week program, I got an email from Chloe Gosselin. I had actually applied for a job to work for her husband, when she came across my resume. She was also looking to hire someone for her business, and we met for coffee. I left the call center and starting working with Chloe two weeks later.

Here’s the thing- sometimes luck just has something to do with it. But it wasn’t without hard work. For five months, 4-5 days a week, I was actively applying for anything that sounded remotely interesting to me. I reached out to companies that didn’t even have job postings. This leads me to my best job-hunting practice:

You do not have to wait for a company to have an opening. Think of what you want to do. Is it marketing? Advertising? Tech? Research a company that you admire or are interested in and find someone who works in the related department-or, if it’s a super small company, reach out to the owner. Many times, I would just send a cold-email, ask if I could come in and meet with that person over coffee because I admired their company or wanted to learn more about it. You would be shocked with how generous people can be with their time. Don’t get me wrong- 8 times out of 10 I got no response. But the other two times, I made valuable connections and was on their radar if an opening did arise- that’s how I got the seasonal work with Zappos. I emailed a recruiter asking to have coffee and learn more about Zappos- a few weeks later, she emailed me about the Customer Service role. I immediately went to Whole Foods and bought a lunch box, I was back in business, baby!!

Never think that a job or task is beneath you. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve talked to, fresh out of college, who thinks they should be able to skip “entry-level”. It’s not what you see on Instagram. You have to work and be willing to do it all. Sometimes you take a new job and feel like you’re taking a small step back. But one step back, to ultimately take five forward? I was terrible at math in high school but sounds good to me!!

If you are currently in a job that sucks the soul out of you, you have to do everything you can to not bring it home with you. Leave work at work. I used to sit in my car for 15-minutes after a certain job I had, just to decompress and shake it off. I was letting the misery of the job take the joy out of the rest of my day, and I didn’t want to give it that power.

If you work with people who are intent on making you miserable, remember that flowers still grow among weeds. Or in simpler terms, don’t internalize the bullshit happening around you that stunts your growth. That was the hardest lesson for me to learn, and the hardest habit to kick.

In terms of applying for jobs- making my resume was truly the bane of my existence. I thought I had a killer resume- until I sent it to a few friends who kindly roasted it into oblivion. My experience was strong! But my resume might as well have been written in Comic Sans. It had a lot on there, but it said nothing. The best tip I ever received was that every sentence should have a result. So instead of:

“Responsible for all e-mail marketing initiatives”

It should be:

“Responsible for all e-mail marketing initiatives, leading to a 33% increase in active subscribers”.

And while we’re at it- delete your objective sentence. Delete it like your racist Uncle from Facebook. It takes up valuable property on your resume, and it tells the employer what they already know- that you want that job, CLEARLY!!!

It also helped me to buy a resume template off Etsy- it took the hard work out of designing my resume so I could focus on the content of it.

I think we’ve been fed a myth about the “Dream Job”- and we pressure ourselves to find it as fast as we can. We tell ourselves we’ll be happy when we have it. In those five months that I wasn’t working, I realized that I had associated my happiness with work, and the jobs I had. If my job sucked- I was miserable, even when I wasn’t there. I had gotten completely dependent on my job to dictate the other parts of life. I struggled to find things that could fill me with joy and purpose the way I had told myself a job should make me feel. In those five months, I had to learn that my happiness came from other outside factors. I had to focus on how to create a “Dream Life”, instead the illusive “Dream Job”. And it wasn’t this poetic, romanticized journey people sell- sorry but that’s only for people who don’t need MONEY!!! It was challenging and stressful as hell.

I’m not a job expert, I’m really fortunate to be in a position now where I enjoy going into work and feel respected and happy. What I want the takeaway to be is that while your job environment is extremely important to your well-being, it can’t be the sole factor of it. If you’re ready to be onto the next thing, start putting yourself out there, be willing to get a little uncomfortable. The amount of cringe-y emails I sent (I actually put “Hello, Is it Me You’re Looking For? as the subject of an application email. GOOD TIMES!) and unanswered calls discouraged me at times, but all it takes is one. Again- you might be in weeds, but you are a flower (one of those cool, Instagrammy ones) and growth requires action.

In Repair

 
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After a rough stretch of days, I officially declared myself in a “funk”. You know the feeling- you don’t quite feel like yourself, every emotion and feeling seems to be heightened. My first memory of this feeling was when Marissa Cooper died in The O.C….BUT THAT WAS DIFFERENT! A “faux funk”, if you will. A real, adult funk is hard to shake, surrounded by feelings of self-doubt, uncertainty and unworthiness.

I have very little reason to be anything less than ecstatic these days. We just closed on a house, we have a cute new puppy to love (and to chase around the house when he steals my underwear from the laundry and puts it on his head. MY GIFTED SON!), we just got back from a vacation, I’m healthy, and I actually like going to my job.

But for the past few days, I just haven’t been feeling it. I have felt removed from myself, my routines, my usual character. I’m not going to be too hard on myself here- these periods happen no matter what your life looks like in that moment. But I knew I had to take back my humanity. I’m not a runner, I don’t “find myself” with yoga, I can’t “sweat it out!!” with boxing. Over the last year or so, I’ve had to find activities and practices to put in my arsenal that bring me back to myself. My personal practices include:

-Going to the library and finding a new book (cookbooks are therapeutic to me, even if I never make anything from them.)

-Sipping my coffee in the morning at home, not from a to-go cup in my car (great news for my cup holders, which are usually espresso stained)

-Reading outside

- Going to Trader Joe’s and perusing every aisle, grabbing all the snacks that look good (and usually opening a box of something in the car to eat on the way home…maybe I should be taking better care of my car)

-Baking something (this week it was a cherry tart, which I overcooked but Michael said it’s the best tart he’s ever had. 1000 POINTS TO MICHAEL!)

-Buying flowers that I will most likely kill within 3 days but that first day…they are healing!

Even writing this right now, outside with a glass of wine (blame any errors on the Pinot), is a therapeutic action in repairing myself. I take these mundane, somewhat daily things and I put them on priority. Some may call it “self-care”, but it’s more than that. It’s the practice of reminding myself that I am worth caring for.

We all require healing. Maybe it’s once a month, or once a week. Maybe it’s massive work (I firmly believe therapy is the greatest gift you can give yourself), or just a tune-up. To heal is to be human.

In my favorite book, Heart Talk , Cleo Wade says “It does no good to think about running a marathon when you still have a broken foot”. Take the time you need, put priority on your practices, your “self-activators”. Find your way back and remember, you can never be truly lost if you know who you are.

Earrings, Anklets & ...Arthur?


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I’ve never really been a “jewelry-girl” It all started when I was in second grade, and my dad took me to “Limited Too” to get my ears pierced- against my mom’s Explicit! Instructions! Not to! Fast forward two months, when my lobes were so severely infected, that I had to go to the doctor to get the earrings removed. I was intent on getting them re-pierced, until I saw that episode of “Arthur” where D.W.’s friend’s piercing gets infected and turns her bunny ears bright green. I was apparently so traumatized by the cartoon-horror of it all, that I didn’t get them pierced again until high school.

I did however, dive into necklaces in my teens, when I got the iconic Tiffany’s heart chain-pendant, which was essential to my Hardtails and Uggs look. But jewelry in general never quite stuck with me, I just wasn’t buying or wearing it- and I always felt like just a little something was missing from all my outfits.

In the past year, I started investing in some everyday pieces. I began with a simple gold initial “A” necklace, my mom gifted me a small gold vintage pendant, and Michael got me a beautiful gold necklace for our anniversary. Slowly but surely my collection started to grow, and expand with more earrings, anklets, even a toe ring I won’t talk about. I’ve found some perfect pieces to form a sort of “starter kit” for a recovering non-jewelry wearer.

Ank Studios Laurel Hoops-$45

Two years ago, I apparently had no guidance in my life because no-one cared to inform me that sleeping in earrings was really bad for you, and may or may not rip your ear lobe. My left-lobe is still in recovery, but I’ve finally been able to wear earrings again thanks to these stickers.

The first pair I reached for is these perfect gold hoops from Ank Studios. Hoops and huggies are having a big moment right now, but so many can look cheap, or cost more than a month’s worth of Thai takeout (in hindsight, we should have not moved within walking distance of a Thai restaurant). I found Ank Studios on Instagram, and they seem to be the perfect mix of cost-efficient, yet high quality. They’re light on my ears, and they look and feel expensive. I’ve been wearing them with everything from a cocktail dress, to a sweatshirt or t-shirt. There’s something so chic about wearing nicer jewelry with everyday basics.

 

Brinker and Eliza The Best Is Yet To Come Necklace -$88

I’ve longed for this necklace since seeing it on just about everyone at Paris Fashion Week. It’s the perfect mix of costume and chic. I’m currently wearing it with a t-shirt and jeans, but can’t wait to wear with sweaters and skirts all winter long. I’ve found that I prefer my jewelry to be a little more playful. Unless someone wants to get me a diamond necklace, then I can get serious REAL FAST.

 

Roxanne Assoulin Hip Hop But Not Earrings -$120

When my beloved ear lobe was healing, I strictly wore clip-on earrings. When I found these by Roxanne Assoulin, I felt like they were the essence of me- loud, colorful, and a little crazy. The mismatched pair was love at first sight, and I finally splurged on them before going to Europe last Fall. I’ve worn them with everything from sweatshirts to formal dresses. They’re eye-catching, playful, and can jazz up any outfit. Definitely an investment worth making. At least that’s what I told my financial planner. I’m sure he understood!!

A Cowrie Shell Anklet

Cowrie shells were all the rage in jewelry this summer, worn by just about about every influencer and your favorite 10-year-old coming back from summer camp. I really wanted a cowrie shell anklet, but wasn’t willing to pay the hefty price tag I kept seeing. Thank God for Etsy! For $7, I have the accessory of the season, and I can’t wait to take it into Fall. I plan to wear it over white athletic socks with sneakers, or with a skirt and heeled sandals (SANDALS YEAR ROUND IS NOW MY REALITY!!!). It puts a little Johnny Tsunami in my step and honestly, I think that’s something we could all use right now. Go big or go home!! (I will most definitely go home).

 

Vintage Jewelry

A lot of jewelry I’ve found has been from vintage or antique stores. Especially if you wear clip-ons, this is the way to go. I’ve shopped locally (if you’re in Michigan, “Crimson Rose Antiques” in Birmingham is my favorite), but have also seen great finds on Etsy and Instagram. Since vintage jewelry is a little worn, I usually just polish up with a cloth or take the item to get professionally polished at a jeweler. I found a beautiful, delicate rhinestone evening-watch a few months ago. It was far too big for my wrist, and badly needed a shining. I took it to my local jeweler, where they removed a few links and polished it up so it looked brand new. All in all, I think the watch + the maintenance cost me $30. Shout out to all the grandmas everywhere for making it possible to shop such chic vintage jewels, I will wear your clip ons with pride!!

 

Self-Care

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When I first looked into the phenomena known as “self-care”, I was pumped. Who doesn’t want a reasoning behind more bubble baths, a glass of wine after work, or a $60 candle? I quickly got carried away in the practice. Paying $150 for a Hydrafacial? SELF-CARE! Taking a yoga class where a sweaty man literally sat on my back and told me to breathe through my chakra? SELF-CARE (also kind of gross)! Brunch at 3pm on a Sunday and binging “The Office” for the rest of the day? SELF-CARE!

I found myself doing more things that I enjoyed, and I liked putting an emphasis on “me time”. But I was perplexed when I didn’t find myself feeling more valued, or more at peace with myself. I felt pretty much the same, but with better skin and more flexible limbs.

I was making a homemade clay-drink creation (if you value your insides, don’t do this) when I started thinking: maybe my self-care isn’t just outward action, but internal practices I had long left behind. I decided to carefully study myself over the next few days and observe my own internal thoughts and how they materialized in my life.

I was about four hours into this exercise when I couldn’t ignore what was happening. My negative self-talk was through the roof. Just about everything I did, I attached a personal, negative emotion to it. When I tried to get up from the couch and felt a little gimpy, I scolded myself for not working out more. When I checked Twitter for the 6th time that day, I mentally noted how lazy and unmotivated I was. When I got dressed, I frowned in the mirror, knowing I wouldn’t ever look like the long-legged girl I saw on Instagram that morning. Even when I was eating lunch, I thought “take smaller bites you animal!!!”. It’s like a judgey Italian Grandmother was living in my head, commenting on my every move.

I noticed over the next few days how prevalent negative self-talk was in my life. It hindered how my day went, how I felt about myself, how I interacted with others. I was the Regina George of my own brain. The way I spoke to myself was unkind, judgmental and showed no signs of gentleness. I realized no matter how much self-care I practiced, none of it mattered, because I didn’t really care about my inner self, and how it was being looked after.

Self-care is many things. It is laying down for a bit when you’re feeling anxious and tired. It’s choosing to stay in and put some clay on your face. It’s spending an afternoon at the library, with you and only you. It’s calling a friend for a good laugh. There are so many ways to slow down, and check in with yourself. But no mud-mask in the world can hide the effects of negative self-talk. Why do we allow our inner voice be so mean? Is it because we feel unworthy of the kindness we so willingly give to others? If another person spoke to me the way I spoke to myself, they would be gone faster than this $6 Lavender Blueberry scone I’m eating in the spirit of LOVING MYSELF.

It’s true that I never feel fresher than after I’ve spent a day at the spa, having my muscles pounded into the ground, lounging around guzzling cucumber water. I speak to myself like a damn goddess when my limbs are sprawled out on a daybed, taking another sip of my Oolong tea. I usually enter the week calmer, with more confidence. But what if I could mentally check myself into my spa-safe-haven every morning, choosing to speak to myself with kindness? For starters, I would save a ton of money. For the past few weeks, every time I went to negatively speak to myself, I refrained, and rephrased. Instead of “You didn’t get to the grocery store today, you’re so lazy”, I would check in and say “I did not make the grocery store a priority today. I did some other really productive things instead”. Or one of my brain’s classics: “you will never look as effortlessly gorgeous as that girl on Instagram”, I will take a second to remind myself “her beauty does not take away from my own.”

It’s been a real challenge to reshape the way I think, and it’s something I work on every day. Self-care can present itself in a multitude of ways. I love buying a luxe face mask I’ve been saving up for or lighting a new candle. But I will not allow companies to capitalize on my need to love myself, if I truly cannot achieve that on the inside. I’ve got a long way to go- and I know I can’t totally get rid of that Italian Grandma living in my head. But instead of a judgey one, I’m trading her in for one that always tells me I need to eat more, grabs my face and tells me how lovely I am.

Fall Fashion Finds

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Judging by the abundance of pumpkin spice lattes and apple-orchard-selfies on my Instagram timeline, fall has arrived. Temperatures have even gotten cooler here in Nevada. I went from having to wear a bathing suit for survival to t-shirt weather, a major upgrade. But living in the desert has not deterred me from dreaming about scrumptious sweaters and turtlenecks so bulky, that they hide my hormonal chin breakouts. It will be another month-or-so before I start stocking up on boots and just about everything made of wool (upper lip would be drowning at the moment), but I wanted to get a head-start and share the best fall fashion trends, and my personal favorite finds, with all of you!

 

J. Crew French Girl Blazer

Blazers really made a comeback last fall, and don’t seem to be going anywhere fast. Gone is the formal undertone of the blazer, replaced with oversized, menswear inspired styles meant to be worn with t-shirts and over slip dresses. What was once a serious, masculine piece of clothing is now the pinnacle of every good wardrobe.  

I love the look of this one from J. Crew. It’s double-breasted and unstructured, giving it the ultimate cool, French girl vibe (hence the blazer’s name- kudos J. Crew). I’ve will live in this over a t-shirt and jeans, but I also love it over a lightweight sweater and bike shorts. YES! Bike shorts and blazers. Free blog name up for grabs.

*I found this blazer to be true to size. It’s naturally a little boxy and oversized.

Zara glitter turtlenecks

I’m a sucker for a good turtleneck. I think they’re the epitome of chic and looking put together. Also when I don’t feel like doing my hair, I can tuck it into the turtleneck, and no one has to know I didn’t have time to wash it because I stayed up all night thinking about Peter Kavinsky ( Calm down-he’s over 18. I checked.).

This turtleneck from Zara is a great basic, and sparkle was all over the runways for the season. Wear alone with jeans, skirts, or under another sweater or sweatshirt. Maybe on the one day in January that it dips below 50 degrees, I’ll wear mine with heavy white jeans and boots. Marking my calendar!!

 

Novelty/Fisherman Sweaters

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A few weeks ago, “The Cut” mentioned that Harry from “When Harry Met Sally” would be their fall style icon, and I’ll never be the same. Meg Ryan definitely has peak 90’s style in the classic film, but it’s Harry who’s quietly serving me bulky sweater CHICNESS. Paired almost too-simply with just jeans and sneakers, it’s the fall uniform. This is a unisex look, ladies and gentlemen! Honestly there’s nothing hotter to me than a man in a big bulky sweater. I really never thought I would say that Billy Crystal is a style icon, let alone a sex symbol. 2018 is wild.

I tend to either buy my sweaters one size up, or even look around in the men’s department. A slightly over-sized fit is best for a cozier, cooler look.


WESTERN-INSPIRED BOOTIES

Listen- I get that no one wants to look like Jessie from “Toy Story”- I haven’t since I was 10-years-old at least. But cowboy boots are back and better than ever. Don’t take it so literally- we’re talking stylized versions of the Western-wear. Extreme pointed toes, ankle cuts, outlandish colors like bright white (my favorite) and red. They’re a perfect update for things already in your closet- jeans, dresses and mini skirts. “80’s Western” is big for the season, further proving that Pixar really was just LIGHTYEARS ahead (PUN! INTENDED!)

Rad Plaid

A few years ago, I really wanted to be Cher Horowitz from for Halloween. I couldn’t find a plaid yellow skirt to save my life. Fast-forward to today, and I can walk into any Target and make a “Clueless” look for any day of the week. Plaid is back in a big way. Larger, exaggerated prints, mixing plaids by color and material. Tartan trousers, oversized coats in fresh colors, plaid nylon totes- I feel like a Golf icon and I’m all in.

To keep it modern, try mixing different colors of plaid, like with a scarf and blazer. My personal favorite is to mix by material. Sleek Tartan pants with a wool buffalo-plaid scarf. Will you look like a fool? As if!!!

 

Animal Print as a Neutral

I live for animal print. I don’t wear fur, so it’s the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like a cool a$$ jungle cat. I was thrilled to see it all over the runways, mixing different leopards and cheetahs, chic zebra trench coats and sultry snakeskin boots.

My favorite version is in the form of skirts. Having an animal print skirt can be a wonderful neutral in your wardrobe. Pair a brown and black cheetah-print midi with a turtleneck, white blouse, even one of those chunky sweaters mentioned earlier. Mix two different animal prints if you’re really feeling wild.

 
This Fall, jump in some leaves for me. Enjoy some cider and overdose on doughnuts. Wake up early and take a walk in the crisp fall air. This will be the first time in my life I don’t experience a Michigan fall or winter. Right now I’m feeling nostalgic, but I know come December, I’ll be pretty pleased when the only ice I’m scraping is off my frozen margarita, poolside. PERSPECTIVE!

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.

 

"Day to Night" is a Scam and I'm not Falling for It Anymore

 
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I was addicted to magazines when I was growing up. I would spend hours flipping through my “Teen Vogue”, “Vogue”, “Cosmopolitan”, “Teen People” (R.I.P.)- and a resounding theme was “Take your outfit from day to night!”. Every issue, every season, there were new ways to take my pencil skirt and blouse from desk to daquiris (even as a 15-year-old, this was important to me even though I had no job nor could drink?). I consistently see it in publications today, swapping out ballet flats for a funky block heel, or a pendant necklace for some gaudy beaded thing. I quickly realized that now in my adult working life, I never once worried about taking my outfit from day to night- so why are magazines still so obsessed with it?

Don’t get me wrong- I’m obviously here for pieces that can be worn for multiple occasions and events, but that never quite seems to be the clear narrative. Here’s my theory: back in the 90’s, early 00’s, women were dressing more formally for work. Fashion and clothing weren’t as accessible as they are now, with the birth of fast fashion and online shopping. We’ve gotten so much more creative and expressive with “professional dress”. Most work places don’t enforce a formal dress code of suits, pencil skirts or dresses. And even if they do, what’s the problem with wearing those things out after work? It’s martinis with your messy friends, not the Queen.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t think “Day to Night” is as crucial to working women, because most “nights” consist of going home, taking our pants off, throwing on a face mask that will fix EVERYTHING, and watching last night’s shows while simultaneously exploring every crevice of the internet. Oh, and fighting the patriarchy, but that goes without saying. AM I RIGHT LADIES?

Men never have to worry about owning extra accessories or stuffing “a great, sassy belt!” into their work bags if a date is on the after-work agenda. They show up in the exact same thing they put on that morning, maybe putting on a little extra deodorant or checking for boogers. Why is there such a strong narrative that the clothes that women wear to work, aren’t acceptable for a drink that we probably desperately deserve?

Most women I know aren’t remotely interested in “Day to night!” unless it involves tips on how to take off our bras off through our shirts before we get in the door. We’re just fine in what we’re wearing, thank you very much. It’s all a ploy to get us to buy more things, and convince us that we need more to be more. I’m not falling for it anymore, and I’ll show up to dinner in the same thing I worked in all day. Not all heroes wear capes…but we will wear the same pants all damn day.

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! 

 

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

 

Wolf Moon Mixers

WHO WE'RE GIFTING... Your Secret Santa 

You know the drill. You pull a name out of the Secret-Santa hat at work. You open it up , and see the name of a co-worker you know nothing about. What the heck are you supposed to get them? A book? What if they prefer Netflix? Socks and underwear? That's a lawsuit waiting to happen. Really, there's only one thing you need to know about them- make sure they enjoy an adult beverage, and proceed with Wolf Moon Mixers. 

At a party a few weeks ago, I observed a friend mixing a green juice with Vodka. Yes, kale, grapefruit, apple, celery, and vodka- I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. In no way, shape or form was it drinkable. My poor pal just wanted a somewhat healthy alternative to the usual Diet Coke or tonic water. I thought that there had to be something better than a vodka salad. Lo and behold, right in my own city, lived a company that thought the same thing. All natural mixers, made from fruits, vegetables, cane sugar and flowers- all designed to pair perfectly with your favorite spirits. 

Hibiscus ($15):

My absolute favorite. I'm a tequila girl (I can feel your judgement from here), and Hibiscus mixed with silver tequila, makes the most delicious, fresh margarita. It's like in college, when the weather would break, and everyone would be outside on a Wednesday afternoon having a drink-I mean, STUDYING, mom!!!- That happy, satisfying taste, bottled. 

Alternate recipe: Hibiscus mixer, vodka, a splash of club soda and some fresh blueberries, muddled. 

*Not only do these mixers taste incredibly delicious, but the 32oz, aesthetically pleasing bottles look almost too good to drink. BUT WHO ARE WE KIDDING. Pop that bottle! 

Citrus ($15): 

You know that feeling when you're on vacation, laying by the pool, drink in hand without a care in the world? Citrus is that feeling in a bottle, even though you're sitting under a dozen blankets with your long johns pulled up to your bra. My go-to is to mix with some champagne, and a squeeze of an orange slice. This is Beyonce of Mimosas.

Alternate recipe: Citrus mix, vodka, a splash of club soda, and a slice of grapefruit to garnish. 

Pineapple Jalapeño ($15) :

Spicing up your life has never been easier, or more fun. The perfect mix of spicy and sweet, this flavor is ideal to mix with some tequila, a little lime and a lotta false-self confidence. For me- this mix is the party pleaser. The taste is strangely familiar, but deliciously different. Scary and Ginger would be proud.

Alternate recipe: Pineapple Jalapeño mix, gin, club soda. GINNING (take away my writing privileges)!!

* Check out two bonus flavors on the WMM site!

 

I'm no mix master. Hell, 4 years ago I drank wine out of a box and thought Smirnoff was top shelf.  The good people at Wolf Moon Mixers sympathize with me, and offer a plethora of delicious recipes, available here. At a party with no wi-fi (are you also churning butter)? Fear not- recipes are also featured on the back of the bottle.

Find It!: 

City Market: Detroit

Our/Detroit: Detroit

ML Spirits: Birmingham

Beverage Warehouse: Beverly Hills

Heights Food Center: Ferndale

Market Square: West Bloomfield

                     ...Find a full list of retailers, or shop online, here!

 

These mixers are the fun, delicious gift that keeps on giving. Not only do Wolf Moon Mixers make the perfect gift for your secret santa, but for your close friends too (they can invite you over for a drink and you can mooch off of your own gift). This cool, perfectly curated present is sure to be the talk of the office-unless Barb gets too drunk at the holiday party again and busts out a freestyle to "Silent Night"- she's got you beat. 

 

The Old White House

 

WHO WE'RE GIFTING: Mom/Mother-in-law

(no, not because they do all the cleaning, but because moms are the bomb.com and deserve a great gift!)

A few years ago, a friend gifted me The Old White House's Lavender Linen Spray. I kept it on my nightstand for a while, never really reaching to use it. But after a horrendously bad day (I think it had something do to with work and Adam Brody getting married), I came home in desperate need of relaxation and calm. I spotted the chic glass-bottle on my nightstand and figured I would give it a whirl. From that day on, I refuse to sleep in anything other than a bed full of lavender goodness. After falling head-over-pillow for the spray, I ventured into the entire Old White House line. I love the idea of filling my home with all natural products, and I love even more that they're made right here in Michigan. 

Located between Grand Rapids and Lansing (okay, a tad out of Detroit, but still local!), The Old White House is dedicated to creating laundry and cleaning products, all natural, all infused with Lavender, and all obession-worthy. 

Here's a breakdown of my favorite products:

Lavender Linen and Room Spray ($12):

Like I mentioned above, this is the ultimate way to feel relaxed and clean- even if your room looks like a tornado of Zara came through. Not only do I use it nightly on my sheets, but I use it on blankets, drapes, even my shower curtain. A few spritzes on my pillow is an instant trip to relaxation nation.

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Natural Lavender Laundry Soap ($8):

I loathe washing my clothes in harsh chemicals (just like I hate when someone mixes the tofu with the falafel at the salad bar at Whole Foods. The NERVE). When I use this, my clothes turn out like I'm Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music", hanging my things in the crisp air while singing about deer or thread or something. Giving your mom a way to  get her clothes clean and fresh, all while using natural ingredients? You're now the favorite child. 

*Highly recommend the one that comes with the wooden scoop. It's $2...your mom is worth it. 

Lavender Kitchen and Bath Cleanser ($8):

I live with a man. I have clean our bathroom every other day (Okay..between my hair and makeup, the mess is probably mostly mine). I started to get worried that the bleach I was washing our shower with, was soaking up into the pores of my feet, and I would soon turn into something out of a Marvel movie. This stuff really cleans, leaves a fresh scent, AND I get to stay human. Sold.

I also use this in my kitchen, in the sink and on countertops. I do a lot of messy cooking, and this cleansers antibacterial properties leave me with a sparkling clean kitchen, sans risk of Salmonella. 

*For these products, a little goes a LONG way, I only use a small sprinkle on a sponge to get the job done. 

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Lavender Carpet Freshener ($12):

When you get older, you start to accumulate nice things, like Oriental Rugs. But you walk all over it in your boots, dirty sandals, etc., making your once-nice-rug look as tired as Donald Trump's hair piece (too soon?). Sprinkle this stuff on, let sit for 30 minutes and then vacuum it up. Carpet looks and smells like new! 

The Bundle ($45):

Can't decide what to get? The "Bundle of Natural Lavender Goodness" is the fool-proof way to go. It includes all of the above, and a Lavender dryer sachet! A small warning: your moms house is going to smell so good and be so clean, that you may want to move back in. Think that one through carefully. 

Find it!

Lark & Co. General Store: Birmingham, MI

Blumz: Detroit & Ferndale

Eastern Market, shed 4: Detroit

Out of D Box 313: Detroit

        ...and of course, online! 

(You don't have to live in Detroit to support it!)

WHY:

To me, products from The Old White House say you care. They're quality, heart-warming gifts that any person could use and appreciate. The fresh, clean scents are comforting and soothing- a nice change up from harsh chemical smells and harmful ingredients. There is something about the smell of fresh Lavender filling your home that calms the soul- until "Westworld" comes on. Then I'm at a loss.