July 30, 2013

DIY Bridesmaid Boxes

My wedding might be nearly a full year away, but I have been diving headfirst into planning and projects. I especially wanted to ask my bridesmaids early, since several of them live out of town and all of them have busy schedules. Rather than just make a phone call, the sorority girl in me felt the need to do something crafty.

Wooden boxes from your local craft store
Acrylic paints in the colors of your choice, small paintbrushes
Printer access
Examples of your colors (I got mine from the paint section at Lowe's)
Scrapbooking supplies (paper, stickers)
Any small items you'd like to include (I chose tiny bottles of limoncello and Tazo "Zen" tea)

For each box, I used an antique-y white and pale pink, which are part of our wedding color scheme. After painting the boxes inside and out, I decided my handwriting was just too terrible to freehand the lettering. The following is my favorite technique to use when painting just about anything! I printed out "Be My Maid?" and "Maid of Honor?" from my computer ("bridesmaid" wouldn't fit on the boxes) and roughly cut around the wording area. Next, I colored the back of the letters with plain old No. 2 pencil:   

I placed the printed wording in the desired position, then began tracing over the outline of the letters with the pencil:
This is the result you get when you remove the paper - pretty simple, right?
Now that I had an outline and my horrible handwriting couldn't ruin the wording, I painted the lettering with metallic paint from Martha Stewart Crafts.

Next, I cut paint cards from Lowe's into little circles. I hole-punched each of the shades and threaded some wedding-themed ribbon through to hold them together. I threw in some confetti, and a small bottle of limoncello. Jeff and I traveled around Italy right after he proposed, so it was a very personal touch.

I also printed out information for each of the girls on scrapbooking paper. I used the business card template on Microsoft Publisher to create little cards for "Our Day," "Your Role," "My Girls," and "Your Dresses." Obviously the date and location of the wedding are important, but I also wanted them understand that I wasn't interested in asking my bridesmaids to pay tons of money for a dress or slave over little wedding tasks. The "My Girls" section just gave a short introduction for each bridesmaid, since they don't all know each other. Instead of filling the boxes with a bunch of dress images, I just provided the information for my Pinterest board that we can all pin to. That way, we can easily share ideas and opinions on the dresses.
I put all that information in a little booklet fashioned from textured cardstock and embellished the front with a scrapbooking decal.
For the final step, I used the same pencil transfer technique mentioned previously to put their initial on the top of each box.

I completed five boxes total, in a relatively short amount of time. Since I had many of the supplies already on hand, this project wasn't expensive either. I'm sending them out this week!


July 29, 2013

The Chic Dorm Room

As much as I hate to say goodbye to summer, fall will be here before you know it. I love the carefree days of summer, but fall has symbolized new beginnings for as long as I can remember. This is the first fall that I will not be participating in the back-to-school madness. I remember entering my freshman year of college with so much excitement for what the upcoming year held - and rightly so. Truth be told, my first dorm room was not so cute. I was definitely not prepared for the amount of organization such a small space requires, and I wasn't yet a pro at injecting personality into the plainest of rooms. While I sit here and pine for my recent past of undergraduate fun and sorority rush, I might as well try to provide help for those of you that are still allowed to sleep until noon and wear Nike shorts all day. If I could do it all over again, here are some of the dorm room items I would have chosen:

This bedspread is just the right amount of girly. Adding texture to your dorm room is SO important - it makes it feel more like home and less like a hospital room. It comes it 10 different colors, so it won't clash with whatever color scheme you have planned.
So much better than your typical whiteboard or chalkboard! Perfect for leaving notes for your roommate, or reminders for yourself.
How adorable are these ring dishes? Even if you aren't a big jewelry girl, they're perfect for corralling little odds and ends.
Get comfortable with the idea that a smaller space (especially when it's shared) is going to require more organization - at least if you want to keep a decently sized wardrobe at school.  These are really helpful!
Curtains cover up the ugly blinds that are featured in most campus housing, and go a long way towards making your dorm room feel cozy. These cute chevron ones are right on trend, come in a bunch of colors, and are inexpensive enough that you won't feel bad if you feel like switching it up after one semester.
Laundry just got cuter.
Storage that can double as extra seating = perfection
Someone go enjoy back-to-school shopping for me!

July 26, 2013

All Ears

I feel like a 13 year old girl saying this, but....I got my ears pierced! Again. For the third time. Thanks to my super-human body that happens to heal every injury ridiculously quickly, the first two times didn't work out so well. Today I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to give it another try.  I'm only mildly embarrassed that the 11 year old in front of me was less nervous. And that my fiancé had to hold my hand the entire time. And that I was rewarded with a cookie afterwards for my bravery. Whatever.  Redheads are supposed to have low pain tolerance, right? Now that I got that part over with, I'm enjoying looking at all the pretty new jewelry I'd love to own:
Where else should I shop?

July 24, 2013

3 Weight Loss Books that Might Just Change Your Life

While magazines and Pinterest ideas are nice, sometimes I prefer to get my health and fitness knowledge from more thorough sources. Here are some of my favorite health books:

 Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

Bold title, no-holds-barred narrative, and very necessary advice. While the method of information delivery isn't everyone's cup of tea, I love it. I have been a vegan for 3 years, and this book still highlights ways I could improve my diet. One of my favorite quotes is "Whenever you see the words "fat free" or "low-fat," think of the words "chemical shit storm."
This book is written by two gorgeous women, and the information is strongly supported by their references section. Admittedly, I know a lot of people have a problem with the profanity present in the writing, and also the use of the term "skinny." The authors discuss the USDA, a list of recommended foods, the importance of paying attention to food labels, and many other things. The bottom line? Don't pick it up if you can't handle really, really tough love and quite a bit of profanity. Otherwise, enjoy!

Yogalosophy: 28 Days to the Ultimate Mind-Body Makeover by Mandy Ingber

Mandy Ingber is most commonly known as Jennifer Aniston's yoga teacher. I was attracted to the mind and body focus of this book. Ingber discusses her own past, daily intentions for a yoga practice, playlists, nutrition, and of course  several body-sculpting yoga routines. I adore this book. It has certainly advanced my personal yoga practice. Just when a routine starts to feel stale, she gives you an updated one. By far the most compassionate of the books listed here, Yogalosophy focuses on self-acceptance as an avenue to health.

 Making the Cut: The 30-Day Diet and Fitness Plan for the Strongest, Sexiest You by Jillian Michaels

Like most people, I first started paying attention to Jillian Michaels when she gained popularity from The Biggest Loser. While she is not portrayed as the nicest trainer ever, this woman gets results. Anyone who has tried her DVDs can vouch for the fact that she can make you feel like you're going to die (in a good way) in less than ten minutes. I wanted to hear more from her, so I picked up this book on a whim. Despite the somewhat overzealous title, I found solid advice. Designed for individuals trying to lose those stubborn last 10-20 pounds, Jillian gets back to the basics with instructions for taking measurements, designing meal plans, and holding yourself accountable for you own choices. I couldn't fully follow the meal plans she suggests (since I am a vegan), and I'm not sure I buy the whole "metabolic type" diet, but this is a great book for someone who likes an all-inclusive plan laid out for them.

July 23, 2013

Best. Concealer. Ever

As much as I love cosmetics, I'm not usually a shout-it-from-the-mountaintops kind of girl when it comes to specific products. However, something this great needs to be shared. I recently purchased this adorable product after I ran out of my usual Laura Mercier cover up.

I have stubborn dark circles under my eyes (thanks, genetics) and the occasional blemish I'd rather not show the world. Benefit's Erase Paste is perfect. It is super creamy and concentrated, so you get a lot for the price. While it only comes in three shades (fair, medium, and dark), it is blendable enough that my friends of all skin tones agree it can work for virtually anyone.

I really like that it is a brightening formula, which helps erase any signs of eye fatigue. It also creases minimally, and only after about 8 hours of wear. Erase Paste also seems fairly water resistant - great for pool days! You seriously need the tiniest amount - too much and it will look "cakey" since it is such a concentrated formula. I apply mine with a concealer brush when I have time, but simply pat some on with my ring finger most days. I would definitely recommend it!

*The opinions in this review are my own. I have not been compensated by Benefit in any way.


July 21, 2013

My Favorite Things: Summer Weekend Edition

Time spent relaxing on the deck
This cute print
Celebrations with my fiancé
Brunching outdoors at my favorite café

July 19, 2013

Humans of New York

There's a lot of talk about diversity lately - whether it centers on violence, mixed-race families, same-sex marriage, or anti-apartheid heroes.

I believe that at the heart of most conflicts is a refusal to see your opponent. A real, live, feeling individual, who just happens to be different than you in one or many ways. This is why I love Humans of New York. This amazing photography project catalogues inhabitants of New York City, and pairs the images with quotes or stories. There are some serious gems in here.

"When my husband died, I said 'Moe, how am I supposed to live without you?' He told me: 'Take the love you have for me and spread it around.'" 

"What's your favorite thing about your dad?"
"He works really hard outside. But after that, he still rides bikes with me."

"What is your favorite thing about your wife?"
"She's sexy"
The project provides a glimpse into the lives of strangers with whom we may think we have nothing in common. I think the title is very important - Humans of New York. I might not be able to fully grasp the experiences conveyed in some of the interviews or images, but the humanity of the subjects shines through and makes me feel connected to them. Every time I start looking through the collection, I find something that makes me laugh and another quote that brings tears to my eyes.

"What's the meaning of life?"
"Wear chicken suits."

"What was the happiest moment of your life?"
"I'm pretty happy right now."

I cannot wait to buy the book! Hope you enjoy these photographs as much as I do.


July 18, 2013

How to Dress Like Blair Waldorf (without the trust fund)

 Watching Gossip Girl is my guilty pleasure. It certainly isn't the most believable or superiorly written show I have seen, but I cannot help my obsession. I may or may not own several seasons. Blair Waldorf, the character played by actress Leighton Meester, has great style. Classic and polished, she looks put together even when her oh-so-dramatic life is virtually falling apart. Although I will never have the clothing budget to exactly duplicate her outfits, I can do my best to translate her style to my much calmer, Cincinnati lifestyle. Until I find a job where I can lounge around in a designer negligee and drink mimosas all day, that is.

Outfit I Adore #1

 This look is perfect for the office or any occasion where you need to be a little prim. Lots of texture and a little bit of pattern ensures that the relatively neutral color palette isn't boring.

My Version
Blair Waldorf Inspiration #1

This version costs less than $250 using pieces from Mango, Charlotte Russe, www.lorisshoes.com, and JCPenney.

Outfit I Adore #2
Blair is the queen of making outerwear the linchpin of your outfit. Tights are a must in cooler weather, but a pop of color and some great shoes keeps the look fun.

My Version 
Blair Waldorf Inspiration #2

We all know outwear can be expensive, but guess what? This gorgeous coat from Mango is only $45!

Outfit I Adore #3
Blair does gorgeous, feminine outfits quite often, but I especially love the use of texture here.
My Version
Blair Waldorf Inspiration #3

Classic shoes and a simple color palette make playing with texture easy, even for the more timid Blair fan.


July 17, 2013

Beginner's Guide to Yoga: How to Get Started without Embarrassing/Injuring Yourself

Yoga seems to be on everyone's mind. Celebrities do it, our coworkers and classmates do it, and a yoga mat might as well be a signature accessory for the ridiculously perfect girl at the gym. The problem is, yoga can be a tad...intimidating.

Source: instagram.com/yoga_girl

Yoga really can be for everyone, but there are some things you should know if you want to start practicing yoga:

1. Pick the type that is right for you

There are many, many types of yoga, but here are the five most common:
  • Hatha: Hatha yoga is gentle on your body, relaxing, and slow-paced. It focuses on breathing and meditation over strength or movement. It's great for those learning the basics of yoga or seeking stress-relief. 
  • Vinyasa: This type of yoga involves basic poses that are synchronized with your breath. Ever heard of a sun salutation? Expect a lot of those. I love Vinyasa yoga for the lean muscle and flexibility gains it provides.
  • Ashtanga: Ashtanga yoga is sometimes referred to as "power yoga." It can be intense, with lots of strength-building moves and a fast pace. My guy friends love this type because they feel like they get a "real" workout in.
  • Iyengar: Say what? The name might not be the only thing you stumble over. Iyengar yoga involves a lot of standing poses that improve your balance. It is designed to strengthen and bring your body into alignment. This type of class can be especially good for people recovering from an injury.  You will work little balance muscles you didn't even know existed.
  • Bikram: Hope you like it hot - Bikram yoga classes take place in rooms kept at 95-100ish degrees. The heat isn't a gimmick, though. It can help you get a deeper stretch and sweat out toxins (disclaimer: don't try it hungover). Bikram yoga has some seriously devoted students who swear by it, and it is certainly an experience. Maybe pass on this type if you feel faint while vacationing anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line in summer, however.

2. Know what to expect:

Studios, classes, and individual instructors can vary greatly. Some yoga studios provide mats, but you may need to bring your own. Just call ahead to ask. If you're serious about starting a yoga practice, owning your own mat is a must. Luckily, they aren't expensive or hard to find. Most studios provide yoga blocks and straps to assist you in various poses. Mats may be placed just a few inches apart in a busy class, so check your personal space hang-ups at the door, show up early to score a spot you love, or choose a less popular class time.

Most students will likely be dressed in fitted tops and pants (either capri or full). No one wants to be known as the class flasher when your shirt inevitably creeps up your body while holding a pose! Your instructor might want to adjust your body while in a pose, and this type of clothing also facilitates adjustments. Most yoga instructors let you provide some kind of feedback if you would prefer not to be touched. If at any point you feel uncomfortable with your instructor's methods, don't hesitate to speak up.

Unlike most other workouts, yoga can have a spiritual element to it. While yoga is not a religion (despite what your crazy uncle might say), some of the instructions might not be what you're used to from spin class. Some possible phrases include "visualizing energy" or "breathing into" a certain part of your body. Be open-minded, but also shop around until you find a class or instructor that fits your style.

3. Lose your self-consciousness

As a beginner, it is normal to feel a little self-conscious. You'll soon learn that people of all ages, body types, and experience levels participate in yoga. Remember that everyone is focused on themselves and the instructor, not on how flexible you aren't or the fact that your breathing sounds weird.

If you really want to advance your yoga abilities, add some at-home practice. There are some great yoga apps out there, and plenty of DVDs. I love Mandy Ingber's book Yogalosophy. It has yoga routines, daily intentions, playlists, and even nutrition plans. Don't completely ditch classes in favor of YouTube tutorials, however. When you are in the early learning phases, it is vital that you get in-person instruction to correct your form and prevent injury. The best way to improve your yoga practice is by attending class with an experienced teacher who can answer your questions. These professionals have likely studied for years and have been trained to assist you.

4. Yoga Etiquette

  • Shoes: Much like that super-clean mom we all know, instructors seriously do not want shoes worn inside the class space. No need to track street grime into a room where people will be hanging out on the floor. Some gyms have cubbies for shoes and socks, while others just leave them by the door. Ask at the front desk, or watch what others do at your particular location.
  • Punctuality: To me, punctuality means showing up 10 minutes early. Some students may come as much as 20-30 minutes early to grab a spot in a popular class. If you find this is the norm, just bring a book or maybe get to know your classmates. Be sure to read the room before speaking loudly. Some classes are extremely quiet, with individuals meditating even before the instructor is present. Maybe reconsider starting a spirited Game of Thrones discussion if this is the case in your class.  If possible, you should introduce yourself to the instructor before your first class starts. This way, you can highlight any injury you might have so he/she can make a note to discuss modifications for certain poses.
  • Distractions: Once class begins, conversations and electronics are major no-nos. Turn off your cell phone (not just to vibrate) and refrain from chatting up your neighbor. During a class, everyone is focused on their own practice and the teacher's instructions.
  • Personal hygiene: In busy classes, yoga mats can be placed quite close together. Wear deodorant. Brush your teeth. Avoid perfume/cologne, which may offend your neighbor (or worse, cause an allergic reaction).
  • Savasana: Most yoga classes end with Savasana, or corpse pose. Yes, it is exactly like it sounds - you lay on your mat like a corpse. It is extremely rude to skip out on this pose and head for the door. If you absolutely have to leave class early, do it before this part. Better yet, try to find a class where you won't be rushed towards the end of the time slot.
  • Ending class: Most teachers end a session by saying "Namaste" (pronounced nah-mas-tay), which is basically Sanskrit for "I honor you." You'll notice that the class repeats it back, and you should join in. I make it a point to personally thank the instructor while everyone is cleaning up their space. This is also a great time to ask questions!

I love yoga and think everyone should give it a shot. I hope this post encourages you to do so.