Holiday

Wrapped in Red

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What would Christmas be without packages wrapped with care and laced with love? Well, truthfully, it would still be a lot (we all know the true meaning behind the season); but for me, the magic would be largely lost. This year, it’s been much harder to pull together a cozy holiday atmosphere at home for many reasons (a sanity-testing remodel at my mom’s being reasons numbered 1 – 30). But even with obstacles and tribulations, Santa’s spirit still made it to my house (albeit, a little later than I might have hoped) – and I’m cherishing it more than ever.

To heighten the sense of nostalgia, I thought it best to wrap simply: brown kraft paper tied with baker’s twine, white yarn, and red velvet ribbon. When push came to shove, though, the extreme simplicity struck me as…boring. What came next was a weeklong hunt for package tie-ons with whimsy and charm, only satisfied by one Christmas genre: vintage. Missouri Mouse (Saint Paul) and the antique malls on Hopkins’ Main Street acted as my largest suppliers for the task, offering perfectly sweet baubles and figures that suited the aesthetic quite perfectly. The result? A spread of gifts oozing personality that no big box retailer’s stock could have ever accomplished.

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Decor, Holiday

Wreath Making 101

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By no means do I crown myself an expert, but three hours in a floral studio this past Sunday taught me a lot about the art of wreath making. And you know what? It’s not that hard to do. A lush, organic-looking wreath is hard to come by in retail circles – unless you’re willing to spend a pretty penny. So, why not skip all of that nonsense and have a little fun in the process?

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SUPPLIES:

Short-needled evergreen boughs

2-3 varieties of complimentary greenery or accents (i.e. berries, cedar, etc.)

Pine cones

Pruning snips

Green wire wreath frame - preferably one with four rings

Wire cutters (I got by without these and cut wires with the pruner, but it’s your choice)

Wire easel

Green floral wire:

Package of lighter weight wire (like this)

Package of heavier weight wire (like this)

STEPS:

1. Set your frame on a flat surface and survey the scene. Visualize your finished wreath hanging upon your front door, ever so inviting. What does it look like? Great – now manifest it.

2.  Cut up your base greens (your short-needled boughs) into manageable pieces, but do it strategically. Keep the sections fairly large to minimize the work and to maximize the hearty appearance of your wreath. Make sure each piece will curve to fit the shape of your frame. If it’s not a good fit, snip it into smaller pieces to use for filler at a later stage.

3. Working around the wreath frame in one direction, begin to secure greenery sections –  overlapping significantly as you go. Fold strands of your lightweight wire in half and thread from front to back on either side of a hefty branch. Twist the wire tightly on the back of your frame and make sure you’re capturing a portion of it each time you fasten a branch.  Snip off the excess wire and tuck under as much as possible. Now is not the stage to be stingy. If you want a full wreath shape, pile on the greens.

4. Once you’ve made a complete circle with the base greens, hang your wreath on the wire easel and take a step back. Use smaller pieces of greens to fill in empty spaces and balance the shape.

5. Using your next variety of greens, work around the frame again in one direction. You’ll want to incorporate enough of the new addition to make a visual impact, but not so much that you cover up the work you’ve already done. Take the heavyweight wire and thread through your existing greens to secure the ornamental pieces with a twist at the back of the frame. At this stage, I used “Blueberry Cedar.”

(I found it easiest to keep my wreath on the easel at this point, but play around  to find what works for you.)

6. Follow suit with your next variety. As a contrast to the structured appearance of your base green, use something more willowy.  I used “Incense Cedar,” but something like Leyland Cypress could be a nice option, too.

7. Place your wreath back onto the easel (if it isn’t already). Touch up your work using all three varieties of greens. Use your own judgement and surely keen eye.

8. Now, for the pinecones. Wrap your wire once around the pinecone towards the base, taking care to bury the wire as much as possible so it’s not too visible. Twist to secure the wire to the pinecone before you go any further. Then, thread each of the three pinecones through the greens and secure to the frame at the back with a twist. Cluster in a group of three (odd numbers are best).

9. Voila! You’re a regular Martha Stewart. Only younger and hotter.

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Fashion

Five Style Risks to Take – AND NOW!

*As written for Black Lupo. Original article can be seen here.*

In this age of mass media and mass criticism, it can sometimes be difficult (especially for women) to break out of a personal style box. Fear of judgment, fear of discomfort, fear of just simply not “pulling it off” – all reasons for exercising cautious, safe dressing. This month, challenge yourself to let go of all of that. Regardless of your shape or size, good wardrobe options are more plentiful than you might think. Take a chance on one of these fashion “do’s” and you’ll come out of the experiment better for it – regardless of what you discover. Mixing prints isn’t for you? No problem. Flats keep you feeling happy, healthy, and fashionable? You go, girl.

1. Do: Mix prints

Florals and geometrics; plaids and dots; stripes and checks. You might never think to wear these unlikely pairs simultaneously. In fact, you probably stray from the combinations altogether. Contrary to mythical dressing rules from generations past, differing prints can be a match made in heaven – as long as you’re willing to take the risk. Try alternating large patterns with small to minimize your chances of appearing wild or chaotic. Done right, you’ll come across as just the opposite – calm, cool, collected.

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2. Do: Size up your coat

It’s a fine line to walk. Clothes that hug your body too tight or hang too loosely can create the perception that your body is larger than it really is. However, this rule doesn’t so much apply to one category: outerwear. Size up your coat for a look that says: “I’ve got a fashion sense, and I’m not afraid to use it.” Stick to cuts and textiles that maintain a dose of structure to maximize your success. Pair with narrow-cut pants or cropped boyfriend jeans to lessen the risk; both options have received the chic seal of approval many times over. Commendations on your smart, standout style will flood in; and you’ll wonder why you haven’t tried this trick before.

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3. Do: Consider blankets as scarves

There’s something happening in the world of bloggers and street style mavens. No longer are the experts concerning themselves with a product’s intended end use. Nope, the focus has more to do with a balanced, eye-catching silhouette, comfort (especially now that temps are dropping), and making a statement. With that in mind, let’s talk about neckwear. Instead of searching high and low for a wide knit scarf that offers considerable length plus volume (all the better to wrap you with, my dear), shift your hunt to a different department: home goods. A wool or cashmere blanket might be just the ticket to the perfect combination of cute and cozy. Be careful, though. There are blankets, and then there are blankets. Grabbing any old throw won’t get the job done. With a discriminating eye, seek out finely knit textiles and neutral color palettes. Following these simple rules will ensure that your cold-weather wear will end up looking bold and nowhere near scruffy and old.

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4. Do: Wear flats

Hobbling around in pain is just not cute. Even if you are a stiletto-wearing pro, why put yourself through it? Sure, the shape and added height elongates the leg and can make you look, frankly, hot. But you can look just as lovely in shoes that keep you grounded – quite literally. If you’re smart, you’ll take a cue from the mistakes of worshipped style maven Sarah Jessica Parker. Running in heels for 10+ years (think: Carrie Bradshaw) ruins your tootsies and it’s not worth it, it’s not. Thankfully, designers are following suit with a slew of beautiful creations made for style and comfort. Consider a leather oxford with special detailing, a velvet smoking slipper, or a d’orsay shoe in a bold color or texture. You might feel like you’re letting go of your style sense; but really, you’re just proving a solid understanding that a modern woman can dress well without torturing her extremities. Compliments and better moods will abound – I guarantee it.

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5. Do: Rock the roomy trouser

It often seems that the only pant style considered by women these days is strictly “skinny.” While there is a time and place for both leggings and skinny jeans, there exists a variety of slacks that do more than hug and cover. As you put together your next ensemble, contemplate a roomier, more uniquely shaped pant. Though you’ll need to pay more mind to proportion (added bulk on top and bottom isn’t so flattering), you’ll come out of the experiment with a far more unique look and a style that imparts a dose of je ne sais quois – something we could all use a little more of. Just ask any of the cool French girls plastered all over your Pinterest and Tumblr feeds. They know.

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Decor, design

Do Blush

Blushcollage1Blushcollage2Blush is trending. (In my mind, if not anywhere else.) Typically, blush refers to the palest of pinks; the softest of rouges. While I do admit I prefer the lightest tint, I refuse to discriminate against a perfectly good tinge of rose. You know, it’s a decidedly feminine color, but somehow I see it as a kind of neutral. (This probably won’t be a popular opinion in terms of home decor once I’m living with a gentleman). Until then, I’ll just sit and ponder how, pray tell, I can incorporate the joy-inspiring color into my daily life. I do have a tiny feather pillow from Anthropologie that sits atop my bed in all its peach-toned glory, but the feathers have been shedding little by little and – dare I say it – its life might be coming to a premature end. In a passionate effort to emulate the high-gloss faux taxidermy pictured above, I purchased my own (genuine) deer skull with the intention of painting it the same color – or a little lighter (details on this project to come). For a few reasons (logistics included), I decided to ditch the pink and bought a can of metallic gold spray paint instead. Why? I’m still not sure. I think I convinced myself that gold better suited my ideal decor plan, it has greater longevity, and it is significantly more gender-neutral. Since my dose of blush was compromised, I need to find another way to scratch the itch. I’m thinking an upholstered chair might do.

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Beauty

Mo Lotion Mo Problems

My nails went without a lick of polish for 2 months. (Only half true – my toenails saw color all summer long). It was really quite freeing, actually. No upkeep, no trendy shade to tire of (as if the polish ever stays on my fingers long enough to reach that stage, anyway), no thin, discolored nails – “no polish, no problem” is what I discovered.  And so what if it was just a bout of laziness masquerading as a show of solidarity to a more simplified lifestyle? I switched my $26 mascara for a $6 one and my $20 shampoo for a $7 model – I think it’s fairly obvious that I’ve been paring down. But when I got a surprising ruling from my dermatologist last month, my newfangled vigor for easy living was shaken.

He told me not to wear lotion. None. Nyet. No moisturizer for my face. Here I am, 24 years old, feeling quite proud of myself for taking proactive measures with my never-missed (NEVER) nightly skincare regime: cleansing, toning, medicating, moisturizing. And to find out that I’ve been, in my derm’s opinion, doing more harm than good by slapping on a layer of lotion (clogged pores, blah, blah…I can’t remember)…well, to be honest, I left the office feeling baffled. The advice goes against everything I believe in when it comes to beauty, skincare, and overall wellness.

He assured me that it could be done. The skin is built to oil itself. Other patients mentioned feelings of tight skin, but the sensation would only be temporary. Ok, doc, I’ll try it! (Skepticism at an all-time high.) Well, I did try it, and guess what? I survived…

…for an entire day. Seriously, I am not up for it. My skin felt more than tight, it looked lackluster, and it started to flake in a spot or two. Back to the lotion I went. At least this time I was armed with the right stuff.  I was shocked to hear that my current course of action, Cetaphil, was not up to snuff. Apparently, even though the product markets itself as non-comedogenic and dermatologist recommended, nothing could be further from the truth. Fooled me again! Now, I apply a very light layer of Moisturel per the derm’s suggestion in response to my extreme skepticism. It seems to be doing its thing. Crisis averted.

What’s your stance on skincare? Are you an avid moisturizer? Can you do without?

moisturelMoisturel Therapeutic Lotion | $12.99 | CVS Pharmacy

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design

Rockstud Repetition

Two Minneapolis artists are on the same page with their raw gemstone-inspired creations; and I, for one, am happy about it. Jesse Draxler, a graduate of St. Paul’s College of Visual arts, offers a moderately dark but beautiful moment in his new(ish) set of images titled: ‘Imaginal Cells.’ The jagged minerals that mask the lovely, feminine faces make for quite the juxtaposition. Somehow, it is extremely pleasing. Joshua Ellias Manoles, a recent MCAD grad, mirrors the geometric sentiment with a collection of 14 psychedelic scanned rock images in his new exhibit, ‘SOLID.’  The colors are powerful, and the textures encourage a closer look. I’ll take two of each, thanks.

SOLID, Joshua Ellias

drex1 drex2 drex3 drex4 drex5Imaginal Cells, Jesse Draxler

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New York

High Costs of Womanhood

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Being a woman is, like, super expensive. This thought occurred to me as I was tallying my living expenses in an effort to budget for a potential move to the East Coast. $50 for mineral powder here, $25 for face cream there (by the way, that’s a significant compromise in and of itself)…all of a sudden, shampoo and the innocent planned frozen yogurt haul accumulate to a cost of living of over $20,000 (not including the most important and most expensive factor: rent). Obviously some concessions must be made when one considers a move to the Big Apple. But where do you draw the line? When does living and working in the fashion capital of the world become less of an exciting, compromise-laden adventure and more of a quality-of-life draining burden?

Working in the fashion industry is a double-edged sword. You’ve got to look good to survive. Self-presentation is essential to making a good impression in an aesthetics-driven industry, and one must make it clear that she has a sense of style and taste that is on par with the company she desires to be associated with. In layman’s terms, you’ve got to dress for the job you want. Unfortunately, maintaining a quality wardrobe on the salary of an entry-level employee is extremely difficult. Hence, my hesitation in shaving off a couple thousand big ones from my yearly allotted clothing budget. Where can I skimp and where must I uphold high (albeit, higher than average) standards for the products and merchandise that I bathe in and live in everyday?

Democratically, acclaimed brands have been trickling their designs down to suit the price points of affordable retailers (think: upcoming collections like Phillip Lim for Target and Isabel Marant for H&M). Yes, it’s a cool concept and it has seen its fair share of success (case in point: the wildly popular Missoni for Target line), but it’s getting old. Firstly, I am convinced, no matter what anyone says, that the designers have no hand in designing the final product. Yes, the cut of that Jason Wu for Target dress might have a silhouette with an ever-so-slight likeness to one from Wu’s RTW collection. Yes, those gigantic overstuffed Margiela for H&M coats might bear a small similarity to the avant-garde features of Maison Martin Margiela’s collections. Simply Vera by Vera Wang? Don’t even get me started. Secondly (and in any of these instances), the lower price points are achieved with distinctly lowered quality. And when the fabric isn’t right, the garment isn’t right. Cheap textiles = a cheap look. There is no compromising there. Zara is a glimmer of hope in my jaded view of the fast fashion sector. I am often impressed with the offerings and pleasantly surprised by the flattering cuts and decent fabrics Zara markets. However, even Zara has its share of missteps; and slinky, poorly finished garments are all too common.

Another conundrum: sulfate-riddled shampoos are bad for your health and bad for your hair. At the moment, upping the price tag seems to be the only defense against these harmful chemicals (sulfate-free shampoos can cost you upwards of $20 a pop). What’s a girl to do? My extra-full brows need cleaning up at least once every two months (and that’s pushing it). When you can’t tackle the task yourself, $450 per year is the price to pay. Beauty is pain, in more ways than one.

I love ‘things,’ as evidenced by many of my previous posts. I accept, with pride, the positive benefits that these indulgences have on my appearance; my home’s appearance; and, most importantly, my self-confidence. Continuing to consume is consistent with my ideal self and lifestyle (after all, this blog was created out of a love of beautiful things); but even considering my overwhelming passion for shopping and collecting and using, I am giving the concept a second look. What can I eliminate to make my life more manageable? How can I knock down my cost of living? I’ve been lucky enough to never be without – all through my formative years until now. I know that I’m fortunate and that these issues are small in the grand scheme of the world. But real talk: How do you make concessions? Where do you do without? I want to hear your story! Give me the magic answer!

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