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12.31.2013

Farewell 2013


It's unbelievable how fast 2013 has flown by and at the same time, it's amazing how much has happened and was accomplished during these last twelve months. The Boston tragedy, dealing with regrets, acquiring a  NYC apartment, being part of a  fun collaboration, an adventurous cross country road trip, one of my most grateful moments, celebrated another lovely year of marriage, enjoyed a different kind of summer, was barely raised from the ashes, the experience of living on another coast. Looking back on all those events through photographs is such a nice way to get some perspective on life along with all of its challenges. Seeing how they were overcome makes me an appreciative person - including all the great moments that outweighed the not-so-pleasant ones. In this life, it's a matter of recognizing that there's always going to be situations that make us anxious or squeeze our hearts. To avoid being swallowed by those bitter moments, it's important to periodically reappraise all the good memories we enjoy in our life which softens the blows of life's unexpected harsh twists. Also over the years, I've found reaching out to others can help us forget our own problems, and other times you just have to get still.

Here's a small sampling of a few of my favorite posts this past year.

"The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman is seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. True beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It’s the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows; the beauty of a woman only grows with passing years." Audrey Hepburn  

Photographing my outfits has brought a completely different view to my aversion and unsettling feeling about how I look and see myself in photos. As narcissistic as it's felt posting my outfit pictures, it's in fact, been one of the greatest therapies to a mental adjusting/self-image process that has come very far, but still a work in progress. I find myself at the end of every year agonizing whether or not I want to continue to post my outfit pictures. Due to my professional lifestyle, I'm always pressed for time either running out the door or coming home late in the evening, so most of the time it's already too dark out to take photos, or my face looks tired and my hair is too disheveled for photo shoots. Nevertheless, looking back on my casual outfit choices that I did get to post serve as a great reflective reminder of what my emotions were for that day, week and time in my life.

I'm curious to know which post was your favorite?


Whew, this year I had more than my fair share in upcycling and DIY'ing. But every project added to the warmth of our space which makes it worth the sweat of spending long weekends on finishing things up. I loved them all, by far the old picture frames, the branch and shell makeovers ranked high on my favorite upcycling/DIYs' list this year. Having a decorated home with things that received a nurturing touch by me add that extra layer of comfort that just makes living in this mad world much more bearable. I'm looking forward to share more projects with you in 2014. Until then, good health to you!



12.30.2013

Individuality

J.Crew schoolboy blazer, French Connection striped sweater top (also seen here - similar), Grey skinnies (also seen here), Limelight slouch cowboy boots (also seen here), Long necklace (similar), Mirrored aviator sunglasses (similar), 

Growing up I've always leaned towards styles that make me feel good the minute I laid my eyes on them. No matter how much others tried to persuade me otherwise or browbeat me with their glares, ultimately I often followed my own fashion sense and have been deemed "being unique". Instead of developing an insecure complex, I've actually embraced being called "unique" for I recognized it only meant that I was simply different, and not devoid of my own individual personality that I was bestowed with. Sticking to your own identity shows that you have self respect - allowing yourself to express your own femininity. It's okay to be different.

On another note: These photos bring such good memories of this day, which I can use right now while dealing with this at the moment...








12.27.2013

Grateful Moments


{A sweet, thoughtful card from a friend sitting on my inspiration board}

As I've been dealing with a sick in-law, it helps you to appreciate the wisdom of preventative health care. Sometimes, we might feel it's not necessary, but that does not take into consideration other factors that come along with the neglect of our health - others suffer. Situations like this help me realize that there are at least two things that can motivate us to stay healthy: 1) having a real purpose in life and 2) a positive outlook. These are a few things that inspired me and that I am grateful for.

{Another unexpected and most precious gift from Israel}

{The twinkly Grove at night time}

{Such an amazing hostess gift that now sits on our breakfast table in our kitchen}

{I love everything about this. Such a beautiful vignette/color scheme - I was elated seeing this while driving}



12.26.2013

Vogue Gallery Wall


If you've been following my musings on this site, by now you've noticed my love for gallery walls (posted here, here, and here). Instead of waiting for when my budget allows for the purchase of the fine art that I'd like hanging on my walls, I opt to create gallery wall art with photos that inspire me and make my heart happy upon laying my eyes on them around my house. Case in point, last year I received a vogue calendar in the mail and fell in love with almost every one of the monthly beautiful vintage photos from the past, and as the year ended, I couldn't bring myself to throw the calendar in the trash. I wanted to salvage those lovely prints as I feel like they mentally transfer me back in time to a happier era. On a shopping excursion at Ikea one day, I came across these unexpected gold frames (to which I was like "way to go Ikea with adding some more modernized frames to your otherwise bland frame collections..."). As soon as I arrived home from the store, I cut out the photos from the calendar and inserted them into the frames.



Being that I have a decent sized wall space above my bathtub, I was debating how to bring life to it as well as divert attention away from the unsightly pepto-bismol pink mixed with baby blue tiles in the 1920's bathroom that we can't do anything about since we're currently renting. I realized those photos would lend themselves perfectly to that style of bathroom. So after painting the walls a soft grey color called 'Billowing Clouds' (although in these photos the lighting makes the wall color appears like a dusty blue, in actuality it's really a soft grey) to tone down things a bit in there, I chose the layout shown which I really like. And now it is the first thing I look at every morning as I get ready.







I just love the brightness that this simple arrangement brings to my bathroom wall AND best of all, I didn't let that great calendar go to waste - what a way to upcycle things, right?!



12.25.2013

Little Black Dress {Jason Wu for Date Night}


Jason Wu for Target dress (old - totally in love with this one), Black sequins top, BP open back heels (also seen here), Vince Camuto checkbook wallet, Gifted bracelet (seen here), 

To me a little black dress is like a great girlfriend who is always there for you. This is one is an oldie, but a goodie in my closet. I was so thrilled when I got my hands on this Jason Wu for Target dress. Everything about it spoke to me - its frilly flared skirt with the belted waist, two side pockets (love me some pockets) and lastly, its style is very Audrey Hepburn'ish. This dress is effortlessly stylish and very flattering, which made it a no brainer outfit choice for me on our date night. But if you have some events to attend and want some great alternatives to the (LBD) little black dress, click here.





Shop similar dress...



12.23.2013

A Day Adventure In Santa Barbara Wine Country

 

Here are some shots from our one day adventure in Santa Barbara wine country, the day after our wine and cheese party. We just kept the spirit up I guess. Playing tourist guides always gives us a great excuse to make a quick trip to this region. With its quiet narrow, rocky dirt roads surrounded by picturesque mountains, lush valleys and wildlife, Santa Barbara wine country has such a charming atmosphere that makes you feel as though you have stepped into the Tuscan countryside (without the hassle of the long flight and the airport saga.) Every time we go there, we can't help but fall in love with the beauty of this part of California.


On our visit we made a point to drive through the Santa Ynez mountains to make a pilgrimage to one of our favorite little village towns called Solvang and of course our guest fell in love with it. How can you not?  Do you see the pics?!?   Entering the town makes you feel like you've stepped back into the Middle Ages (in a good way). We lingered at a couple of the quaint little shops as we sipped on coffee and nibbled on pastries from one of their cute local bakeries. I even got me a hand braided white leather bracelet from one of the local jewelry and candle boutiques as a souvenir of the town.





As we continued on to our next winery, we traversed a backwoods dirt road that seemed like it was going to land us in the middle of nowhere. It was full of deer and cows grazing and they seemed to be looking at us as if to say "don't even think about messing with us". We finally reached the cutest tiny house nestled amidst the mountains and trees that served as the storefront for the winery. As can be expected, I walked out of that place with a bottle of wine and a scented candle in a greenish glass that I can't wait to  burn out and use as a flower vase on our new mantle.






We always finish our day trips in downtown Santa Barbara to dine at one of our favorite restaurants called Cafe Buenos Aires, but to our chagrin, when we got to there, it was apparently bought over and now houses a Greek restaurant. We literally almost cried. I think we did on the inside. Especially, since we were dying for our friend to try out their food. Not that we don't like Greek food, but we were in the mood for a favorite dish called 'pastel de choclo' and for their bread and chimichurri sauce that was amazing, and of course the ambiance was the added bonus that's always a nice ending to a wine tasting adventure. What would we do next as the pangs of hunger was setting in by this point?  Our friend suggested Mexican food as a second choice. Then the search went on for not just a good Mexican restaurant, but a highly recommended exceptional Mexican restaurant. After researching the suggested best Mexican restaurants on my iPhone, we stumbled upon this new nontraditional Mexican/tapas restaurant called 'Cielito', which so happened to be located right behind our favorite french cafe that we normally go for breakfast when we stay overnight in Santa Barbara, and boy, were we delightfully pleased with the food, the atmosphere and the service. If you ever try it, do the different types of tapas so you can get to essentially taste different regions of South America. We can't wait to go back there.




Happy Monday!



12.20.2013

Wine and Cheese Party


While our good friend from NY was here, I took advantage of one of the nights to throw a small intimate wine and cheese shindig as a way to introduce our new acquaintances to one of our old friends. I've always found that one of the ways to adjust better in a new environment is by hosting small, quaint gatherings as they are perfect opportunities to get to know new people on a much more personal level. By including old friends in the mix, it will give your new acquaintances a different perspective of your personality as they'll see what kind of people you surround yourself with, and will be a great way for everyone to bond together. Besides, an evening with good food, good wine and wonderful company is bound to be an amazing time (in my world anyway;). Now, I'd like to share a glimpse into that evening by means of a few fun snapshots.


The hubby and I decided on six types of wines, each paired with a cheese that would enhance the flavor of the wine. For the sake of giving my guests an idea how to pair the cheese and condiments, I decided to set the table into two categories. One side of the table was the red wine along with cheese and condiment pairings and the other side of the table had the white (and) sweet wine with their own cheese/condiment pairings. Also, knowing how important it is to boost hydration while drinking, I set up glasses and water bottles for my guests on my dining room sideboard.

 



On a side note: I'm starting to realize that I'm one of a very few that loves white sweet wine, although I'm finding some of my ultimate favorites are essentially getting too sweet even for me now. Uh oh, what does that mean? Does that mean I'm becoming an adult wine drinker? Has it already been seven years and now my palate is changing? These types of things/studies make me nervous sometimes. I love what I love because they make me happy, and I want to keep it that way.

Pssst: speaking of wine and cheese. Check out my hostess gift guide for some great gift ideas.



Winter Agenda


First day of winter is tomorrow you guys!  2013 is almost out for the count. How many of you out there really enjoy a nice snowy wintry day as I do? (I know my hubby hates snow and the cold - while I enjoy it all). This year we'll be spending our winter in a much warmer climate, which means the joy of watching snow fall while sipping on a hot cup of creamy chocolate will not be in this chapter of our lives, unless we make it happen by fulfilling goal No.6 on my agenda below. But I hear the winter in southern California consists of a lot of rain which I also enjoy, so at least I can still get to have cozy lazy rainy days on the couch while watching my favorite movies or TV shows.

December is such a bittersweet month depending on how you fared the last eleven months. I really deem it the reflective month of the year, cause when you think about it, December really kind of forces you to take time to look back and assess what's happened in the past year of your life - whether or not we've accomplished all that was hoped for when the year began. How have you done? Hopefully, you've fared well. Mine wasn't too shabby. I'm grateful, that I'm still here to even be typing this - that's an achievement. But personally, over all, I make it a matter of choice not to focus on what I didn't get to accomplish because honestly that's always a tall order. If I really paid undue attention to everything that I didn't get to do, I'd be a mad woman - like, Madea goes to jail mad. Rather, I find it to be a much healthier choice mentally to reflect on how the year went in general, and then set my mind on how I can improve things that didn't quite work out so well, or that I'd still like to do. The most efficient way I've found to make things more concrete is by writing them down - making an agenda on what needs to be done helps to alleviate stress and gives a bulls-eye goal as it were, to zone in on for the upcoming new year. Think about it, if we don't set goals or write them down and then place them in a spot that we can actually see them every day, how can we possibly achieve our expectations?

1. While I'm here on the west coast, I'd love to find those amazing vintage furniture shops that I've always heard about and/or seen on TV in the days of Kristan Cunningham on the Design on a Dime show. Haven't had much success of finding real good ones yet.

2. Organize/style my sizable linen closet including dried lavender in mercury glass vases alongside a small pile of well-folded hand-towels and fragrant handmade soaps on a silver tray.

3. Get our place completely done to where it feels homey for the duration that we are in CA.

4. Complete the menu list and welcome tray for our NYC visitors.

5. Curtail the time spent on my iPhone and laptop. This is a biggie!

6. I would like to go back to Big Bear to get my snow fix, but this time rent a cabin with a huge crackling brick fireplace to sit by while sipping on creamy hot cocoa.

7. Replace all my unsightly file folders in my file cabinet with the new colorful file folders I bought almost a year ago.

8. Sort through my winter clothes to see what items can be donated or have seen better days and bid farewell.

9. Still want to take that photography class so I can really understand how to use my camera, cause I'm still not quite happy with how my photos come out.

10. Looking to revamp my website and streamline/update it for a much easier navigation.

11. I want to complete all those unfinished reads that I have piled up.

12. Get back to a consistent exercise routine again.


I'd love to hear what's on your agenda this winter? Have you made one yet?

*Image: via



12.19.2013

MY TOP 12 MUST-TRY BEAUTY PRODUCTS


With each passing year, I'm realizing that my beauty products (or lack thereof) aren't doing the job as well as they used to in the last few years or so, and that's with trying out other things suggested by friends, articles in magazines, TV personalities or just out of plain curiosity upon reading the promises made on a product's label/box. Sadly, my skin texture is at a place that I don't even recognize anymore, dimples are rapidly turning into crinkles and setting up base camp in other areas of the body that aren't so cute, so it's definitely time to amp up my beauty routine. The crackly, crinkly, uneven skin that seems to have sprung on me overnight, frankly is making me depressed as I'm noticing that my simple easy routine of slathering my body with lotion right out of the shower and quickly exiting the bathroom in minutes isn't quite going to cut it anymore. With this newfound dilemma, I am now finding that it's going to be necessary for me to put in more time and effort into my beauty routine, which sent me on a quest to find the best non-gimmicky ones that would really help me see immediate results (it's ok to dream...).

As alluring/tempting it is to seek professional results with a couple of quick shots here and there, the hefty price tag of those procedures left me with no choice but to go to option two, which is the old-fashioned way by using better quality lotions and potions.  But I am a complete novice in 'what's the best' beauty product out there as I'm sure you've already noted in my beauty routine post. I didn't have a clue where to start. However, I want to begin the new year with a new beauty regimen using products that will satiate both my desire to regain my skin's elasticity and more importantly- it's youthful appearance. What better way then to curate a list of some of those products that have been highly recommended so I won't have to vex on exactly what cream or lotion is for what. Making part 2 of my list of "objects of desire" are these 12 must-try beauty products.

1.Trish McEvoy's 'beauty booster' eye serum is said to be great for swollen sleepy eyes and dark circles which to me would be a great miracle.// 2.Revitalift triple power deep-acting moisturizer is a special formula that not only hydrates but also makes your skin look and feel more firm. Yes, please!// 3. Clarisonic Mia 2 sonic cleansing system enhances the regimen of facial cleansing by deeply cleaning the pores without any harsh chemicals or abrasion.// 4. Nars Monoi body glow II. I like what it promises: A multipurpose beauty oil for daily moisturizing or massaging. I'm all for a one stop shop type of product.// 5. JAQUA - raspberry buttercream frosting hand creme it's even been said that it can curb a sweet tooth- I guess, I must try it to find out if it's true.// 6. I'm a sucker for pretty perfume bottles - this Jessica Simpson 'Vintage Bloom' eau de parfum 3.4 oz bottle sounds like a Brazilian vacation in a bottle.// 7. Cellex-C lift effect serum spray tones and smoothes the delicate skin under the chin - giving skin a more youthful appearance is right up my alley. Preventive measure is the best medicine.// 8. SK-II cellumination cream illuminating moisturizer is a new favorite.// 9. Nourish organic body butter - a gluten free, vegan pure unscented 3.6 oz is the ultimate moisturizer.// 10. Ahava deadsea water mineral hand cream, 3.4 fl oz. Have heard great reviews on this one.// 11. Kiehl's rare earth pore cleansing masque.// 12. I'm all about maintaining a more radiant younger looking skin and this Dr. Brandt Do Not Age transforming pearl serum 1.35 oz bottle offers exactly that.

What's on your fall/winter must-try beauty products' list and what products do you swear by that you would recommend to fulfill the desires I've expressed above?



12.18.2013

DIY: Front Door Wreath



Fair or unfair, in just a three second glance, someone forms an opinion of you based on the first thing they see, your appearance. Just the same, dressing our home to give a great first impression is very important as it is a reflection of you. Simple accessories (that reflect the personalities of those who reside in the home) like a well-arranged wreath, a beautiful pot of flowers or shrubs flanking both sides of your front door and a nice welcoming door mat is all that's needed to make that first great warm impression. There's something about a wreath hanging over a front door that adds this layer of coziness and warmth that just makes any place feel so inviting. When fall came, I was looking everywhere for a pretty wreath to hang over our front door, but every one I was seeing was either boring, generically unappealing, or way overpriced. I generally make my own but I was so pressed on time, I was willing to purchase one this year. Finally, when I saw fall was coming to a close and my front door was still naked as a jaybird, the need for making a wreath became more imminent. Things pleasantly turned around when I went to one of the local craft stores to pick up chalkboard paint. Surprisingly, the first thing that greeted me outside the store was some of their plain green artificial wreaths at 50% off plus, an additional 40% coupon that I had. SCORE! I went around the store and picked up a roll of gold glitter (keeping with my gold metallic obsession this year) wired ribbon and one glittery artificial garland. When I got home I sat on the floor with my glue gun and some pine cones that I already had and created my own personalized wreath in less than an hour.


Things Needed...
  •  Plain artificial wreath
  •  Glittery artificial garland
  •  2 1/2" wide Gold glitter wired ribbon
  •  Pine cones
  •  Scissors (I'd like these or this pair)
  •  Glue gun (I'm due for a glue gun. Mine is ancient, only if I could fine the one she has...)
  •  Glue sticks
  •  Command hook, which I forgot to photograph.






Wrap the ribbon around the wreath to get the sense of the length you'll need adding 4" (more) inches to tuck in between the wreath intermittently so as to bring it to life - giving it a little bit of glittery glam.


Then I pulled off some of the silvery glitter branches out of the garland and attached them all around and throughout my wreath using a dab of glue with my glue gun for some textural interest, and color contrast. Once I was happy with the placement of my branches from my garland, I glued on a few pine cones on to the wreath. I finished it with a bow, but I wasn't happy with how my first bow came out as I felt like it looked a little emaciated, so I decided to make a bigger bow as can be seen in the rest of the photos. And Voila!


Then I hung it using my little trusty damage free command hook. Highly recommended and much preferred over those not-so aesthetically pleasing over the door hangers.


It feels more like home now instead of another generic dusty black front door. It's all in the details, so never neglect the entrance of your home. Happy decorating!