Gifts Sets - They Don't have to be Gifts!

One of my favorite things about the holidays is that companies know that they have to increase the incentives in order for you to buy, buy, buy!  For us fashionistas, this means more for our buck.  Most of your favorite beauty brands produce fabulous gift sets during this time of the year and although they make great gifts, they're also great for you!

There are so many reasons why gift sets are the way to go.  I often buy a gift set when I want to try a new product or brand but am not prepared to invest in the larger sizes and prices.  About a year ago I had read some great reviews on the brand Fresh.  All of their products were praised for their natural skincare approach and I was excited to try them out.  However, on my next trip to Sephora I found that a hefty price tag came with the good experiences.  That's why I chose this gift set below.  For $45 I got to try the fresh sugar scrub, the lip treatment, and the spray.  What I loved most?  I am now OBSESSED with all of these products and more.  It was a great introduction to the line - for a fraction of the cost!

Fresh Set, $45

Don't you get annoyed when you're planning a big trip and you realize that all of the economy sized shampoos and body washes you've purchased are just not going to fit into your carry on (or meet the TSA requirements...obviously men made those restrictions!)?  Well...that's why I sometimes like to splurge on some gift sets where they give you a variety of miniature sized body gels and lotions that are perfect for travel.  Philosophy is a great brand to find these items.  

Philosophy "Sweet Kisses and Merry Wishes" Set, $36
L'Occitane Hand Cream Collections, $40

Perfumes are even jumping on board and are ditching some of the body gels and creams in their bonus sets and are opting for a travel sized bonus.  Or take a look at this Marc Jacobs fragrance set.  Try 3 of his most popular scents for only $38.  Each rollerball will fit perfectly in your purse!

Marc Jacobs Rollerball Trio, $38

Armani Code Set, $82

So obviously you now realize that gift sets are the way to go!  Whether you split the set up for numerous gifts, give the whole thing as a gift, or keep all the goodies to yourself there's one thing that's for sure - you will be looking great, smelling great, and have more dough in your wallet for all of the after Christmas sales!  

Smashbox - Personalized for your Eyes!

I'm always trying to mix up my eyeshadows.  However, it seems like I'm always drawn to colors that don't compliment my eyes.  That's why I was so excited when I saw that Sephora was carrying a new palette from Smashbox specifically for your eye color.

That's right, for $42 blue-eyed, brown-eyed, and hazel-eyed beauties everywhere can get 6 colors made specifically to compliment their eye color.  Shown below are the colors for all of us hazel ladies.  The top row gives you a great look for day and the bottom row a more fun, glamorous look for night.  What I love the most is that you can do so many things with these colors.

Check them out the next time you're at Sephora.  Your lids will thank you!  

Rachel Zoe - Stylist, Mother, and now...Designer!

So for those of you who tune in to my other blogs, you probably realize that I am a reality TV nut!  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I am in LOVE with Ms. Rachel Zoe.  This lady is BANANAS for fashion!

The past year has offered a lot of change for the lady.  At the age of 40 she gave birth to her first child (without even looking pregnant - Bitch!) and her first official fashion label.  Now before we dig into Zoe's affordably chic line, let's talk about this child of hers!  This little boy has a closet most women would die for.  Umm...I don't remember having a Stella McCartney sweater and Gucci booties when I was 3 months old.  Sigh.

Any who, back to the fashion!  I must say I was a bit concerned when I heard Rachel was releasing her own fashion line.  I mean, the girl can style, but would it translate into the every day girl?  It's easy to make ladies like Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway look gorgeous but could you or I pull off the chic sophisticated style that Zoe is known for?  It was obvious this season on the Rachel Zoe Project that I wasn't the only one a little concerned for Miss Rachel.  From her husband Roger, to her sister Patti, to her team of model-esque fashion minions everyone seemed to wonder how The Rachel Zoe Collection would be perceived by the public.    From handbags to tuxedo jackets to 70s inspired pants the collection (with most pieces under $500) has everything to offer to the girl who wants to look classy and on trend at the same time.  Here are a few of my favorites...and of course be sure to check out Bloomy's for the entire line.  Personally, I can't wait to see what's up for my favorite celebrity stylist!

Rachel Zoe Andrews Blouson Sleeve Dress, $450

Rachel Zoe Gia Scaf Top, $375

Annie Pumps, $295

Rachel Zoe Zoe Tote, $450

Old Treasures = Money in your Pocket!

In the past few years, I've truly converted to adult hood.  Gone are the days when rent was free, car insurance was paid for, and pay day was shopping day!  Let's face it, most of us have more responsibility than ever right now - and you have to pay the bills before you can have some fun.

Well, what you may not realize is that you could have hundreds or thousands of dollars in your closet right now!  Did you know that this is the best time of the year to sell clothes, accessories, and shoes on ebay?  It's true.  With many parents having to cut back on their back to school budgets, many people are turning to places like Goodwill, eBay, and discount stores to buy back to school clothes and goodies.

In the past 5 years I have probably made $5000 annually just by selling stuff on ebay.  Normally, this money just goes back into the latest and greatest in fashion - but it's definitely the best way to justify a big shopping trip.

Here's what I recommend:

  1. Clean out your closet at least two times a year.  I usually do it at the end of winter and summer.  
  2. Make 2 piles - one for the nonprofit of your choice, and one for eBay sales.  Even though garage sales and places like Plato's closet seek to give you the same opportunity as eBay, you can make almost 3 times as much by selling on ebay.   However, there is a small fee to list on ebay, and you do have to mess with shipping the items out. 
  3. If you haven't worn it or used it in 3 months and it's not seasonal (like a bathing suit) then it's time to say goodbye.  Even if you might eventually get back to the size of your high school will be better off to buy a newer more current style than to be "so 2000"!
So take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and list your goodies.  Describe your item honestly, and bring in the moolah!  Even if you just make a few bucks, it's still more than you had before!

My Top 5 Beauty Busts

Recently, I seem to have been plagued more by bad buys than good.  I'll read about how great a product is in a magazine and it sparks my interest.  So, on my next shopping trip to Sephora I check it out, and I buy it.  Then, I get it home...try to use it and am immediately frustrated that this wonderful product is not magical like I was lead to believe.

Therefore, here are a few items I recommend you skip...

1. Stila Glitter Eyeliner

Stila is usually one of my favorite brands, so I didn't think it would be much of a risk to buy this glitter eyeliner.  The ad for this looked amazing - definitely not a day to day look but I had a bachelorette party coming up and thought that this eyeliner would glisten in the brown color.

I am actually somewhat skilled with liquid liner, but the glitter makes this not show up whatsoever.  It looked clear with a sparkle here and there.  Additionally, it kept running and my eyes would immediately begin to water.  It was terrible.  By the time I had my eye done it was so red that I looked like I had pink eye.

This is a case of good marketing, not a good product.

2. Fekkai Products - in General 
I've tried several Fekkai products and can we say overrated?  For the price, you definitely don't get anything above average.  I've used their color shampoo, hairspray, color treatments - you name it!  Every time I'm disappointed that this product is nothing spectacular.  Avoid!

3. Kiehls Ultra Facial Toner
Those of you who read my blog know that Kiehls is one of my favorite skin care lines.  That's why it breaks my heart to have to call this product a bust.  When Kiehls discontinued my other toner, I went with the Ultra Facial from the recommendation of the counterperson.  Unless you have excessively dry skin, I would not use this product.  It left my skin oily and not feeling clean.  I have combination skin, so I definitely need moisture in some areas...but wow - this was above average.  They recently released an oil free version that is hopefully better but this one...a bust.  

4. Bare Escentuals Exfoliating Treatment Cleanser 
This water activated powder cleanser is a little unusual for those of us who are used to a cleanser that really lathers.  Although this product isn't a complete bust, what I hate is that I never know how much powder to use.  And, if I put it on my Clarisonic the powder goes down in the middle hole area and is wasted.  So frustrating.  For $26, I can't help but think I waste about $13 of it. 

5. Philosophy Bronzer (Instant Sunshine) 
I love Philosophy, but  I hate this applicator.  It's a bit hard to use and get even.  Unless you have super even skin that is soft like a baby, I would not use this on your face.  It's going to make you look a little Jersey Shore.  However, it's not as bad for the body.  Either way, I would look else where. 

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale - Sale or Bust of the season?

First of all, sorry everyone for my absence.  The 5th grader in my yearned for a summer vacation - and since my "pay the bills" job does not offer this benefit my blog had to take a back seat. 

Now back to the good stuff!  Normally, this is the one time of the year that I'm willing to pull out the plastic and splurge a bit on my personal wardrobe.  Why?  Because the Nordstrom Anniversary sale offers a preview of what's to come for fall and you get the latest styles for 33% off!  It's the time when I start yearning for a cool breeze so I can break out that new sweater and pair of boots that I've been dying to wear.  For a shopper like myself, it's a National Holiday. 

The preview book that comes out in early July is like the Sears toy catalog that I coveted so many years ago.  I get my pen out and start circling all of the items that I know will be just perfect for work and that fall wedding.  So, imagine my surprise when I got all nestled onto my favorite spot on the couch and anxiously began turning pages only to gasp - everything was...hideous. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of reusing trends.  Thank god jeans with a little more of a rise came back in style because this girl's getting a little old for her butt crack or undies to be playing peek-a-boo.  However, do we really need to go back to grunge?  Don't get me wrong Kurt Cobain, you pulled it off wonderfully.  However, some of us have office jobs and can't wear flannel inspired boots.  And wedged rain boots?  Really?  I find rain boots as more of a functional item...why don't we bring back heeled jelly shoes while we're at it (I should be careful what I wish for...).

After scanning through the catalog front to back 3-4 times I was shocked to see that my pen was still capped.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING struck my fancy.  If you're pregnant this is the season for you.  I mean, I can't really think of anyone else who might be able to pull of the poncho. 

On Friday, July 15th when the entire sale was released online I told myself that I would be able to find something.  There were some decent flowy blouses...but they made the 34-24-34 measured model look a little curvy.  I can only imagine what that would do this girl...I mean, some of us do have a chest.

So, after waiting 11 months for the sale of the year, I became discouraged.  Where oh where will my fall clothes come from?  Honestly, I wish that I was Eva Longoria or one of those celebrities that can still fit into kid clothes.  Joe's Jeans for $38.90?  Count me in!  Not sure I can squeeze into a child's 14 though...

If you don't believe me, check it out for my opinion, this sale is a bust.  With reused styles (mostly jeans and shoes) and cowboy/grunge inspiring the fall runways, here's hoping to a more fashionable 2012!

Monthly Favorite - Braided Belts

I've always been terrible about wearing belts - something about the belt is just uncomfortable.  The buckle always sticks out and if you want the belt to show you have to wear a short top.  It's so annoying!

Recently, belts have been appearing in a less traditional sense.  They are used to cinch the waist of a shapeless dress, add detail to an otherwise plain top, and are a great way to accessorized any look.  The most popular style currently is the braided belt - another throwback look that was very popular in the 70s.

I'm a big fan of the skinny belt when you use it as a simple accessory.  This Club Monaco Harper belt is great for just that.  I love how they have styled it with a feminine skirt.  It adds a little edge.

Club Monaco Harper Belt, $79

Other braided belts are used to cinch the waist when a style may not naturally define the waistline. It's a great way to make the outfit look more stylish and flattering.  To me, the dress below look so much better with this double braided belt - even on a model as skinny as she is!  

Rag & Bone Double Braid Belt, $175

Although I've shown you some more expensive options, you can always head to Target, Forever 21, and other retailers for a great selection of belts.  Just make sure you pick out the right belt for the right style.  Keep your tags on in case you have to return it!  

My Favorite Affordable and Unique Bag Line - Botkier

There are several bags that I have that I love and am always receiving compliments for.  However, when I tell people that the brand is Botkier they are unfamiliar with the brand.  What they don't realize is that Botkier is one of the most affordable, high end bag lines out there.  Botkier offers the quality of Prada at the price of Coach.  The bag line offers unique leathers with colorful patterns to your basic blacks and browns. You can always expect the best compartmentalization with lots of places to keep all of your gadgets and hardware that is truly unique.

Right now they are having their summer sale with many items 25%-50% off.  These are the bags I never get rid of, because they are classic, fun, and functional.

Botkier Howard Satchel 
Was: $475
Now: $318

Eloise Crossbody in Tobacco

Sasha Medium Duffle Handbag

Gorgeous, Fun, and Affordable!  Love! 

Up next for TOMS - Eyewear

Once again, Blake Mycoskie (the creator of the humanitarian brand TOMS) has managed to step up his game.  Since his shoe line took off in 2009 as the it shoe for anyone wanting a great, comfortable style while also wanting to give back - he has been coming up with another philanthropic concept.  Eyewear.

That's right, TOMS has just released their Italian made Sunglass Line.  Every purchase gives sight to one person in need - through medical treatment, prescription eyeglasses, or sight-saving surgery.  Ranging from $135-$145, these affordable UVA/UVB protected shades have some great classic styles that won't have you sacrificing style to give back!

TOMS Classic 101 Shades - $135

TOMS Classic 201 Shades, $135

TOMS Classic 301 Shades, $145

END OF SEASON SALE - on net-a-porter

For those of you who have been yearning for a luxurious Prada bag, a cashmere Burberry scarf, or J Brand jeans - at a fraction of the price you are in luck!  Head to net-a-porter for end of season savings of up to 50% off.  You certainly can't beat that.  Here are a few of my favorite sale items.

Burberry Studded Cashmere Scarf
Was $495
Now $247.50

Ralph Lauren Black Label Cashmere Sweater
Was $400
Now $240

Michael Kors Skorpios Leather Messenger Bag
Was: $995
Now: $497.50

Tory Burch Tevray Braided Leather Wedge Sandals
Was: $325
Now: $195

63 pages of high end sale.  Glorious! 

Monthly Favorite - White Watches

White watches have officially surpassed the "short-lived" trend phase and have emerged as a favorite summer look.

There are several different kinds of the white watch.  The most popular (and most expensive) is the ceramic band white watch.  They can range from $300+.  Although this look is gorgeous, you better be in love if you want to spend the extra dough!

Burberry, $995

Skagen, $275

For something more affordable, try the silicone or "jelly" band.  I'm a big fan of this sporty Marc Jacobs look.  It's got a classic look and looks great with the silver.  

Marc by Marc Jacobs 'Rock' Watch, $225

There's something about white that just makes me thing summer!  Heck, even the bride can rock a watch now :) 

Father's Day Gifts Dad will LOVE!

Do you ever get tired of Dad asking for a Lowe's gift card, a new golf club, or a case of beer?  I know I do!  Come on dad - think outside the box.  However, we know dad's just trying to make it easy on you.  That's why it's up to you to find something great for dad - and make him a little more snazzy in the process.  Here are some of my suggestions:

Lacoste has a great selection of colors and fits to make any dad happy!  The signature knit is soft and airy - perfect for your dad!  ($79.50)
Note: Check online to see if there are any on sale from your favorite department store.  

Anybody else tired of dad sporting the same scent since 1989?  Well, a new scent is a great way to get dad smelling fresh without offending him.  Trust me, your mom will thank you! 

Does your dad have a case of the George Costanza wallet?  Pick up something more modern like this gorgeous Ferragamo wallet.  Cole Haan, Fossil, and Ted Baker also offer great, affordable options of this slim wallet.  

Is dad still walking around with that gold Timex?  No worries - pick up something classic and up-to-date like this Michael Kors watch.  I'm a big fan of Fossil for a current look that doesn't break the bank.  

And of course, don't forget the gift receipt.  Some dads are more fickle than others.  It's the thought that counts...but some dads just want an excuse to go to Lowe's.   

Bright and Sparkly - the newest Trends in Nails

In case you've missed it - bright and sparkly nails are IN!  In the magazines and nail salons everywhere, women are opting for fun and funky color combinations in lieu of the traditional red or french manicure.

OPI recently released a Katy Perry line - filled with bold and sparkly color combos that would make your inner 13 year old shriek with delight!  I'm a big fan of the "teenage dream" pink sparkle shade.  It's over the top, just like Katy, and perfect for a girls night out or summer bash.

(Tip from the Pros: Put a light pink shade underneath to make the sparkles stand out) 

Or what about the reverse french mani?  You heard right!  One of the latest trends is to place a different color in the bottom of your nail in the "half moon shape"  It's fun and funky - and definitely unique.  

Lastly, instead of white and clear for your french, why not try a different color combo like teal and orange?  Although people have played with this stuff, this season everyone is doing it!  

So why not opt for something crazy when it comes to your nails!  Unlike some other trends, this is one that can be removed!