Reflecting on Easter Sunday

My life really doesn't revolve around fashion and makeup and shallowness — I promise! In fact, those things comprise a very small part of my general thoughts and daydreams each day, which is possibly why I chose to blog about them — it's the only time I can really think about/talk about these interests of mine. I spend a lot of time pondering the "what-ifs" in life, along with important things like my career, getting my master's degree, family & friends, the theater community I'm a part of, my faith and even my lovely little pets {at some point I'll talk more about them}. There were many times when I thought about blogging about something different, something more personal... but then I decided that my day-to-day life isn't really interesting enough, not to mention the important people in my life will know about all of the personal things anyway, and the people who don't know... well, they don't know for a reason. *smile* So, even though this blog doesn't focus on very personal matters, I did do some reflecting today that I wanted to share, as I think it will be vital in my growth as a person.

Today is Easter Sunday. I wanted to use a Bible verse as a Facebook status update this morning, so I got out my NRSV Bible (Catholic Edition) and started reading through all of the Easter-related verses at the end of each Gospel. I found my verse for Facebook, and decided to keep reading through. It was then that I discovered some fantastic Bible verses that really hit home for me — they were very much applicable to my life, and I realized how much of the Bible I haven't read before. I attended AWANAS when I was younger, went to church every Sunday {at a Protestant church} until I was a teenager, and converted to Catholicism when I was 20 years old — so the Bible isn't something that's foreign to me. But even after memorizing numerous verses and studying the "popular" passages, I realized I never reflected on many of those passages, and there was so much I had never read at all. At that moment, I felt a deep desire to read everything, and not just read it, but think critically about it and relate it to my own life.

As a Catholic, I know there are daily mass readings available to those who want to follow the daily verses but cannot attend mass every morning. I found the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which has an entire section devoted to daily Bible readings, shown clearly on an organized calendar. I printed out the calendar for the next month, which has readings from about 4-5 different Books of the Bible each day {just a few verses at a time}. I can do that! I've heard if you follow the readings for an entire year, you will have read the entire Bible. What better time to start than Easter Sunday? In making the decision to do these daily readings, I have a renewed sense of faith and determination, feeling motivated by knowing how much this will teach me about my faith and myself. I'm really quite excited to begin something new and something that will be very good for me.

I also signed up for a "Minute Meditation" daily email from the American Catholic website, which basically gives you different things to reflect on each day as it relates to God and spirituality. I know of some friends who receive this email, and have seen them post some really thought-provoking meditations on Facebook. It's just a short email to read each day, and it will give me the opportunity to focus on something outside of the daily craziness that usually consumes my time.

So, on this Easter Sunday, I'm ready to start my new routine and am looking forward to what it will bring to my life. I hope everyone is enjoying this holiday with family and friends, in whatever way you choose to celebrate it. Happy Easter!

Stay Fabulous!


Cocktail Dress: A Review

I bought the Victoria's Secret Ruched Jersey Dress back on April 9th and received it in the mail on April 15th. You can see a picture of the dress {mine was in black, not pewter} and a link to the dress on the website in my post, Shopping Round-Up: Part One. In the picture it looked absolutely gorgeous — sleek, chic and body-friendly. I was VERY excited to finally get a little black dress that I could wear on many occasions.

I bought the dress in a size small, as the website specifies that it's equal to a size 4/6, which is the size I usually wear in dresses. But, I was very. very. wrong. From the second I removed it from the bag, I knew it wasn't going to work. The material was very thin — from the picture on the website I expected it to be more structured, at least near the waistline. But it was almost as thin as a pair of nylons, and was much stretchier than I anticipated, which meant that it was quite clingy {in the wrong places}. It was also very wrinkled from the way it was packaged, which was a red flag to me indicating that it would be too easy to wrinkle when wearing it and would require a lot of ironing, if the fabric could even be ironed. But, I tried it on anyway. The length was perfect, hitting right at my knees, but that was really the only perfect thing about the dress. My main concern was how it looked on my "backside" — it was snug in all of the areas where it should have draped nicely, and it made my bum look huge. Now, I'm well aware of the fact that I have some extra {lovin} in that area, and usually I don't mind it. But this. was. ridiculous. I could have carried a stack of books on the shelf that the dress made my backside look like. It probably goes without saying, but I was utterly mortified and took it off immediately, shoved it in the bag and packed it with the rest of my outgoing mail. And to make it an extra-special experience, I read the return policy and noticed that they take the $5.99 return shipping cost out of the amount reimbursed for your order. So while it looks like they give you a pre-paid mailing label for a free return, they end up docking that amount from my total return {pretty stupid}.

So, what have I learned from this? Pretty much what I already knew: buy dresses in the store, not online. And if the price is cheap or has been reduced significantly over time, it's not far-fetched to assume the product is cheap as well, and it's still in stock because people are returning it — proof that not all bargains are beautiful.

With that being said, stay fabulous!


Lovin' It: Amazing Grace Cold-Process Soap

Back in December of 2010, I ordered a Lavish Sampler Box from the Sampler Village, which contained a multitude of samples from different online shops – most of them hailing from the world of Etsy. It was a fantastic way to discover new indie shops from all over the country, and definitely great exposure for those small businesses. It was even more fantastic because in it, I found my new favorite fragrance, in the form of Amazing Grace cold-process soap from My Best Friend's Soap {which I'll start referring to as "BFF"}. BFF provided a generously sized sample of their Amazing Grace soap in the sampler box, which should last me a couple of weeks. The scent right out of the package was AH-MAZING, and it looked ├╝ber-cute with bright colors and pretty packaging. You'd think I would have used it all up within a few days, but I ended up putting it in a drawer {error #1, considering the lack of organization in my bathroom cabinets} and I forgot about it until a few days ago. I've been on the hunt for a new scent to use in the shower, so I re-discovered this sample at the perfect time.

Amazing Grace soap {picture from etsy.com}

I don't have the Etsy listing with the product details for this soap anymore, but I'm assuming this scent is supposed to be a dupe of Philosophy's Amazing Grace products. BFF's soap has notes of Italian bergamot, sparkling lemon, white floral jasmine, sheer musk and rose. Considering all of the oils used in making this soap {natural oils}, I was surprised that it wasn't more moisturizing. After lathering and washing it off, it left my skin very clean – SQUEAKY clean, in fact. It's very different from big-brand body wash, which usually deposits some oils and lotions on your skin after it's washed off {which can be a bad thing, as it often leaves a residue/film on your skin in order to moisturize it}. So knowing that, I think I can get used to the super-clean feeling of this soap – the scent makes it totally worth it anyway.

In my opinion, the smell is like a wonderful mixture of laundry that's right out of the dryer, and a fresh, clean smell {I can't really explain it}. Now, I've never smelled Philosophy's Amazing Grace, so I don't know how accurate BFF's version is to the original. However, I doubt I'd pay $22 for Philosophy's products when I know I love BFF's, and for a much lower price. If BFF made perfume and body lotion in the same scent, I would snap it all up in a heartbeat. Also, by the end of the day I could STILL smell this scent on my skin, which is quite unusual for soap.

So, would I recommend this? Um – YES! Everyone finds different fragrances appealing, so I can't guarantee that every person would like it. But in this case, the smell is so clean and fresh that I could see many people with different scent preferences really enjoying it. Plus, it's made by a smaller indie company, which I'm almost always in favor of supporting.

Stay Fabulous!


Being Frugal in a Time of Fabulousness

I love fashion. I love beauty products. I love shopping for anything and everything {except groceries}. I love luxury. I love glamour, glitz and all things alluring. I love trendwatching. I love to indulge.
And I don't just love these things – I LOVE to love them. Unapologetically. Shamelessly.

Unfortunately, I often have to love these things from afar – it's one of the consequences of being frugal in a time of fabulousness.

I'm not rich {big shocker there} – at least not in the financial sense. I have plenty of bills, rent, utilities and credit cards to pay, and it all adds up. But I'm not ashamed of having to live well within my means and stick to a budget – it has taught me to genuinely appreciate all of the nice things I do own, as well as the importance of donating things to those in need. One of my shopping rules is that for every article of clothing or pair of shoes that I buy, I have to give away something I don't wear/use anymore. And for this, consignment shops are fantastic – making money off of the things I no longer need helps me rationalize more shopping. :]

My main reason for this random post is to give a little background into my shopping habits and interest in the fashion/beauty world, especially how a person could {love} and appreciate luxury fashion and expensive items without actually owning such things {not many, at least}. To sum it up: I may not have the money to buy all of the lovely things that I want, but I have an appreciation for well-crafted, elegant and timeless items nonetheless. And this is my challenge: to live in a world with such fabulous things while attempting to be frugal. And let's be honest: things get more and more fabulous by the day.

Indeed, I love to talk about fashion, beauty, designers, thousand-dollar stilettos – I may not be able to afford to live the life of luxury right now, but I have high hopes and many dreams for the future. Keeping up-to-date, knowledgeable and appreciative of the finer things in life offers simple motivation to work hard and save, save, save. Obviously I love a bargain just as much as the next gal {I even depend on them}, and will often talk about style steals and bargain beauty buys, among other things...but my economical perspective will never change my interest in this big, beautiful world of fabulousness. Go ahead – dive in!


The Shopping Round-Up - Part Two

Aside from all of the clothing and shoes I bought last week {which was totally necessary, of course}, I also ordered a bunch of odds & ends from different stores, like LUSH, VistaPrint and CafePress. I'm anxious to get all of my packages in the mail! I think the first one arrives this Friday (the Victoria's Secret dress).

::: LUSH :::
I've only purchased from Lush.com one other time, about 4 years ago. It's pretty reasonably priced, especially considering it's all organic and natural products. You just have to be careful when ordering items that come in different sizes – some of the smaller versions are REALLY small {like, enough soap for about four showers}. I stuck with products that only came in one size, so I know they'll last. My purchase included:

The scent of LUSH's popular Snow Fairy shower gel, which is like sweet bubblegum, mixed into a solid shower soap.
For $5.95 you get 3.5 oz. of solid soap, which can be used in the shower or just as hand soap. Not sure how long it will last, so I'll have to do another post in the future to report back.

The Godmother Soap {image from lushusa.com}

A best-seller for LUSH, Lemslip is described as using "antimicrobial lemon, lime and sweet wild orange," and also contains cocoa butter so it doesn't dry out your skin. I love the smell of fresh lemons {Bath & Body Works' Hello Sugar line of lemon & sugar products were some of my favorites}.
For $9.25 you get 3.5 oz. – more expensive than The Godmother, but this was one of the scents that I couldn't pass up.

Lemslip Buttercream Soap {image from lushusa.com}

I bought this body powder thinking I could use it as a shimmery perfume powder on my shoulders in the summer...but after reading the description more closely, I guess it's made to use anywhere and everywhere, for multiple purposes. Luckily I won't need to use it for any of those "multiple purposes" – just my shoulders/decolletage. :]

Silky Underwear Body Powder {image from lushusa.com}

A "shimmering bar of glitter." The purpose of this massage bar is to achieve glowing skin and deposit a vanilla & lavender fragrance. It's supposed to "give your skin a pinky-bronze glow that lights up pale, wintery skin." I'll take it!

Shimmy Shimmy Massage Bar {image from lushusa.com}

Can't wait to try all of these products. Some of the products that LUSH offers, like their bath bombs and bath melts, make me wish I actually liked taking baths as opposed to showers {I can't get past the thought of soaking in water that you've used to clean yourself. Blech.} But if baths are your thing, LUSH has some great bath bombs. I recommend the Sex Bomb, which I bought a while ago and never used – it smells delish, and turns the water bright pink/purple, which is kind of cool. Check it out and go crazy!


Ed Hardy Love & Luck for Women Perfume
I've had this on my list ever since I smelled it when I was shopping at Macy's a few months ago {I was able to dodge those fragrance ladies who aim their spray bottles at you as you're walking past...except the one spraying Ed Hardy}. I'm usually very anti-Ed Hardy, as it's not my style and it reminds me of some famous losers like Jon Gosselin. Haha. But, this perfume smells A-mazing. So when I found a 1-oz. bottle for only $14, I had to pick it up. I've worn it the last three days, and so far I love it. It's subtle but sweet. I also like their pink self-titled perfume, which is quite different than the Love & Luck version, but equally as fragrant. A surprising find, considering the brand, but if I just stick to their perfume, I should be just fine. :]

Ed Hardy Love & Luck Perfume {image from sephora.com}
Last week I also purchased a Groupon for CafePress.com, and was finally able to use it this morning after going around in circles with their customer support trying to get the promo code to be accepted at checkout. Craziness.
I ordered an Audrey Hepburn art print for my bathroom, an Audrey Hepburn window print, a claddagh bumper sticker, a breast cancer awareness button and a "political" t-shirt {which I won't describe, because I want to keep this blog politics-free}.

Audrey Hepburn wall art {image from cafepress.com}

Audrey Hepburn Window print {image from cafepress.com}

Finally, I ordered a few things from VistaPrint.com – and everything was free! Well, except for shipping. I ended up paying $9 altogether. I ordered a box of business cards and two different sets of return address labels (all shown below). I wish I had more reasons to order from VistaPrint, as I love their products...but a person can only order so many return address labels {and I already have four sets from last year}. But, it's free. So what the heck.
And obviously I'm not going to post what the final products looked like, as I'd like to keep my information somewhat private. :]

I think that's it for my crazy shopping experience.
How about you? Buy anything exciting last week?

Stay Fabulous!


The Shopping Round-Up - Part One

I seem to buy a few non-everyday items {ie: things other than food, toilet paper, etc - usually unnecessary items} at least once a week, so I thought I'd do a recap of my weekly haul. May not be every week, but when there's something worth mentioning, it's easier to do it all in one post instead of every time I buy something. After a few weeks I'll do a follow-up to reflect on whether I like everything I bought or suddenly feel buyer's remorse. Let's hope it's always the former.

After writing out a list of things I bought this past week {April 3rd - April 10th}, I can't believe how much I purchased without breaking the bank. So much, in fact, that I'll have to break it up into two separate posts so it's not dreadfully long. I found some great deals throughout the week!

My favorite item by far {though I haven't received it yet} is a shiny black ruched jersey dress I ordered from Victoria's Secret. I spent a lot of time shopping on numerous websites for a cute dress that I can wear to an upcoming wedding in June. It had to be versatile enough to go from day to night, and also had to hide the areas that I feel need to be hidden/camouflaged. Yes, I'm insecure about things just like everyone else. Anyway, I found everything I was looking for, and more, when I found this dress at Vickie's. Bonus #1: It was originally $80 and I got it for only $30. STEAL! I had been eyeing up this dress for some time, and I had to grab it while my size was still available. Bonus #2: I think it's going to fit beautifully and hide everything that I was hoping it would – and because it's black, it's automatically slimming. WIN! Now I can't wait to get it in the mail – which leads me to the only thumbs-down for this order: Vickie's has a habit of taking an unusually long time to ship items via standard ground shipping, even though other stores that are located on the other side of the country manage to get packages to me in less than a week. So, here it is:

Pictured in gray (mine is black) from victoriassecret.com
What do you think? Assuming that not everyone who is reading this {or will eventually read it} knows my body type, I'll simply say I don't look anything like the model in the picture. :} But the ruching on the front and the longer length is perfect for hiding any and all flaws, all while looking super cute.
I also bought a few things in the local Victoria's Secret store, using my Reward Card to cash in on a $10 discount. I bought this Brewers shirt, which I can't wait to wear to a game this season:

Picture from victoriassecret.com
Go Brew Crew! I might go back for a Brewers hat and hoodie at some point.

::: GO JANE :::
GoJane.com is another place I spent money last week, picking up two pairs of heels: a suede pointed-toe pump and a suede peep-toe pump {both pictured below}. I made sure the heel height isn't 5.5" this time {I bought a pair of blush patent stilettos a few months ago, and didn't pay attention to the heel height of 5.5" – they're barely even wearable, as the heel sits far too high in relation to the toe area. It's like walking around in pointe ballet shoes, up on the tips of your toes – and that's not very cute}. The two pairs that I bought this time are only 4.5" in height, which makes a huge difference in the world of heels. I've already picked out some outfits to wear with them. :}

Black Pointed-Toe Pumps {image from gojane.com}

Nude Peep-Toe Pumps {image from gojane.com}

I also purchased the Volcom Marina Dress {eastbay.com}, which is a crinkle-gauze dress that will be perfect for a beach cover-up or worn as a summery layered outfit.

Image from Eastbay.com

And I also bought the Billabong Jaden Jacket {ccs.com}, which is a zip-up, toggle-front jacket that's a bit thicker than I expected it to be {not like a normal spring jacket}, but it's not thick enough to wear in the winter either – so it's perfect for the in-between temps that we've had the past few days {in fact I wore it yesterday, in 45-degree weather, and it was just fine}.

Image from CCS.com

That's it for clothing! {"That's it" -- ha!}
Tomorrow I'll post the other non-clothing items I bought.

Stay Fabulous!


Lovin' It: Burt's Bees Skincare

I have officially been using the Burt's Bees 3-Step Treatment System for about a month now, and I am hooked! Prior to this I've tried just about everything, with the Clinique 3-Step System being one of the favorites. However, Burt's Bees is surpassing Clinique by leaps and bounds.

I began using the Burt's Bees system after I had a terrible reaction to a trial set of ProActiv. WAY too harsh for my skin, and overall, my skin isn't really "bad" enough to even warrant a skincare system like ProActiv — not even close I guess (self-perception can be a tricky thing). So after letting my skin calm down for about a week (calm down = get rid of a chemical burn), I made the decision to try out Burt's Bees line of products. I figured since they use all-natural ingredients, they wouldn't be too harsh for my skin. Luckily, I was right. Burt's Bees products are paraben free, sulfate free (SLS-free), petrochemical free and phthalate free, and they utilize natural ingredients like willow bark extract, which is a natural salicylic acid from the willow tree, allowing it to treat skin naturally. For me, this meant a few wonderful things. Most treatment systems use harsh acids or peroxide chemicals that not only strip my skin of its natural oils, making it significantly more oily due to overcompensating for the lost oil, but it also dries out areas like my cheeks, leaving me with combination skin that's very hard to manage. In deciding to use a natural line of products I was worried it wouldn't be as effective without the more "powerful" ingredients, but I was very wrong. Burt's Bees' products are like heaven for my skin compared to other products like ProActiv, Clean & Clear and Neutrogena. The cleanser doesn't dry out my skin, the lotion doesn't make my T-zone oily, and the spot treatment doesn't irritate my skin and leave it blotchy and red. It's quite amazing. At this point, as long as my skin doesn't become "immune" to the products (I've heard that's physically impossible, but I beg to differ based on past experience), I think I'll stick with this for a while.

The Burt's Bees Natural Acne Solutions 3-Step Regimen Kit includes the following products:

* Burt's Bees Purifying Gel Cleanser (5 fl. oz.)
* Burt's Bees Daily Moisturizing Lotion (2 fl. oz.)
* Burt's Bees Targeted Spot Treatment (.26 fl. oz.)

I don't use my 3-step system exactly as directed, because my skin is sensitive and prone to dryness and irritation. However, after using it for a month without any noticeable side-effects, I'm confident that if necessary, I could use this system twice a day without any problem.

My routine:
In the morning I only wash my face with warm water and a washcloth, allowing the natural oils in my skin to stay at healthy levels versus drying it out. The washcloth also helps to exfoliate. Every-other day I add Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap to the water (the lavender kind), which leaves my skin extra soft and doesn't interfere with my 3-step system (Dr. Bronner's is also a natural cleanser). I follow the cleanser with the Burt's Bees Daily Moisturizing Lotion (about a dime-size amount) and finish with the spot treatment on appropriate areas. Since the spot treatment isn't harsh at all, I don't have to worry about using it too much.
At night I remove my eye makeup with Almay's Eye Makeup Remover Pads (the oil-free version) and then use the entire 3-step system — cleanser, moisturizer and spot treatment. I'm still looking for a good anti-wrinkle night serum to wear overnight, but haven't found one that I like that's light enough to let my skin breathe.

I would recommend the Burt's Bees 3-Step System to anyone with combination skin, or as I call mine, temperamental skin, as it changes from week to week. One week it's completely clear, and the next, well...it isn't. In the last four weeks I haven't had that problem though, so I believe my Burt's Bees products, combined with my new skincare routine, is to thank for that. And at around $30 for the entire three-piece set, it's definitely affordable — it looks like it will last me at least three months. If you don't want to commit to the entire 3-piece system, I would suggest starting with the moisturizer and going from there.

Stay Fabulous!


Movie Madness: "Love and Other Drugs"

First I have to say that I already thought Anne Hathaway was a fabulous actress before I ever saw this movie. She was thoroughly entertaining in "The Devil Wears Prada," she made me feel a number of different emotions in "Rachel Getting Married" and through her acting in "Love and Other Drugs" she gave off this empowering sense of strength and renewed purpose that isn't easily captured by many actresses these days. Jake Gyllenhaal was wonderful as well, but Hathaway took the movie to another level with her portrayal of a young woman with early-onset Parkinson's disease.

Gyllenhaal played Jamie, a pharmaceutical representative who meets Maggie (Hathaway) at a doctor's office, where Maggie is requesting a number of different medications for managing her Parkinson's disease. At that point, we're not shown any signs of her disease. But as the story moves along, her symptoms start to become more pronounced – especially when she is forced to go without her medications while waiting for a pharmacy to open (and as a result, the audience is exposed to a whole different side of Maggie, and made to feel angry for her, as someone so young who has to live with such a terrible disease). Usually when a person thinks of Parkinson's disease, we think of older men and women, shaking, trembling, forgetful, and we feel terribly devastated for them. Of course the same goes for a multitude of other diseases, from Alzheimer's to cancer and diabetes. Parkinson's doesn't tread lightly on its victims, and Hathaway explored the all-encompassing nature of the disease with much humility and honesty. We also saw what many men and women afflicted with disease have to resort to in order to get the medication they need just to live semi-normal lives (and sometimes even that is a stretch). Taking two-day bus trips into Canada to get medications because they can't afford the medications in the U.S. – and that's even after insurance has "paid" their part. We also saw Maggie attend a convention in which many Parkinson's patients offered words of optimism when confronted with adversity – the disease won't keep them down.

Overall I felt this movie really touched on the honest lives of people affected by disease, and it did so with respect and even some humor to complement the story along the way. The chemistry between Hathaway and Gyllenhaal made the movie both entertaining and easy to watch, like the audience was given a secret glimpse into the world of an endearing and unconventional couple. But the story of their relationship was what elevated the movie to the "awesome" level. It didn't feel contrived or forced by any means – it was very genuine and inspirational. I could really watch this movie over and over again and not get sick of it. That, my friends, is evidence of a great movie.

My rating:

I gave "Love and Other Drugs" a rating of 8 (maybe closer to 8.5) because it's not exactly the best movie I've ever seen, and doesn't compare to other movies that I consider to be perfect tens, but it comes pretty darn close to being one of the best movies I've seen in a while.

Stay Fabulous!