July 25, 2017

Building A Quality Wardrobe

Around this time last year I became intrigued with the notion of a capsule wardrobe. It was an obsession born out of necessity, I was moving a thousand miles from home and I didn’t budget for moving costs. One box alone was $60 to ship. I scoured the internet for any tips I could find for building a capsule wardrobe-- and essentially life. I succeeded for a while, and it allowed me to part ways with articles of clothing I didn’t even realize I was housing. Once I got my bearings in my new environment, I felt myself falling back into old habits. Something new lingered, though. Some fundamental part of what I’d taught myself during my capsule wardrobe phase persisted: quality.

Growing up I’d become accustomed to hear (note I didn't say “listen.”) to my parents and older brothers drone on and on about quality. I didn’t heed any of this because my if I could get so much for so little, why would I wanna do anything else? But I wasn’t a teenager anymore. I had bills and rent to pay, something no amount of preparation could have, well, prepared me for. Shopping was now, this is really cute, but it’s gonna start falling apart right away and there’s a reason they’re only charging $10 for it. That thing my family kept going on about finally made sense to me.

James Perse has been my go-to for basics for a while now.

I loved this navy tee so much, I bought a second identical one. Similar here

It’s an inconvenient truth if you’re on a tight budget like I am, but I promise there’s a silver lining. If you’re seeking quality, you’re probably gonna have to pay a little more for it up front, but you won’t have to replace it or keep spending your hard earned money on the same thing over and over again. This applies to just about anything you can think of. Here are some of the biggest rules I adhere to when expanding my wardrobe:

Knowing what to look for and knowing yourself are two of the most important things you need to know. Know your style. Know your fits. What items in your closet get the most attention? Why? What can you throw on and not even need a look in the mirror at because you just know you look good?

Knowing where to look is equally important. Even if your budget isn’t terribly tight, thrift stores are always solid choices. You’re bound to find a few wins anywhere you look. If not, give it some time and check again. Persistence and time are key. I know the idea of wearing used clothing doesn’t sit well with some people, but consider this: these pieces have a former life and are still going strong. How much of your wardrobe can stand the test of time like some of these have? Things to keep in mind when thrifting: 1. Really inspect a piece of clothing because questionable stains are definitely out there, and there’s no telling if they’ll come out. 2. Be weary of the return policy as most are final sale or exchange only.

Grey Suede Leather - Jeffrey Campbell, similar here // Brown Leather - Seychelles, similar here

Don’t feel like leaving the house, or have slim pickings in your area? I’ve been there, too. Luckily, I came across some pretty great alternatives to the brick and mortar version. eBay has a really great selection of vintage jewelry. I’m too scared (and lazy) to shop for clothing online because online returns are the worst, and so is paying return shipping. But accessories are just about always a safe bet. Just be sure you’re comfortable with the amount of information that the seller provides so you have a real idea of what you’ll be getting. Another less frequented (by me) alternative is Poshmark. I used this site/app quite a bit back in the day, but the platform underwent some changes and I eventually lost interest altogether. Still, if there’s something rare or discontinued, this is a good place to look! Finally, online thrift stores exist! A few google searches should yield something that piques your interest, but Shop Goodwill is my favorite, bar none.

Cambridge Satchel Co. Large Push Lock in Leather

Belt - Vintage

If there’s one thing I really love, it’s my niche brands. I’ve written previously about how living in the southeast has a silver lining because no one is really after the labels I drool over. A select few places house quite a few lesser-known, but well respected labels. Unless you’re around their home courts, they go widely unnoticed and therefore marked down further. Know your niche brands (if you’re into that sort of thing) and really be familiar with different labels and their reputation in terms of durability, etc. Spotting them will soon become second nature.

I haven't had to repurchase workout leggings since swearing off the cheap(er) stuff // Lululemon (pink), Fabletics (black)

My mom taught me at a young age that if you’re going to splurge on anything, it should be your shoes. “These directly impact your back,” she’d say, “so spend the money and do yourself a favor.” I have the most difficult feet to fit into shoes, and I learned the hard way that spending the time, money, and effort is the only way to really win in the end. I got smart and started buying for quality, but I spent far more on lesser footwear because the price was right and
well, if I wear them for only, like, 10 minutes and do minimal walking, they won’t hurt that much. Trust me, the pain of wearing bad shoes isn't worth it.

Story Time
I needed some plain flats for my wardrobe, but no one made any that fit me well. I finally was left with one option: take my mom’s advice. I hit up the *high end* part of town and hit the jackpot. I spent quite a bit on flats, but when I put them on, I almost cried. I’m serious. The shoes were perfect, the fit, the color, everything was absolutely perfect. I bought them in every color, which was luckily only in nude and black, because they were pricier. But you know what? It’s been almost five years and both pairs look brand new. They fit just like they did at the store that day, and I never had to buy another pair of flats again. This is a classic example of quality in action. They were pricey, but take into account the aggregated amount I’d already spent trying to replicate a low quality knockoff, and I broke even, easy.

I took this rule of thumb and applied it to my entire wardrobe. I always try to opt for vegan leather (or “pleather,” as I used to call it), but I’ll never pass up a good leather bag or belt if one crosses my bath. These things, along with shoes, take the brunt of the wear and tear, but will stick with you as long as you take care of them. I’ve been asked how I manage to both save money and shop so much. It’s simple: I look carefully, I take my time, and I’m totally fine with walking out of a store empty-handed. And when I do buy something, it’s going to be a long time before I have to replace it.

Perfume - Carolina Herrera // Watch - Invicta // Bracelet - Vintage

July 20, 2017

Cruelty Free: The Best of Both Worlds

Have a conversation with me for just a few minutes and my love of animals will become apparent. I grew up under the impression that to be a consumer of beauty products, animal testing was just a reality that you had to live with, one that was better left ignored for the sake of your conscious. Fast-forward and the year is 2017. More and more beauty companies are popping up, proudly proclaiming their cruelty-free paradigm. Established companies are advertising their newly minted cruelty-free products. This has been going on for a while now, and while I always thought the idea was neat, I never made much of an effort to shop exclusively cruelty-free beauty. Sure, if something I bought happened to be C.F., I felt good about myself, but those instances were happenstance. As of late, though, I've caught myself unconsciously favoring these products. The following are some of my current favorites that have managed to make their way to into my travel bags, AKA the stuff I can't live (or leave) without.


A new favorite of mine that I'm ashamed didn't make its way into my life sooner is Ecotools. It's literally in their name. You've probably seen this line of beauty tools lining drugstore shelves complete with their bamboo pouches and educational packaging. As much as I love beauty products, I've always opted for the most cost efficient tools-- something I'm not proud of at my age. I'd heard nothing but good things about this economical brand from some of my favorite beauty gurus, and I wasn’t disappointed. The brushes are luxuriously soft, they perform well, and it finally looks like my life is just a liiiitle more put together because I have matching brush sets.

Of all the brands I’m listing today, this has to be my favorite. Lush has your beauty needs covered through a variety of categories. They have makeup, skincare, hair care, bath bombs, beard balms-- you name it. I can’t even narrow down a single category to talk about because I use so many of their products and I have nothing but good things to say. Even my boyfriend is obsessed with them, asking to do face masks a few times per week.  I have very particular skin and finding products that react well to it is its own type of punishment. Somehow everything I’ve purchased at Lush has worked wonders with my skin. This is especially good news given that “green” and cruelty-free products haven’t always had the best track record with performance. Their line, though, goes above and beyond expectation. From the moment you sample something at one of their stores, you can feel the quality of what they’re selling. Their employees are so insanely informed on the products, you’ll know immediately whether something would meet your needs. In conjunction to being an environmentally conscious company, they have Charity Pots. They’re those iconic black pots a lot of their products come in. Bring in 5 empty Charity Pots and get a free mask. Not only are they proud of what they sell, they incentivize being eco-friendly along with them. Their pots are marked with a label featuring “Not virgin! made with 100% recycled plastic. Please reuse it or bring it back.” The ingredients and expiration date are printed clearly on the pot beside the illustrated picture, name, and date of the person who made it. At the bottom of every label is the silhouette of two rabbits on their haunches with the caption “Fighting Animal Testing.”

Go back in time with me to when you first discovered makeup. If you were anything like me, you wanted to play with EVERYTHING. That meant eagerly volunteering to go grocery shopping so you could get lost in those drugstore makeup aisles. And if you were anything like me still, you’d hit up the super-inexpensive side of the beauty section because mom was so much more likely to buy you something if it was only .99 cents. Cue Wet n’ Wild. I thought I’d outgrown the epitome of drugstore makeup until several years ago when they popped back up on the radar. All of a sudden they have killer formulas and a seal telling you that it’s cruelty-free. Our rekindled relationship began when I found a .99 cent exact dupe for an Urban Decay eyeshadow and I’ve never looked back. What did me in for good was their then-new 1 Step Wonder Gel nail polishes. I’d been on the lookout for a new signature red since my usual shade was becoming increasingly difficult to find. Finally, I decided to try out these hyped up polishes...
H O L Y  S M O K E S
The reviews weren’t joking. The quality of their polish is enough to surpass every high-end label I've tried to date. The compliments I've received on my nails since then has been due to these two shades.

1 Step Wonder Gel in Crime of Passion (red) and Stay Classy (mauve)


Conclusion & Disclaimers:
I am in no way stating that I now shop, use, or own 100% cruelty-free products, but I'm slowly working toward it. I mentioned that my hair and skin are very particular with what they will agree with, and unfortunately some of the products that work best with me don’t have any of the labels I now find myself searching for. Also, these aren’t the only three brands I use that are cruelty-free, I use many more that didn’t make the list for a variety of reasons. I use a wide variety of products from these three brands and find myself repurchasing from them so much that I have placed my faith in them. Additionally, not all labels are created equally: some certifications are more difficult to achieve than others. With all that being said, I still have a lot of learning to do on this particular subject, and I’m looking forward to helping my furry little friends as much as possible.

July 14, 2017

What I'm Pinning: Decor Galore

In just a few short weeks I will get to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams of decorating a space of my (our) own. In preparation, I've been cultivating one of my pinboards for what I hope our future space will somewhat resemble. 

I never thought I'd see the day I wanted stark white walls, but here we are. Follow me here on Pinterest! 

July 10, 2017

The Perfect Lazy Day

My boyfriend and I are both servers, so lazy days are particularly coveted. After long hours of non-stop moving & multitasking, going to bed knowing we get to sleep in the next day feels pretty great. What's even more great is when we both (!!!) have the day off together. Because these days are a rare breed, I've compiled a little list of my favorite ways to get the most out of those lazy days, even if it's just one.


There's a reason romantic or relaxing scenes always have candlelight. A little flame swaying happily in the corner of the room really sets the mood-- whatever mood you're going for. Depending on the type of day, I'll opt for a graceful rose scent like this one for daytime, and then switch over to something with a little more musk-- think teakwood-- for evening time. With a candle lit, the in-bed versions of normal things become so much better.

LUSH Intergalactic Bath Bomb because glittery, navy blue bath water is the... bomb.

Though having the day off together is big part of the day, it's important to take some time and just do what you want to do. So for a couple of hours we'll take some time to do what resonates with our own selves. He'll hang out on the couch and watch his shows or play games, while I'll pamper myself, read whatever I'm currently reading, or even perch myself next to him on the couch and pull up Netflix on my laptop. This way we'll be doing what we want separately, but still together. 

One day I just really wanted to know what the deal was with a├žai bowls

Grocery shopping. Going to the bank. Renewing your driver license. Looking for weirdly specific things no one really needs, but one of us is reeeally curious about (that's how our love of kombucha was born)... I'm being serious, you guys. Lame, mundane tasks are somehow actually fun for us when we do it together. Maybe it's the getting to drive around town with no real pep in our step that lets us just enjoy it, or maybe two of the weirdest people on the planet found each other and like filling out deposit slips and scheduling bill pays together. I was going stir crazy one night when Andrew says, "Didn't you have fun today? We went grocery shopping. I thought it was really nice." I looked at him with WTF????? stamped across my face. It took me a little while to realize that what he meant wasn't literally, "looking at food with you was cool." It's the cruising the aisles, telling jokes, fake-arguing about what new candle we buy-- just good ole hanging out with your boyfriend/best friend. That's what was so fun. And he's absolutely right. 

No, mom, I wasn't on my phone at dinner. I was looking for a meme.

Finally, get the hell out! There really isn't anything lazy about leaving the apartment for dinner, but it feels damn good to be at a restaurant and not be the server. On date nights that are the product of a lazy day, I don't even bother with my makeup or dressing up. A low key dinner & drinks and you have that perfect aaahhh at the end of the day. 


Now you relaxed, you did you, and you got out for a little while. It's not about buying a new candle, it's about the excitement of knowing you have time to light it as soon as you get home.

July 1, 2017

June Happy Things

June was a tough month all around. Without going into uncomfortable detail, I can confidently say that it's been one of the toughest thus far. Andrew and I have both been taking hit after hit. While there were multiple times I was ready to accept my losses, it turned out to be the little, unexpected things that let a little light leak into those dark days. I know we all have bad days, bad weeks, and bad months, so I thought I'd round up some of the things that brought some happiness (or at least allowed me to be sad, less.)


Get out, get some fresh air, smell some roses.
No one can nap as hard as I can and I challenge anyone who thinks otherwise. Unfortunately, my favorite pastime, talent, and fast-forward button did not work in my favor this month. I found myself as miserable as ever with every afternoon nap I took. Getting out, on the other hand-- something as simple as a drive to the post office-- pushed me in the right direction. After a while my apartment  began feeling toxic and any change of scenery was welcome.

"Good morning mommy!" - my daily Ezra text, courtesy of my mom

This is Ezra, he's one of the many dogs in our menagerie back home, but he is my son. I couldn't bare to take him away from home when I moved here, so he remains in the very loving care of my family. Without fail, my mom sends me a picture of him every day, and no matter what I'm going through his little face will force a smile on me. On trips to the store, I make sure to stop by the garden center simply to take a look at the succulents that grow naturally back home. Even gazing at them on a shelf brings about its own kind of serenity. She's always sure to remind me that I always have a home in Texas. I'm not one to run from any of the obstacles I'm faced with, but knowing that nothing will be final, nothing will end me completely, is its own type of comfort.

Find a way to get your fix 
One of the big hits June dealt me was job related and it hit me hard. Not because I was torn up about not having money or being materialistic or anything, but because I couldn't step out of my apartment (refer to exhibit 1 for significance) without a hundred reminders about how I couldn't afford anything at all. Groceries, an Uber, a $3 candle-- nothing. (Greatest Boyfriend Ever Lifetime Award goes tooooooo!) I was miserable. But beyond all that, I knew I had to get out and get out of my funk while I was at it. I needed my human interaction. The perfect night for this took the form of Midnight Sushi at Surin of Thailand. They're famous for their dollar sushi rolls, which make outings really affordable. I had a full meal and was able to have a good time with our friends without feeling guilty.

You might notice that Netflix or tv/movies in general didn't make my little list, and that's because I found them to do more harm than good, at least in my case. This month, I took to reading more than anything. Maybe it's that reading requires more brainpower and is able to better distract me from my reality or perhaps tv and movies have me yearning for pretty things that I realistically could not have. Whatever the deeper reasoning behind it was, I picked up some books that I'd been meaning to finish and curled up for hours at a time.


I'm probably more familiar with bad times than any person should be, but we unfortunately can't control that. One of my favorite phrases is "turns out rock bottom had a false bottom," and I use that when things get tougher than tough. Last month drove several storms through, but also discoveries about what I can do to counteract the effects. When you're gonna be sad, you're gonna be sad, but that doesn't mean we can't do anything about it.