Lifestyle Tips & Tricks

Free (Or REALLY Low Cost} Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

February 4, 2016

Because there are plenty of Valentine’s Day Gift Guides out there designed to get you to part with your hard-earned cash, I decided to do something a bit different and offer your guys a list of free Valentine’s Day gift ideas. Each idea is based on one of the Five Love Languages, a book that my husband and I both read before we got married and one that I highly recommend to other couples.

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THE LANGUAGE: Words of Affirmation
THE TRANSLATION: A Homemade Valentine’s Day Card

For some folks, receiving compliments and praise are what they value most. So forget Hallmark, and break out the construction paper and lace doilies to write down those sweet little nothings and profess your love! My husband and I started dating when we were a pair of broke college students. We’ve come a long way since then, but some of my most treasured possessions are a box of handmade notes and cards that he gave to me in the early days of our courtship. The one I’m holding above is probably circa 2001’ish, and it still melts my heart to this day!

free-valentines-day-gift-ideas-scrapbook

THE LANGUAGE: Receiving Gifts
THE TRANSLATION: Make a Personalized Scrapbook

Now most of us love gifts – but for some folks, gifts can carry a LOT of weight.  Just remember that gifts don’t have to be expensive or over-the-top, so long as they’re meaningful. And what could be more meaningful than a personalized scrapbook filled with your favorite photographs and memories?! And if you want to start planning for next year’s V-Day, how about journaling just one thought each day for an entire year about why you love the other person? It’ll be a guaranteed page-turner – not to mention a potential tear-jerker.

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THE LANGUAGE: Physical Touch
THE TRANSLATION: Give a Candlelit Massage

The physical touch language doesn’t have to be exclusive to the bedroom. As a precursor to other, ahem, extra-curricular activities, spend an extra 30-minutes or so giving an amazing candlelit massage. Better yet, brush up on your technique beforehand by perusing a massage therapy handbook to make sure you’ve got your moves down pat.

free-valentines-day-gift-ideas-chores

THE LANGUAGE: Acts of Service
THE TRANSLATION: Get Out of Chores Free Card

Sometimes the best way to show how much you care is to lend a helping hand. Since offering to take out the trash or sweep the garage doesn’t really scream romantic, a more pleasant way to extend the offer would be to print up a DIY coupon book custom-tailored with your special one’s least favorite chores.

free-valentines-day-gift-ideas-netflix-and-chill

THE LANGUAGE: Quality Time
THE TRANSLATION: Do I really have to explain?!

Ok, this one’s a little toungue-in-cheek, but hear me out. Block out an entire evening with NO distractions… yes, that includes cell phones and computers! Dim the lights, pour some wine, lay out your significant other’s favorite snacks, and fire up an old, romantic movie. What happens next is up to you…

And there you have it folks! Five free or low-cost ways to express how much you care this Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

Business Casual My Style

Pink & Blue {J. Crew Lady Coat + Brooks Brothers Plaid Dress}

February 3, 2016

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plaid-dress-2

{Brooks Brothers Plaid Dress (ON SALE!), J. Crew ‘Lady’ Coat, Vintage Bow (similar here), Forever 21 Bib (similar here), Manolo Blahnik BB Pumps}

I think this may be my favorite outfit of 2016…

Yeah, I know that’s not really saying a lot since we’re only about 5 weeks in – but this getup still has me pretty geeked for several reasons:

Reason #1: I’d been eyeing this plaid dress on the Brooks Brother’s site for a month or two before it finally went on sale for half off. I was tempted on numerous occasions to purchase it at full retail, but my inner cheapskate won out as I knew the price would eventually drop (Brooks Brothers ALWAYS has amazing sales, in case you didn’t know). I took a gamble that my size would still be in stock, and it paid off! Don’t you just love it when that happens? I wore this dress by iteself with black tights and heels for Christmas dinner with the fam’, but here I opted for a schoolgirl look by layering a collared bib (a serious wardrobe game-changer, trust me!) and prissy bow underneath.

Reason #2: After reviewing my crazy outta control extensive shoe collection a while back, I came to the shocking realization that I didn’t own a pair of basic black pumps. I had yellow, turquoise, bright red, leopard print, plaid, gingham and pretty much everything in between, but not a sensible black heel in sight. How crazy is that?! To make a long story short: after 6 months of searching (not even an exaggeration), I came to the conclusion that a classic Manolo BB Pump was the shoe for me.  Unfortunately at around $600 bucks a pop, I was a little reluctant to pull the trigger. Ok… a LOT reluctant.  Luckily, my shoe prayers were answered when I stumbled upon these beauties on the clearance rack at Bergdorf’s. They were the only pair in my size – actually they were the only pair, PERIOD – and I got them for 1/3 the original price! Still a pretty penny, but I know that I’ll get my money’s worth.

Reason #3: My coat is PINK… ’nuff said!

Lifestyle Product Reviews

CC Recommends: Forever 21 Workout Gear

February 2, 2016

Forever 21 Workout Gear Forever 21 Workout Gear

Forever 21 Workout Gear

Ok, it’s confession time: I’m a workout video junkie.

I’m the girl who stays up late at night watching infomercials and actually orders the stuff shown on tv. On top of that, I probably own enough workout equipment to start my own small fitness studio. Because my workouts for the past year or two have been done exclusively in the comfort of my living room, my exercise apparel was beginning to look a little pitiful.

In any case, I recently decided to join a gym to switch things up a bit. And of course, I immediately realized that my usual workout attire of Hanes Boy Shorts and ratty college t-shirts weren’t made for public consumption.  And so the quest began for cute, affordable workout gear. Much to my surprise, Forever 21 delivered full-force on stylish and functional designs.

As a woman with an ample bustline, I was particularly stoked to find cute sports bras that held ‘the gals’ in place. Now, I probably wouldn’t wear them for high-impact aerobics, but for things like yoga, weight-lifting, and spin class where’s there’s not much jumping around, their sports bras do the trick just fine. But what got me most excited were the cute warmup jackets and printed leggings.

As far as sizing goes, I find the large tops and bottoms work best on me. But if you’re larger than a C-cup, like me, then I recommend checking out the plus size range of sports bras for a better fit.

Have any of you ever tried Forever 21’s activewear? If so, what were your thoughts? And if not, what brands do you stick by?

Heads up: I did not receive monetary compensation for this post, but the leggings, sports bra and yoga mat were gifted to me by Forever 21. The jacket was purchased by me months ago with my own cash, along with many other pieces from Forever 21’s activewear collection. I’d never lead you guys astray and truly do love these items enough to pay for them out of my own pocket!

 

Everyday Outfits My Style

Black & Red {Buffalo Plaid Jacket}

February 1, 2016

Buffalo Plaid Jacket

Ralph Lauren Band Military Jacket

Ralph Lauren Band Military Jacket{Uniqlo Buffalo Plaid Jacket + Turtleneck, Gap Sweater Skirt (similar here and here), Vintage Beret (similar here and here), Ralph Lauren Band Jacket + Bucket Bag, Kate Spade Boots}

When in doubt… wear red!

That’s been my motto as of late, and I have to say it’s been working. The weather in New York City has been surprisingly mild in the wake of Winter Storm Jonas. That means that the once pristine mounds of fluffy white snow have melted and congealed into soot-stained heaps of ice and debris. As you can imagine, things aren’t so pretty around these parts. Rather than let the dreary cityscape get me down, I’ve taken to adding much needed jolts of color into my wardrobe to help lift my spirits.

I always feel sassy and confident whenever I wear red, and this outfit is no exception. This buffalo plaid jacket from Uniqlo is easily my coziest purchase of the season. And I’m so glad that I bought it bit oversized so that I can comfortably layer heavy sweaters and blazers underneath – or even my much-loved marching band jacket which harkens back to my middle and high school baton-twirling days.

And what about you guys? What do you like to wear to help cheer yourself up during these dreary winter months?

Recipes

A Tasty Little Recipe: Snowstorm Chili with Roasted Beet Chips

January 28, 2016

Chili Recipe

During last week’s snowstorm, Eric and I were tucked safely inside our apartment with a full Netflix queue and plenty of snacks and comfort food to keep us snug, including big bowls of warm chili. I’m always testing out different chili recipes, and I love this version because it comes together so quickly. The roasted beets also give a nice texture and unexpected flavor dimension.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 ounces yellow beets (or red ones… if you dare!)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 cup kidney beans
  • 1 lime
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare Ingredients
    Preheat oven to 400°F. Peel beets, halve, and slice as thinly as possible. Mince garlic. Drain black beans and kidney beans, then rinse both. Quarter lime. Pat beef dry with paper towel.
  2. Simmer Chili
    While cornbread bakes, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add spice mix, garlic, beef, and ½ teaspoon kosher salt and cook, breaking up with the back of a spoon, until meat loses its color, 3-4 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Bake Beet Chips
    Add beets to baking sheet from cornbread and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Arrange in a single layer, transfer to
    oven, and bake until crisp, about 15 minutes.
  4. Thicken Chili
    Stir in black beans and kidney beans. Cover pot and cook until chili is thickened and flavors are melded, about 5 minutes more. Remove pot from heat. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Enjoy!
    Garnish chili with all the things: Cheddar, beet chips, and lime wedges.

Bon Appétit!