Happy Halloween From Apollo & I

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope your holiday has been fun and candy-filled. Boyfriend, Apollo and I sat on our front stoop for two hours handing out candy until we ran out (we had so many trick-or-treaters).

Here’s a picture of Apollo in his “Watch Dog” costume.

We also saw a dog in a plastic bag – he was a “doggie bag”. I love clever homemade dog costumes!

One problem I had was what I should wear to the office – I wanted to celebrate Halloween but in a chic, office-appropriate way. Here’s what I came up with:

I love this spider brooch I found on Amazon for only $18! To put the outfit together I just grabbed my favorite LBD, added an orange button-down, the spider brooch, some sheer black tights and my black boots. The result: professional but festive (excuse the mirror smudges).

I also had a DIY creative streak and decorated the entire apartment. Here are some felt bats I cut out from a free stencil online and taped to the wall:

You can also see my dad’s pin map which he used to mark his world travels. I adopted it and have been up keeping it since he passed away. I think it makes an interesting focal point in the living room.

And here’s a picture of all the food we set out for our Halloween party last weekend. The finger cookies were my favorite to make but I also used food coloring to make orange hummus.

I wish you all a wonderful and safe Halloween!

Ashley

P.s. I want to end this with some more pug therapy:

Advertisements

How to Build a Wardrobe

glamorous granny

Image by zoetnet via Flickr

Confession: As much as I try to focus my attention away from materialism, I must admit that I really enjoy finding a high-quality item to make my life more stylish/easier/colorful, etc.

The key for me though is “high-quality”. I’m not a trendslave – when I spend my hard-earned cash I want it to be on something that I’ll use for years. I don’t care about being the first of my friends to own something, I care about owning things that help me… well, help me be me. In all aspects of my life I try to live by the following motto:

QUALITY VS. QUANTITY

When I made the transition from college to career my wardrobe was forced to evolve with me – those baggy jeans, over-sized hoodies and birkenstocks weren’t going to cut it in the draconian must-always-wear-nylons world of finance. The week after graduation I took the pitiful savings I had from my on-campus job and marched down to Nordstrom Rack, determined to buy my entire career wardrobe in one trip.

What… A… Mistake…

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And man did I learn that lesson the hard way with my wardrobe. In the spirit of honesty I have to admit that I have never been a ‘chic’ dresser – my past style offenses have been so bad that I’ve been inspired to write a ‘style don’ts’ post based on my ‘favorite’ outfits in high school. But despite past offenses, nothing was worse than what I tossed in my shopping cart that day – over-sized lilac sweaters, stiff white button-downs I couldn’t actually button, one-size-too-large-but-it-was-on-super-sale dresses and suits, an orange belt (to match with what? the lilac sweater?) and a single pair of cheap heels (which I promptly wore down and never bothered to have re-heeled). To make matters worse I dropped down a dress size in February and my already-too-big clothes looked even more clownish as I tried to ‘fix’ them by cinching my huge dresses with my orange belt…

Well, it’s true: experience is the best teacher. How will you ever know a ‘do’ if you don’t explore all the ‘don’ts’? So I’ve spent the last few months studying wardrobes and how to take care of them (so often over-looked). My sister was a big help – she’s the most stylish person I know with her model figure, blonde hair and her amazing ability of making anything look stylish (a la Marilyn Monroe). My mother, with her Kate Spade-esque love of fun, was also a huge influence in teaching me not to be afraid of color (though I still maintain that her best accessory is her infectious laugh). My grandmother showed me that you can be classic and fun at the same time with her unwrinkled silk blouses and overstated jewelry. Sadly even Kate Middleton influenced my evolving style with her knee-length day-to-night dresses and meticulous but understated accessories.

How to Build A Wardrobe

1. Never Go Shopping Without a Plan – I am terribly guilty of shopping with no real goal in mind. I “window shop” and see if something inspires me, often forgetting to assess what pieces my wardrobe needs and whether I’ll use what I buy. It’s important to keep a list of pieces you think your wardrobe needs and put blinders on yourself in the store – if you really need a chic blazer, ignore that pair of wedge booties. Unless it’s fabulously unique pieces you buy without pre-planning will be the first to go to Goodwill.

2. Neutrals, neutrals, neutrals – For YEARS I ignored this ‘rule’. I never had tank tops to layer my looks with, never bothered to have neutral sweaters or a great camel skirt. Then all of a sudden I decided to start playing around with “boringggggg” neutrals and discovered that they were a lot of fun and so easy to mix and match. I have a set of belts, hats, shawls, tank tops, shoes and purses in several different neutral palettes. My favorites right now are nude and camel accessories – they balance out a black work wardrobe wonderfully.

jackie o

Image by throw her in the water via Flickr

3. Build a list of style influencers – Style Meganzine inspired this tip with her ‘Who’s Your Inspiration?’ post last week. If you are going to build a wardrobe that reflects you then you’ll need to have a deep understanding of what you really like. Building a list of people whose style you admire can help you assess what you really enjoy and what you don’t. Love Jackie O? Invest in a fantastic trench coat, an oversized pair of sunglasses and a great faux pearl necklace.

4. Invest in a few key pieces you will always need – I believe in putting your money where it will go to the most use. Investing in pieces you will use for years is a smart move and will save you money in the end. Some fabulous pieces to invest your money in: a great tote for work/weekends, a chic but warm winter coat (unless you’re lucky enough to live in a climate without winter!), a pair of diamond studs, the perfect black blazer, and the iconic little black dress.

5. Make at least three outfits in your head before buying – I just recently adopted this rule. When deciding whether to buy something really assess how it will work with other pieces in your wardrobe. You should be able to envision at least three outfits easily. If not, is the piece really worth your cash and [limited] closet space?

6. Be doubtful, prejudiced and meticulous – Really pick apart anything you’re planning on adding to your wardrobe. Will the piece need to be dry cleaned? Will it wrinkle easily? Could you easily take it on vacation? Is it made of good-quality fabric? Does it itch? Does it meet all your criteria? If not put it down and keep looking. My father always said if you wait just a little longer the perfect opening will come (he may have been talking about merging in traffic when I was learning to drive but the principle still applies).

7. Always try it ON – Every woman has a different body. Mass retailers make clothes that supposedly fit everyone but in reality fit only a small range of people. I can be anywhere from a size 4 at The Limited to a size 12 at Levi’s – don’t look at the size, look at the fit. And don’t be afraid to try on something that doesn’t look good on the hanger. Some of my favorite pieces were ones I didn’t really like on the hanger but tried on and loved how it looked on my body.

8. QUALITY – I saved the most important rule for last. I used to be obsessed with finding a good deal. Anytime I saw a cheap version of some designer piece I was lusting after I would snap it up, only to be disappointed when it would start deforming in the wash. Good quality clothing is key to wardrobe happiness. Remember, the more you wear something, the cheaper it is. The key to a long-lasting wardrobe is good quality so examine seams, clasps, buttons, fabrics, stitching and linings before buying. I’ve seen so many designer coats with cheap polyester lining it makes me sad. Unfortunately these days a high price tag does not necessarily mean high quality. I sometimes feel like Banana Republic and J. Crew take quality more seriously than the bigger luxury brands.

Always remember to assess what your use for the piece will be, not the price. Some of the more expensive pieces in my wardrobe are some of my most useless. In the next few weeks I’ll begin highlighting pieces I believe everyone woman should have in her [wardrobe] arsenal and what to look for when buying them based on my misadventures in the world of fashion.

What pieces do you think are crucial to a fabulous wardrobe?

Ashley

How to Invest During Times of Economic Turmoil

I think we all know that Americans today are ANGRY

Consumer confidence remains low, investors are afraid to enter markets, 401K earnings continue to make Americans cry and unemployment hovers around 9%. For the first time in generations Americans are not confident that their children will have better lives than they had. Expenses have continued to rise – college has gotten more expensive, basic necessity prices have risen, taxes have gone up (or will go up in the next few years), and pocketbooks are stretching beyond their limits. And all-the-while the “99%” movement remains ‘wishy-washy’ on their goals, shouting at anyone working in finance even though a large majority of us are middle-class taxpayers suffering from job cuts and longer hours just like everyone else.

occupy berlin

How do you NOT get angry in the current economic and political climate? We’re all trying to balance so much and answer so many questions: Where do you put your money safely? How do you save/pay for retirement? Will social security even exist by the time I retire?

Is there an answer beyond finger-pointing?

My answer?

My made-up word, Lifevesting.

It may not seem like a very good response at first. I’m sure many of you reading this, patiently waiting for some tips on investing your money in a safe place, are saying (excuse my french) WTF? And I have a confession – this post isn’t about ‘how to invest your money during times of economic turmoil’. I’m talking about the types of investments a recession will never dampen – investments in yourself.

There’s a wise old saying that money doesn’t buy you happiness.

Investing in yourself (lifevesting) is a way of achieving sanity in turbulent economic waters. If we urge ourselves to grow and learn from our pain instead of pointing fingers at one another we will be investing in something truly worth while. As Pearl S. Buck said “growth itself contains the germ of happiness”.

So for those of you still reading – this is why I chose to write this blog now, in the middle of the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement and all the anger that has been building since the 2008 meltdown. I wanted to focus on building something that couldn’t be destroyed in a market collapse. And so I am beginning the journey to finding out what investing in myself can lead to.

In a nutshell, this post is the ‘birth story’ of Lifevesting.

My Three Favorite Halloween Costumes for 2011

For any of you who are looking for a last-minute Halloween costume for this weekend I thought I would post the three costumes that I have been playing around with. All three are easy to put together at home, require a dress, some ingenuity and maybe a trip to the craft store. No sexy [insert occupation] costumes here!

My Goals For Any Halloween Costume:

1. It must be at least partly DIY (so much more fun)

2. I have to be able to reuse parts of the costume after Oct. 31st

3. The costume must be witty and fun to wear (or come with an accent)

4. No shiny polyester dresses! I want to wear real, breathable fabrics

1. Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton and the Crowds at the Order of ...

Image by liam_davies via Flickr

My nod to fad costumes (at lease I would get to rock a British accent). There have been many predictions about this costume being one of the most popular for 2011. SheFinds did an awesome write-up here on how to build the look. What I love about this costume idea is all my conservative, work-appropriate dresses can get a K-Mids make-over with a sapphire ring and maybe a big feather fascinator.

What You’ll Need:

1. Conservative dress (no minis here, you’re royalty now), preferably a wrap dress or something in a dark navy.

2. A sapphire ring (of course!)

3. Closed-toe heels (court heels)

4. Hair Bling (either a fascinator with feathers or a chic sparkly headband work)

2. Melanie Daniels from Hitchcock’s The Birds

The Birds (film)

Image via Wikipedia

I am DYING to do my own version of this costume! This costume is the perfect mix of 60s chic and Halloween gore. I would recommend buying an expendable dress from Goodwill for this costume, preferably in mint green but any shift dress with matching jacket will work.

What You’ll Need:

1. A vintage-style shift dress with matching jacket or cardigan (in mint green if possible)

2. A lady-like purse with top handle (an excuse to dive into this season’s lady-like bag fad!)

3. Craft-store crows and black birds. Black feather can also be glued to the gown and pinned in your hair. I would pin a few birds around the shoulders and then glue one to a headband and wear that.

4. Blonde bombshell wig – pull out your old Marilyn Monroe wig for this or just put your hair in curlers the night before to get a great 60s bob.

Some blood squirts and crazy teased hair will complete the look!

But my winner for Halloween this year is…

3. Miss Scarlet from Clue

Cover of "Clue"

Cover of Clue

I have a red satin dress from my company’s Holiday party last year which will work perfectly. I bought a hangman’s noose on Amazon and am going to carry a book around.

Miss Scarlet with the noose in the library… Case Closed!

Several of my friends and I are doing Clue together. I’m trying to talk the boyfriend into being Professor Plum! I also think Mrs. White is a fantastic costume (and I love love Madeline Kahn in the film version).

What You’ll Need:

1. A red dress (or something low-cut like in the film version)

2. A murder weapon (for ideas play Clue)

3. A location (carry around something that reveals the location you murder at – I am carrying around a book for the library but another easy one would be the conservatory, just put some leaves in your hair or dirt on your shoes)

Clue is great for group costumes and everything can be put together with clothes you already have. And just in case you missed Apollo’s Halloween costume, you can see it here.

What I Wore also did an amazing post on DIY Costumes.

What are your witty/off-the-beaten track costume ideas?

Ashley

How to Write A Bucket List

The execution of Lady Jane Grey in the Tower o...

Image via Wikipedia

Since I graduated in 2009 my life has been different from what I planned. My father passed away in summer 2010 when I was 22 and losing him was the most devastating thing I have ever gone through. My father was full of spirit and passion and had accomplished so much in his 58 years of life. In the days and months following his death I didn’t do myself any favors – I drank too much, I quarrelled too much, I regretted too much, I cared too little about myself. I cut out everything in my life that was too complicated or emotionally draining. In a way, it was good for me to have some time where I wasn’t constantly pushing myself, constantly focused on what to do next. But I know my father, a man filled with curiosity about the world around him, would have wanted me to continue to live my life and so I pulled out a bucket list I had written when I was 14 and reworked it into the below list.

Writing a Bucket list can be one of the most satisfying and eye-opening lifevestments you can do for yourself (though checking something off your list is even more satisfying).

How to Write a Bucket List

1. Add Diversity. As they say, “Variety is the spice of life” so be sure to include a variety of activities and interests in your list. This helps develop a well-rounded vision for what you want to accomplish in your life. Also be sure to include goals you can accomplish during different periods and decades of your life. One that I added to my list that I am excited about is running a 5K when I am 50.

2. Take Your Time. Rome wasn’t built in a day – your bucket list shouldn’t be written in an hour. Bucket lists are works in progress so revisit and add items often. Really commit to something before putting it on the list.

3. Add Anything Important (no matter how small). Some of you may disagree with me on this but I believe a bucket list is more fun if you are using it often and constantly adding to it. Adding small goals can build momentum and can help you develop more long-term goals. Just this past weekend I made my first pumpkin pie ever and was able to check that off the list!

4. Do Your Research. Read other bucket lists and share yours. Discovering someone else’s bucket list can help you define and refine yours and sharing your list can help give direction to others. Be sure to post links on this page to your lists!

Bucket lists are my favorite lifevestment. They allow us to cultivate our lives and focus on what we care most about. I learn so much about myself every time I add something to the list so I encourage everyone to try writing one.

Ashley’s Bucket List (as of October 24th, 2011)

  1. Explore Angkor Wat
  2. Memorize Poe’s “The Raven”
  3. Be a valedictorian
  4. See the Eiffel Tower
  5. Own a farm
  6. See St. Paul’s Cathedral
  7. Discover nutella
  8. Learn to love earl grey tea
  9. Read all of Harry Potter
  10. Write my personal fashion style guide
  11. Memorize at least one new recipe every year
  12. Visit Lyon, France at least twice
  13. Run a 5K
  14. Become a beekeeper
  15. Train a dog from a puppy
  16. Chop off all of my hair (or at least 10 inches)
  17. Never dye my hair in my 20s or when I turn gray
  18. Run a 5K when I’m 50
  19. Explore the English countryside
  20. Grow a flower garden
  21. See King Lear performed live
  22. Go to a book signing
  23. Give birth to my child
  24. Learn to do a French manicure
  25. Get married
  26. Never get divorced (and stay true to my family)
  27. Eat at Avec in Chicago 
  28. Eat at Gibsons in Chicago 
  29. Do a traditional british afternoon tea service
  30. Go on the Jack the Ripper walk in London
  31. Give a large donation to a charity (animal rescue or an arboretum)
  32. Go to New York Fashion Week
  33. Read every work by Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen
  34. See every film version of Jane Eyre (as available)
  35. Collect Department 56 Dickens Village houses
  36. Collect old books and 1st editions
  37. Keep up Dad’s travel pin map (put a pin on every part of the map you have visited)
  38. Be the sole photographer for a wedding
  39. Perfect my posture
  40. Graduate college (magna cum laude)
  41. Pay off student loans
  42. Have a zero-energy home
  43. Visit Salem, MA
  44. See every episode of The Office (US Edition)
  45. See every episode of Mad Men
  46. See Buffalo Springfield from the concert pit
  47. Wear a fascinator
  48. See Bizet’s Carmen at the Lyric Opera
  49. Learn to bake at least ten different Christmas cookies
  50. Write a novel
  51. See Lady Jane Grey’s grave at the Tower of London
  52. Learn to make felt food
  53. Read Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children
  54. Meet Patrick Stewart (Love him!)
  55. Visit Tokyo and see the cherry blossoms
  56. Do dim sum in Hong Kong
  57. See a temple in Bali
  58. Start a charm bracelet
  59. Read Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land
  60. Read Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  61. See Dyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait
  62. See every episode of Battlestar Galactica
  63. Read Byatt’s Possession
  64. Read Byatt’s Little Black Book of Stories
  65. Own an embosser
  66. Visit Iceland
  67. Collect vintage absinthe spoons
  68. See the Taj Mahal and buy a marble souvenir
  69. Learn to love Indian food
  70. Make the 1905 salad from The Columbia Restaraunt 
  71. Read Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog
  72. Drive an Aston Martin
  73. Date someone not of U.S.nationality
  74. Read Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude
  75. Visit Buckingham Palace
  76. Visit Versailles
  77. Visit Belgium and eat at least ten different types of chocolate
  78. See Positano, Italy
  79. Visit South Africa
  80. Go on a cruise
  81. Climb up to Macchu Picchu
  82. Do a cart-wheel in the South American salt plains
  83. Go zip-lining
  84. Visit China and stand on the Great Wall
  85. See Stonehedge and other Neolithic buildings in England including a stone with a hole
  86. Visit Paris during the springtime when it rains
  87. Ride the TGV through France and see Roman ruins
  88. See the Parthenon and take a cruise through the Greek Isles
  89. Take a cruise down the Nile
  90. Go on a yoga/meditation retreat
  91. Go on a mountain trek
  92. Buy a house in the woods with lots of trees
  93. Make homemade French onion soup
  94. Have lots of pets
  95. Eat at a café in Venice while it rains
  96. Eat food off a large leaf
  97. Sleep in a treehouse
  98. Memorize an entire Bollywood song
  99. Memorize grandpa’s biscuit recipe
  100. Don’t eat beef for 50 years (haven’t since 2003)
  101. Get a custom coat made
  102. Learn to fire a handgun
  103. Study abroad in India
  104. Learn to make pumpkin pie

After re-reading this list I can’t help but feel like many of the things on here are superficial and naive. But that’s the beauty of the bucket list – it’s constantly evolving with you.

Untitled, known in English as The Arnolfini Po...

Image via Wikipedia

Ashley

Here are some other fantastic posts on Bucket Lists:

http://inthedarkofthenight.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/bucket-list/

http://debsanswers.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/what-is-a-bucket-list/

Life Upgrade – Number Four High Performance Hair Care

Lifevesting’s First Ever Product Highlight:

Photo From Behind the Chair

Number Four High Performance Hair Care

I first learned about Number Four when a small sample of the Lumiere d’hiver Reconstructing Masque™ came with my August 2011 Birchbox (I’ll post more on Birchbox later). With its intriguing scent mixture of acai berry, hibiscus, mangosteen, oolong tea, black currant and yerba mate I was curious enough to try it that night in the shower. I applied the masque to my [thick/disobedient/ever-frizzy] long locks and waited five minutes wondering what a $60 bottle of hair masque could possibly do for me that hundreds of other products couldn’t.

When I washed off the masque and blow-dried my hair all I could think was…

Woah…

Oh…

Ah…

Woah…

I was hooked. My hair felt soft and silky. After blow-drying it had all the bounce and curl of Kate Middleton’s locks and stayed silky even after my next wash (sans masque). Birchbox was also kind enough to include a small one-use sample of Number Four’s L’eau de Mer Hydrating Shampoo™. Again, this product was hair bliss in a tube. Another favorite which I bought a full-sized bottle of without even testing first is their Lumiere d’hiver Super Comb Prep and Protect Spray™ which I spritz on before blow-drying or straightening and which helps calm frizz in-between weekly masque treatments.

The line’s name comes from the four signature Liquid Complexes™ used in each product. The best part about these products? The entire line is 100% vegan, sulfate free, gluten free, paraben-free and never tested on animals. As someone who never spent more than $7 on a bottle of hair product before it takes a lot to convert me and I was amazingly surprised at how wonderful and well-rounded these products were. Though the hefty price tag may scare you, these are products are worth spending your hard-earned cash on.

Ashley