Why I Choose Not To Dye My Hair

1. I get highlights without trying in the summer.

2. I can buy inexpensive and natural shampoo without worrying about maintaining my hair color.

3. Ian and I can share the same shampoo.

4. Lower hair care costs in general.

5. Healthier & shinier hair.

6. Hair color that matches my eyebrows naturally.

7. Fewer split-ends and frizziness.

8. No chemicals – good for me, good for the earth.

9. I dont have to worry about ‘roots’.

10. I discovered that my hair color subtly changes with the seasons.

In spring 2007, I decided to stop coloring my hair. I have reddish undertones and any color I tried ended up looking orange. And honestly, I think it is one of the best Lifevestments I have made. People are regularly asking me if I dye my hair and they never believe me when I say it is natural.

Have you ever made an abrupt change in your beauty routine?

Ashley

Indoor Composting

Remember when I revealed that Ian and I had begun indoor composting? Meet our 1,000 newest family members:

They really love carrots (as you can see above). Ian and I have been composting for about a month now and for the most part I have enjoyed the experience. It’s nice to have a more sustainable place to recycle old produce instead of just throwing it in the trash. And believe it or not the worms do not smell at all (not even with moldy food in their bin). Their “worm factory” bin is a nice design and has a spout in the front for using the ‘worm water’ to water your garden plants with. Over the next few months I’ll look forward to them building up more compost for us to plant with (maybe a little will even be ready when we plant our seeds in April).

My one complaint is that apparently beetles (or earwigs, Ian couldn’t figure out which) also love our worm’s composting home and every now and then it can be a surprise to see a non-worm insect in the bin. For those of you who have indoor composted before, is this something to worry about? Until we get a good look at what else has made the bin its home, I havent been able to search online as to whether or not the worms are safe.

But I’ll take hitchhiking beetle/earwigs over throwing away pounds of old produce into the trash, that’s for sure!

Have you ever tried to compost indoors or outdoors before?

Ashley

A Tiffany Surprise

Last Tuesday Ian and I had a lovely Valentine’s Day complete with delicious salmon and chocolate-covered strawberries. We exchanged sweet gifts and just enjoyed a relaxing evening in.

So you can imagine my surprise when last Friday I received a few little blue boxes:

Bravo, Ian. I never saw it coming! He bought me a lovely set of rose gold and diamond jewelry which are the most breathtaking pieces I have ever seen. My first pieces of Tiffany jewelry and I can’t help but be incredibly impressed with the craftsmanship of each piece (and those lovely blue boxes).

Gentlemen, if you ever want to truly surprise a girl, give her a gift when she least expects it.

And for those of you who are still awaiting your first little blue box, I hope you receive yours very soon!

Ashley

A Book Worth Reading: Heinlein’s The Moon is A Harsh Mistress

Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Remember when I made a resolution to read in 2012? Well, last week I finished my first book of the year and it was, in a word, unforgettable. I read Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (and got to check it off my Bucket List).

I have long been a fan of Robert Heinlein. He has an incredible ability to write ‘science fiction’ that is a ‘genre-free’ (technical term I just made-up) social, philosophical and physical commentary on humanity. If you haven’t read Heinlein before, I would suggest starting with Stranger in a Strange Land (yes, the one that influenced the ‘hippie generation’). My father had really enjoyed the book and so I read it on his recommendation. Stranger also happens to be the book that really brought Ian and I together.

When Ian read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress he sold it to me as “even better than Stranger“. Hard for me to believe, but I took a leap of faith and put reading Harsh Mistress on my Bucket List. The story is one of revolution and bureaucracy: Remarkably appropriate considering all of the unrest and protests we’ve seen here in Chicago.

My favorite quote:

“Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws — always for other fellow … was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them ‘for their own good’ — not because speaker claimed to be harmed by it.”

Though I think Stranger is still my favorite Heinlein, Harsh Mistress comes in as a close second. If you are looking for a book to move you and to challenge the way you view society and intelligence, give Harsh Mistress a shot.

What life-changing books have you read recently?

Ashley

Supplemental Reading:

Quotes from Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

Losing Weight & My AeroPilates Home Studio Rebounder

AeroPilates 4 Corded Home Studio Rebounder, available on QVC.com

Since it is the start of 2012, I have been thinking about getting healthy quite a bit. Last January, I weighed my heaviest ever as a result of lots of unhealthy eating and drinking after my father passed away. When I stepped on the scale I remember thinking that I would never be able to overcome the weight gain. But, luckily, I decided to try to get healthy and lose some weight despite my skepticism and I am soooo glad that I did. In 2011, I dropped two dress sizes and over 15 lbs, I ran my first 5K and my BMI dropped down from ‘overweight’ to ‘normal’. I actually weigh less now than I did when I was 13.

For those of you out there who are starting a weight loss journey – stick with it! Reaching a healthy goal weight is one of the most satisfying lifevestments you can do for yourself. That said, it is important to reach your goals in a healthy and sustainable way. I had a goal of losing 1 lb every two weeks – I didn’t reach that goal last year but as your body fat percentage drops, losing more weight gets more difficult.

While my regime was a mixture of both exercise and nutrition, I found that my body responded much more to nutrition changes than any amount of exercise.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Eating Healthy

1. Drink LOTS of water. This is key! I carry a re-useable water bottle with me everywhere.

2. Eat your fruits & vegetables. For those of you who aren’t used to incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet 5 times a day, start by setting smaller goals. Last January I had a goal of two servings of fruits and vegetables a day, then in February I upped this to three servings and in March, four servings per day. This may sound slow but it gave me time to plan and adjust to my new lifestyle.

3. Make sure you eat lean protein. I find that the more protein I incorporate into my diet, the better I feel. Lean cuts of protein and seafood are all healthy sources of protein that you should incorporate into every meal. If you are a vegetarian incorporate lots of legumes and soy into your diet.

4. Drink tea. I have an enormous sweet tooth… or I did until last year. If you have one too, the best practice I found was to pause before grabbing a sweet and instead drink a cup of tea. If I still wanted the sweet after the tea, then I ate it but often I found that the tea filled me up and I no longer wanted that piece of chocolate.

5. Experiment. Healthy websites everywhere tell you to eat a large breakfast. While I agree with eating breakfast everyday, I often consume most of my daily calories at dinner when we go out with friends so I had to adjust this advice. I find if I have a small-ish breakfast and lunch, it helps me off-set the slightly unhealthy but realistic habit I have of going out for dinner or snacking after work. So my advice: experiment with what works for you and your lifestyle. I did everything healthy websites told me to do such as eat five meals a day, eat a big breakfast, etc but once I found what worked for me, the weight came off much easier.

The AeroPilates Home Studio Rebounder

But that said, nutrition is only half the battle. Losing weight will happen faster and show more if you tone and exercise your body properly. When I was young, I was extremely inflexible – though I was in gymnastics for three years, I was never able to do the splits. As I got older, my breast grew in and my posture started to worsen. Last January I decided that a good exercise regime for me would be to work on increasing my core strength (with additional leg and arm workouts) so I did some research and discovered pilates. Pilates is extremely useful for increasing core strength and also helps with flexibility and all-over toning. My mother had purchased an Aeropilates rebounder on QVC a few months earlier so I decided to give it a try. After one workout I was completely hooked! You can get a full-body workout with the potential to up the resistance with the tension cords. After using this machine a month, I was able to touch my toes for the first time in over a decade and I started to see some ab definition. A plus: the workouts are about stretching and resistance so I hardly even sweat but still get a killer workout.

Currently QVC has the 4-cord home studio pilates rebounder priced on clearance at $333.36 but the great thing about QVC is that they offer easy-pay and you can get the rebounder for 4-payment installations of $84.34. It sounds like a lot, but it’s less than the annual price of most gyms (at least here in Chicago) and mine has lasted through countless uses. My mom’s has lasted over two years now without any problems too.

The videos that come with the AeroPilates are good but are taped with a weird pace. What I do is watch the workouts until I have them memorized and now I can do my full workout at my own pace (with higher resistance) without the videos. The nice thing is that AeroPilates makes several levels of tapes so once you have worked through the Level 1 workout enough, you can buy Level 2 and Level 3 DVDs which change-up the workout and increase the intensity.

What are your tips and tricks for getting healthy in the new year?

Ashley

Lifevesting’s First Guest Post: Wardrobe Essentials – Dark Wash Jeans

Today, Lifevesting is doing its first guest post over at leahmariev’s fabulous blog. If you haven’t checked out her posts yet, you must! She has fabulous ideas about DIY projects and delicious recipes – I always feel so inspired after stopping at her page.

Check out my Wardrobe Essential: The Dark Wash Jean guest post here: http://leahmariev.com/2012/01/12/wardrobe-essentials-by-ashley-at-lifevesting/

J Brand Cigarette Leg Jeans

What’s your favorite way to wear jeans?

Ashley 

5PFWM: Winter 2011/12

On November 22nd I wrote a post about the 5 Piece French Wardrobe Method (5PFWM) which is a way of building a quality wardrobe without being completely overwhelmed by choices. The whole theory is that every season you should pick five pieces you would like to invest in to build up your wardrobe. I think subscribing to this method is a huge Lifevestment simply because it forces you to concentrate on what your wardrobe needs and to find quality (not quantity) to fill the void.
 
Here are some pictures of my Fall 2011 5PFWM pieces. To re-cap, I added (1) a classic Anne Klein trench coat with single-breasted buttons, storm flaps and an a-line flair, (2) a black-and-white patterned wrap dress from Eliza J, (3) a velvet peplum blazer from Winter Kate, (4) a basic black sweater and (5) waterproof booties from Aquatalia (so in love with these boots)!
 

My Fall 2011 5PFWM loot

Trench Coat, Patterned Wrap Dress, Velvet Peplum Blazer

My absolute favorite addition from the fall season was my Aquatalia ‘Royal’ booties. They are so comfortable and the suede is so luxurious! They were a gift from Ian for Christmas and are the best investment shoe I own.
 
Aren’t they gorgeous (can you tell I am crushing on these boots)?
 

Aquatalia 'Royal' booties

They have a cute plaid interior (this photo doesn't do it justice)

Aquatalia makes a fabulous boot

These boots have me absolutely convinced (as if I wasn’t already) that wardrobe essentials will last so much longer if you invest in quality. A good mantra to remember is: Quality is always worth the price (though a high price isn’t always indicative of quality). I really tried to keep that in mind when picking my Winter wardrobe additions.
 

My Winter 2012 5PFWM includes:

1. An Alexander McQueen Silk Skull Scarf in Black/Blue. I have lusted after this scarf for a long time – to me it’s as versatile as a Burberry scarf. And the Black/Blue combination will work perfectly with jeans or a black suit.

McQueen Silk Skull Scarf

2. This fabulous Pleated Jersey Dress from Issa. I have always wanted a green dress and on my bucket list I did promise myself I would buy a nice designer dress with all my own money. Isn’t the cut so interesting? Plus this is dressy enough to wear to a party or wedding but the jersey fabric makes it easy to wear all-day at the office too. LOVE!

Issa's Pleated Jersey Dress, available at Net-A-Porter

3. A pair of well-tailored skinny jeans. J Brand makes the best for my body but I would suggest trying on a few brands before purchasing to make sure the fit is right (not one likes ‘wrinkly-knee’ skinny jeans).

J Brand Cigarette Leg Jeans

4. An L.K. Bennett Davina Dress is another investment piece which I have had my eye on for some time. I know this is my SECOND dress on a short list but a red dress is such a classic and L.K. Bennett really makes quality clothing. Plus the cut on the Davina is so flattering and timeless.

L.K. Bennett's Davina Dress in "Lipstick"

5. Cole Haan ‘Air Violet’ Patent Pumps in Black. These beautiful pumps actually contain Nike Air comfort technology which would make them extremely versatile and comfortable for all-day wear. Not to mention that black patent is such a wardrobe staple!
 

Cole Haan 'Air Violet' Patent Pump at Nordstroms

 What are you looking to add to your wardrobe this winter?

Ashley

2011: A Year In Review

It’s that time of year again… a time of reflection and excitement about what we want to change in our lives. Time for our annual self-evaluations and the resulting resolutions.

But before I begin thinking about what goals I would like to accomplish in 2012, I want to reflect on all that occurred in 2011…

What I Accomplished in 2011

1. I ran my first 5K (and second).

2. Ian moved into my apartment bringing along an enormous book collection, a hatred for vacuuming, and the most wonderful smile to wake up to every morning.

3. I passed my Series 7 and 63 (for those of you in the finance industry).

4. I lost over 10 lbs and kept it off all year by learning to eat a lot of veggies, increasing my protein intake and working out more often.

5. I lived on my own for the very first time (until Ian moved in last month). Until April, I had always lived with a roommate or family and I’m glad I got some time to enjoy having my own home (and decorating the kitchen in, of course, hot pink).

6. Ian and I took our first international vacation together to London in August. Several of our close friends were relocated to London back in July so we got a chance to stay with them for 10-days and go sight-seeing. We had so much fun and it wasn’t until we were in London that we made the big decision to move-in together.

7. I went to my first music festival – Bonnaroo in June. I got a chance to see Florence + The Machine as well as Buffalo Springfield (from the pit!). There were about ten of us and we constructed a huge tent out of PVC pipe and had the time of our lives.

8. I knocked a number of things off my bucket list: learning to make pumpkin pie, doing the Jack the Ripper walking tour in London (which my father had always recommended and was absolutely the best part of our trip to London), and seeing Bizet’s Carmen at the Lyric Opera here in Chicago.

9. I revamped my entire closet and started building a wardrobe of essentials and quality pieces. I also learned to love the tailor and have had several pieces tailored to perfection.

10. I picked up my camera again. Before my father passed away he and I had owned a photography business which we started back when I was 18. After he died I let my camera bag and equipment gather dust in the closet. After starting this blog I have begun to truly enjoy photography again. I think my Dad would be very happy about this.

What 10 things are you most proud to have accomplished in 2011?

Ashley

Life Upgrade: Zhena’s Gypsy Tea in Raspberry Earl Grey

Zhena's Raspberry Earl Grey

[I’ve changed the name of my product highlights to life upgrades. I think the name better reflects why I do product reviews – not to sell you something you don’t need but to let you know about fun and innovative goods that can ‘amp up’ your life! Do you like the name change? I think it matches the name of the blog better too]

Confession: I am superbly addicted to Earl Grey tea. The black tea in earl grey is comforting while the bergamot oil energizes. I first became addicted after I saw Jean-Luc Picard order some on Star Trek: The Next Generation (yes, I was a Trekkie growing up) and have been on an endless search for the perfect cup ever since.

Zhena’s Raspberry Earl Grey is the best earl grey I’ve ever tried. It’s iN…cReD…iBlY addictive, everyone at work became addicted after smelling my afternoon tea-cup. I even bought a huge six-pack of the tea cans to give as Christmas presents. Bonus: This stuff not only tastes perfectly sweet and rich but it also smells like heaven! I put a couple in a drawstring bag and use it to freshen my ‘unmentionables’ drawer.

Other discerning consumers must agree with me: This tea brand is so popular it now has its own line of candles, each featuring a scent from one of their popular tea blends. Sadly there isn’t word about whether or not they will do a Raspberry Earl Grey candle but I’ll be first in line if they ever do!

Order it here.

Ashley

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