Happy Hump Day!
I've been in an inexplicably cheerful mood this week. I think it's the hint of spring that is in the air. It's subtle -- I mean, really, you have to try to find it -- but it's there.
I've recently realized how dreadfully appreciative I am of the little things. As you know, I've had quite a year in the injury department, and on Monday I finally decided to ditch my cane and walk about town with two free hands. Don't get me wrong, the cane was great -- really, it was -- but it was time to say goodbye. I'd done a few test runs in my neighborhood over the weekend and felt satisfied with the result, and so, on Monday morning, as I rushed out the door (late, as always) to catch my far East Side van service, I took a look at my cane and, after a moment of silence and contemplation, decided to let it go. (RIP, dear cane.)
Once downtown, released by my van service on Water Street, I walked the remaining few blocks to my office, taking great pleasure in my newfound freedom and ability to swing my arms about as I walked -- not hobbled, but walked! The sheer joy! And, as I turned from Wall Street to Pine Street to William Street and passed under scaffolding and observed some business travelers milling about the strange hotel where I took GMAT classes just a few years ago, a Strokes song came on my Spotify playlist. And just then, at that moment, I was hit with a gust of brisk air and a wave of those business travelers' cigarette smoke that, together with all those other factors, brought me immediately back to my commute to school when I lived in Paris ten years ago. Not just the romantic Jardin des Tuilleries Paris, but the gritty, oft overlooked, outer edges of Paris that tourists rarely see. And suddenly I was there with my roommate Rebecca on our school-bound half mile trudge to the Gambetta metro stop from our host family's apartment in the faraway 20th Arrondissement (where we were known as "les Americaines" in the internet café and local bar and tabac because we were, in fact, the only Americans in the neighborhood), both of us shuffling in our black Converse, listening to the Strokes on our first generation iPods, complaining about our host mother's odd breakfast rituals (mostly to justify our daily stop at Paul for a Viennoise), and aggressively smoking Gauloise Bleues (when in Paris, do as the French do) in the brisk morning air that was always a little too damp and cold for our liking (because neither one of us had bothered to look up the weather before packing for "spring" in Paris). Little did I know that I would later cherish those long, cold walks so very much and that, on certain spring mornings in New York, with just the right mix of smoke and chill and damp air mixed together, I would remember those Paris days as if they were happening all over again.
On any other morning, I would probably curse the cigarette smoke or the drizzling rain and my failure to remember an umbrella or that it was April and I was still wearing a winter coat, but on Monday morning, the morning when I removed my cane-shaped shackles and strode through the streets like every other hurried person trying to get him- or herself to work in one piece, I was struck with that delightful notion of how great life is, how seemingly mundane things can actually be so special, and how the passage of time is at once so fleeting and so glacial.
As I came to from this fabulous memory and moment, I glanced up and saw that I was entering one of my favorite spaces downtown -- Chase Plaza -- which was closed for years (first for the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations and then for construction). Why is this a favorite space? Who knows. For one, it's a nice shortcut. For another, it has interesting art, like Isamu Noguchi's Sunken Garden and a sculpture by Jean Dubuffet (pictured above). And for another, I have always had a thing for carved-out public space. Whenever I cross into and through Chase Plaza (which I believe has now been renamed Rockefeller Plaza?), I appreciate how the space is both enduring (as it was thankfully landmarked in 2008) and incredibly temporal. It is not a destination, but a passageway. I think of the people who have traversed the space in the past, those that do now and those that will in the future, and I am moved by the massiveness of the space, the emptiness that immediately surrounds me (because it's never terribly crowded -- a novelty in this city), the sky overhead and the imposing buildings that loom all around just far enough away to let me breath a cleansing sigh as I either begin or end my work day. It is the kind of space that you don't realize you appreciate so very much until you no longer have access to it, and when you are once again able to traverse the space and be in it and feel that simultaneous sensation of heaviness and lightness, you look up at the sky, drizzle and all, you take in a deep, clean breath of chilly April air, and you say thank you for all things great and small.
Never did I think I would be writing about the beauty of a morning commute, but there is a first for everything. There can be such beauty in the mundane. And isn't that what life is all about? After all, it's often the little things that can have the biggest impact on us over time, that quietly stay with us as happy reminders of what once was and still remains somewhere deep within, that make life and the world around us so incredibly wonderful.
Happy commuting, happy remembering and happy appreciating the little things!
At some point in recent history, I decided that I have no patience for makeup. In part, I like to sleep as late as humanly possible and still make it to work on time; in part, my bizarre foot problem (avascular necrosis of the sesamoid) has rendered me much less capable of standing in front of a mirror for any period of time that an extensive beauty routine might require; and, in part, I've decided that "natural" is so much, you know, cooler than "done up" (you see how one excuse justifies the next). I also like to bring my makeup with me "on the road" and apply on the go if necessary. Thus, I've arrived at a very speedy and foolproof makeup application process and lineup of products (all for around $100 in total and nothing more than ~$30 individually, but some items will last you for a really long time and are well worth the investment).
There are three keys to makeup success: bronzer, a worthy bronzer brush and eyes.
Bronzer is hands down the fastest way to bring your face to life. In a few quick swipes, you can go from sickly ("Oh, goodness, you just look exhausted today" - Gee, thanks...? You... too?) to glowing ("Oh my goodness, you look fabulous!" - Why, thank you! I do just naturally glow, don't I, dahling?). There are many great bronzers out there - Cargo, Smashbox, Bobbi Brown, and Benefit all make lovely ones - but I've recently come back to an oldie but goodie and am pleased with the results (I ran out of it last month and bought another brand in a pinch to make do, and it's just not the same). For my pale complexion, I love bareMinerals All-Over Face Color in warmth, $19.00. The loose powder may seem unwieldy, but once you get the hang of it, you'll appreciate the control it allows you to have in terms of saturation and placement. Also the color "warmth" may seem like a lot for a pale, semi-freckly face, but it works well on skin with a pink undertone and really does add warmth to your appearance (if your skin's undertone is a bit more yellow, I might recommend the "faux tan" color instead). When going for gold in as little time as possible, I'm not a fan of "matching skin tones" (unless you're just trying to even out your complexion). I put bronzer on for a reason: to look more bronzed.
The Bronzer Brush
It may not seem like it, but splurging on the brush is really worth it - I have cheaped out on a "natural kabuki brush" at Duane Reade to keep at work and lived to regret it. After enough painful applications, it ended up in the trash and I ended up buying a good brush. I used to keep drug store make up at work and keep the "good stuff" at home, but I've since changed my tune. We all spend the majority of our lives at work and deserve to have some nice make up around to spruce up in the morning or before going out at night. A good brush will last you years (provided you clean it appropriately) and will feel lovely on your face (you'll thank yourself with every silky swipe of bronzer). If you want something small for on-the-go or for work, this bareMinerals Full Coverage Kabuki Brush, $28.00, at Sephora, is great. It gives you the benefits of a full-sized brush, but fits somewhat compactly in a makeup bag. This Sephora Collection Classic Must Have Large Powder Brush #30, $36.00, is also really nice (but more space intensive). Throw on a few light swipes of bronzer with these bad boys and don't look back.
While bronzer and the bronzer brush are key to the success of any makeup routine, the eyes are where you can get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of time spent and immediate facial improvement, and it can be done very quickly and will few tools. My favorite quick-and-dirty eye routine is as follows (this is again for someone with relatively pale skin, blue eyes and lightish hair, but is so neutral that it could be used on a variety of complexions, and shades can of course be varied to fit your personal needs and skin tone):
1. Apply this Sephora Collection Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner, $13.00. I use the "10 Matte Brown Black" and on occasion the "21 Matte Deep Plum" (great for blue eyes). It is super easy to use and stays on. I also like that this pencil is retractable and thus does not require sharpening.
2. Using your finger, swipe your lids generously with this amazing Benefit Cosmetics Creaseless Cream Shadow, $20.00, in "R.S.V.P." (a sparkling champagne color). It is literally foolproof and instantly brightens your eyes and face. This goes on so easily and has a lovely shimmer to it to add just a glimmer and a nice "I'm awake!" pop of sheen. Darker skin tones can try "rich fawn."
3. Comb brows lightly and sparingly apply this amazing Benefit Cosmetics Instant Brow Pencil, $20.00. You think you don't need an eyebrow pencil? You do. It will change your life. Get this one. It is so easy - so much easier than using powder - and it makes an insta-difference to your face. It goes quickly, so make sure you have a pencil sharpener handy because you'll need to sharpen every week or two (I normally wouldn't force you to buy something that requires sharpening, but this product is that good). I use the light-to-medium. I have tried to medium-to-dark as well, and it is nice if you want a more dramatic eye, but I prefer the light-to-medium.
4. Finish eyes off with a quick lash curl (if you have a curler) and a few swipes of this incredible Givenchy Noir Couture 4 in 1 Mascara in 1 Black Satin, $15.00. I have the mini (I bought it on a whim while waiting in line at Sephora) and love, love, love it. Buy it. You'll thank me.
Steps 1-3 can be done in any order, but I usually like to end with Step 4. How long did all of that take? Like, maybe a minute. Go from blah to Blake Lively faster than your Keurig can make your coffee.
All of this is available at Sephora in stores or online. If you order online, all orders over $50 receive free 3-day shipping. I like to try things in store though. Make up is a personal choice and what works great for me might not be quite right for you, so I always recommend trying (some) make up out before making a big investment (if you'll recall my issues with sponges though, you'll understand why I recommend just buying the mascara and eyeliner without trying them - the germiness and possible contamination is just not worth it to me, and the mascara and eyeliner I've recommended are universally flattering and not wallet denting). Also, all of the products that I've suggested are so darn neutral too that they should very easily and flatteringly work on a variety of skin types.
Another plus? These are all excellent stocking stuffers and gifties for friends!
Happy Tuesday! And Happy Last Day of 25%/30% Off At J.Crew Day! I love a good J.Crew sale. Through midnight Eastern Time tonight, J.Crew is offering 25% off all regular purchases (code: GETGIFTING) and 30% off all Cardmember purchases (code: CARDGIFTS). Yay! The discounts mentioned below assume you are not a Cardmember, but if you are, just think of that extra 5% savings you'll get.
J.Crew's suiting can be hit or miss, but I've found a major hit recently in the J.Crew Seamed Crepe Dress, on sale for $139.99 + 25% off, down from $198. With the extra 25% off, the grand total of this gem comes to $105 plus tax and shipping. I own it in navy and wear it religiously, and I am very temped to get the modern red as well (you know my mom's rule of multiples!). The fabric has a matte silk quality that's drapey but weighty. It's not too thick and not too thin, with a bit of stretch. It's cut perfectly for pear-shaped gals (slim on top and generous on the bottom). And it is office-appropriately long enough, which is strangely hard to find at times. And the seaming (as the title suggests) is just dreamy in its body contouring magic making abilities. I also love the high neck and slim short sleeves. The dress itself is modest and body conscious all at once.
I wore this dress through the fall in the pre-freezing days without tights, but it can easily be made a winter-wear staple if accessorized appropriately. Throw a pair of super-opaque dark navy tights or opaque dark navy control-top tights into your shopping cart for a clean and slimming "column." For heel wearers, complete the look with Everely Suede Pumps in black ($245 + 25% off) for a clean and minimalist look or consider adding a pop of jewel-toned color with the hedgerow (a lovely wintery green) version (on sale for $198 + 25% off). My friend Emily wore the black version this past weekend, and not only did I think they were $600+ Jimmy Choos, but also she said they were absurdly comfortable ("I walked, like, 30 blocks in them!"). Emily has an enviable ability to wear heels for impressive amounts of time, but even she couldn't 'make it 30 blocks in a pair of shoes that weren't dreamily comfortable, so I am certainly intrigued by the Everelys (and look forward to a day when I can wear heels again!). If you're a flats wearer, I like these Viv Metallic Flats in heather atlantic ($188 + 25% off) for a little pop that still reads blue. The pointy toe will elongate your silhouette and work nicely with the seamed lines fo the dress. (I also love the Cece Suede Ballet Flats for commuting and weekends.) And if comme moi you're destined for sturdy menswear inspired shoes, I like these Collection Biella glitter tassel loafers in glittler fog ($258 + 25% off) for a borrowed-from-the-boys look that's decidedly sassy, or the Darby Tassel Loafer ($188 + 25% off) in black for a tamer, but still killer, look.
My office is set at a cool 55 degrees regardless of season, so I always like to keep a scarf and sweater around. For scarves, I like a pop of color, and this colorblock foulard scarf ($59.50 + 25% off) does just the trick (and it goes brilliantly with those shoes I mentioned before). For sweaters, you can't go wrong with cashmere: I love my Collection Cashmere Boyfriend Cardigan ($238 + 25% off) - black and navy are both safe bets to keep around the office.
For jewelry, this dress can easily be worn with nothing (or simple earrings like the ones I mentioned on Friday) for a clean, minimalist look, or with a statement collar necklace or longer necklace. I tend to shy away from big necklaces at work because I find them distracting and heavy, but for a statement, I do like to wear longer necklaces on occasion. This Radiant Statement Pendant ($59.99 + 25% off) is quite wonderful and would be a nice way to step up your look from day to night.
Help make the commute a little more tolerable in this Double Breasted Cocoon Coat in Wool-Cashmere ($350 + 25% Off) and this Cashmere Infinity Scarf ($258 + 25% off) in really any color (so cozy!) or, for a lower price point, the Chevron Checkered Snood in black/white ($59.50 + 25% off).
Et voilà! You've got yourself a killer workwear outfit (that can be worn multiple ways) all because of a $105 dress that fits like a dream and gets you through the workday in style. (Do you realize I started this post out just intending to talk about that dress?? This is how J.Crew always gets me...)
Enjoy! And Happy Suiting Up!
I am a designer and financial professional with a background in comparative literature, business and design. I live in New York with my overworked lawyer husband and sweet, art-and-design-loving toddler son and spend much of my free time dreaming about how to enhance the aesthetics of our little world. I am endlessly inspired and always in search of something new. This is a blog about my search, my inspiration and things I just really, really like or want.
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