champagne & black coffee

A lifestyle and fashion blog offering personal style & beauty tips, inspiration, and glimpses into my everyday life.

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Weekly Roundup 5.1.16: What I Wore

This week’s roundup, linked where possible:

This blush colored saddle bag is a great under $35 style hack imitating some of the really higher end looks right now like this Chole’ purse.  And if you’re looking for a really versatile eye palette for spring/summer I urge you to go check out the latest Naked palette from Urban Decay Cosmetics – the Naked Smoky melds the best of both neutral and smoky worlds! (plus of course they still have Nakeds 1, 2 and 3)

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Shoes – Enzo Angiolini @ DSW // Purse – Old Navy // Palette – Urban Decay Naked Smoky // Lip Gloss – ULTA Butter Balm in Fiona // Jeans – Michael Kors (last season)

 

This pencil skirt is my personal style challenge for the week – I’ve never owned a pencil skirt that wasn’t boring ol’ black or grey, and have never had ANYTHING that hit below the knee that wasn’t a maxi.  Do yourself a favor and go to your closest Target and try on this skirt!!  Two different floral prints by WhoWhatWear for under $28 each.  So solid.

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Skirt – WhoWhatWear for Target (currently Buy 1, Get 1 50% off) // Shoes – Nine West (old)

 

Oldnavy.com.  Go there now and search “peplum”.  You’ll find this top on clearance for just $12.50!, along with quite a few other great steals!

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Shirt – Old Navy (clearance, just $12.50) // Jeans – Loft // Sandals – Frye (last season)

 

I’ve had my eye on these yellow eyelet shorts for about a month.  They can be found at Belk, but the deal I got was apparently in store only.  These guys were on the clearance rack for an additional 50% off, dropping the price to under $10.  They’re still $42 + 40% off online, so stop by your local Belk (if you’re in the South!)

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Shorts – Crown & Ivy @ Belk (on clearance in store only for $9.99) // Shoes – Me Too @ TJMaxx / Tee and necklace – Target (currently Buy 2, Get 1 Free jewelry)

 

I can’t say enough about the Le Tote style service.  I’ve been a loyal customer for almost 1 year now and it seems like their selection and style variety expands weekly.  If you want to try them out for free for a month, send me your first and last name + email.  I have 1 free tote left I can “give” to a friend.  (no strings, and I do not personally benefit from it).  It’s a win/win!

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Dress – Chelsea & Theodore from LeTote // Necklace – Target // Not shown:  Shoes – Katie & Kelly

6 Wedding Planning Tips That Are Guaranteed To Reduce Stress

Wedding Series:  Part 2 of 5

Have you ever met a bride-to-be who WASN’T stressed out or wound up about some detail of her wedding?  I haven’t, and I’ve been there, too.  Planning a wedding is hard work and takes a ton of time, energy, and organization.  Why do you think there are a huge segment of people (wedding planners and event designers) who make a living off this stressful… I mean super exciting time in a couple’s life?  Even if you’ve got tons of free time and exceptional organization skills, you’ll come up against some pretty ridiculous frustrations while planning your big day.  I’m here to offer you 6 solid wedding planning tips that made my life much easier and will reduce your stress level, too.

1) Determine your top 3 most important expense-related things associated with your wedding day and discuss them with your husband/wife/partner-to-be.
Have them come up with their 3 most important things as well.  The purpose of this exercise is two-fold:  you want to be on the same page as your partner at a high level and you want to figure out where to prioritize your budget, the budget being key here.  It’s OK to have a ton of things that are important to you but really try to boil it down to 3 items at the very top of your list.  What are the 3 absolute must-haves no matter what.  For example, my husband and I had this discussion and boiled it down to:  a) delicious food b) a top-shelf open bar c) good music so the dance floor is packed the entire night.  Basically, we wanted our wedding to be both fun and memorable, in a good way.

There’s a reason we chose the 3 things we did, and there’s a reason we had the discussion in the first place.  When we first got engaged and started tossing around general ideas about how our event might look, we started thinking back on the best (and worst) things about weddings we’ve attended.  Think back to all the weddings you’ve attended in your recent past – what do you remember??  I’m guessing you’ll remember that the food was underwhelming, especially if it was plated.  You’ll remember whether or not you liked the music and danced a lot/a little/none.  And you’ll remember whether you were kind of bored and looking for the right opportunity to leave versus disappointed when the DJ played the last song because you were having a blast.   Our 3 things might not align with your version, but definitely determine, as a couple, what is most important to you from a cost-perspective.

2) Handle first things first and details later.  
Weddings have become such a commercialized and almost competitive life event that you’ll be flooded with ideas and magazines and unsolicited advice from your friends the second you announce your engagement.  It can be quite overwhelming if you let it.  There are some really great resources out there like this checklist on The Knot to help with juggling all of it and figuring out the best time frame to focus on each, but even that can be extremely overwhelming just to try to read through.  I mean, that checklist starts at 12 months out – what if you end up getting married 6 months after your engagement like we did?

I know it’s hard not to think about every little thing right away, but really try to focus on the big agenda items you have to knock out before the rest can fall into line.  There’s no sense in scheduling florist visits and cake tastings the week after you’re engaged if you haven’t locked down a venue or a date.   Thinking about how many tiers your cake will have or what color the table linens should be before you nail down some of the other big ticket items is a good way to drive yourself straight into stress mode.  It may be a bit premature to start planning your honeymoon or buy wedding rings if you don’t know your target time frame yet.  My personal opinion, especially if you’re having a wedding and/or reception outside of a church is to lock down your venue first.  Venues are so competitive these days, some booking out 1.5 – 2 years+.  We got really lucky with our venue because someone backed out unexpectedly and a spot opened up the day after we called to ask questions.  Without that karma in our favor we may have gotten married a year later than we did due to other circumstances.  Knowing our venue defined our timeline (as did my brother’s deployment), and that made prioritizing next steps much easier.  Big things first, little things last.  Easier said than done.

3) Less is More.
This phrase refers more to the number of different vendors you decide to work with versus decorations and “stuff” (although it is my personal opinion that less is more there, too).  If you’re searching for ways to reduce your workload and stress level, this one is KEY, but it’s also a little tricky.  The more services you can bundle, the better, I say!  An ideal scenario would be if you could find a venue that is more than literally just the space itself.  Wedding venues are extremely trendy right now, so no matter what city you live in or near I’d be willing to bet there are at least a handful that will cover many of the major items.  Chairs, tables, lighting, plates, silverware, table linens and drapery, catering, cocktail tables and couches, alcohol service and bartenders, event coordinator (sometimes).  Imagine if you had to coordinate all of those vendors listed above PLUS the bakery, florist, photographer and/or videographer, DJ/band, stylists and makeup artists… I mean this list could go on and on with other optional niceties.   Lumping all or much of that first list into one vendor or company will make a world of difference and will make those decisions easier on you.  It was important for us to have amazing food so we were lucky to find the venue we wanted that happened to be owned by a catering company.  The catch, though, was that they FORCED you to use them for those services as it was a bundled deal.  I was SO OK with that because the food was delicious when we attended their open house (day of wedding, too!!!).  The other thing that is helpful, if it’s in your budget, is an event coordinator to help with a lot of those planning items along the way.  I didn’t opt for having one, but those I know who have done so recommend it over and again!

4) You cannot please everyone, so instill that idea in your decision-making process from the beginning.
There will be some people who cannot make it to your wedding and will be upset that you didn’t plan around their life.  There will be people who disagree with your wedding format. Or location. Or that there was a prayer. Or that there was not a prayer.  Or on the timing or delivery method of your invitations. Or whether or not they were included in your bridal party or were chosen for a specific role.  Or that they weren’t included in the rehearsal dinner. Or that they weren’t invited to any part of your wedding at all. Your parents or in-laws will likely want to put their foot down on a few items (or all of them!!) and your family members may want to invite their friends in place of some of yours.  Someone will be upset you didn’t communicate the details effectively enough and someone will be upset that children are not invited. Or that children are included. Or that their child wasn’t in the ceremony itself. Or that you only served beer and wine. Or that you had alcohol at your reception at all.  You get my point and this list could go on and on and on… YOU WILL OFFEND PEOPLE.  And that is OK. And the sooner you get to the point where you stop trying to plan around everyone else’s demands, the easier it will be to make decisions.  It is your and your future spouse’s wedding, not theirs.  Remember that. (**as an aside – Mom, family, etc – if you are reading this I am not referring to you 🙂  All of these things did not occur with my wedding, although a very small handful of them did because, like I said, you WILL offend someone.)

You’ll get tons of unsolicited advice (like you’re getting right now!) and you’ll get tons of demands.  You’ll probably need to compromise on a few items to keep the peace, or because it’s the right thing to do.  Just remember that in most cases, you get the final say.  Go with your gut.

5) Delegate where possible.
I’m a Type A control freak sales person.  I understand how hard relinquishing control of anything can be, especially when it comes to something is monumental as your wedding day.  But if you’re able – and I know you are! – delegate some of the responsibility to people who want to help.  I PROMISE that people want to help you.  Many people will even ask you what they can do to help – and they actually mean it!  They’ve either been a bride before and know how daunting it can be, or more likely they are your friend or family member who really wants to be involved if you will let them.  In general, be very specific with your general expectations and what you really want, especially if you change your mind on something.  Just like with your significant other… your family and friends cannot read minds! On the other side of the coin, people will also tread lightly because they do not want to add unwanted stress or put you in an uncomfortable position for any reason.  They assume that because you have not asked for their help that you do not want them involved.  If you are that person, and you have a friend who is getting married, maybe try requesting a specific tedious or time-consuming task to help with.  Your bride friend is not overlooking you, they probably don’t want to feel like they are putting you out either.

Here’s a fun idea – my friend Erika had an “Invitation Stuffing Wine and Whine Party”.  She designed and printed some really awesome and really intricate invitations, but used the assembly portion as an excuse to involve her girlfriends, delegate a tedious task, and have some girl time.  It was such a good idea.  I personally have a HUGE list of things that people did to make my life easier and I am forever grateful to them for stepping up or even downright telling me “this is what I am going to help you with, get over it”.  It was tough giving up some control at times but my stress level thanked me (and them) for it.  Whatever you can do to give up some of your bridal load…DO IT! 🙂

6) Throughout the process, continually remind yourself of the importance behind your wedding day and of the bigger picture.
Your wedding day is a celebration of the starting point of a commitment to another human being.  It’s a public proclamation of your love and support for that person and a time for those you love and who love you to get behind you and celebrate that milestone.  When you find yourself obsessing over some of the small stuff, STOP and remind yourself what the day is really all about.  In the end, it doesn’t matter whether or not each centerpiece was perfectly designed and placed in just the right spot.  It doesn’t matter whether a bridesmaid forgot her earrings, or that your bouquet is missing a specific type of flower.  It’s not going to matter if every little thing isn’t absolutely perfect.  You WILL have some days where you’re worked up about something that is small in the big scheme of things, and that’s OK.  Just make sure you don’t spend your entire engagement obsessing over event perfection or losing 10 pounds or you might look back afterwards and realize how much time and effort was lost in cultivating your relationships that matter along the way.  Your wedding day does not define your marriage, but how you plan and work together may potentially give you a glimpse into what parts of your marriage may look like.

My final thought – there are a million and one ways to do just about anything, including weddings.  Just because something worked for me or for one of my friends doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you.  Every situation is different and every wedding is different – thank goodness!!  If any of these tips can fit within your vision, I can promise you that they will help alleviate some of the upcoming stress you’ll be enduring.  I hope this has been helpful in some way and good luck!

Part 1:  6 Unique Wedding DIYs & Cost Saving Tips
Part 3:  6 Pieces of Priceless Wedding Day Advice
Part 4:  Contrary to Popular Belief…

Part 5:  OK You’re Married, Now What?

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Wedding day, 2012 – some of my best girls from different phases of my life.

6 Unique Wedding DIYs and Cost-Saving Tips

Wedding Series:  Part 1

Wedding season is right around the corner so I thought it would be fun to do a 5-post blog series covering some unique ideas, stress-reducing tips, and more!  People who have gotten married and/or planned a wedding usually fall into one of three camps when it comes to reminiscing:  1)  I wish I had just ditched all the drama and ELOPED! 2) I wish I had done things a lot differently 3) Best day of my life and I’d love to have the party all over again!  You can probably guess that I align very well with #3. It doesn’t mean it was all rainbows and butterflies – it wasn’t – but I learned so much through the process and in hindsight, and am excited about sharing with you some things that might make your life a little bit easier.

This post will cover 6 unique DIYs and cost-saving tips you may not have come across.  Weddings are expensive!! MUCH more expensive than I could’ve ever imagined.  As we began to understand the amount of money we’d be working with + all of the possible costs involved, we had to start finding things to cut back on or remove entirely from the event.  I think we did a great job of using some of our creative strengths to add our personal touch, but keep our costs down in every way we could.

1)   Aisle runner with hand-written poem (total cost – $15.41)
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This is one of my absolute favorite wedding DIYs because it was memorable, made SUCH a huge statement, and cost almost nothing.  If you go search Etsy and Pinterest right now you’ll find all sorts of runners; the plain burlap ones are $50-100 and then you’re looking at hundreds for something more detailed, and even more for hand-written or calligraphy details.  Do this instead:  go buy a bolt of cheap muslin fabric (I got mine from Wal-Mart, believe it or not), and a big thick Sharpie marker.  The trickiest part was measuring and staying consistent with my writing (I have zero professional letting skills) and keeping the fabric flat.  To do that, I used a glass table top and 6-8 old-school binder clips to hold the fabric down and focused on writing one stanza at a time.  I kept a piece of posterboard beneath the muslin that was sized just right to fit a 5-line stanza, based on our guesstimates.  I practiced lettering for a good 20 minutes before I started in on the real thing – writing in big print like that is much different than your everyday handwriting!

We hung ours from the ceiling at the venue so we actually had a connected backdrop and aisle runner in one.  We chose 2 different poems, leaving a bunch of open space in the area where we’d stand.  The backdrop showcased Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet LXIX and the wording on the runner was Henry David Thoreau’s “Friendship” poem.  Bonus:  we now use it as a piece of art in our home.  We took a standard closet dowel rod and rolled up most of the fabric, leaving a few stanzas showing and it’s hung with fishing wire and a tiny nail.

2)  DIY Centerpieces and Flowers (total cost est. $375)
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If you’re in the process of planning a wedding, I can almost guarantee you that one of your first GASP moments will be at that first florist estimate, especially if you’re planning on over 150 people attending.  In my humble opinion, flowers are a waste of money and will die within a few days, especially those big giant centerpieces… and they are fricking expensive!!!  Not to mention, they kind of block you from seeing the people across the table.  Now, I still used a florist for my bouquets and boutonnieres, but I even scaled those back as much as I possibly could (we went a BIT overboard with 22 in our wedding party so I had to. Don’t laugh, I know it’s ridiculous).
Instead of hiring a florist to construct 20+ centerpieces and even more for the cocktail tables and food tables, we decided to take matters into our own hands.  We used a combination of clear mason jars, solar lights (the top part only), craspedia (billy balls) from Whole Foods flower shop, sunflowers from a friend’s yard, and flea market jar & bottle finds.  We used some combination of those things on each table, keeping the them in line with our simple, minimalist decor.  My mother-in-law bought a ton of the cheapest solar lights she could find and we bought cheap mason jars in bulk – pop the top into a mason jar and you’ve got yourself some cute little flameless lights instead of candles.  My husband ordered around 100 of the billy balls in advance from Whole Foods and picked them up the day of the wedding.  Each table got 2-3 milk bottles or vases with a few yellow balls, and the head table got the sunflower arrangements from the ceremony aisles and the bridal party bouquets.  I’ve included a few pictures to show the lights and flowers, but I literally cannot find a picture of the “centerpieces” – and I’m ok with that!  Simple, minimal and a HUGE cost-saver!!!
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3) Window-pane seating chart
(total cost $15)
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I’ve definitely seen a ton of creative seating charts at the weddings I’ve attended over the last few years, but I think I still place mine in the top 2 or I’ve seen advertised for the style of wedding we had.  The giant chalkboard/lettering seating chart is a cute one, too, but will run you upwards of $250 to pay someone to write that stuff out (no really, my best friend just had it priced for her wedding)  My husband and I frequent our local flea market looking for unique finds and things we can use to upcycle for our latest projects.  We had been looking for window panes to use as a “greenhouse” of sorts for our garden and the idea to use one for the wedding just kind of came to us.  We saw a window that was in decent condition, had some character, and no cracks in the glass and I convinced him I could turn that into our seating chart.  I went out and bought a silver paint pen and made it happen.  I think I only made 1 mistake, but covered it up pretty well!  I kept it simple:  alphabetical order and numbered tables.  I love how it turned out, and we now have this window hanging in one of our guestrooms over the bed.   With the light wall behind it you have to look close to tell what it really is, but it definitely fits with the modern industrial style in our house!

4) Usable Guest Book – we opted for a handmade “floating” bench (total cost, est. $75 for the wood and metal)
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The idea here is more around a guest book you can use, and less about the bench itself (although it’s awesome so I’ll brief you on how it was done). We’ve all seen the standard guest book on a podium as you enter the ceremony, or the tree where everyone puts their fingerprint and signs their name, and all sorts of other pretty cute ideas.  My personal gripe with all of those things, though, is that after a couple of years will I really want my wedding tree “guest book” or my enlarged signed wedding photo hanging on display in my home?  My husband and I thought…nahhh, no thanks.  Instead we came up with a creative, usable option that may stand the test of time.
I’ll be the first to say that I have some very skilled friends.  One friend, Josh, cut and welded the metal legs and my husband and our friend, Seth, measured, cut and perfectly sanded the wood for the bench.  The way it’s constructed, the welded legs are hollow inside and welded in the shape of a rectangle with one extra bar about 1/3 from the top. The bench itself has 2 cutouts underneath allowing it to rest just perfectly on the bars inside of each metal rectangle.  This gives the bench a floating look.  The bench his still standing strong, holding it’s own 4 years later in a spot right behind our couch.

5) Cupcakes + Candy Bar (total cost est. $200)
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My husband is a type 1 diabetic and I am obsessed with cupcakes so we opted out of having a wedding cake altogether.   Think about it – have you ever had a slice of unforgettable wedding cake?  Well, I hope you have but I personally have not.  It’s always been underwhelming for me.  Now, the average cost of a wedding cake for 200ish people is around $500, and cupcakes are super expensive, too ($3-4 each!) so we didn’t order them from a popular local bakery.  We paid for the supplies and ingredients and had a family friend who bakes on the side make 4 different flavors as our wedding gift… and they were AMAZING!!  Really, they were perfect – not dry and extremely delicious.  (I chose cookie n cream, lemon, vanilla with strawberry cream cheese icing, and the standard vanilla buttercream on vanilla).  On top of that we decided to create a little candy bar of our.. (MY) favorite candies that were either yellow or silver or neutral.  We bought some bulk candy, some flea market jars, and Home Goods apothecary jars and called it a day! (Bonus:  the chalkboard signs were DIY as well.  Cabinet doors cost $1-2ea. from Habitat for Humanity ReStore and I hand-painted the chalkboard portion with paint I already had)

6)  Bridesmaid dresses that are likely to be re-used in real life! (total cost $105-$120ea)
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This one is less about you and more about your bridal party.  If I added up the amount of money I’ve spend on bridesmaid dresses + alterations in the last 10-15 years I think I may actually have a heart attack.  We’re talking thousands of dollars here.  It’s gross.  So do your bridal party a HUGE favor, and maybe pick a dress (or dress options!) that they may actually wear again.  Bonus if it comes in under $150.  I also really like the idea of finding a line of dresses in the same color with multiple styles, giving bridemaids an option to find a style that works best with their body type.  We had an interesting wedding party to say the least – excessively large and a bit non-standard with both guys and girls on each “side”, so our answer was 2 different dresses in different colors.  The girls on my side were in yellow lace (a dress I found online at a UK-based store), and the girls on my husband’s side were in grey (we went with a classic grey shift dress from J.Crew – much cheaper than their bridal line).  Both dresses were very reasonably priced and could (likely would!) be worn again in real life after the wedding.  I still wish I would’ve bought a yellow one for myself – I LOVED that dress!
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I ordered a sample of each of the dresses based on my measurements so we knew how to guide our girls on ordering.  With so many people, someone on each side was the same size and could use the dresses I ordered.  Luckily both were true-to-size and there were only a few alterations for the whole wedding party that had to take place at all.  *For every wedding I’ve been in, I’d say my average alterations cost is around $100, more for lots of fabric layers. Thank you, curves! 🙁

We have TONS of other ways we cut costs, and I’m happy to share with you if interested.  Comment below or send me a private email to champagneandblackcoffee @ gmail dot com and I’ll be glad to dish!

Be sure to check in for other topics in the series over the next week or two.

Part 2:  6 Wedding Planning Tips That Will Reduce Your Stress Level
Part 3:  7 Pieces of Priceless Wedding Day Advice
Part 4:  Contrary to Popular Belief…
Part 5:  OK You’re Married, Now What?

Weekly Roundup: What I Wore

This week’s roundup, linked where possible:

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Shirt – Target // Jeans – Target // Shoes – Urban Outfitters // Necklace – Target
Here is a similar shirt and here is a similar pair of shoes since they are no longer available.

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Shirt – Anthropologie // Jeans – Loft // Shoes – Rocket Dog (old)

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Shirt – Loft // Necklace – LeTote  // Shoes – Clarks // Lipstick – NARS Heat Wave
Here is a similar shirt.

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Shoes – Cole Haan // Jeans – Target // Shirt – Nordstrom

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Dress – Anthropologie // Shoes – Seychelles (last season)

 

Five Friday Fab Finds

I’m always in search of a good deal or a sale, so I thought I would take a few minutes each Friday to highlight 5 of my favorite finds.  Items are all hyperlinked.  You can also link directly to some of my other favorite items/sites on the right side of my home page.

FIVE:  This super colorful and springy Ralph Lauren Wrislet from Macy’s is currently on sale for $31.99 (normally $58).  I love it and may be scooping this one up today!
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FOUR:  Paige Denim Grey skinny jeans from Nordstrom.  These jeans can transition appropriately among all four seasons with no problem.  They are the perfect “treat yo’ self” item that will get a lot of wear over a long period of time!  Currently 33% off at $130 (normally $195)
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THREE:  Floral print everything right now!!  I love this dress for spring and summer.  It can be dressed up or down and is a shift so it ends up being flattering for just about any body type.  They have a darker or lighter print option – both very pretty!  On sale at Nordstrom for 40% off right now for $77 (normally $129)
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TWO:  These open toed perforated grey ankle boots from Kohl’s are calling my name!  I think these could easily be worn in all 4 seasons in the South, except for maybe the coldest part of winter.  The cut outs make them a bit more trendy and a grey shoe is the perfect way to add subtlety and style to a super colorful outfit.  The chunky heel should make it wearable all day! These boots are on sale right now for under $60 (normally $79.99) and you can get an extra 20% off using code SHOWERS20.
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ONE:  And last but not least, probably my favorite find this week (with a tip from my friend Kelly) 🙂  Have you guys tried this whole adult coloring book thing?  If not, I HIGHLY recommend it!  It is ridiculously calming and kind of addicting.   Amazon has a great set of 48 colored pencils on SUPER sale for just $13.50 + free shipping right now (normally $48!)!  If you really want to take it up a notch, instead of trying an adult coloring book, how about about getting an entire adult coloring tablecloth/poster.  I just bought this giant NYC coloring poster.  It should arrive next week and I CAN.NOT.WAIT.  Seriously try it out you guys!
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—- OK, OK, and just for fun, I’m adding in a few SPLURGES below —

  • The Picsticci Bag by Patricia Nash – I own this one and am completely obsessed with it.  It’ll run you just under $400 but I was able to score mine from a private seller for half.  Seriously. My favorite bag I’ve ever owned.
  • Eliza J floral halter maxi – This dress is everything.  I want it.  I think I need it.  I’m going to find a way to splurge on this one somehow.  It’s in my realm of almost reasonable at $158.
  • FRYE white gladiator lace ups – This is a huge style trend right now.  You can find so many versions of this style from the really cheap (dollars and quality) to the wayyyyy too much for me to even glance at.  These FRYE sandals would be a splurge for me at $228, but their quality is undeniable.  I’m also looking at a metallic version like these at a bit of a lower price point.

 

Do You Have Champagne Taste and a Beer Budget?

When it comes to fashion, do you have expensive taste and a broke college student type of fun money budget?  Read on to find out how I spend strategically to bridge the gap!

Who doesn’t like nice things? We all do, right?  But most of us are not incredibly wealthy and usually have 3 options when it comes to style – you can either 1) buy whatever you want but live forever in a ton of debt 2) you can be extremely frugal or 3) you can spend smartly and make the most of what you have within a budget.   I think these 3 options apply no matter how much or how little a person makes, and how much or little they try to save/invest.  Each person’s version of “nice things” varies as well.  I personally have a tough time spending $200 at my absolute high maximum for any 1 item.  Others may think that is outrageous, and others still may have no problem spending thousands on the perfect purse or dress.

I do my best to live by the 3rd smart spending option, sprinkling in some splurges here and there. (probably too many if I’m honest)  Here are my personal tips and secrets to having your cake and eating it, too, when it comes to fashion and style:

Tip #1:
Shop the clearance rack at your favorite higher end stores BUT don’t only shop for your size – buy anything in your size OR larger if it’s something you really like and especially if it’s over 60% off the original price.  Take it to your favorite tailor and have it perfectly fitted to your shape and size.  You’ll still pay significantly less than the original cost of the item + you’ll have something that fits you better than almost anything in your closet.
This is probably my absolute favorite breakthrough idea.  I started doing this a year or so after I started dating my husband.  When we first met he took almost every shirt he had to a tailor, even t-shirts. I really didn’t understand it entirely and I wondered how he could waste so much money on fitting t-shirts.  [Now, before you judge, he’s 6’5″ but very slim, so it was tough for him to find a shirt that was both the right width and the right length.]  Eventually I took his advice and had some of my not-so-perfectly fitting items tailored more closely and I was hooked.  HERE is the outfit I wore today – the shirt from the Anthropologie clearance rack, originally a size XL sized down to probably a Medium, and to my exact proportions.  We spent a total of $41, including the tailor’s fee.

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Tip #2:
Budget.  No, really.  Limit yourself specifically, but be as liberal as you want to be while also accomplishing your savings/investment (and getting out of debt) goals.  My friend Scott has a rule he put in place where he allows himself to spend 10% of his total income on self-improvement, whatever that means to him.  Whatever makes him happier and/or healthier.  10% no questions, and his wife does the same.  I love this rule and am in the process of re-working a budget for myself and my husband and will be implementing a percentage-based idea like this.  Whether it’s $100/mo or $2000/mo you’re willing to set aside for “fun money”, make it a rule and stick to it.  It will hopefully influence smarter buying decisions and less waste.

Tip #3:
Follow a bunch of well-entrenched, experienced bloggers on Instagram and read their blogs, too.  So many of them post great finds and solid sales every single day.  Many of them have partnerships or sponsorships with different brands and supply promo codes for 20/30/40% off.  I really love the LIKEtoKNOW.it app as well.  Outfit details and links will be sent directly to your inbox every time you like an IG pic that states it’s linked to the app.  It’s awesome.  The trick is to not get too carried away and keep #3 in mind while shopping.

Tip #4:
Stock up out of season.  Almost every store and brand has amazing end of season sales with ridiculously slashed prices.  Take advantage and buy up some great items as a very reduced rate.  A lot of times this makes more sense for more timeless, classic pieces (will the tassel and fringe craze still be alive and well in 2018?), but you can really save some serious cash by doing this.  Even better, if you have kids, LOAD UP!!!  I know I do.  My son just transitioned out of 12 mo into 18 mo clothes and he already had a whole closet full of things I bought him before Christmas.  Kids grow out of things so quickly so I almost never pay full price for anything, and I’m almost always planning up to a year out.  He’s already fairly well stocked on 24 mo and 2T sizes for the coming seasons as well!

Tip #5:
Splurge sometimes!  I try to have 2 different rules for myself around this.  The first one is goal-based.  For example, “If I hit my quarterly quota (software sales), I will treat myself with a new ($x value) purse I would never buy otherwise”, or “When I lose 10 lbs, I’m going to reward myself with a new swimsuit from xxx brand”.  Set reasonable goals and reward yourself!  The second type of rule is around classic items that never go out of style or items I will wear a TON.  A really good pair of jeans, for example.  I’m much more likely to spend more money on a quality pair of jeans because I know I will get my money’s worth.  If I wear them once a week at $150, that’s less than $3 a week for a year – cut that in half for every additional year you keep them in rotation or if you wear them more than 1x/wk.

You’ll notice I don’t have big name discount stores or outlets on the list.   Now, I LOVE some TJMaxx and outlet shopping… BUT it’s important to know for sure whether or not you’re actually getting a deal or being tricked into thinking you’re getting an amazing deal.  The thing is, there’s no way to know for certain where the clothing in those stores are made, if they are a part of a licensing agreement with a designer brand, or if they were truly made by that brand and slightly damaged/not perfect.  (The same goes for the churn n’ burn retailers like Forever21 or H&M) Read more HERE about what I mean – it’s quite an interesting read and will definitely make you pay more attention.

I hope you’ve read something you hadn’t thought of before, or that you’re able to take some of these ideas and apply them to your everyday buying habits!

I Am Not Superwoman and Neither Are You

I am not Superwoman and neither are you.

I’ve never claimed to be or even intentionally attempted to be, but I can admit that I sometimes find myself feeling guilty about the unrealistic expectations I set for myself in the deepest areas of my subconscious.  I don’t even mean to do it, and I’m betting you don’t either.  I’m talking about the supposed perfect life here.  It’s sort of human nature to want to be the best at everything – to be the perfect wife/mother/brother/friend/coworker/boss.  You name it.  For the most part we, as human beings, want to be great or at least good.  We want to be happy and we want people to like us.  But the mistake we sometimes make is in thinking that it is actually possible to be all of those people at the same time all of the time, and we somehow tie that to defining our ability to be happy…  Not to mention also raising well-mannered, impeccably dressed, super adorable picture-perfect children and keeping your HGTV-worthy home in perfect working order with not one speck of dirt or food anywhere to be found ever, while maintaining the most ridiculously happy marriage and love life you’ve ever seen that it makes other people want to gag and/or stab you.  Oh yes, and also looking unbelievably cute and camera-ready at any given point of any given day without even requiring a cup of coffee to function.  Seems realistic, right?  Exactly.

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There have been hundreds of blog posts and articles (and probably even books at this point) written about social media fantasyland versus real life and comparing your everyday ordinary life to the impossibly adorable moments captured in time by a professional photographer, or all of the positive highlights hidden within the Facebook status updates of your old middle school classmates.  I have read tons of these posts and totally love the message behind them!  I kind of compare it to the Photoshop vs real life body image debate and I love that one, too.  We all know people in real life (or follow them on social media) who seem to live this picture perfect, always happy, amazing life.   And honestly, much of their life is probably pretty great, but you know what?  So is yours!!  Think about all of the things in your life, big or small, that make it absolutely awesome, or at least pretty good.

On the other side of the coin, I can guarantee you that moments (or even long periods of time) in everyone’s life contain personal struggle, self-doubt, and all sorts of hardships.  I don’t care who you are, you cannot escape that reality.  Forget the big stuff… think about all of the little stuff that piles up and creates unneeded stress and frustration:  endless amounts of laundry, keeping your living space clean, staying employed and paying bills, functioning as an adult in society, keeping pets and children alive and safe (not to mention actually raising them to be decent human beings).  Everyone lives some version of this same reality and, generally speaking, has similar responsibilities on that spectrum.  There is no such thing as perfect, but what you can control is what your definition of perfect looks like and where you choose to prioritize your time.  You get to choose what defines your happiness.

Go ahead and forgive yourself for not being Superwoman or Superman.  Forgive yourself for not being as put together as your neighbor or for not remembering it was costume day at your kid’s school.  Or for not finishing every item on your to-do list this week.  Forgive yourself for not being perfect and for not being everything to everyone and for not making everyone happy 100% of the time.  —–  You’ll get around to the laundry eventually.  No one’s going to know (or care) if you can’t see your carpet for all of the toys littering the floor.  It doesn’t really matter if you skip a shower today or skip out of work a bit early, and trade that time for reading some extra books to your kids.  Your family and relationships will benefit from you prioritizing even more of those little moments over laundry and boring ol’ life maintenance.

When I catch myself comparing my entire real life to the best highlights of my friends’ lives or the picture perfect families on Instagram, I remind myself of what my version of the perfect life looks like.   It’s not really anything like the Photoshopped pictures I sometimes allow to make me feel guilty… I mean there are smiles and cute clothes, yes.  🙂 But the perfect life for me is pretty close to the version I do my best to live out day-to-day.  It’s nothing spectacular by any stretch, but it is full.  I work hard, I still try to play hard.  I spend every moment I can obsessing over the amazement in my sons eyes every time he learns or does something new, and of how cute he is even when he’s screaming.  I take 1 million pictures of randomness every week trying to capture and remember all of the everyday not-so-memorable stuff.  I don’t spend near enough time staying connected to my husband in the midst of our crazy, hectic lives, but I strive to. I am not the best friend and daughter in the world either, but I want to be.  Life is good.  And that is enough.  I am enough.  I am enough and so are you.

I think we should all take 3 steps back and reconsider what “the perfect life” really looks like, and also remember that it will never be legitimately perfect.  Look through your mind’s eye and no one else’s.  I’m willing to bet it’s much different than the aggregate social media fantasy life you sometimes compare yourself to.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

My Top 6 Beauty Essentials You Should Try

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I’ve mentioned before that my beauty routine is usually pretty simple and generally nets a fairly natural look.   I’ve started (just barely) to branch out and add more color and spunk to my everyday, but I still have some basics that I absolutely LOVE.  For years I was a serial drug-store skincare shopper – and still am for some products – but over the last few years I’ve really started to research the best options online and in magazines and ask for advice in stores like Ulta and Sephora.  Starting to see some signs of aging will do that to a person! 🙂

I have a ton of different products I use often and absolutely love, but I’m going to boil it down to my current top 6 favorites and why.  Enjoy!

Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser ($8.99) – you can find this one just about anywhere, even in a grocery store.  I love this cleanser because it is super gentle on your skin but it’s strong enough to remove all excess oil, dirt and makeup.  It doesn’t dry my skin out and is hypoallergenic, soap free and dye free.  It’s very well-rated on any site you visit online.  I have one of these in my shower and one by the sink!

Benefit Roller Lash Mascara ($24) – This mascara is awesome!  I actually purchased it for the first time in an airport at one of those self-serve kiosks when I forgot my mascara.  Little did I know it was one of the most-high rated mascaras out there.  You don’t even need an eyelash curler if you have long lashes like mine.  The formula actually shrinks as it dries, causing your lashes to lift, curl and hold.  It also dries really quickly, which I personally love because I am notorious for blinking and smudging my upper eye before mascaras dry.  If you don’t love your current mascara or are a serial drugstore makeup buyer like I used to be years ago – make this your first upgrade!!

Benefit High Beam Liquid Highlighter ($26) – This is a fairly recent purchase for me.  I really like the dewy, glowing look that some women seem to have (in real life and in photos), so I had been reading up on different face/cheek highlighters for awhile.  The whole dramatic contouring thing just isn’t for me, but the highlighting option sounded good.  I thought I had decided on a pressed cream powder highlighter (Becca x Jaclyn Hill Shimmering Skin Perfector), but after talking to an in-store beauty consultant I ended up going with the liquid product from Benefit.  The selling point for me was that the application of the Benefit liquid happens BEFORE foundation/concealer/powder and shines through in a more natural format, vs the powder highlighter that is applied last and typically has a more shimmery/glittery look vs a glow.  The other part is that a liquid cannot crack, the powder can – this is important for me with all of the travel I do for work.  Now.  I’m not knocking that option (neither are the 3,000 people who have collectively rated it a 4.6 out of 5 stars on Sephora.com), and in fact may eventually purchase it anyway, but I really love the product I did buy.  Here is a mini version for just $9.99.

Living Proof Dry Shampoo ($22, 4oz) – Let me start by saying that I could not and would not survive life while not looking like a hobo without dry shampoo.  As a baby/toddler mom who sometimes extends myself just a little too far, I find myself rushing to get ready and being short on time quite often.  Dry shampoo is a life saver for me!!  I swear I think I’ve tried almost every dry shampoo on the market and so far exactly NONE of the spray options have worked for me.  Many of them even make my hair look greasier – how is that even possible?!  My go-to (and only dry shampoo that has ever worked for me) for years has been Oscar Blandi’s ($21) powder formula.  I always sing this product’s praises, still do.  But the convenience factor and application format of a spray is just so much simpler.  And on 2 occasions in the last 2 years, the Oscar Blandi (powder only) has been out of stock indefinitely at every store on every site period.  It’s a manufacturer’s or ingredient supplier’s issue…but it sucks when something you NEED is nowhere to be found.  Ok. Living Proof.  I was turned on to this option from an article on Allure.com.  That link will supply you with all the dirty details on how it works…I can just promise you that IT DOES. [Sidebar:  The Oscar Blandi link will take you to ariva.com.  Any time I find a product that I will consistently purchase, I buy it there if I they have the brand.  They almost always have a 20 or 30% off sale or something similar + free shipping]

philosophy anti-wrinkle miracle worker eye ($68) – The first thing you’ll notice about this one is the price tag.  Yea, so did I.  But when you’re starting to notice some additional lines and wrinkles on your face, especially around the eyes, and you are only open to skin care regimens (versus surgery or botox, etc), then you want to find out what the best products are and try them out.  At least I did.  After reading TONS of reviews online about a multitude of products, I settled in on this one.   Hundreds and thousands of people were saying that the product did what it claimed:  reduces fine lines/wrinkles around the eye as well as dramatically improving the look of discoloration and dark circles.  I bought this product about 4 months ago and I have become a HUGE fan.  I’m still on my initial tube, although I’m getting towards the end of it.  (do the math and you’re looking at around $15 a month, maybe less)  I can see a big difference in my skin and have received compliments from close friends/family members as well.  I bought the Renewed Hope In a Jar ($47, 2oz) to go along with it and love it as well, although I’ve recently upgraded to the same formula with an added SPF30 for when my jar runs out.

IT Cosmetics CC Cream with SPF50 ($38) – This is another recent purchase.  I was looking for a good product to provide better coverage for dark under eye circles.  I use bareMinerals loose mineral powder concealer and foundation (I’ve never used a liquid foundation – assumed it wouldn’t work well with all my peach fuzz!), so on my most recent trip to Ulta, was looking at their Well-Rested CC Eye Primer.  I was approached by the bareMinerals beauty consultant and told her what I was looking for, asking about her recommendation between the CC Eye Primer or one of the similar options with color added.  She is the one who actually recommended the IT Cosmetics option and now I understand why.  This stuff is fantastic – hides my dark circles, doesn’t crease or crack, and requires very little liquid so it should last for a very long time.   Plus SPF50!  This is the perfect product for anyone looking for a non-cakey, natural way to conceal those dark circles we all have from time to time (or every.single.day if you’re me) 🙂

Challenge Your Comfort Zone!!

Part of the reason I started this blog, as well as my champagneandblackcoffee Instagram account, was to motivate myself to step outside of the lazy little style box I had created over time.  I wanted to stop falling back on the standard excuses as to why I don’t make time for me or put effort into the way I look and present myself every day.  // I’m super busy. I’m a Mom.  Things are different now. I have other priorities.  I need sleep.  I’m not trying to impress anyone anyway. //  I have a way of always defaulting to my handful of “favorite” outfits and comfort-first shoes (meaning, the ones I always grabbed in a hurry because, They’ll do.) and naturally find reasons to rationalize wearing yoga pants and tights for any and every occasion… Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things. 🙂  But for me it’s bigger than these little superficial gripes about myself.  For me it’s more about loving myself as I am, taking style risks and feeling confident about them, and getting out of the life slump I didn’t even really know I was in at first.  I needed to create a spark and this is my version of it.

In publicizing and socializing my personal style choices and reasons behind them, I am, in a way, holding myself accountable for getting up and getting dressed every day, not just putting on some clothes and rushing out the door.  I’m motivating myself to plan and create and try new things while still staying true to my personal style and what I’m attracted to in others.  I’m creating an opportunity for myself to get out of my own head and live outside of this indifferent (i.e. miserable and critical) little box I live in some days.  Fashion and makeup and hair – all of those things are very surface and superficial, I know that.  But they can affect deeper components of your life and your well-being and even relationships.  Think about it:  If you’ve spent a long, lazy (amazing!) weekend lounging around in your yoga pants and a big t-shirt, not showering and doing absolutely nothing, but then you get up Monday morning and put on a really cute outfit and fix yourself up, do you not feel AMAZING?  Every time I do this I wonder why I didn’t pull myself together sooner.  I wonder what I could’ve accomplished instead of nothing!

I can tell you that after about 3 weeks of this new — accountability, we’ll call it — I love it.  Not only do I feel more confident in myself, I’m also reading about different topics and following all sorts of interesting real bloggers. 🙂  I’m getting inspiration from all over the place and am working on putting some structure around all the crazy ideas in my head that keep me up at night.  (those ideas are another story for another time!)  I’m digging through all of my boxed up pre-pregnancy clothes and pulling together all sorts of styles from my existing closet, plus I’m making more interesting purchase decisions when I do shop.   It’s a win win win, honestly.

Yesterday, kind of on a whim, I decided I wanted to challenge myself even further.  I decided that I wanted to make sure that I do something each week that is clearly outside of my comfort zone.  It can be a style choice, an activity, anything really, but do something that makes me feel a tad uncomfortable, but in a good way.   A few hours after I made this unspoken decision, I was in the Houston Hobby airport and had about an hour before catching my flight home.  I waltzed right into the MAC Cosmetics store and worked with one of the makeup artists to “find the perfect bold lip color”.  I’m a serial Chapstick user and may even, every once in awhile, wear a pink or nude lip gloss, but rarely anything other than that and definitely never anything BOLD.  So after covering my entire hand in about 15 different colors and trying out 5 or 6 of them, I walked out of there with a bold red lip and a brand new lip color unlike any I’ve ever owned or worn.  And it’s not just hiding in my bag, never to be seen again – I’m wearing it at work today, in real life. 🙂  Go ahead, create a challenge for yourself today.  I think you’ll like the outcome!

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MAC Cosmetics Velvetease Lip Pencil in Reddy To Go

My favorite DIY project to date

My husband and I have a few private Pinterest boards where we post really cool house decor and remodel ideas, some of them wishful thinking and others that actually inspire action.  THIS is one of them.  It just started out as a cool picture that one of us found and put in our secret Baby pinboard before we had even gotten pregnant (that is a whole other story for another post).  And then it turned into some discussions – we pulled some friends into the mix for opinions and ideas on how to make this thing happen.  And then it turned into WE ARE DOING THIS!

And eventually, we (they) made it happen!

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First, my husband taped out the tree design using painter’s tape.  Then we saved up large cardboard boxes so we could use them as a template.  He cut out cardboard shapes in the different sizes to make up the entire tree, and then used those as templates to create the actual wood pieces.  One Saturday the guys went to our favorite local wood shop and came back with what was essentially 2x4s in most cases and began sawing out the templates.  Once they did that, they had to figure out how to connect it to the wall in a seamless way and with enough space between the wall to actually put some books up there, but have enough support to NEVER fall down… I mean, part of this tree spans over the actual crib.  All risk had to be mitigated.  They found the key 6 locations and used special screws and anchors to secure some simple square blocks into both the wall and the back of the tree.

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This is my absolute favorite creative idea we’ve executed in our house.  And honestly, I can’t even take personal credit for this one because I was merely a cheerleader and kid entertainer.  My husband and our two good friends really knocked it out of the park with this one.  I am absolutely in love with it and know this room will grow with my son as he gets older.

I’ll put up a separate post later about the nursery as a whole (I really do love every piece of it!).  For what it is, we did it on a pretty thrifty budget. 🙂

–  The rug is from RugsUSA and with shipping was $112 – they have ridiculous 70-80% off sales often!  We’ve purchased multiple rugs here and they are all well-made and what you expect when you see the picture.  Amazing prices!
–  The crib is a remake of a classic, the Jenny Lind, $219 (was $199 when I bought).  There are all sorts of similar cribs for MUCH more, like this one from Land of Nod, $899.  It’s very well-rated, safe, and comes in TONS of colors.  If I ever have a little girl, the yellow one is mine!

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