Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thrifted Green Silk + Pastel Nails + Floral Bling

Just popping in to share a recent outfit.  It's been hard to snap outfit pictures since I've been on internship, partly because Matt usually snaps my photos, and also because I typically don't leave work until it's dark outside.  Major bummer for both outfit photos and my sanity lol.  But I managed to snap a few quick (and slightly blurry) Instagram pictures before I left the house on Monday morning, so here you go!

IMG 0501I snagged this green silk blouse several weeks ago while "treasure hunting" at Savers, my favorite thrift store.  I love their store for multiple reasons, and it's rare that I leave there without something.  I've had good luck there with vintage silk blouses, including this green one as well as the printed blouse at the top of this post from November.  I paired it with a pair of black Ann Taylor cigarette pants and black heels.

IMG 0509I am loving the pastel trend this spring, and since I don't have a ton of pastels hanging in my closet, I've been incorporating the pretty palate into my manicures.  This week it's Essie French Affair + Ulta Tutu Cute.  (Sidenote: I've been really happy with Ulta's line of nail polish.  I snagged this bottle when they had a Buy 2, Get 2 Free promotion.)

IMG 0502Did I mention this green gem was $1.99?  That's right...a silk blouse for half the price of your morning latte.  Score!

IMG 0508As I got ready to leave, I thought my outfit needed a little more punch, which reminded me of one of my very favorite pair of earrings.  Bold and blingy, these jeweled lovelies are right up my alley.  I love that they pack a punch without being chandelier style.  I snagged them several years ago at one of those super cheapie jewelry stores (Rue 21 I think?).  I'm sure a few of my coworkers thought I was a bit crazy, but sometimes, I just need to let my Texas shine :)

Anyone else have any favorite thrift or sale finds lately?  If so, leave a link or a comment below and share!  I love hearing the joys of other people's treasure hunts :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Back on the Wagon

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To the guy working the front desk at Gold's Gym tonight,

Thank you for being so friendly.  Thank you for promptly checking me in.  And thank you for not loudly announcing that tonight was my first time back to the gym since November 28.


Fallen-Off-the-Wagon-So-Long-Ago-I-Can't-Even-See-the-Dust-Trail Allison

Eeesh.  That's about all I can say.  I have fallen off the wagon and made little to no attempt to get up for the past four months.  My New Year's "focused effort" was a hopeful restart, and I lived up to about half my 1/5/8/30/8 mantra.  (You can read more about my 1/5/8/30/8 mantra here.  And perhaps I'll do a follow-up post about what I have been successful with later.)  But the half I failed miserably on was the 30 minutes of physical activity.  Part of me feels the need to explain, to attempt to share my excuses, but I'm not going bother.  Because the past is the past, and the present is now.  So, from today on, I'm doing what it takes and staying committed.  I know I won't be perfect, (particularly because I like Oreos too much), but I want to really give this healthy, active living thing a fair chance.  Nothing crazy, no crash methods, just a refocus on being more active and balanced.  So I started fresh today.  Healthy food at work, lots of water, a great treadmill interval workout, some upper body free weights, and then a painful but awesome Beyonce infused ab routine.  It felt good to start again, and I'm hoping that it won't take me too long to catch up with the wagon :)

Anyone else ever fallen off the wagon and if so, what helps you get back on?  Lord knows I need all the help I can get!

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PS: Sweaty is the new sexy ;)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Think of All the Beauty

Think{via my pinterest}

This weekend should be fairly quiet for us, with a home-cooked meal tonight, a morning walk tomorrow, the long awaited reveal of the Hunger Games, a meal or two with friends, and hopefully some down time snuggled up on the couch.  Today I feel especially grateful for the people my life, the blessings I have, and the love that fills my heart.  I was reminded this week to never take those things for granted, and I want to honor those blessings by being present and happy this weekend.  So whatever your plans are this weekend, may your weekend be filled with simple pleasures, abounding beauty, and bursting happiness!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

5 Ways to Save Big on Beauty

Beauty{photo via the coveteur}

Last fall, I took on the September Spending Freeze, a self-imposed challenge to not spend a single cent on non-essential items (i.e. clothes, nail polish, Starbucks, accessories, lip gloss, dinners out, etc.)  It was a life changing experience that really helped me take a closer look at my spending tendencies.  Even after the freeze, the lessons I learned stayed with me, and I've noticed some pretty big changes in the way that spend.  One of the biggest areas I've seen a change in how I shop, revolves around beauty.  Here are a few of my favorite tips for reeling in your beauty budget.

1. Rethink brand loyalty for nonesstential items. I'm not asking you to give up your favorite foundation, your go to hair product, or your never-fail-me lipgloss.  I think it's awesome to know what you love and stick with it, especially for beauty essentials.  But for the not so staple items, consider going for what's on sale, what's the least expensive, or what you have a coupon for.  My favorite remover wipes.  I wear a pretty full face of makeup, so for me, removing my makeup prior to cleansing is important.  But what brand I use really doesn't matter.  I like the Neutrogena wipes, but after once getting the Almay wipes at $3 less, I realized, they were pretty much the same, and I'm willing to compromise on that product.  Ask me to give up my MAC brushes for the Target brand and I'll panic, but ask to me switch around on soap, makeup remover, cotton balls, and salon brand nail polish to save a chunk of change, and I'm all for it.

2. Go every other. This has been the biggest help in reducing my beauty budget (and in some cases I've been able to transition to DIY!)  Think about the services you have done on a regular basis.  Manicure, pedicure, highlights, hair cut, waxing, etc.  Now I'm not ready to give those things up completely, but I did start to wonder if I needed to keep such a tight schedule.  Maybe instead getting a manicure every week, I could go one week, then do my own maintenance and manicure the next week.  That's an extra $40 a month ($480 a year!) for just getting my nails done every other time.  On those weeks where I wasn't getting a professional manicure, I was able to do a DIY manicure, with a light and glossy color, my cuticles still maintained from the previous week.  PS: This method of every other was so successful for me, that I eventually got really good at DIY manicures, and now I prefer them!  So think, if you get your hair cut every six weeks, could you stretch it a few extra weeks?  That stretch will save you money, but also probably help you come up with some creative and cute fixes you may not have thought of!  (Example, I started going every other with my hair cuts, and I've rediscovered wearing my hair curly to hide not-quite-perfect ends and cute bobby pins to tuck back longer front pieces.)  If you can stretch yourself to try one thing on this list, it's this.  Go every other and get creative for the time in between!

3. Keep tabs on your stock and shop with a coupon. How many times have you realized you were out of your favorite perfume only to go to Sephora's website and realize the email you got earlier in the week about free shipping just expired?  I've done that one too many times to do it again.  This tip requires you to be aware of your beauty supply and when it's running low.  When your perfume, shampoo, deep conditioner, moisturizer, etc. hits the two-thirds gone mark, start looking to reorder.  That way, you have time to watch for a coupon code, a Sephora email, a free shipping offer, or an Ulta coupon.  And along those lines, don't ever order something from a beauty website without Googling for a coupon code first.  This step takes about ten seconds, but can save you big time.  So watch your bottles and leave yourself time for a great deal of present itself!

4. Don't pay full price for nail polish. I might sound like a bad blogger on this one, but I'm convinced that the big nail polish brands put out the same colors every season, with slight tweaks and new fabulously catchy names.  But the truth is, no one will be able to tell if the gray tone on your nails is Essie Cocktail Bling, OPI Birthday Babe, or the much anticipated Chanel Le Vernis in Frenzy.  I'm all for following trends, so look for what's hot and then search the sale or clearance shelf for last season's version of that.  My local Beauty Brands has the entire OPI Texas collection for 65% off, which is perfect for this season's focus on bright, punchy hues, for a fraction of the price.   Just think, if you buy 4 nail polishes a month this way, you could save $16 a month ($192 a year!)  Score!

5. Use what you have. Sometimes when I dig around the in dark depths of my bathroom cabinents, I find some pretty impressive things.  Full bottles of dry shampoo, a barely touched MAC eyeshadow, a body butter I scored at an after Christmas sale, and ten million fragrance minis from Sephora (several of which I actually like!)  So sometimes I have to get strict with myself and say "No new anything until I use up what I have."  I'll try to reason with myself, saying I'll alternate with the new product, but that's a lie.  The older product will get pushed to the back of the cabinent, and I will have wasted a small chunk of change.  So go digging in your bathroom cabinents, your travel case, and wherever else you store lost beauty products, find what's there and use it before buying anything new.  And if you're anything like me, once you start using what you already had, the urge for the new thing will fade, and you'll be content using up the rest of your stash!

So, there you have it, my 5 most favorite ways to save big on beauty.  In a culture (and a blog world) that often emphasizes the latest and greatest in beauty, I think it's important to realize that we can dial back that spending with a few creative strategies.  So now I'm dying to hear, what are some of your favorite ways to save big on beauty?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hooray for Good News!

IMG 0480{a sweet surprise on my door Thursday morning at work}

If you follow me on Facebook, you may have already seen my good news, but if not, I'm so excited to be sharing it today.  Wednesday, at 11:22 am, I joyfully accepted a postdoctoral fellowship at a major university in Chicago.  The past few months have been filled with anxiety and stress, completing applications and inteviewing across the Chicagoland area.  Back in December, I made the decision that no matter what, after the completion of my internship in July, I was going to return to Chicago.  Job or not, I was coming back to be with Matt, to be a family, to continue our "normal" life together, living in the same city, and seeing each other every day.  So with my sites set on Chicago, I worked my butt off to get as many interviews as possible, in a market that is pretty saturated with professionals in my field.  Monday I had an all day interview at my top site.  And though I loved the site, I came home fairly certain I hadn't done well in the interview.  I replayed my answers over and over in my head, criticizing each turn and gesture, all the while having Matt and my family tell me, "Allison, I'm sure you were wonderful."  As I waited for Wednesday morning's notification time, I kept praying for God to calm my anxiety, to remind me that He had a plan already in place.  And at 11:22, that plan was revealed.

Getting a Ph.D has been a long and exhausting journey, and in August, I'll officially be Dr. Allison, and the journey will be coming to a close.  A new journey will of course begin, as I start my professional life, and I'm so overjoyed that it will be in Chicago, at an incredible university, working with motivated and determined students.  I feel so blessed to know where I'm going and to know that in four months, I'll be back in Chicago full-time, starting a new part of my professional journey.  I'm so grateful for all the people in my life who have helped me get to this point and who have supported me through this last leg of the process.  It's been a crazy ride, and I'm so thankful I've got such a great support network to ride along with me.  I'm still on cloud nine, so you can be certain that this weekend will be filled with lots of champagne and smiles as I celebrate and give thanks for this exciting next step!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Viva Las Vegas...A Long Overdue Recap!

Our trip to Vegas was over the top wonderful, amazing, and beyond needed.  I told one of my coworkers that I didn't realize how much my soul needed a vacation until I was there and feeling utterly nourished.  (My coworkers teased me that I'm the only person to go to Vegas and come back saying my soul felt nourished!)  Getting away from our crazy work schedules and spending a weekend with absolutely nothing on the schedule was delightful, and I don't think we could have had more fun.  There were multiple moments during the trip where I found myself looking at Matt wondering, "How did we get to lucky to find each other and go through this life together?"  But enough of my mushiness, on to the pictures :)

Picnik collage*We stayed at the Tropicana and absolutely loved our time there.  We used our tried and true Hotwire "don't know the name of the hotel until you book" method, and were really happy.  They just did a huge renovation, so the rooms were super nice.  Plus, they pump tons of tropical smelling fragrance into the hotel, so you constantly feel like you're somewhere beachy and fabulous....with penny slots :)
*Checking in and ready for the weekend!

IMG 0408*75 and sunny on our first morning there!

Picnik collage2*Saturday champagne brunch at Mandalay Bay.  I'm convinced mimosas are the best way to start a vacation!
*Done with brunch and ready to explore!  So grateful to have such a handsome traveling companion :)

IMG 0406*Good morning "New York."  PS: until the last day, I didn't realize that the all these buildings were meant to look like New York.  I just thought the Statue of Liberty and the building behind her were the hotel, and that the other buildings were random Vegas buildings on the strip.  Lol, definite "duh" moment!

Picnik collage4*Cutest husband ever, and the reason we got to take this fun vacation.  Best Christmas present ever!
*Shadow shot.  I am easily entertained :)

IMG 0416*Favorite thing about Vegas?  The Bellagio fountains.  I literally could not get enough; we must have watched them 8 times over the weekend!

Picnik collage3*We spent most of Saturday wandering in and out of the various hotels.  The Bellagio was definitely one of my favorites, along with the Cosmopolitan.
*And if I could have found a way to smuggle this giant mirrored and gold horse into my suitcase, I definitely would have!

Picnik collage5*Day 1 outfit: thrifted pink linen button up, Ann Taylor white denim, Talbots turquoise drop earrings, gold nameplate necklace, David Yurman ring.
*OPI Glitzerland+Essie Haute as Hello

IMG 0425*I know people always rave about the shopping in Vegas, but I managed to go the whole trip without buying a single retail item!  Chicago has pretty fabulous shopping, so it wasn't as tempting as I imagined.  Plus there was so much else to do!

Picnik collage6*Midday drinks at Numb Bar in Caesar's Palace.
*Fruity and frozen...yes please!

Picnik collage7*I wasn't interested in big time gambling, but this little Monopoly penny slot machine had us hooked!
*And though I've heard horror stories about gambling, we got pretty lucky our first day with some "big" wins.  And I swear, I've never seen Matt so excited lol!

IMG 0432*Woo hoo, big winners on the penny slots :)

Picnik collage8*Saturday night, we had dinner at Public House in the Venetian.  We loved the drinks (fabulous wine list for me, awesome beer choices for Matt), but we were a little underwhelmed by the food.
*Our server recommended the house pickled veggies, and omg, I thought my face was going to be permanently puckered.  They were so sour!
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*Cheers to red wine, big bling, and a lovely dress borrowed from my fabulous intern friend (thanks Christa!)
*Saturday night, we saw Mystere, one of the longest running Cirque shows in Vegas.  It was so incredible, and I was literally in awe through the entire thing.  Mystere was both Matt and I's first Cirque show, and it's fair to say we're hooked!  (Thanks to all my readers who recommended a Cirque show!)
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*Sunday morning view of the strip.  As strange as it might sound, I think mornings were my favorite time in Vegas.  The strip is fairly quiet, not as crowded, and you can really take in a different side of Vegas.
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*After several mega meals on Saturday, we enjoyed a simple Sunday breakfast at our hotel's Starbucks.  Sometimes when we're on vacation, I get tired of eating huge and fabulous meals.  A little oatmeal can go a long way with me!
*We spent most of Sunday walking through the hotels we didn't hit the day before.  We stopped at MGM for a few games of roulette, but given that our luck wasn't quite as good as on our Monopoly machine, we quickly cashed out :)
Picnik collage11*I really loved Paris.  But than again, everything there is sparkly and oversized, so what's not to love?
*Until Matt and I can get to the real Paris, this little dude will have to do.
Picnik collage12*I love when random strangers offer to take your photo.  Next time you're out of town and you see a couple together with their camera, offer to take their photo together.  It's a small, but thoughtful act that always makes me smile.
*I'm definitely gonna need a chandelier like this in my future house.  That's doable, right? :)
IMG 0444*What a cutie.
Picnik collage13*Sunday night outfit: BCBG maxi dress {seen here at our rehearsal dinner}, Nordstrom leather bomber jacket, gold nameplate necklace, M2 earrings, David Yurman ring.
*Matt thinks its really funny to photobomb my outfit photos.  I must have stood there for a good five minutes to snap something without him jumping in and laughing!
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*Fabulous view from the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas.  After our fun experience at the Mandarin in New York, we decided we stop by the hotel for a quick peek.  It was super chic and is on our list for future spots to say in Vegas.
Picnik collage14*For dinner our last night there, we headed to Holstein's at the Cosmopolitan.  This was recommended by several blog readers (thanks Lindsay and Adin), and it did not disappoint!  It kind of reminded us of The Counter in Chicago (see our last visit here), though we both agreed Holstein's has The Counter beat.  It was so good!
*As a Texan, I consider myself a fried pickle connoisseur, and omg, Holstein's had the best fried pickles I've ever had.  Perfectly seasoned, crispy, and yummy.  And served with the best aioli dipping sauce ever!
Picnik collage15*Adult milkshakes are so good.  I hope they have them in heaven.
*I went with the Smores milkshake.  Chocolate milkshake, graham cracker crumbs, marshmallow vodka, with a homemade marshmallow on top.  I die just thinking about it!
IMG 0458*Almost every reader who left me recommendations for Vegas mentioned the Bellagio fountains, and I can see why people are so obsessed.  They are literally mesmerizing.  While I thought the fountains were awesome during the day, the night displays were beyond magical!  And the fact that the beautiful show is free, well, that's just another bonus :)
Picnik collage16*Monday morning, we had our last breakfast at America in New York New York.
*Neither Matt or I wanted to do a breakfast buffet before getting on the plane to head back to Chicago, but we still wanted something to hold us over for a long day of traveling.  This meal certainly did that!
Picnik collage17*Last day/travel outfit: Rachel by Rachel Roy sweater, Ann Taylor leggings, Target pink giraffe scarf {available here}, Nordstrom BP sunnies.
*Packed up and heading home after a delightful long weekend!
So there you have it...our Vegas trip!  A big thanks to all my readers and friends who shared recommendations via my blog and Facebook.  It really helped us narrow down what we wanted to do, and we were able to experience some fabulous gems because of you.  So a big, big thanks!  I was certain Vegas wouldn't be my scene, but we're already trying to plan our next trip there.  It was so fun, and there is still a ton we want to do, so we're ready to head back.  Who's with me? :)

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Life{via my pinterest}

Hello dear friends!  I cannot believe it has been two weeks since my last blog post!  This has been my longest blog silence since I started this little blog!  I wish I could say it was an intentional break, a choice to unplug, regroup, and unwind.  But the truth is, the past few weeks have been a bit crazy.  After our fabulous trip to Vegas (recap post in the works), I came back to lots of great news regarding job and postdoc interviews for next year.  January was a whirlwind of applications, followed by a whirlwind of waiting in February.  But the past few weeks, good news has been coming in, and I've been struggling to juggle my crazy job, commuting back and forth to Chicago, and interviewing both in person and over the phone.  I have two more interviews next week, and then hopefully I'll hear some more permanent news.  But if not, I'll just keep chugging along, applying and interviewing, working to get my little butt back to Chicago next year!  I hope your Friday is fabulous, and whether you're preparing for a busy or restful weekend, I hope it's just what the doctor ordered!