Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Candle Obsession

There is nothing like warding of the smell of stinky house cats and marijuana from the people smoking next door, like candles! I swear candles can tackle any scent. Keep in mind, though, the scent will be dulled, warm, fire-y scent and not a strong piercing scent like room sprays or etc. (Which, in my opinion, is good)

Also, you want your room or your space to be yours the moment you enter it and candles are a really good way to claim the space. When I first moved into my new apartment and new room, it was a really good way to make the space my own.

Recently, however, I have noticed that there are a lot of fruity and a lot of flower-y scents in candles. Recently, this has been disappointing to me because I have been obsessed with dark scents and mysterious scents or warm and snuggle-y type scents which are harder to find.

Incense, bergamot, musk, amber these are scents that will evoke the European cathedral and the mystery of a dark forest. Exactly what I want!

Pro scent tip: Find out the note you are looking for. The scent note, I mean. A great way to do this is this handy scent note guide from Fragrantica. Its got all the scent note categories and scents within that category. Having the correct terminology can really help you find the right scent quickly.

Pro scent tip: Know which notes you like and provoke the right mood. Smell a lot of scents and see what is the common note that you like in them.. this will help you save money and time (and help you find the more rare scents not found in stores) by shopping online

Wanting to go for the dark scents too?

Here is my running list of brands! They are in order of most to least expensive. Diptyque you can find at specialty stores and at Nordstroms and it is renowned for its very room filling scent. (Its expensive at $60 but supposedly is worth it!) The classic is Baies which smells like roses, but light delightful roses.. yet they have heavier smells such as Feu de Bois which smells like a smokey fire. Nest has a dark botanical line of perfumes and you now can also get candles!! I found their scents at Nordstrom and a cheaper line at Target.
And Voluspa is the fancy candle for the common man. Around $20, they have a variety of dark and exotic scents.. lots to choose from! You can find them at Anthropologie




These fine etsy shops too!

And if you are on the cheap...

Bath & Body Works has just as strong smelling candles though the scent may be a little more chemical and it may be harder to find the more subtle smells. But they sell large candles for $20 and often have sales which brings seasonal candles down to even lower prices. If you want a cozy spot while you save up for the fancy candles, they are a good place to consider!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Notes on Life : Don't be fooled!

Okay, so there is somethings that I have been learning slowly and surely about becoming a woman. A woman versus a girl is savvy.

There are things that women do not do, no matter out outwardly cool it looks. They don't clutter their life with useless luxe products but they also do not clutter their life with cheap and poor quality things either.

Sometimes it is very hard to tell the difference because retailers are very smart about marketing and giving you what you think you want before you do the research and before you get a chance to be disappointed or under served by a product.

There are a few lessons I have learned recently that I would like impart to you relating to this topic.

First and foremost: Do your research but do it in the right way. 
I am finding that A LOT of blogs and websites seem to endorse products randomly. There doesn't seem to be one great product that everyone agrees with and most of the time it seems to me they are recommending products based on what is trendy or what they may have been paid to endorse. What I like to do is:

1. Research ingredients
2. Try products out myself to test worthiness. 

When you research quality and recommended ingredients those should be factors that are pretty objective in figuring out what you are getting. If a brand's logo is slapped on a product, don't always mistake it for quality, because they might be resting on their brand laurels. I don't always see a lot of integrity in brand products and in some situations the brand can seem diluted to make more affordable products. Seemingly affordable, yet you will have to buy 3 pairs of one type of shoes when a high quality shoe will last you the same length of time.

Trying products is also key. What works for you may not work for others and vice versa and the only way to know if a product (for instance eyeliner) has long wear is to try it for yourself. This can be something you can do without needing to buy the product so look for work-a-rounds whenever you can.


Recently, I went to the Dior counter where I was given a sales pitch from their cosmetic salesperson. She was all about pitching the expensive skin care lines. Now remember, Dior is a historic luxury brand with a long track record of well made clothing but don't get that confused with being the most amazing products for your skin. They will be able to put a high price tag on the bottle and the label Dior will look great on your dresser, but we want to be savvy not trendy.

She told me all sorts of things about the miracle properties of their skin care and that one of the ingredients even won a Nobel prize. That sounds impressive! But just because you won a Nobel prize for an ingredient doesn't mean that in another context that it does absolutely nothing for your skin. Along with the Nobel prize ingredient, the skin serum had another major ingredient of alcohol which is very harsh for your skin. The lack of pure active ingredients pretty much negates Diors otherwise "magic" ingredients.

One thing to note, if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true. You can nourish your skin but you can't turn back time or find the fountain of youth. If you have super model skin, chances are you are eating healthy, getting monthly facials and do the basics of exfoliating, cleansing and protecting. The hard way.. not to mention expensive. Hm.. sounds more realistic now.

Instead, find out tested and true ingredients that are nourishing. For instance, Josie Maran's Argan Oil Serum is wonderful.. but the active ingredient is just argan oil which you can purchase on amazon for much less than the $16 her oil will cost. What you are paying for is the beautiful scent and the look of the bottle on your shelve. Some street cred per say.

 NOTE: I'm not saying all luxe brands are not worth the price, just make sure you know the reasons versus just trusting the branding and marketing in these cases. Josie Maran is a great argan oil... but that's why its awesome.. because its argan oil, not because it says Josie Maran on the label.

Same with fancy cuticle oils. Almond or Vitamin E oil will work just as well but if you want you can pay twice for it.

Shampoos and conditioners similarly. Here is a list of ingredients that you should watch for:


I was smitten with the idea of Bumble and Bumble shampoo (and it may be great! I never tried it) but then I noticed that it had sulfates in it! For such an expensive shampoo I figured it would have more sophisticated and healthy cleansers in it for the price but it did not. For me sulfate free was important and it has been evident by how much softer and less frizzled my hair has been since I switched to a sulfate-free shampoo. (Aveeno makes a great one!) You just also need to know that you need to replace the cheaper cleansers (such as sulfates)... with more natural ones (such as acids) or you will still be disappointed as your hair will not feel clean. Again! Know your ingredients. knowledge is power!

Another funny thing about products is that further I get away from brands and the closer I get to just solely the active ingredients... the more effective they seem to be. All the chemical fillers don't really do well with my skin (or hair, etc) and don't actually perform the job they are supposed to. That's why I tend to opt to the supplement stores or natural grocery stores to find the natural ingredients by themselves, such as almond oil, vitamin C serum, etc.


Ingredients are not just for cosmetics, they are also for clothing. A big part of why clothes last longer is the material they are made with. Also, the fit of the clothing is really effected by the material. I have heard people say that have one extra percent of spandex in their jeans makes them fit much better, so sometimes the ingredients in your clothes can make a big difference.

This goes for bargain hunting too. A deal is not a deal if the material that the clothing is made out of stretches out, wears out quickly, shrinks insanely or doesn't fit right. Shoes are a big one. Synthetic materials tend to not hold up and can cut on your feet. If possible, go for linen, wool or cotton clothing and leather shoes, they will wear better.

HERE are some quality check tips for clothes. Make sure you feel the cloth. Its pretty intuitive to know whether the cloth is quality or not. Check the inset of the zippers and that the seams are well constructed. High quality clothes will be more fitted and have more darts to contour to your body.

Don't buy things (for the most part) that scream trend, or if you do, feel free to buy lower quality in trends. They are bound to go out of style before you know it!

Something I do that helps me be on the look out for clothes that are in line with overarching trends and classic looks is I watch runway shows. I have a go too selection of my favorite designers and I frequent to watch and analyze the runway shows. This helps you see what colors, fabrics and silhouettes are coming down the pipe (retail generally is slower to absorb styles that trickle down from the runway) and know what to be on the look out for when it become available.

Brands I use as a bench mark for level of design. When you see a brand name on the rack, it may not be quality or a good style for you to wear but its a good place to start because you know the design and styling will be current and on trend. (FYI not all designers can always manage the details on how their clothes turn out on the rack or are as knowledgeable about how cheaper fabric translates a design... so use your own judgement in editing their pieces) Being educated about good brands helps you spot good finds at the thrift store as well as know what to expect in-terms of on-rack to on body translation. Sometimes a dress that is flat on a hanger doesn't seem to have very much potential, but can look edgy and chic on your body. I use brands as an index for how much this may be the case. Go for the unexpected. It will be the most fun to wear the garments that are edgy but within your comfort zone, than clothes that are boring to wear and you end up avoiding in your closet.

Some interesting brands to be on the prowl to try out:

J Brand
7 For All Mankind

Tops, etc:
Free People
French Connection

Marc by Marc Jacobs
Kate Spade

Jeffery Campbell

Luxe Aspirational Brands:
Miu Miu

WARNING: be aware that most brands you see at off shoot stores and outlets like TJ Maxx and Nordstorm Rack are sometimes made specifically for that store. Those outlets request certain styles of brands to be recreated for them at a lower price point and to do this they use different materials. This doesn't necessarily mean the product will be poor quality. Remember: you are still getting that brand's design decisions and if you have done your ingredient research you will know if the clothing item is made with quality or not. It very dependent on each piece. Also, note where the item was made. This also can make a big difference. High quality versions of a brand might be manufactured in England or the United States and lower quality versions will be manufactured in Mexico or Korea. Just make sure to research manufacturing qualities by country. Shop smart and you make get away with a steal!

Part of research part two is that you may need to learn from your mistakes. Its not going to always be possible to identify good ingredients or what works with you before you buy. You will learn brands to stay away from at certain stores and fabrics that don't work for you. Take as many opportunities to try things for free though. Many luxe brands offer samples of their cosmetics at department stores. Perfume sample companies will send you luxury and niche perfume samples for you to try at a small cost (Surrender to Chance, The Perfumed Court). And consignment/thrift stores will allow you to purchase certain brands (depending on what you find) for a deep discount. The nice thing about pre-owned clothes as well, is you can tell how they wear and if there are flaws in a style or brand that come out after being worn for awhile. They are tested and broken in of sorts.

Mostly, have fun! You will have to learn about what you like and what works for you, so don't feel to guilty about spending money to figure it out. Just be savvy

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Notes on Life : Skin Care Routine

Skin. Care. Routine.

There is nothing more key, I have found, than having a good skin care routine. When your have cared for, luminous skin it cuts down greatly on the amount of makeup you need to purchase and use and, I find, greatly increase self esteem. 

There are 9 steps in a skincare routine.

Light Cleanse
Skin Protection
Antioxidant Protection

Deep Cleanse
Acne Treatment (if needed)
Anti-aging Product

Acidic Peel

This might sound like a lot but I have combined many of the steps to suit my needs.
I have normal skin but I struggle with acne and can be sensitive to strong acne treatments. During the course of trying to treat these issues I have found what makes my skin happy. These ideas are a good place to start but you may want to modify them for your own use.


If you have thoroughly cleaned your face the night before, all you need to do is splash some water on your face to refresh and rinse off treatments from the night before. Generally if I take a shower in the morning, I just combine my rinse with the shower.

For moisturizing and sun protection, I currently use a combination lotion. CeraVe AM moisturizer also is SPF 30. If you desire more skin protection than that you can use an additional SPF with your lotion. I also combine the antioxidant step by adding a serum to my moisturizer.

Antioxidant serums are important because they protect the skin’s barrier. When I first started treating my acne I used harsh face washes and treatments. Sometimes I found that this would cause more acne instead of being helpful because it started drying my skin out and destroying its natural barrier. Living in the city and the pollution, my natural barrier is my best defense against blemishes.

I use Super Vitamin C from Skin by Ann Webb and mix it right in with my moisturizer. This product you can get from a vitamin or supplement store. I have found that my skin likes products with more of the active ingredient and less of the chemical fillers. With 15% vitamin C you are also getting more of the benefit with a higher concentrate of the actual active ingredient.
Remember if you are looking for an antioxidant serum, make sure the percentage of the actual active ingredient is high. If it is far down the ingredient list you are not getting much of the benefit. Super Vitamin C also is formulated with ingredients that help to absorb the vitamin C into your skin. This is crucial too as you don’t want the antioxidant ingredient sitting on top of your skin with minimal benefit. Also, FYI, Vitamin C is an antioxidant that does not break down or oxidize in the sun. This is important in the morning as you don't want your antioxidant to become ineffective as soon as you step outside.


At the end of the day, you want to wash off all those pollutants and bad stuff. Be gentle with your skin if you can. I use Boots Botanical Gentle Cleansing Cream because it seems to get my skin clean but doesn't over dry.

You want to make sure to apply whatever product you want to have the strongest effect on your skin first. Depending on the state of my skin I usually apply my acne treatment or anti-aging treatment first.
For someone who is young, anti-aging is more of a preventative and protective measure than anything else. I also notice that my skin can often look tired and saggy without being treated.

You may have heard of Retinol or Retin-A. Retin-A is the prescription version of Retinol and what is Retinol? A fancy work for Vitamin A!! Who knew! Vitamin A helps your skin maintain its natural collagen and exfoliates among other things. Retinol is supposedly a version of Vitamin A that absorbs well into skin. For the last month, I have been trying another tactic to get my Vitamin A though.
At your local vitamin store, you can get Vitamin A or Vitamin A and E (Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant) gel capsules. Every night I take a clothes pin and puncture one vitamin A capsule and massage it evenly into my skin. Supposedly, this method does not absorb into your skin as well, but with 100% vitamin A the treatment is much more potent. I have notice a visible difference, and definitely more of a difference than my regular Retinol cream that I was using before. The only caveat is that this type of Vitamin A is created using Fish Oil, so it has a slightly fishy scent. Another fact, Vitamin A breaks down and oxidizes in the sun so it is not a treatment you would want to apply in the daytime anyways. As I apply it right before bed, the fishy scent does not bother me in slightest, and the price tag is amazing at $6. (The higher the UI, the more Vitamin A in the capsule. If you have more sensitive skin, get a lower dose as Vitamin A exfoliates and may irritate your skin.)

As acne treatments go, I use two, which in tandem can help with a bad breakout, and separately seem good enough for preventive care.

Clean and Clear Dual Action Moisturizer has added salicylic acid, but is mild on my skin leaving it moisturized and tingly. Clinique’s Step Three of its Acne Solutions has the benzoyl peroxide which, though harsher, is sometimes the only thing that will tame my pimples.

Over that, I moisturizer with CeraVe’s PM lotion and Cetaphil’s moisturizing cream. If you are badly needing restoring of your skin overnight, I would apply Cetaphil’s moisturizing cream liberally. Its thick enough to regenerate your skin but doesn’t clog and absorbs without being oily.

The last thing I use on my skin is a home peel kit. I find even with cleansing and the exfoliating power of Vitamin A, after a couple of weeks my skin can look dull and have a rough texture. I use Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion and Peel Kit to change this. It only takes a minute and a half and it leaves your skin smooth and soft. It’s fairly gentle, but I only use it bi-weekly versus the once a week recommended amount because it will start drying out and irritating my skin. Its only $24 and it last way longer than the 8 treatments it lists on the box, especially if you are treating bi-weekly. Exfoliation is super important if you want to avoid acne and blemishes. If there is dead skin sitting on top of your skin you will start have all sorts of issues.

That is my current care regime! It’s been brilliant so far. My skin looks 1000% better now that I have ironed out a good routine. I hope you find yours too!

As I adapt I will keep you posted. The next thing I am looking into are facial sprays. There are supposed to be numerous benefits when used in combination with moisturizers and then are supposed to help give you a dewy look.

There is a whole range of pricing and so called luxury-ness to facial sprays. But what I am looking for always is:
Something that works.
Something unassuming that could attain a cool cult status.
And something with value. Worth the price.

What is your favorite facial spray? What other products would you add to the routine? I’ll let you know my findings!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Notes on life : I want to be Zoe Barnes

Not that I want to sleep around with Senators but there is something simple and defiantly independent about her.

I now drink wine from a mug. Something I spotting Zoe doing on House of Cards. It was so functional. Is it easier to drink wine from a mug? Yes! So why not.

My game has always been a natural-ness, a lack of self consciousness. This is what I believe makes you truly blossom and start becoming magnetic: when you are completely stylish because you are completely natural.

Your house looks like it fell into place, perfectly decorated simply out of functionality but it fell together beautifully and flawlessly.

Your look is functional and designed.. tousled hair, heels and skirt that look thrown on. Make-up that accentuates your smoke eyes or sun-kissed cheeks but not enough to look like you took too much time.

A casual elegance.

Here are some examples:

Why are Kate Moss and Amal Alamuddin such classic, flawless looking women? Because simultaneously they seem to be in their natural element. Like they just ran out the door gorgeous.

We wonder.. why not us? Secret: We totally can. 

Even though it looks accidental its not. Its calculated and edited and easy because every choice in your wardrobe and live is your favorite.

And probably most of us don't look like that because we can't.. or because we can't afford to (because it doesn't have to be expensive) but because we don't have the time.

Well, I want to give some shortcuts for you.

Keys to a tousled, flawless, life:

1. The right skin, nail, hair care.
2. The right makeup
3. The right clothes and accessories
4. The right fragrance
5. The organized home
6. The decorated home.
7. The right health routine.

More posted on these to come!!

Notes on Life : Improvement

So I have found that it is very satisfying and self-esteem producing to enhance one's life. I read a lot of lifestyle blogs in the pursuit of this and learned a few things about them.

1. Blogs tend to want to inspire you by showing you things that are in no way achievable by you. (a generalization of course)

2. Bloggers tend to be rich with blog money and give endorsements.
This means:

A. They are paid or sponsored by companies to feature and recommend their products. (Which still gives you a broad spectrum of products to see but tends to eliminate brands that can't afford promotion.)

B. They purchase materials for their beautiful life that are unattainable to the poor.

In all this, we are looking to surround ourselves with things that are beautiful.

I guess as a series on this blog I want to tell you about the things I have found that make me happy... that are attainable where you live now, with what you have now .. Things that I have learned through trial and error and I now recommend to you, so you don't have to! (I'm hoping)

Featuring ideas and products that are rigorously tested and researched!

Its not how much stuff you own or what you own .. its surrounding yourself with only the things you enjoy.

Minimalist editing.

-----> Remember this kindle ad? It made me believe that with a kindle I could definitely have a more magical life. But *spoiler* its not the kindle. These people's houses are organized and beautiful and filled with comfy and happy things.. and they are lit well, and they have done all their chores.

If you don't have your world arranged right, it doesn't matter if there is a kindle in it or not. Sure, the kindle can enhance your world's magical-ness.. so does any well designed device.. but if its already a mess, then the kindle isn't a wizard who can change that. Neither is a handbag or a cute dress or a new pair of sheets.

As I have been exploring my own world and what I want, I have found its not always the best organized, best designed or edited as beautifully as I'd like.

Join me on my journey as I impart my knowledge and redesign my own life!

Friday, March 14, 2014



Great are the urban legends that teem and bite and stare
Great are your personal myths, your demons, your perceptions
Your worries of seeing yourself as others do, 
who couldn't care
Like all men seem to, callus and brisk and harsh
There has to be an explanation, some logic--

You can’t let it be without needing to act, 
without neurosis, without effect


Except dreams to die,
Or dreams you thought could come that never would
Even small dreams stay dreams in this landscape
Of unexpressed needs a result of fear -- because of myth, because of unknowns


Great are the city lights that pierce the night sky
And so strange juxtaposed against the contrast of the country
Nowhere to hide, nowhere to bury like you used to
Under the dark, damp layers of farm land, rising and falling


The city, exposing and raw, yet strangely a comfort
Each light pinned on a skyscraper like cutout stars
Each one representing a life, a dream
Great are those numbers, overwhelming and silent and uncomfortable
Making those below feel small, unaccomplished, lowly
Or not to feel at all but to attempt to ignore and conceal under the hard, unforgiving pavement


But there are too many people in the city 
Busily working in uncanny urban necromancy, 
with no regard for you, raising shortfallings like ghostly soldiers.

After all, you come to the city begging for it, like a form of self-torturing prophecy

To brush off and get back on that same old horse and go
Though its engine is animal and not mechanical
And its strength finite instead of infinite
They say “insanity expects different results”
And being behind before the gun is motivation enough to not start


But, you do to avoid the sneers and the smiles and the talk of
“I am doing so well. I am so happy”. Which is a myth (by the way).
Made to make you feel alone
And for a moment you are truly happy, so you tell yourself its not a myth
But it's common knowledge that no unhappy person is always that way nor any happy person happy always either

Deep down, you know the “true” truth. 
What else can you call it?


For “truth” is subjective, 
misused too often like the words “I love you” or “I promise”. 
What does it even mean?
Mostly because truth is grey 
is pale 
is boring 
or is too shocking 
or buried 
or mixed in with half truths
Which are probably more true anyways


For where words end there are no adjectives or nouns or verbs that anyone could say to be honest with another
Lies are words that fill the gap between what is and what we wish
And words betray for they are only as precious as each to their own
For a set falling from one person’s lips is not equal in value to yours
Or brashly strewn about in the moment without commitment,
when feeling generous or inclined 
empty currency


It is then that myths, full of truth – at least someone’s truth, will do just fine.