J. Crew May Edit

Pieces I will not buy. Repeat: will not buy. 

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This bright tee is so up my alley!

So is this floral print scarf, which comes in two styles, square silk and a gauzy rectangle:

This floral pattern was everywhere, but I like the skirt for spring:

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A modern shirt, also with a bow tied element:

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Of course, a statement necklace:

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And this retro sundress isn’t exactly my style, but it’s breaking the internet on other blogs:

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What do you like from J. Crew this month?

 

 

 

Aveda Skin Care Review

Aveda is a brand I’ve circled around for more than two decades.

Every five years or so, I come back to Aveda, but I never stay loyal.

There are just too many other good beauty brands out there for my fickle heart.

Two weeks ago I had some time to kill before a work dinner and stopped into the Aveda Experience Center, which is conveniently located across the street from my new office.

Did I mention my new office is in a dangerous location, one that is perilously close to fine retail offerings?

To be honest, I’ve never been particularly impressed by Aveda’s skin care line. While I generally love how Aveda products smell, when it comes to efficacy, I don’t want flower extracts, I want ALL THE CHEMICALS that science can deliver to magically make me look ten years younger. 

But there was something appealing about Aveda’s new Tulasara line that captured my attention.

This brush first caught my eye:

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This soft brush exfoliates dead skin cells at the surface and preps skin for further treatments. It’s meant to dry brush clean skin and then be followed by this pleasant smelling oil.

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It’s a bit complicated, but Aveda describes using these two products together to create a “Radiant Awakening Ritual” (see the video here) that makes skin glow.

The brush is first swept across the face, neck and upper chest in upward circular motions for a minute, then downward strokes are done to cover the same surfaces. This is followed by application of the above oil, which is massaged into the skin for a minute and then allowed to soak in for four minutes before the skin is cleansed with your regular cleanser.

If you’re puzzled, so was I, and if you’re keeping track, this is now adding a whole extra step to skin care, including making the face oily and then washing said oil off.

For the record, I can get behind the idea that the brush may be gently exfoliating, and while the oil smells pleasant, I haven’t noticed any amazing glow. I’ve been trying to use this in the morning, when my skin is basically clean from the night before. After the oil step, I am using one of my regular cleansers (not Aveda) in the shower to wash my face.

I still love my Bliss toner for general use, but since I was in such an Aveda mood, I also picked up this toner-ish product as a post-cleansing step:

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Two more Tulasara products are rounding out this regimen. The first is this concentrate:

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The texture is ok, maybe a touch sticky but I am also probably using too much at any given time. Of all the products, this one smells the most like kitchen spices. The smell reminds me of these cumin roasted carrots I made over the weekend. 

The final step is this rich moisturizing cream:

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Aveda describes this as an overnight masque, but honestly, it’s like a rich moisturizer that could be used for everyday wear if you have dry skin. The smell is more pleasant than the serum above and I’ve been using it as moisturizer. The Aveda employee who helped me at the Experience Center mentioned this was perfectly fine to do, but he cautioned that this doesn’t have SPF in it. Good to know.

Was this the end of my Aveda spree? Unfortunately, no. I also bought a bunch of hair stuff, which I will review at a later time.

However, they did give me a free head massage, two cups of tea, and a deluxe size bottle of Rosemary Mint concentrate for being such a great customer that day at the new Aveda Experience Center!

While I’m still waiting for an amazing glow and transformation, I have pretty low expectations for these products and am enjoying them for what they are, namely great smelling lotions/potions/elixirs that promise a Zen-ish lifestyle to which I aspire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trying My Hand at Milk Bar’s Compost Cookies

Last year during a trip to Washington, D.C., one of my (many) must-do stops was the D.C. outlet of Milk Bar, a renowned NYC bakery from chef Christina Tosi.

Since my visit was in May and the weather was warm and sunny, most people in line were ordering Milk Bar’s famous soft serve “cereal milk” ice cream, which is infused with brown sugar and corn flakes so that it tastes like the milk at the bottom of a bowl of sweetened cereal. 

I had my eye on something else: compost cookies.

Here’s their description from Milk Bar’s website:

Packed with pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, graham cracker, butterscotch and chocolate chips, this cookie strikes the perfect balance between salty and sweet!

I agreed 100% after trying one, but had to have a second cookie the following day to confirm. Thorough research, etc.

Considering that I live far, far away from any of the Milk Bar bakeries (probably a good thing), I was pretty jazzed to discover Compost Cookie mix last week at Target.

This mix retails for $4.99 and is supposed to make 12 cookies. You are required to add one egg, 4 tablespoons of butter, and crushed pretzels and potato chips.

I skipped the pretzels, mostly because we didn’t have any.

The dough was incredibly sweet, almost too much, but I powered through some tastes for the sake of being a thorough reporter. You’re welcome.

Even without the pretzels, I still had enough dough to make 15 – not 12 – cookies.

I baked them for 11 minutes at 375 F and that was probably a minute too long.

They were slightly more done that I normally would have liked.

I had one with a glass of almond milk while they were still warm.

It was chewy and delicious.

Milk Bar is extremely generous with their recipes. If you’re not as lazy as I am, you can make almost all of their bakery items from scratch using recipes found here. 

P.S. While I was all about the compost cookie in this post,  I would give an even higher rating to Milk Bar’s Birthday Cake Truffles, which are out of this world, dangerously delicious. Fortunately there isn’t a mix for these.

 

 

 

 

 

Terrific Customer Service from Lo&Sons

I’ve posted thoughts about Lo&Sons before, including my review of their O.G. bag.

To be fair, I mentioned that the one time I tried to take it on an overnight trip, it didn’t hold as much as I wanted and I decided to use it for single use trips only, like work or the gym.

Even though I bought the bag in November 2016, I’d only used it a handful of times until two weeks ago, when I decided to take it to work out.

I packed shoes, a bag of cosmetics, a brush, and workout clothes. Nothing excessive by any stretch of the imagination.

When I went to zip the bag, the zipper promptly split.

Permanently.

I tried every trick I knew to get the teeth back on track, to no avail.

I finally switched out my stuff into a crummy re-usable grocery bag that I got for free from somewhere and headed off to the gym.

Later that day, I sent an email to Lo&Sons – almost on a whim – expressing my sadness for the broken zipper and asking if I could return it for a zipper repair, for which I was completely prepared to pay.

Within two hours, I had a most gracious response, asking me for the bag’s serial number and promising to get this sorted out.

Once I located and sent the bag’s serial number, I received another amazingly prompt email with an offer to replace the bag for free, and an apology that the model I had (black nylon with gold zipper) was not currently in stock. My options were to wait for it to become available or choose another color.

Lo&Sons recently introduce a pretty heather blue version of this bag, and it seemed right up my alley. I opted for the blue and received a beautifully packaged, perfect new bag within two days.

I was thrilled and so impressed with the customer service at Lo&Sons.

Customer for life.

 

 

 

 

 

A Disappointing Stitch Fix

Last Friday, I was thrilled to find a new Stitch Fix waiting for me on my front doorstep when I came home from work.

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This quickly turned to disappointment when I opened the box and saw that half of it was occupied by this bag:

Officially, this is called the “Emma Satchel” from Fossil and full retail price is $188, which is also what was listed as the cost by Stitch Fix.

I hated this bag. Immediately.

I hadn’t even looked at the price before I knew I hated it, and when I read the styling note, I was surprised to find out it was leather. It looked like pleather; this was definitely a cheap looking bag.

The contrast stitching was ugly and the bag did not seem well constructed. Also, Fossil is not a brand I would normally buy, although I can’t really explain why other than there are a million other brands out there that I like better. It feels more like a tween or teen brand to me, but I am willing to be wrong on this.

Regardless, this bag was NOT for me and I already knew that I would be sending items back.

Next up:

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Objectively, this Market and Spruce blouse is not hideous. Here is a close up of the bird print:

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Subjectively, this blouse is almost exactly like at least 5 other tops I have received from Stitch Fix, so it didn’t feel like a fresh wardrobe choice at all. As I recently posted, I am leaning toward modern silhouettes lately, and this did not fit the bill.

Decision made to send it back.

Same problem here:

This was a flowy navy print tank top. Two years ago, I would have kept it. Now, not so much.

Back it went.

This was the hardest decision:

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This is a knit top with a sweater-y material for the body and jersey (very soft) sleeves. The color is brick red.

Somehow I missed the elbow patch details the first time around:

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Out of everything in this Fix, this was the piece I liked the most. It was priced at $54, but with my $20 use-it-or-lose it styling credit, it would have been $34. In the end, I was so irritated with this Fix that I packed it all up and sent it back (spoiler!), but there were points between sealing the envelope and mailing it that I contemplated keeping this top.

Here was the decision maker:

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These jeans.

I don’t even know where to begin.

If I hated the Fossil bag, I *despised* these jeans with the heat of a thousand white suns.

These Liverpool distressed jeans are very similar to at least two pairs of jeans I have received, as well as a pair of jean shorts (which I surprised myself by loving).

Except: these jeans have a horrible, horrible wide leg capri cut. 

They are extremely similar to this, minus the distressed bits:

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These take Mom Jeans to a new, hideous level.

Gone.

The decision making for this Fix was my fastest ever. I was annoyed to the point of anger and had everything packed back in the return envelope within 20 minutes. Spouse even dropped it off at the Post Office the next morning to figuratively take out the garbage ASAP.

Sigh. So disappointing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Pieces

I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but lately my clothes just don’t feel modern to me.

While I love, love, love a bold statement necklace and wearing scarves, those looks aren’t feeling fresh to me any more.

Photographic evidence from the blog of my statement necklace/scarf fixation:

Maybe it’s because I’ve been following Unfancy, a minimalist wardrobe blog, or perhaps I’ve just spent too much time browsing at Jenni Kayne.

Regardless, the looks I’m gravitating to lately skew like this:

The above is all from the Spring 2017 M.M. LaFleur collection.

Here’s Everlane.

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Speaking of Everlane, how fabulous are these shoes?

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I put myself on the waitlist for these. 

 

 

Orangetheory Fitness and Me

I recently started attending classes at Orangetheory Fitness.

Here’s a description of the workout from the Orangetheory website:

Our heart-rate monitored, high-intensity workout is scientifically designed to keep heart rates in a target zone that spikes metabolism and increases energy.

Here’s my take: This is a killer workout that uses heart rate monitors to force you to your breaking point.

The ostensible goal is to get 12-20 minutes per workout in the “Orange Zone,” where you are working at 84-91% of your maximum heart rate.

Ok, this is really hard to do.

The hour-ish long workouts combine running (or walking) on a treadmill, rowing and calisthenic exercises, usually with hand held weights.

Participants spend about half of the workout on the treadmills and rowing machines, and the other half in the weight area. The cardio time consists of stints of working at Base Pace (which is what I would consider my normal running pace, maybe 6.3-6.5 MPH, or a 9:30-9:10 minute pace per mile), Push Pace (1-2 MPH over Base Pace), and All Out Intervals, where you just go nuts and run until you feel like your heart will explode.

Why I decided to try this:

  • I love running and have been working hard for the past six months or so to get faster. Speed work – which the Orangetheory workouts naturally include – are a necessary pain to achieve that goal.
  • I secretly have always wanted to be a rower. Spouse was on the crew team in college and later taught me to row. I regret not trying it earlier, especially in college because I think I would have been pretty damn good at it.
  • While I love to do cardio, I hate to lift weights. Without the pressure of a personal trainer or a group, I just won’t do it. And I know weight lifting is important to overall conditioning.

Here’s a dirty secret about Orangetheory: if you’re already in good cardiovascular shape when you join, it’s going to be really, really challenging to get 12-20 minutes in the magic Orange Zone during the class.

For me, getting to the Orange Zone requires running on the treadmill at a speed of at least 7.5-8 MPH, which is waaaaaaay faster than my normal pace.

And it is super uncomfortable to do so.

On the flip side, if you’re not in good cardiovascular shape, you could easily get to the Orange Zone just by briskly walking on the treadmill at a modest incline.

I routinely see people get 20+ minutes in the Orange Zone, whereas it is a struggle for me to reach 12. This is humbling. It is hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that while I am working extremely hard, I need to work harder. Part of me always wants to throw in the towel and feel Good Enough with what I’m doing, which is often a lot more treadmill work than the person next to me.

But I guess that’s the whole point of Orangetheory. Push. Push. Push.

Yesterday was particularly humbling: I went to a class and got zero Orange Zone minutes.

My heart rate monitor read a steady 112 BPM even when I was running 8 MPH at a 5% incline.

Something was not right.

At the end of the class, I approached the (very fit) front desk worker and said that my heart rate monitor did not seem to be working. He asked me to show him how I was wearing it, which prompted lifting my shirt and providing an embarrassing display of my abdomen to the entire studio.

Turns out, I was wearing the heart rate monitor upside down, and it will definitely not work properly that way. Whoops.

Big sigh for my life.