Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Color Me Happy

I love today's dress for its unique array of blues, yellows, reds, pinks and more. Just looking at this cacophony of colors brings up images of fireworks, a trip to the circus, being outside in summer... an overall feeling of happiness. Even though the Ikat pattern is one I've seen everywhere lately, French Connection still manages to make this piece stand out.


Dress; French Connection Matos Ikat Pattern Cotton Sheath Dress

As with any French Connection dress, you get what you pay for: the dress is cheaply made, and not lined. The cotton easily wrinkles, and I recommend you add Spanx underneath to smooth out your curves. The dress works for a day at the office or an evening out; you can dress it up or down with shoes and accessories.

I wanted to play on the fun color combinations of the dress, so I paired it with these Loeffler Randall Piper Wedge Scallop Sandals. I knew I would be spending a few hours in interviews today -- Local Marketing, Inc., is hiring! -- so I needed to look professional but still approachable.

You can buy the dress online at Nordstrom Rack (for just $39.50), the French Connection website, or Asos.com.

Atlanta is still enjoying temperatures in the upper 60s/low 70s, and I am definitely taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather. I even ate lunch outside today. OK, yes, it was a working lunch, but it was still lunch outside in January. I'll take it.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Tips for Shopping Designer Brands at Amazon

Over the years, I've become a very savvy bargain online shopper. Remember Carrie Bradshaw's mantra that "shopping is my cardio"? Well, online shopping is something of a sport to me, too... only I don't get to burn calories doing it.

Amazon is one of the best places to find deals on designer brands. Take today's dress, for example:


Originally priced at $218, I found this Eva Franco dress on sale at Amazon for just $38. And the dress, in case you can't tell from the photo, is absolutely beautiful. In fact, it could probably serve as someone's wedding dress if they wanted to keep things low-key. The dress is a gorgeous champagne color with a subtle silver pattern, and the overall silhouette is extremely flattering. It may be a little too dressy for work, but dressing up makes me feel so happy, so... why not?

Outfit Details:

Dress: Eva Franco Zander High Low Fit and Flare Dress

Shoes: Kate Spade New York Isa Ankle Strap Dress Sandals

The dress is still available at Amazon and a few other retailers (Zappos, Lord & Taylor, and Dillard's), though not for the low price I paid. It's also available in silver on EvaFranco.com. Read my tips below for bargain hunting on Amazon.


A Fashionista's Tips for Shopping Designer Brands at Amazon

1. Start an Amazon Wishlist 

The easiest way to keep track of items you want on Amazon is to organize them in a Wishlist. If the item on your list has this notice -- Ships from and sold by Amazon.com -- then your Wishlist will actually note if the price has dropped since you added it! It will also tell you how many items are left in your size, creating a sense of urgency if there are only one or two left.

2. Use the App to Regularly Check on Items You Want

It's important to keep a close eye on the items in your Wishlist. Prices can change daily, and will fluctuate up or down depending on demand. I've seen items at 75% off jump back up to full price because there is only one left in stock. The Amazon app makes it really easy to peruse your Wishlist to see if those items you want have been reduced to a price you're comfortable paying. And remember: never pay full-price.

3. Be Willing to Take a Risk

Amazon will NOT price match on items like dresses and shoes, so once you pay for an item, you are paying the advertised price -- even if the item's price drops even further. Sometimes I feel like I am a stock broker, watching a dress like it's a stock on NASDAQ, waiting to see if the price will go up or down, and if it's time to buy or continue waiting. It's actually kind of fun.

4. Don't Turn Your Back Too Soon

I've definitely been in situations where I bought too early, and weeks or even days later saw the price drop again. It's harder for me to keep track of these items, since once you buy an item off your Wishlist, it's removed, but if you paid a lot or are having buyer's remorse, just add it again or add it to your favorites. It can't hurt to keep watching the price.

In cases where a dress or pair of shoes I've bought saw another huge price drop, I will return the item if (a) I have not yet worn it, and (b) I can save more than $50.

All I do is buy the item at the reduced price and return the previously purchased item. Yes, it's an extra hassle, but if I'm saving money, it's worth it. If you don't get free return shipping on your item, if you contact customer service and explain the situation, they will usually gift you with the free return shipping label.

5. Keep an Eye Out for Your Friends

Sometimes I may come across an item I love, but my particular size is still full-price, while another size is crazy cheap. (It happens all the time on Amazon.) If the dress is one I think a friend will like, I will send her the link. I'm happy to do it for anyone who is willing to tell me their dress or shoe size.

Shopping online is an escape for me. I work really hard, so when I'm home just sitting in front of the television, I'll often be browsing my favorite sites to see if there is a new deal to be found. Aside from my running, shopping is definitely my favorite sport.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Evolution of Tibi

I recently purchased my first Tibi dress from one of my favorite boutiques in Atlanta... or so I thought. It turns out, I sort of already have a few Tibi dresses in my closet, albeit under the label 4.collective.

After doing some research, I realized that 4.collective, another dress brand that I love, is actually Tibi in a slightly different marketing package.


Learning the best ways to market your own business is something I understand all too well. My company first started out as Meta Media, Inc., an e-commerce consulting business, then morphed into Local Marketing, Inc., around when the recession hit. The change was mainly to help open up our target audience; simply by changing our name, we could focus on a lot more potential business. We were using the same marketing techniques as on the e-commerce side, just using them to promote services instead of products for purchase.

The strategy worked, and Local Marketing, Inc. is now our main focus. You just never know where life is going to lead you.

Outfit of the Day

Dress: Tibi Felted Embroidery Lace Dress

The dress is a little itchy, but otherwise I love it. (I think I may actually be allergic to wool.) It's hard to tell in the photo, but the lace sides and top are actually in a beautiful mint green color. I'm a huge fan of that hue, and have the perfect mint green Kate Spade bag to match.


Shoes: Prada Laser Cut Leather Cutout Ankle Booties (no longer available)

The weather is already warming up in Atlanta, so I don't think I will need to wear wool any other day this week. By Friday, it's supposed to be 71 degrees! I know -- it's hard to believe -- but that's Atlanta weather for you.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Hibernating

Atlanta has had some freakishly cold temperatures the last few days, so this past weekend, I spent most of my time cuddling on the couch under a blanket with Norman and Wally. I'm behind on season three of The Affair, so I enjoyed watching the first five episodes of the season back to back, sipping green tea, and just relaxing. I don't think I ever left the house except to workout and walk the boys. It was a good (if low-key) weekend.


Today's dress is in one of my favorite colors: burgundy. I think it's also one of my best colors in terms of complementing my hair, eyes and overall complexion. My worst color, on the other hand, is light pink. Darker shades just seem to work better on me.

Dress: BCBGMaxAzria Aileen Lace Handkerchief Hem Dress

The dress is still available at Bloomingdale's, Saks and BCBG.com (in a powder blue color). It's a really comfortable dress, and I like that the hemline is a little different. I have so many fit and flare dresses in my closet, so things like an asymmetrical hemline help this dress stand out.

Sandals: Jimmy Choo Nude Tallow Sandals (no longer available)

I know, I'm crazy for wearing sandals in winter, but it really doesn't bother me. I'm really just sitting at my desk most of the day, and I'm all about "suffering" for fashion anyway.

P.S. If you look closely, you can see my neighbor's dog (pooping) in the background of the photo. Talk about a photo bomb!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cheering Up Drab Days

Winter -- January in particular -- is a difficult time of year for me. I hate the cold, and I especially hate dressing for cold weather. Atlanta is due to get some (possible) snow this weekend, and the temperature is already dropping.

The best way to cheer up a drab winter day is through color. That's why I chose this neon pink and blue Shoshanna dress to wear today.

I was reminded of this fact during a recent viewing of the movie Enchanted, which seems to be on Starz about every day. There's a line from the song, "That's How You Know," that goes: "Does he... send you yellow flowers when the sky is grey?" It's all about doing little things for the person you love, small signs of your affection, and that's one of my favorite lines. It works just as well with fashion!

Outfit Details

Dress: Shoshanna Laisa Tweed Dress (no longer available)

I wish this dress was a little shorter, and had a little more structure to it, but I bought it on sale (75% off), so I'm not complaining.  The material is quite beautiful in person. It's hard to see in the photo, but the color is eye-catching and vibrant. I love the silver thread interwoven into the chevron print, too. In the right light, it truly sparkles.


Shoes: Manolo Blahnik Didin Strappy Sandals in Pink

The sandals are still available in gold -- and they're on sale! Beware: they run narrow.

I have a particular fondness for the movie Enchanted, not just because it's a super cute movie -- how could you not love Amy Adams after seeing her in this role? -- but because it evokes such wonderful memories for me, of a time before life became really hard.

I remember watching this movie at home in the summer of 2008. I was home by myself, hanging out with George and Izzie. Grad school was winding down -- I would graduate in the next month -- I had cookies baking in the kitchen, and I just remember being so happy. I would twirl around with George, then Izzie, to the songs in the movie, giggling so hard I could barely catch my breath. Izzie wasn't yet sick, George was still healthy, and I had just turned 30. Life was good. I hope I get to have a lot more memories just like that one in this new year.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Kicking Off 2017 (in Bed)

It's been a busy (and sickly) few weeks. Although I love the holidays, I did not love being sick. I've basically been battling a cold, then a sinus infection, since we returned from our Cayman Islands vacation. I spent New Year's Eve, and the days surrounding it, in bed with hot compresses on my face, a box of tissues nearby, and a stream of pills to help keep my pain at bay (Tylenol, Sudafed, Alka-Seltzer Cold, and -- finally -- antibiotics). Today is the first day I truly feel like I'm on the mend.

Chapin was also sick, so we kept ourselves busy watching Netflix for the entire long weekend. We were a pathetic pair. The changing weather has also not helped things. It was cold, then warm, then rainy, and today's it's humid and in the 60s (as you can tell from my frizzy hair).


I'm hoping that things will only get better from here, even though we're in January, which has typically not been a good month for me. Maybe this year will be different.

Outfit of the Day

Today's dress is one I forgot I owned, because it was stuck in my second closet (and way in the back). It's a classic LBD (little black dress) with a little cap sleeve and square neckline, meaning it's perfect for a curvy figure. I also got quite a few compliments on these shoes!

Dress: French Connection Black Cap Sleeve Square-Neck Dress


The dress is no longer available, but here are two similar styles you may want to check out:

Pumps: Kate Spade New York Larisa Dress Pumps

This particular pattern is sold out online, but Amazon has the pumps in another print (sizes are limited) that you can still buy.

Here's hoping to a healthy and prosperous 2017!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

All I Ever Wanted

Chapin and I took a long overdue vacation this month -- our first real vacation in about three years. We've taken long weekends here and there, but it had been way too long since we escaped to somewhere far away for a full week to just rest and relax.

Our destination: The Cayman Islands.

Sunset, Grand Cayman, December 2016
Day 1: Arrival (Saturday, December 10th)

We left Atlanta on a Saturday. The week leading up to our departure had been cold and rainy, so we were excited to get away. Chapin dropped Wally and Norman off at my parents' house, where they would spend the week following my mother's every move, and then we were on our way.

The flight to Grand Cayman from Atlanta is quick and easy: just two and a half hours. I watched Bad Moms on the plane, read a little of my book, tried not to annoy Chapin too much, and by then we had arrived.

Here are a few tips when traveling to the Cayman Islands:

  • Bring a pen. Chapin and I had to fill out our little customs form at the last minute, because we both forgot to pack a pen. This rule is actually a good one to follow any time you leave the country.
  • Go the bathroom before you get off the plane. The entire airport is being renovated, and the line to get into the country was long, so if you have to go to the bathroom, use the one on the plane before you depart. You can thank me later.
  • Arrange travel from the airport to your hotel ahead of time. Apparently, taxi drivers can charge whatever they want in the Cayman Islands, and they often take advantage of visitors. We should have asked if our hotel, the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, had a shuttle or other means to pick us up from the airport. Fortunately, we lucked out, and the fare was reasonable.
Other than that, our travel to the Cayman Islands went very smoothly!

Once we arrived, we walked from our hotel to Coconut Joe's for lunch. I enjoyed a delicious salad with grilled jerk shrimp on top. The seafood there was wonderful during our entire stay.

After lunch, we spent a few hours at the beach. The days were short there, with the sun rising early and setting before dinnertime. After the sun was down, we enjoyed some live music and food (nachos) at the hotel. It was a good way to ease into our week in the Caymans.

Day 2: Scuba Diving Refresher (Sunday, December 11th)

Chapin and I were up early on our first full day in the Caymans for a scuba diving "refresher" with DNS Diving. Dive Masters Sarah (American) and Simon (Australian) picked us up from the hotel at 7:15 a.m. Chapin got certified in high school, and then went through the certification process again with me in August 2012. But after completing our open water dives in the Florida Keys, neither of us had been diving since.

That said, we needed a quick refresher. I had a minor freak out moment once we started descending, but was fine once we were under the water. It's not scary; it's more about controlling your breathing and feeling comfortable using the regulator. Plus, it had been over four years since our last dive. Scuba diving is definitely something you feel more comfortable with the more you often you do it!

Refresher Dive Location: Shore Dive From Macabuca

First Dive of the Trip: December 11, 2016. I was just getting used to diving again.

Post Dive Selfie with Chapin. My nose turned purple from mask squeeze or broken blood vessels. (I'm still not sure what happened.)

We earned our dinner that night (scuba diving actually burns a lot of calories), so we decided to try another restaurant we could walk to: Craft Food and Beverage Co. This great gastro pub served a variety of different dishes. Chapin had the duck special and I had something called a Tuna Poke, which was basically a tuna and avocado seaweed salad.

Day 3: Full Day at the Beach (Monday, December 12th)

Monday was the first full day we spent at the beach. We slept in, and decided to try breakfast at a local restaurant: Cimboco. We could walk there, and the food was excellent, especially the potatoes. I always wake up starving, so breakfast is essential for me.

We spent the rest of the day at the beach, just lounging, drinking and reading. The hotel offers beach chairs that are almost right in the water. You look up, and there's ocean. It was wonderful. Chapin and I agreed that it was the best beach from our (limited) travels. (We've also been to beaches in the U.S., Costa Rica, St. Thomas and Puerto Rico.)

Although we basically did nothing the whole day, we treated ourselves to a lovely dinner out at Agua Restaurant and Lounge. (Drinks like Pina Coladas fill you up, so I think we even skipped lunch that day.) It was a fancy place, so we dressed up, and we both enjoyed wonderful seafood for dinner.

I wore this cute Parker Holly Strapless Floral Lace Combo Dress for dinner out at Agua. You can still find it online at Saks and Amazon! I'm wearing a size small for reference.


Day 4: Time to Dive (Tuesday, December 13th)

Tuesday, it was time for our first real dive of the trip. After feeling cold on the refresher dive, I decided to wear my wetsuit. The water was around eighty degrees, but it didn't feel that way to me.

A wetsuit is a smart fashion choice when scuba diving. It not only keeps you warm, but protects you from things in the ocean that can prick or sting you, like coral and jellyfish. (On my first open water dive in the Florida Keys, I was stung everywhere that wasn't covered by the wetsuit, mainly my neck, wrists and ankles. Thankfully, there were no jellyfish spotted in the Caymans.)

I was much calmer during the boat ride out to our first diving spot, though still a little nervous. The other divers, aside from Chapin, were two older American couples who had been diving for years. Talking to them definitely put me at ease.

We had great weather and the dives were both fantastic. We saw some amazing fish, coral reefs and even a turtle.

Dive Locations: Hepp's Wall and Bonnie's Arch



We were exhausted after diving, so even though we just spent the rest of the day at the beach, we ended up just staying at the hotel for dinner. It was a Mexican theme night! I wore this cute Blithe sundress and Coach Clarabel Studded Flat Sandals for the walk downstairs to the hotel restaurant.

Staying In: We dressed up for dinner in the hotel restaurant.
On the Grounds at the Marriott: We took some photos outside before dinner.
Day 5: Reading for Me and Scuba Diving for Chapin (Wednesday, December 14th)

Chapin decided to get an extra day of diving in, but I wanted a day of rest, so we spent a little time apart on Wednesday morning. While Chapin was off diving -- he did Portobello and a drift dive from Lighthouse Point to Bonnie's Arch -- I stayed at the hotel, had a leisurely breakfast, and read outside.

I will say that we really enjoyed the coffee the hotel served. We found out later it was Paradise Coffee Grand Cayman. We even bought a few bags to bring home. Unfortunately, it seems like a hard brand to find in the States. Oh well! I will enjoy the coffee while I can.

I finished two books and started a third during the trip:


I just loved the Valley of the Moon, which I finished when we returned from the trip. But I read the majority of it at the beach, and just devoured every minute. I enjoyed The Rosie Effect and laughed out loud several times (though not as much as the original), tolerated The Singles Game, but loved Valley of the Moon

I guess that's my ideal vacation: beach, reading, eating and relaxing!

Dinner that night was a bit of an adventure. We planned to go to one restaurant, but ended up at another. There was no signage out front, so we thought we were at the right place until we sat down, ordered drinks, and started looking at the menu.

We were actually at a restaurant called Le Vele, although we had planned to go to another restaurant called Casanova for some Italian food. It turns out, Le Vele had just opened, and we ended up enjoying the meal. I had a dish with three kinds of risotto on one plate!

Risotto at Le Vele

After dinner, we had a drink and dessert at the hotel. It served this amazing salted caramel ice cream dessert that was worth every calorie!

Day 6: Another Day of Diving (Thursday, December 15th)

We decided to do one last day of diving in the Caymans, and I probably enjoyed these dives the best out of all the dives on the trip. I was definitely starting to feel more comfortable under the water, and I had worked out the kinks on some of my first dives. (I was heavily weighted on the first dive. They had mixed up the weights for me and Chapin, so I spent most of that dive trying to stay out of the sand.)


Dive Locations: Northwest Point and Spanish Anchor




After we returned from our dives, we walked over to Camana Bay, a shopping area with a movie theater, restaurants and retail stores. It reminded me a lot of Atlantic Station here in Atlanta. We ate lunch at Waterfront Urban Diner, grabbed some gelato at Gelato and Co., and walked around.

We had a little bit of beach time before it was time to shower, change and dress for dinner at Blue Cilantro. Chapin picked out the night's restaurant, and it was my favorite meal of the trip. It was an easy walk from the hotel, and the food and wine were wonderful. The sommelier even came over and chatted with us after praising us for our wine selection.

I wore this beautiful Black Halo Lopez Sheath Dress in hot pink for dinner at Blue Cilantro. I recently had it altered, and it fits my body perfectly. You can still buy the dress at Saks or in black at BlackHalo.com or Amazon.

Fashionista on Vacation: Wearing Black Halo for dinner out in the Caymans.
Day 7: Final Full Day of Leisure (Friday, December 16th)

On our last full day in the Cayman Islands, we decided just to sit back and relax. We slept in, had breakfast at the hotel, and spent the day at the beach. We snorkeled a good bit, and relaxed in the sand. It was a great day!

Snorkeling at the Hotel: We didn't have to leave the Marriott to enjoy snorkeling.

Snorkel Selfie
For dinner that night, we finally ate at Casanova, and it was wonderful. I wore another Black Halo dress for the occasion, and we got a great photo in front of the setting sun.

People complimented me left and right on this dress. Some woman even yelled a compliment across the street as we were walking back to the hotel after dinner. Too funny! You can still buy the Black Halo Jevette Sheath Dress at Saks Off Fifth, or at BlackHalo.com. It also comes in a navy blue if you don't like the "jigsaw rose" pattern I'm wearing.


Day 8: Time to Head Home (Saturday, December 17th)

We spent our last day in the Caymans at the beach, doing more snorkeling and just sitting by the ocean. Soon, we were at the airport and heading home to Atlanta and our pugs. Although I missed home, we had a wonderful week away, and I highly recommend the Caymans as a relaxing vacation destination.

Here's my favorite photo from the trip: our scuba selfie!

Scuba Selfie