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Sunday Night Baking – Homemade Oreos

One of my favorite ways to cap off the weekend is to do a bit of baking on Sunday. Baking demands one’s full attention, so there is little room for thoughts of the impending Monday morning. I always end up feeling both relaxed and productive (provided the recipe doesn’t flop, of course).

Allow me to set this evening’s scene: fresh from a run and a shower, I piled all my hair on top of my head and threw on a great summer maxi dress. As the sounds of Frank Sinatra fill my apartment, I set out all the ingredients and go about my task.

Tomorrow’s occasion is a pizza party for one of the guys at work who is getting married next weekend. Even though there isn’t a bridal shower equivalent for guys, any wedding is an excuse to throw a party!  In keeping with the Americana of a pizza party, and because a salty slice or two (or three) generally leaves me craving something sweet, I chose to make Smitten Kitchen’s Homemade Oreos.

As a baker, I always hope for at least one wobbly, misshapen cookie (or piece, or slice) that will serve as my official “test”.  This recipe did not let me down. It made 19 sandwiches, 18 of which fit perfectly in my Tupperware container. Success!

For the record: I twist my Oreo apart and eat the plain cookie side first. Save the best for last, naturally!

 

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Watch the buttery dough get nice and shiny

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Dollops of “stuff”

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Packed up and ready to go!

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For those who are curious, my manicure is Deborah Lippmann Naked, one of my all-time favorite classic shades.

Happy baking everyone!

xoxo

Hat: Vineyard Vines, Dress: J.Crew, Champagne: Veuve Clicquot

Veuve Clicquot Polo Match

A bit of a delay in getting around to posting these photos…but a fabulous Manhattan summer event nonetheless. Already looking forward to next year!

Hat: Vineyard Vines, Dress: J.Crew

(Click on any of the photos to enlarge them and start a slide show)

 

Road test: Nike Lunaracer 3

I think we can all agree that physical fitness is integral to our personal health. Without veering into controversial territory, we can probably also agree that physically fit, healthy people are more visually appealing in the Ballroom. I call your attention to Gisele Bundchen at the 2014 Met Ball Gala for any who are apt to disagree.

But what about in the Boardroom? There’s a WSJ article from January 2013 which tries to articulate the relationship between executives and physical fitness.  Does one’s physical appearance of fitness (or lack thereof) affect colleagues’ perception? Whether a factor of simple human nature or some advanced concept of societal pressure, all but the most saintly are prone to judgement of others.

Perhaps even more importantly, our physical appearance affects our perception and opinion of ourselves.

Being fit is equal parts physical (muscular structure, weight, height, gender) and emotional (confidence). One of my favorite lines from the WSJ article is, “Executives who were part of the study say it’s difficult to say how much of the perceived bias stems from their physical weight and how much from their own projected insecurity [emphasis added].” This means that no matter how many studies are done and how close you are to having the perfect BMI or perfect fat percentage, to some extent, your own confidence and security can help drive another person’s perception in a positive direction.

My message is simple: make the time to work out but don’t go crazy. Let those good endorphins fill your day with confidence.

While I am by no means a fitness fanatic, I strongly advocate being fit and healthy. Some days, I choose to pursue fitness gently – whether that be stretching while watching TV or going for an hour walk after dinner. Other days, I’ll run a few miles in my favorite park.

Now that summer has officially arrived, I tossed out my (very old) Brooks running shoes, and bought a new pair of Nikes.

I couldn’t be happier. The lovely salesgirl at Lady Foot Locker helped me to choose the right shoe for my arches (high), my weight, and my target mileage per week (15). My Brooks trainers were extremely low profile (and quite beaten up) so my heels had started to ache after a run. My new choice, the Nike Lunaracer 3, is an ultra lightweight stability running shoe with a modest cushion in the heel. No more aches!  Other perks: breathable fabric, a stitched tongue that doesn’t move, and laces that don’t have to be double-knotted (which sounds so minuscule, but stopping to tie one’s shoes mid-run is totally deflating!).

As to the color and style, let this be the final word: whenever I see the flashy pink sitting by my door, they beg me to put them on and take them outside. I put on my Pandora Top Hits radio and hit the asphalt.

Cheers to a long and lean summer!

xoxo

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Double-Duty Weekend

Last weekend called for some innovative packing. And by innovative, I mean not packing at all.

With two formal events to attend in Connecticut, I opted to do Rent the Runway and have my dresses shipped up on Friday. This completely avoided any worrisome packing details, such as having to bring a suitcase and garment bag on the subway, to the office, in a cab, in a train, and finally in my dad’s car.

On Saturday, I attended our dear family friend Cindy’s wedding.

For the occasion, I chose a resplendent Erin Fetherston dress. From this photo, you can only see the back (which was absolutely gorgeous and sheer, with a easy-to-tie, perfectly-sized floppy bow). For a better look at the front, I’ve linked above to Rent the Runway. There’s nothing I would change about this dress.  The short front kept things casual, while the long back made me feel elegant, but not overdone. While I would usually wear my hair in long waves, I wanted to show off the pretty bow in the back, so I pulled everything off my face into a low bun. I kept the accessories minimal, and besides a couple of bangles and diamond studs, let the dress speak for itself. I finished things off with a bright pink lip.

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My favorite photo of the day is undeniably the one with my handsome date (my notoriously media-shy little brother).  A very sweet, but very tipsy lady told us that we were the most gorgeous couple. We let her romantic notions down gently.

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On Sunday, I took my mom and godmother to a Mother’s Day brunch.  I chose to let my hair down (literally) and wear a short, creamsicle-colored, Tibi dress and nude Louboutins. The day dawned blissfully warm and sunny, so the dress worked perfectly. Can I just say that bracelet-length sleeves are my most favorite? I kept the makeup neutral (think: apricot lipgloss and bronzer), but chose a dramatic necklace to pump up the simplicity of the dress.

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All in all, a most wonderful weekend. I must say, one of the best parts was being able to slide the dresses into a UPS envelope and jump on the train with the simplest of overnight bags.  Thanks, Rent the Runway, for another wonderful experience.  We’ll be doing business again soon!

xoxo

Kentucky Derby Party – Part II

Now that I’ve given you all the photos and fashion from Derby day, here is the menu (and recipes!) that conspired to make Kentucky Derby day such a rousing success:

  • Mint Juleps
  • Grilled Pimento Cheese and Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches
  • Watermelon and Feta Bites
  • Charles’ Pan-Fried Chicken (my dear friend H. brought this special delight)
  • Mini Grits and Greens (homemade by the one and only J.D.)
  • Laurie Osteen’s Coconut Cake
  • Other savories: a shrimp platter, Late July Sweet Potato Chips, Maille Cornichons, sweet tea

 

The Perfect Mint JulepIMG_1286
adapted from The Food Network (makes 10-12)
I am so happy I read through the recipe first. This must be made 24 hours in advance for proper marrying of flavors!

Ingredients
4 cups bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark. You’ll need two 750ml bottles)
1 bunch fresh mint
1 cup distilled water
1 cup granulated sugar

Directions

To prepare mint extract, remove about 50 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.
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To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.
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To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.

Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the glass bowl or a pitcher and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.

To serve the julep, fill each glass 1/2 full with ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

Pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice. Serve immediately.

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grilled-pimiento-cheese-and-fried-green-tomato-sandwich-gpc-646Grilled Pimento Cheese and Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches
adapted from Bon Appetit (makes 4)

INGREDIENTS: PIMIENTO CHEESE
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar 1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic paste
Kosher salt

PREP: PIMIENTO CHEESE
Mix mozzarella, cheddar, mayonnaise, cream cheese, roasted pepper, hot sauce, and garlic powder in a medium bowl; season with salt. Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

INGREDIENTS: FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
2 large green tomatoes, sliced 1/3-inch thick (I used 3 small tomatillos instead)
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups panko
Vegetable oil (for frying; about 3 cups)
4 ciabatta rolls, split
8 slices bacon, cooked until crisp

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: A deep-fry thermometer

PREP: FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
Place tomatoes on a large paper towel–lined baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Whisk eggs and hot sauce in a shallow medium bowl. Whisk flour, garlic powder, and paprika in another shallow medium bowl. Place panko in a third shallow medium bowl.

Using paper towels, pat tomatoes dry. Working in batches, dredge in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Coat with egg mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko, pressing to adhere.

Pour oil into a large deep skillet to a depth of 1 inch and heat over medium heat until thermometer registers 350°. Working in batches, fry tomatoes, turning halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes per batch. Transfer to a paper towel–lined baking sheet to drain.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Spread cut sides of each roll with pimiento cheese. Place rolls, pimiento cheese side up, on a baking sheet and broil until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Build sandwiches with rolls, cooked bacon, and fried green tomatoes.

IMG_0055Watermelon and Feta Bites

INGREDIENTS

~2 lbs of cubed watermelon
6-8 ounces feta cheese
4-5 tablespoons of whole milk
1 organic cucumber

PREP

With the small end of a melon baller tool, cut little half rounds out of the center of each cube of watermelon. Whip feta cheese and milk together in a food processor until creamy.  Scoop the cheese into the indentations. Garnish with a tiny slice of cucumber. Place on a platter and serve.

Mini Grits and Greens
adapted from Southern Living by J.D.
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GRITS

  • 1 package of instant grits
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz.) freshly shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

TOPPING

  • 8 oz fresh spinach leaves
  • 3 oz pancetta, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

PREP

  1. Make instant grits according to package directions, using chicken broth as opposed to water. Whisk in Cheddar cheese and next 4 ingredients, whisking constantly until cheese melts. Keep warm.
  2. Stack spinach on a cutting board. Tightly roll up leaves, and thinly slice into 1/8-inch strips. Quarter chorizo lengthwise, and cut into small pieces.
  3. Sauté pancetta in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 2 minutes. Add spinach, vinegar, and sugar. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until greens are bright green and just tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Place about 1 Tbsp. grits into each mini dish, and top with spinach mixture. Serve immediately.

 


Laurie Osteen’s Coconut Cake

from Bon Appetit (serves 10)

When I read this recipe in an old (2013) issue of Bon Appetit, I tore it out immediately and marked it “Kentucky Derby Party.”

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INGREDIENTS

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • All-purpose flour (for pans)
  • 1 15-16-ounce box yellow cake mix
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:  Three 8-inch-diameter cake pans (I ordered mine from Amazon)

PREP

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat cake pans with nonstick spray. Dust with flour, tapping out excess.

Whisk cake mix, eggs, oil, and 1 cup milk in a large bowl until no lumps remain. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans; smooth tops.

Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix coconut, sugar, sour cream, salt, and remaining 1 tablespoon milk in a medium bowl to combine; set frosting aside.

Transfer pans to wire racks; let cool 5 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and spread frosting over tops of warm cakes, dividing evenly. Stack cakes. Let stand at room temperature, covered with a cake dome, or loosely tented with foil, at least 4 hours before serving.

DO AHEAD: Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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Until next year, Derby lovers. xoxo.

Kentucky Derby Party – Part I

After a brief hiatus from the blog, I’ve returned to bring you all the juicy details from this weekend’s Kentucky Derby Party. This post will focus on fashion and images from the party, and in a second post, I’ll provide all the recipes and party tips.

The first Saturday in May brings with it one of the most venerated moments in sports history – the Kentucky Derby.  A member of the esteemed Triple Crown of horse racing (a trifecta completed by the Preakness and Belmont), this race has pomp, circumstance, and tradition for all to enjoy.

This year, I decided to embrace Southern charm and Southern cooking and host a party befitting the race.

First, the hat. Before even sending the invitations, I knew that finding the hat was essential. Luckily, within mere minutes browsing through Etsy, I found a the perfect designer, Eye Heart Me. I fell in love with her creations, and ultimately settled on an ivory and black fascinator that would not only go with any dress I chose to wear, but could be worn for other events in the future. When it arrived in the mail, I was not disappointed. Carefully wrapped and even more beautiful than the photos, the precision and detail of this artisan were clear. It was also very comfortable and easy to wear on the day of the party, and, despite all my hostessing shenanigans, it stayed perfectly in place all day.

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Eye Heart Me fascinator (side view)

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Eye Heart Me fascinator (front view)

 

Mint Juleps, cheddar grits, fried chicken, pimento cheese sandwiches, and sweet tea rounded out the day:

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First guest = first mint julep taste tester. Results = success!

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Cake Topper charges to the finish line!

 

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The take-home treat – a classic blondie (my go-to recipe), wrapped and monogrammed

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Perfection. Charles’ Pan-Fried Chicken. Only in Harlem, NYC.

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Feta and Watermelon Bites

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Be-hatted and be-dazzled

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Mint juleps and mini cheddar grits. Are you hungry yet?

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Classic Southern – Laurie Osteen’s Coconut Cake

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Run, baby, run!

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And a little bubbly to finish things off

 

Get the full menu and recipes here.

xoxo.

Green Your Morning Routine

Hello lovelies!

Kiki here, and I’m so excited to be sharing this post with you today! Mimzy does a fabulous job on this blog and I was so excited and honored to be asked to post on one of my favorite topics… green smoothies!

I hear you rolling your eyes out there and I understand your struggles! I have tried many, many combinations of green smoothies– some which have, quite honestly, tasted like grass. Others have been too fibrous. Some too thin. Some too sweet. But the benefits of drinking a green smoothie in the morning (hello radiant glow and vibrant energy!) kept me trying and refining recipes until I got it just right. Trust me on this one and give it a try!

Without further ado, let’s get started! Here’s what you’ll need:

1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
(if you are using an organic cucumber, you can keep the skin on, but it does make the smoothie more fibrous)
1 handful of washed baby spinach
1-2 leaves of washed romaine lettuce
1 handful of pea shoots (these should be easy to find near the lettuce in your grocery store!)
1 inch of fresh, peeled ginger
1 banana or 1/2 avocado (both options are delicious!)
1-2 TBS lemon juice
a few chunks of frozen pineapple (or mango works great too!)
2 cups of liquid– I use 1 cup water and 1 cup coconut water (just be sure to use unflavored so you can avoid extra and unnecessary sugars!)
smoothie ingredients
Throw it all into a blender (I have a Breville and LOVE it) and mix it up! This will make enough for two smoothies. You could save one for later or share with a friend!

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In addition, I like to add a few extras to boost the nutritional content of my morning smoothie. Below I will show you what I add and why I use it. Feel free to add any or all of these to your smoothie for some added benefits!

Extras:
Chia Seeds (1 TBS) Chia Seeds are loaded with omegas, fiber, and antioxidants. They will help you feel more full!
Flax Seed Meal (1 TBS) Flax Seeds are also chocked full of healthy omega-3’s and fiber!
Camu Powder (1/2 tsp) Camu is chock-full of Vitamin C! You don’t need much here– 1 tsp boasts over 1000% of the daily allowance. No need to worry, your body will rid itself of any extra Vitamin C that you don’t need.
Hemp Seeds (1 TBS) Hemp is full of protein as well as vitamin E and healthy omegas.
Spirulina (1 tsp) This blue-green algae is full of vitamins B, C, D, A, and E. Its benefits also include potassium, calcium, magnesium, and selenium.
Maca Powder (1 tsp) Maca has the benefit of vitamins B, C, and E and also increases energy! Who doesn’t need that? Another possible benefit is that it could help clear up skin and can help balance your mood.
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(Hemp Seeds not pictured)
Enjoy! Until next time….

xo
Kiki

Neutral Dressing

In a passing comment, my boss said, “I am so glad you aren’t afraid to wear color. Too many New York City girls wear all black.”

City girls do get a bad rap. Don’t get me wrong – I certainly appreciate (and utilize, on occasion) the ease of dressing in head to toe black. It is an armor which provides a slimming effect and a resistance to city dust. However, there is also a lot to be said for the joy of dressing colorfully.

Several years ago, a fashion-forward coworker and I had a Khaki & White Challenge.  The rules were simple: wear khaki on the bottom and white on the top to work for one week. If you cracked and wore something with color, you owed the other person dinner. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard! It actually made morning decisions really easy (all those of you who wore uniforms to school can relate).

Hypothetically, if I had to pick only one color that I could wear for the rest of my life (horrors!), I’d choose white. This is a page torn directly from the Olivia Pope book of fashion. Wearing all white is SUCH a powerful statement.

Last week, I chose an outfit based in neutral tones: white, gray, and ivory:

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Dress: 3.1 Phillip Lim for Target. Blazer: Banana Republic.

The dress is a fitted sweater-style, with a loose, pleated hem. The blazer is fitted and structured, as jackets should be. Vogue would tell us that the new neutrals are light in color and turn multi-seasonal when choosing fabric and layering.

SHOP THIS LOOK:

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Victoria’s Secret (Sale $114)

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Vince ($495)

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Club Monaco ($139)

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kate spade ($428)

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Nightcap (Sale $207)

xoxo

Friday Favorite: Living Libations Best Skin Ever

This week, I’d like to mention a remarkable product produced by a lovely Canadian husband and wife.

First, let me forewarn that I do not generally gravitate toward the “all-natural” beauty product market. For skincare, I would rather buy more expensive products from reputable brands several times a year than have a whole arsenal of half-used drugstore wannabes. Clarins and La Mer are two of my favorite splurges (to be reviewed at a later date).

I had never heard of Living Libations until I saw it on my best friend’s Instagram feed in January. Since I know she has super-sensitive skin and struggles to find the right products, I was instantly curious. Also, as a vegan, she has devoted considerable research into the organic and natural beauty market.

I logged onto the website and literally spent hours reading descriptions and reviews for the wealth of the company’s available products. Everyone was raving! I ended up with six items in my cart, but ultimately narrowed it down to the most popular product – “Best Skin Ever” skin oil in Seabuckthorn (they have other fragrances like Rose, but I figured I’d start with the original).

I try to avoid buying unnecessary products (or products that I can’t return). No one wants to be forced to throw something away or be reminded of their folly seeing it their medicine cabinet on a daily basis.

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As someone with naturally oily skin, I was fairly skeptical of the whole skin oil craze. Why do I need more oil on my face? However, after using this product, I was convinced. The oil naturally attracts and removes oil and dirt from your face, leaving behind a natural glow (never slick or greasy). It’s also a great moisturizer. I used it for a few weeks, then brought it home for my mom to try. She was so impressed that I sent her a bottle of her own.

Heed her advice: “Once you find something that works, don’t switch. Beauty products are generally best when you develop consistency and use them over the long term.” I think Best Skin Ever is a new long-term love!

My usage:
AM: Wet face. Put 3-4 drops of Best Skin Ever on the corner of a damp facecloth, and massage over skin in circular motions to exfoliate and cleanse. Rinse and dry face, then continue with normal beauty routine (moisturizer, sunscreen, etc).
AM & PM: Add 1-2 drops of Best Skin Ever to moisturizer and blend into skin. Let the happy glow commence!

Pros:
Every ingredient is good for your skin.
The fragrance is light and beautiful.
At $30.00, Best Skin Ever is at a similar price point to those found at Sephora (Josie Maran, Tarte, etc.).

Cons:
A little pricey to ship internationally. But since you are only using a few drops per day, the bottle lasts for a while. I now order multiple bottles and split them with my mom – problem solved!

(I definitely meant to post this on Friday, but it never made it out of my draft folder. Oops!)

xoxo

Hairstyle From Three Angles: Crown Braid Ponytail

 

 

A little hair inspiration to start the new work week…

One day several weeks ago (pre-haircut), I opted for a tidy but interesting hairstyle at the office. (Is it just me or do braids have a summery vibe? Perhaps it was wishful thinking!)

Regardless, this was a fun way to liven up a basic outfit, and perfect if you are growing out bangs or layers, so I thought I would share.

Step one: side part a two-inch section of hair.

Step two: french braid the section, guiding it around the crown until you pass your right ear, then switch to a regular braid all the way to the bottom. Tie off with a mini-elastic.

Step three: make a ponytail with the rest of your hair.

Step fourLoop the braid around the ponytail to cover the elastic.  Secure the end of the braid with a hair-toned bobby pin under the ponytail.

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Voila! Not too hard if you have medium to long hair and can do the french braid. I might try it out with one or two small, standard braids.

Have a happy start to the week!

xoxo,
Mimzy