Category Archives: Beauty & Style

See Sister at The Rose of Tralee

Last week, I had the pleasure of taking a little trip to County Kerry, Ireland. The idea for the holiday was floated by my friends, Brendan and Beck. Brendan is from Cork and has visited Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula (where we stayed) several times before. In asking a bunch of us if we’d like to go, he mentioned that the trip would coincide with the Rose of Tralee International Festival.

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I can almost see your blank faces and hear the inevitable question: “What on earth is the Rose of Tralee International Festival??”

I’m so glad you asked! In the simplest terms, it’s a strange amateur-ish pseudo beauty pageant competition thing which takes place every August in the small Irish town of Tralee. In truth, there’s really no simple way to explain this event, but I’m gonna give it my best shot in this post. Because while Brendan was definitely joking about the draw of the Rose of Tralee, Louise considered it the best reason for going on the trip. She eagerly waited for tickets to be released and snapped up a handful as soon as she could.

So last Monday, the four of us found ourselves sitting in the “Dome” – a temporary marquee that is decidedly not dome-like in the least – in the midst of a crowd of intense Rose fans, waiting for the first of two live shows to get going. I should mention that two other friends – Sam and Emma – were meant to join us on this trip, but an unfortunately timed and rather grim stomach bug prevented them from coming. This was a bummer for all of us as we were really looking forward to seeing them, but I think it was particularly distressing for Brendan as it meant he had to come along to RoT instead of letting Emma take the fourth ticket for a girls night out.

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Now let me begin to try and explain exactly what this competition is… As I said before, it really is almost beyond explanation, but I will try to convey the amazingness of the experience for you. Louise had actually talked about it before, so it wasn’t a totally foreign concept to me when Brendan mentioned it. Louise became particularly fascinated by it when she happened to cycle through Tralee during the festival several years before. In explaining it to me in the past, she used this clip from beloved 1990’s sitcom Father Ted, which pokes fun at this type of local “lovely girls” competition:

Actually, the real Rose of Tralee does not feel radically different from that. There is something delightfully quaint and non-threatening about the whole thing. It is a million miles removed from the Miss America or Miss USA or Miss Teen USA or Miss Universe beauty pageants I grew up watching. And I think it’s safe to say that the girls competing in the Rose of Tralee would be horrified by the likes of Toddlers & Tiaras and its ilk.

Since when does Miss America get a rose sceptre?

What’s with the rose sceptre? Does Miss America now rule with a flowery fist?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up and deal with the questions I am sure you’re asking – questions like “Who are these women?” or “What are the eligibility requirements?” and “How does one make it to the final?” Oh dear, sweet reader. I wish any of one of these questions had a clear answer.

Despite attending the event in person and reading the website extensively, I am still pretty vague on how the whole thing works. One might expect that it’s just a bunch of Irish ladies, but actually there are women competing from all over the world. At no point during the televised event did anyone explain how the representation works or what the qualifications are. After years of watching Miss America, where every little moment is painstakingly explained as if the audience is a group of particularly stupid toddlers, I found it oddly disconcerting to be so clueless about the process. Therefore, for the benefit of my own sanity and because I am sure you’re all DYING to understand everything about RoT, herewith are some general rules I’ve cobbled together from my experience and perusal of the website:

1. The Roses must have some sort of Irish heritage. That makes sense, right? What is left unclear is the extent of Irish heritage required. Should they be able to trace it on both sides of their family? Do their parents need to be Irish or can it be a grandparent or great-grandparent? Or is it cool if they’ve just got an uncle who moved to Ireland on a whim after a tragic divorce and now speaks in a poor attempt at an Irish brogue? A lot of them seemed to have lived for at least a short period in Ireland – is this a requirement? I literally have no idea.

2. Each Rose represents an “Irish Centre” located somewhere in the world. This year, there were Roses from Canada! Australia! Dubai! England! USA! Luxembourg! Loads of other places! To make things more confusing, sometimes the Rose represents a whole country (i.e. Germany), sometimes she represents a city or state (i.e. London or North Carolina), and sometimes she represents a region (i.e. Western Canada, Southern Australia, or Boston & New England). And then of course, every county in Ireland has it’s own Rose. Again, at no point is it explained why the representation is kind of all over the place.

3. The Rose representing any given Centre does not have to be from that particular location. However, it seems that they do need to be currently living in that location…? So, for example, the Rose from Darwin, Australia (one of my personal faves – more on her below), grew up in Ireland and had only recently moved to Australia and had actually bounced around in Australia before settling in Darwin. That seemed to be more-or-less the story for most of the outside-of-Ireland representatives. There were quite a few who had grown up in Ireland and were now living elsewhere – like Luxembourg or Abu Dhabi – and therefore, represented that place. Even the girls from the States might have grown up in Texas but be currently living in New Orleans or something, but also spent a few of their childhood years living in Ireland while their dad had a midlife crisis. It was supremely confusing.

4. Not all the Roses appear in the live televised events. Apparently (according to the website), there is an earlier event called the Regional Festival which takes place about two months before the final. At that event, which follows the same exact formula as the final, ALL the Roses compete. At that point, they are all known as Regional Roses. It is unclear exactly how many there are – I can find no firm count of the number of Roses or Centres – but judging by the pic of all of them below, it seems to be 60 or so (I didn’t count). From that Regional Festival, 32 girls make the cut for the final competition at which point they become known as International Roses (even though lots of them were already “international”).

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ALL of the Regional Roses

The final is televised over two nights. We went to the first of the two nights and saw 18 of the final 32 girls. Unlike Miss America and other similar pageants, the girls are never whittled down from that 32. They all participate fully until the winner is announced at the end of the second night. The entirety of the “competition” consists of them coming out onto the stage in a fancy dress and chatting for about 5 minutes with the host, local television personality Dáithí Ó Sé (who – I just discovered via Wikipedia – married one of the Roses in 2012. Wonderful.). Seriously, they more or less just have a little talk. They tell some little anecdote, they mention their boyfriend or their parents, they talk about where they live, they probably say something about the charity work they’re doing, they make a few jokes at the expense of their escort*, etc. etc. It’s very much like a late night TV interview where you know the host has been prepped to ask certain questions that lead the guest to tell very specific stories in a seemingly off-the-cuff manner.

There’s no bathing suit competition. There is no evening gown element. They don’t do an en masse choreographed dance at the start of the show or introduce themselves wearing stereotyped kitsch relating to their region/county/state/country (the opening number and weird introduction costumes are always the best part of Miss America, obvs). For some of them, there is literally nothing other than their little convo with Dáithí. They just walk off the stage when they’re done.

But those gals are in the minority; most of them do a little “talent” thing after their interview. And many of them are legitimately talented – Dublin did an impressive bit of Irish dance, Manchester played a tin whistle thingy, and Kerry played the concertina. But to describe this part of the show as a “talent” element is being generous. It’s more like a short little party piece. Think Tootie at the party in Meet Me in St Louis. For instance, Toronto taught Dáithí how to use an ice hockey stick.

A few girls recited/read poems. My favorite poem was an autobiographical selection from Darwin. I am so glad to say that I recorded the whole of this performance; I include it here for your pleasure:

Ah the beautiful lyricism of “my residency papers say I’m a Territorian”.

Okay, so that was a lot said about how it all works (sort of…I still don’t actually know how the judges make their final decision on the winner and I don’t really know what the winner receives other than a tiara) – probably more than you readers ever wanted to know. But hopefully that helps to paint a more vivid picture of our experience last week.

The Dome was pretty much packed with people, but I think I can confidently say that the four of us were the only people there without a personal connection to the festival – be it as a former Rose, a Regional Rose who did not make the cut, the family of a Rose, the friends of a Rose, or like the cousin of one of the cameramen. Nearly everyone was dressed in formal (or at least cocktail) attire, which made us feel woefully underdressed in our one-step-up-from-the-most-casual clothes. Loads of people had banners and flags to support their Rose.

Here’s a poor picture of the crowd, but it gives you an idea of the place:

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For the most part, the audience seemed completely sincere and totally invested in the success or failure of their Rose of choice, which just made our presence there as point-and-giggle spectators all the more obvious and horrible. The best part of the evening came pretty early for me. The first Rose to come out (Scotland) sang a song for her party piece – some Scottish song that I’ve forgotten – and the woman sitting in front of me to the left openly wept. And from what I could tell, she had absolutely no connection to the Scotland Rose; she was there for someone else entirely. She was just overcome. It was so great.

Unfortunately for us, the winning Rose (Philadelphia) was on the second night, so we didn’t see her. In her absence, we all agreed that the best on our night was Abu Dhabi, whose name was – wait for it – Patrice McGillycuddy.

Patrice!

She told a funny story about her car sliding down a hill, she talked about living in Abu Dhabi teaching underprivileged children, she was generally charming and engaging. Best of all, for her party piece was she sang the Cups song from Pitch Perfect – complete with the cup stuff and with a very lovely voice.

Sadly, Patrice was not to be the victor. I have to assume that Philadelphia’s chat was just off the charts interesting and charming and lovely and wonderful. Otherwise, I really don’t know how she could have beat such a delight.

I’ll wrap it up there, because this post is already much longer than what I intended to write. But hey, what can I say? The Rose of Tralee was just such an incredible experience! I’ve really only just touched on its delights and surreality of our night. Just know this, if you ever find yourself in Kerry in the month of August, you should seriously consider getting a ticket.

 

* The escorts are all local Irish boys, who are responsible for looking after the ladies during the competition week. I honestly don’t really know what this involves, and it’s yet another thing that was never really explained. There’s a separate competition for the best Escort, who wins 1,000 Euro, so that’s something! I highly recommend reading through the Escort bios on the Rose of Tralee website. They are a delight.

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See Sister Shop at COS

Fact 1: London is an expensive city.

Fact 2: Clothes in London are reeeaally expensive.

I knew before I moved here that London living would be pricey. And after nearly 5 years living here, I’ve almost gotten used to the steep clothing prices. At the very least, my perceptions have been skewed. I’ll look at a dress with a £75 price tag and think, “Wow, that’s a good deal!” Usually I snap out of this delusion pretty promptly and realize actually, that’s not a great deal. As a result I do a lot of shopping at Gap, which is more reasonably priced and often has sales.

But doing all my shopping at Gap is a little monotonous. Not to mention, I don’t really want to shop at an American store while living in London. Even though I’m not a tourist at all at this point, there is a part of my brain that tells me I shouldn’t be buying things in London that I can get at “home”.

Enter COS.

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COS is my favorite store these days. It’s affiliated with H&M in some way (sister brand? same owners? I’m not clear on the relationship) and specializes in simple, sleek, better-quality-than-H&M pieces. Their collections are largely made up of solid colors. The patterns they do have tend to be geometric and monochromatic. The designs are simple and clean-lined, with an interesting structural detail here and there. It’s not the type of place you’d go to find a fancy party dress, but it’s great for everyday work/casual wear.

The stores have an architectural and minimalist design to compliment the clothes.

Best of all? The prices are (relatively) reasonable and the quality is good!

As I shared in our Favorite Things Post, my favorite item of clothing is a dress, and COS has a multitude of comfortable and versatile dresses. Over the past year, I’ve returned again and again to browse the shop and try on tons of dresses (I sometimes branch out into other items, but there are more than enough dresses to keep me busy). My COS dress total currently stands at 5, and it has required some restraint not to make it more.

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I tend to go for their looser fitting, drape-y dresses. They are super comfortable and very wearable.

That black one on the right is basically just a tent, but I love the way it hangs and moves, which you can kind of see in this picture:

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And the green/blue one is another favorite. I bought it last year as my “Easter” dress and it ended up serving as my “holiday” dress for the rest of the year. The loose fit makes it perfect for those over-eating occasions. Thanksgiving? Check. Christmas? Check.

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I regularly wear all of these dresses to work, but they’re equally suited to the weekends. AND! They work in both warm and cold weather – add some tights and an undershirt when it’s cold; lose the extras when it’s warm.

My most recent acquisition is the white and gray one in the middle up there.

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It hasn’t been warm enough in London yet for me to wear it with sandals like the model here, but I’ve been rocking it with black tights, ankle boots and a black jacket. So yep, works for cold or warm weather and for work or casual. Perfect!

Anyways, the point is: I love COS. And the good news for you Americans is they’re expanding! They are opening (or may have already opened?) a location in NY this spring; and I hear they’ve already got another one planned for the West Coast. For those of you who don’t live in NY or LA, once they’re up and running, you’ll be able to shop online. Woohoo!

See Sister’s Nail Polish Party

Someone in our house just turned FOUR!

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And I knew I was gonna have a baby just before this birthday so I decided months ago to start talking her into a very low-key party. I suggested having a few friends over to paint their nails together. Short. Sweet. Simple.

Lou has been a chronic nail-biter for the past year or so, so I was also motivated to help her break the habit and grow some long gorgeous nails before her birthday. Well, that goal didn’t happen but we still went ahead with the nail polish party plan.

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A month before a Mac was born I also came up with the idea to make hand cookies the girls could decorate with candy buttons for nails. I found a hand cookie cutter on Amazon, and so we had a nail-painting and cookie-hand-decorating party to look forward to. Still pretty simple and sweet.

Three days before her party (aka the night before her actual birthday) I went to Target to purchase her gift. Yep, didn’t have our act together on that one. In addition to picking up her birthday treasures I found nail stickers and two crafts that were nails/ hand oriented!

And bam! While no longer short and simple, Louisa’s 4th birthday party was suddenly spectacular!

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When the girls arrived they each adorned a page from the Melissa & Doug’s Jewelry and Nails sticker pad. Some (above) were simple…

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Others went all out! Is that a necklace in her hair, Gigi?

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When they finished those, we started the nail painting. I didn’t see the need for having Anna at our polish station but the birthday girl said she was key birthday decor.

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Aunt Sarah gifted Lou the base coat and top coat for the non-toxic kid-friendly ***Piggy Paint nail polish that we love.

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Thankfully we had enough mommies and grandmas to help with all the application.

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While girls were waiting for their turn to have their nails embellished, they got to decorate a fancy bracelet. No pics of that part (I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off painting Lou’s nails at that point!) but you can see Lindsay’s pink one on her wrist above.

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Look at the packaging and trust me, they were cute. Thank you to Melissa & Doug*** for inventing the most perfectly appropriate crafts for this day!

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I did make one fatal mistake. We decorated the hand cookies (made ahead of time by my mom- thank you, Juju!) before we ate lunch. See my sample above? Well, the girls weren’t quite as sparing in their decorations.

Showing your age on your fingers is the new black.

Showing your age on your fingers is the new black.

Thus some of the girls got a huge sugar rush before their healthy meal (see Georgia’s hands on the left above). Whoops. Not that I heard any complaints from them.

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After some free play and present opening…

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We sang Happy Birthday to the beautiful birthday girl. Appreciate her shirt with nail polish bottles – found that (a size too big but whatevs) at Crazy 8 the week before her party.

And it was all done. Seriously, my easiest at-home birthday party prep yet (again thank you to Juju for making the cookies!). Everyone had a blast and what started out simple ended up spectacular! I may need to recreate this one for Gigi in a few years.

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***Not an affiliate post! I just genuinely love Melissa & Doug and Piggy Paint!

See Sister’s Passion for Polish

So I really like nail polish. I mean really, really like it.

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Buying new colors is kind of an addiction at this point. On top of that, I’m a nail perfectionist. I put a high premium on neat application, full coverage, and lasting color.

See, the thing is, I haven’t always been crazy about painted nails. When I was a teenager – the age when I theoretically should have been sooooo into painting my nails – I actually really hated it. Or rather, I really hated (and continue to hate) chipped nail polish. It just drives me crazy. Even the most minor chip, the kind that may only be noticeable to me, irritates me to no end. Add teenage impatience and the inability to wait for nails to dry completely to the mix and you get smudges and a girl who just cannot be bothered.

This antipathy to painted nails held until my mid 20s, when Rachel’s BFF (and surrogate Brockman sister) Annie introduced me to the most amazing product. I was admiring her nails at the beach one summer and asked her how she managed to keep them looking so good. She gave a rave review of Revlon’s No Chip Top Coat, claiming that two coats of the stuff on top of her color of choice meant she could do pretty much ANYTHING – wash dishes, cook, arts, garden, crafts, whatever! – without risking flaked polish for at least a week.

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Well, with such an incredible endorsement, I had to try this wonder product for myself. I went out and bought a bottle as soon as possible and haven’t looked back since. It truly is magic. In fact, that gateway polish made me not only a passionate nail painter, but also a Revlon devotee from that point forward. [Seriously, I could write an essay about Revlon polish vs other brands, and the comparative merits of Revlon’s own different lines. I will spare you all, and suffice it to say, that I think their classic polish is best.]

This wondrous product, combined with increased patience in my older, more mature years, means that I can paint my nails now without smudging them immediately or worrying about inevitable chips. Of course, as I am a nail perfectionist, my nail-painting process is quite an undertaking, involving several steps and quite a bit of equipment/product.

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I’ll spare you pictures of every step of what is (admittedly) a rather boring process, but I will give you run down of the step-by-step.

Step 1: Trim and file nails, push back cuticles.

Step 2: Apply a quick rub of moisturizer over nails and soak in warm soapy water for a few minutes.

Step 3: While lotion is still wet on fingers, trim cuticles where necessary. Wipe off excess lotion with nail polish remover. Be thorough! Any residual lotion or water will interfere with the nail polish when you apply.

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Step 4: Apply Revlon Quick Dry Base Coat. While this is not the same wonder product as the top coat, it is very helpful as a base layer and it does dry VERY quickly.

Step 5: Apply nail color (finally!).

I like to do at least two coats of color. That’s usually enough but every once in awhile, I feel like I need a third coat to really get the full coverage I like – especially with lighter colors or metallics. I also always start by applying a little polish on the tip of the nail to give it extra coverage. After all, that’s where a chip is most likely to happen…and I don’t think I need to repeat how I feel about a chip (I hate them).

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Step 6: After waiting for approximately 5 minutes for the color to start to dry and set, apply two coats of No Chip Top Coat.

Step 7: Patiently wait for your nails to dry. I like to wait at least 45 minutes before I do anything that requires especial dexterity.

I know that sounds like a lot of work and lots of steps and lots of sitting around doing nothing. I will grant that my nail painting process is definitely a exercise in patience, but I don’t mind spending an hour or so on my nails every couple weeks or so. I put some mindless TV on and just zone out. It’s strangely relaxing. And I just looooove having neat, bold nails as a result.

The pictures for this post were taken last Saturday morning as I painted my nails before heading to a friend’s wedding. I chose to get a little creative with two different colors: black and sparkly silver. Or to call them by their appropriate names: Knockout and Rich (don’t even get me started on the fun of nail polish names!).

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As I mentioned in the nail stickers post, I am not hugely into nail art because it’s time consuming, but I have embraced the one-nail-in-a-different-color trend to a certain extent. And on Saturday I went as far as asymmetrical hands! Living on the edge, folks. On. The. Edge.

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So, how have they held up this week? After all my claims about Revlon’s AMAZING polish, I am sure you are all dying to know.

Welllll, here they are today, six days later:

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You can see that the polish is starting to slightly pull away from the nail beds, and if you look reeeeeally closely, you can see some cracks in the polish (especially on the thumbs). But significant chips? Not one in sight. Pretty good for Day 6, amiright?

What about you? Are you into nail polish? What’s your favorite brand? What’s your application technique? Or are you all about the professional manicure?

See Sister Find a Bold Lip (35Before35)

Another item checked off my 35 Before 35 List! I’ve found a bold lip!

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I actually purchased this the day before Mac was born but I’m having such a hard time coming to terms with the idea of a bold lip that I have spent the past three weeks debating if I should return it or give up on this idea all together.

But I’m being brave ladies. I’m gonna keep it! I’m gonna wear it at least once. I’m gonna LIVE IT UP!

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In fact, that’s the shade I chose… bareMinerals Marvelous Moxie lipstick in Live It Up red. This cherry red lip color is defined as a “creamy, super-saturated, ultra-pigmented color [that] glides on like butter for full coverage in a rich satin finish.” I really like the feel of it. And I’m coming around to the bold color.

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Here’s the picture I took when I was lipstick shopping. It’s horrible I know. I should have gone with a much much simpler eye that day but it was a spur-of-the-moment idea to shop for lipstick. So now you get to see me looking like a trollop. I promise I will keep my eye make up extremely low key when I finally wear this lip out on the town. Perhaps on a datenight? Oh wait…

That’s the best part of the story, my husband just said that he thinks lipstick is gross he is SO thankful that I don’t wear it. Whoops.

See Sister Consider New Glasses

I’m in the market for some new glasses. This isn’t really a case of wanting to REPLACE my current glasses, but rather, a desire to build my eye-ware wardrobe. Let me back up a little, though, and explain why an extensive glasses collection appeals to me.

I discovered my poor vision and need for glasses when I was about 11 or 12. My first pair were a really super rad multi-colored oval design. At first, I loved the novelty of wearing glasses, but I got over that pretty quickly and started to wish I could shed the dorky four-eyes look and be a “cool girl”. So I asked my parents if I could get contacts, and I wore them pretty much every day for the next 15 years.

But a couple of years ago, I started to get frustrated with my contacts. My eyes felt REALLY dry at the end of each day, which was unusual. And I’m talking REALLY dry, like I could barely make it to 6pm before I was wanting to scratch my eyes out or pour a bottle of water directly into them in an effort to re-hydrate. I tried two different types of lenses and special super strength eye drops to address the problem, but nothing really worked. So I decided to become a full time glasses girl again.

In order to effect this change, I decided I needed brand new glasses. After all, the pair I had (for those rare days when I didn’t wear contacts) were over 10 years old. I think I got them when I was 17. Even though the style had held up remarkably well, I still thought some new ones were warranted.

So I took myself to Specsavers and came out with two pairs (their 2-for-1 deal is quite good, I’ve got to say): one black and one tortoise shell with flecks of green and orange.

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Black

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Tortoise Shell (I know you really can’t see the green/orange in this pic)

(Sidebar: Selfies are the worst.)

Shopping for and selecting these frames lead to a moment of true self-discovery.

You know how some women are really into shoes and/or bags? And they’re happy to spend lots of money on these accessories to build up a big collection? I’m not one of those women. I like shoes and bags well enough, but I don’t like dropping loads of money on them, and I’m happy to get by with the minimal amount necessary.

But as I was looking at glasses, I had an epiphany: I am a glasses girl. I am totally down with spending money on glasses. They’re an accessory that I will wear literally every day in a very prominent place on my person. Wearing glasses is an opportunity to express my style and personality. I am on board with the idea of having several different pairs to swap out depending on my outfit or my mood…much like some women would feel about bags and shoes!

Soooooo, all that is to say, I’ve long wanted to get a couple more pairs to put into rotation on my face.

The problem is, I go into the shop and I absolutely AGONIZE over which pairs to pick. I had this same problem to a lesser extent when I purchased the two pairs I have now, but on that occasion, I had at least some parameters: I wanted one black pair and one tortoise shell/neutral-ish pair. I also thought if I was getting one square-ish pair, I should get a more rounded style for the other pair. Done and done (see above).

This time around, I’m more inclined to go for some crazy, interesting colors/designs. So, dear readers, I need your help. Much as in my search for lamp (more on that next week), I’m seeking your opinions to aid in my decision-making.

Note: these are all from Specsavers, simply because their 2-for-1 deal is really great and limiting myself to one shop helps narrow down the field. If I looked anywhere and everywhere, I would be even more overcome by choice. That being said, I’m really intrigued by Cubitts, which has a home trial scheme and styles that I really like. I think I might try them in the future, but their prices are higher and the styles are more classic/simple, so they don’t fit the funky bill this time around.

Okay – lengthy preamble. Here’s the short list (click on the pics to see more images on the website)…

1. Kesha

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I include these mostly because of the style name – Kesha! But also, they’re a relatively simple look, but the green makes them slightly unique/unusual. Hesitation: my tortoise shell ones already have significant amounts of green in them.

2. Sole

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I took Bethany into a Specsavers when she was visiting. I tried these ones on for her and she said, “Uh, no. Have you looked at yourself in those?” It was the harsh get-a-grip advice I was hoping for, but I do still find myself returning to these frames when I visit Specsavers. I’m inclined to think I should just listen to Bethany’s voice in my head, but…well…I just don’t know!

3. FC 109

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It’s the inside color of these French Connection frames that makes them interesting. The pinky-purple is not hidden in any sense, but it’s not all over and in your face. Unlike the next two options…

4. Gok Wan 64

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These are just fun. My tortoise shell frames are Gok Wan, and I really love the fit on those ones. These are a similar shape, so I think they’d be equally comfy/flattering.

5. Osiris B67

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Again, just funky and fun and certainly bold. These really fit the “exciting” criteria, but the shape is nice and classic.

6. Osiris B74

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I really really like these ones, but even though they have interesting colors, they aren’t that radically different from my Gok Wan tortoise shell ones. I like them enough that I’m tempted to get them anyways, but I’m torn… Also, you can’t really tell in comparison to the other pics here, but the frames are slightly larger, so they cover more of my face.

7. Osiris B75

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And finally. These are the most classic pair of the bunch, but I also really really like these ones. They’re kind of a marbled gray-ish black, so they aren’t a wildly different color. But I really like the shape (more than my current black ones) and the marbled effect does give them a little something different.

Right now I’m tempted to go for one of the pink-ish pairs and either of the last two. It’s just so hard to decide!!

What do you think, dear reader? What’re the best choices or are they all awful? Should I have taken selfies of myself wearing each pair in Specsavers or would that have been just too awkward?

See Sister Use Spin Pins

Remember Product of the Year? You may have found yourself wondering after reading that post, “Yeah, but do you actually use the products? Do they become your product of the year, or do you get em and then never use them?”

Well, I’m here to report on a POTY that I genuinely love love love and use frequently: Goody Spin Pins.

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Our eldest sister, Bethany, gave these as her 2011 POTY, and I absolutely LOVE them. She gave us each a set of two in a color corresponding to the shade of our hair (therefore, I got blonde, not brunette as pictured above).

Unlike with a typical bobby pin that just grips the hair in one place, the spiral shape of these pins to twist into your hair and grip it from multiple directions. They are utterly genius! And even though the thought of twisting your hair together sounds like it might be painful and potentially damaging, they area actually really gentle and easy to put in and take out. I often find classic bobby pins grip my hair a little too tightly and upon removal take a couple of strands of hair with them. These just spiral right back out.

I liked them so much, I went back to buy another set and found that they also sell MINI spin pins!

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So I bought a set of those. With these five pins (and a couple of regular bobby pins here and there for loose pieces), I can give myself  a quick, pretty updo that I don’t have to touch again for the rest of the day. They are sooooo secure. I can shake my head violently, dance like crazy, run laps, and they’ll stay in place all day long.

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Want proof? Here’s my hair on the night of Beck’s hen party – AFTER I had been to the Candlelight Club and danced the night away:

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Yes, there are some loose tendrils here and there, but the overall look is intact after a night of dancing. Full disclosure, I did also have the headband to help secure things on that night.

I’ve done a kind of braid style, too – French braiding my hair on the sides and twisting it together at the back, secured with some spin pins. It’s not completely obvious that that’s what I’ve done in these pics, but you get the idea:

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It does help if my hair is curled slightly before I use the pins (for help with that, I use a 2013 POTY: The Herstyler!). It gives the pins something extra to grip since my hair is stick stick stick straight naturally. But they do work with straight hair, too. I use them sometimes for a quick bun style when I’m on the go.

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(These pictures are what happens when Louise is not home to take a picture of my hair, so I attempt to do it myself. And then she does come home and I’m probably moving while she’s taking the picture, so it’s blurry. Whatever, you get the idea.)

In short, these little pins are an excellent POTY. When Bethany gave them to us, I had just chopped my hair into a bob, so while I could use them, it was a little tricky. Now that my hair is getting longer again, I’m loving using them on a more regular basis, and I’m excited to start experimenting more to see what they can do.

If you’ve got long-ish hair and like putting it up from time-to-time, go out and buy yourself a set of these today. You won’t regret it!

Have you used Spin Pins? What’s your favorite “updo” style? Share your secrets!

See Sister Say: The 90’s Are NOT the New Black!

Okay so I’m an 80s baby. Specifically I was born two months in to 1980. At times I tried to hide that fact because my friends born in the 70s (admittedly, most of them only in the last two years of the 70s) would often assert their coolness. Since they were older they were more grown up and that made them cooler, no? Well, guess who’s cooler now?! I can now assert that I am younger! I’m turning 34 on the 12th of this month and while I don’t think of that as old, I think most of my friends would now agree that youth is something with which we want to be identified.

Bragging aside, I don’t know why I really wrote that paragraph as an introduction except to say that having been born in the 80s I was a teen in the 90s. And boy was that rad.
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Our pop culture icons were pretty fun- We had Romeo & Juliet (the best version ever starring Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio), we had Nirvana, we had the Spice Girls, and Winona Ryder in Reality Bites.
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Fashion was equally cool- We had Delia’s (which I only ever ordered from once but whose styles I coveted like it was my job!), we had Birkenstocks, we had the fashions of Clueless and Britney, and we had grunge.

These were all wonderful things. The first time around.

But honestly, when I heard that the 90s were back, I panicked. Could we really be looking to that decade for “new” fashion trends?!
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Apparently the fashion world is looking back. And unfortunately, it’s not to the Lisa Loeb baby doll dresses or Gwenyth Paltrow’s hair in Sliding Doors, but to all the worst trends.

I began seeing the signs at the mall. I took the following pictures on my phone (apologies for the poor quality but I was too in shock to let my camera focus!) right before Christmas:
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Can you see them on the right there? Can you believe there was a kiosk set up to sell the ugliest of 90s fashion trends?! That’s right folks, across from Pottery. Barn Kids, you could pick up a Baja shirt. Or as I called it back then, the Mexican blanket shirt. It was awful then and it’s even worse now. I wanted to make my own picket line to protest anyone spending their hard-earned Christmas cash on something so heinous.
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Then you can imagine my horror as I opened my Lucky magazine (not quite sure how I ended up with a free subscription, but somehow I have one) a few days later, and there were countless examples of 90s fashion! First it was Doc Martens. Comparatively, these are perhaps the most tolerable of all these 90s revivals. But that doesn’t make them a good idea!
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As if the Docs weren’t enough, I had an even uglier trend confront me a few pages later. It was a blurb on the return of the comfy shoe. As in Birkenstocks sandals. It was punctuated with this wretched picture of an ENTIRELY 90s OUTFIT being worn by a fashion blogger!!! Complete with a cropped top and overalls!! This could have seriously been cut out of the pages of my 1996 Seventeen magazine. It was scary. While this was perhaps the most blatantly 90s outfit comeback, I was most upset by the next picture:
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I’m gonna save myself the trouble of addressing the problem of the guy’s Boy Meets World hairstyle and move right into the girl’s cropped sleeveless sweater. Sorry Lucky, you just can’t convince me that the lower-rib-to-upper-waist-section-of-my-body is one that should be on display. While the other pictures are big bummers to me, this one actually makes me sad. Why?
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Because of the jeans that go over the navel. I distinctly remember my BFF Annie showing me how she decided to fold her jeans down after buttoning them so that she wouldn’t have to feel the extreme uncomfortable-ness of a jeans button pushing into her stomach. I proclaimed her a genius and followed suit.
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And then, in the late 90s, Mariah Carey wisely did the same. Admittedly her version was more sl*tty, but the concept was the same. She cut off the waistband of her jeans and freed herself from tummy smooshing jeans torture. This led to one of the best things that came out of the late 90s – low rise jeans. I don’t like them as low as I did back then, but seriously, I haven’t worn jeans that pinched my middle in a long time! THAT was a good fashion trend! Freedom from pain. Why oh why would we try and go back to this over-the-navel torture ladies?! Sadness.

So now I ask you readers, is this really what we want? I admit that I often resist the reincarnating-the-past trends (I was perhaps the last woman in the USA to buy a pair of leggings when the brought that 80s trend back), but I am gonna stick to my guns on these. I am boycotting the 90s-are-the-new-black trend. And if you are wise, you will join me.

See Sister’s Many Makeup Brushes

I’ve already told you how I’ve got a lot of scarves. Let me tell you about something else I seem to have an excessive amount of: makeup brushes.

For my face alone, I’ve got FIVE different brushes. But let me explain why this is not excessive, and why each of these brushes is useful everyday.

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I never thought I had too many makeup brushes until my friend made fun of me for having so many (I obviously have not even mentioned the ones I use for eyeshadow). The thing is, they’re each used for something different and even with so many, my makeup routine only takes about five minutes in the mornings.

I use Bare Minerals makeup (which I loooove). That means I apply foundation, bronzer, blush and an all-over mineral veil every day. In order to keep my brushes relatively clean and to make sure the right shade goes in the right place, I have a separate brush for each step.

Step 1: Foundation
Brush: Full Coverage Kabuki

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I use this little gem to buff my base color (I’m a Medium Beige) all over my face. Gives me complete coverage and an even skin tone.

Step 2: Warmth (aka bronzer)
Brush: Flawless Application Face

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I use this (very lightly) to give my face a little contouring and color. It’s especially nice in the depths of winter when I’m feeling pale and sickly.

Step 3: Blush
Brush: Angled Face

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Used to sweep my blush upwards on the apples of my cheeks – for that healthy rosy look.

Step 4: Hydrating Mineral Veil
Brush: Full Flawless Application Face

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This powder gives me a finishing touch. Swept all over the face, it softens everything and gives a little bit of a glow to my complexion.

I can do all of that in about 3 minutes – then another couple minutes for eyeshadow (if I’m wearing it – most days, I don’t) and mascara (an ABSOLUTE must – I feel naked without it).

On special occasions, I use a luminous finishing powder which has a little bit of sparkle in it. I have a special brush for that, too.

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This Soft Focus Face brush is light and delicate. I use it to apply the luminous powder to the highlights on my face, which guarantees I glow on the day/evening in question.

I love my brushes, and lately, I’ve been trying to take better care of them. I used to rinse them with water every once in awhile (though not nearly often enough) to clean out some of the built up makeup. About six months ago, I looked really closely at my kabuki brush and was disgusted by the amount of built-up makeup in the bristles. It actually made me shudder to think I was wiping the same old makeup and bacteria across my face every day. So I dumped that brush and bought a brand new one, along with this little product:

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I try to use this every month or so to give the brushes a good deep clean and get rid of that build up of old makeup. You pump some out onto a paper towel or cloth and wipe the brush back and forth over it. It breaks up the makeup and cleans out the brush.

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You are left with a really disgusting paper towel, but at least you’ve got a clean brush!

I still rinse my brushes with water every once in awhile, but the brush cleaner helps to give them a necessary deep clean from time to time. When helps keep my morning makeup routine quick, clean and pretty.

What about you? Do you have numerous makeup brushes? If so, how do you clean them? Or do you favor the disposable sponges option? Has the word “makeup” become meaningless to you after reading it so many times in this post, as it has to me after writing it over and over?

See Sister’s Scarves

I realized the other day that I have a LOT of scarves. Like really – a lot.

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This realization wasn’t accompanied by the thought, “Good grief – I should really get rid of some of these.” Instead, I thought, “Hmmmm, but I don’t have enough infinity scarves/snoods; I don’t have a [insert random color] one; and I’m still hoping that one I saw at [insert shop name] goes on sale.”

So it seems I’ve got a bit of a scarf fetish. I’ve never thought of them as one of my primary accessories, but the evidence suggests that they are. In the winter, I wear at least one scarf every day. Sometimes I have two on at once if it’s really cold – one underneath my coat for insulation and another over the top, doubled up around my neck to keep out the icy chill. And with London weather, it’s entirely possible in any given year that I’ll still be wearing scarves in June.

So this short little post is to highlight some of the scarves in my collection that I’m really loving at the moment. I’ll spare you a comment on every single one and just stick to the ones I’ve got in heavy rotation.

This season, Gap has had some AWESOME scarves. Really bright colors, suuuuuuuper soft textures, nice long lengths. I’ve had to stop myself from buying a million of ’em. But I did get a bright blue/green one and a pink one – both of which I’m totally digging wearing as a pop of color over my neutral coats.

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Talk about neon!

Another bright scarf I love and only bust out on the reeeaaaally cold and dismal days when I need the warmth and the color is this knitted, chunky, acid yellow infinity scarf.

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This photo doesn’t do it justice – the color is really bright and intense in person. Think highlighter yellow.

Then there’s this reliable ole’ neutral toned scarf that my Aunt Valeta gave me years ago (knitted herself, if I remember correctly!). The colors are muted blues and greens and purples and grays all mottled together.

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It’s great for those days when I need something a little more subdued and really warm. The other advantage of this one is it’s extra long, so it can be doubled up and wound around for additional warmth.

But it’s not always necessary to have a woven, super warm scarf. Sometimes, you need something a little lighter. Part of my bridesmaid gift from Emma last year, was this pashmina:

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Again, I don’t know that the color really translates in that pic. It’s primarily orange and black, but with tan and yellow flecks throughout. I LOVE this scarf. I wear it all the time. It’s thick enough to provide some useful warmth, but it’s also lightweight enough to be worn indoors as part of an outfit. I love it as some colorful interest with a black dress, or even as a contrasting pattern with stripes or polka dots. It’s great.

And at Jane’s recent wedding, I got another great pashmina:

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The beading on this one means that it won’t be an everyday scarf, but I’ll be busting it out for special occasions. And the color is to die for.

I haven’t even touched on the lightweight scarves in my collection that have limited warming benefit and are truly meant to be used as an accessory only. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of those, too. This is just a glimpse into what is – surprisingly – a significant segment of my wardrobe.

What about you? Are you a scarf fan or do you have a different accessory of choice? Do you have a favorite way to tie your scarves?