friday miscellany: beauty and technology

recommended beauty products
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I had something entirely different planned for today’s post, but various non-blog projects over the last few days seem to have eaten my brain before I could finish it. So instead I’ll share my recent beauty finds from Ulta, and solicit your opinions on something else I’m considering.

1. I’ve raved about this product before, and I still love and use it. My visit to Ulta was prompted by the need to replenish my stash. This It Cosmetics CC Cream is one of the best products I’ve ever tried for smoothing and evening out skin tone, covering dark spots AND providing UV protection. This is always what I’m wearing when I’m complimented on my “good skin.” It has a nice high percentage of barrier sunscreens, which makes my dermatologist happy. While I was there I also grabbed the Travel Sized option which will be plenty for our upcoming trip (a little of this stuff goes a LONG way).

2. While I was at the It Cosmetics display, I noticed this stick blush. Actually it’s called “Vitality Flush Stain Stick Lip & Cheek Reviver.” Say that three times fast! The color “Je Ne Sais Quoi” looks clear in the tube but turns pink on the skin. You can either dab on with a fingertip or right from the tube. I suggest you start slowly until you see how the color develops on your skin. But with the right amount the result is a nice, natural looking flush. (This stick format is another great travel option, doesn’t count toward your carry-on liquids allotment.)

3. I’m always on the lookout for good brow products, and have read many recommendations for Benefit Gimme Brow. This is a gel that both colors and holds brows in place. (If you have one or two of those wayward hairs like I do, you know what I mean.) Because my brows are so sparse, I fill in first with a soft pencil (more on this later) and then use the gel over that to set. What I really like about this product over other brow gels I’ve tried is that the brush is tiny, so makes precise application much easier. The result is a fuller and shaped, but soft and natural-looking brow.

4. After being so delighted with the Living Proof “Perfect Hair Day” Styling Treatment, I wanted to try the shampoo and conditioner from the same line. Rather than buying full-size products to start, I picked up the Perfect Hair Day Travel Kit (which includes smaller sizes of the shampoo, conditioner and the 5-in-1 Styling Treatment), figuring that even if I didn’t like the shampoo and conditioner, at least I’d use the treatment. But I DO like the shampoo and conditioner, so win-win-win! (Just for the record though, although a lower-commitment way to try new products, these are way too large for “travel sizes” unless you’re planning to be in the wilderness for upwards of a few months.)


On another note…

iPhone 6 photography

I’m eligible now for a device upgrade with my cell phone plan, and am considering getting the iPhone 6 Plus, mainly for the enhanced photography functions and larger screen. Do any of you have one of these? Do you find it noticeably better than the iPhone5? (I have the “bare bones” version.)

Have you found any superb new beauty products lately? Do tell!

Bon weekend! I’m scheduled for a haircut and am considering a moderate tweak to the style. Fingers crossed, and will report back next week.
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jacket or cardigan?

knit jacket
scarf (similar) | jacket | tee (similar style) | jeans | bag | bracelet | bracelet | boots

Yikes, I am SO overdue for a haircut! To be remedied soon…

Some might call this a cardigan, but the online product description refers to it as a knit jacket. Either way it’s very comfortable to wear and easy to style. I’ve had this “knit jacket” for a couple of years. I didn’t wear it much initially but it somehow survived two seasonal closet purges, and I sort of rediscovered it at the end of last year and have been wearing it often since then. These AG “Prima” jeans are newer and have to be the most comfortable jeans I’ve ever tried on. They are lightweight, soft and very stretchy. I wore this outfit for a low-key day at the office but if I needed to be a bit more formal all I’d need to do is swap out the jeans for a pair of trousers, or a skirt and tights.

bucket bag
the tee looks black but is actually navy.


leopard ankle boots

Do you lean more toward sweaters or jackets?

Linked up with Fun Fashion Friday


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a little luxury (in my own front yard)

Paris Eiffel Tower view
no, this isn’t my front yard… keep reading ;-)

When I learned the topic of this month’s By Invitation Only* post would be “Life’s Luxuries,” my mind immediately traveled back to Paris, and some of our really memorable times there. We’ve stayed in some fabulous rooms with lovely views,

hotel room Parisdined at exquisite restaurants, enjoyed some delightful scenery…


park in 16eme ParisOne of the things I enjoy most about Paris are the verdant parks and trees.

Having lived most of my adult life in Central and Southern California, I’ve really come to appreciate greenery and especially trees, which are not a given here. Large, shade-giving trees are something of a luxury in our “coastal desert” climate. I consider myself very fortunate to live on a street lined with mature, lovely, well-tended and healthy Chinese elm trees.

Chinese elm
including this one in our front yard

These trees are a living luxury that soothe and sustain me, and one that I appreciate on a daily basis.

Chinese elm treeWhat luxuries do you enjoy as part of your daily life?

*By Invitation Only is a monthly post by a group of bloggers scattered across the globe. The second Tuesday of every month we take a subject, and each approach it from our own unique perspective. You can see what the rest of the By Invitation Only bloggers have to share about their own concepts of luxury at the linkup at Splenderosa.

By Invitation Only



special occasion dressing (that won’t make you feel like a doily)

posted in: Dresses, Shopping, Skirts, Style | 11
J Kara maxi dress & jacket
J Kara maxi dress with embellished jacket

I’ve received a few requests in recent weeks for suggestions for Special Occasion dressing. Yes, we’re coming up on that time of year…weddings, graduations, other celebrations that may actually involve printed invitations received in matching envelopes. (Or maybe a cruise with one or more Formal Nights.) As someone who gets easily flummoxed by special occasion dressing (on those rare occasions it rears its head in my world), my inclination is to sidestep the topic entirely, but perhaps it’s a good time to review options, as our friends’ kids are getting to that age…

As mentioned in last week’s post on dressy low-heeled shoes, we no longer live in a world of strict and clearly delineated dress codes (unless one travels in circles where official state functions are a regular occurrence). Unless an event is indicated as White or Black Tie, what’s appropriate may be open to at least some degree of interpretation. Your region, social circle, time of day and your own comfort levels will all factor in. There’s more room for personal style than ever, and as long as the overall look reads as dressy, you should be fine.

It’s not that there aren’t plenty of options in the stores; certainly you can throw a rock and hit something that looks “dressy.” The trick is finding something that is chic, sophisticated and doesn’t immediately bring to mind furniture upholstery or one of those crocheted toilet paper roll covers. Which means that I tend to shy away from the usual floral prints and all-over lace numbers. For some, sleeves are a must, while others in warmer climates may prefer sleeveless tops. I’ve tried to include styles that won’t require complicated undergarments, and are at least knee-length on women of average height. My own preference is for simplicity of styling and details. And I’ve looked for pieces that will travel well.

The Gown

See above, and I’ve included some in the widget at the bottom of the post. It’s the most formal option, usually reserved for White or Black Tie events, or mothers of brides or grooms. Though this may an occasion-specific and the least flexible option, sometimes only a gown will do. Here’s a very pretty plus sized option in a sophisticated color:

plus-size formal dress
J Kara Two piece long gown


Cocktails, anyone?

cocktail dresses
LBD and then some. left: lovely detailing on top | right: a bit of whimsy

A cocktail dress with some statement jewelry will work for most evening events. It doesn’t have to be black. ;-)

Daytime Dressy

daytime special occasion dresses
left: interesting draping | right: bold color

My instinct for daytime events is to keep embellishment on clothes themselves to a minimum, and stick to simple designs. You can use jewelry and accessories to zing up the look. I’d avoid anything that looks too much like it’s meant for the office (e.g. grey or navy sheath).

The Not-A-Dress

Jean Paul Gaultier long skirt
twirling optional, though you may really want to.

If structured dresses aren’t your thing, or if your style leans more bohemian, you do have options. Picture a skirt like the one above paired with a white silk blouse or top. Knot that button-front blouse at the waist, add a lacy camisole underneath and keep an extra button undone. ;-) (Remember too that the shoes and accessories can change the look entirely.) You can keep the top streamlined and add an interesting wide belt. Or accent with your favorite vintage silver and turquoise jewelry. Wide leg or palazzo pants in a soft, fluid fabric would also work with this concept.

Or for evening events, you can always eschew the skirt entirely and go the Catherine Deneuve route with a feminine tuxedo.

Shrug It Out

open front shrug sweater
Eileen Fisher simple shrug

Perhaps that otherwise-perfect dress or top is sleeveless. Or your event may extend from a warm afternoon into a cool evening, or your experience of hotel ballrooms is that you’re always seated directly underneath the air-conditioning vent set permanently to High. A shrug can be just the thing add some unobtrusive coverage.

If conditions aren’t too warm, you can always wear a tuxedo-style jacket open over your dress for a bit of that French masculine/feminine glam.

Do you have any Special Occasions coming up? Do you have a tried-and-true outfit or look that you rely on for these occasions?


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wine country weekend

Napa Valley winery
View of Napa Valley from Mt. Veeder vineyards

Today, Josephine of Chic At Any Age and I are each sharing our version of a weekend getaway travel wardrobe. As I figure you’ve all had your fill of our recent weekend trip to Las Vegas ;-)  for this post I decided to pretend we’re planning a trip to Wine Country, in this case California’s Napa Valley. (And we are actually hoping to return there soon, perhaps in the autumn.)

We’ll presume for the sake of this post, that our weekend is a long one; we arrive at our destination Friday afternoon, and start our journey home Monday morning. We’ll also presume that we’re visiting during late Spring, after the rainy season but before summer’s heat. Temperatures may be cool to chilly during early mornings and evenings, and pleasantly warm during the days. We’re not planning any excursions that require hiking, biking, canoeing or horseback riding gear. Mostly we’ll need casual wear, but have dinner reservations two of the evenings where “smart casual” attire would not be out-of-place.

What to bring:

wine country weekend wardrobe
Tops: blouse | sweater | silk top | tee
Bottoms: jeans | jeans | ankle pants
Shoes: slip-ons | sneakers | flats
wine country weekend accessories
Accessories: earrings | earrings | hat | sunglasses | bracelet | bracelet | scarf | necklace | bag

I’ve kept this travel wardrobe simple, and small enough to fit into a weekender bag. For travel days to and from our destination, I’d wear the boyfriend jeans, tee and slip-on shoes.

Friday: arrive, check into the hotel, enjoy a glass of wine on the patio. We’ll have an early and low-key dinner, because Saturday morning we have to be up before the sun….

hot air balloon ride Napa Valleyto be picked up for our scheduled hot air balloon ride over the valley. It will be chilly starting out, so I’d want to wear jeans, a sweater layered over the tee, a scarf and a jacket. By the time we reach the mid-way point of the ride,

hot air balloon ride Napa Valleyit’s warmed up and I’ve shed the scarf and jacket. It’s still pretty cool at this altitude, so I’m keeping the sweater on!

hot air balloon ride Napa Valley

we land mid-morning, and enjoy a lovely brunch next to a vineyard before being driven back to our hotel.

We’ve mapped out a few wineries to visit over the weekend, but we have a lovely dinner planned and are pacing ourselves, so probably will visit only one or two in the afternoon. I’ve left the jacket, scarf and sweater in the hotel, and changed from the long-sleeved tee to the lightweight blouse.

barrel tasting Napa ValleySometimes you’ll be offered a chance to do some barrel tasting. I’m not enough of an oenophile to get much sense of a wine’s potential from barrel tasting, but it’s still an interesting experience.

Back to the hotel to rest up and change for dinner. For Saturday night, I’d wear: black ankle pants, black silk top, ankle strap shoes, the pearl pendant necklace, gold bracelet. If it’s chilly enough I’ll add the utility jacket, but that comes off as soon as I’m inside.

Sunday morning: a late buffet brunch, then off to another two or three wineries. We might stop in Saint Helena for an afternoon coffee and to do a bit of shopping. For Sunday night dinner, I’d wear the same top and shoes as the previous evening, the dark skinny jeans and alternate some of the jewelry for variety.

A few wardrobe considerations: for wine tasting and winery tours, you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes. If it’s very hot, sandals are fine, but be aware that some tours may include walks through vineyards, or at least on dirt drives, so be prepared. Often tours and tastings involve time spent standing on concrete floors, and interiors can be chilly. In all but the warmest seasons, a lightweight sweater may be welcome.  A small cross-body bag is my preference; no need to lug a heavy large bag around. If the weather’s warm enough and your hotel has a pool, do bring a swim suit.

Monday morning we load up the car with our clothes and a few bottles of wine purchased from the wineries we visited, and hit the road back home.

If you’re traveling with wine, consider picking up a few of these re-useable wine protector bags, especially if you’re flying and will be checking bags.

What types of wardrobe items do you regularly travel with?  Please do go visit Chic At Any Age; I know she has a wonderful weekend travel recap to share!


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