Autumnal Transitions

Still moving from hot summer days in the US to more “seasonal” weather is hard. It’s actually been very hard to be motivated to purchase autumn/winter clothes when the weather is scorching! (Have I mentioned I’m missing the UK right now???) Nonetheless, AUrate New York reached out to me and asked if I would take a look at their jewellery and put together some ideas for day to evening looks.

That being said, before I agreed, I did take a look at their website and products first. All thoughts and comments are my own and I have not been compensated in any way for writing this post. One reason I agreed to work with AUrate was that they’re a “local” company. Local in the sense that they’re based in New York and make all their jewellery in New York. That means it creates local jobs for local people – they aren’t just an office that then has their product made overseas by overseas workers and shipped back to New York to be sold. They also ethically source all raw materials and diamonds under UN rules. And in terms of marketing and markup, the prices are reasonable – well, reasonable for solid gold and gold-vermeil jewellery – because you’re purchasing directly from them and there aren’t the costs of a turquoise box and white bow, red box, or even a black box involved along with all the related marketing markups associated with those “names.” (And you know which companies I’m talking about there!)

Above: J.Crew faux leather pleated midi skirt $120; Hush diva boots £219; J.Crew Tippi sweater $79.50; AUrate Proud pearl earrings with black diamonds $1200; and AUrate Icon yellow gold ring with black diamonds $750.

All black. Perfect. Long drop earrings may not be ideal for your job, so wear studs whilst at work, and add the bling with the pearls for evenings – but the ring is so edgy and eye-catching, day or night!

Above: Hush Onyx leather jacket £295; M&S Collection floral print long sleeve midi dress £49.50; and AUrate Structural Pyramid gold earrings $200.

Shoes? Try black booties for evening or tall flat riding boots for the day. Even the trainers below would work. Peep-toe platforms may lead to cold, wet toes for your autumn adventures. A black leather jacket is classic. And the earrings are SO fun – edgy but eye-catching both day and night.

Above: J.Crew Billie demi-boot cropped jean $125; M&S Collection cable knit turtleneck sweater/jumper £35; Hush Galaxy trainers £145; AUrate Solid Circle earrings $280; and AUrate Flower Ring $580.

The price point on the M&S sweater is great – there are similar options out there that are 100% wool or 100% cotton for those who prefer natural fabrics to synthetics. As for the Hush trainers – hello, Saint Laurant dupe for about £400 less! And the AUrate – perfect solid 14k gold earrings you’ll wear daily and have forever – and add the ring for a 14k gold fun (but classic) look when you go out in the evening with friends!

Above: LaRedoute slim fit cigarette trousers £39; AUrate Geometric Bar earrings $480; AUrate Large Flower earrings $180; Hush black jacket £75; and J.Crew Academy loafers $248.

T-shirt or chambray shirt? Lightweight merino like a Tippi or Bella Freud under the jacket? Hair calf leopard loafers are classic. And the earrings – the bar earrings are 14k and classic. Buy once, wear forever – day or night! The flower earrings – super fun and 14k vermeil over sterling silver for a great price point and/or gift!

Most of the time, you don’t have time to go home, change and go back out again after a long day at work – you want your jewellery to carry you from work to drinks, movies, or dinner, or school plays. (At least I don’t – and let’s be honest, if I go home, joggers and a t-shirt are going ASAP.) With AUrate, I think many of their pieces are work appropriate but fun and edgy enough to transition to evening. All of the lovely AUrate earrings can be found here. What I didn’t share was their lovely collection of delicate necklaces that can be layered – primarily because in autumn and through winter, I’m always bundled up in a scarf and such lovely bits are bound to get lost under 10000 layers of fabric!

I also forgot to mention – AUrate’s charity of choice provides books to “economically underprivileged” children. Books. Because I know I can’t imagine my life if I didn’t have books…

Thoughts? I can’t wait to hear what you think.

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Nuts and Berries

I’m still in Las Vegas. And it’s still hot. I’m told it cools off, but I’m sceptical about exactly when that happens.

Nonetheless, sorting things in my parents’ house is a process. And one of the things to fix is the landscaping. The almond tree in the backyard is seriously out of control and almonds are starting to appear! I had to call my mom to find out exactly what I’m supposed to do with them – as they don’t look like almonds in the store. Once I got that sorted, I became acutely aware of why almonds are SO ridiculously expensive! It’s quite time-consuming, and potentially dangerous, to get those little suckers ready to eat!

In short, the almonds grow in these little fuzzy, fluffy pod things (almost soft like a peach). When they start to split/crack open, they’re ready to pick. Then, you have the almond still hiding shell, which has to be removed, before you can either eat them raw or toast them a wee bit. Apparently, I’ll be getting the ladder out to get the ones high up over the next two months if I can’t shake them down.

On to the berries…

So, I was in Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago and saw a tiny jar of “blueberry acai face scrub” for $5.99. For real, it’s like everything there is $5.99 or less! Anyway, it looked intriguing, but I passed. Back in the store the other day, I thought, meh, for $5.99, why not try it. Who doesn’t like a good exfoliator, right?

On opening the package – OMG. It’s as bluish-red as a blueberry smoothie and smells like a blueberry muffin! As in, the entire jar is filled with blueberries. Obviously, the exact percentage is unknown, but it’s the second listed ingredient so you know there’s a lot of blueberry in there. It’s also not tested on animals. It feels really nice on – so there’s that. I did use it in the shower as I was afraid with blueberries there may be potential for staining (and the packaging even warned it was possible)…

I guess my point is, try it. You have nothing to lose.

 

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

So, me and every other blogger is doing their picks of the Anniversary Sale. What do you need to get in on the action now? A Norstrom credit card! If you don’t have one, it’s easy peasy to apply online, then make sure your online account is set up and you can shop online or in store before the sale is “open” to the public on 20 July!

For me, I started with the Kiehl’s gift set – a great value – and 3 full-sized products. It was hard to decide between the two sets TBH! I chose the “ultra healthy skin favourites” set for $69 but I also really liked the moisturiser that came with the “super age correction” set at $89. Tough choices!

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The Kiehl’s Ultra Strength Hand Salve is only $10 (normally $15) – which in Las Vegas or anywhere super dry – you need!

And everything else from my picks from the sale (except the Saint Laurent sneakers and Frye flats!) are below. Not all Nordstrom stores have everything in stock, so if your local store doesn’t have it, they can order it for you, or order online. My suggestion is to make friends with someone in cosmetics and shoes to really get the inside scoop!

  • Voluspa Candle set $26.50 – after sale $40
  • Frye “Carson” Flats $157.95 (4 colours – not part of Anniversary Sale)
  • Gorjana Power Stone Semiprecious Bracelet $31.90 (6 colours) – after sale $48
  • Halogen Leather Moto Jacket $229.90 (2 colours) – after sale $349
  • Saint Laurent Classic Court Sneaker $595 (not part of Anniversary Sale)
  • Kate Spade Drop Earrings $31.90 (7 colours) – after sale $48
  • BP Stripe Faux Leather Clutch $22.90 – after sale $35
  • Barefoot Dreams Circle Cardigan $76.90 (4 colours) – after sale $116
  • Josef Seibel “Caspian” Sneaker $84.90 (5 colours) and I love the idea of the red sneaker – after sale $129.95
  • Paul Green “Logan” Bootie $239.90 (3 colours) – after sale $360
  • Nordstrom Signature Stretch Leather Biker Pants $649.90 – after sale $999

The only other thing I totally recommend is the Nordstrom Lingerie Wash $10.90 (after sale $18) – it is the best for washing all sorts of delicate clothing items!

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And honestly, this is the first time I’ve really had a hard time getting excited about this sale… it’s de-motivating to shop for autumn/winter clothes when it’s 115F/43c outside and the weather shows no signs of cooling off at any point in the near future. Nonetheless, shop away!

Sunshine

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Well, the burning (no pun) question is whether summer has officially come and gone in the UK?!?! A week of temperatures (and matching humidity) over 30c and the country was good and baked.

This summer, I’m in Las Vegas (hello, overdose on vitamin D). In all the years of going to Las Vegas, I’ve never ever never visited in the summer. I don’t like extreme heat, and I certainly don’t like sustained temperatures of 35c+ (100F+) for days on end. The first week I was here, it was ok and I thought I’d survive. Within a week, triple digits! 40c+ and I was dying. (How deceptive does that header photo look, temperature wise?)

I don’t care about it being a “dry heat” – it’s HOT. I’m taking one of the dogs out for walks at 6-630am and that’s the only walk we get for the day because it’s not safe to be out. No evening walks because even at 930-10pm the temperatures are still in the low 100s (upper 30s). Thankfully, there’s a smart thermostat in the house and surprisingly, it’s set at a very, very conservative 80-82F.

The other problem with Las Vegas? Ignoring the fact that my life is not a huge pool party with a cabana or dance club adventure that lasts until 3am every night, I come in two colours – white and red. I burn very easily. First purchases, 2 straw hats from Nordstrom. I saved a tonne purchasing them during the half-yearly sale, and hopefully, they’ll be more stylish whilst still shading me (the cotton baseball hat I’d normally wear was making my head sweat too much).

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Next purchase – sunscreen. What kind? I generally buy SPF30 or SPF50. I love Australian Gold simply because of the smell – and reminds me of my first visit to Las Vegas years ago and I stayed at Treasure Island (TI). I purchased the one with the built in bronzer (I need all the help I can get). (Hawaiian Tropic is another that smells great and the oil that all the cool girls used – think it was probably SPF -2 back in the day!)

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At Target, I grabbed a bottle of Pacifica SPF50. Pacifica is an all-natural brand, and this has no sulphates, no phthalates, no parabens, etc. and is mineral based, leaping bunny product. It comes out of the can white, so you do have to rub it in a bit. The smell is supposedly coconut, but I think it smells like white birthday cake.

And last, at Trader Joe’s I picked up their own brand of SPF50. Super affordable $5.99 price too! It doesn’t really have a scent at all, and what I like about it – it sprays clear! So, when walking Flash in the morning, I’ll spray some on my hands, then wipe down his ears and the bridge of his nose. White dogs can sunburn too!

You can’t have too much sunscreen right? I’ve probably had three really bad burns in my life (typical) and growing up, you didn’t really cover yourself in sunscreen like you do today. It was almost a badge of honour to have that super red, peeling, lobster skin, right? Bad field day in 8th grade and my shoulders were toasted beyond belief; summer on a boat rental in Lake of the Ozarks and my face was cracked, oiled, and horrid like a basted Thanksgiving turkey; and college graduation lunch – Annapolis, Maryland – eating crabs at Cantler’s on the water with no hat. My head got so sunburnt it hurt to wash and brush my hair for a few weeks.

Regardless of where you’re spending your summer, whether locally or abroad, buy a hat and wear sunscreen. You’ll thank yourself years from now.

Balenciaga

Are you thinking of this?

Screen Shot 2017-05-27 at 07.59.08Or are you thinking of those timeless, iconic dresses and accessories when women “dressed?” Actually, properly, perfectly dressed.

If you want to see actual, proper dressing, head down to the V&A now until next February 2018 and see Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. All the details are on the V&A website.

The outfits are hard to capture through the glass, but you get the idea. Members’ week at the museum and this was the preview night before it opens to the public this weekend.

Warsaw

It turned into a very unusual week and after Krakow, I had to dip up to Warsaw for two nights. Lots of running around to do (not the typical tourist activities), so I don’t have much to share except photos. I stayed at an Airbnb about a 10-15min walk straight (literally) from the train station (excellent Airbnb with a great host too). The train from Krakow to Warsaw cost 199zl ($54) for first class, and I think it was 129zl for standard – the whole journey took about 3 hours.

I’m going to gloss over the snow flurries that occurred right as I was arriving at my Airbnb after I took the picture of the arts and cultural building below (built in 1955 and now housing a variety of museums).

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Old Warsaw was destroyed during the war, with many of the buildings just shells of their former selves. The restoration work was amazing (see the header photo), with this part of the city being granted UNESCO world heritage status! (Between this, the salt mines outside Krakow, and old Krakow itself, I got 3 sites in 1 country!)

I wish I’d had more than 48hrs to spend in Warsaw – it is a city with lots of potential for a great vacation! (Ok, it snowed again a second time the night I arrived with big fat flakes.) It’s also a city filled with a mixture of period architecture, communist-era, and new, shiny modern – sometimes all on the same street. And from what I can tell, it is a huge, sprawling city with wide sweeping boulevards – fitting pedestrians, buses, trams, and cars throughout the city centre, lots of parks for recreational activities and relaxation, and amazing restaurants for a variety of cuisines and budgets (and like Krakow, McDonald’s everywhere). I need to go back (maybe when I’m better prepared for fluctuating weather)!

That being said, to head to the airport, I picked up bus 175 at the plaza between my Airbnb and the train station – it only cost 4.40zl ($1.15), took 30min, and dropped you off at the front doors of Chopin Airport! You can’t ask for easier than that, right?

Overall, go! Go to Poland! I was leery at first, but after one day there, between Krakow and Warsaw I was pleasantly surprised and you certainly will not be disappointed!

Krakow

Not the first choice of a spring vacation/holiday. I headed to Poland and everyone else was going to warm climates. I’m ok with that. I’ve wanted to visit Krakow since I was a kid. There was a classic book called The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric Kelly.  (And without giving away the whole book, you can still stand in the market square every day and hear the trumpet…)

So, cheap flight on Ryanair (ugh) and hotel booked via Expedia. Tourist card (picked up at the airport rather than pre-ordered) for €30/120zl. I was prepared for lots of rain so I tried to pack the best I could.  The train from airport to central Krakow 9zl (machine takes cash or card). DO get a ticket as they come by and check every ticket, every train, daily!

I stayed at Hotel Legend, off sw. Gertrudy. It’s approximately 15min from the station (if you aren’t hauling luggage and actually know where you’re going). Lovely little hotel located at the far end of the old city near Wawel Castle. Would certainly stay again! The breakfast was amazing and that helped me save money as I generally didn’t need to eat lunch. Staff at the hotel was beyond friendly and helpful. They could arrange tours or guides if you needed, and most spoke excellent English. I had a basic room and it was more than comfortable for my 4 night/5 day stay. My room did face the main street, which also has a tram line that runs on it, so be warned of noise if you’re a sensitive sleeper.

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Scenes from Krakow.

Day trip to the salt mines nearby was very nice, and I opted for it on 3 May (Constitution Day – a national holiday akin to 4th of July in the US) as every other tourist attraction and most everything else in the city was closed! It was easy to take the bus there and the bus fare was covered by my tourist card! Tours of the mine are done in English and to be allowed photos was 10zl extra. Cost = 99zl = 23€ = $26 = £20 (approx)

I attended a concert at Sts Peter and Paul church for only 60zl (£12). Most churches offer evening concerts and this was amazing – featuring Vivaldi and Chopin. The only downside was that 14th century churches are super cold at night and generally don’t have heat. Sometimes it was hard to focus as I was SO cold! But the acoustics were beyond amazing – better than some symphonies I’ve attended.

Meals on average ran about 25zl. And don’t miss out on the pretzels sold by the corner vendors for 1.60zl! Flavours are poppy seed, sesame seed, or (asiago) cheese. And one day, it rained so hard, I grabbed a couple pretzels and ran to the Starbucks to hide out for a bit. Give me my overpriced tea, but I’ll sit and eat my outside vendor food.

Starbucks, Costa, and Cafe Nero are familiar sights in the city as well as McDonald’s. McDonald’s IS. EVERYWHERE. EVERYWHERE. Yes, I ate there once, when I was rushing to the concert at the church because I lost track of time walking around.

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For fun, get a QR scanner app for your phone. There are park benches dotted around town with information to promote literacy! Scan the QR code, learn about the person (ignoring my ad-filled QR app):

And while the Schindler factory museum was fascinating (and very crowded with group tours, it was a tad annoying at times), there were a few photos I took that I don’t think need to be shared online as there’s enough hate, right? I posted one on Instagram so pop over there if you want to take a look. My favourite though was the Galicia Jewish Heritage Museum – the photography was amazing and poignant.

Fitbit stats = over 100k steps for the week and 25,000 or so on the day I went to the salt mines. Lots of thick stone steps and belltowers – my legs hurt!