Places and Spaces | White Rooms

16 Feb

I’ve never really though of myself as a white person someone who wants to live in a white space, but I’ve noticed that I am particularly drawn to them and I’m starting to think that I may have been getting it wrong this whole time.

White is the perfect backdrop for color: If you use bright colors as accents, you can change the whole scene and tone by just swapping out a few smaller pieces as opposed to changing everything. This particularly appeals to me, because, as you know, I get obsessed with things in waves. Right now it’s coral, but next week/month/year it could be fifties green, neon pink, lavender… All of which would go really nicely with white!

Now that I’ve blown my own mind by kind of deciding what to do in our next home (thinking ahead here), here’s some beautiful, warm, soothing and inviting white spaces to feast your eyes upon… I love how you can go cool or warm, mod or vintage, pristine or shabby chic… And how a little bit of color really stands out against a white background. Love it…



Obsessions | Downsizing

15 Feb

Now that “winter” (quotation marks necessary after this bizarre season) is rounding to a close I’m ready to skip all the rest of it and move straight into spring. Along with this desire comes a madness – one of spring cleaning, organizing, and downsizing. OUT WITH THE OLD…! And that applies to everything – my closet, my furniture, my kitchen… Here’s a few life-simplifiers I’m particularly eyeing right now… JCrew’s The Tillary purse, $148. A little hefty in price, for me at least, but the perfectly sized (in buttery leather no less) petite cross-body purse in the poppy red I am currently obsessed with. This purse fits all the necessaries, but not the rest of the kitchen sink like my other one, which is very cute but makes my back hurt. I’d be paying for my health and well-being, how’s that for an argument? (By the way, they’ve restocked Poppy King! Go get it! It’s awesome!) Oh, to live near a Container Store… I’m ready to get my  bathroom in shape with the Large Acrylic Makeup Organizer, $34.99, and the 4-Section Acrylic Swivel Organizer, $9.99. The only items out on the counters would be encased in these handy organizers, easy to rotate products but keeping clutter to a minimum. I love the idea of doing something like this: I feel calmer already! Speaking of calm, I am itching to paint. I’m drawn to pale soothing rooms because they feel so open and clean and breezy. I love the kind of not-minimalistic but not-cluttered feel of these rooms… And while I’m at it, I’d love to get my closet more organized and paired down to something more like this… That’s my goal. I really don’t wear all that many items of clothing, so if I could get it down to the bare essentials and just have, say 20 quality pieces… I know I can do it.

What’s on your to-do list while we wait for the good weather…?

I Quit Sugar | Week 7

13 Feb

“Recovering From Lapses.”

This week focus is recovering from last week’s challenge to let a little sugar back in my life… The crazy thing is, I was totally restrained! I had a salad with bleu cheese and a few slices of green apple. I had a beer at a German restaurant. And I had a packet of Sugar in the Raw in a latte. That’s it!

My massive cravings have subsided after last week’s brightly-colored dreams (I’ll allow a permanent macaron weakness because they’re so hard to get very often), and my cravings can be satisfied by significantly less now. A single packet of Sugar in the Raw makes my coffee taste sweet??? That’s exciting.

So I’m thinking this thing is working. There’s been some mental turmoil over denying myself, but overall my moods have balanced out,  and most importantly I haven’t gone into a shaky, angry, hypoglycemic rage for weeks and weeks…Less headaches + less anxiety = happy Esther.

As far as weight loss, I’ve lost about 10 pounds total but fluctuate about 2 or 3 depending on the day. Considering I haven’t been working out or doing anything differently, other than not consuming buckets of sugary beverages… not too shabby! And I feel good!

Overall it’s become clear to me that I was addicted to sugar and I don’t want to be addicted anymore. I am really looking forward to the 8 weeks being up so that I can eat a whole piece of fruit or chocolate if I want to/without feeling bad, but my perception of food has permanently changed.

From here on I will pay attention to what I’m eating, buying the tomato sauce with less sugar, drinking lattes with one packet of natural sweetener, eating savory breakfast items instead of cereal… Etc.

So I’ll follow David Gillespie‘s rule that party food is for parties, and Sarah Wilson‘s rule to be kind and gentle with myself. It’s almost impossible to avoid sugar entirely, but it’s too easy for me to change a few bad habits to not do it.

I’m feeling good about this.

Obsessions | Queen Elizabeth II

10 Feb

Doesn’t she just look really pleasant and fun?! The impetus for my obsession here is a little cyclical… After seeing Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady, a really remarkable film about the first and only female prime minister of the UK, I started thinking about how amazing it is that Queen Elizabeth is so powerful in the midst of all those men in government… and then I got a little obsessed. 

She just seems so lovely and gracious…! It seems like they made such a big deal about Kate needing to cover her arms for the wedding last year and here’s Elizabeth 50 years or more before looking all fabulous and bare-armed… I also didn’t know that she became queen at 25… Around a time that women weren’t taken seriously much at all. Wow.

Women like these are the ones I’m interested in being inspired and influenced by, not the Kardashians, the Hiltons, or the Lohans.

Here’s her wikiograpy


Beautify | Cold Weather Creams

9 Feb

Since it looks like we’re actually going to see some wintery weather this year I thought I’d do a Beautify special on hand and cold weather creams…

My skin gets really dry and patchy in the winter, but I hate having that sweaty, greasy hand lotion hands/feet/face residue feel… I’m willing to sacrifice a little oiliness in return for less chemicals though, and sometimes you need the big guns.

Here’s the (natural) products I go to when I need a heavy dose of moisturizer.

Weleda Skin Food, $14.40. This delightful product is available at Target and Whole Foods everywhere and is one of the best natural lotions that I’ve tried. It’s thick, man, and smells like the sweet orange oil it contains (along with calendula, chamomile, pansy, lavender and rosemary). Heaven.

It’s a little greasy as you’re rubbing it in (oils) but in my experience those absorb quickly and leave even the chapped-est hands feeling soft and smelling DEvine. It works great on feet, and a friend tells me it’s also great for diaper rash.

It does contain peanut oil for those allergic folks, but contains all-natural ingredients and does not have parabens or sulfites or any of those bad words. A tube will last you for forever…

Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream, $16.

I have a natural happy place for Japanese everything and this lotion is no exception. It smells a little camphor-y, but that fades fairly quickly and isn’t totally unpleasant.

This particular moisturizer “has a uniquely high glycerin content and absorbability achieved through a special manufacturing process” – it absorbs quickly while replenishing lost moisture, and heals and minimizes chapping, scabbing, and scarring. It’s also formulated without sulfates, synthetic fragrances and dyes, petro-chemicals (petroleum) or phthalates (plasticizers). Whew.

I’ve been using it on my chapped, chapped nose for a few days and it’s accelerating the healing like crazy.

Burt’s Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Creme, $9. I’m not gonna lie, this one smells kind of like a delicious almond-y eraser but it is so thick you have to really scoop it out of the jar and work it into those chapped hands… If you do this at night your skin will be like a baby’s cheek in the morning.

My face is very sensitive and something in this irritates it (maybe the acidic grapefruit…?), but for hands and elbows this is really great. Burt’s Bees tends to have more ingredients than I think is super ideal, but in the case of this a few other products I make an exception.

No parabens or petroleum-based ingredients.

Archipelago Soy Milk Hand Creme, $18. This stuff is amazing.

My friends and I discovered it in a tiny Savannah boutique a few years back and I’ve purchased two more tubes since then. It smells milky (but not powdery, yuck) and amazing, and really packs a punch as far as moisturizing goes. A little lighter than the previous lotions, it’s perfect for an all-day hand cream.

According to the website,  soy milk “…is the perfect moisturizer additive: The proteins, amino acids and lipids in this high-powered bean allow for rapid hydration and skin regeneration.”

Overall, it’s a great product and the scent is to die for.

And, lastly…

Herbacin Kamille, $6. I bought a tin of this on my last trip to Germany and its light chamomile scent is pleasant and relaxing.

Herbacin is a German, chamomile-based line of moisturizers… This formula is pretty thick and takes a while to soak in, but you know you’re getting all-night attention that way, I guess… It doesn’t leave a greasy residue, it just stops up your pores, sealing the moisture in.

No parabens, animal ingredients or mineral oils.

Places and Spaces | Curtains

7 Feb

So none of my windows are currently curtained and one of my big projects to make the house fresh again is to dress up the main windows so that I can open the blinds more. This got me thinking what other uses (besides privacy) curtains could have in a room…

Curtains as Room Dividers Curtains as Space Liveners Curtains as Headboards Curtains as Concealment
It seems like curtains are pretty handy! Is your home as devoid of hanging fabric as mine is… or are you a curtain fanatic?

Obsession | Macarons

6 Feb

I had to write about macarons this week because I have been dreaming of them non-stop, day and night. The colors! The texture! The airiness! The crunchy-chewy component! Augh!  Laduree is the famous and incredibly chic Parisian patisserie that I am going to be visiting in Paris and NYC this year. Between the packaging and the deliciousness… I almost can’t bear it. And now, with no further ado, here are some amazing macarons. Is your mouth watering as badly as mine is right now…???


I Quit Sugar | Week 6

6 Feb

” This is not a mean diet. It’s an experiment.”

-Sarah Wilson, I Quit Sugar

The six week mark means only two weeks left to go and I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. This week’s directive is to “play with some sweetness,” meaning that we can allow some treats so that we don’t feel like we’re depriving ourselves. The real test here is whether we, the people not eating sugar, can add it in moderation or whether it’s all or nothing.

I’m a little scared to try. I’ve been dreaming of macarons (my monday obsession) for weeks now, and I’ve “cheated” by having a diet drink and not watching the “incidentals” as much as I should (still using tomato sauce, although low sugar tomato sauce…). I’ve also been drinking 2% milk and eating bread.

On the flip side I have successfully eliminated all sugary drinks, chocolate, fruit, sauces, most processed foods, and sweets, along with reading labels like a maniac and avoiding incidental sugars whenever I can.

Now that I’ve reached sugar-free capability I need to really decide what I want out of this and where I want to go long term as far as health and diet.

So far I know that I’ll go back to sugar but I feel like I want to be more aware of what I’m putting in my body from here on. Limiting sauces, sugary drinks, processed foods, and high-fructose fruit/juice would be both sustainable and pretty easy at this point.

Also, no more soda. Period. It’s just unholy bad for you.

I’ll write comprehensively upon completion of the program including pros and cons and overall impressions, but I’m feeling good about making it this far. It’s been a challenge…

So on to conquering Week 6… I think I’ll get some low-fructose fruit, maybe starting with some of the lowest fructose/sucrose combined fruits like strawberries and grapefruit. Maybe some blueberries. And a piece of dark chocolate at some point because I deserve it!

Gifts For Your Valentine | The Manly Edition

3 Feb

 Now it’s time to address what to get the men in our lives… And I have to say, Valentine’s Day gifts for men usually requires some very creative interpretation if you’re trying to give him something “romantic.” Chocolate and flowers don’t usually produce the same response in their case… I say choose being awesome over being romantic – it’ll be less embarrassing for everyone involved. ha.

Since my significant other sometimes reads my blog, I don’t really want to feature his potential Valentine’s gifts. Instead, here’s a few V-For-Victory Day principles I try to live by:

Get him something he actually likes, as opposed to what you want him to like.

While you might be able to convince him to get rid of those mustard yellow grandaddy corduroys from Goodwill without a fight, the odds of him giving up his nerdier hobbies aren’t as good. Besides, they’ve always been part of his charm.

So, if he’s into video games, seize this opportunity to buy him a game that doesn’t involve violence against women or terrible bloodcurdling screams every two seconds. If he’s really into vintage tees, get him a bunch of cool ones so he stops wearing the one where Jesus is giving people the finger. And so on.

The bottom line is that he’s not going to stop liking things just because you don’t (just as the vice versa is true), but that doesn’t mean you can’t both make an effort to make them more amenable for you both.

 Don’t try to change his “design scheme” too drastically.

Not only will he resent you forever, but you will lose respect for him in his pink socks and tank top and mesh top and capris. It’s just too much. The same rule applies to buying him pastel bathroom decor, knitting him legwarmers, changing his shampoo and conditioner to something from Aveda, or buying him a sweatshirt for the rival team… Valentine’s Day should be a time for you to show him that you know, love, and appreciate him the way he is.Love and food go hand in hand so do your relationship a favor and be cool with whatever happens with the whole dinner thing.

There’s a lot of pressure to have these perfect Valentine’s dates and the truth is, perfection is usually in the unexpected and therefore totally unpredictable. What is predictable is that spending a million dollars on dinner at a crowded restaurant is often a recipe for disaster. The food takes forever and costs a fortune and then somebody next to you proposes or gets massive jewelry and then how do you top that? Any other night you couldn’t care less about these things, but this is the night he’s showing the world how he feels about you!

Not really but it can feel that way on V-Day.

Consider going somewhere fancy the weekend before or trying to put a new spin on an evening at home. Send your kid away, get a nice bottle of wine and some candles, and order some delicious takeout. The importance is in creating a ritual to show appreciation for your mate and you don’t have to spend loads of money to make it nice, or conform to everybody else’s expectations to make it legitimate.

And lastly…Go ahead and be real clear about your Valentine’s expectations in advance.

Whether or not we like to admit it, we ladies are brainwashed from birth to read too far into Valentine’s Day. One year my flowers were wilting as he handed them to me and I was convinced it was proof he didn’t care about me. Truth is, I had actually told him that I thought red roses were cliche and carnations were death flowers so he went all over the DC Metro area looking for something else.  I didn’t communicate very well (I just really wanted flowers that time), and it definitely started the night off on the wrong foot.

Things is, if you really love each other you spend all the other days of the year helping run a household or taking care of them in one way or another. On the other hand, giving someone jewelry on February 14th doesn’t mean you’re treating them well the rest of the time.

In the end, while V-Day is an opportunity to show appreciation for your partner (or a good friend or whomever you wish), it is not by necessity the defining calendar day of your relationship. And it can totally be fun and enjoyable if you remember what’s important.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Gifts For Your Valentine | The Ladies Edition

2 Feb

“Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.” – William Shakespeare 

I think we all probably have complex feelings about Valentine’s Day these days… There’s something robotic about the whole roses-and-chocolate dance, but try a Valentine’s without gifts and see if you’re not mad at your significant other for weeks afterward!

Instead of the fail-fail scenario, maybe we’ll try something new this year: Sweet gifts that differ from the usual fare. Here’s a few ideas for items that will make your otherhalf swoon with amore… and tomorrow, the maskaline version.

Vintage Royal Albert Teacup and Saucer, $32. Because tea should be consumed with dramatic flair, especially when you’re not allowing yourself to drink Russian Hot Chocolate for the next however many bazillion weeks…Oh man. Visions of a 24-piece macaron gift box are dancing in my head right now… Forgo the Walmart mixed chocolates and have some delicious macarons delivered to your doorstep your Valentine’s doorstep instead. I happen to be able to vouch for Lette’s macarons in L.A. Turns out they deliver, and they also sell aprons in fuchsia, chartreuse and violet (ahem violet) for $25. The combination of the two would blow the top off any mixed box of chocolates any day, guaranteed.  Maybe your favorite chef is a little salty, or maybe they’ve always loved knuckle tattoos… Regardless, these witty mitts are just the thing to get you out of a knuckle sandwich on V-Day. Here and here You know what’s super cute without being nauseating? Miniature paintings. This shop on Etsy has almost thirty different ones, all of which are, er, precious for $22 each. But this one’s my favorite…it’s called “Complicated Feelings.”  This print just drips of good will, don’t you think? Extra points for framing it and placing it in the night…! $18 at this Etsy shopKey to successful Valentine’s gifts: Give them something that will serve as a daily reminder of your affection. This omigawdiloveit adorable bento box is way too cute to leave at home, so you’d be softly encouraging them to eat well, too, which is an expression of love on its own. $39.99. Bento boxes also come in other colors and styles.

Tune in tomorrow for some ideas about gifts for the manly man type figure.