Rompin’ Around Town

I love the classy look of this navy and floral romper from Canadian fashion designer, Katherine Barclay. Just $24.99 at T.J. Maxx, the piece bottoms up the front offering full coverage with only a small opening at the top, a belt for better shaping, and the essential for any romper – pockets. It’s sleeveless but also looks great with a cardi on top for chillier days.

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For any denim lovers out there, you’ve gotta find these heels. The sandal straps are a light denim and the base is tan. Only $19.99, also from T.J. Maxx.

I’ve moved away from big bags lately but the print paired well with this coral crossbody and it didn’t take long for the love to be rekindled. It’s just so handy to throw everything into a big bag!

Happy Shoesday Tuesday, y’all!

Orange you glad the week is almost over?

This Jessica Simpson dress is named Cherry Cherry but the only connection I can draw is that of a non-ripe version of the fruit and even that’s a stretch. It’s a spot-on shade of orange for any Auburn or UVA fan, and pairs perfectly with colors equally as vibrant. I opted to tone it down with navy.

Retailing at $89, this dress was picked up at Ross for just $29. My office is located right around the bend from Ross, TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, so needless to say I usually try to eat lunch at my desk to avoid the temptation of a mid-day shopping adventure. On this particular day, I failed. But at least it was a good deal!

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The necklace and earring set are a few years old but tend to be one of my frequent go-to combos because of the versatility of the color.

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The bracelet came from a Today Show Steals and Deals a few years back but again, always seems to be something I gravitate back toward. The clutch is a recent purchase from Charming Charlie.

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The flats, also found at Ross, were only $12 and felt worn-in immediately. Super comfy and ease to slip on and off. On a side note, please pay no attention to the weird coloring of my feet. It was my attempt at Jergens Natural Glow Tanning – great product but not such a valiant effort on my part to blend it in. Lesson learned. Have y’all ever tried it? Would love to know the secret to better blending!

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My Best Friend’s Indian Wedding

Ten years ago I moved in with a complete stranger – one with a name I wasn’t even certain how to pronounce.  We knew nothing about each other and only talked once before setting out with our families to find a place to live.  We settled in a borderline ghetto apartment off the campus of the University of South Carolina – right up the street from a homeless center (whose residents we would one day meet at our door).  If our surroundings weren’t going to take us out, our lack-of-homemaking skills were certainly enough to leave our families fearing for our survival.  But somehow, like all college students, we learned to live.

The moments after our parents pulled away, the very first few we had alone, set the stage for what turned out to be an unbreakable bond.  We had a super small box TV with limited reception.  The only thing on was a Richard Simmons exercise video.  So we did what any strangers would do – we looked at each other, got up, and starting sweating with the oldies.  From there the rest was history.  Barkha became the little sister I never had, though all too often, she was so much wiser than I.

We used to talk about the weddings we would one day have.  As a first generation here is the states, her plan was to return to her parents’ homeland of India when that day came.  But, time changes everything.  A few years back, she met an amazing Indian man with a huge personality and name that could not be more fitting for a person who always seems to have a smile on his face – Sunny.

Instead of making the trip to India for their nuptials, Barkha and Sunny brought their traditions, celebrations and family to Florence, South Carolina, for an unbelievable three-day, 5-outfit changes, event.

The first night is the henna tattoo night, or Mendi.  On this night we learned never again to ask an Indian, “Is this spicy?”  Their anwser will likley be no but if you’re brave enough to try, make sure you’ve got a bottle of water (or five) on hand.

Outfit Details: This maxi was a Black Friday deal from Instagram – just $10!

The next morning was the Manglik Prasango – it’s essentially a pre-wedding ceremony filled with prayers and activities that purify and cleanse the bride and groom (their events are held separately).  A turmeric power mixture was spread on Barkha’s face and arms via family members.  The yellow dress she’s wearing has to be discarded afterwards; she can never wear it again, even as beautiful as it is!

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Outfit Details: Adrianna Papell dress retailed at $189 and found at Belk after-season clearance for $35. Jewelery set just $6 from Burlington. 

Later that evening was Garba Raas.  For hours upon hours, guests dance in a circular formation to a series of synchronized steps.  I was able to wear a traditional Indian outfit that night but as if my blonde hair didn’t say “I’m not Indian enough,” the fact that I took out a row of chairs because I was not used to the shawl definitely made it clear!

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Outfit details: Big Buddha Bag (retails for $79) found at Hamrick’s for only $30.

The big day came on Saturday and if you think a Catholic wedding is long, it has nothing on an Indian wedding.  The ceremony started at 10:30 a.m. with Sunny making his way to the Civic center with a majestic white horse among family and friends singing and dancing; the whole shebang ended around 2:00.

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Outfit Details: This amazing three-piece set was handmade in India and given to us as a gift from the bride. 

By the time evening rolled around, it was time to party – and man can those Indians party!

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Outfit details: No special deal on this Cachet dress but sometimes you’ve just got to splurge. The Jessica Simpson Beryl Glitter Platform sandals were on clearance at Dillards for $35, but you can find them still at Lord & Taylor for $53. The rose gold earrings also came from a clearance rack at Dillards, just $7. 

From start to finish, this was one of the coolest experiences of my life but the best part was seeing two incredible, genuine, driven, insert any other positive attributes you can think of here, begin the next chapter of their lives together.

Winter Beauty Woes Solved

For those of us on the East Coast, it seemed as though we might sneak through the winter months unscathed by Mother Nature but alas, she’s about to remind us that she’s been here all long, just waiting to be reacquainted.

Hopefully many of you are still tracking against your new year’s resolution of getting/staying in shape (and not a resolution drop-out like me!) but it’s important to remember that during this time of year, there is more to take care of than just your muscle.  The cold temps and harsh winds can do a lot of damage to your skin, hair, etc., so it’s better to be proactive.  Here are a few of my favorite products:

Face:

It’s beneficial to apply moisturizer on a daily basis all year long, but the practice is especially vital when the wind is all too often whipping in your face.  I recommend Eminence Bright Skin Moisturizer, packed with 30 SPF.  I was inspired to try Eminence, a hand-made, organic line, because of Today Show host Tamron Hall and have been thoroughly impressed.

The 30 SPF is another key here.  Just because it is cold does not mean the sun has stopped emitting harmful rays!  If you elect to go with a non-SPF moisturizer, just make sure you top it off with an SPF lotion.

Lips:

Keep those smackers smooth with a lip balm or moisturizer.  You don’t need anything fancy, even drug store products like eos lip balm or Chapstick will get the job done.  Though not as cost-efficient, I do recommend LipSmart – another natural product that’ll keep you lips healthy and hydrated.

Skin & Hands:

My hands are constantly feeing for moisture, so I keep a bottle of lotion sitting next to my desk at all times.  Even for parts unexposed during the winter, like arms and legs, it’s good to stay well-lathered.

Eos body lotion is as awesome as its lip balm and does not come with a hefty price tag.  I was lucky enough to come across an entire eos gift pack on post-holiday clearance at Target for just $2.99 (originally $8) that included body lotion and hand cream.

Another go-to natural product is Dr. Scheller Hand Balm; it leaves your hands feeling smooth and not greasy which is often an issue with many hand cream varieties.

Nails:

Nails can be extra brittle due to the dry air this time of year, especially if they’re not painted, so it’s a best to reinforce them with a nail strengthener.  I prefer Sally Hansen – cheap and gets the job done!

Hair:

Some experts recommend a deep condition at least once a week in winter months.  I never have the patience to put on the conditioner, wait for it to absorb and then rinse it off awhile later so I opt for a leave-in conditioner instead.  It’s a 10 is my absolute favorite.

Throwing on a beanie is always another quick and easy layer of protection.

Stay warm, lovies!

Taking a chance on change

Change can be a scary thing.  Finding comfort in the familiar is an easy default.  Sticking with what you know, perfecting your daily routine – these are all things that provide us a sense of security and are far more appealing than the idea of walking away from everything you know and taking a leap of faith.  Why?  Because chances come with risks.  But guess what?  Living a life in which you are simply content lends its fair share of risk, too, albeit of a different nature.

You see the thing about change is that it’s natural, even when it does not feel that way.  Like the subtle shifts in seasonal scenery or the gentle flip of a wall calendar, change is engrained in us.  Everything in the world around us changes.  The earth keeps moving and it’s important that we do the same.  It’s not going to stop moving and fighting against it will only leave you exhausted and defeated.

When going through a transitional period in your life, here are some important factors to consider:

Don’t let the opinions of others divert you from the path you’re meant to follow.  Everyone will have their own opinion on what is best for you but the truth is, you’re the only one who really, truly knows what is in your heart.  Be open to the wisdom of others, but take outside thoughts with a grain of salt and don’t allow them to control your decision to make a move.

It’s good to have a big heart, but don’t let that set you back from doing what is best for you.  Sure, being selfish is usually frowned upon but there are actually times when it is okay.  It’s easy to get caught in the idea that you need to make others happy or don’t want to hurt the feelings of those you care about but sometimes, just sometimes, the best thing you can do is to look out for yourself.  Those that care about you, in the most sincere of senses, will accept this.

Dig deep to find out what truly matters to you.  This one is tough and can easily be skewed by the world around you.  It’s easy to be tempted by more money or big promises, but in the end, are these the things that will make you finally feel fulfilled?  Will you be able to look back on your life and say “I’m so glad I was able to do this or make that?” If the answer is no, it’s time to reevaluate.  You don’t want to reflect back later in life and think, “I’m so sad I’m missed out on this because I was too busy being focused on that.”

A world of unknowns awaits you if you’re brave enough to take a chance but the reward may be far greater than leading a life in which you’re always wishing for something more, something different.changing-seasons

Gift Giving: The Magic of Memories

Though a gift granted to us, life is not a thing we should take for granted.  The older I become, the more I understand how precious a gift this life really is.  Another year passed, another group of people that will only live on in memories, hearts and photos.  Be it friends, family, or family of friends, each time I hear of another life taken away, it’s another reminder that there is no guarantee of tomorrow.  That’s why it’s so important that we soak up all the time we do have with those we care for most.  Chances are when you lose someone, you don’t look back and remember the things they bought you.  You remember the things they taught you, the special moments you shared.  Things don’t matter, but people do.

A few years back, my mom got very sick before Thanksgiving and although one to never miss a Black Friday sunrise, reality set in and my priorities shifted.  That particular season was about catering to her, helping her recover, and not about finding the best deals and boxes to stack around the Christmas tree.  There was nothing my mother needed nor wanted more than to feel better and I realize nothing I put under the tree would make that happen.  I decided that instead of buying more “things” for my parents for Christmas, I would invest in memories.

As they get older, I’m not oblivious to the fact that there will come a day, eventually, when we can’t take trips together, when we can’t embark on adventures.  With that in mind, the only gift they received that year was a piece of paper – one that detailed the trip we would take together that spring to Savannah, GA.  From pictures of our accommodations to an agenda tailored to each of them, though not something they could physically use that Christmas morning, it gave them something to look forward to at a time when my mom would be able to enjoy it.  That April we took our trip (yes, ours, because of course I imposed on them).  We got to experience a play at one of the oldest theaters in America, rest our heads at Savannah Bed & Breakfast, tour the town on a sightseeing bus, shop the streets while sipping Mojitos and indulge in the most amazing meal at the Olde Pink House.  My dad and I even rode in a hearse for a nighttime ghost tour and still to this day laugh hysterically about a woman who chased it down.  Those are memories that will last well beyond the time all of us have together.

Following in tradition, this year’s adventure took us to back down I-95 to Charleston, South Carolina.  Again we caught a play at the local theater, took a private horse-drawn carriage around town, ate until we were stuffed and walked around a plantation (and the Swamp where Shrek is from)!

While I’ll still get a few small items for under the tree, I see far greater value in spending money on memorable moments.  If you’re still trying to find the perfect gift for someone you love, give this approach a try.  Don’t buy things just to buy things.  Clothes become dated, children grow out of toys, but memories will always remain.

Holiday Gift Ideas under $20

Believe it or not, there are only TWO shopping Saturdays left before Christmas.  As much as I love this time of year, I hate how fast it flies by.  Time is starting to run out for all of you on-line shoppers (unless you’re Amazon Prime members, of course).  If you still plan to place an order and/or snail mail gifts, just take into consideration that some modes of shipping still require 7-10 business days.

Chances are your calendar is also filling up with holiday parties and gatherings with your friends, meaning there is less time to shop around or wait in the never-ending lines at the register.  In need of a gift exchange item, small gifts for your girlfriends or just a little something extra for under the tree?  Here’s a few ideas under $20 from Ross & T.J. Maxx that will help you get in and get out of the store fast:

Blanket Scarf

We couldn’t get enough blanket scarf this season and that won’t change as the wind whips harder and temperature drops lower going into the winter months.  Typically, this cold-weather accessory will run you about $22+, unless of course, you check out a discount retailer.  The scarfs on the left are from TJ Maxx and go for $19.99, the one on the right is from Ross and costs $12.99.

Delicate Laying Necklace

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Another big trend this season is layering delicate necklaces, regardless of metal (i.e. a short silver necklace paired w/a rose gold drop).  I’m loving the selection at T.J. Maxx, like this Mia Fiore for $19.99.

Kate Spade Tumblers & Mugs

What girl doesn’t love Kate Spade?  This Tumbler, priced at $9.99 and retailed at $15.00 encourages ladies to make headlines; a gift especially appreciate for PR pros like myself (hint, hint friends).  The mug runs for $12.99, compared to $20.00.  Both were spotted at T.J. Maxx.

Monogram Everything: Candles & Cups

Look around on any fashionista’s IG page, and you’re bound to come across a gold-trimmed monogram cup like this one – found at T.J. Maxx for $3.99 (compared to $6.00).  These sweet-scented monogram candles are also a perfect gift (and price) for just $2.99 (compared to $6.00 at Ross.

Inspirational Notebooks

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Know someone that likes to write, make lists, etc.?  Then consider one of these.  From scriptures to words of encouragement, this notebooks make a great gift and are super cheap ($3.99 at Ross compared to $6.00).

Picture Frames

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Another gift you can never go wrong with – a picture frame!  This particular selection from Ross are also adorned with positive sayings, giving your recipient the option to fill the frame or leave it as is.  Prices range from $4.99 – $7.99.

Clutches

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I’m obsessed with this gold clutch ($12.99) from T.J. Maxx but convinced myself to leave it on the shelf in case you wanted it instead:)  Great gift that can be used throughout the holiday season.

Slippers

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These Jessica Simpson slippers from Ross feel so comfortable, come in a variety of colors and styles, and only cost $12.99 (compared to $20.00).

Happy shopping!

XO,

CC

Shopping my own Closet

In anticipation of a move a few years back, I boxed up most of my life, including fall and winter clothes aside from a few staples and backed them away at my parents’ house.  Eventually, I forgot about all of the boxes and added to my cold seasonal wardrobe with new clothes (and more new clothes).

We had been storing the clothes at a second home that my parents own and just recently got word that it will be rented out, so it was time for me to finally move “out,” which meant going through everything and either keeping, donating, or chucking the items in storage.  Much to my surprise, I uncovered four huge bins of fall and winter clothes – items I had completely forgotten about over the past few years.

Going through the buckets felt like I was shopping in my own closet – being reunited with some of my favorite pieces and coming across items that still bore tags.  With all these “new” items back in my possession, I decided one way to curb the shopping habit (esp. during this holiday season when I’m constantly in the stores) would be to rediscover gems I already own.  So, starting today, I’m trying with all of my might to turn to clothes I already have instead of buying new clothes for the rest of the winter.  Let’s see how long this lasts!  I was able to get rid of bags full of clothes that will be donated, but I still have way too much clothing and there’s no sense buying new when I have perfectly good old!

Have you ever made it a point to “shop” your own closet instead of going to the store to buy things?

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I bought this Polo sweater a few years back from the Polo outlet store. You can get some great deals on sweaters there if you wait until the holidays are over – typically Jan. or Feb. when the store is trying to make room for the Spring collection. I paired it with a gingham button-up purchased at TJ Maxx for $19.99.

DIY: Tacky Christmas Dress

A few years back I asked my mom if I could borrow one of her sweaters for RVA’s first SEC tacky sweater party.  Her response? “I don’t own any tacky sweaters.”  The reality?  She was a kindergarten teacher for 35-years so of course she has a closet full of tacky attire!  While the snowman sweater sufficed for the first year, I knew I could come up with something better the next time around.

I went to work making my now go-to tacky holiday party ensemble.  A trip to Ross and the Dollar Store gave me everything I needed.  I found a simple red dress on the clearance rack for about $5 and grabbed a few bags of bows and garland at the Dollar store.

I hot-glued each individual bow onto the skirt of the dress and then did the same with the garland along the base of the dress, sleeves and neckline down through the back.  A few hours and a bunch of burns later, the dress was complete.  Next, I took a plain headband and topped it off with a few bows.  To accessorize, I made a bracelet out of ornaments.  Side note: the first year I made the mistake of using glass ornaments, whoops!  Needless to say, I switched it up after that.  I found cute green, silver and red bow earrings and a ring at Charming Charlies, too.  For under $20 in total, my holiday outfit was complete.

Last year I even added light strings to the skirt for some extra flair.  Three years later, most of the bows have stayed on but I do tend to leave a small trail whenever sitting is involved: )

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