Current Faves: Fragrances, 2016

For the longest time, Stella by Stella McCartney was my signature fragrance. Amber is a note that I’m consistently drawn to. The mixture of rose, rose absolute, peony, mandarin, and amber always did something magical on my skin. Often, I was told that I smelled like a well made birthday cake or a bright summer day. I even had a very pregnant lady tell me that I smelled delicious and inviting. That might seem odd to hear, but I definitely took it as a compliment.

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten away from Stella. My body has changed, my hormones are working differently. Stella, while a beautiful scent, doesn’t quite do it for me like it did a decade ago. Also, I love change, even if I’ve been a creature of habit lately. I don’t like smelling the same every day. On the days I know I’ll be at a gym, I’ll just smell like my clean, masculine deodorant I’m wearing (I can’t stand the smell of women’s deos). When I wear a fragrance, it’s never the same one as the day before. Variety keeps people interested.

I have a few fragrances that are on regular rotation right now.

Jo Malone Earl Grey & Cucumber

A couple years ago, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. “Are these scents really worth the hype and money?” I thought. Well, out of all of the fragrances I tried, only two made a positive impression on me. Two! Earl Grey & Cucumber was one of them. I put some on my wrists and the back of my neck, and walked around for awhile. I wanted to see if anyone commented on how I smelled. A few people actually stopped me and told me I smelled good. Later that night, I asked my mother what she thought. She’s not a huge fan of fragrances in general, so she’s definitely a good person to ask. She was impressed and gave me the go ahead.

This fragrance is a perfect blend of bergamot, Earl Grey, cucumber, vanilla, and musk. When I wear it, it smells very refreshing, inviting, bright, and creamy. Because of the “masculine” notes of musk and Earl Grey, many people would consider this better for winter and/or evening. I love it all year round, as the bergamot and cucumber give the fragrance a very lively element.

Tocca Emelia

There is a group of people who blend together well. Our births fall somewhere between 1972 and 1983.  (I still claim I am a Gen Xer, because I have no emotional connection with Millennial). We are the Pearl Jam loving, super grungy, flannel and ripped jeans wearing people. We were the ones who paved the way for what fashion looks like today. Who wore cK one as religiously as me in the 90s? You know you bought, at the very least, a small bottle. You and your beau smelled and dressed alike. I wanted a bottle of cK one, because I wanted to be cool. Yes, I bought into the nonplussed, “alternative” lifestyle that Calvin Klein ads promoted. I remember loving the way cK one smelled. The fresh and crisp elements made me happy. I felt energized when I wore it. I also loved that people thought I was cool with my big bottle of cK one sitting on my desk. [I remember the day I got it. My mother agreed to buy it for me while we were waiting to get on a ferry between Ireland and England (or possibly Wales). It was duty-free, so I’m sure that’s why I was able to convince her.]

Well, I finally found something that reminds me of cK one (as it’s so hard to find these days, and I’m not 15 anymore). Toque’s Emelia is extremely reminiscent of cK one. In fact, the first time I tried Emelia on, I was taken right back to eighth and ninth grade. I immediately wanted to change into a pair of loose fitting 501s, a white tank top, and an oversized flannel. Pearl Jam’s ‘Daughter’ came flooding into my mind. Later that day, as I walked past a group of people, I heard one of them say “oooh, what’s that smell? It reminds me of being a teenager!” She looked my age, so I had to assume she was talking about cK one. I didn’t ask her, so I could be completely wrong.

There are so many notes in this fragrance: magnolia tree lead, bison grass, geranium, praline, coconut water, clementine, and so many more. It is a very green and citrus fragrance, but unlike an extremely popular and overused fragrance. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, hallelujah!) Emelia wears extremely well. It stayed on my skin for about 9 or 10 hours. It may have stayed longer, but I fell asleep smelling delicious.

LaVanila Vanilla Summer

Vanilla definitely has a bad reputation. There are many vanilla based fragrances out there in the world, and you can tell the quality of the fragrance by the way the vanilla smells. If it smells too sweet or synthetic, it’s probably not the best quality. It’s also probably not very expensive either. I am definitely picky about what kind of vanilla I have on and the concentration of the note.

LaVanila is known for their vanilla based fragrances. What sets them apart is that they don’t use synthetic chemicals to produce any of the notes in their perfumes. Each fragrance in the line is made with essential oils and ingredients that come from naturally derived ingredients. Even the alcohol in the perfumes is sugar cane alcohol. All of the products are free of synthetic fragrance, petrochemicals, parbens, synthetic dyes, and other ingredients that appear on consumers’ no-no lists.

Long before LaVanila created Vanilla Summer, I wore Vanilla Coconut. It smelled amazing and I got a lot of compliments. The only problem that I had was that the fragrance would quickly brown, due to the fact the coconut essential oil was naturally derived instead of synthetic. I love spritzing my clothes with a bit of perfume to allow the scent to linger. With Vanilla Coconut, I could only do that with black clothes. The moment Vanilla Summer was released, I was in love. It is absolutely a mood elevator. It makes me think of being on a beach in Hawaii, sipping an icy cocktail after a long day of swimming and surfing and running around. The fragrance motivates me to be active and get outside.

Aside from vanilla, the notes of Vanilla Summer are pineapple, mango, coconut milk, and sugar cane. Seriously, it’s exactly what a tropical smoothie or cocktail should be made out of. Every time I wear this, people who don’t like the smell of traditional vanilla (overly synthetic and saccharine) tell me that they love how I smell. This perfume seems to put everyone in a great mood. I wear this all year round, and it is very helpful during dreary, cold winter days. It snaps me out of any gloomy mood I might be in.


I do have other favorite fragrances, but these are the fragrance I am wearing regularly. Seek them out! Try them for yourselves. Sure, they might not work for everyone, but keep an open mind. It’s nice to try something new. These fragrances, in my opinion, are very versatile and can work for most people.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day & remember to love yourself!

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Vegan Living 101: Beginning

For a good portion of my life, I’ve been a quasi- to full-blown vegetarian. Seafood was the first thing to go, and I can’t even remember the last time I ate anything from the sea. Chicken was the last to go. For 11 years, chicken was the only meat I consumed, and, while I only ate it once or twice a year, I felt guilty doing so. For the last seven years, I haven’t touched any kind of animal flesh. However, I do occasionally have a splash of milk in my coffee if I’m at brunch and don’t want to make a fuss. I’ll also have the occasional bit of cheese and I’m trying my hardest to breakup with milk chocolate.

Soon, I’ll be living by myself, like I did just over a decade ago. This will be perfect for me to fine tune my vegan cooking skills. The only person I’ll have to feed every day is myself, so I can have complete control over the food that is kept and the food that I eat.

For those of you who don’t understand what veganism is all about, the simplest way to describe it is: a choice to abstain from any animal product or byproduct in everyday life, including nutrition, clothes, household items, cosmetics, and personal hygiene products. (The link provided is the Vegan wikipedia entry, and I feel like it does a good job explaining concepts.)

This means that the diet a vegan eats is completely void of anything that falls under the animal classification, including their excretions. One thing that drives us crazy is when a veg*n (an umbrella term that is inclusive of all vegetarians & vegans) gets asked “but you still eat fish, right?” This is a question that we get asked constantly and often results in some fierce eye rolling or a gobsmacked laugh. Sometimes, we’ll be blunt and ask “were you asleep when your fifth grade teacher taught you about animal classification?” Other times, we’ll be kind and say, “thanks for asking, however fish are technically animals, so we abstain from eating fish,” while screaming on the inside.

Here is a list of things vegans get asked if they eat, but don’t:
1. Fish/Shellfish/etc.
2. Honey
3. Poultry (this one really baffles me)
4. Milk/Cheese/Eggs
5. Anything with gelatin in it (i.e. most gummy candy, anything that is a mass produced gel)

I live in a part of the States that considers itself progressive and liberal. It was a hotbed of counter-culture activity in the 60s & 70s. Even with the runoff from that, I find that people are really confused by the concept of veganism. When having a discussion about it, I have found it turns out that people are confused by even the concept of vegetarianism.

So, a series of blog posts is born! I’m going to share a few posts that cover a variety of topics regarding veganism. These posts will include (and aren’t limited to) pantry & fridge staples, vegan candy, vegan cookbooks, vegan cosmetics & beauty products, vegan fashion, misconceptions, personal meal plans for 1, 3, and 7 days, and my favorite recipes.

Please contact me with any questions or possible topics you would like me to cover. Also, please know that I am not a nutritionist, chef, or MD. The information I am giving is purely from my own research, discussion with other people who live a vegan lifestyle, conversations with nutritionists & doctors, and my opinion. I’ll will be citing the information that I give you & will clarify if something is an opinion. If you don’t like or agree with my opinion, I do ask that you remain respectful in your approach. Part of veganism is respect for fellow beings, human and non-human.

Happy trails!!

Working Retail

How many of you enjoy going to the mall for a few hours to shop? A large number of people do. That’s one of the reasons why malls still exist.

The thing is, people often forget that the people working at the mall aren’t all young idiots. There is a growing contingent of well-educated Gen Xers and early Millennials who lost their jobs sometime between 2008-2010 and have had a hard time finding solid, full-time employment in their chosen career field since.

Working retail is heartbreaking, and sometimes very demeaning. Especially for those who have college degrees. As we live in a world in which we need do need money to feed, clothe, and protect ourselves, well-educated people will resort to menial retail jobs while looking for full-time work. Now, there are some people who make a career of working retail. And, the last ten years, I’ve worked retail. Seven years ago, I had the hope that I’d grow within the company I work for and the possibility of growth was dangled in front of me without actual promise. That’s why I buckled down and told myself to go back to school and do something productive with my life. I felt that the act of me going back to school was taken as a sign of defeat from managers at the company I work for.

“If you want to work at corporate, why did you make yourself less available by going back to school?” and “There is no time to develop you as you’re only here two days a week. Can you change that?” Both are questions that had a simple answer of “you have had seven years to develop me, which was a constant request on my part.” Truth of the matter is that this is an entire combination of me trying too hard and getting disheartened when my hard work never paid off, and management not spending the time to truly get to know my strengths and see my hard work.

Enough about me. Let me get to the real point. As I’ve said, those of us who work retail are not idiots. Sure, you’ll come across some less than stellar people whilst out shopping. However, the majority of us are wonderful, insightful, caring people. We don’t like being treated poorly, and no, some of us can’t just quit if we hate the way customers treat us. Many retail employees, like me, are there to pay some sort of bill, whether it be student loans, a second mortgage, car insurance, rent, or tuition, etc.

The things that customers put us through is enough to make any happy, stable person cry. We would love it if every single customer that we interact with, including the awesome ones, spend a year working at our store. In fact, I am in favor of giving all of the on floor employees a month-long paid vacation and have customers man the store while we are gone. Business probably would fail, I don’t doubt that. But, it would be a great experiment and valuable lesson for everyone who shops there.

The best way to describe how we are treated (or perceived):
each sales associate is a special hybrid of two-year old from a non-English speaking country and the CEO of the company.

We are spoken to as though we have never heard a human speak before, we are constantly told we are wrong (especially when we are right), and yet, are expected to have the right answer for everything (ie. what the customer wants to hear), know every little detail about how the company as a whole works, and have the authority to change any detail about our store that hundreds of customers don’t like.

We know how our company works in a broad sense, and as well as it pertains to our store. We are able to work with what our company has given us. And, we will do our best to go above and beyond for our customers. Our company has provided us with the tools to get you the product(s) you need within reason. But, we don’t have the executive decision to knock down the nine stores within our vicinity just to carry every single SKU that the company sells. We don’t have the executive decision to start selling brands that ceased to exist a decade ago. Our backroom does not consist of a factory or lab or series of offices that our headquarters are located in. If we all had any kind of executive decision-making or say, we wouldn’t be sales associates. It’s that damn simple. If that makes sense to a ten-year old, it should make sense to a university educated 35-year-old.

And, if I have to hear “I want something that is 100% natural, organic, and not manmade” and “I need something completely chemical free” once more, I might just scream. Most of the stuff you buy that isn’t food is not 100% natural, nor is it likely to be organic. It may have been processed & put together by a machine in a sterile. Does that process of synthetically making something count as not manmade? (Answer: no.) Oh, and a very minor fact you may have missed in fourth grade chemistry: everything you know to exist on this planet has some sort of chemical structure. So, asking for something without chemicals in it is physically impossible. Stop acting as though two hydrogens and an oxygen bonded together is going to kill you.

If you are going to be rude, fine. We’d rather you not be rude to us, as that’s just unnecessary. We don’t need to be treated like idiots. Our request is simple. Please, stop assuming that we get paid enough to make magic happen. And, a smile never hurts anyone. Neither does “please” and “thank you.”

If none of this makes any sense, I have an idea. Consider yourself. Imagine spending eight hours a day having someone expect you to give them everything you own, then expect you to give them more. Imagine them never asking politely or showing the slightest shred of gratitude. Imagine being asked to explain something you understand immensely and have studied for years, then be told that everything you have said is wrong. Imagine people yelling at you for absolutely no reason. Imagine people stealing money from you. Imagine going home with swollen ankles, having to do housework of your own and caring for your own family. Imagine having to do that multiple times a week.

Working retail is not thrilling. We work hard for very little money. And, while we have plenty of fantastic customers, not a day goes by without having to deal with unpleasant people. We’ve cried because of customers. We’ve felt threatened because of customers. We’ve had to leave halfway through our shifts because of exceptionally unreasonable customers.

Be kind. Be patient. Be mindful. Be aware. And, please, for the love of all things good in this world, know that you are sharing this planet with other human beings. So, stay classy and treat others exactly how you expect others to treat you.

Current Faves

Nubian Heritage: Soaps & Deodorant
Maybe a year or two ago, I saw a newish brand of body care at the “holistic” pharmacy in town. I was looking for something to help exfoliate my feet. It was summer time and I’m wearing flip-flops. Nubian Heritage’s African Black Soap seemed as though it was the best choice. And, boy, was it ever!? Lately, I’ve gotten back into using bar soaps instead of shower gels. I’m about to break open the Coconut & Papaya bar (a golden standard in my life). Earlier this year, I noticed that the brand came out with deodorant. As I love the smell of their Coconut & Papaya products, I got a C&P stick. I absolutely love it! Sure, it is just a deodorant, so my underarms still get moist. But, I smell good throughout the day, and the smell isn’t overwhelming. The other day, I bought a fresh stick, but in their African Black Soap variety. I’m going to test it out this week and see how the smell works.

Rocksbox
After browsing Beauty By Britanie, I noticed a little ad banner on her page. I’ve been trying to spruce up my jewelry game (hence the chloe+isabel gig). I was tempted to click on the ad, because who doesn’t want to try out new jewelry for a month? How Rocksbox works is that you sign up, take a style quiz, and, if you have time, browse some jewelry & add pieces to a wishlist. The quiz & wishlist both help their stylists choose what to send in each box. Once you get a box, you can keep the jewelry as long or as little as you want, send them all back or keep them all (you’ll have to pay for them if you want to keep them). If you purchase all the pieces, Rocksbox will just send you a new box of jewelry to try. I’ll be honest, this might be a dangerous new fave. I signed up on Wednesday (June 17th), received my first box on Saturday (June 19th), fell in love with the earrings that came in the box, purchased them for $17 instead of $35, and sent back the other two pieces. I’m hoping that by next Saturday, I’ll be getting my second box. YIKES! If you want to try it out for a month (for free) use the link!

Farm Sanctuary
This will be a forever favorite. If you don’t know about Gene Baur & Farm Sanctuary, you should. Even if you are an omnivore, Farm Sanctuary is a great organization for anyone with a shred of compassion and concern for the planet. With three locations (two in California, one in New York), Farm Sanctuary takes in injured, stranded, sick, and/or abused animals (primarily for the “farm” variety). At each sanctuary, these animals are given the chance to heal and live a happy, full life. As a vegetarian with a soft spot for farm animals, I fell in love with the organization a few years ago. I got the chance to meet Gene Baur, the founder of the organization. His humbleness and kind spirit, and the fact he has personally responded to emails I have sent him, made me even more of a fan. It helps when founders/CEOs are down to earth and live the essence and core of their organizations. If you get a chance, please read Gene’s books (Farm Sanctuary and Living the Farm Sanctuary Life). And, if you ever find yourself in Orland (CA), Los Angeles (CA), or Watkins Glen (NY), I highly suggest you take a tour of one of the Sanctuaries.

Gift Ideas: Graduation 2015

Many of you have people in your life who have just graduated from high school and college in the past month or two. All of these mark important stages in their lives. Giving a gift is commonplace, and should be done with the best of intentions. These gifts should be useful in the graduates’ lives.

Both men and women should be well prepared as they start searching for jobs. Part of getting the job is looking well presented.

For those who like to wear suits (men & women), I love The Tie Bar. This is a wonderful site that has a plethora of styles to choose from: bow ties, skinny, regular, pocket squares, belts, etc. And, seeing that Jesse Tyler Ferguson (Modern Family) has a bow tie collection featured, I have a feeling that this company has a somewhat openminded outlook on life. Now, remember, men aren’t the only people who wear suits (including ties). Many women do, too. And, if I worked in an environment that had a business dress code, I’d wear a tie every so often.

The Tie Bar: Jesse Tyler Ferguson Tony Awards Bow Tie

Being dressed well is important, and accessorizing is part of that. Having a great bag or briefcase polishes off a “Hire me please!!!” look. Buying a quality bag or case for someone can be tough if you don’t really know their style, or even if they want to avoid leather. I personally choose not to buy leather, and feel that it is safe to do the same when buying gifts for people. Matt & Nat is an amazing Montreal based company that produces beautiful and ethical products. They have gorgeous, simple, stylish bags, briefcases, wallets, laptop cases, etc. all of their products are animal byproduct free, opting to use high quality faux leather instead. I wish someone would buy me a messenger bag or briefcase from this line!

Matt & Nat Lesson Messenger Bag

Jewelry is always a nice gift to give. Having a few simple pieces of jewelry, like ties and shoes, help complete an outfit. As I’ve said, looking polished is one of the many parts of getting hired. Chloe+Isabel is a great online jewelry retailer. They offer classic pieces, as well as seasonal collections and fun, costume jewelry. I am a huge fan of many of their rings and studs. In fact, I am obsessed with their Brilliant Crystal Ring, and wear it almost every day! My style is very simple and understated, however I am tempted to purchase some fun statement pieces myself! [Let me just clarify that I am a merchandiser with Chloe+Isabel, and through this, this helps me with extra income. Any purchase you make through the link I have given you, I make commission. I would love it if you purchased some jewelry, but don’t expect you to. Please, only do so if you see something you or someone you you know will love!]

Chloe+Isabel Brilliant Crystal Ring

Here is a gift I wouldn’t mind getting: a book subscription box. I love reading, and I like getting recommendations that are unheard of. Book Riot looks like such a fun gift! Every three months, the recipient receives a package with a couple (or more) books and other book-type stuff (notebooks, pencils, pens, water bottles). This is a great gift for anyone, especially those with extensive bookshelves. And, I feel that reading is a lost art these days. I’d love to see a wave of people getting back into reading.

For those of you who know people who are movers & shakers, another great option for gift giving is monetary gifts in the form of donations. Find out what charities or social causes your giftee is interested in, and do some research. Many charities and organizations have great incentives for gift givers, including access to events, literature, etc. I know that I would be thrilled if someone made a donation to one of the many organizations I support. JustGive is a great database of many charities/organizations that you can search. This gives you an option to figure out which is the most suitable place to make a donation.

*As per FTC Guidelines, all opinions are my own and I will always clarify if I am paid for or gifted items for anything I write. I choose not to write about anything if it is not a product or service I believe in. If I have been given something to try and I don’t like it, I won’t write about it. If I have been paid to write about something, it is only because I am interested in & support what I am being paid to write about. Thank you! In this post, my Chloe + Isabel boutique is a possible way to make money, but I only ever make a commission if someone actually makes a purchase through my boutique. Everything else is purely my opinion and I received absolutely no incentives to write about any of them.

We All Need A Little Support

As we are nearing Hanukkah, Christmas, and a new year, the art of giving is upon us. You can’t forget the fun parties you will be attending, as well. So why not dress yourself up in some pretty jewelry? How about your girlfriends, wives, sisters, mothers, and any other amazing, fantastic person that enjoys a fantastic cocktail ring or statement necklace?

A few weeks ago, I became a chloe+isabel merchandiser. I’m finally starting to figure out my way around the company and business, enjoying the beautiful pieces I’ve started myself off with. I didn’t think I’d enjoy this jewelry as much as I do, seeing that I don’t exude femininity.

It’s been a few years since I’ve lavished myself in jewelry. I went from having about nine or ten piercings in my ears a few years ago to not wearing any earrings at all. It’d be a big deal if I got a ring or a dainty necklace on. Now that I am working as a merchandiser, I’m finally embracing my femininity again! Almost every day, I’ve got on a ring & earrings or earrings & a necklace or a necklace & a ring. When I do put on some jewelry, I feel special. Everyone should! Woman, man, child, adult. Jewelry helps us feel like we are making a statement about ourselves. It helps tell our story.

My dear readers, I am asking, oh so gratefully, for you to check out my online boutique. If you are compelled to purchase an item (or a few), I really appreciate it! Buy yourself something you are drawn to. Get a gift for someone you want to see smile. Go with love!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. And, if you do take a peek at the boutique (and even purchase something), I am forever grateful! By supporting me through my chloe+isabel boutique, you are supporting this blog and many posts to come!

Homebody Love

After visiting an old college friend yesterday, I was reminded how much she loves to craft as well as keep a welcoming home. She put a humble, homebody bug in my brain and I spent a moment on Pinterest today finding fun craft ideas.

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A few days ago, I found these glasses bottles at Urban Outfitters for $1.99 each. I love the colors! I don’t know what I’m going to do with them or if I should even do anything with them. I might fill them with beads and buttons for crafting…
Share any ideas you may have! And, if you have any fun crafts you like to do on your day off, I’d love to hear.