Monday, April 25, 2016

Product Review: VIIcode O2M Oxygen Eye Mask

Even though I try really hard to get 8 hours of sleep, there are plenty of nights where it just doesn't happen and unfortunately, it shows in the form of dark circles and puffiness (one of the joys of being in my thirties!). I recently had the opportunity to try out a product that has intrigued me for a while because I'm a big mask junkie and the VIIcode O2M oxygen eye mask had some great reviews.

I was curious to try VIIcode because they use natural plant oxygen extracts, and the continuous overnight treatment is different than most other eye masks that you only leave on for a few minutes. You apply these eye patches right before bed, and let them work their magic while you sleep. They hydrate your undereye area to give it a brighter, smoother appearance which sounded pretty great to me!

The gel-like texture of the mask is very smooth, and has an immediate cooling effect that feels very soothing. I was impressed with how easily the mask sticks in place and stays there overnight (especially because I typically sleep on my side and toss and turn throughout the night). I also liked that there is no dripping from the gel, and that the mask is totally mess-free! I first used the mask during a night when I didn't get enough sleep; a night like that would typically cause me to wake up with some puffiness, but there was definitely a visible reduction the next morning so I was quite pleased with the initial results.

Each VIIcode O2M oxygen eye mask box contains 6 masks and a full course of treatment takes 3 boxes. For best results, it's recommended to use the oxygen eye mask 2-3 times a week. At around $55 a pop, these boxes will likely be more of a special treat for me when I feel like my eyes need some TLC rather than part of my regular skincare routine, but I'm pleased to add them to my beauty arsenal! Has anyone else given these masks a try?

Monday, April 18, 2016

DIY Gold Letter Magnets

When I was a kid, I had a huge stockpile of multi-colored letter magnets that I would use to practice spelling and make letter designs all over my parents' fridge. Even though I outgrew those magnets many years ago, I love an easy DIY project and it struck me that the magnets could take on a new, grown-up twist if I made them gold and shiny!

This project is ridiculously simple - all you need are the magnets, some gold spray paint, and a large piece of cardboard. 

First, lay your magnets out on the cardboard (be sure that they are not touching each other).

Hold your can of spray paint about 12 inches away and coat the magnets. Make sure to use long, even strokes and spray from a variety of angles to get inside all of the crevices.

Make sure you let the magnets dry between coats, and let them sit overnight before adding them to your refrigerator. 

I love how they turned out! They go perfectly with my gold dot kitchen and are great for writing fun little messages. I've seen other similar tutorials that also spray the back of the magnets and use primer before coating, but I've been using these magnets for over 6 months and they are still holding strong so I think it's safe to skip those extra steps.

What do you think of this metallic twist on a favorite childhood toy?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Top 10 Tips for Bridesmaids: Before the Wedding

With the start of spring, wedding season is upon us once again! While I don't have any official bridesmaid duties coming up this year, I've had plenty of experience as a bridesmaid for some wonderful ladies and have really loved being part of the entire process. Last year, I shared some of my favorite ways to be a superstar bridesmaid at the wedding but what about those many exciting months leading up to the big day? Here are some tips on how to enjoy the bridesmaid ride and be there for your gal as she prepares to say "I do!"

Pop that champagne! 

Don't pass up a chance to celebrate this awesome news! If you've made it into the Bride Tribe, you've already been there for her through many highs and lows, so show her how much you care by taking her out for a glass of champagne (or two). Relive the engagement story through her eyes, discuss her initial thoughts on colors and bridesmaid dresses, make a fuss over the ring, and toast to this awesome milestone in your wonderful friendship!

Tag along on dress shopping...

If the bride invites you to join her on her search for THE dress, it shows that she values your opinion and would appreciate your feedback on the many beautiful options out there. If you can make it work with your schedule, try your best to be there for her (plus, there's usually free champagne involved which is also a bonus!).

...and other errands, when you can.

While it may not be as fun as dress shopping, every bride would appreciate a helping hand with stuffing invitations, picking up boxes of votive candles for the centerpieces, and all of those other little tasks that just keep piling up. Offer to spend a Saturday afternoon helping her tackle her wedding to-do list.

Divide and conquer the planning for the pre-wedding events.

It's important for all of the bridesmaids to pitch in to help with some aspect of planning the pre-wedding activities so that the Maid of Honor doesn't get totally overwhelmed. If you're crafty, offer to help create centerpieces for the bridal shower; if you're an organized list-maker, you can be the RSVP contact and track the party responses; if you're a talented chef, give the bride a sweet treat and create a special cake for her bachelorette party.

Stick to an agreed-upon budget.

We all know that weddings can be expensive for everyone involved and that each bridesmaid's financial situation is different, which is why it's so important to agree to a budget that everyone is comfortable with...and stick to it! There's nothing worse than setting aside a certain amount of money for your share of a bridal shower and then having your tally creep up just because the bridesmaid in charge of the favors unilaterally decided to buy everyone a full-size bottle of champagne instead of the splits that fit into the budget. 

Embrace the bridal shower theme and games.

An afternoon tea may not be your cup of tea but getting into the spirit of the theme will make the bride very happy. Same goes for the party games - be an active participant (and who knows, maybe you'll win and score an awesome prize!).

Help the Maid of Honor out by weighing in!

We've all received those group emails started by the Maid of Honor where she offers some preliminary ideas of where to host the bridal shower, closes it by saying, "What do you think?", and...crickets. Generally, the MOH is trying to get the ball rolling on the planning but it makes it difficult when no one contributes an opinion on the different options that she is presenting (or worse, chimes in after the restaurant has been booked to say that maybe it would be nicer to host it at someone's home instead). Offer a quick, clear response so that she can begin moving forward with the arrangements.

Tailor the pre-wedding events to the bride's tastes.

Since you're close enough to the bride to be a bridesmaid, you know that she would rather spend her bachelorette party at a quiet cabin in the mountains even though you'd love to lounge poolside in Vegas. Let her call the shots on this one (and try to find a mountain cabin with a jacuzzi!).

Attend as many of the pre-wedding events as possible.

With an engagement party, a bridal shower, and a bachelorette party being par for the course in many weddings, your calendar fills up pretty quickly with bridesmaid obligations. Plan ahead and mark these dates down as early as possible so that you can prioritize these events as other things come up. 

Just wear the dress!

You knew that one was coming, right? Yes, it's probably overpriced and no, you will NEVER wear it again...but just wear it anyway (with a smile!).

What have you learned during previous bridesmaid stints? Any top tips to share?

 Linking up with Meg!

Monday, April 4, 2016

How to Plan a Brunch Club

Brunch is one of my very favorite weekend activities - since I'm a morning person, I love that it allows me to jump right into a social event without having to wait until the end of the day! Plus, the mimosas and yummy breakfast/lunch combos certainly do not hurt.

Since NYC is the world's unofficial #1 brunch-loving city, my friend Emma and I went on a quest to try as many delicious brunch spots as possible by going on a monthly outing with friends. The premise was simple: once a month, without fail, we would organize a date to get together for brunch. While the original focus was on trying as many delicious brunch foods as possible, I quickly came to look forward to these outings as a guaranteed opportunity to see my closest friends, no matter how crazy life gets in between. Almost 3 years later, our monthly Brunch Club is still going strong and has hosted an outing every single month since the club was formed.

Interested in starting your own Brunch Club? Here are some simple guidelines that have helped us:

* Invite fellow brunch-loving friends to join!

This first step is the most important one, since you can't really have a club without other members! Emma and I invited about 8 of our closest friends to join us at the inaugural Brunch Club outing; since then, the club has grown quite a bit due to new friends and new significant others joining the party and we've lost a few members due to moves to California and other far-flung places (though they always have an open invitation to join whenever they are in NYC!). While everyone is welcome, we have created an email database of the core members (which is now at about 20 people) to keep the group manageable (it's a lot easier to make a reservation for 8 people than it is for 25!). There is no pressure to come each and every month (and honestly, it's usually pretty difficult to make it to every brunch since the weekends are so crazy for everyone), but there is always an open invitation.

* Don't pick a set date.

This may be contrary to traditional monthly club guidelines where your book club meets every third Wednesday, but we've found it much easier to vary the dates each month. The only rule is, the date must fall within that specific month - anywhere between April 1 and April 30 is fair game! In practice, that means that sometimes we'll have brunch two weekends in a row and other times we'll go close to two months between gatherings, but it alleviates the stress of having a standing meeting. Also, since everyone is so busy, our club gatherings have ranged from as few as 4 people to as many as 20+ - it's all part of the fun, since that creates a different atmosphere every time!

* Have a rotating monthly host plan the logistics. 

Our club members take turns with hosting duties because we switch up the host each month. If it's your turn to host, you are responsible for selecting the date/time, researching venues, sending a Save the Date email to club members, and making the reservation once people have confirmed whether or not they can make it. It's not too labor-intensive, especially since most people only have to host once a year at most.

* Select the hosts through a fun game.

If you're wondering how we select the hosts, the answer's different every time! The final responsibility of the host is to pass the torch to the following month's host through a game of their choosing...we've had past hosts selected by: thumb wrestling, lottery scratch-off tickets, trivia, and even writing our names on sugar packets and having Little M pick the winning packet when he made a cameo at brunch!

* Try a new place every time.

Sure, there are some amazing places that we would love to revisit, but part of the fun is trying someplace new! We've been to brunches with live jazz bands, pizza brunches, margarita brunches, and even an infamous, dangerous punch bowl brunch:

Just make sure you stay within reasonable geographic limits - for us, anywhere in the 5 boroughs is fair game (though in practice, we're prepared to hear some grumblings if anyone decides to venture to a borough other than Manhattan!).

* Start a holiday tradition.

The December meeting of the Brunch Club is usually the last time we're all able to get together before the New Year, so we've created a special tradition of including a small, silly gift exchange with our brunch. Everyone buys a fun gag gift for under $10 (such as the monkey hat seen below), we each take a turn opening one, and then the person after you has the opportunity to steal a previously opened gift or select a new one from the pile. It's a low-cost, sweet tradition that serves as our own little holiday party.

* Celebrate milestones!

This monthly touchpoint is a great chance for us to celebrate each other and toast to all the wonderful things happening in our friends' lives, whether it's receiving a promotion, buying a new house, or starting a new relationship. We try to make a point to celebrate anything noteworthy that's happened since the last club gathering, and each August we do a "year in review" of the previous year's worth of brunches.

One of my favorite Brunch Club celebrations involves my friend C, who met a guy through an online app and decided to finally meet in person right after a spring Brunch Club where we all had some post-brunch champagne in the park (and could spy on them from a few feet away). He met her there, I sneakily took the picture below, and then...

...a year later, they announced their engagement at a Brunch Club meeting :)

* Take photos!

We try our best to take a group photo at every brunch to keep a log of all of our fun memories!

Are you part of any monthly "clubs" with your friends? How would you feel about starting your own Brunch Club?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Five on Friday {April 1, 2016}

Oh hey, it's Friday! This is shaping up to be a pretty interesting weekend in NYC, with temperatures climbing into the 70s today (yay!) and then dropping way down on Sunday with the possibility of some...(deep breath)...SNOW (booooooooo!). I wish the spring weather would take off its coat and sit for a minute but until then, here are 5 things I'm loving this week:

To-Do List Makeover

I am a planner, a list-lover, and an all-around organization freak so I've always thought I have a pretty good handle on a To Do list system that works for me. Basically, I keep a running Google Doc of tasks that are broken into two categories: Today, and Future. I've noticed that recently my Today portion has been growing longer and longer and I've become increasingly dissatisfied by my inability to cross everything off of it, so I was thrilled to read this article from Glamour. With one simple tweak, my list is suddenly MUCH more manageable and leaves me feeling accomplished by the end of the day because my Today portion now caps out at five action items, while my Future is split into This Week and Beyond. The simple act of giving myself three, instead of two, levels of priority has been incredibly helpful - love a simple fix!

Final Four

Who else has March Madness fever?! I'm super psyched because my alma mater, Villanova University, is in the Final Four this year! I attended a few games in the earlier rounds but I'll be cheering them on from afar when they take the court in Houston tomorrow night. Who has them picked in their bracket to go all the way?

Girl Scout Cookie Wine Pairings
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We all know that Girl Scout cookies are magical treats from the heavens and wine is always our go-to drink of choice. Adding them together in perfect pairings is definitely the sort of math we can get behind! Luckily, this guide is a handy aide in deciding whether the perfect match for your Thin Mints is a red or a white (answer: it's a Pinot Noir. Good to know!)

Favorite Pin
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I usually scan Pinterest for new dinner inspiration, but how could I resist pinning this mouthwatering dessert? A Baileys Cookies and Cream parfait...not only are those flavors absolutely amazing, but it's incredibly simple to put this sweet treat together! I'll definitely be serving this up at my next party.


Unfortunately, all those parfaits eventually take a toll...I've been popping into a bunch of small fitness studios over the past few months and really enjoying those specialized classes, but lately I've been feeling the urge to up my routine and include more weights and machines so...yesterday I rejoined a gym! It has tons of locations, including 4 within walking distance from my office. I'm hoping its accessibility will keep me accountable and help me reach my fitness goals over the next few months!

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Cheers to AprilAmandaJennieKarliRebecca, Katie, HeatherAndrea, and Tif for hosting today's link-ups!
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