Stories for the year: 2013

Fitness & Health, Home, ObsessionsA Natural Wake-Up

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If you’re an anti-morning person like me, there’s nothing worse than the piercing sound of an alarm, followed by groaning and tears. Since retiring and sleeping in is not even close to being on the horizon, I’ve discovered the next best thing: a more natural way to wake up inspired by nature’s sunrise. The Philips Wake-up Light is a clock that, instead of an alarm, uses light to simulate a gradual sunrise, gently lulling you out of sleep to wakefulness. Not only do I avoid getting jolted from REM, but the faux-sunlight stimulates the body’s natural rhythms to transition to wakefulness, even before I even open my eyes. The whole day feels different for me, as I feel relaxed and ready to take on the world as opposed to groggy and counting cups of coffee. To my surprise, it even helps if it was a late night and I didn’t get quite enough beauty rest! If you’re worried that light won’t be enough to wake you from dreamland, there is a simple alarm at the end of the gradual “sunrise” which will ensure that you don’t miss that morning meeting.

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NailsJulep Oxygen Nail Treatment

julep_oxygen_nail_treatment“Natural-but-better” has always been my personal beauty jam, as evidenced by my penchant for BB Creams, tinted lip balms, and the only direction I gave my makeup artist on my wedding day. I also employ that philosophy when it comes to manicures. Although I love a dark dramatic polish as much as the next beauty enthusiast, in between trying to squeeze in salon appointments and at-home-late-night polish changes, I dare to rock a bare nail. Or rather, better-than-bare, thanks to my discovery of Julep’s Oxygen Nail Treatment. Equal parts tinted “nail makeup” and rejuvenating ”treatment for thin, weak nails prone to breakage and peeling,” this product strengthens and protects nails while giving it a pretty, natural-but-better glossy blush tint. The treatment is designed to be used on its own without a base or top coat once or twice a week. The texture is a bit thinner than your average polish and smooths onto nails easily with the brush applicator leaving a high-shine finish that covers up surface imperfections. Apply one coat for a super sheer finish or two for a more opaque pink. My favorite part is that the treatment leaves behind the look of a professional manicure while taking all of three seconds per finger. The fact that it’s also good for my nails is just icing on the cake.

Julep Oxygen Nail Treatment retails for $18 at Sephora.com and Nordstrom.com.

Hotels, TravelLe Toiny St Barth

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Famous for its real estate, yachts, and the uber-privileged jet set that inhabits both, St. Barth immediately conjures up images of glitz and glamour. As a first time visitor, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, though I imagined something like a Caribbean island version of the VIP room of a New York City nightclub—filled with celebrities and beautiful people, free flowing champagne, and an uninhibited energy that pulsates through the night. Though I was eager to visit—my social media feeds of editors and tastemakers were always filling my stream with gorgeous photos of the island—I was also a bit apprehensive. After all, without a network of friends who regularly vacationed on the island, I wasn’t sure if I’d fit in at such an exclusive locale.

I needn’t have worried. Immediately after landing in Gustavia, my husband and I were already being charmed by the customs agent (now, how often do you hear that from weary travelers?) and with nary a line in sight, we were out of the airport in under five minutes and chowing down our first taste of the island at nearby Maya’s-to-Go. It didn’t take long to discover that actually it’s the secluded untouched natural beauty, easy quality of life, and welcoming spirit that makes St. Barth such a desirable and luxurious destination–in fact, exactly the opposite of the hoity attitude that I had feared. Our ultimate destination on the island was Hotel Le Toiny located on the South-Eastern coast. I didn’t know it yet, but the property would turn out to embody all the wonderful qualities of of St. Barth I was quickly falling in love with. READ MORE

BeautyBejeweled Vaseline Lip Therapy Rosy Lips

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Cult fans have long traveled to the UK to stash up on the little tins of Vaseline Lip Therapy Rosy Lips, swearing by its effectiveness at soothing dry chapped skin (lips and elsewhere), light rosy fragrance, and pretty pink sheen. Now, just in time for winter (we all know January and February conditions are the worst), Rosy Lips has made its stateside debut so the rest of us can also experience this little miracle. The simple formulation consists of 100% triple-filtered petroleum jelly with added berry color and rose vanilla scent and feels a bit thicker and softer than its British counterpart. Each tubs retails for $1.99–I have already acquired multiple, one for each winter coat pocket. A limited edition collector’s version is entirely encrusted in Swarovski crystals and can be found for $45 at Fred Segal and Shop Kiton. Though I had originally deemed the bedazzled tub too pretty to use, one swipe of the content inside quickly changed my mind.

Vaseline Lip Therapy Rosy Lips ($1.99) at drugstores nationwide. 

Food, HomePerfect Pairing: Donna Karan New York Blend & Be The Light Czech Holiday Cookie Candle

Relax and unwind this season with a pairing that’s as cozy as it’s elegant.

Tea and a candle may not come to mind immediately as going hand-in-hand, but Harney & Son’s Donna Karan New York Blend tea and Petra Nemcova’s Be The Light Czech Holiday Cookie candle complement each other in just the right way. The gentle caffeine-free blend of chamomile, ginger root, and peppermint tea calms and balances while the candle notes of cedarwood, cinnamon, clove, and vanilla envelope your senses in warmth and sweetness. Each is lovely on its own, but best experienced together as an evening ritual to unwind after a chaotic day. The pairing also makes a thoughtful gift for the haute hostess or busy woman and is equally enjoyable whether shared around the table with family or alone during a singular moment of escapism.

Harney & Sons Donna Karan New York Blend tea ($10, DonnaKaran.com,Harney.com)
Be The Light Czech Holiday Cookie Candle ($98, BG.com, NeimanMarcus.com)

Gift GuidesLast Minute Holiday Gifts for All Budgets

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Still shopping for the holidays? Me too. In fact, I just ordered another box of these last night! Sure, it’s the 11th hour, but there are still plenty of gems out there just waiting to be gift-wrapped and rushed to your friends, family and co-workers. In case you’re at a loss, here are my top picks for crowd-pleasing gifts (counter-clockwise from top left):

1) WILT Slub Jersey Slouchy BF, $105 — One of the most comfortable brands in my closet this season, WILT makes these versatile hi-low tops in many different fabrics and shades — all of which look and feel different! Take your pick, or just spring for this little black number. (They’re roomy so you can just ballpark the size.) It will be a lifetime staple in your favorite fashion lover’s closet, promise!

2) Diptyque 34 Boulevard Saint Germain Candle, $80 — Ask any candle or fragrance fanatic; you can’t go wrong with Diptyque. Named after the brand’s first boutique location, this unique, gender-neutral scent is at once fresh, spicy, calming and oddly addictive. Available online (or check your local Bloomingdale’s).

3) Piper-Heidsieck Brut Champagne, $29.99 — With New Year’s Eve coming soon, a bottle of champagne is on every party lover’s subconscious wish list. However, if a highly rated Cristal or an ever-popular Veuve Clicquot are out of your price range, go for this solid pick. Not only is its red label festive around the holidays, it’s widely available and consistently tastes good, if not better, than several more expensive brands I’ve tried.

4) Head Massager, $4.50 — These are super cheap stocking stuffers, and while they might seem tacky at first glance, believe me — the person you give them to will hunt you down and thank you later. They are instant stress reducers. Don’t believe me? Have someone else run one over your head; you’ll be amazed!

5) Bodum Pavina Cups, starting at $7.50 — Inspired by the chamomile mint tea I recently ordered at Alma, Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant in America 2013, these double-walled, temperature- and scratch-resistant cups are pure genius when it comes to holding hot beverages. I prefer the tiny 2.5-ounce espresso cups but they also come in 12- and 16-ounce sizes, as well as this handy tea version with an infuser.

JewelryObsession of the Moment: Miriam Salat Feather Cuff

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FragranceA Taste of Honey

marc_jacobs_honeyI love Marc Jacobs anything, so I always get excited when he has a new product out. (You should’ve seen me the first time I laid eyes on his new makeup collection.  There were practically tears!)  So naturally, I was super happy finally to get my hands on his new scent, Honey. First of all, how cute is the bottle? Adorable, right? It just makes me smile when I look at it and love its bright cheerfulness and the little “bees” attached.But even more than the bottle, I love the scent itself. It’s so fruity and energizing and just the right fragrance that works for both day and night with notes of Pear, Juicy Mandarin, Orange Blossom, Peach Nectar, Apricot, Honeysuckle, Honey, Golden Vanilla and Smooth Woods. You can definitely smell all of the citrus notes in it, which is a plus for me and is very fresh and feminine, not overpowering or too heavy. READ MORE

Beauty, SkincareWinter Wonderland Skin Remedies

Brrrr… the cold is here, and between the wind and snow, it is sinking in deep! Luckily, I’ve discovered some new goodies for keeping skin cozy and moisturized.

ultrarepaircream1) I struggle with annoying patches of dry skin, bordering on eczema and have finally found an answer to my seemingly endless (and frustrating!) search: First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream. As soon as I opened up the jar and sunk my finger into the fluffy but creamy concoction, I knew I was onto something different. Not only did it beat out my old misconceptions that an “eczema treatment” had to be dense as a brick to be effective and take forever to absorb, but it actually changed the feeling of my dry skin instantly. The non-greasy formula is easy to put on, and the cloud-like texture makes it a pleasure to massage in. The cream is formulated to penetrate quickly to relieve severely dry, scaly skin, and can even work to alleviate atopic dermatitis, eczema, and keratosis pilaris. Colloidal oatmeal is something I’ve used on my baby’s skin when she gets dry patches, which is one of the main ingredients in the Ultra Repair Cream. Together with shea butter, eucalyptus oil, and ceramides, the colloidal oatmeal relieves skin on the body and  face. READ MORE

Beauty, SkincareDermalogica PreCleanse Wipes

precleanse-wipes

Well, the cat’s out of the bag, people! Dermalogica’s new PreCleanse Wipes are now available, and my lazy alter ego couldn’t be happier. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dermalogica PreCleanse, see my previous post on the Dermalogica Double Cleanse.

PreCleanse Wipes are basically a travel-friendly, biodegradable version of PreCleanse. Loaded with oil-based cleanser, they help break down waterproof makeup and all the gunk that collects on your face throughout the day. And while they have a slight botanical scent to them, they are free of artificial fragrances, colors and parabens.

Now, tip time: Dermalogica recommends using PreCleanse Wipes prior to a Dermalogica cleanser for ultra-cleaning action, but I know some people who just use the PreCleanse Wipes by themselves, then rinse really well after. I’ve done both, and they’re both effective, but I prefer the results of the complete, double-step approach. (Keep in mind, skin care experts generally advise not to use makeup remover wipes too frequently because they still leave chemical residue on your face, which can be irritating over time.) READ MORE

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