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When to Splurge and When to Save



Listen, I am not going to lie, I have expensive taste. You could place five identical black shirts in front of me and I would only like the most expensive one. It is like a sixth sense. But let's get real, I have champagne tastes on a beer budget. That doesn't mean I don't or can't have nice things, it just means I have to be strategic as to when I save and when I splurge. Also I go by the motto groceries? maybe… shoes? yes! (but not something I advocate)

Instead of taking the price tag at face value, I try to figure out the items value based on usage. For example, the day after Christmas I was shopping with my little sis/cousin at J.Crew and she fell in love with a black fluted skirt (the same skirt I have and love)! Of course she is only 17 and still figuring out her style (she currently has this fabulous retro chic look happening) and what is worth spending her money on.

However, this skirt was incredibly flattering on her and as she put it "the most comfortable skirt… ever!" Unfortunately it had a $98 price point. I explained to her that this skirt was timeless and if you divided that price by the number of times she would wear it, then it ends up being less expense than a couple of cheaper items you only wear a couple times (and are usually less flattering).

She left the store without the skirt, but the more she thought about it, the more she wanted it. We ended up ordering it online that night lol.

As I have gotten older, I have found that I value having fewer items that are classic and well made over lots and lots of cheaper and trendier clothes. When determining whether or not an item is worth splurging on I ask myself the following questions:

Is it flattering and does it make me feel amazing?
More expensive clothing tends to be better made and better cut (when you are not paying for the brand of course). Investing in pieces that make you look and feel amazing is important!

Does it fit my style and blend with my current wardrobe?
When investing in clothing it helps to have a clearly defined style and aesthetic. There is no point in spending a lot of money on something you won't like next year or doesn't go with anything you already own.

Is it stylish but not trendy (meaning can I wear it for more than one season)?
A good example of this is a pair of Hunter Boots. They are stylish (not to mention functional) but they are also classics that will remain in style for a couple years. Another example would be a plain and classic pair of Tory Burch ballet flats or riding boots. They will look chic for years to come, but you want to avoid seasonal looks like studs or patterns, which will look dated.

Will I wear it enough to offset the cost?
I have a $100 J.Crew denim jacket that I bought four years ago. It looks brand new and I wear it constantly. I once accidentally left it in the bathroom of the Rome airport and cried when I thought it was gone forever (it was perfectly worn in). Fortunately, I later found it in the lost and found. Bottom line, when I divide that 100 dollar price point by the number of times I have worn the jacket the cost per wear is incredibly low and the jacket remains completely worth the price!

Is the fabric/material practical?
I really value items that are made well and continue to look brand new after months and even years of wear. I was so upset when the gold finish on my adorable Micheal Kors purse started rubbing off. I also try to avoid spending too much on light or delicate fabrics, because I hate spending money on something I can ruin by staining (I am spill prone).

Does the item fit your lifestyle?
This last point is important and you have to be real with yourself. I live in Florida and travel mainly in the summer, so most winter coats aren't really worth the investment, but a good sturdy and functional suitcase is!

My all-time biggest splurge was my Briggs and Riley suitcase. Every time I travel I love this suitcase a little more. Not only is it lightweight and functional, it has a lifetime warranty. For me, it was completely worth it!

What items are you willing to splurge on?
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After Xmas Sales + OOTDs


Hopefully everyone had a very merry Xmas, I know I did!

I got new (J.Crew) Christmas jammies, a monogram
necklace, and a pearl necklace!
(I love the way the necklaces look layered together!)

I have decided to just blog intermittently from now until New Year's, so I can focus on relaxing and spending time with friends and family. But not to worry, I will be back and in full-swing come the first of the year!

Yesterday we (stupidly) braved the crowds at our local mall and outlet mall. Our excitement over our gift cards clouded our better judgment. But in the end, we scored a couple good deals, so I guess it was worth it.

Unfortunately, my pre-holiday travels prohibited me from spending my Tory Burch gift card. And then I realized it was only good until December 31st, so I made stopping by the store yesterday a top priority. I ended up picking up an adorable navy (of course) leather wrap bracelet and the cutest travel umbrella. I've been lusting over this umbrella for some time. It is incredibly tiny and I think will be perfect for my summer travels. TB is having an amazing sale right now (25% off all sale items, and most things are marked down) so my total for both items with the gift card was only 14 bucks!


Next, I hit up J.Crew and bought the lace peplum top I love in cream, which is now 40% off (instead of last week's 30%). I had to hold myself back from scooping up all of their great winter clothes that are currently on sale (since I live in Florida).

Finally, I headed to the J.Crew factory store where everything was 50% off with an additional 20% off! For just 40 bucks I got these adorable shorts that I am going to pair with this perfect navy striped tee (because you know I love mixing patterns)!


I also thought I would share some of my recent holiday OOTDs:

Christmas Eve Eve

Christmas Eve

The day after Christmas
Enjoy the rest of your holiday break!

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Fun with History: The Origins of Xmas



For some reason people think that the shorthand for Christmas--Xmas--is a negative term that is used to secularize Christmas (in that it removes the "Christ" from Christmas). Well guess what? It isn't!

Fun fact, Xmas is not a derogatory abbreviation for Christmas. It is short hand that has been used for over 1,000 years!

It originates from the Greek letter Chi (X), which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, which is translated into Christ in English. Chi (X), or Chi Rho (XP), have been used to symbolize the name Jesus Christ since ancient times. So Xmas literally means Christ + mas (a mass for Christ)!

Just thought I share some fun history with you on this Christmas Eve. Feel free to impress people with this fun fact at your next holiday party!

Merry Christmas!
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Holiday Style


My family never really gets dressed up for the holidays. We usually put on something nicer for our Christmas Eve gathering and then spend most of Christmas day in our pjs (a tradition I completely support)!

For this Christmas Eve, I plan on wearing my favorite J.Crew tartan skirt (from last year) and my new bow popover! I plan on accessorizing with my favorite J.Crew tights (if it's cold enough), Kate Spade bow earrings, pearl necklace, tortoise shell clutch, a red lip, and bright nails!


And I will be spending my Christmas in these:


Christmas is almost here, hope you're ready! 



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Eat, Drink, See, and Do: Barbados


I made a promise to myself that for each place I travel (from this point on), I would make a list of all of my favorite places to eat and drink, the best sights, and fun activities. So here is my first installment of Eat, Drink, See, and Do! I hope you find it useful!


I think it is so important to record what you have learned on the ground and pass that on to others. I love getting advice about new places from people who have recently been there (I was lucky enough to have someone who is basically a local)! I have hyperlinked the descriptions below (when possible).

1. Cuz
BEST. FISH. SANDWICH. I. HAVE. EVER. HAD. There is a reason this little fish shack out-ranks gourmet restaurants on Tripadvisor, it's phenomenal. I would make Brittany take me there whenever possible.

The food at Cutters is also amazing (they serve more than just fish sandwiches) and they have the best rum punch on the island. But watch out, it is strong!

3. Mojo
Mojo is a great little restaurant with good food and drinks and a great casual yet fun atmosphere.

Ju-Ju's is a great little beach bar with fantastic rum punch and french fries, perfect when you a quick snack on the beach.

5. Opa
If you get tired of Bajan food, you can pop in the Lime Grove Mall for some quick yet incredible Greek food. Order the feta fries, you will not be disappointed!

Oistins Fish Fry is the thing to do on a Friday night. It has a variety of local delights and fun people watching (if you stay late enough).

Right on the beach (in Oistins Bay), Surfer's Cafe serves excellent coffee with an incredible view.

Only open on Saturdays, it is a great local spot to grab coffee and breakfast while listening to live music.

9. Animal Flower Cave
Located on the northern tip of the island, this cave has been carved out by fierce Atlantic waves. If the tides are right, you can climb down into the caves with a guide.

10. Sam Lord's Castle
Sam Lord was a famous Bajan pirate. The legend goes that after amassing his fortune through privateering, he built a magnificent mansion on the coast… but he wasn't done being a pirate. He would hang lanterns in the trees of his property to confuse passing ships. They would mistake it for Bridgetown and attempt to make port, but Sam Lord's bay was a coral reef and the ships would crash as they sailed in, giving Sam Lord the opportunity to sail out and plunder! Today you can visit the mansion ruins and the amazingly beautiful bay that surrounds it.

11. Bottom Bay
Bottom Bay is a gorgeous bay and beach on the Southeast coast.

12. Martin's Bay and Bathsheba
Bathsheba (a fishing village) is located on the rugged east coast of the island, this area is known for it's large waves and surfers.

13. St. Nicholas Abbey
Not an abbey, but a gorgeous old sugar plantation that now produces rum.

14. Bridgetown
Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados and dates from the 16th century. Although the historic buildings are not terribly well marked, it is worth an afternoon visit.

15. Wildlife Reserve
Make sure you visit the reserve at feeding time (2 pm)! Because it's a reserve and not a zoo, there are no cages and the animals (monkeys, deer, tortoises, etc.) roam all around you as they wait for feeding time. If you are lucky, you can feed a friendly monkey!

16. Swimming with Sea Turtles
You can find friendly sea turtles in both Payne's Bay and Carlisle Bay (they aren't timid because the catamaran cruises feed them).

17. Drink from a Coconut!
Fresh coconuts are available all over the place, but my favorite was the rum concoction Ray Ray made for me on Crane Beach.

18. Snorkel in Folkstone
Folkstone is a marine park safe for snorkelers (no more worrying about crazy jet skies). It has beautiful coral reefs and it's free!

19. Hike with the National Trust
Every Sunday the National Trust organizes hikes around the island. It really is the best way to see Barbados and it's free too!

20. Catamaran Cruise
There are tons of companies offering catamaran cruises, but we took Jammin' and had the best time! Completely worth the money!

21. South Coast Boardwalk
The south coast boardwalk is perfect for a relaxing evening sunset walk.

Of course my review of Barbados wouldn't be complete without sharing some of my favorite pics:

That's actually me at Long Bay (the bay of Sam Lord's Castle)
Exploring the northeast coast (near the Animal Flower Cave) 
St. Nicholas Abbey
Fun with a historic outhouse at the Abbey
The Wildlife Reserve
Coconut drinks on Crane Beach
Overlooking Cave Bay
Catamaran Cruise
Hiking with the National Trust

I highly recommend Barbados as a tropical destination, it was such an amazing trip!
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DIY: Giant Jenga


 A Beautiful Mess also has a great Giant Jenga tutorial.
I love the way they painted their blocks!

There is a bar down the street from my house that not only has a fabulous selection of beer and wine but giant games like Jenga and Connect Four. My friends and I are obsessed with the giant Jenga. It is seriously so much fun!

Turns out they are ridiculously easy and inexpensive to make and I thought I would share a little giant Jenga DIY since Christmas is just around the corner and this would make a really great and unique last minute gift idea (especially for people who love to host parties or tailgate).

Here is what you do:
Head to Home Depot (or a similar home improvement store) and have an employee help you select six 2" X 4"X 8' boards (the cheap wood, no need to get anything fancy or treated). The lovely associates at Home Depot will even cut them for you (they cut mine for free!).



Have them cut your boards into 48 10.5" pieces (you will have a couple extra). Total cost for the boards--about $22!

You can sand, paint, or treat the wood blocks, but remember they will be falling and hitting the ground, a lot. My cousins and I used sharpies to personalize the set we are giving their mom. I think it would be cute to decorate some of the blocks with Lilly patterns or school colors for game day tailgating. And of course, you could always monogram the set!

I also suggest constructing a simple base to stack the Jenga set on, but I left that project to the boys.

Seriously, how simple is this? Everyone who helped me at Home Depot fell in love with the idea and wanted to build one for their families. Trust me, everyone will love it!
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Gift Guide: Last Minute Gifts


So you may or may not have realized that today marks five days until Christmas! I am sure most of you finished your shopping weeks ago, but some of us have been distracted by tropical islands, school, work, etc.

But don't worry, just because the window for online ordering and shipping has closed, there aren't still plenty of last minute gift options! I think the key to last minute gifts is not trying to hide the fact they were convenient or last minute (I mean we are all human, and trust me they know) but that they are useful gifts people will appreciate and use.


Coffee Gift Sets
Since there are Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts everywhere, it is super easy to pop into a local store and put together a little coffee gift set. Starbucks always has the cutest mugs and you can pair them with a gift card or a pound of coffee. Dunkin also stocks mugs and tumblers as well as delicious coffee. Plus if you use Dunkin's new ap, you can gift a digital gift card from the comfort of your home!

Harry and David gift towers are perfect for last minute gifts because you won't have to fight holiday traffic. Simply order from home and it's delivered directly to the recipient. Plus it's delicious!

Just purchase, print, and frame and you have created a great gift in just a matter of minutes!

Books
Books make great last minute gifts, plus you can also gift Kindle books straight to their tablet or mobile device.

Mani/Pedi Set
Target has everything you need to throw together a last minute manicure or pedicure set. Bonus, you can add a cute personal touch with this free printable gift tag!

Wine
I know very few people who don't like receiving wine! And if you put it in a Christmas stocking, it is instantly festive!

Cookie or Hot Chocolate Jars
There are lots of cute ideas for recipes in mason jars, but I love the cookie and hot chocolate versions. They are personal, cute, and festive. They are also inexpensive and easy to put together at the last minute!

Giftcards
I don't know why so many people think gift cards are impersonal. I personally love receiving them. You can make them more personal by tailoring them to somebody's personality. For example, I am obsessed with Dunkin Donuts (could you tell?) and I think it's really thoughtful when people give me DD gift cards (which can also be personalized with a personal photo!).

Magazine Subscription
Magazines are great gifts because they are something people love, but are rarely ready to spend money on (well at least that's how I feel). Plus now you can gift electronic subscriptions for their iPad or tablet.


Since I have been in Barbados for the last two weeks, I feel incredibly overwhelmed when I think about Christmas and everything I need to do before then! I am flying home today and will have to hit the ground running, but it was an amazing two weeks and I wouldn't trade it for anything!

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Overcoming Your Fears



Fears are funny things. It is amazing how powerful and yet irrational they can be. I have always had a fear of putting my head underwater. Silly right? But as silly as this fear seems, I have missed out on so much because of it!

While I can swim and don't mind being in the water, I hate (I mean HATE) putting my face underwater. I think it is a combination of things--never really learning how to keep water from going up my nose and pool/salt water irritating my eyes. Bottom line, I am just not one of those people who feels at home in the water!

So naturally, I have never shown any interest in snorkeling. Everyone always told me how fun it was and what I was missing out on. But ironically the snorkel mask only agitates my irrational fear of putting my head underwater and not being able to breath through my nose stresses me out even more.

But Brittany was determined to get me to snorkel in Barbados. Unlike me, I am pretty sure she is part fish! Pushing yourself to overcome a fear is a lot of work and not easy. But I told myself that being here was a once in a life time experience and I should give it one last try.

Fortunately, Britt was super patient and we started in the shallow surf. Of course I freaked out at first, but she wouldn't let me give up and patiently waited for me to re-group and try again. After a few minutes I started to relax and before I new it, I was chasing sea turtles!

I have to say, everyone was right! I totally get why people like to snorkel now and I am kind of mad at myself for not pushing myself sooner. By the end of my first outing, we swam all the way to a shipwreck off the coast and saw an amazing array of sea life. And after several attempts, I finally touched a sea turtle (those little buggers are fast!).

I am still not 100% comfortable with snorkeling, on my second outing I had another mini freakout, but I pushed through. Monday we chartered a catamaran and I was a little worried about having to drop into deeper water. But, as Brittany can attest, I did great (even better than expected)! We swam with huge sea turtles who were definitely not afraid of us and would get so close they would bump into us! We also explored another ship wreck and a reef full of fire coral. I think I can officially tell people, I snorkel!

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Holiday Gift Wrapping: Part 3



My final wrapping paper look is inspired by the chalkboard trend. It was so easy to create. All you need is black craft paper, a white maker, and a white colored pencil (I actually used a white eyeliner, I thought it looked more chalky). I added some rhinestones to my deer horns for a little festive bling.




You can create any look you like! And there are so many inspirational images on Pinterest (all images via Pinterest).





Which of my gift wrapping looks was your favorite--the rustic chic, preppy plaid, or chalkboard?
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Weekend Freebies: Preppy Plaid Gift Tags


Here are the printable gift tags that go with my second (of three) gift wrap look - preppy plaid (with bows)!




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Fashion Friday: Shopping and Sightseeing in Barbados


In addition to lots of beach days, we have also been gallivanting around the island shopping farmer's markets and boutiques and visiting various historical and cultural sights. And of course, we've got to look good doing it!


My shopping and sightseeing essentials: cute sunnies, themed iPhone case (I mean it's Barbados!), Panama hat, shorts and tunics (these are my all-time favorite shorts, and you can never go wrong with an Elsa top, or Lilly tunic), straw tote, jelly sandals, Jack Rogers, starfish earrings, and a small clutch (for essentials).

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Barbados: Hashing and Hiking



My first week in Barbados has been amazing for so many reasons! Mostly because it is so nice to be reunited with my bestie, but also because she is like a local Bajan (what they call people from Barbados) now, so she knows exactly what to do and where to go!

I arrived Friday afternoon and we hit the ground running. After freaking out at the airport over her driving on the left side of the road (still getting used to that one), we headed for cappuccinos at an adorable beach cafe. Afterwards we went to the local fish fry for dinner, followed by an evening historical walking tour of the old British garrison (remember we are both history nerds).

The next day we got up early for a local farmers market (yum!) and then headed to the hash! What is a hash you ask? Well, it is a really fun imperial tradition that they still do every Saturday. Apparently bored imperial army officers stationed in far off places, like Barbados, invented the hash to pass the time (it mimics hunting, runners are called hounds and the person who sets the race is the hare).




It is like a running scavenger hunt (they actually call themselves a drinking club with a running problem). Basically you have to follow clues as you run around Barbados. I'll be honest, the running wasn't my favorite part, but seeing the "real" Barbados, places the average tourist would miss, was. Since it is an old imperial tradition, there are lots of funny rituals that go along with it. Like if it's your first hash, you have to get on your knees in front of the "religious advisor" and take a shot of rum at the post run "down-down."


As if the 11km hash wasn't enough torture, we got up early the next morning (at 4:45, eek!) for a 3 hour and 45 minute hike. I feel like I need to preface this by saying I don't nor can I hike! We had no idea that this hike (which are never easy but not always this hilly) was going to be so difficult!

We started from the interior of the island and scaled cliffs (yes, cliffs!) to reach the ocean. Don't get me wrong the views were incredible, but (for me) it was really scary! At one point in the hike we had to cross this huge crevice. Thank god some lovely local expert hikers helped us all across. I wasn't tall enough to reach over the crevice on my own, so one of the guys actually made himself into a human bridge and I walked across his back! I have a photo of this (notice the guy below me):

If you are wondering how I got a photo of this…
one of the expert hikers scaled the cliff to take these amazing shots!

Crazy right? I was proud of myself for completing it (it ended up being an 11 mile hike) but I'm not sure if I ever want to scale or descend cliffs again! Check out these amazing views though:






Brittany (a.k.a. the bestie) rewarded my hiking hard work with a relaxing Sunday afternoon on the beach!

After my physically intense weekend (I am still sore) we spent Monday lying on the beach and then had an impromptu trivia night with our new Australian friends (Have you played quiz up? It's amazing!), Tuesday swimming with sea turtles (more on that later), and Wednesday visiting the monkeys at the wildlife reserve. Today we are headed to Bottom Bay on the southern most point of the island!

Cheers!

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DIY: Paper Bows


I love wrapping with paper bows. Not only does it save you a ton of money, I think paper bows are so much cuter than the usual cheap-looking metallic bows. I make mine out of the wrapping paper I am using so they coordinate, but you can certainly make them out of a stiffer paper if you like. Obviously, the high quality the wrapping paper, the better they turn out (I really struggled with the dollar store wrapping paper, it was very flimsy and hard to cut).


Simply print the templates, trace on the reverse side of the paper you want to use, cut out, and glue (you can also tape)… And voila, adorable bows!





Here are the templates. The first bow has two parts. The ribbon part (with the tail) goes underneath the bow and the tail wraps around the center. The template includes 4 descending sizes to create a cute Christmas tree shape (first picture).


The second template is a simpler bow (this is the one I used on the deer silhouette). This bow has only one part (the template includes two identical bows). For my next wrapping project, I want to make a ton of these and place them all over the gift, just like my favorite new J.Crew sweater (swoon).


The final bow is more traditional but still adorable and easy to create!



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