Archives for January 2015

On the hunt – Tackling interior design on the internet

PrintWhether it’s a move or a remodel, changing your address, and your interior design, is expensive.  You may have designed our old space perfectly to who you are and what you like, but you find in a move that things change.  Sometimes the house is different and then you find sometimes you are different and wanting a changed look and vibe to transform your house into a home.  With the millions of sites out there are options galore to help you find the perfect fit while hopefully staying on (or at least close) to your budget.  In undertaking a massive remodeling project I learned just how quickly prices of things add up from light fixtures to mirrors.  Despite all of the money that I did spend, it pales in comparison to how much I could have spent if I only relied on what I could find locally that suit my taste (which try as I may has been and remains to be on the fancy side).

Sooooo great prices and wide selection online…what could go wrong??? Well the easy answer to that is everything.  From delayed shipments to poor quality the game changes a little when you move your search from stores where you can see and touch the items to online where you cannot.  Here are my tips for get the best out of shopping for your home online

1. Get real familiar with your measuring tape: With returns being a bit more of a hassle, if possible at all, being more exact about what you are looking for really saves out on a headache.  Not only should you be armed with your specific dimensions, you need to check the specifications of the product to make sure everything lines up.  Return fees and shipping cost can quickly take the value out of shopping online over pretty minor sizing mistakes.

2. If you have time ask for a sample: Things like color swatches frequently have the option to order a free sample.  There is no replacing seeing something with your own eyes in the environment you plan to utilize it in.  It adds some time but may be well worth it and a must for custom made products.

3. Read and re-read return policies and price guarantees: Not only read what the company says, but also the reviews the process is getting from fellow shoppers (BBB is a great resource).  If you are paying a penalty and return shipping fees for an item you are on the fence about it, just save the hassle and buy something in store with your confidence up.  There is a difference between cost and value so just because it cost more doesn’t mean it isn’t a better value.  For price guarantees most come with specific rules on how to cash it in (mainly providing proof form the competing store of price).  Time frame also plays a key role so if you still want to price shop relying on a guarantee you should know your parameters.

4. If you can find a place locally to actually see the product, take some time to check it out: Seeing is always believing.  If photographers can erase cellulite from famous people just think about how great it can make an inanimate object look.  Checking it out makes sure what you imagine with the picture is what you will get when the box opens.

5. Always compare apples to apples: In the search for a wine cooler I found a range of prices for my preferred cooler of about $50 but the range of deliver fees was about $150.  Not to mention deliver times that went up to 6 weeks.  If you see different prices, especially drastically different, put everything in the cart and take the process almost to the end to see delivery times, warranties, return policies, and shipping costs.  The sticker price is just one part of the total cost of the product and not knowing can set you up to lose in the end.

6. Know when to wait and when to buy: Being cheap has its wins and its losses.  In betting that a sale will always repeat itself you can miss out on something that you love in waiting on a sale that never comes back.  Study what you want for a while to give you an idea of the range of prices so you know when you see something low on that range.  It may not be as cheap as it will ever be when you buy it but it may still be a deal and getting something you love for a great price is a reward all in itself.

It’s Electric – Havng fun with prints

IMG_0066When prints come up in fashion it can strike fear in the hearts of many.   When you hear prints you think busy patterns and colors that dominate the dress and can frequently wear you more effectively than you can wear it.  The good news, however, is that there have been a revolution of prints that give some great balance that highlights a piece that also has some really interesting visual design.  One of my favorite plays on prints are pictures that are printed on fabric.  With the right design and imagination they are able to take some beautiful pictures and find the just the right gathers and cuts that really pair well with the curves of a woman.  Best of all the deliberate choice in placement allows the designer to give some real balance between the business of the color and design of the picture with still being sleek and elegant.

With a photo shoot on deck I decided that a print was a great way to balance a serious look with some playful elements.  Because the goal was to be electric, a printed Alexander McQueen dress was a perfect fit.  The gradient print stars with a simple black start and gradually fades to a scene of lighting striking.  The lightning strike picture towards the bottom of the dress adds in some of the bold colors like purple and gray.  The best thing about the print is that even though it grows from subtle to bold, you still have the chance to be the star.   Because the entire dress is not busy I was able to still pair it with some dramatic eye makeup and sleek hair to give my version of business and pleasure.  Truly the best of both worlds!!!

Looking back in order to move forward

new startWell that time of year has rolled around again and it is once again time to celebrate and plan for a fantastic 2015.  With every year many of us make resolutions, or resolutions to not make resolutions, with the hope that we can make the upcoming year everything that we missed out on the year or years before.  Resolutions to lose weight or get a new job or be more positive hit the ground running at the beginning of the New Year but do they somehow look vaguely familiar? How many New Years have those same resolutions been on repeat?  Each new year bring in what we want to be the waves of change but throughout the course of the year feeling more like the same old same dragging us out to sea.

Sometimes to break the repeat cycle we have to take a look back at why our resolutions failed in the first place.  Did our motivation start to fade, or where the old habits too instilled to break?  Whatever the reason for failure a good clue to why they won’t work now is why they didn’t work before.  This process can be especially difficult because we have to be brutally honest with ourselves and stop the blame game.  For me last year I wanted to eat healthier.  At the onset of the year I made sure to come to work with my snacks and be mindful of my portion size to stick with my resolution.  But through the course of working and life I looked up and realized I was back grabbing my first meal at Chick Fil A at 2:00 in the afternoon.  Yes I blamed it on my busy lifestyle but in all honestly I stopped wanting to put in the work to prepare for my healthy meals and found myself at the mercy of what I drove by in the car.  While I liked the idea of being fit and healthy, I only wanted the result, not the lifestyle change that went along with it.  Like most resolutions the goal to change on component of our lives really requires us to change a whole lot more in order to fit it to our lives and when it comes to making the required sacrifice we fall short.

No matter how hard it is to pinpoint the problem, once you done you can work towards a resolution that you have the inspiration and commitment to that you can actually keep.  Perhaps losing 20 pounds starts to feel impossible around March every year but the commitment to walk 10,000 steps on Fitbit is a smaller bite out of the chunk you can actually manage.  Once you start on your way with baby steps it is a lot easier to turn your walk into a stride and your stride into leaps.  Learning the lessons of previous missteps is the best way to ensure your one step forward won’t end with 2 steps back in 2015.   After all Rome wasn’t conquered in a day so why should your lifestyle changes be so easily boiled down to a couple of resolutions?

Fashion Challenge: Packing for a day trip

IMG_0245A day trip is a great way to hone your fashion balance between comfort, ease, style, and flexibility.  When your entire apparel should fit in a small bag some of the “what ifs” that come with packing disappear.   My mission impossible for packing for my trip was to include something to wear to a musical as well as something comfortable and cute for my day two.  Here were my answers to the fashion challenge of a one day trip to San Antonio.

Puttin’ On the Ritz

IMG_0244Every year I try to make it up to New York so my daughter can see a Broadway show.  Well in 2014 we couldn’t make it to New York for Broadway so we had to catch it her in Texas.  The Lion King musical is a great introduction to musicals for kids and as an 80’s baby it ties something I loved in my childhood to something she could still connect.  Not to mention you cannot beat a show with both beautiful musical and an inspiring message.  When I am packing light there are few better choices for me than a dress because it is an all in one outfit.  I went with silk Haute Hippie shirt dress.  The flow of the dress made it a bit flirty while I could add other elements like a belt and some boots to give it more of a grown up feel.  Knee boots, like my sued Gucci boots, are a great way to add some class but are flexible enough to fold and fit in a smaller bag when needed.  The cranberry color of the dress helped to add some elegance to the look and was a great balance for a Broadway show with a huge kid appeal like the Lion King.

Conquering the Riverwalk

IMG_0216The flip side of a one way trip is always difficult because you really want to be comfortable for your return but also you want to get in a little bit of fun or sightseeing while you are still at your destination.  It was my goal not just to explore the Riverwalk but also check one some of the awesome restaurants that are sprinkled throughout area.  To get my fix of both comfort and style I chose to keep it simple with jeans and a sweater.  Yep it’s a classic combination and by throwing in a fun hat and belt I added a little shape and sass to freshen up the look.  I was able to both conquer a small exploration of the Riverwalk, some delicious empanadas (with a little room to spare in the waist of my pants) and the flight back to Houston with a smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gotta get away?? Try these quick trip tips

IMG_0184Sometimes you just have to get away.  With the last weekend of the month quickly approaching and realizing I had not travelled at all in December, I started getting the itch to get the heck out of Dodge.  Unfortunately the desire to get away at the last minute brings up the danger of trying to travel without planning for the expense that a get away can trigger.  Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind, however.  For me it resulted in a fun day trip to San Antonio that packed some major highlights.  Here are my tips for taking a short getaway that is packed with enough fun to give the illusion of a well-planned vacation.

IMG_01621. Plan the trip around something you really have had on your to do list.  Whether it’s an attraction or a show when you start with something that you have really been meaning to do it adds instant value to your trip.  There is nothing like having purpose to make an excursion worth it.  Especially when that is something that you cannot get in your hometown.  In most states you can visit a winery or catch a cool festival within 2 to 3 hours of where you live.  I based my trip off of checking out the Lion King musical.  The show was amazing and once you do something awesome you have automatically  created a trip worth remembering.  Checking off something meaningful to you will help justify the time and expense of the trip and give you some motivation that you can sculpt the rest of the trip around.

2. Get familiar with cost saving sites.   While a lot of the sites like Priceline.com and Lastminutedeals.com may not be guaranteed, they do offer some great opportunities if you have the flexibility to take a gamble.  Even airlines and hotels offer weekly specials that may accommodate.  When you are invigorated by the spirit of adventure some of the details you may normally worry about wash away.  With an open schedule you can take the gamble at naming your own price without firm knowledge of the carrier or times and take advantage of some real price savings.

3. Fill in the rest of the trip with local (free) sightseeing.  When you are going on a planned vacation you can fill up your trip with excursions and things to do so quickly you don’t get a real chance to take a simple approach on exploring your destination.  Whether it’s a park or attraction in most cities there is something free to do that you may have normally missed.  For my trip to San Antonio I checked out the Riverwalk.  If nothing else these attractions are usually great places to relax and do some serious people watching.

IMG_01964. If all else fails there is always food.  Maybe it’s just because I am a foodie but adding some great food to almost anything makes it instantly better.  Shows like Diners, Drive Ins and Dives always peak my interest on great food in different locations and usually with prices that won’t break the bank.  If location is more important you can always use apps like Yelp to see what is recommended and close.  Yelp lead me to a spinach empanada that was to die for in San Antonio. IMG_0201 IMG_0200

One Day trips are a great way to handle smaller bucket list items and awaken your sense of adventure to take on larger challenges.  Twenty four hours is not a lot of time but it may be just enough to squeeze in some great fun, laughs and memories.