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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Simply Hike, Hunter Wellies winner!

And the winner is...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations Hele R! You have won a pair of navy Hunter Wellies from Simply Hike!!!

Simply Hike is a great website to find wonderful items such as camping equipment, shoes, and clothing perfect for the outdoors. I am so happy to have had such a successful first giveaway, and thank you Simply Hike for hosting it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My First Giveaway, thanks to Simply Hike

I am so excited to let you know that due to the strong response from my review of Simply Beach, their sister company, Simply Hike, would like to do a giveaway. Of course I am irrationally excited about this news as I have never done a giveaway! I am so happy to offer you all an incredible product that I have used and loved for years, as well as a product that is still very popular for the cooler months as a fashion staple.

What is the giveaway? It is a pair of Hunter Wellington boots in navy!

These boots retail at £79.00 on their website, a value of $122.54 USD!

Are you a newbie to the awesomeness that is the Hunter Wellington, or Hunter Wellies, as some of us call them? Read more about them, below!
The Original Tall Classic welly boot is THE iconic Hunter Wellington boot and sets the benchmark for all Hunter footwear. This navy welly boot is a unisex style and therefore suitable for men and women and would be suitable for use in the snow, mud, gardening or just walking around town. The Hunter Original Wellington Boot is built on an orthopaedic fit and includes a cushioned insole for great comfort and fit even when worn all day.

Simply Hike offers a lot of wonderful products. They sell camping equipment, travel luggage from brands like North Face, Helly Hansen jackets, among other brands and products.

The only downside is that this giveaway is only open to UK residents only... but if you have a friend in the UK contact them about entering for you! UK residents, there will be multiple ways to enter this giveaway to give you multiple entry options - from liking Facebook pages, to following on Twitter, to leaving comments, etc. Please see the terms and conditions, as well as the Rafflecopter to enter, below.
The terms & conditions for the competition are...

1. The product offered is the Hunter Original Tall Classic Wellies in Navy.
2. The winner can choose a boot size from 4 to 11.
3. The winner will be selected by Tuesday 31st of July.
4. The product cannot be returned for a different size once ordered.
5. The product cannot be exchanged for cash or an alternative product.
6. No purchase necessary.
7. UK residents only

To enter: Please see your multiple entry options using the attached Rafflecopter widget!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was offered a product for a giveaway. I get no additional benefits for talking about the product or company.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Awesome new brand: XO(eco) by Blue Avocado

(Photo: Courtesy of PRNewsFoto/Unifi, Inc.)

Everyone knows I am a big fan of Lauren Conrad, and it has been wonderful to see her different projects emerge since The Hills ended. She has once again impressed me, an Environmental Policy major no less, with her most recent project - XO(eco) by Blue Avocado.

As written by the company in a press release:
Created by celebrity-fashion-designer Lauren Conrad, the XO(eco) product portfolio includes nearly 20 food-on-the-go, travel and cosmetic storage accessories made from recycled plastic bottle fabric powered by REPREVE® fibers and designed entirely to reduce waste and conserve natural resources. Lauren designed each product and print to echo her style and needs, while addressing the values of a younger generation seeking more environmentally-friendly options and looking to go eco chic. The entire XO (eco) collection is now available on at:

I really love the subtle patterns on these items - the birds are super sweet, even if not really in my style, so it is smart that they integrated the birds more subtly in other products within the line. I really love how smart the black/cream stripe pieces look - they don't look "granola earthy" now do they?

The XO(eco)shopper is great since it zips up into wallet size...

...and then becomes a full size shopping bag! Also, it comes from SEVEN recycled plastic bottles. Isn't that incredible? Only $24.96.

Here is more information from their website:
(xo)eco is the love child of style and sustainability designed by Lauren Conrad and BlueAvocado. Recognizing that marine debris is a major threat to oceans and ocean wildlife, Lauren Conrad was inspired to create a collection that helps cut down on plastic and ocean waste and can promote a healthier and greener lifestyle. Lauren Conrad became an equity stakeholder in the women-owned lifestyle brand, BlueAvocado in late 2011. Lauren joined forces with the BlueAvocado team to develop a new collection featuring beauty, food-on-the-go and travel accessories that blended doing and looking good into a cohesive eco-collection that could empower women of all ages on their own green journeys and help raise awareness and ultimate positive impact. 1% of all profits from the collection will be donated to a variety of organizations focusing on ocean clean-up and recovery efforts. Each xo(eco) product features REPREVE fibers made from recycled materials, including post-consumer plastic bottles and will include an impact label which includes a carbon footprint, bottles upcyled, and disposables avoided as related to the product to raise awareness at an individual level as well as track the collective impact of the collection.

I also love the Brush box - I still have my ancient Vera Bradley cosmetics case and need to upgrade! - and this looks cute while being a little bit more mature looking! Only $19.99.

Want to know what kind of genuine impact buying from Blue Avocado makes? Find out more, here. Also, please be aware that 5 of the main members of the team at Blue Avocado (located in Austin, TX) are women, and three of those women helped found the company!

Some of my questions about the brand were answered on their main website:
Are the bags machine washable?
They are made from polyester made from recycled materials and are machine washable with cold water and hang dry. Our products are made from 50% recycled REPREVE polyester fibers which are traceable, transparent and certifiably sustainable using post consumer (PET bottles).

What has been your impact to date?
Products help avoid 46 MM disposables from entering the waste stream
Upcycled 805,000 plastic bottles through our Repreve fabric
Invest in over 150 women micro-entrepreneurs from Nicaragua to Ghana

Hear more from Lauren Conrad herself, below!

Let me know what you think if you have any of these bags!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Online store review: Simply Beach

I am simply in love with online store Simply Beach! They contacted me in April to do a review of some product and to explore their website, and I am so very happy and impressed with them.
Seafolly Beach Crush Parklife Dress in Coral, £53.00.

Simply Beach, and her sister companies of Simply Scuba, Simply Swim, Simply Sweat, and Simply Hike, are all directed towards women looking for superior womenswear. The company, based out of the UK, primarily sells lingerie, bra-sized swimwear, and athletic gear - but has other garments available depending on the season.
Gottex Seychelles Beach Kaftan in Pacific Blue, £220.00.

When Simply Beach first approached me, I wanted to consider my options of what I could review. I know some of us are funny about talking about undergarments, but due to my background in lingerie I know you guys are aware that I am unafraid to talk about it! Besides, even with all of the growing popularity in bra-fitting since about 2005, 8/10 women still wear the wrong size. I don't care if you are comfortable, you likely are wearing the wrong size!
Fantasie San Jose Underwire Bikini Set in Hibiscus, £56.50 for set.

And all of those reading who are in the US, wondering, "Why would you do a review for a UK-based company?" Well, I can tell you that this company sent me my products via air mail and they arrived in less than 5 business days! In fact, you can shop the site in 3 different forms of currency, and Simply Beach ships to 200 different countries. So ladies, if you love something that I feature today, please feel free to order it!

So one of the major product lines they offer is designer lingerie. Some of my favorite brands are UK-based lingerie companies: Fantasie and Freya. Ironically, these two companies are actually owned by the same lingerie parent group, called Eveden Limited. This group offers bras from multiple brands with sizes ranging from the B cup to the N cup; 28 band to 52 band.
One of the items I received from Simply Beach was the Fantasie Samantha Strapless Bra which I ordered in Ivory in 32DD. As a bride-to-be, I was not sure if this dress would work with my wedding gown, but I knew I wanted a classy set of ivory bridal lingerie just in case. This bra is simply gorgeous on.
I am fairly certain I will be ordering from Simply Beach one of the different "bottoms" to go with this set! It is comfortable, the lace is detailed and not granny-like, and while it is a strapless - it is comfortable. I have been wearing it sporadically for the past two months and it still fits perfectly.
The second item I received from Simply Beach was the Freya Active Underwired Sports Bra which I ordered in Magenta in 32DD. Again, this bra fit me perfectly. I wanted a comfortable sports bra that was not poorly-shaped. Due to my breast tissue, I don't want them to budge when I am running, at Pilates or working with my kettle bells, but I also do not want them to feel crushed. This bra does not move but it is incredibly comfortable. Yes, you are aware of the underwire but in all honesty, you should be, you don't get to change out your breasts and the ones you have need to be cared for. This bra keeps things shaped naturally under my UnderArmour and lululemon tank tops and offers wonderful support. I would highly recommend this sports bra to anyone who is looking for one.

How to figure out your bra size... well, you could go to Nordstrom or a boutique to be fitted, and that is probably a way better option than Victoria's Secret. Hands down. However, some of you might like to get an idea on your size by measuring at home before going to the store.

Here are my tips:Take a measuring tape and wrap it around your bust line. This is above your natural waist, just under where your breast tissue starts at the bottom. Measure around the back, being sure to follow an even line around your back, keeping your posture straight. That number is your band size. Some people go up, but mine measures 31" and I have worn a 32 band since college without issue or discomfort.

Next, measure for your cup size. This part varies from store to store, and it may be awkward for many people, and often stores are not this 'hands on' unless the customer is really unhappy with their current size and just does not care. This might be where measuring at home before you go to a store might come in handy. Measure from the bottom of your breast tissue again, up to the nipple. So basically, you are bringing your measuring tape up your chest. For me, this is 5" which equals an E cup or DD (normally a DD in US brands is an E cup in UK brands, but it varies by brand). A demi or half cup bra will only go in a DD, for me, if there is no push up involved. If there is, then normally an E is a better fit.

I really was impressed by Simply Beach. Their website is easy to navigate, you can change currency or country by the click of a button, and their sale section is quite large. Their size range options are extensive and their customer service department is excellent. I highly recommend that you check them out!

Disclosure: I was offered multiple forms of compensation by Simply Beach. Given that the store was new to me, I asked to try out two free products to review. These gifts-in-kind were my compensation. I get no additional benefits for talking about the product or company. Everything I have written here is exclusively based on my experience with Simply Beach and my background in lingerie. All photos included in this post were from Simply Beach.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Another birthday craving: Alternative Apparel's The Message Bag

You may remember in June I did a Wishlist Wednesday which included some birthday prezzie ideas for myself. Well, I was flipping through the July 2012 issue of Vogue with Emma Stone on the cover and I totally freaked out over a bag that was featured (pg 58)!

Photographed by Cedric Buchet, Vogue, July 2012

Isn't the bag gorgeous? I love the simplicity of it - I had a bag like it in middle school which I loved, it was a nylon olive green messenger bag, but it had obnoxious velcro and nylon shoulder straps. This bag is one I would feel comfortable travelling with, wearing on casual Friday to the office, or when out shopping at the mall.

Photograph courtesy of Alternative Apparel and Olivia Wilde

Unlike the normal messenger bags that maybe can be used one way, this bag is wonderful as it can be used as a convertible bag. It can be used as a shoulder bag or a backpack so it is also functional for people who enjoy using a backpack. It will carry the classic African safari trend through the rest of this summer and into the cooler months. I could see myself using this bag for years and then swapping it with my leather satchel in late fall and winter.

As described by Alternative Apparel on their website:
This limited-edition cross-body to backpack convertible is a collaboration with actress Olivia Wilde and partner-in-good Barbara Burchfield. The bag features vintage army canvas, pebbled leather trim and antique brass hardware. Your purchase will help spread a message against poverty and benefit the Academy for Peace and Justice in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This is not just a bag, it's an opportunity for an education.
So this is not just about a classic, on-trend bag. This bag is also for charity. This bag will benefit the Academy for Peace and Justice, which was funded by Paul Haggis's charity, Artists for Peace and Justice. Paul Haggis is the filmmaker who produced Million Dollar Baby and Crash. He is a filmmaker who is in touch with society, much more than your average Hollywood star.

Wilde used to vacation in Haiti when she was younger, and the place left an impact on her. After the earthquake, she founded Campaign Happiness to support development throughout damaged Haiti. Her charity, along with Haggis's, have worked together to develop learning centers and other facilities for Haitian children. This bag was designed by Wilde, Accessories Director of Alternative Apparel, Mollie Culligan, and Wilde's business partner Barbara Burchfield. And the price? A mere $138.00. Available at Alternative Apparel's website, at their Abbot Kinney flagship store in Venice, California, as well as on

Weight: 21oz / 0.6 kg
Height: 12in / 30.5cm
Length: 13in / 33cm
Depth: 4in / 10cm
Strap drop: 20-28in / 51-71cm

Photographed by Cedric Buchet, Vogue, July 2012

You can read the article yourself, at Vogue online, here.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Wedding plans: my planner

So the aqua blue binder on the top is part of the Martha Stewart collection at Staples, and the green binder on the bottom is the published Martha Stewart "Keepsake Wedding Planner." I bought the Keepsake Wedding Planner when we first were engaged over two years ago and quickly realized that it was too small and contained extra stuff I did not need.

Until Grits wrote about the Martha Stewart collection at Staples, I had no idea it was even there. Read her blog post on it here. Since then, I have happily purchased pieces for my office as well as items to improve upon my existing wedding planner... First things first, a new binder! I think I bought these in probably right before Easter as I started putting it together then.
Here are the number of tabs and one of the sections in the published Keepsake planner. The sections and dividers are great but occasionally some sections were long-winded. It was annoying that the binder quickly filled up (see below).
It made it hard to add any magazine clippings, business cards, or brochures from vendors.
This sheet DOES come with the Keepsake planner, so I knew I has to keep it since it saves me a lot of space, and they did not have anything in the current Staples Martha Stewart collection like it (at least at my local store).
So I purchased the aqua binder, these dividers, and a couple of the paper packages: Notes and Calendar. Great prices and that trademark Martha Stewart minimalist approach.
The above calendar page came with the Martha Stewart Keepsake book. So small! You can barely write anything in it which was so frustrating for me. I used it to fill out the new binder and then I recycled it.
This wedding timeline is from the Keepsake book, and I did keep it as it helps me monitor everything I could think of leading up to our wedding.
Here is my main to do list (above). You can see the formatting here for these sheets which I bought separately. I think it was a packet of 50? And the lined sheet is college-ruled size, with the part on the far right being a detachable part which will be great if I am running to Michaels or the store for something.
This Guest List Planner came from the Keepsake planner and I photocopied it enough times to include all of our wedding list in paper copy. I do have an online and electronic copy, but I like checking things off of a list, too.
The Important Contacts list came from the Keepsake planner as well. I use my copies of it for vendors and additional contacts (Clerk of Court for the license, etc.).
This Seating Planner came from the Keepsake planner, too. See what I mean about this published planner having many useful features? I had to photocopy this several times just in case we need it for a shower, rehearsal dinner as well as the reception.

One major missing feature of the Martha Stewart Keepsake planner is there were no pockets in the back and front of the binder. The Staples Martha Stewart binder have a heavy duty pocket, which you can see here I keep our premarital counseling papers in.

So here is the binder with our combined planners. I carry it to work everyday and travel with it. Planning itself is not too stressful, but this economy is not helping my hiring of vendors. I am now trying to find a new cake decorator as the one we originally hired is closing her business. No pressure, I am just getting married in October. Yikes!!