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This is my curated homage to opulent living that is seldom about money, yet is rich in spades. This collection of discovery is an itinerary for those who believe that life is elevated when an array of small joys are thoughtfully strung together.

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zara basic messenger bag, zara messenger bar

Brown-Bag It In Style with the Zara Messenger Bag

02/21/2013

‘Member when I was all gaga over that Jill Sander Vasari bag (that highfalutin’ $290 brown lunch bag)? Its clean and no-nonsense design was drool-worthy, but the price tag? No so much. Zara, on the other hand, has a polyurethane (read, affordable) alternative for the budget-conscious. The Messenger Bag is $35.95, available in brown and black, and comes with a strap for easy toting.

zara basic messenger bag, zara messenger bag, zara bag

Here are a few other ways to upgrade your brown-bag experience!

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Abandoned country houses + way of life

02/11/2013

Downtown Birmingham home circa early 1900′s. Michelle Summers Photography (above)

I breathed a small sigh of relief last night at the conclusion of episode 6 of Downton Abbey. Lord Grantham has finally accepted the cold hard truth that the financial management of Downton has to change if it is to survive. Matthew, Lord Grantham’s son-in-law, heir and co-master of the estate pretty much put it to him like this: “Look here–your pompous @ss wasted Cora’s fortune on the mismanagement of Downton, and I’ll be d@mned if I’ll let you flush my inheritance down the crapper too.” Except Matthew has that haughty British accent that gives an air of authority even if using words like “crapper.”

Tom, Lord Grantham’s chauffeur cum (other) son-in-law, was much more diplomatic, stating that Downton needed all of their strengths—Tom knows the land, Matthew knows the business and the law, and Lord Grantham knows what’s in the best interest of the residents of Downton. Which is polite-speak for: “We really don’t need you, Old Man, but we’ll humor you out of respect for our wives.” Bless his heart, Lord Grantham and his refusal to adjust to the unglamorous post-war way of life is doing no one any favors, least of all, himself.

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Go into details; it pays in every way

02/11/2013

Gray Quotation Marks Clip ArtEverything good needs time. Don’t do work in a hurry. Go into details; it pays in every way. Time means power for your work. Mediocrity is always in a rush; but whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing with consideration. For genius is nothing more nor less than doing well what anyone can do badly.” ~ Ameila Bar, 9 Rules for Success

milkhoney

DIY Milk + Honey Bath for for butter-soft skin

02/10/2013

Warning: this will require you to stop and slow down for a small block of time, putting all distractions aside. Multi-tasking is not allowed.

Women have been bathing in milk for centuries. Not only did it keep their skin luxuriantly soft and supple, but it also gave them a soothing, albeit temporary, respite from chasing after babies, cooking and taking care of their men. And now, many many years later, you too can enjoy this treat and take a temporary vacay from chasing after babies, cooking, taking care of your man, and other household joys.

To completely milk (pun intended) this gem for all that it’s worth, you positively have to commit. This means no TV, texting, tweeting or any other such stimulants. A good book is allowed, as is soft music. For added measure, lock the bathroom door, or put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign. Now that you know the ground rules, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 gallon of milk, whole vitamin D, the fattier the better; gentle exfoliation.
  • 2 cups of epsom salts; draws toxins from the body, relaxes muscles.
  • 1 cup of honey (softens); hydrating, antioxidant, anti-microbial.
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil; nourishing and moisturizing.

Mix all ingredients on medium heat in saucepan.  Pour mixture into warm bathwater.  I suggest soaking for at least 15 minutes, 30 tops, or the natural acid in the milk could irritate your skin.  A quick rinse in the shower afterwards is also a good idea.  Want to give your lovely countenance the same treatment? Try this Milk + Honey Facial as well and let the self-gratification begin!

Have you ever bathed in milk?

benefits and uses of ginger root

Got the blues? 6½ ways ginger root will make you instantly happy

01/28/2013

I don’t believe that lasting happiness is typically achieved through stuff like a job promotion, a new home or adopting a puppy, although there’s no doubt that such happenings deliver a jolt. According to the new documentary Happy, status (career, relationship status, income) only account for 10% of the differences in our levels of happiness. The film also says that 40% of potential happiness is unaccounted for, suggesting that there is a lot one can do to become a happier camper. Which leads me to ginger root.

Ginger is a magical, but not terribly attractive, root that’s used in a variety of culinary and medicinal preparations. On a whim I picked up a “hand” of ginger at the market. What’s the deal with this little guy? I excitedly hurried home where a quick Google search evolved into a full-blown project.

So what makes ginger so remarkable, and why should you (and I) keep some in your kitchen so that happiness is just at your fingertips?

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how to hot oil treatment, diy hot oil treatment

DIY Hot Oil Treatment

01/24/2013

If I wasn’t so lazy busy I’d do one every week.

While coconut oil is truly one of the best things you can do for your hair, there’s a lot to be said about an oil treatment with ingredients that also deliver the goods to the scalp:

Herbal Hot Oil Treatment (via Mountain Rose Blog)

Ingredients (click the links to shop ‘em)

Directions

Mix the oils together in a glass bottle and shake well. Fill a separate bowl with near boiling water. Place the bottle in the bowl and allow the oil to heat slowly for a few minutes. Test a drop of oil on your wrist to check the temperature. Rub some of the oil in your fingertips and massage into the dry scalp starting at the front. Using a circular motion, work backward toward the crown and add more oil as needed until the entire scalp has been massaged. Next, massage oil into dry hair from the scalp to the ends using a gentle motion. Cover your hair with a shower cap or recycled plastic bag and wrap a hot damp towel around your head. Relax for 20-30 minutes before shampooing out. Enjoy your soft, beautiful hair!

Find more DIY beauty recipes at Mountain Rose Blog!

central perk, friends set

Friends (the TV show) hold the key to happiness

01/23/2013

Recently a colleague and I were in Chicago for a conference. The plan was to spend a night out on the town after a long work day. Then we found out that there was a Friends marathon on TV that would run into the wee hours of the morning. So instead, we ordered room service, cracked open the mini bar and spent the evening with Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey. I adore the Windy City, but that was an awesome night in. It’s been almost a decade since the popular American sitcom ended, but it still holds a dear place in my heart.

Apparently, the folks in Beijing understand my sentiments. The city, whose majestic natural scenery makes it a popular tourist destination, now has yet one more draw. On the sixth floor of a Beijing apartment building stands a recently constructed replica of the infamous Central Perk, the cafe where many of the scenes unfold on the hit TV show. The Beijing cafe even includes the same orange sofa where customers can sit and, of course, watch reruns of Friends. Read More

Egg Oil & Amla Hair Serum, egg oil

DIY Egg Oil + Amla Hair Serum

01/22/2013

Remember how I got all hot and bothered about egg oil? Well, it’s the leading lady of this DIY hair treat and sounds like the most divine way to try a little tenderness with your tresses. Your strands will thank you for this wallop of cholesterol.

Egg Oil + Amla Hair Serum (via The Natural Beauty Workshop)

Ingredients (click the links to shop ‘em)

Directions
Combine the oils in a small beaker and stir well. Add the essential oil, the stir again. Transfer carefully to a dropper bottle.

Usage & Packaging
Store this recipe in a dropper bottle. Cobalt or amber bottles provide the best conditions for storage, but the serum also looks gorgeous in flint glass. If you prefer using plastic bottles, check out these 2 oz. PET Cosmo with Snap Cap. This recipe makes 2 1/4 ounces, just enough to fill these bottles up to the brim.

Apply just a few drops to damp hair after washing to use it as a leave-in conditioner, or try applying just a tiny dab to the ends of your hair before bed.

Find more DIY beauty treats at The Natural Beauty Workshop!

smartstick2

Immersion blenders (when kitchen gadgets attack)

01/16/2013

I use mine for blending facial masques, homemade salsa and the occasional cocktail that requires more than a little shaking or stirring. Unlike a traditional mixer, an immersion blender allows you to stick the blades directly into the bowl, cup or pot you’re mixing in. I heart mine dearly and have recommended it in some of my DIY beauty recipes. The immersion blender, or known more affectionately as a stick or wand blender, is considered the lawn mower of kitchen gadgetry because of its powerful motor and extremely sharp blades. This prowess also makes it one of the most dangerous of kitchen tools.

“It’s gained popularity from the smoothies,” said Dr. Keith Raskin, a hand surgeon and clinical associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the New York University School of Medicine. In the last two years, Dr. Raskin has treated about a half-dozen injuries resulting from immersion blender use. Many of these hand injuries include severed nerves and tendons. Read More

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