CURRENT OBSESSION: ELIZABETH & JAMES NIRVANA BLACK

I’m on an unending quest for the perfect fragrance, and seriously, there are so many good ones to choose from. But when fall rolls around I find myself distancing myself from floral scents in favor of fragrances that are a little richer and more sophisticated. It would be great to be richer and more sophisticated, as a general rule.

You know who does that really well? The damn Olsen twins. The success of their fashion/beauty empire has actually managed to completely eclipse any memory of their acting career[s], at least in my eyes. I’m not even getting paid to say that. I’ve always loved Elizabeth & James clothing, so when I received samples of their new Nirvana Black & White dual fragrance exclusive from Sephora, I was intrigued. Real talk: both of these scents are to-die-for.

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I opted for Nirvana Black, which is deep and earthy with notes of sandalwood, violet and vanilla. I wanted something woody with a slight hint of sweetness; a counterpoint to the fresh, green notes I’m usually drawn to during the summer. If I had named this scent, I would have called it “wealthy former hippie.” Basically, this perfume smells like the Bay Area. Like when you’re barefoot in your Calypso St. Barths tunic tending the herbs in the community garden, organic fair-trade soil between your toes, and it starts to get chilly so you run inside and grab that that trusty old Alpaca throw you bought with your last ten pesos the third time you quit your job to go backpacking in South America. Those days are long gone now; you made it big at a tech startup and could buy all the Alpaca throws you’d ever want, but that’s not the point. When you breathe in the smell of Nirvana Black, you’re bound to reminisce about life’s adventures… so many adventures. That’s what it is for me, anyway– an olfactory scrapbook of all the awesome shit that I haven’t done, but possibly could have done if I were that kind of person. The kind of person with stories to tell.

Nirvana White, on the other hand, is floral (peony and muguet, which is a fancy French way of saying Lily of the Valley) with a hint of musk (there’s that rich sophistication factor again). That description is probably a little reductive, but I liked it a teeny tiny bit less than Nirvana Black and therefore my brain is having trouble finding more words. Motivation is a fickle thing.

The Sephora salesgirl I spoke to did have an interesting suggestion: layering the two fragrances. I haven’t tried it yet, but gosh am I excited about the prospect. Like yin and yang or Mary-Kate and Ashley, the marriage of these scents just seems right. Who knows, it may even bring me to a state of enlightenment.

I’ll let you know if I get there.

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I JUST CAN’T TODAY

I had started writing a post about the new Elizabeth & James fragrances at Sephora and other things I’m currently coveting for fall, but I had to stop myself. I’ll get there, but I just can’t with all that right now.

I’m going to take a break from my normally unbridled materialism to talk about something I’m really, truly coveting. And that’s to stop seeing headlines like this:

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And this:

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And this:

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I made a joke earlier today that Huffington Post should really start a tab under which to file stories about “Horrible Things Happening to Women” in the world today. Sometimes, at least for me, humor is the only way to keep from descending into a really dark place. It’s a wonder that the sheer volume of these demoralizing stories hasn’t broken the internet yet. (Yeah, I’m aware that that’s not how the internet works.)

I can’t shake the feeling that over the past decade or so, the world has become an increasingly hostile place for women. I’m not even talking about a decline in feminist ideals or an inability to shatter glass ceilings, I’m talking about an upswing in literal brutality and violence. And the acceptance of that threat of violence as an inevitable part of the female experience.

The world has apparently spoken, and it says that the onus is on us as women to make the right choices and keep ourselves safe from those who could potentially harm us. If we’re negligent in those duties, it’s only natural that we’ll suffer for our mistakes. Ray Rice’s wife (then fiancee) has been chided for provoking him into knocking her unconscious. “She hit him first, didn’t she?” “What did she expect, provoking someone like him?” “No one knows the details of the situation, so how can we judge?” The list of bullshit qualifiers that people– real people with public influence, not just internet commenters– have tried to amend to this incident is endless. But none of those excuses matter.

Stories like this– and there have been so many, too many of them– have damaged us. I hope that damage is reversible. It’s a really sad thing to realize that justice for women in situations like this isn’t a given. If you choose the wrong guy. If you’re in the wrong place. If you’re too drunk. If you forget to watch your drink. If you’re dressed “immodestly.” If you get in the wrong cab. If you say the wrong thing…. And if you suffer for any of these choices, you must be prepared for the realistic possibility that no one will share the blame. You’ll be left wondering what, if anything, you could have done differently, to avoid what was done to you. Because as a woman, no one has your back but you, and you should know that by now.

Let’s talk about things heretofore undiscussed: the possibility that maybe, possibly, it might be prudent to ask men to step the fuck up. I know this would be a first, and they’re certainly not expecting it. But it might be time. History tells us that we can’t expect much (but history says a lot of bad things, I guess). Men, get it together. You are failing.

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PRODUCT REVIEW: CURE NATURAL AQUA GEL

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My research associate/BFF and I have dedicated our precious time and deductive reasoning skills to providing you with the most thorough, bi-coastal review possible on this product. We have spent a week in the trenches, slathering this stuff all over our faces and staring at ourselves in our respective bathroom mirrors. As usual, you’re welcome.

Rachel: I picked up this product after getting a sample at my favorite Asian skincare and cosmetic store in Chinatown, oo35mm. (Shoutout to them– if you’re in NY you should visit them on Mott street.)

Cure Natural Aqua Gel is an immensely popular Japanese skincare product that has just started to gain some traction here in the US. In Japan, however, a bottle is sold every 12 seconds. I really can’t validate that figure with anything other than this description on Amazon, but have at it. I am choosing to believe.

Why all the hype? Because it’s a super-light, non-irritating gel meant to leave your face feeling like a baby’s ass. That’s an awesome thing on it’s own, but the end game here is anti-aging. Most of us who are neurotic/serious about skincare recognize that the removal of dead skin is key to a clear complexion as well as preventing fine lines and wrinkles.

On first glance, I notice that Cure Natural Aqua Gel contains no harsh chemicals, rough exfoliants or added fragrances– in fact, the product is 91% water. The active ingredient is an Acrylate Crosspolymer, an ingredient used in many personal care products like face creams and sunscreen. Polymers are used to thicken water into gel, improving the consistency of many of these products and making them easier to use.

When massaged into the skin, the result is a pilling or balling of product. It might be tempting to think that this residue is dead skin, you know, falling off your face. And while that would be an immensely satisfying thing, it simply isn’t the case. According to its listed ingredients, this product doesn’t actually contain an exfoliant. It’s an emulsifier, meaning that the change in consistency is due to a reaction with the oil (and probably debris) on the surface of your skin.

Rachel: It definitely gives your face that tight, clean feeling that makes you think something good is happening, so the experience is enjoyable. But my feelings became rather lukewarm towards it after I learned the little balls of crap were not actually dead skin, which is how it was sold to me. I don’t think the saleswoman was deliberately lying to me, either– I think most people are fooled into thinking this.

My skin is definitely softer immediately following use, and it has that awesome squeaky-clean feeling. However, I think this Cure’s success is riding on the assumption that it’s actively removing dead skin, when the effects are most likely much gentler.

Rachel: I don’t notice much of a difference in my skin, and I HATE feeling stupid. Kind of fun, but I probably won’t repurchase it. I’ll stick to my usual chemical and mechanical exfoliants instead. 

I’m glad to have this crazy stuff in my already overcrowded bathroom arsenal, but you should know that it’s not a traditional exfoliant, nor is it a chemical peel. If you have sensitive skin that reacts badly to either of these, this could be your jam!

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WEDDING: MARCIA & SUZANNE

Since moving to the West Coast, I’ve made a wealth of new connections for whom I’m truly grateful. I’ve even been lucky enough to acquire some brand new family out here: my self-appointed adoptive aunts, Marcia and Suzanne. After three months, I feel like I’ve known them forever– and I hope to.

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On Suzanne: Calypso tunic. On Marcia: Anthropologie top and pants.

Suzanne and Marcia have been together for nearly 25 years, and after the long-awaited repeal of DOMA they decided to make their union official. Surprisingly, their decision to marry wasn’t a given. After being together for so long, they wondered if they really needed the pomp and circumstance of a wedding. They felt married already, having shared a life together (complete with a dog, three cats and four chickens) for more than two decades. After some thought and gentle prodding, though, they realized that they did want to honor their commitment to each other with a celebration– not just for themselves, but for the family and friends who had supported them throughout the years.

They settled on a gorgeous estate in Lagunitas for their venue. Marin County is such an impossibly majestic place that it almost feels like human intervention could shatter it to pieces at any moment. As such, it was fitting that there was nothing showy or frivolous about this event. The raw beauty of the place was complemented by delicate and understated decor– a perfect reflection of the couple themselves.

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Suzanne and Marcia are very close to their gaggle of adult nieces and nephews, and decided to have the group serve as the wedding party as well as the officiants of the ceremony. It was such a unique and touching gesture, there probably wasn’t a dry eye in the house/forest.

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So much of wedding culture these days revolves around the material, and it’s always heartening to see a pure and joyous celebration of love bereft of any of the bizarre, contrived trappings I usually associate with modern marriage. (Sorry for getting weird and deep, guys. Maybe I’m just a little jaded.) I mean this as a compliment to the brides: two people who would have heartily consented to spending the rest of their lives together without a party or a marriage license or the recognition of the outside world.

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Despite the fact that it’s only recently become official, they’re perhaps the most quintessential example I’ve ever known of a marriage done right. Endless love to you both.

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Congrats, Suzanne & Marcia!

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MALIBU

Anyone notice my new header photo? Apparently I’m the last person in the free world to figure out how to take a panorama photo on an iPhone! How cute and endearing!

You can stop guessing about the location; I spent a lovely 4th of July weekend with my family in Malibu. It was perfect because I’m one of those incredibly lucky people that has family members who would be cool enough to hang out with even if we weren’t related. I’m pretty sure this is a rarity.

In all seriousness, the women in my extended family– on both sides– are really cool, and have fantastic style. Each of them has such a unique and inimitable aesthetic that when I’m around them, I find myself feeling a lot like I did when I was young and clueless and still wearing Talbots. My outfits are like stirrup leggings and Keds compared to their effortless, eclectic chic.

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On Dana: J Brand tee, BB Dakota overalls, Converse shoes, vintage Coach bucket bag and bracelet, Madewell bracelet.

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On Megan: Le Specs sunglasses, “cheap Asian store” Marilyn Monroe crop top and maxi skirt, BC shoes.

We spent a gluttonous weekend lounging on the beach and hunting for celebrities (well, I did, because I’m declasse and also not accustomed to being around people who are on TV). Ladies, Brody Jenner ain’t all that. His bro, though.

And of course, there was a little bit of shopping. I got a couple of new cosmetics that I’m really excited about: Santigold for Smashbox’s Limitless Double-ended Liner in Azurite/El Dorado, and Benefit’s Cha Cha Tint and Sun Beam Highlighter. How beachy is this look?! (Ignore my unkempt eyebrows, please. Or don’t, ’cause summer is for letting loose, and I just can’t be tamed.)

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Benefit’s stains can double as lip & cheek color.

But anyway, here are some pics of my gorgeous fam.

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On Megan: Daughters of the Revolution caftan. On me: Tom Ford sunglasses, Rachel Roy caftan, stolen hat from my aunt and uncle’s beach house.

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On Dana: Prada sunglasses, Planet Blue bikini top, Zara shorts.

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On Tina: Old Navy Dress, Vix swimsuit, Tom Ford sunglasses, Wanawake hat, Stella and Dot tote.

And of course, Snackers, the unrequited love of my life.

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Hates me. 

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LATELY

A picture is worth a thousand words.

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Ocean Beach, SF at sunset.

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Ran from my apartment to the coast after work. Still kind of in awe that this is a real thing that I can do now. Unbelievable.

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ROGA (running+yoga) event on the Santa Monica Pier with celebrity trainer Juliet Kaska. Sponsored by Vionic. Working on a Saturday has never been so painless.

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ROGA is over for the summer, but picks up again in the fall. Check out http://santamonicapier.org/roga/ for more information.

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My neighborhood. The Richmond, SF.

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This weekend’s hike. Sea Cliff, SF.

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Rad Theory sweater that I scored for $20 at Wasteland (more on that obsession later). H&M necklace, Tahari pants, Vionic sandals (on sale now!).

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New nose stud and ragged hair. Passed the two month mark without a cut before conceding that something had to be done. Miss you, Lauren!

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Awkward face, double chin, fresh layers via The Cutlery SF. Highly recommended!

That’s all I got for now.

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IT’S BEEN A WHILE

I’ve been slacking here, and I feel terrible about it. But I swear, I have an actual reason, and hopefully this will be the last big lapse in posting. (Dare to dream.)

About a month ago I moved to San Francisco for a new job, which was a big and exciting decision for me. I spent a couple of weeks using Airbnb before finding an apartment in the city, buying a car (after not having driven, really, for years), and basically starting from scratch with three suitcases full of clothes. Well, one of them was full of shoes. (Still, it was a completely insufficient selection; I may as well have been camping, honestly.)

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View from my office window.

I’ve come a long way in the past month. Really, April seems like an eternity ago. I’ve Craigslisted furniture and had nine large boxes of necessities shipped from DC, and I’m starting to feel settled and at home. After a few mishaps like running out of gas on a random stretch of highway somewhere in Napa, and then losing my wallet for 12 hours (and having a stranger turn it in without a penny missing), I feel like I’m getting the hang of this whole moving-across-the-country-alone thing.

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New home.

So there’s my excuse for not having written in a month. I mean, you have to admit that it’s a good one. I’m really thrilled that things have worked out; I have a great new job at a comfort shoe company called Vionic based in San Rafael. I’ll do my best not to plug the brand too much, but I really am passionate about our shoes and you may have to deal with me fawning over them a bit. Vionic is the new iteration of Orthaheel, an established brand in the comfort market founded by podiatrist Phil Vasyli. The company is in the process of moving toward a fresher and more modern aesthetic, and it’s exciting to come in at such a pivotal point in that transition. Even though they have built in orthotic support, the shoes are legitimately cute. Real talk, guys.

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Vionic “Havana” sandals.

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Fall 2014 collection preview.

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Fall 2014 collection press event.

So there’s my quick update. I have plenty more to say here, and now that I’m settled in, a lot more time to do it. Don’t give up on me just yet.

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Hiking at Point Reyes.

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