…where readers Liz and Jessica give you some great advice on how to secure the salary you’re gunning for, and Megan tells you how to save your pennies by scouring your kitchen cabinets for salon-quality beauty treatments. Just click HERE!
If you’re like me, the recession has bitch-slapped you back to reality. So when a somewhat lucrative job faded away from me like Whitney Houston’s singing voice, I decided to get resourceful when it comes to my standard of living. Sure, in some cases, this means stealing toilet paper from the Starbucks bathroom, or dining on the free cheese samples at Whole Foods. But when it comes to skincare, it’s pretty easy to save a lot of cash by eschewing typical cosmetic stores in favor of your kitchen pantry.
Feel the Burn: We’re all familiar with the benefits of eating, drinking, and cleaning with lemon juice. But on your skin? The reason lemon is so ideal for cleaning is because of highly acidic quality; literally, it will burn through the germs. And while that’s great for the kitchen stove, the idea of burning through the skin on my face is a little less appealing. But I had heard it clears up visibly clogged pores, so I gave it a shot. Gently rub a halved lemon on yourself face (after cleansing and exfoliating) while lightly squeezing. The smell is divine, but for those with highly sensitive skin like me, it can be a bit itchy and irritating.
Drip It and Rip It: If I could take caffeine in IV form, I would gladly get on the needle. But until then, I use my leftover coffee grinds as the ultimate exfoliator. In the same way that caffeine stimulates the brain and lets you take on the day with an extra boost, caffeine wakes up your skin with its antioxidant abilities. This may not be the best idea if you’re averse to smelling like a latte, but I’m all for a skin stimulator that packs a punch and smells like a coffeehouse.
Aw, Honey Honey: Candy Girls seem to have it right; sugar is top of the line when it comes to making your skin glow. But if sugar is your diet’s enemy, it’s your skincare’s best friend. Combine vegetable oil, a few slices of orange, and sugar in a jar until it forms a gooey gel. It’s the perfect pre-self tanning exfoliator for your body, and it will really slough off the dead skin that accumulated during the winter. I’m even an advocate of using it on the face to really clean out clogged pores. But always remember to moisturize after heavy exfoliation- you wouldn’t plant a garden and leave it un-watered, right?
Megan Johnson is a writer in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. She chronicles her simultaneously entertaining and massively embarrassing life on her website, Down and Out in Beacon Hill.
Look at these guys. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to stay mad at them?
Nevertheless, the occasional (or, well…more than occasional when it comes to Virgil - we’re still in housebreaking mode) “accident” makes me nuts. When it comes to housekeeping, I think there’s absolutely nothing more important than having a fresh-smelling home; even if it looks like a mess, it should always smell lovely. And Virgil’s little mishaps smell anything but.
The problem with dog urine and hardwood floors is that adding moisture to the area just basically “re-activates” the smell…so mopping often makes things worse. A couple of days ago, I decided to deal with the problem once and for all…using nothing more than a $1.59 bottle of white vinegar. So much cheaper than those pricey removers you get at the pet store, and totally, totally effective.
Here’s what you do:
1. Saturate the area with diluted white vinegar (I just bought a large bottle of already-diluted stuff, but you can also buy it pure and mix it in a 50/50 solution with water).
2. Let sit for at least 10 minutes, and then use a dry mop to remove the excess vinegar.
3. Wait another half hour or so, then mop the area with very hot water. Repeat if necessary over a couple of successive days. I’ve done this for two days in a row now, and our apartment is back to smelling like people live here instead of a horde of wild animals. Yeah, it smells like vinegar for a bit, but that goes away within a few hours (a day at most).
4. If the smell is really persistent, try sprinkling baking soda over the area before pouring on the vinegar (this may cause damage to your floors, so spot-test first in an inconspicuous area).
In order to stop the problem going forward, try this neat little trick: use a black light (can be purchased at lots of hardware stores) to find the areas where your dogs seem to “prefer,” and then lay down double-sided sticky tape all over the area for a couple of days. Your dogs won’t like the feel of the tape on their paws, and will find somewhere else to go - hopefully, outside.
For some tips on how to make your home smell fresh in a pinch, go HERE.
Reader liz_in_hr has honed the perfect statement to put in a cover letter that asks you to state your salary requirements:
"Per your request, I have calculated my salary requirements for the position of XXXX. Based on my research for regional salary standards for this position, as well as my work experience and education, I have determined that my salary requirement is between the annual range of $XX,000 and $XX,000. This figure is negotiable based on the requirements of the job and the company’s benefits package."
I do research on salary.com and other sites (i.e. industry professional job boards, such as pmi, shrm, iiba, etc.) and find what the salary range is for the job I’m looking for, and then take into account how much money I want to make. Generally you should expect to make 10-15% more than what you’re making NOW when you move into the next role up.”
Reader Jessica offers this advice:
In regard to asking for a raise, I think this is an interesting read: http://www.doublex.com/blog/xxfactor/do-women-r… Also, check out the NY Times piece which is linked in that article. The article mentions that some women may tend to worry that they come off as greedy when asking for a raise. I can certainly relate to that and have to step outside of my comfort zone when the time comes for a numbers discussion. It seems that men are less likely to feel that way. So ladies, be confident when negotiating a salary and asking for a raise!
Remember when I went to Cabo a few weeks ago? Well, this is what I was up to: shooting promo spots for a giveaway that Better is doing for an all-expenses-paid trip to Mexico. It was lovely, and I highly recommend that you enter the contest (see details below).
SPA & MASSAGE
If you want a chance to win a trip to the Barcelo resort, just visit Better.tv and enter to win the Better Mexico Giveaway (hint: today’s word of the day is “Ravenous”). Tomorrow, I’ll post the video about Barcelo’s nightlife, and you’ll have another chance to win!
A little tip for all you job-hunters out there that I learned from last night’s Hired screening: under no circumstances should you bring up numbers (either saying what you’re looking for or asking what they’re offering) until you get a phone call from your potential employer wanting to talk salary. The point is to get the offer; start negotiating after you’ve won them over with your brilliance.
Last night, Carla and I swung by a screening of MTV’s new documentary series, Hired, which follows recent college grads as they navigate the process of trying to secure their first “real” job. It was totally fast-paced and fun to watch, and in addition to being entertaining, it actually gave helpful tips on how to get a freaking job in this economy. Which is advice that I suspect we could all use a dose of.
Above, I’m with SheFinds' Eileen and Rebekah, both of whom are featured in the show (each episode shows job hunters vying for a position at a different company - everything from a personal training firm to the Warren Tricomi salon). SheFinds is essentially an online fashion directory: the editors scour the web to create amazing, one-of-a-kind buying guides, and then direct you to the stores that carry the items you want (often including great discounts and coupons).
The event was a blast, largely because I got to spend some time chatting with producer extraordinare Noah Scheinmann (who I first met at the Hired event I attended with Nadine…to which I just realized I wore almost the exact same outfit) over Given tequila, which - swear to god - may be the best tequila I’ve ever tasted. Served over ice, it tastes more like a cocktail, really, even though all that’s in it (besides tequila) is a little lime infusion. Straight tequila that tastes that good makes me nervous.
Natasha: How did you transfer all your blog posts so easily from nonsociety.com toRamshackle Glam?
Jordan: The transfer went much more smoothly than I expected it to, but that was mostly because I had some help in the form of a tech-savvy friend. I initially secured ramshackleglam.tumblr.com, and then once I was ready to make the switch I just went into my Tumblr dashboard and redirected my content from my previous address to my new one. A few weeks later, I hired a web designer to help me make the move over to a Wordpress platform, and asked her to set up a system whereby my Wordpress posts would also appear on my Tumblr, so that I wouldn’t have to abandon my much-loved Tumblr community.
Natasha: On your twitter account, one day you were @JordanBerkow and the next you were @ramshackleglam. You just changed the Twitter handle username to do this – why did you choose to switch usernames? [Check out this post on How to Change Your Twitter Handle]
Jordan: I’ve never liked using the @jordanberkow handle, mostly because that’s not a name that I use anymore; Berkow is my maiden name, Strauch is my legal name, and I write as Jordan Reid (my middle name). I have a lot of names – it can get a bit confusing, I know. Unfortunately, when I first began Twittering I discovered that @jordanreid was taken, so when I started Ramshackle Glam I thought it made sense to establish a degree of consistency between the site and my Twitter. Also, by using@ramshackleglam I keep the focus on the site, rather than on me; of course the subject matter is usually where I am and what I’m doing, but the only reason I use Twitter is to increase my ability to communicate with the Ramshackle Glam audience.
Natasha: How do you manage to retain visitors that come to your site for your
more “popular” posts that cause spikes in traffic? I’m sure other lifestyle bloggers will be interested to hear your strategy.
Jordan: I pay very close attention to my traffic, and have developed a pretty solid understanding of what types of posts make it “spike.” Spikes are incredibly valuable, but ultimately only mean something if you’re able to hold onto at least a percentage of the new visitors (my goal is to retain approximately 25% of the new readers attracted by a given spike). To that end, whenever I post something that I think will create a “spike,” or whenever I know that another media outlet is writing about me (articles on big sites that reference your site will always create a spike), I make sure to surround that post with the best possible content. Also, whenever a media outlet writes about me I make sure to return the favor by posting about them, and Twittering and Facebooking the article that they wrote; I can’t emphasize enough how valuable these kinds of relationships are.
Natasha: As you made the transition from nonsociety.com to your own blog, have many people followed you? Where do most of your visitors come from – referring sites, direct traffic or search engines?
Jordan: I actually have more traffic now than I had at NonSociety, which has come as quite a shock. Honestly, I’m not sure how this happened: I left so abruptly that many of my readers didn’t have any idea where I’d gone, and I feel extremely lucky that so many of them took the time to Google around to find me. When I first switched over to Ramshackle Glam most of my traffic was from referring sites such as TheGloss, which wrote an article about me immediately following my departure from NonSociety, but now approximately 70% of my traffic is direct. Approximately 25% of my traffic is from referring sites (predominantly my Tumblr site, my Twitter, and the other sites that I write for, including TheGloss.com, Styleite.com, and TimeOutNewYork), and the remaining 5% comes from search engines.
Natasha: Which social networking site has been the best platform for you to
Jordan: Well, I was initially skeptical of Wordpress – right when I switched over, I feared that I would lose all of my readers, because I thought that everyone who read me read me via Tumblr. And there was a little dip for a few days, but my readership now is higher than it’s ever been. I love Wordpress – I think you can craft much more creative posts, and it’s much more customizable than Tumblr – but for a first-time blogger, I would definitely recommend Tumblr. There’s just no simpler, more user-friendly way to start building an audience.
Thanks again to Jordan for sitting down with me for this interview.
The limited-edition candles sell for $10 a pop and will be sold at selected White Castles around the country. They’re only available during May (which is apparently National Hamburger Month!), and some of the proceeds will go to Autism Speaks…”
I suspect these lovelies will be somewhat tough to come by; they sold out online in just 48 hours. You can get them on eBay if you simply must own one, but the price seems to range between $40 and $140 (!). Looks like I’ll have to settle for getting my hamburger fix the old-fashioned way.
The Spa at the Setai is pretty unbelievable…and I just so happen to have in my possession a gift card for $50 off of any treatment. Now, a manicure at the Setai is $45, but it sounds like a pretty incredible one (“A warm neck pillow infused with aromatic lavender oils relaxes your neck and shoulders as a warm hand bath of essential oils soothes and nourishes the hands and nails. Hand and arm massage, exfoliation, cuticle treatment and thermal paraffin gloves complete your treatment”). And you get to use the other amazing spa amenities (hot tub, eucalyptus steam room, etc) while you’re there!
I’d like to give this gift card to the reader who contributes the best post to the Ramshackle Glam Community this week. Remember, no stress: anything goes, from your favorite DIY tip to a review of a fun neighborhood restaurant to the recipe for your grandma’s blueberry pie.
Last week, I had the opportunity to tour one of the Setai’s new model apartments down on Wall Street. The space offers luxurious residences, a private club, a spa, and a Michelin-starred restaurant, but I was most interested in meeting interior designers Shea Soucie and Martin Horner, who collaborated to create a space that, in their words, “appeals to young, savvy world-travelers.”
The relatively cozy apartments (I say “relatively” because the living room in the model apartment was larger than my first one-bedroom when I moved to NYC) were designed for maximum efficiency, with sliding walls between the bedroom and living room that can be opened to create a larger space, and a home office that doubles as a second bedroom. I was particularly interested in the long hallway between the model apartment’s living room and home office, which featured a whole bunch of different types of artwork. Soucie explained that her technique for dealing with long, bare walls is to break up the space with several different areas of interest that incorporate varying textures.
I had my own weird little “missed connection” moment once (not of a romantic sort; just a curious event that I’ve thought about from time to time in the years since). I was about 17 years old, walking through Columbus Circle, when this twentysomething guy passed me going in the other direction. We both turned and walked backwards for a ways, watching each other disappear into the crowds, not smiling, not saying anything…just looking at each other. It wasn’t about attraction, not really - I just felt very strongly that I knew this person.
Go HERE to purchase Sophie Blackall’s beautiful prints.
2. Grab the wire immediately above the bead with your pliers.
3. Bend the wire over to a 90 ̊ angle.
4. Grasp the horizontal wire segment with the round nose pliers, as close to the 90 bend as possible.
5. Using your hands or the other set of pliers, grab that wire and wind it over the round nose. Continue going around the pliers until you form a loop.
6. At this point, you want to slip the pre-cut chain over the end of the head pin so that is sits inside that already formed loop.
7. To finish this wrapped loop, grab the loop with your pliers. As you hold onto the loop firmly, wrap the remaining wire around the top of bead, one, two or three times. Cut remaining wire.
8. Creating the ear wire: Take the 20g wire. Cut off about a 1 1/2” piece. Grab one end of the wire with your round nose pliers and form a small curl at the end. ␣ Next, measure about a 1/4 of an inch above the curl and rest the wire on the largest end of your round nose pliers, and curl again, in the opposite direction of that last curl you created. Lastly, on the other end of the wire, you can create a slight bend.
9. Last step, open up that small curl you created on your ear wire and slip the opposite side of the chain onto it. Re-close the curl and you have a finished earring.
10. Repeat the steps to create the matching pair and you’re done!
Bright and early Monday morning, reading up on Michael Jackson’s children for an RTL interview. Apparently two of Randy Jackson’s kids and two of Jermaine’s kids (by the same mother?!) are also living in the house, and seven kids is too much for 79-year-old Katherine Jackson to supervise. Oh, and allegedly one of them brought home a stun gun and pointed it at Michael’s kids. Randy and Jermaine’s children are being moved to a Jackson family estate-owned condo. Sad.
Sunday started with brunch at Capsuoto Freres. I decided to surprise Mom by taking her there because it’s where we used to go to celebrate special occasions when I was a little girl, and we haven’t been there in years. Their brunch didn’t blow us away, unfortunately - we both got the Eggs Benedict, which arrived on a weirdly unadorned plate and wasn’t good enough to stand all on its own - but the meal was rescued by our very wise decision to pre-order the restaurant’s famous chocolate souffle.
After brunch, we headed over to Daffy’s on Broadway, where I found this quite awesome blazer for $69, marked down from EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS. Seriously. I didn’t end up buying it, because I realized that I mostly wanted it because it’s an EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLAR BLAZER, which makes just about zero sense. I ended up going home with a paper-thin, navy blue tank top for $13 (originally $80!), and Mom made a bunch of great finds. She didn’t end up buying the blazer pictured above, largely because we both noted that it reminded us of my living room, and while I adore my decor, “It looks like your wallpaper!” is never a great reason to buy an article of clothing.
While we shopped, Mom and I talked and talked like it had been years since we’d seen each other, rather than just last week, and she gave me the kind of brilliant life advice that only a mother can give. She’s just the best, ever.
I’m not a big cupcake person (or a big sweets person, for that matter; I’d rather have a pickle), but I couldn’t resist picking up a few Baked by Melissa mini cupcakes for Kendrick on the way home. Pictured above (clockwise from top): Peanut Butter & Jelly, S’Mores, Chocolate Chip Pancake.
This picture was taken on Halloween when I was…three, I think. When fall came around that year, Mom asked me what I wanted to be for Halloween: “A fairy princess? Anne of Green Gables? A ballerina?”
"I WANT TO BE A HOUSE!"
So Mom made me a house costume, which consisted of a painted and folded cardboard box that slipped over my head, and was quite cool, actually. Unfortunately, it got in the way of my trick or treating, so off it came. Good thing I had a helpful reminder of my costume painted directly onto my cheek.
This is another of my favorite pictures of Mom and me ever; I was about three years old, and it was taken at one of those “Old Time Photo” stands in a carnival somewhere. I remember getting to choose what I wanted to hold, and selecting the fan and the umbrella: they made me feel totally grown-up and special.
Acting on the advice of…well, everyone, I decided to stop with this ridiculousness as of Saturday morning. Friday night I had a slight fever, chills and aches, and extreme fatigue…and I don’t think I have the flu; I think I’m not eating enough (insights like this are why they pay me the big bucks). I ate something light last night, because given how my body has responded to this cleanse, I think it’s important to at least make some effort to “ease” myself back into normal-eating mode. I’ve also been drinking the remaining lemonades and cashew juices as snacks today (Kendrick has been assisting), ‘cause they’re quite yummy.
I’ve repeatedly voiced my belief that cleanses are unhealthy and unnecessary, and this didn’t do a whole lot to change my mind. I’m not slamming BPC specifically; I actually think that as cleanses go this one isn’t as bad as some (I was much less hungry on BPC than I was when I tried the Master Cleanse). My specific issue with BPC is that it’s way too expensive, and I feel like the price ratchets the danger level up to Orange: the expense both makes clients feel like it’s a “magic juice” (jeez, for $60ish bucks a day it better be) and more determined to “go through with it,” even if their bodies are screaming for them not to. This is a test geared towards ambitious young people who have spent years honing their ability to get an A on an exam, get into the best school, make the most money…and now they’re applying all that drive to depriving their bodies of what they need.
The weirdest – and most dangerous, in my opinion – part of cleanses? Behind the fatigue, aches, and chills is a kind of high. It’s sort of exciting, being able to exert this kind of control over your body. And to me, that kind of excitement doesn’t feel all that distantly related to an eating disorder. Last night, when I was deciding whether or not to stop, I suddenly realized that I felt guilty. Depressed at my inability to “push through”. I wanted to show my body that I was the boss; that it couldn’t tell me what to do…and that feeling reminded me way too much of when I used to not eat enough a few years back. I’m not saying that people who do cleanses necessarily have eating disorders, but I do believe that the mindset that permits one to try a cleanse (and I’m including myself in this category) is one that’s perhaps more likely to exhibit signs of disordered eating. The simple truth: something about the hyper-regulation associated with this cleanse reminded me of how I felt when I was a young actress and was determined to be as slim as possible – whatever the price, whatever the consequences.
Now, I get that I’m probably not the best candidate for a cleanse (nowadays, I give zero thought to healthy eating on a daily basis), and I didn’t do this particularly by-the-book (hello, Chinese food and glass of wine)…but still, isn’t the whole concept behind this cleanse that it’s geared towards girls like me, who enjoy their burgers and red wine, but just need to “recharge” on occasion? Maybe it works well for someone who already has a fairly Spartan diet or is used to regulating what they eat, but to me this did not feel safe, and it did not feel healthy: it felt like a test of willpower rather than a step towards a “better” lifestyle. The point of a cleanse is to force your body into doing something that it does not want to do (screw the literature that says “this is your body returning to its natural state, blah blah blah”; nope, your body wants food). I think that we need to pay more attention to what our bodies want…certainly not less.
The main reason I stopped the cleanse wasn’t because I felt sick: I stopped because I was sitting there at my desk, typing listlessly away on my computer and wanting it to be nighttime already so I could go to sleep and be one day closer to being done with this whole thing…and then I realized that I was actually wishing the days to pass more quickly. And then I looked outside into a gorgeous summer evening and thought to myself, “How many nights like this are there in your life when you’re 28 years old and living in the greatest city in the world with someone you love?” The answer is, “Not many.” And I’m not going to waste a single one of them sitting on my couch, shivering, sweating, and sipping on kale juice.
A few weeks back, I received an email from reader Douglas (also referenced in this post) in which he suggested that, in keeping with my belief that there are countless different (and equally valid) iterations of happiness, I should encourage readers to send in their own ideas about what constitutes “Ramshackle Glam”. I thought it was such a great suggestion: this site is just “my way”…and I want to know what you do to fill your world with beauty and joy.
So, in the spirit of community and collaboration…please cast your eyes to the right, and you’ll notice a brand-new feature:
First up is reader Erica, who sent in a question a few weeks ago expressing her frustration with her current situation and asking my advice on how she could get more involved in exploring her true passions. I suggested that she try writing guest posts for bloggers she liked…and then I asked her if she would like to compose the very first Ramshackle Glam Community post. Wait until you see the great baking tips (and unbelievably delicious recipe) that she’s come up with.
You’ll also hear from Samara, who you’ve seen here before, and who firmly believes in the lost art of letter writing. In “Five Reasons to Write Letters in the Digital Age,” she gives you some compelling rationale for setting aside your beloved laptop and putting pen to paper.
Finally, check out a post written by my good friend (and fabulous blogger) Casey of CaseyCulture, who stopped by the Paul Labrecque salon to get some incredible tips on how to make your locks look super for spring!
Now for the most important part: I want YOU to be a part of the Ramshackle Glam Community. All you have to do? Submit a post on a topic of your choosing - really, anything goes, but try to keep it, you know…clean(ish) - to email@example.com, and if your post is approved, you’ll see it pop up in a matter of days! The posts won’t appear in the main feed, so be sure to keep checking back in to the Community to see what’s going on.
- Keep it under 500 words (about 300 words is ideal).
- No spelling or grammatical errors, please!
- Include a photo (of yourself or of your subject matter; up to you).
- Original content only, por favor.
- I reserve the right to do just a smidgen of light editing (to adjust length or correct for typos; I won’t say anything you don’t want said, promise!).
- Include a link to your own site, if you have one.
I’m SO excited about this; I love the community that we’re building here, and I can’t wait to see what you all have to say :)
To some people, hair is just the stuff on your head. To others, your hairstyle can immediately make or break your mood. For the latter of us, power stylist Elana, from the famed New York Paul Labrecque Salon, has a handful of key tips to nurture, protect and even grow out your locks.
[caption id=”attachment_465844703” align=”alignnone” width=”150” caption=”Stylist Elana from Paul Labrecque”]
Sustain your Color
After spending your hard-earned money on highlights, try these tips to prolong your color.
- As a rule of thumb, the closer you stay to your natural color the longer you can get away with your roots looking obvious. I like to suggest going two shades lighter or two shades darker to keep color looking natural and healthy. In the summer you can always add a few more highlights towards the hairline that are three shades lighter for that bright blonde effect.
- If you know you are going to be in the sun and you are starting to get roots, put some fresh squeezed lemon juice into a small spray bottle and lightly mist your roots for a sun boosting effect. Just don’t go overboard!
Throw a Mask On It
It’s crucial to hydrate color-treated hair with a weekly mask, particularly one with hydrating oils. If you can’t splurge on a professional mask, look to your kitchen cabinet. Pick up a few bananas and mix four teaspoons of honey and olive oil with the bananas and massage into the hair. Wrap with plastic or a plastic cap and sit for 30 minutes, then shampoo it out.
Everyone loves a bouncy salon blow-out, but it’s easy to recreate at home.
- Begin with a product appropriate for your hair type to help protect from heat damage.
- Pre-dry your hair. If you want more body, flip your head over while pre-drying and get those roots dry and lifted. This will also decrease blow-drying time.
- Next, split hair sections in two and pull each section to one side of your head.
- Always use the smoothing attachment that comes with the blow dryer for a more polished look, and aim downwards to seal the cuticle.
- Repeat this until you get to the top. It’s crucial that you really make sure your roots are 100% dry; if they are even slightly damp, your hair will either a) fall flat b) frizz up or c) look undone within an hour of blow drying. Get them dry as a bone, and you’ll have a blow-out that lasts!
Hair Growing Myth Busters
It’s a myth that cutting your hair makes it grow faster. However, trims will make hair look healthier, because there’s nothing more unappealing than long hair with ratty ends. If you’re trying to grow out your hair, talk to your stylist about your desired end result. Growing out your hair takes time, as the average rate of hair growth is 1/2 an inch per month. As your strands grow, I recommend the following:
- Get regular trims every 8-10 weeks
- Invest in a good Boar Bristle brush
- Avoid over-styling and excessive heating tools
- Add weekly conditioning treatments to your regimen
- Don’t brush hair when wet; use a wide toothed comb and be extra gentle. Hair is more prone to breakage when wet.
- Don’t rub vigorously with a towel; just squeeze and blot dry.
There are some things we got right the first time—communication being one of them. Don’t get me wrong: e-mails, texts, and wall comments are great for speed and safety (as in not putting your address out there). When it comes to saying something meaningful, however, nothing has replaced the letter. Here are a few reasons to put pen to paper every now and again:
• They Stand the Test of Time - Provided you don’t tear up love letters in the midst of a bad break up, you will have them your whole life. Your grandchildren will find your stash of letters in the attic, and they’ll meet a young, sassy version of you. Much of what we know of history comes from letters. Letters are a chance for all of us to leave a legacy.
• Pictures Don’t Always Tell the Truth – It’s true we chronicle much of our lives through photos. Yet it is human nature to make life appear better than it actually is, and we often use photos to do this. Letters, journals—things on paper—take emotional snapshots of our lives. Written words are a more honest representation of what we’re thinking and feeling. Life is all things: good, bad, exciting, dull, and disappointing. Why would you want to remember the disappointing days? 1. It’ll be funny someday (the way your high school drama is funny now), and 2. So one day you can relish in having overcome it all all as you relax in your rocking chair.
• You’re More Likely to Say the Right Thing – A letter requires that you think everything through before writing it down. This enables you to say exactly what you mean—rather than stumbling nervously over words or saying something inappropriate out of anger. Even e-mail and text messages can be too quick. Oftentimes you’ll hit send…and then wish you could take it right back.
• They Let the Language Live On - We have access to the lovely, complex English language, and too often we rely on short, clumsy acronyms and emoticons to express ourselves. Which would you prefer: A text message that says: “I Luv U” or a letter that says: “My dear Girl, I love you ever and ever without reserve. The more I have known you the more have I loved. In every way—even my jealousies have been agonies of love, in the hottest fit I ever had I would have died for you.” (Excerpt from a letter written by poet John Keats, March 1820).
• There’s an Excellent Chance You’ll Get Laid – Gentlemen, I invite you to write a love letter to your lady for no reason whatsoever. We are a safe distance from Valentine’s Day. Now, provided her birthday is not coming up or you need to get yourself out of trouble, write her an unsolicited love letter. Tell her why you’re with her. Why you love her. How you can’t believe she’s yours (all yours!). Nothing but good will come of this. I promise. It might even get you out of future trouble. Ladies, men are moved by love letters, too. For most, it’s something they don’t know they want until they receive it.
FUDGE DROP COOKIES (Adapted from The Food Network)
What you need:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
**2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
11 ounces (1 bag) semisweet chocolate chunks
**Don’t have buttermilk in the fridge? No need to buy an entire carton. In a measuring cup add1 tbsp white vinegar to 1 c. milk (any kind will do) and let sit for 5 minutes. Voila, instant buttermilk!
What you do:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Put the butter and the unsweetened and semisweet chocolates in a heatproof bowl. Bring medium microwave-safe bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching the water, and stir occasionally until melted and smooth. (You can also use the microwave, be sure not to use full power, 75% will do).
Stir the light brown and granulated sugars and vanilla into the chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and buttermilk and beat vigorously until thick and glossy.
In another bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa, and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just mixed. Stir in chocolate chunks.
Drop the batter in heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or ungreased baking sheets, if you don’t have any parchment)—a small ice cream scoop is ideal for this. Space the cookies about 2-inches apart. Bake until the cookies set but are soft and fudgy on the inside, 12 to 15 minutes.
Cool cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Serve.
Store cookies in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to a week.
To jazz up the cookies:
There are tons of ways to add some different flavors to these cookies. You can substitute peppermint extract for the vanilla for a wonderful Junior Mint-type cookies. Or chop up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the chocolate/peanut butter lovers. For a spicier cookie, add some chili powder or chopped crystallized ginger. Or you can really go wild and add dried fruit and chopped nuts.
Last Friday, the hubby and I went to a friend’s surprise 30th birthday party. As usual, I had baked some treats. A friend of a friend at the party and I got into a discussion about cooks vs. bakers. She had assumed since I love to bake then I must hate to cook (or that since I am a good baker, I must be an awful cook). I don’t think one has to do with the other, but after asking everyone at the party, people seemed to fall into 2 categories: those who enjoy the improvisational nature of cooking (a pinch of salt, don’t have chili powder, use cumin!) and those who love following recipes to a T and enjoy the straightforward nature of cooking.
I don’t think there needs to be such a divide, but I do understand both sides, and can see why people who love to throw together dinner by grabbing 5 random ingredients out of the fridge would get frustrated with baking. You can’t substitute flour for something else, or decide to leave out the baking powder—if you do, your cookies are toast. It’s true that you can’t be too creative with the basic fundamentals of baking— you can’t substitute flour for something else, or decide to leave out the baking powder—if you do, your cookies are toast. But, if you have a few simple, yummy recipes under your belt (or apron), and get comfortable with the basics, baking is a breeze, and you can learn how to change up recipes a bit if the cook in you comes calling.
Some tips before you get started:
- Keep it simple. Choose and easy recipe, a complicated recipe with 20 ingredients that takes all day to make will only discourage you. Once you master that chewy chocolate chip cookie, you can move on and make that seven layer cake with swiss buttercream and chocolate ganache filling.
- Double check to make sure you have all of your ingredients. Sounds obvious, but nothing is worse than when you are halfway through a recipe and you realize you are out of eggs or have no sugar.
- Have all of the ingredients you need right at your fingertips before you begin. That way, you are not running to the pantry to grab baking powder and end up using cornstarch because you weren’t paying attention.
- Read through the entire recipe before you begin. That way, if you need to use room temperature butter or chill the batter for 30 minutes before you bake, you a prepared
- Use a timer. I know 12 minutes might not seem like a long time, but once you put those brownies in the oven, and walk away to call your mom/let the dog out/catch up on The Millionaire Matchmaker, before you know it, the oven is smoking, the brownies are in the garbage
- Don’t be afraid to make a mistake (and you will!). For every perfectly crisp cookie, moist cake, and fudgy brownie that comes out of the oven, there are the dry, overcooked, dense, and flavorless confections. As upsetting as that is, try to think if anything went wrong (did you follow the recipe exactly, skip any steps?), and try again. Believe me, the looks on the faces of your friends when you serve them your homemade treats will make you forget about all of your mistakes!
Last night, Carla and a very red-faced me (I turn pink whenI’m tired/sick/underfed) headed over to Lord & Taylor for the FEED event, hosted by Lauren Bush and Ellen Gustafson. FEED’s mission is to provide nutrients to hungry children all over the world through the sale of bags that can be purchased both in stores and online.
Here, Lauren Bush poses with TheGloss.com’s Jennifer and one of her FEED Guatemala bags. Go HERE to buy one for yourself (or for Mom…what a perfect last-minute Mother’s Day gift!). The sale of one FEED3 bag provides nutrients for three children for an entire year; the sale of one FEED1 bag provides enough for one child. Go HERE to check out the full line of FEED bags; there are tons of great options - all extremely affordable, and all for a wonderful cause.
P.S. Remember how I said I wanted a backpack? Love this one.
P.P.S. I spotted this woman at the event, and desperately wanted every single thing she was wearing. I inquired (yes, she said it was OK to take her picture), and the jeans are Seven (I think they’re these, but I’m not sure), the bag is Roots (kinda similar to this one), and the top is - boo - vintage.
Interview #2 today was about Tara Reid’s broken engagement to German entrepreneur Michael Axtmann (above, I’m doing some seriously intensive research). Again with the prenups! Apparently Axtmann’s lawyers wanted Tara to sign one, and she (shockingly) demurred.
(P.S. Kendrick took this shot; he’s home early from jury duty!)
During this morning’s interview, we briefly discussed Tom and Katie’s supposed “wedding contract,” and I found myself getting disproportionately upset. The idea of a contract that says that you must be married to someone for a finite period of time - and that you’ll be financially compensated for each year that you uphold the contract - it just doesn’t sit quite right with me. Not to be simplistic…but that’s just not the point.
That’s not to say that I’m opposed to pre-nups; to me, they’re an entirely different matter. We don’t have one, but I think they make total sense if either party enters the marriage with significant assets. Also, Kendrick and I have talked about the possibility of drawing up a post-nup when we have children so that if things ever do get dirty between us, the custody details will have already been hashed out (presumably while we were still able to communicate openly and lovingly about what we thought would be best for our children). One of my exes was going through a divorce when I was dating him, and I thought that the position that he and his wife put their daughter in during the custody battle (even going so far as to play answering machine messages for her in which Daddy slammed Mommy, or vice versa) was unforgivable.
- The highest percentage of men and women who ultimately divorce are those who marry between the ages of 20 and 24.
- According to the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology, 50% percent of first marriages, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce.
- According to the Discovery Channel, couples with children have a slightly lower divorce rate than childless couples.
- The New York Times recently revised the Census Bureau’s oft-cited statistic that 50% of couples that are presently married will ultimately divorce downward, to just over 40%. (Check out this interesting NYT article on divorce rates.)
(Caveat: I’m no statistician, as my college Stats professor will readily attest, so if I’m interpreting any of these statistics incorrectly - or if more accurate ones are out there - apologies. Feel free to correct.)
The unsurprising conclusion: lots and lots of marriages end in divorce. Which means that pre-nups are just the smart thing to do. They’re logical. So why does the Tom/Katie situation bug me so much? I think it’s because that (if the rumors are true) they already know that the marriage has failed, and they’re presently maintaining their union solely for money and publicity purposes. Why these people can be married and my friends Jeremy and Eric, who have been in love for about ten years now, can’t be…well, that makes no sense. And it makes me furious.
My question to you: What do you think about pre-nups in general, and Tom and Katie’s supposed “marriage contract” in particular? Do you think there’s a difference? Also, what do you think of the idea of a post-nup to prevent custody battles?
This morning, RTL came by my apartment to chat about this insanely awkward video of Katie Holmes prancing around to a Damn Yankees song while Tom Cruise watches with even less interest than I have in drinking another bottle of kale juice. Apparently they had some hand in releasing it themselves to make it look like they’re passionately in love, and to make the world forget that Katie Holmes looks absolutely heartbreakingly miserable whenever her photo is taken anywhere in Tom’s vicinity.
(The shorts are because they only film from the chest up, and I like to be comfortable during interviews :) )
Yeah, I know. You’re supposed to “ease in" - but I love my Chinese, and not having any for three whole days is a nightmarish prospect…especially when there are leftovers sitting in my refrigerator at this very moment.
Pictured above, clockwise from left: Moo Shu Vegetable, Vegetable Lettuce Package, and Chicken (it was supposed to be pork) Mei Fun, all from Chef Ho’s, one of my favorite UES Chinese restaurants. I’ve been going to Chef Ho’s since I was in elementary school, and I wholeheartedly recommend it - the food is way above average for takeout Chinese, and the service is polite and speedy.
On this site, I avoid the topic of diets and nutrition as much as possible. This is mostly because, as I’ve said, there are tons of places out there on the Internet that discuss exercise, nutrition, and what-have-you…but this isn’t one of them; I’m much more interested in chatting about fabulous burgers than I am in discussing the nuances of arm curls. I’ve also been fairly vocal about my discomfort with the idea of cleanses (and, honestly, diets in general), because my instincts just say that they’re bad for you: I feel like they’re dangerously restrictive, screw with your metabolism…and don’t really effect long-term change either in weight or in eating habits.
My only experience with doing a cleanse was in LA: I had a bunch of friends who were on the Master Cleanse, and decided to try it for myself, just to see if it really would make me feel as renewed and amazing as everyone said. To do the Master Cleanse, you spend several days (one friend of mine did 30, and I’m surprised he’s still alive) ingesting nothing but water spiked with lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper, and occasionally doing “Salt Water Flushes" (yick). I know some people say it works for them and makes them feel "just fabulous!"…but I think they’re lying. Or being delusional.
Nothing about the Master Cleanse made me feel anything close to fabulous. By the third day, I was literally hallucinating, and had dropped about seven pounds from a frame that did not benefit from pound-dropping (even though I added extra maple syrup, as they advise you to do if you’re not trying to lose weight…big eye roll). I looked like the Wicked Witch of the West, and I acted like I was high. I met with a friend for tea (I’m sorry: hot water with lemon), and she more or less did an intervention and took me directly to a restaurant and shoved solid food down my throat. My personal opinion: if you’re feeling less-than-great, cut out the alcohol and caffeine and eat a little “cleaner” for a few days (lean proteins, vegetables, that kind of thing), until you feel your energy levels return to normal.
A few months ago I received a gift bag at an event that included a three-day subscription to Blueprint Cleanse. And today, my shipment is arriving.
Why? Seriously, WHY?! I’ll tell you. Because when I was at NS, the other girls frequently talked about how much they loved cleanses in general, and Blueprint specifically. I declined to try the product both because I don’t believe in cleanses, and because I felt that I would have been unable to provide a completely unbiased opinion on a product that was so important to my coworkers (no one said that I was obligated to give a positive review; that’s just how I felt).
Now, I don’t feel any such bias or obligation. And I’m curious. I’m such an impulse eater (what I want when I want it) that the idea of restricting myself to what I “must” eat drink for three entire days is just soul-crushing…but I want to know the truth about these cleanses, and about how they work. I want you to know the truth. In the spirit of Super Size Me, I think it’ll make for some interesting content for someone who’s totally opposed to the entire concept of cleanses to tell you what it really feels like to do one.
That’s not to say that I’m on any kind of vendetta (I’m certainly not equating Blueprint - or any cleanse - to McDonalds in terms of what it does to your body). I’m simply interested in giving you an honest, unbiased opinion on a fairly polarizing issue. And the truth is I’m feeling pretty sluggish lately, and have been over-indulging a bit in recent weeks…so if I end up liking the process and the results, I’ll tell you. I’ll also tell you if I don’t.
Here’s what I think will happen:
- Day 1 (today; the shipment arrives this afternoon): I will feel hungry and grumpy, but sort of excited about the challenge (and for me this is a major, major challenge). I will take all of this out on Kendrick.
- Day 2: I will cheat by sneaking a bite of Kendrick’s dinner or eating something that I can rationalize is sort of “clean-ish” (or, more likely, whatever’s in my refrigerator) when nobody’s around. I will be embarrassed to confess my total lack of willpower to you, but will anyway, because that’s the point of this semi-ridiculous experiment.
- Day 3: I will totally give up and head straight to Two Boots.
UPDATE: I was planning to start halfway through today (the delivery arrived at 3) and sort of improvise, ending halfway through Saturday…but I just checked the site and they say not to do that. I figure if I’m going to do an experiment, I might as well do it right, so tomorrow AM it is.
Unless you’re blessed with perfect little toes that require no extra-special attention, I recommend moisturizing your soles with a formula that’s either extra-intensive (like St. Ives), or made especially for the feet.
Forgive the total weirdness of this photo. I thought about using a stock photo of Saran Wrap instead…but I wanted to convey how odd I felt wrapping my feet up in plastic for the evening before covering the whole deal with cotton socks.
If you’ve ever had a “Spa” (= more expensive) pedicure, you know that slathering the soles of the feet in heavy-duty moisturizer or warm wax and then covering them in plastic for a few minutes is part of the process…but apparently I’m going to be doing this fairly icky-feeling thing on my own every night for awhile, on the advice of the pedicurist I saw last week. I won’t go into it in too much detail, but the soles of my feet are probably up there with the worst you’ve seen (not to be gross - well…it is gross, sorry - but we’re talking cracks in the skin so deep it hurts to walk). It’s been a problem for me for years, mostly during the summer months, when I live in flip-flops and sandals. I’ve tried a million different intensive moisturizers, but none seem to work…so I finally decided to try this.
I’ve done it for three nights in a row now…and you know what? It’s making an enormous difference. This morning was the first in awhile that I didn’t mince down the steps with the doggies - I bounced! If you have similarly problematic feet, I advise giving it a shot (once every week or two should be sufficient in the long-term).
…totally went off without a hitch. Whew! While prepping for this speech, I got some great advice from readers. Here are some of the tips that you guys sent in:
1. Start off by explaining how you know the bride (and/or the groom, whichever is applicable).
2. Incorporate a personal story (funny is good, not funny is fine too if that’s not your style) that speaks to something important about the bride and groom’s relationship. I talked about how, when I visited Tim and Parisa in London, I completely destroyed their white carpet within ten minutes of arriving, and how their response, to me, was so indicative of what they prioritize: their relationships with family, friends, and each other.
3. Say something nice about the groom, too. I called Tim “devastatingly charming”…which he is :)
4. Keep it relatively short. I think my speech ran approximately 2 1/2 minutes, which felt about right.
And now for my #1 public-speaking tip: if you’re nervous (or even if you’re not), make sure to stand with your weight evenly distributed on both feet. I know that sounds a little random, but I learned that tip in a class I took when I was studying for a Master’s in Hospitality (also a little random, I know…I was a bit confused there for awhile), and it did wonders for my public speaking. Popping your hip out to one side or standing with your feet crossed, as many women naturally seem to do, just makes you feel a bit more unsteady and ups the nerves factor.
Jordan, this blog is getting really confusing. Who doesn’t know how to do this? Read over what you wrote. Is this blog about pointing out the extreme obvious? Note the zero comments. I felt the same about your “instructions” on turning a wine crate into a TV stand. This stuff is not content. If you’re supposed to be an “expert” on something tell us something we don’t know. Same with the weird carpet promotion thing. Who of your readers needs or cares about that? Is this a carpet blog? I don’t get it. I really like you and this site in general, but I think there is a major identity crisis going on, that weirdly I did not feel with when you were with NS. I also think it’s absolutely crucial that you disclose what you get paid for and what you don’t, what you get for free and what you don’t. Same with how you treat comments; it’s obvious you delete manically. Please set the rules for this. You don’t fool anyone when it’s just really positive comments, mostly from people who know. I don’t know who this Alejandra person is but she gushes at every word you write. That’s fine, but when people see the same names gush over and over and not a word of criticism (at least not a word that stays on the blog for long) you wonder. I think you’re revealing being rather green at the internet game. And I really do want to see you succeed!
Hi there Cee,
I get what you’re saying, but the truth is not everyone knows this stuff: that’s why so many articles exist explaining how to, for example, set up a buffet table (everyone from Martha Stewart to eHow has a snippet on this somewhere on their site). You know how to set up a buffet - maybe a lot of people do - but really, everyone doesn’t.
Look, I get it: I am under more scrutiny for the tips and advice I provide because this is at heart a personal blog…and that opens me up to a lot more criticism than if, say, I was a staff writer for RealSimple. But take RealSimple: in this month’s issue, they provide step-by-step instructions for decrumbing a toaster (which, yes, include unplugging the thing), and advise turning on a fan to get rid of the smell of mildew. Imagine if I wrote that? “Congratulations, Jordan, for knowing that turning on a fan can help diffuse bad smells; how’s that Harvard degree treating you?” I write about things that I think are interesting, and that I think are helpful, and I do my best to provide content every single day. I’m also not an expert, and never said I was (that’s a NonSociety thing that I don’t agree with); I’m a writer who pulls ideas from my daily life and supplements them with research, and my interest lies in the lifestyle sphere. I know the BetterTV segments that I shot down south were a little odd out of context, but since I had covered my trip down there, I thought it’d be nice to put up the finished product. I totally love that job, and I’m proud of the work I’m doing for them.
Re: deleting comments, I just went onto my Disqus, and verified that I have deleted exactly nine comments since starting RG. Here are the reasons I delete comments: overt antagonism (being called, for example, “repulsive” - as one commenter called me - is not constructive in any way, and I think it’s understandable that I don’t want that on my site), or when a commenter starts treating my site like their personal platform (that J.J. person should start their own site; mine is not the right venue for his/her 300 word diatribes). Also, for some reason a comment occasionally goes into “Spam” or “Unapprove” when I didn’t do anything to it (my comments are unmoderated); I go through those folders occasionally to pull out anything that went in there by mistake.
Re: lack of comments…sure, there are sites that get more comments, but two sites that I enjoy reading (Vie Society and Brooke Parkhurst’s site) get an average of 1 comment per post, from what I can tell. That’s not because they’re bad sites - they’re FANTASTIC, in my opinion - it’s because they’re not comment-driven sites (like, say, RBNS). It’s a different thing altogether. I’ve noticed that when I write very personal posts (like Love and Living Rooms, although 90% of the comments were, sadly, lost in the transfer over to the new incarnation of RG), I get more comments. I guess there’s just more to say about something like that then there is to say about a post on a restaurant.
Re: getting paid - I do disclose, and I have never failed to do so, even pre-FTC ruling. Those giveaways? I’m not getting paid for them, unless you see the “Sponsored Post” button or a crystal-clear disclosure statement at the bottom. Sometimes I like a product, and I want my readers to try it too…and I think giveaways are fun.
While I’m on the topic of disclosure: if I hear one more word about my “trust fund” I’m going to go insane. I do not have a trust fund, although I would be absolutely thrilled if I did. Kendrick and I support ourselves. It is tough. We are doing the best we can. I’m trying to build a career (freelance writing and television hosting, as supplemented by the income I get from working on this blog), and lord, is it depressing that being attacked comes with the territory (I’m not saying you’re attacking me; I’m saying that sites like this one seem to incur the wrath of certain readers).
I apologize if this sounds defensive; I’m not in the best mood this morning, and…I guess I am feeling attacked. I’ve had conversations like this one both via email and in the comments so many times. I don’t know how to keep explaining that I never said I was an expert; I don’t know how to keep explaining that I disclose whenever I get paid for a post. I do. I will. And that should end it…but it won’t. So what do I do? At some point, do I just start ignoring comments that accuse me of these things? I don’t want to do that - I don’t want to ignore anybody - but it’s frustrating, confusing, and demoralizing to have to explain this over and over.
I try to stay very positive here (and in general), but…I guess I’m just feeling pretty miserable today. I’m 28 years old, I’m transitioning from a career that I didn’t love to a career that (usually) makes me really happy, and I’m just doing the best that I can.
Parisa’s wedding couldn’t have possibly been more stunning.
Morgan and me grabbing a little champagne with the (very cute and very British) groomsmen pre-ceremony. Weren’t our dresses gorgeous? I love navy for bridesmaids dresses - absolutely everyone looks good in the color. (Shoutout to Parisa’s hairdresser for very generously transforming my somewhat limp wedding-day locks into that beachy, ’70s-ish do pictured above.)
The perfect summer tote ($228-$298 on JCrew.com). Who wouldn’t want a new bag for the new season? And if this particular tote isn’t Mom’s style, there are tons of other lust-worthy options at J.Crew (I like this one and this one, too).
Personalized Stepping Stones ($12.95). Maybe a little cheesy, but so cute. I had a beautiful garden in the back of my house in Los Angeles, and I loved placing little stained-glass stepping stones and statues in hidden corners; sort of a gift to the guest who takes the time to look closer.
Jenny and Jimbob pendant ($40 for pewter; $45 for gold-dipped). There’s one of these for absolutely everybody; two of my favorites (Saute Lady and Let’s Fly Away on a Paper Airplane) are pictured here.
Foldable Bag Hanger from La Di Da ($15). Everyone - and I mean everyone - should own one of these (and definitely choose the folding type; it’s much easier to carry, and carrying it with you everywhere you go is the point). La Di Da makes just about the cutest ones around.
Initial charm necklace from J. Lingnau ($92 for silver; $286 for gold). So simple, so pretty.
Fleurissimo, by Creed ($90-$320 on Perfume.com). A romantic floral that was commissioned by Prince Rainer for Princess Grace to wear on their wedding day. Sigh.