Productivity & working remotely

COMMENTS: 408

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On some days, working from home feels like such a luxury. On others—when Skyler is having a sweet conversation with the babysitter, or Hudson has come in to show me something for a fifth time, or I can’t stop lingering by the pantry to seek out a snack—it feels impossible. I’m constantly trying to figure out the right balance between having an established office set-up and working remotely.

There was an article in Fast Company a while back that touted the benefits of setting up shop at a cafe—like the creativity stimulated by a change of environment, and the end to co-worker interruptions that comes with anonymity. (Swap “co-worker” for “pre-schooler” in my case.)

And it’s been suggested in studies that the hum of a cafe—a certain decibel level of constant noise from conversation and espresso machines—can boost productivity. Some noise (around 70 decibels) is better than none. There are even apps that will recreate the ambient noise for you, like Noisli, Ambiance, of Coffitivity—from which you can select “morning murmur” at a cafe as your soundtrack.

Funny fact: I’ve actually used a coffee shop soundtrack at a coffee shop when the conversation happening beside me was too interesting to tune out.

What I’ve learned is that it pays to be prepared.

Here’s my set-up: 

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The right bag. I love this Midi tote that Daame (“laptop bags for women”) sent me to try. It has a pocket for everything, so I can quickly see if I’ve forgotten to put anything back in its place. And they designed it for women who travel or commute with their tech often—the result of people’s wishlists and solved pain-points.

Laptop. I have a 13″ MacBook Air.

Wireless mouse and mousepad. Sometimes I look a little crazy when I pull this out, but I’m so much faster (and my wrist feels so much better) if I use a mouse.

Paper and pen. I’m still an analog notetaker at heart. (Though I’d love it if someone would really school me in Evernote one day.)

A planner. See above. I can’t quit them: I feel like getting a new one is like getting a new chance at being organized.

Noise-canceling earbuds. These Bose earbuds are my pick because they’re amazing on an airplane. But they’re great in a cafe, too, and they have a mic for making phone calls. (For which I promise I always step outside.)

Wallet, keys, sunglasses, and a bottle of water. 

IPhone—that can act as a HotSpot. I’ve been foiled by slow Wifi or 2-hr time limits. If you want to be certain your productivity won’t be shot when someone starts downloading a movie at the table next to you, this can be a backup. (That said, one day when the connection was lagging, I just opened a document offline and started writing and I got so much more done! It removed the temptation to check Instagram.)

I’m curious: Do you work remotely? (It seems like so many offices are going to open cubicle plans these days, how can you not?) What’s your setup when you do? Do you make rules for yourself—like only checking email or social media at certain times or intervals? How do you stay productive? 

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Discount code: Daame is also offering $25 off any Everest or Midi tote through the end of September with the code H&TxDaame.

Update:The giveaway in this post has ended. Daame offered to give a bag of choice to a reader and donate $250 in her name to Ambassadors for Sustained Health. (Daame gives 10% of all their profits to charities, ASH in particular, committed to getting girls out of the cycle of poverty by empowering the community at hand.) Thank you to all who participated. 

P.S. More productivity tips and a calendar wall.

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Warm trips and cold planes

COMMENTS: 11

78707, NEW YORK, NEW YORK- Monday May 28, 2012. Alexa Chung leaves her apartment in New York to catch a flight to London. Alexa was dragging a big almos as big as she is behind her. Photograph: ©PacificCoastNews.com **FEE MUST BE AGREED PRIOR TO USAGE** **E-TABLET/IPAD & MOBILE PHONE APP PUBLISHING REQUIRES ADDITIONAL FEES** LOS ANGELES OFFICE:+1 310 822 0419 LONDON OFFICE:+44 20 8090 4079

What’s your typical air travel outfit?

As we were flying back from Hawaii this weekend, I looked across the aisle and spotted a woman in a down jacket, asleep. It looked so nice: the warmth and the rest, both of which can be elusive.

I always bring long pants (with pockets, of course) and a long-sleeved shirt expressly for the plane ride—and as I’ve shared before, I always have a pair of warm socks in my carry-on pouch of essentials—but it’s always still colder than I’d like on flights.

Still, it would never have occurred to me to bring a down jacket to Hawaii, where I gladly spent the entire week basically wearing a cover-up over alternating bathing-suits. Some of the actual clothes I brought never even made it out of the suitcase! The more I thought about it (and the colder the cabin got), however, the more it makes sense: It could serve as a jacket, a blanket, or a pillow—and they make really light ones these days. This one even folds into itself, it’s so small.

The other day I read another surprising idea on Flygirl that has stuck with me: pack a disposable heat wrap. It’s a bit extreme, but it might be worthwhile for getting some sleep on a long-haul flight.

Some other ideas for keeping warm on cold planes (when you’re otherwise packing light for the heat): 
Tuck a HeatTech inner layer into your carry-on.
Make a habit of bringing a warm scarf that can double as a blanket—or buy an actual travel blanket.
Tote an empty thermos and a favorite tea. Hot water is always available.

Do you get cold on flights? How do you prepare? I usually layer up, but it’s trickier when you’re going someplace warm. 

P.S. Travel Gear for a baby or toddler. 

[Alexa Chung ©PacificCoastNews.com. Sidenote: dress by Stella McCartney—similar here]

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Hair: how to trim bangs (& tolerate them)

COMMENTS: 10

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I’ve discussed the eternal bangs question here before: To be, or not to be? To cut, or not to cut?

You know which way I’ve landed the last couple of years. The bangs have stuck (sometimes awkwardly, to my forehead) for some time now. They can be a source of frustration—especially around summer, as it’s tempting to simply reach for the headbands and the bobbi pins—but I feel like I’ve found some favorite hair tools for sticking with the style.

For reference, I have hair that naturally dries slightly waavy. It’s prone to frizz and curling up in saltwater. This is what works for me. (Not all at once.)

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Stowaway Cosmetics

COMMENTS: 13

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I don’t try a lot of new makeup. I tend to find something that works for me, and then stick with it (probably for far too long). So it’s saying a lot that Stowaway’s peony cheek & lip rouge is now my #1 favorite beauty product.

Have you heard of Stowaway? I’ve started carrying all of their products around in the last week or so. They sent over some samples, and I love the concept: “makeup you love in sizes you can carry and actually finish.”

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I routinely smear lipstick on my the temples of my cheeks and rub it in instead of using blush, so it’s like this rouge was made for me.

I think one of the reasons I started making my lipstick work so hard was that I just hated carrying around so much junk! I would get out the mascara and the eyeliner for dates and like how it looked (think: I should maybe do this more often), and then leave it behind (to expire) in the box where unused beauty products go to die.

Now, most of the time, I have a large bag, but it’s packed with diapers, snacks, and (cute) miniature hats. I tend to relegate myself to a clutch I toss inside with my phone, some money, sunglasses, and keys. And maybe that hardworking lipstick if there were room.

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It was a little bit awesome when their kit arrived—radiant complexion BB cream, creaseless concealer, eyeliner, mascara, creme lipstick and, of course, cheek & lip rouge—and it all fit into the palm of my hand. And even better when I discovered I really liked everything. (I may even wear mascara beyond date-night.) Definitely a new fan.

You can create your own kit with your colors. Huge bonus: enter the code HITHERANDTHITHER and you get three of their summer products for free with the purchase of a kit—a free fig lipstick, cantaloupe lip & cheek pot rouge, and an extreme lash mascara. $42 in value.

And, great news, Stowaway is giving away three kits to three lucky readers! Visit Stowaway & enter your email to be entered to win.

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What’s your makeup routine like? Do you have one thing—eyeliner? lipstick?—that you feel naked without?

Thank you, Stowaway, for sponsoring this post. All opinions expressed are mine. Enter to win giveaway here, within the week! Update: The winners have been contacted! 

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Ideal Summer Sandals

Trend to try? Denim flares

COMMENTS: 12

I realize that denim flares are not a new trend, but I’ve been resistant. I used to wear wide-leg jeans—some verging on bell-bottom status—ten years ago, before banning them from my closet in favor of skinnies. I tend to think of them as best suited to model-types (extra long and lean), particularly when worn with flats (my preference). But lately I’ve been really drawn to them, and I’m thinking about giving flares another go.

Here are seven pairs that seem to get the best reviews…

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Ideal Summer Sandals

COMMENTS: 30

Best Summer Sandals

Some of you might notice that this image looks familiar. A few years back I shared it as that fashion image I have pinned on Pinterest that I just keep coming back to, over and over again. (I’d be curious to know yours, if you have one, too.) There’s something about this combination of cropped, slim army-green pants, and natural leather, gladiator sandals that has yet to get old for me.

However, though that outfit still works today, the links for the sandals I chose based off it don’t. So I thought it was time for a whole new crop of favorite summer sandals, by category. An almost embarrassingly long, best-in-class, exhaustively deep-thoughts-on-sandals post, if you will—because as a California girl, a one-time 15-mile-a-day-average New York-girl, and a frequent traveler, you can bet I’ve thought a lot about sandals.

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Tradition of hatmaking in Tuscany (& Friday Links)

COMMENTS: 7

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A while back, a reader introduced me to the company of Grevi, who has been making hats outside of Florence, alongside the Arno, since the the late 19th century. I love these archival photographs from their original factory in Signa, Italy. Before the Great Depression, their company made only two hats, a boater known as the Leghorn and a panama-style hat—both for men. But as it turns out, their most well-known hat is probably the one they made for a certain pretty woman: Julia Roberts wore one in the scene at the Polo Club. They have stores in Florence and Paris, but you can find them sold elsewhere.

Do you have a favorite shape? Here’s a post about five of the most classic hat shapes for summer.

Some other links of note… 

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Summer Mood Board & Holiday Sales

COMMENTS: 7

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I went online to check out the Nordstrom’s Half-Yearly sale (initially drawn by mini-waterproof-Toms and Father’s day gifts) and of course ended up looking at the women’s section instead. I had all of these tabs open when Aron walked in and, taking a glance, remarked “don’t you already have that?”

Yep. With a few exceptions, I basically wish-listed my closet… And should probably call this a summer mood-board instead.

I think I’ll end the confession there. (Do you do that, too? Buy different versions of the same favorites every year? I’m telling you: uniform.)

Pictured, roughly by row, left to right—all from the sale: 

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Journey to Jaipur

COMMENTS: 9

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One of my favorite travel memories (ever) was walking through a bazaar in Rajasthan. Going to India had been such a dream and Aron and I spent just over ten days there in the spring of 2010. Our trip was actually cut a bit short by circumstances surrounding that unpronounceable Icelandic volcano’s eruption (the dust cloud disrupted even our flight from New York), and for that reason (and at least a dozen others) I’ve been really hoping we might return soon.

I’ll admit I’m a bit more daunted to go with a baby in tow. I never got sick while traveling, but Aron did and “traveler’s tummy” can be much more risky for babies. But I know they’d love it. I imagine how enthralled Hudson will be by all the textures and the colors, all of the buses and horns, the trains and the mopeds…. and the cows! One gave birth right in front of us when we went out for cardamon lassis in Jodhpur!

Tea Collection (one of my favorite children’s brands) makes travel-inspired collections every season and found theirs in India this time—and they loved the destination so much that the co-founder and CCO, Emily, returned to Jaipur with her husband and two young children (ages 6 and 4) when the catalog was being shot. They say their hope is to inspire customers to “push boundaries and make the foreign familiar”—which I love. I know I found the images really inspiring.
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The Work We Do: Heidi Caillier

COMMENTS: 15

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The Work We Do” is an interview series that asks creatives with daydream-worthy jobs how they got where they are—and what it’s like to live a day in their shoes. This week, I’m speaking with San Francisco-based interior designer Heidi Caillier.

Heidi left a flattering comment about our apartment years ago, when we were living in New York, and of course I was curious to see who she was. I found myself poring through her blog, The Rustic Modernist (a great name). When I started this series, I came across that name again and reached out immediately to see if Heidi would speak about the path she took to becoming an interior designer. 
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Surfer Chic from a Local Institution

COMMENTS: 8

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A while back, I read an interview with Johanna St. Clair who—with her husband, John McCambridge—started a surf shop called Mollusk in the foggy Outer Sunset in San Francisco in 2005. It was one of those small-business-makes-good stories that sticks with you. The brand, which started by selling t-shirts and hand-shaped surfboards, just seemed like it had come from such an organic place—a love of waves and art. (They curate art exhibitions and music shows at three of their all of their locations.) They’ve since opened shops in Venice and Silverlake (I stopped in during our LA visit), and have come to be known as a bit of a San Francisco institution, but they remain a small company with a focused aesthetic.

I’ve been following the brand a bit since reading that interview. They’ve grown their clothing line from t-shirts to all kinds of ’60s-inspired beachwear, and they’ve just released their spring line in this gorgeous catalogue, photographed by by Will Adler. These are some of my favorite images—all sunbathed and glowing—and a few things I’m thinking about trying out for the summer.

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When I moved to Northern California for college, people would learn I was from Los Angeles and ask me if I surfed. Sadly, the answer was—and still is—no. (Though I will take a lesson one day!) But while I never learned to ride a wave, I think so many mornings of driving past waves dotted with boards, of watching surfers pulling on or off wetsuits beside their cars, and those summer days on Huntington Beach beside the pier, gave me a real appreciation for images like these.

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The lines on that high-wasted bikini are so awesome! (And—I would think—if it’s made for surfing, it’s made to stay put!)

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Some of my favorite items here: Sasha Dress & Hamilton Crew / that Holly Bikini, of course / Sailor Stripe Shirt / Gaviota Dress / Ali Hat / and the Dipped tote

P.S. Favorite sandals.

This post is in partnership with Mollusk but all opinions are my own. All photos by by Will Adler for Mollusk. 

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A signature look: on adopting a uniform

COMMENTS: 25

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Chances are high that you’ve read Matilda Kahl’s piece on adopting a work uniform, and I’m curious to know what you think. In case you haven’t, a female art director writes about her decision to restrict herself to “15 silk white shirts and a few black trousers,” with a few embellishments or weather adaptations here and there. She nicely articulates some of the binds of fretting over what to wear, of over-spending to continually update one’s look, and some of the liberties that might come with the same thing every day (à la the guys in a suit). It’s at once a simple topic and a fraught one—layered with issues of gender and class.

It’s interesting that so many of us with tremendous choice and freedom about how we appear wish to narrow it, isn’t it? I immediately thought of the “capsule wardrobe” movement. (Again, one of those things I feel like everyone has heard of, but then I realize that my corner of the web is really just a small one.) The idea is to limit oneself to a few classic or favorite pieces for a season to mix and match. A few blogs have documented the building of their capsule wardrobe extensively—setting a rule of 37 pieces or less in one’s closet per season. Once you’ve chosen those items (shoes, bags, included), you don’t buy or add anything else. The potential savings are huge—to one’s time and to one’s wallet.

Putting aside a sort of guilt that comes with feeling like you have too much, I would have mixed feelings about actually putting a uniform into practice. Or rather about seeing everyone else put it into practice. I love fashion and style and admire those who put effort into decorating themselves in ways that attempt to reveal their personality and tastes. It’s something I actually miss about New York—you pass so many people who work very hard on their look; every day someone would turn your head with the way they’d mixed patterns or styled their denim and it’s inspiring!

But I see the appeal for myself and am reminded daily: Aron goes to work in scrubs—basically work-appropriate pajamas—nearly every day. We save so much money on dress shirts and dry cleaning. Laundry on his behalf here is all black socks and underwear. And when it’s time to pick up around the bedroom, I envy that almost none of the clothes strewn about are his. He never puts on a his scrub shirt and then quickly takes it off, tossing it aside, because it hits his arm at an unflattering point or looks too baggy to go with his pants. (Though they are all slightly ill-fitting on his 6’8″ frame and that would bother me far more than it does him.) And if it gets dirty mid-day, he just exchanges for a fresh one.

Kahl brings up a Mashable article about how successful men wear the same thing every day—ostensibly to avoid “decision fatigue.” (Which is a real thing!) The fewer decisions one has to make about things like their wardrobe, the more brain-power they can devote to actively deciding other things.

Vogue‘s Anna Wintour actually more or less does this too, and has been noted for having a “signature look” and hairstyle for years.

Of course, so has Hillary Clinton.

What do you think? Do you wear a uniform to work? Did you wear one to school? Do you have a default “uniform” in the more liberal, creative sense? (Striped mariners, chambray shirts, and white collarless button-downs, anyone?)

I’m inspired to work on some more fashion posts after reading this. Thinking something about distilling one’s closet into some classics and seeking out the best examples of those classics. What items would you put on that list?

P.S. A chore list for spring-cleaning and simplifying life with “the Marie Kondo method.” Also, I felt compelled to look up some reads on school uniforms, which interesting do not improve school performance, despite clear perceptions to the contrary.

[Caroline de Maigret photographed for Madewell]

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Swimsuit shopping at home

COMMENTS: 13

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Swimsuit shopping at home… is the only swimsuit shopping I do.

Today’s the last day of the big ShopBop sale (update: it’s over).

I’ve got a lot of rompers and sandals to sort through.

But I may just end up getting all the swimsuits to try on. Here’s the thing: if you’re looking for a summer bathing suit, it’s an especially great sale to take advantage of because there’s free (fast) shipping and free returns. And you don’t usually find swim on sale right before summer!

There are something like 2200 swimsuits, but these are some of my 10 favorite one-pieces on sale.

Suboo Panelled Swimsuit / Kenzo One Piece / Mara Hoffman Reversible (print & turquoise) / Shoshanna Soft Black Ruched Halter /  Copper Canyon Nature Divides / Eberjey Drifter Charlotte / Nanette Lepore Paloma / Shoshanna Neon Ruby Ruched Halter / Eberjey So Solid Gabrielle / Norma Kamali Bill Mio

P.S. This one is really flattering, too—especially for new moms.

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Happy Six Years, Hither & Thither!

COMMENTS: 43

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Funny thing. I wished Hither & Thither a happy sixth birthday last year, but I got ahead of myself somehow—a few years back, in fact! Someone finally corrected me. This year marks six years. The first post was a picture-less entry written by Aron, on January 19, 2009.

What I didn’t get wrong is that every year on here is worth celebrating. And it never ceases to surprise me—even as its demands ebb and flow—how much of a role Hither & Thither plays in my life now. I’m so grateful for all of the readers whom it engages—those who have come along since the start (when Aron and I were writing it together in New York) and those who just recently started reading. For me, it’s so rewarding to have such a supportive space in which to grow as a writer and a photographer, and to build a career of my own vision. But of course it’s often the conversations, the friendships made, the back & forth, that’s best of all.

Thank you, as ever, for reading. With a trademark lack of brevity, I’ve compiled a look back at this year’s highlights. I so enjoyed looking back through some of my favorite posts again; I hope you will enjoy this, too:

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Who are you wearing? (& Friday links)

COMMENTS: 14

1330010786_michelle-williams-1500  "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" - World Premiere - Red Carpet Arrivals

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My favorite moment from this year’s Golden Globes came behind the scenes (so to speak), when our friend Meredith did a Q&A with Hudson on the red carpet (it was, indeed, at our friend’s house on a red carpet). To Hudson: “Who are you wearing?” “I don’t know,” he replied as he lifted his shirt and looked toward his belly button. “Who made your pants?” And with that, he turns around, drops his trousers, and reveals his bum in his underoos: “A Dragon!”

Otherwise, I’m a fan of anyone who wears that gorgeous canary yellow color. Though the all-time winner continues to be, for me, Michelle Williams in that stunning yellow Vera Wang gown at the 2006 Oscars.

Any plans for the long weekend? We’re headed to Tahoe with friends and hoping for some snow. And perhaps I’ll make a half-birthday cake for Hudson, who turns 3-1/2. (Time to take that photo!)

If you’re around, here are some items of note… 

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Remodelista at Heath SF

COMMENTS: 9

Of all of the beautiful markets that pop up around the holidays, the Remodelista one may be my favorite. I don’t think there was a single vendor whose wares I didn’t admire or covet. The prices tend to be higher, the assembly a bit more aspirational—but the selection also tends toward heirloom, so it’s inspirational as well.

Are you familiar with the site Remodelista? I subscribe and have to confess that there are too many posts each day for me to keep apace. But I can never bring myself to unsubscribe because it’s so full of gems. The founder, Julie Carlson, launched the site as a digital guide to home design and so on any given day you’re as likely to find a round-up of well-designed faucets as you are a minimalist home tour. If you don’t own a home or aren’t remodeling a kitchen, it can be easy to scroll past. But they’ve got a talent for finding beauty in the practical, and I love seeing who they bring to their market.

This year, we even got a babysitter and made a date out of going into the city to visit!

Some highlights…

Up top: Silvia Song‘s gorgeous carved wood (smooth as butter), greenery at the terrain booth, and ceramics by Sarah Kersten.

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Desert Isle Beauty Pick: Naturally Straight

COMMENTS: 4

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Two years ago, I wrote a Desert Isle Beauty Pick post about Becca tinted moisturizer (which seems to be going off the shelves now… I’m hoarding a couple of bottles), and while—let me reiterate—I wouldn’t really be silly enough to put on makeup or do my hair if I were deserted on an island, I’ve found something else worthy of that degree of accolade: Aveda’s Smooth Infusion Naturally Straight.

At the salon, the stylist told me that using this consecutively gives results akin to a Keratin treatment. I couldn’t say, but I do know that I can practically finger-dry my hair straight after using it—and I have naturally wavy hair. It also cuts drying time for me. It’s the best thing I’ve found for hair in years (since dry shampoo, that is.) Highly recommended.

I wish I were a more loyal beauty shopper so that I could have the fun of dishing about lipsticks and brow pencils more often, but I’m actually pretty inconsistent when it comes to wearing makeup. I have a few favorites that someone showed me how to use at a makeup counter just before I got married, and I’ve been using the same things ever since. Mostly, I focus on being happy with my hair.

If someone you know spends a lot of time agonizing over round brushes and hair dryer wattages, add it as a stocking stuffer to your gifts for her.

What are your desert-isle picks? 

P.S. More hair talk: Bangs or no-bangs? and How to go short.

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