#PinkFriday

photo via VictoriasSecret.com

Hi, I’m Marie…and I’m a shopaholic.

Actually, I’m a binge shopper. I’m not one to perpetually shop but when I do…I splurge.

Like when Victoria’s Secret is having a sale.

Like today. 

In my defense, it’s been a rough week. I haven’t had running water at my apartment since Saturday night, and I’m skeptical it will be fixed tonight. Call it what you want: You may say addiction, I say therapy. If only BCBS covered it…

photo via VictoriasSecret.com
VictoriasSecret.com

I’ve also been working my butt off in the office, which is why I’ve been woefully neglectful of my blog. Sorry. Life is hard, so I bought this shirt…

Anyway…I’m sitting at this cafe near my office, trying to write a post that actually means something…but I’m so distracted. Scattered.

Needless to say, I’m about to hit ‘check out’ on a pretty full cart. Thank God for my Victoria’s Secret credit card…or maybe it’s the death of me. As long as I pay it off, right?

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An Honest Review

So, I’m scrolling through Instagram one afternoon, minding my own business…and I see a sponsored post that actually catches my eye. As someone who does social media marketing for a living, I typically ignore all ads on social media…on principle. I refuse to “like” them; I just know too much about them (cue evil laughter). Needless to say, the fact that their ad got my attention already got them off to a good start.

“Free skin care trial” was also eye-catching.

I took a screenshot to remember the name of the company and continued scrolling and double-tapping. A few photos later, I couldn’t resist the temptation and scrolled back up and bit the bullet: I clicked “learn more.”

I’d never heard of Honest Beauty before (sorry, Jessica Alba) but paying less than $6 to try some product was too difficult to pass up. I have fairly sensitive skin, though, so I typically stick to my regular routine. But hey. My complexion could be better (and my lifestyle has been murdering my skin lately), so the $5.95 7 day trial seemed like a pretty good idea. After all, that wasn’t much to lose.

I noticed a difference almost immediately. 

I know that sounds lame and brainwashed, but I promise I’m under no contract with Honest Beauty and am completely speaking the truth (as always, #fiercelyreal). 

I ordered the trial for balanced skin: You get a gel cleanser, a moisturizer, and a daily SPF primer (probably my favorite because I’m basically albino and living in Texas). Oh yeah, you get a free make up bag and a few samples of their make up as well.

The first night, I cleansed and moisturized. I looked in the mirror the next morning and while I still had a few break outs (it’s not like it’s a miracle worker or something), my skin overall looked great. It kind of glowed and didn’t have the usual splotchiness it had before I put make up on. Going in with no expectations, I was definitely impressed.

Step 1: Cleanse.

I think I can definitely ditch my Aveeno cleanser. I like it because it’s gentle, but the Honest Beauty Refreshing Gel Cleanser ($18) is definitely far from harsh. More importantly, I think it does a lot more for my skin and complexion. After a few days, I only needed cover up for a few break outs. My usual red splotches were completely gone. I was almost sad, like I’d accepted they’d always be there…

Step 2: Hydrate.

I also love the Even Brighter Everyday Moisturizer ($34). I haven’t used a moisturizer since I ran out of my old Benefit product I was using and couldn’t find it anywhere (they might have discontinued it). I haven’t tried anything else because if a moisturizer is too…moist…I’ll break out like crazy. I know that I definitely need one, especially this time of year because I spend every minute I can by the pool. Anyway, I like this one because it doesn’t leave my skin feeling too oily and I can definitely tell that it works well with the gel to reduce the redness in my skin (I think the chamomile is what calms it down).

Step 3: Protect.

As for the Beyond Protected Daily Beauty Fluid ($28), while I do like it, I think I could live without it. From what I’ve read about the products, it seems like it’s almost redundant except that unlike the moisturizer and gel, it has SPF 30 added to it. Like I said, I do like that, but I already use foundation with UV protection. Maybe I’m being frugal, I don’t know. Stay tuned – maybe I’ll stop using it and suddenly turn into a lobster. Who knows!


I’ve continued with the recommended routine, ignoring my own products for the next few days. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of “system” skincare like Proactiv, where you absolutely have to use one company’s products and even though you’re sent three “steps” of products for the trial, so after focusing initially on just the Honest Beauty products, I started mixing them up with what I already use. So far, it’s been working out pretty well!

Since I do plan on continuing to use the products and the trial is semi-sketchy if you don’t read fine print, here’s the low-down on how it works:

Your trial starts 7 days after the ship date (I ended up receiving my package about 3 days later) and after 7 days, you’ll automatically be charged $50 for your skin care bundle unless you cancel or postpone.

  • I called the customer service center (located in Austin, TX!), initially thinking I would cancel and then order the subscription after substantially testing the product. I don’t know about you, but 7 days is not long enough to figure out if I like a skin care product or not!
  • The woman I spoke with was super nice and helpful! I learned that I could actually postpone when my first bundle shipped and wouldn’t be charged until then. She was nice enough to do it for me over the phone, but you can do it online too (without calling customer service at all).
  • When you start your trial, you sign up for an account, which you can access online or by downloading their really pretty app.

You’re not limited to the products they send you in your trial bundle – you can customize it!

  • On your account, you can choose not only when your next bundle is shipped but also how frequently you receive it (which reflects how often you’re charged, duh). For example, the customer service rep told me she only needs her bundle every four months, so that’s how she set her account up.
  • You can also choose which three products you want included. In other words, since I can live without the protection cream, I could exchange it for lipstick or something.
  • Obviously, that rocks because you’re saving money and you can change it easily, any time. So if I wanted to switch out my third product every few months, I could have a pretty awesome make up collection!
  • If you want more products, you can add up to five “must haves” and save 25% (stay tuned, I haven’t fully explored that because I’m pretty maintenance with make up).

All in all, I think Honest Beauty is pretty awesome so far.

Like most women, I’m extremely loyal to my make up and skin care brands. I’ve been using the same mascara since my freshman year of high school. I’ve tried more skin care products because of how much my skin has changed over the years, but once I find one I like, I stick with it…and I think I’ve just met my match.

 

A Betchy Book Review: I Had A Nice Time (And Other Lies)

I’m not entirely sure how long I’ve been following The Betches…but it’s been a while…pretty much before Twitter was cool (and it’s not any more, so that should be a giveaway). So I’ll start this off with admitting I may have a bit of bias.

Then again, my bias doesn’t really matter much because I Had A Nice Time And Other Lies: How to Find Love & Shit Like That doesn’t need my petty bias to be amazing. I mean, the title itself says it all (because how many times have we used that line?).

That said, if you haven’t already read Nice is Just a Place in France, you need to add that to your Amazon cart. Right now. It’s not a prequel or anything, but it’s amazing.


If your sense of humor is anything like mine, The Betches and their sarcastic wit will have you laughing your ass off (figuratively, duh)…unless of course, you’re a Nice Girl, and their stabs at Karen hit too close to home.

In all seriousness, though, if you’re really feminist or take self-help books to heart (you know who you are – constantly searching Elite Daily for the latest dating advice)…this book is probably not sensitive enough for you. Order Men are from Mars or subscribe to O Magazine and call it a day.

Whether you’re in a serious relationship, single AF, or attempting the whole “dating” thing like I am, you need to read this book. Basically, The Betches are the girls you wish you could be and they’re being generous enough to offer their wisdom of the dating world with you. Isn’t that so nice of them?

All in all, I’m pretty much obsessed with I Had a Nice Time And Other Lies. It’s snarky, well-organized (hello, “spark notes” for those who don’t actually read), and actually kind of helpful (if that’s what you’re using it for). Personally, I take all advice with a grain of salt; I think the best part about dating rules is that all rules are meant to be broken (see pirates: “They’re more like guidelines, anyway”). But if that doesn’t do it for you, they even incorporate quotes and stories from famous betches to back up their claims and inspire you when the dating world gets you down. Plus, the Head Pro adds his own two-cents throughout the book and not only is he insightful (lol but really…sometimes we just need a man’s opinion) but he’s also kind of my not-so-secret crush. Bias again. Deal with it.

I’d love to give y’all an outline (since I’m the freak they hate who text marks the book) of some key take aways, but I really think you just need to read it for yourself (or at least read the notes at the end of the chapter, k?). Not only is it the dating book everyone needs, but it’s the freaking Social Media Dating Gospel. Really. Oh, and pay close attention to all things Karen…because no one likes her.

Oh! Hello, Elizabeth!

I’ll admit to a bit of bias here: I’ve mentioned Elizabeth Lestina quite a lot because she’s more than just a client. She’s my very best friend.
She’s also doing really awesome things in the Austin modeling world, which totally backs up my bias. I’ve been able to follow her around the state, snapping photos and videos while she struts. These are some of my amateur (social media) shots, but instead of accepting my bias of her talent, check out her social profiles.
Instagram: @ohelloelizabeth
Facebook: Elizabeth Lestina

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Happy Friday, y’all!
Xoxo.

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

Hey. Did you know Mother’s Day is this weekend?

Shocking, I know.

Because you haven’t been bombarded with advertisements from flower companies since Easter, right?

Alright, well I’m about to bombard you with one more “gift idea” type post…because I’m a mama’s girl, so I’m feeling inspired. And if your mom is anything like mine, you ask her what she wants for some holiday or another and she either says “Nothing,” or comes up with something cheesy like “You’re a gift, you don’t need to buy me anything!” And you know, as much as I love my mother, sometimes I wish she’d just say “You know, I’ve had my eye on this new juicer,” or something for a change.

Luckily, I’m a girl, so I know my mom’s personal style pretty well (she also has a very distinct style, to where we’ve started labeling shirts “Miriam Shirts” because they look exactly like something she would buy). But sometimes, I get sick of always buying her the same types of things (usually clothes, since that’s my easy fallback), and the woman insists she doesn’t need anything.

So…what’s a kid to do?

I hate those types of “gift idea” posts that just list things with photos and links, but don’t really give you any novel ideas. Anyone can find some humorous apron on Etsy and say it’s perfect for mom…but not all moms are the same (duh). My mom doesn’t even like to cook! If I bought her an apron, it would HAVE to be as a gag gift or she’d probably be insulted.

All that being said, my “gift ideas” are going to be a bit more abstract…so if you don’t want to think very hard about who you are/who your mom is/what she likes/etc., then find a slideshow post. But, since you’re going the extra mile, I’m going to make your search for the perfect gift easier by providing links as well as many gift options here, at my full store.

So, if you have the type of mom who “has everything,” then read on and get a little creative with me.

 

First things first: Take sixty seconds right now to think about your mom.

What does she like to do for fun? Where are her favorite restaurants? What’s her style like? What are her weaknesses (hint: chocolate)? What are some fun memories the two of you share? Who is she as a person? …As a mother?

Hopefully you could answer at least one of those questions. If not…you may want to buy her some flowers and call it a day. Just kidding. Think a little harder!


Let’s start with a cop-out and every man’s go-to when buying a gift for a woman: jewelry.

It’s a classic for a reason! I’ve been helping out in the distribution center for Kendra Scott for the last couple of weeks, helping them to gear up for the massive amounts of Mother’s Day orders (side note: the ladies at KS are AWESOME! I was super impressed with how well-managed the shifts were and how friendly and helpful my superiors were.) Now, unlike most girls, I was not exactly a kid in a candy store here. Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate the beauty of jewelry (especially Kendra Scott), but I’m pretty simple as far as bling is concerned. But you know who rocks statement jewelry (pun intended)? My mother. So, instead of making a wish list for myself, I made mental notes of all the pieces I knew my mother would love. It’s funny that I’m writing this, because that woman will probably be getting Kendra Scott for at least one holiday for the next 10 or more years.

Picking out jewelry can be as easy or difficult as you make it. For the trendy mom, I suggest Kendra Scott’s Harlow statement piece. If your mom is a bit more conservative, I saw a lot of Elisa Pendant necklaces with “Happy Mother’s Day!” notes attached; it’s sparkly, but simple. If her style is more modern, try the Alex drop earrings. And finally, if you’re feeling sentimental, create a charm necklace with your (and your siblings, if applicable) birthstone. Peruse my shop for a few of my other favorite pieces.

Another  cop-out: Perfume.

It’s actually more complicated than you think. If you’re a guy, I suggest stealthily finding out what she already wears. If you think you know her taste but what to give her something new, you can find a few of my mom’s faves here.

Just keep in mind that perfume is tricky; a woman’s preference in scent is just as diverse as the options to choose from, if not more so. It’s also expensive, so unless you’re pretty confident that you know what she likes, I’d suggest spending your money on jewelry…or literally anything else that she’d probably get more use out of.

For the busy mom…

Whether your mom’s schedule is filled with board or PTA meetings, we’d be lying if we said mothers were not busy people. I can’t speak for all moms (especially since I’m not one myself!), but my own mommy does not take nearly enough time for herself to just relax. If your mom is in a similar situation, you can buy her a gift card to the nearest spa, or put a little bit of effort into a cute “spa basket.” Bonus points if you include a coupon to be her personal masseuse or manicurist.

Grab a basket, or even a gift bag will do, and pick out a scented candle. Lavender is great for relaxation, but if you know her favorite scent, that’s great too! You can also add lotion (either regular, aromatherapy, or massage lotion/oil) a few bottles of nail polish, and maybe even a foot scrub. For the cherry on top, order this electronic callus remover (I can say from experience that it’s awesome. I have dancer feet…so they’re gross…and after using it, I felt like a completely different person!) to give her the perfect pedicure.

For the wine snob…

This very accurately describes my own mother…although, no matter how many glasses of wine she consumes, she still has to ask my step-dad to uncork the bottle for her. If your mom is struggling with the cork screw, figuratively lend her a hand by buying her an electronic wine opener.

If that’s not enough, you can always put together a wine-themed gift bag. Include washable wine glass markers (they’re way too much fun), corks (I suggest Baiji, especially if she likes sparkling wine), and of course…a bottle of her favorite type. If you don’t know what kind of wine (ie; Merlot, Chardonnay, etc.), then head to a local wine store and ask for a suggestion. If you know what’s on the dinner menu for Mother’s Day, ask the clerk for a recommendation to go with…chicken, for example.

Does she love to decorate?

Or maybe she has an odd obsession with place-mats, like my mom does. Either way, I presume you know what your mother’s house looks like, so order a few throw pillows or a framed canvas that matches her decor.

Our kitchen has an Espresso-Paris theme…so it’s pretty easy to find trinkets and decorations to match. If your house doesn’t have a theme, hopefully you know what color the walls are, and can coordinate accordingly.

If your mother is legitimately an interior designer, you may want to skip this, or just buy her a gift card to Bed Bath & Beyond…

How does she spend her precious free time?

If your mom is outdoorsy and likes to spend her Saturdays hiking or at the park…well, I’m not really sure what to tell you, as this is not my area of expertise. Maybe buy her new hiking boots? Plan a day to pack a picnic lunch and go with her? I don’t know…I’m just trying to get you thinking, here.

If your mom loves to watch Lifetime or whatever is dramatic on Netflix…buy her popcorn, candy, and pay for her subscription. If she’s into Oprah, buy her all the episodes (my mom REALLY misses The Oprah Show…). Get where I’m going here?

As for me, my mom loves to read. She’s actually in a book club…classic suburban mom, right? If she doesn’t already have one, an e-reader is a great gift…and if she does have one, but her a cute case so she doesn’t break it. If she’s got all that covered or would rather read a physical copy of a book (like me), an Amazon gift card is probably a safe bet.

Finally, play up her sense of humor or just do something cute.

If she’s obsessed with her dogs (or cats), order her a “dog mom” t-shirt. My mom bought herself a “Shih-Tzu Mom” sweatshirt and she wears it all the time. I’m serious.

Framing photos of you and your mom (and siblings?) is always a safe bet…and also very affordable. If you’re into photography, you can also print out an artistic photo of your own and frame it as a decoration for her house.

Along those lines, you can also have custom-made shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and God knows what else made at Walgreens or on Snapfish (as well as about a million other websites). It’s cute. It’s sentimental. And even if it sits in a drawer and collects dust, she’ll appreciate the gesture.


Hopefully this helped at least a little bit. If not, well…thanks for reading! Just kidding. Check out the rest of my gift ideas in my Amazon Store and if you’re still coming up blank, feel free to shoot me an e-mail (mariercarlson@gmail.com).

I’m hoping that at least reading my Miriam-Inspired ideas helped you come up with a few of your own! Happy (early) Mother’s Day to all you fabulous moms out there! 🙂

Take a #selfie like a pro

Being unemployed sucks. Waiting for companies to make decisions after your kick a** interview sucks, too. At least I’m learning patience. While I definitely keep myself busy with job searching, blogging, researching, working out, and (my least favorite) adulting… I seriously miss working. So, I’ve started opening my job search up to temporary work.

Light bulb: Become a brand ambassador.

I went to go and apply to my first brand ambassador gig since college, and guess what they wanted. Head shots. Crap. I’d been meaning to have professional ones taken for ages, since my LinkedIn profile picture was totally outdated. Unfortunately, being unemployed means I don’t exactly have the extra cash to spare for professional photos. Plus, I didn’t want to wait. Unlike “regular” jobs, temporary brand ambassadors get hired pretty quickly, so I needed to act fast (plus, I really needed $$).


You know that old phrase, “necessity is the mother of invention”? Yeah, I decided to think outside the box. After all, I already have a decent point and shoot camera (with a timer!) and a bit of photography experience…I could totally do this myself!

I started brainstorming: I’d done a self-portrait assignment in photo class back in high school…but I used my step-dad’s tripod. Okay, I’ll just re-arrange some furniture. Done.

But those photos were taken at a park, and I didn’t want my “professional” photos to be outside. Bleh. I could use my black bed sheets as a backdrop? But they have a bit of a pattern, and my other sheets are Tinkerbell Green. ADSC_0045nother light bulb. Curtains. Duh.

One last problem: I didn’t have Adobe Photoshop (or any other fancy editing software) anymore. Well, I guess I’ll just have to make the raw images as quality as possible, and do the rest of the editing with whatever program came on my computer. Ew, but it’ll have to do.

I consulted my trusty friend, Google, for a few more ideas and found this great article on how to take your own head shots with an iPhone. It’s got some great tips on positioning, cropping, and posing that I actually didn’t know, since my “self-portraits” were meant to be artsy instead of professional. It also reminded me that – hello! – I have some awesome photo editing apps on my (Galaxy S6 Active) phone.


I set up my make-shift studio. I didn’t have any professional lighting, but luckily I live in Austin, Texas. It’s usually pretty sunny here, and I prefer natural lighting anyway. I did my hair and make-up, got dressed, and struck a pose. Or two. Or three.

Fun fact: I hate being in front of the camera, unless I have control over it (ie; #selfies), so taking my own head shots was probably the best option for me. I didn’t feel nearly as awkward with only my dog around to judge me. Plus, you can take your time, act a little goofy, and check out every other photo to make sure you don’t have a double chin.

Pro selfies
Raw (un-edited) image of me making fun of myself

A couple of hours and a few hundred photos later, I was exhausted and the sun was starting to set. I decided it was time to call it quits, and put my apartment back in order.

Now, for the fun part.

If you decide to take your own head shots, I highly suggest rewarding yourself after with a greasy meal and a beer. I uploaded my photos, grabbed my computer (and my dog), and sat outside at a local bar to go through my photo-filled afternoon. A few hours later, I’d chosen a handful of my favorite photos. I use a simple smiling photo for LinkedIn (and any other professional platform) and a more natural looking (“model-y,” is what my step-dad called it) for brand ambassador applications. I used the photo editing app, Aviary, to spruce them up, and voila! I had professional (and fun!) head shots, and all it cost me was an afternoon!


Let’s Recap:

Pro
I can pass off as grown up & professional, right?
  1. Download a camera timer app for your phone if you don’t have a “real” camera
  2. Get a tripod (or prop your device up on a table like I did) and position it far enough away to give you a decent amount of background to crop around, but close enough to keep you in focus (not grainy or pixelated) once you’re cropped
  3. Find some sheets or curtains to use as a back drop, if you don’t have a solid-colored wall
  4. Pick a room that’s well-lit, or buy/rent some professional lighting
  5. Download Aviary or some other app to use to edit your works of art
  6. Choose some nice but solid-colored shirts to wear, and get dolled-up
  7. Set everything up and get comfortable in front of the camera (posing in front of a mirror to make sure I don’t look stupid helps me)
  8. Turn on some music, look at the camera, and smile!
  9. Grab a cold one and review your images – you should have about a million, but only
    Natural1
    I think this captures my personality a bit better…

    choose a handful that you like enough to edit

  10. Crop your photo just under your shoulders or just down to your torso…and avoid positioning your head smack-dab in the center of the square image…because that just looks odd
  11. Use the “blemish” button to remove any oddities from the background (or pimples, if you’re me), then play around with the brightness, contrast, and all the other fun tones
  12. Voila! Upload your masterpiece to every single social networking site you’re on and show the world how gorgeous you are!

FOUND Austin

Have you ever walked into a public place – a restaurant, a store, a bar – and instantly felt at home? As if everything from the décor to the patrons was exactly where you belong?

That’s how I felt walking into FOUND Austin, a posh boutique, nestled on the corner of 5th & Oakland in downtown Austin, TX.

It was almost as though the pages of Vogue Magazine had come to life around me. The store was bright. Dainty. Organized. Chic. There was cool, disco-type music playing softly over the speakers. The décor, the clothing, the style, and the overall energy at the store had a note of femininity, but not in that over-the-top, vibrant, girly, pink way. It was Audrey Hepburn Style class & elegance from floor to ceiling.

The molding around the door frames of the dressing rooms was polished & sleek, but so classic. Timeless. The clothing, too, was feminine, but sophisticated. Each style was hung or folded neatly with a handful of identical garments. Everything had the allure of high fashion, without the risk of disposable trends, & the price tags to match.

My heaven.

Two arm chairs sat off to one side of the front counter – you know, the vintage-type that’s similar to furniture at your grandparents’ house, but way cooler – the type of chair that makes you hesitate before you sit down, worried that you & your klutziness will spill something all over their exquisite perfection. Or maybe that’s just me.

 

Stacey Smith walked in, bubbly & full of energy. She gave off the vibes of someone who can put a smile on almost anyone’s face, just by saying “hello.” She was the owner of Heaven – I mean, Found – this lovely boutique we were meeting in.

She spoke with the most perfect Southern accent I’d ever heard. She was from the Dallas area, where she worked at a family-owned boutique through college. About five years ago, they asked her to move to Austin to open a new branch of their boutique. She said she was shocked at how little shopping there was here in Austin when she first moved. It was either one extreme (high-end, expensive couture) or the other (cheaper, trendy, collegiate-wear). She saw a gap – a sweet spot – that later became Found Austin.

Stacey’s vision is one of timeless, quality, & class. The clothing sold at Found is contemporary, upper-bridge clothing. It’s not as expensive as couture, but it’s certainly pricier (and considerably better quality) than Forever 21. You might find a “trendy” piece at Found now & again, but you’re not likely to find something that you won’t be able to wear in a season or two. Stacey wants her clients to be able to wear clothes from Found season after season.

In conjunction with that, Stacey didn’t want the name of her store to be uber-feminine or to share her name. Through a bit of creativity & Google searches, she happened upon “Found.” It added a bit of mystery & intrigue.

 

I was connected with Stacey through a mutual friend, who knows of my ambitions & love for fashion. Our meeting was a bit like a blind date: I didn’t quite know what to expect, other than a chat about the fashion industry & entrepreneurship. What I did know, after looking at her website & Instagram, was that I loved her style.

I’d prepared a list of questions to ask her…but I didn’t even need to use them. Our conversation flowed effortlessly; I checked my list at the very end, to see if I had any final questions or thoughts, and realized that most of my questions had been answered naturally.

Stacey is packed with knowledge & advice that I didn’t even realize I need. She opened my eyes to the inner-workings of the fashion industry & followed it up with literature for me to read, to learn even more.

Hold tight to your vision.” She told me, and elaborated.

Everyone has a vision; their own vision for your brand or business. Hire experts to do what you can’t. Get advice. But don’t lose yourself to it. You are your brand. You are your vision.

I walked away from our talk feeling like I’d made more than just a business connection, but a possible friend, too. The advice Stacey gave me was invaluable, but the spirit – the drive – that she inspired in me is worth more than words can say.

 

Sometimes, networking is not so hard. I’m extremely grateful to both my friend Anthony for introducing us, as well as Stacey, for taking the time to chat & mentor me.