Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Easy (and affordable) at Home Gel Manicure Kit




Since we won't be getting to the nail salon anytime soon, there's no time like the present to perfect your at-home manicure skills. #selfcare, right? 

 Even though I'm a mess at doing my nails, I also recognize how much time (and money) gets spent going to the nail salon. After some practice, I found I can easily do an at home pedi, but when it comes a manicure, that's another story. I always end up with more polish on my hands and fingers then on my actual nails. Also, I usually will get normal polish on my toes which is simple to do at home, but for my manicure, I like to get gel. Gel not only lasts longer, but it dries almost immediately and rarely chips. Gel also requires a UV light. 

I had looked at some at home gel kits, but was only coming across ones that were very expensive, and had mixed reviews. I eventually found this one on Amazon, and actually purchased it about a month before we were asked to quarantine ourselves/shelter in place. It not only received 4.5 stars with over 700 reviews, but it's affordable (under $50). The the first time I tried it, I was shocked how well it worked and how easy it was to use. It comes with everything you needed to start your own at-home salon! The kit includes the following: 


1. 48W LED UV Nail Lamp
2. Six Gel Nail Polishes 
 3. No Wipe Top Coat and Base Coat 
4. Cuticle Oil 
5. Nail File 
6. Nail Buffer 
7. Nail Brush for Hands 
8. Nail Brush for Toes 
9. Cuticle Fork 
10. Cuticle Pusher 
11. Nail Clipper 
12. Nail Separator

It also comes with step-by-step directions on how to use the kit, light, and the polishes. The only modification I make to their directions is the dry time/time under the UV light. They recommend 60-90s for the base, polish, and top coat, whereas I've found it's better to do 120s for each coat.

For anyone that's had gel on their nails, they know the benefits of it (dry time, two-week no chip guarantee), but it does come with a downside - the soak off. The polish has to be soaked off in acetone, and takes about ~10 minutes or so.  They buff your nails to get the shiny coat off, then they’ll soak a cotton ball in acetone, place the cotton ball on your nail, and cover with tinfoil. The polish is then easily removed with an orange stick (the small wooden nail sticks). 

At home you follow the same steps, but I recommend ordering these Polish Remover Clips (pictured above on the bottom right). They’re under $10, and are a quick, clean and efficient way to hold the cotton ball/remover in place. Trying to get tinfoil individually wrapped around all your nails is an arduous task, so this is a game changer. 

All in, the price of the kit and the remover clips is only $57.98! A great deal. 



Wednesday, March 25, 2020

What I've Been Cooking - Quarantine Edition


Every week I try to make two home cooked meals in addition to our weekly steak night (which we cook together every Friday or Saturday night). What I make usually consists of recipes I come across online, or ones I find in cookbooks. I also like being able to make versions of some of our favorite Mexican, Chinese and other favorite dishes with far less sodium, and half the calories. 

I always try to spruce up recipes and put my own spin on them - even if that's simply adding additional spices, or subbing one ingredient for another. Once my creations are complete, I share shamefully un-Instagram worthy food photos on my stories (be sure to follow me). I figured since we're all hunkered down for who knows how long, it was about time I shared them on the blog. Here is a look at what I've been cooking while under quarantine.  

Note: Since a lot of grocery stores are empty or have limited stock, I tried to focus on recipes that consisted of items that many of us have in our pantry, freezer or fridge. 


Chicken & Broccoli Stir-Fry
When purchasing the chicken for this, I always ask the men at the meat counter if they can cut 1lb of chicken breast into cubes, That way I can avoid the hassle, and don't have to deal with raw chicken at home. 9 out of 10 times they are more than happy to do it for you. 

I sub cornstarch for arrowroot flour
I add scallions - they really make the flavor pop, and add extra freshness 


Slow Cooker Santa Fe Chicken 
This has been our go-to recently. It makes just about 3-4 meals for us, and can be used so many different ways. We have made salads, tacos, and quesadillas with it. It also freezes well. 

I sub the chicken broth for a half jar of our favorite salsa. I also use canned corn instead of frozen, but I think either would work. 
I add two fresh bell peppers (diced), as well as a jalapeno (minced, with ribs and seeds). I also double the amount of cilantro and use a spoon full of tomato paste to make it a little ticker.


Date Night Rigatoni with Sausage & Kale
We always use fennel over celery, and I think it makes a huge difference. We like to serve this with burata and prosciutto on a bed of arugula with toasted bread. 

I sub the sausage for chicken sausage, but have made it with pork, as well. Both are equally as good. 


Build Your Own Pizza
This one doesn't really have or require a recipe. We simply purchase whatever plain pizza crust is available in the frozen section, and top it with our favorite marinara sauce, cheese, and whatever we have in the fridge. 

For this pizza I used Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce, Kraft 5 Cheese Italian Blend, and then added onion, jalapeno, arugula, bell peppers and some pesto on top.  


Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos with Avocado Crema
These are packed with flavor, and are a great vegetarian recipe. 

I omit the flower and milk completely. I find it unnecessary, and actually like the cauliflower better if I simply throw it in the hot sauce just by itself. It also cooks up more crispy, which I like, and cuts the cooking time down a bit. 

I sub sour cream for greek yogurt. 



I hope you all enjoyed seeing a glimpse at what's cooking in my kitchen! Please let me know if you'd like to see more posts like this, and if you cook any of these meals! 




Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Valentine's Day Outfit Ideas




Hello, lovers! 

Valentine's Day is quickly approaching, so I wanted to share with you some of my favorite festive looks of love

I've shared all these outfits over the years, and thought it would be a great idea to compile them into one post. Whether you're enjoying a casual night in, headed out to the movies, or going on a fancy dinner date, I have something that will cover all your bases. 

Plus, most of these pieces are still available, and if they're not, I've linked similar items. If there's something you don't see a link to that you like, just ask me! 












Friday, January 31, 2020

Current Amazon Favorites

My love for Amazon is undeniable. I mean, who can argue with a retailer that A) sells everything under the sun, and B) lets you buy something with one easy click. Did I mention two-day shipping? 

What's fantastic about Amazon, also makes it dangerous....It's so easy to spend sleepless nights combing through and purchasing random things you never new existed and/or didn't know you needed. Ha! But who can resist. 

Actually, some of the most random things I've found on Amazon have become my most used, worn, and consistent buys. I've recently started sharing more of my Amazon purchases, and figured it was about time to put them all in one place and start continually sharing them with you. Here is a look at 25 items I purchased, and love. Also, did I mention everything is under $55?



1. Five slot leather sunglasses case. If you're like me and love to travel with multiple pairs of sunglasses, this case is for you. It can hold up to five pairs of sunglasses, rolls up, and saves tons of space.
2. Beauty blender travel case and holder. This cute cat travel case not only keeps your beauty blender protected while you travel, but it also releases moisture and has self cleaning pad on the bottom.
3. Gucci 'inspired' earrings. These dupes were too cute to pass up, and are great quality.
4. Colorful slides. These are great quality, come in fun patterns/prints, and are a fraction of the Gucci mules that they're inspired by.
5. Sleep mask. This sleep mask comes in several colors, and the silk is the perfect weight to help you get some extra shut eye.
6. Lipstick holder. I may not be a beauty blogger or have that detailed of a beauty routine, but I do love lipstick and can never have enough. This lipstick holder is perfect for anyone that is trying to stay organized.
7. Reusable straws. I've really been trying to cut down where I can on my plastic consumption as much, and as often as I can. I purchased these a few months ago, and absolutely love them. Not only are they cute, but they're dishwasher safe.
8. Face roller. I put this in the freezer and use it in the morning. It reduces puffiness, calms skin, and a ton of other stuff.
9. Acrylic base shaper. This is such an amazing item. If you own an LV Neverfull, a Goyard bag, or anything that has a slouchy base, this item helps the bag maintain it's shape. It is made-to-order, so it can fit any bag and also help support your bag so that your items don't stretch out the straps.
10. Earring lifters. These are great for anyone that has saggy earlobes, or wears earrings that are heavy. They instantly lift up the earrings, giving you that perfect look.
11. Sleep shirt. This is so comfortable and comes in several colors. It is a fraction of the prices of the similar Nordstrom Lingerie, and is great quality.
12. Hair blow dryer and volumizer. This is seriously a game changer. It gives you that great salon blow out look, and is easy to use.
13. Headbands. Amazon has tons of different trendy headbands, and these come in a pack of two for under $10.
14. Basic t-shirt. I own this tee in every color they sell it is. It is the perfect v-neck cut and the material doesn't wrinkle and is soft.
15. Exfoliating body scrubber. I've always loved loofas, but have never liked how unsanitary they are. I came across this and have been using it for the last month. I've loved it so far, and have been pleased with what a good lather it makes.
16. Long-sleeved dress. These dresses are terry cloth on the inside, and are perfect for a casual outing or running errands.
17. 2oz glass spray bottles. I use these when I travel. I fill them with water once I get to my destination, so that I can easily spritz my beauty blender. I prefer to do this vs totally submerging it in water.
18. Grippy socks. If you're like me and love going to barre based workouts, or pilates, these socks are a fun way to add a little pop to your outfit. I have them in several colors, and have been really pleased with the quality. Even after several washes, all the sparkles are still intact!
19. Sunglasses. A fun, trendy pair of sunglasses that doesn't break the bank.
20. Rhinestone initial earrings. These are the perfect compliment to any outfit, or are great for anyone that has a second piercing in their ear. They'd also make a great gift.
21. Turtleneck dress. An effortless and easy dress for the season. Can easily be dressed up or down.
22. Scrunchies. Who can argue with paying $5.99 for 40 different colored velvet scrunchies?! They're more gentle on your hair than normal hair ties.
23. Make-up cleaning brush mat. This mat sticks to the bottom of you sink, and makes cleaning your make-up brushes a breeze.
24. Self tanning mitt. Perfect for applying your favorite sunless tanner (mine is St. Tropez). It gives you and even, streak free look.
25. Body-con dress. I wore this dress for my birthday, and got so many compliments on it from you guys. It is under $55 and comes in several colors.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Welcome to My Closet - Organizational Tips & Hacks!

Dress | Heels (sold out, similar style here) | Necklace & Earrings from India, similar style here | Headband 

Welcome to my closet! This post is definitely long overdue, but with so much to share, it was hard to decide where to begin. For that very reason, I decided to do a poll the other week on Instagram to see what you wanted to hear about. The majority of you asked for organization tips, but I also got questions on splurge vs steal, as well as my must-have items that everyone needs in their closet. Since that's a lot of information, I've decided to split it up into two different posts. For this one, we'll focus on organization. Then I'll follow up with my must-have pieces, and what you should spend/save on. So, if you have any additional questions, feel free to message me in the meantime! 

Let's get started! 




Organization Tips

Color coordinate everything. I have my closet from lightest to darkest (white, ending in black). 

 Organize by category. For example, put all your tops together, dresses together, denim, etc. That way you can easily find what you're looking for, as oppose to lumping everything together. Then organize by size. For tops, start with tank tops, followed by t-shirts, 3/4 length shirts, long sleeved shirts, button downs, and lastly sweaters. I also have the a section for my blazers/light jackets. They go up on the top racks because I don't wear them that often, but when I do I can easily pull them down (such a great invention). I store my coats and heavier jackets in a separate closet!  

Have the items that you wear most often at eye level. Don't waste prime space by cluttering it with things you only throw on every so often.

I use storage bins, like this one to hold my shorts, workout clothes, winter items like gloves and beanies, as well as all my baseball hats. 

This goes off of everything above, but keep a dedicated space for everything. Not only will that help you navigate what you're looking for when it comes time to put your outfit together, but it also makes your space more functional. 

When you wear something, put the hanger back where you got it from, that way you're never having to organize twice! 

Put dividers in your drawers. Whether its belts, underwear or bras, dividers are instrumental when it comes to organization. 

Use trays to organize your jewelry. These are great at keeping your jewelry separated, and they can also be stacked on top of each other. If you're in a smaller space, a hanging jewelry organizer is amazing. As far as the jewelry you wear everyday, I suggest having a tray that sits on top of an island (if you have one in your closet), or on a dresser. 





Closet Hacks

Whenever you receive a package, save the "air pillows" and use them to stuff your handbags. I have found these incredibly helpful in maintaining the shape of my handbags.

Use shower curtain hooks to hang your scarves (see the last picture).  For the longest time, I had all my scarves folded where my Gucci handbags are now, and it took up a lot of space, not to mention, 'prime real estate.' I love scarves, but I definitely didn't need them front and center when I walked into my closet. Having them folded required me to constantly re-fold them when I took one out because they'd all cling together. It also started to leave creases in them, which I didn't want either. Alas, I resorted to Google to find some inspiration and came across shower curtain hooks. Genius! 

Stuff tissue paper into the toes of your shoes to help maintain their shape. 

This may be a no brainer, but invest in felt hangers. They take up a lot less space, and cause less wear and tear on your clothes. Also, use hangers that are all the same style, size and color!!! You'd be surprised how much less cluttered it will look - plus, it'll be streamlined. 

-----

From handbags, to clothing and jewelry, there is definitely an endless amount of stuff for me to link, so if there's anything specific you're interested in, just let me know!!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Our Christmas in NYC!



For Christmas this year, we decided to spend the holidays in NYC! If you've followed me for a while, you know we've spent the last few Christmases out of the country. Last year we were in India and Nepal on our honeymoon over the holidays, and in prior years we've been in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. We always love jetting off over the holidays, but after spending our one year anniversary in Cabo this November, we decided to stay 'local' for Christmas and head to New York.

Being in the Big Apple for Christmas was as charming as it sounds - I would definitely add to your bucket list. We typically visit NYC every year in April (and I've come in the Fall for Fashion Week), so visiting this time of year was a delight. We lucked out with gorgeous weather, and even though I wanted to see snow, the 50 degree temperatures were perfect for roaming around the city. 

We were there for three nights, which was just the right amount of time to see some new things and visit some old favorites. Here's a look at what we did! 




After checking into our hotel around one o'clock, we headed out the door and walked to Bryant Park. I'd read about the holiday shops at Bryant Park, which features 175 boutiques that are set up during the holidays. The stores include everything from holiday decor, to jewelry, clothing, toys and artisanal foods. They also have an ice skating rink and a Christmas tree, so it was a great way to start our trip. 

From there we went to see the window displays at Macy's in Herald Square. The window displays were excellent, but I was disappointed by "Santa's Workshop" inside. I would definitely skip it if you go. It was nothing more than Christmas trees with ornaments and decorations - the same thing you'd expect from any department store during the holidays. After that, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up before having an early dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Taboon.

Once we were finished we walked to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree. It was absolutely beautiful, and we actually saw a couple get engaged! After that we went to see the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue, and caught a bit of their light show. The light show was based on Frozen 2, and the whole building was covered in lights and accompanied by music. Very cool! 







On our second day, we walked up and down Fifth Avenue, did some shopping and looked at all the decorations. After that we walked over to Madison Avenue, and visited the Goyard boutique (no, I didn't buy anything - shocking!) and Laduree for my favorite macaroons. 

Even though we've been to New York countless times and visited the MET on several occasions, we'd never been to the Guggenheim Museum before. We decided to take a trip to the museum, and although I'm happy we went, I doubt I'll be returning. Although the building itself was interesting, the art wasn't exactly my speed. It was laid out sparsely, not to mention it was mainly modern art, which I am not the biggest fan of. 

Once we finished there, we strolled through Central Park and visited Bow Bridge, which is where we got engaged. I always love retracing our steps from that day, and constantly am trying to convince Adam to get down on one knee and pretend it's happening for the first time! After a quick trip back to the hotel to freshen up, we went to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes. I absolutely loved the show! Not only were the Rockettes great, but it was a fun Christmas story, as well. After that we went to Gallaghers Steakhouse before calling it a night! 










We started our third day, which was Christmas day, by going to St Patrick's Cathedral for mass. Every time I'm in New York, I visit St. Patrick's, so it was extra special to get to finally attend mass there. We got there early but it was already crowded! We ended up having to stand the entire time, but definitely had no complaints. 

From there we jumped on the subway (I didn't spot any rats, ha), and headed downtown. On our last trip we had gone to the 9/11 Memorial Museum,which was incredibly well done and very moving. When we were previously in that area, there was a lot still under development, so we hadn't had a chance to visit the One World Observatory. On the 101st floor, you are greeted with stunning 360 degree views on the city. It was absolutely breathtaking, and we were lucky enough to have a crystal clear day. Once we finished there, we went to the Oculus before walking around Battery Park. 

After that we jumped in a cab and went to see the Vessel in Hudson Yards. From there we went to 230 Fifth, a rooftop restaurant that has these cute outdoor igloos set up for the winter. The rooftop has gorgeous view of the Empire State building and is definitely worth a visit. That evening we saw Moulin Rouge on Broadway, which was absolutely phenomenal. To close out the evening, and our trip, we did the obligatory evening walk through Times Square.


Here is a look at what I packed!

Friday, January 3, 2020

End of Year Recap!








Dress (similar style here) | Purse (budget friendly version here) | Shoes (similar style here) | Bracelet | Earrings | Sunglasses


Happy New Year, friends! It's hard to believe we're already three days into January! 

This outfit has been one of my recent favorites. I love that it is polished, but definitely still very fun and trendy. I've worn it countless times over the last few weeks, and have no intention of stopping now! I'm a huge fan of a good shirt dress, and have paired this dress with flats and a denim jacket for a sportier look, as well. My exact dress is sold out, but I found a similar one here, here and here.

Our holiday season was busy. Thanksgiving was spent with my in-laws in Dallas, then we traveled back to Wisconsin to visit my family for an early Christmas. We then flew to New York City for Christmas, before returning to Houston to ring in the new year. 

NYC at Christmas was every bit as fun and festive as you would think. If it's ever been on you bucket list to do, I would highly recommend it. It was crowded, but not unbearable. Plus, the decorations, especially the Rockefeller Christmas tree, were beautiful. I'll be sharing more about our trip with you in another post. 

To celebrate New Year's Eve, we debated going out, but opted to stay home instead. As much as I love getting decked out in sequins, I also feel like NYE is one of those evenings/nights that everyone feels like they have to go out. We ended up having the perfect evening in. We had a surf and turf dinner complete with steak and lobster, and watched a movie before enjoying a champagne toast at midnight. I traded my cocktail dress for pajamas and Safari cuddles, and I couldn't be happier about how we kicked off 2020!

 

design + development by kiki and co. creative