Easy Tip: Iced Coffee Cubes

Someone you know has been very busy planning her wedding, participating in bachelorette shenanigans, and prepping for a cross-town move. Apologies, dear readers, for letting Sparkles slip this past month. I am back! And with a fun new Easy Tip share.

-2I’m going to guess that if you’ve ever sidled up to the counter at Starbucks and requested an iced coffee with “light ice,” we have a lot in common. I absolutely cannot stand when my ice melts, making the coffee watery. But when you do order an iced coffee without ice, you’re risking it not being cold enough. You’re also spending about 5 bucks on something you could make–better–at home.

Josh and I are addicted to Starbucks coffee and we often brew ours in the one wedding gift he’s letting me use before the big day. But with the summer heat blazing, my beloved has found himself letting his cool and then throwing ice cubes in an hour later. Classy! How about we make our own iced coffee at home, on purpose, and fix the melted watery mess problem?

cubeThe iced coffee cube cools your drink to the desired temp, but when it melts, it tastes like coffee! Score.

1. Brew a large pot of coffee. Then, switch off the machine allowing the pot to cool to room temp.

2. Pour into ice cube trays. I used these star-shaped ones we got at West Elm.

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3. Place trays in freezer and put the remaining coffee in its pot in the fridge. You’ll be drinking that later!

Once frozen, pop a few in a cup and pour yourself an iced coffee with flavor that will last.

Want some other easy tips? These blend up beautifully into your morning protein, banana, and almond milk smoothie. Yum!

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Easy Tip: Book Art

bookshelfAre you a book worm? A magazine fanatic? An avid journal scribe? If you’ve got a ton of books lying around taking up space, I suggest a quick fix. If you don’t have a great bookshelf, you can build one like this with the help of a friend or parent, some white scrap wood, and a rainy afternoon. Otherwise, IKEA has nice options. Think white, simple, structurally sound. Then place all your books together by color, creating a unified look and an impressive piece of wall art, at once.

As you see above, I also strung flower-shaped Christmas lights and added picture frames and a vase for a mixed media feel.

Easy Tip: Smooth Your Lip

imagesWell, yes, this advice works well on both lips, but for rhyming purposes I left it singular above. Apologies. In any case, I’m sure I’m not the only one who is finding her post-winter lips in disarray. The forced air heating and constant licking may be things of the past, but my lips take a long time to heal and also become sensitive in sunlight, so it’s an uphill battle getting them soft this time of year.

In my former life as a major lipgloss junkie, my constant reapplication made for a generally smooth situation. But these days I tend to favor lipstick that will hold its color for hours, letting me feel pretty through the morning and then again in the afternoon with little thought or effort. I only really wear lipgloss for a night on the town when I want to look extra juicy and don’t mind putting on a new coat after every cocktail. But lipstick, especially of the matte variety, can look cakey and not its best if you’re starting with a dry base. Here come the solutions:

I’ve shared this hint before, but exfoliating your lips is so easy. Just take a toothbrush, wet the bristles in warm water and brush your lips. Pat dry with a hand towel and smooth on some Karmex, Rosebud salve, or another moisturizing treatment. Do this twenty minutes before you leave the house. Then, on your way out the door, apply two coats of lipstick and you’re good to go.

inparis

here’s me in paris this past weekend with just a swipe of revlon super lustrous lipstick in primrose, my ultimate favorite.

For ultra-moisturizing, non-glossy color options, scope out the slew of lip products new to your nearest makeup counter or drugstore aisle. I really like Revlon’s Just Bitten Kissable balm stain in Darling, a lovely lavender. Maybelline Baby Lips is a great option, too. If you’re up for a splurge, I recommend the entire line of Chanel Rouge Allure lipsticks, which are creamy and rich. The pigment lasts hours without drying your lips in the slightest, and men adore this look. For an affordable stick, the one I’m wearing in the photo above is another Revlon product, Super Lustrous lipstick in Primrose. It happens to be my beau’s fave.revlon

For extreme cases, you can’t go wrong with Vaseline or Aquafor morning and night. Just make sure not to let it spread out to your upper lip or chin while sleeping, as the excess oil can cause pimples. Now, go out and find somebody to kiss!VPJ

Easy Tip: Tint your Talons

Today, I actually self-inspired (ugh, aren’t writers the worst?) after working on a piece for ATC. It’s about spring nail trends and should be up in a few days. In any case, I was feeling out the whole ombre concept and I came across some really cool images around the Web. I’ve long adored the individual ombre in which each nail fades from dark to light within one color spectrum, but I had yet to experience the nail-to-nail ombre in which each nail is different color but from afar they appear to fade from one end of the hand to the other.

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This was my inspiration, but I didn't quite have my color act together.

I tried the look with a variety of shelved iridescent pinks from Chanel, Dior, and Essie that have accumulated over the past several beauty seasons. But I just didn’t have the perfect five to create the effect I wanted, so I ended up doing a less-than-perfect, still quite pretty fade that goes from deep purplish rose to creamy pearlescent citrus. As pretty as the nail colors looked together, something was missing and they seemed sort of disjointed. Another problem? My top coat was nowhere to be found. Solution?

I applied Essie’s “Petal Pink,” a very sheer light pink polish in lieu of top coat. When added on top of the nails, it served as a great unifier that sort of brought everything into the same palette while toning down the excess iridescence in some colors and warming up the flatness of others. I think I might be onto something here. The next time you paint your nails, why not warm them up or cool them off with the addition of a great tinted sheer instead of your standard top coat? You might just find this creative color mixing to be your best new plan!

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What do you think?
(And, yes, that is the second Starbys of the day in the background!)

Easy Tip: Fake bake at home

I have pretty fair skin, at least at this time of year. And, when it looks especially pale it seems that much easier to spot my spots, dark undereye circles, and other unpleasantries. Ever notice during the summer when you have a slight tan, that you tend to wear less makeup and feel naturally prettier? Well, there is no need to enter a tanning salon to get your bake on today. With one product and five minutes or less, I’ve got you covered.

$28, beauty.com

I first experimented with Mystic Tan’s Sunless Tanning Lotion a couple of years ago, and it’s one item I still keep in my bathroom cabinet for emergencies. Despite the market presence of some more expensive (and, ahem, better smelling!) tanning products, this is the one I turn to again and again. All you need to do is wash your face with a foaming cleanser, making sure to get your ears and neck in the process. Pat dry gently with a hand towel.

Once your skin is dry yet dewy, drop a dime-sized dollop of this cream into your palm and work into the skin of your face in a circular motion. Make sure to apply evenly, pulling toward your hairline, ears, and just under your chin. When your face has dried, you can put on a little more moisturizer with SPF and then some eye and lip makeup. But chances are you won’t need foundation (or much concealer) because that glow will have you looking gorg within twenty minutes tops.

Craving your hottest summer face? Fake it at home today.

Easy tip: Straighten like it’s 1974

Are you sick of over-styling? Ready to retire your flat iron for a few days, but unwilling to brave the city streets with a wavy mane? Fear not, my little budding beauties. Taking a few pages out of our mommies’ old style files might just help. Let me explain.

The year was 1974. My young and effortlessly gorgeous mommy was a straight-up hippie trapped inside the body of a curly-haired diva. What to do? While she never laid out her locks on an ironing board and straightened them with an actual iron (Yes, that happened in those days!), she did develop a system of creating straight hair that would last. Here were her two (easy! safe! pretty!) solutions. Despite all the great products and tools today, one of these might just work for you.

Option One: The Campbell’s Soup “Stick-straight” Method

For the coveted Ali MacGraw hair, Mom and her pals would take two Campbell’s soup cans, wash them, and remove the labels. They would part wet hair in the middle and create to large rolls, wrapping hair around the cans and affixing at the back of the crown with long hair pins.

The bottom half of the hair was pulled straight from one ear to the other, flattened against the head in a long swirl and held in place with small metal hinge clips (you can use bobbies instead) spaced about a centimeter apart each. Mom owned one of those crazy hair dryers you sit under at the salon, but you can try this at home without. Just be prepared to wait a couple hours before it’s dry and ready to unravel.

Option Two: The High Pony Slight-wave Method

For tresses that were smooth but with a little bit of bounce, Mom would shower at night and pull hair back straight into a high ponytail.

Thank you for the photo, thedailymakeover.com

Rather than affixing with an elastic she would hold it there with one hand and with the other, twist hair around itself into a high bun. She would hold this bun in place with bobbies and let it dry as she slept. In the morning, she would take it out and brush through, letting her long loose hair fall into a straight style with just the right amount of body.

Staying Pow(d)er:

For both looks, Mom made her at-home straight hair solution last with the aid of baby powder. If you’ve run out dry shampoo, you can do the same. Just a little sprinkle at the roots followed by a proper brushing will have you looking freshly washed in no time.

Easy tip: How to do an Up-Do

Ever since my little-girl ballet days, I’ve understood the undeniable chic of a well-done chignon. Love French twists for brides. Totally dig a high, tight pony on just about everyone. But with my somewhat sticky-out ears and broad shoulders, a part of me always feels like an ugly little boy with my hair pulled back. I know it might sound strange, but the hair-up situation is a tough one for me to pull off.

Perfect little ballet bun at a 2007 Elie Saab runway show

Oh, but the agony of wearing one’s hair down every single day. It’s hot and can be annoying, not to mention the fact that it must look utterly gorgeous at all moments when being worn down. I suffered so severely from the fear of looking like a boy in high school that I remember clearly the very first–and only–time I attempted a bun in ninth grade. It was eighth period Social Studies and I was wearing one of those thick-cottoned long sleeved Abercrombie tees that were so very important my freshman year. I was so hot that I felt my face flush and sweat forming at the back of my neck.

Giving in to the heat, I reluctantly borrowed a hair tie from a classmate and pulled it all up into a loose, high bun. When my teacher (whose class I had been in for five months) walked in, he asked me if I was new to the school. This was the moment I decided it was time I hightail it out of my hair rut and learn how to experiment. Here is some of what I’ve learned:

For the moment of worry about bumps, cowlicks, and/or uneven parts:

The best way to pull together a chic updo if you have an awkwardly placed cowlick or trouble getting your hair to stay flat on top is to incorporate a braid on one or both sides. This draws attention to the braid and away from any bumps or imperfections. I really like the style shown by Anne Hathaway below. To achieve it, create a deep part on one side of your hair. On the half that has more hair, start a loose French braid a couple of inches below the part (where your roots would start if you hadn’t touched up your color in a couple of months). For an inside-out French like Anne has here, just reverse the regular French braid process, pulling from under rather than braiding over.

Anne gets it right by adding a dangly earring and plenty of liner

Once you’ve braided to the nape of your neck, pull all of your hair together in a low, loose bun. Wrap hair around itself twice and affix all around with bobby pins. Spray to hold, but let any wisps fall as they might. This look is effortlessly chic, and can be worn during the day or to a cocktail party–or both!

For when you want to look refined and polished, but not like a granny:

Messy buns are great, and they’ve remained popular for years now from the runways to the streets. But for some offices and events, they are just too… well, messy. Here is a sleek and easy updo that will keep hair off your face, out of your eyes, and off of your boss’s “Please Re-read our Dress Code” list.

Pull hair back tight, smoothing the top of your head with a boar bristle paddle brush. Create a high pony (if you think it’s too high, it’s probably just about right), leaving about a half-inch section of hair out of the pony underneath. Once you’ve affixed with your ponytail holder, wrap the extra hair around several times to create the illusion that the pony is being held in place by hair, not elastic. Two or three bobby pins from below should do the trick to keep it in place. Spray.

This is what the back of your hair should look like before you curl it.

Then: with a medium-barrel curling iron, take small sections of hair and create tight waves throughout the pony. Spray everywhere with an illuminating hairspray and some Sally Hershberger shine spray. Voila! Like Rihanna, you’ll look peppy, pretty, and ready to rock!

If your ears stick out, like mine do:

Girl, you still deserve to pull your hair up! Here are my favorite tricks for drawing attention away from the ears…

1. Keep some hair in your face. Letting a few pieces dangle will keep eyes moving and make you feel like self-conscious.

2. Body at the back… or on top. A big, voluminous bun or punchy pony creates enough drama to balance your perky ears.

3. Makeup, makeup, makeup. Dark, dramatic liner makes the focus all about your eyes.

4. Remember that no one’s perfect. We all have our little woes. And it turns out, even if you think you look like a boy with your hair up, your boy probably doesn’t agree…

Easy tip: Make Your Lashes Last

For the wedding we attended Friday evening, Mama treated Pookie and me to professional eye makeup. It had sadly been a while since I’d had someone else do my makeup, and I was thrilled. After delivering lovely, demure smoky eyes to my mom and Pook, Rachel at R.J. West in Huntington asked me what direction I’d like her to take with my eyes. I told her not to hold back–the bigger the drama, the better.

What Rachel delivered was an absolutely gorgeous, shimmering pink-and-purple-and-gold smoky eye with false lashes in three different lengths that made my peepers look at once glamorous and ultra-sexy. Josh was swooning. Rachel warned me not to pull on the falsies and added that, if I took extra-special care of them, they could last up to a week. I decided to put her to the test. I’d never attempted to keep a temporary lash going longer than one night, so it’s been trial-and-error since Friday. Here’s what I found:

Rule #1: Leave your lashes alone!

The night of, I went home and washed the lower half of my face as usual. For the forehead, I utilized a gentle dabbing method so as not to have a river of water and soap running down towards my eyes. On me, shadow tends to melt away by the end of an evening, so to remove the rest was easy. I simply took a Q-tip and dabbed it in water-based eye makeup remover, applying it as you would an eraser to the remaining makeup left on my eyes. Basta!

Rule #2: Be a sleeping beauty

I tend to sleep on my stomach for two reasons–first, if I’m on my back the snoring keeps Josh up all night. Second, it’s more comfy than the side. But if you fall asleep on your stomach with false lashes on, you will wake up looking incredibly wonky. Try to fall asleep on your back. If you need to be on your side, move your pretty little face to the very edge of the pillow so that you can blink without feeling any lashes brush against anything more than air. Rest easy knowing your lashes will bounce back in the morning beautifully.

Rule #3: Shower with care

Steam from hot water can melt lash glue, leaving you with missing chunks. Yikes! I took a cool shower in the morning and kept my face away from the stream of water the entire time. Wait till after your shower to wash your face, so you can repeat the method detailed above.

Rule #4: Chill with the makeup

First, heavy liner atop false lashes is too much for day (even for this makeup buff). Second, the more makeup you apply, the more you’ll have to remove, which is risky when trying to keep your falsies intact. I left my top lids entirely alone, adding only some black pencil smudged along my bottom lid line, bronzer all around, and a smear of pink gloss. Perfect for day! If you must doll up in the evening, use a narrow line of black liquid liner on your top lid, and let it flake off naturally rather than using makeup remover at the end of the evening.

Rule #5: No tears! Crying will melt your lash glue and also lends to rubbing, blotting, and other non-lash-friendly gestures. It might sound vain, but when a family member made me so angry on Saturday I felt I might cry, I looked up toward the sky to keep the tears at bay and then focused on other things in the hope of keeping my lashes intact. It worked!

That’s about it! I’m on Day Four and going strong. Hope these easy tips work for you too! Have fun dolls.

Easy tip: Fake a Rested Eye

Just a few easy steps and your eyes can look natural yet awake

It’s a miserable Monday morning in Manhattan and everywhere around you, people are yawning, dozing, and grumpily making their way to work. A weekend spent indulging in food and alcohol, staying up late, getting too much sun, and generally enjoying yourself can lead to tired Monday-morning eyes. So, how to not look like a total mess when your boss “stops by” your cubicle? Fake it!

The Night Before:

I like to take all my eye makeup off with a gentle removing cleanser like Clinique’s “Take the Day Off” (Clinique.com, $18). Let your eyes rest for a while, and then just before bed, apply a rich and soothing eye cream like Laboratoire Remede hydra therapy eye cream (Remede.com, $110). It’s an investment, but should last a long time. You only need a tiny dab for each eye; work in gentle circles on undereye bags and top lids, out towards the tip of your brows. Now, try and get some sleep!

The Morning Of:

After waking, wash your face with cool water. This tightens the skin everywhere, including around the eyes. Cold water also helps you to feel more awake. Then, follow these easy steps to brighten and awaken your eyes.

1. Start by building a concealing base under the eyes. Take a decent-sized dollop of drugstore brand eye cream and match with the same amount of creamy foundation like Clinique Even Better makeup (Clinique.com, $24.50). Blend with your finger tips or a small makeup brush and apply to the entire eye area as you would an eye cream. Let dry.

2. Five minutes later, double-up on your coverage by adding a no-nonsense undereye concealer like DiorSkin Nude (dior.com, $30). You only need a dot per eye so this product will last you for months. Once you’ve applied and allowed the concealer to dry, avoid fine line caking by dotting some of your Remede eye cream on top of the polished look.

3. A daytime-appropriate smoky eye will brighten things right up. You can be in and out in five minutes or less if you pick your palette appropriately. I like the elf Essentials Brightening Eye Color palette in “Drama,” eyeslipsface.com, $1. It could not be more user-friendly. Sweep the lightest color over the entire eye, then smudge a bit of the second-lightest color into the tear duct area. Follow by taking that cool dove gray and applying to the top lid, up to the crease. Then, take your finest eye makeup brush and apply the black hue like you would eye liner along the top and bottom lash lines. Follow with two coats of CARGO TexasLash mascara (Ulta.com, $20) and you’re out the door!

Easy tip: Make your blowout last

Whitney Port has some of the prettiest hair in Hollywood, no?

There is no hair moment quite as satisfying as when you first leave the salon after a great blowout. No matter what tools or products you use at home, it always just looks better when someone else does it, right? There are girls who can work one blowout for a week, and I totally commend them. But my hair gets greasy quick, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Here is my tried-and-true formula for making your hair stay glossy and gorgeous for days.

Every day:

Avoid cardio (yay!). Especially in summer heat, your scalp sweats a lot while running or doing other cardiovascular activity. Sweat at the roots is not a good look. If you don’t want to ditch your fitness routine completely, work out inside with the A/C blasting and stick to crunches, leg lifts, or other localized moves.

Wear a shower cap. Sure, your grandma has one, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. I’m a big fan of Blow’s “the perfect shower cap,” with a terry liner to absorb steam and keep hair from frizzing out. Beauty.com, $18.

Every night:

Thrashing about and sweating in your sleep can cause hair to rumple and tangle. Select a nice, soft hair tie (read: a scrunchie) that won’t cause a dent. Keep hair parted as it is, and gather at the nape of your neck. Twirl it gently around itself into a loose bun, wrap with hairtie and try to sleep on your side. When you wake up, gently remove hairtie and separate the hair with your fingertips. Voila!

Day one: Leave it alone

The only thing touching your blown-out hair should be your Mason Pearson mixed bristle brush (drugstore.com, $151). Do not add product, and no matter how soft it feels, please try not to touch. Your fingertips are a hotbed of oil and the more you touch your hair, the greasier it will be. If you have any fly-aways, spritz your fingertips with a tiny amount of strong hold hairspray and gently pat unruly hairs down. Basta!

Day two: Fluff factor

You can likely keep the same shape your hair had post blowout by continuing to leave it alone. Try a quick flip-over in the bathroom, brushing hair gently from underneath and then flipping your head up to keep its bounce. If you are starting to see a little oil at the hairline, fret not. Neil George refresh dry shampoo, neilgeorgesalon.com, $18, is a wonderful product. Spray lightly on affected areas, allow the shampoo to absorb, and gently brush through.

For an extra flounce factor, try this no-fail style. Keeping hair parted as it is, simply pull back a small section from each side. Twist as you go and affix with pins at the back on either side. This princess-like style adds body and distracts from any early signs of oil, a la Blake’s hair here.

Day three: Pony up

Personally, I’m not a fan of letting hair go unwashed for longer than three days, but you can sport your still-fly blowout on your third and final day with a poofy pony. Use your dry shampoo at the roots first. Then, pull hair back into a high pony, smoothing the look with your Mason Pearson. Use a fun pony cover like grosgrain ribbon tied into a bow, or a nice length of black leather wrapped several times around. I really like these cotton bows from American Apparel, too. Americanapparel.com, $14. If hair is lacking in body, try a clipless curling iron to create big waves. Spritz all over with your favorite long hold hairspray, and head out the door.