Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NYE: Synonymous with sparkle

What Halloween does for making skimpy outfits "acceptable" in public is what NYE does for sparkle and glitter. Party favors, decorations, outfits, hair and makeup...it's endless.

In my personal opinion, I don't know that there can such a thing as being "too"sparkly or "too much" glitter. Not on New Year's Eve.

There are a million subtle shimmer lotions and products suited for everyday use, but tonight feels like a "go big or go home" kind of scenario.

It doesn't matter how old you are or where you're at: NYE demands some festive glitz. No one is saying you've got to glitter it up a la Ke$ha, but even if you're home in your PJs, a little sparkle helps create a celebratory air.

(When it comes to putting the sparkly stuff on your actual  person, I suspect this goes without saying, but for the sake of safety first: Don't use craft glitter unless you want to end up in urgent care by morning with lacerated eyeballs and a raging skin rash.)

In a nod to the pending new year and the surrounding festivities, PopSugar Beauty shares two slightly more subtle ways to sparkle, courtesy of The Huffington Post.

Want to shop? Locally, it looks like Sally Beauty and Sephora both carry loose cosmetic glitter in an array of colors. (If you're at Sephora, they also carry Lit's Holographic glitter kits.)

Like the concept, but want to keep it super-simple? Urban Decay's "Heavy Metal" line of liquid sparkle eyeliner is vegan, cruelty-free and available in more than a half dozen colors.

So here's to a sparkling, happy and safe ushering-in of 2014 tonight. See you  next year.

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Day = free career clothing

After two successful donation dates, the Delta Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority will offer free career clothing to both men and women on New Year's Day. 

In conjunction with the chapter's 79th anniversary, members began gathering gently-used professional clothing in November, with the hope of providing interview attire for unemployed or underemployed individuals in the Charlotte area.

Collectively, roughly 40 men’s and 50 women’s outfits in a variety of sizes were donated. Chapter member Jessica Minter said one gentleman drove more than an hour to make a donation. 

The total number of donations surpassed the chapter's goal of  collecting at least 79 items – the same number of years the local chapter has been in Charlotte – and separate shopping times will be available for men and women. 

All items are free of charge and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Men's shopping hours will be 9 a.m. to noon, women's from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Delta Zeta Chapter property, 4248 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte.

The Delta Zeta Chapter also partnered with Collins Cleaners to provide complimentary dry cleaning services and a limited amount of vouchers will be distributed during the event.

Details or questions: www.zetasofcharlotte.org.

Read more here: http://cltatyourbest.blogspot.com/2013/11/getting-ahead-of-holidays.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, December 27, 2013

Chop chop

So, tomorrow is the big day. The countdown to cut is nearly over and the time to sport a significantly shorter style is here.

To be fair, when I say it'll be short, I mean medium-ish length. I lack the courage (and bone structure) for pixie cuts, no matter how glamorous and easy Emma Watson makes them look.

I still have yet to find a new style that I think my hair will cooperate with, so I guess it'll be a crash course. I've been randomly pinning styles (of very straight hair) on Pinterest for ages.

Time for bangs?

Maybe pseudo bangs?

Very long layers?

Long bob?

I realize now that over the months I've collected multiple pins of the same three celebrities' hair:

I think essentially they're all the same haircut, so I'll lean heavily on the stylist's professional judgment, advice and creative interpretation.

As far as the donation portion of the cut goes ... I spent some time trolling the internet and speaking with people who have donated in the past, in an attempt to research different organizations' legitimacy.

Despite their well-known name, Locks of Love isn't one of the groups recommended by the American Cancer Society.

The ACS recommends donations be sent to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program, as well as Wigs for Kids. (There's even a Girl Scout badge for scouts who make donations to Wigs for Kids - or work to raise awareness - which is kind of awesome.)

The ACS California division page gave a bit more insight on Locks of Love: "We do not refer individuals wanting to donate their hair to Locks of Love or other similar organizations because they chiefly address alopecia areata, long-term hair loss, not short-term hair loss due to chemotherapy, radiation, and other drugs."


Earlier this month I got to see one of my cousins while in Kansas City. We got to talking about hair donation and she reminded me that years ago, she cut at least 10 inches of hair with the intent of sending it to Pantene. Unfortunately, the donation got derailed when the plastic baggie of hair was misplaced. (To this day, the baggie has yet to surface and I suspect she may even dread finding it.)

I received an email from a reader, sharing the experiences of her granddaughter, who has already donated hair to Pantene twice at the 'twee age of 10. (Well done, Skylar!)

Their family had also heard that certain donation companies charge recipients for the donated hair/wigs and it was their research experience that Pantene has the most legit program out there.

So, I guess it's time to start making some decisions. Pantene requires eight inches, Wigs for Kids needs 12. Whatever organization I donate to will likely get at least 15 inches.

Wish me luck, photos (and possibly video) to come...

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Purpose for your favorite old T-shirt

I have a drawer of T-shirts that have literally been moved all over the country. They don’t get worn anymore: They either don’t fit, are completely tattered or have been retired to a place of honor.

The thought process behind this drawer of essential uselessness goes something like this: “Each of these is a memory of a time/place/person, and I can’t bear to part with them.”

“I know what I’ll do. I’ll learn to use the sewing machine my grandmother gave me (years ago) and I’ll turn them into a big blanket of remembrances! Or, I’ll send them to my mom, or auntie, or grandma – the craftiest women I know – and they can help.”

I’ve moved at least six times since I started saying that.

So when an email from Nathan Rothstein with Project Repat came my way two weeks ago, I responded quickly.

Rothstein and Ross Lohr make up the New England-based team behind Project Repat, the company that cuts and sews customers’ T-shirts into blankets here in the U.S., using production partners who pay workers a fair and living wage.

Rothstein was in Charlotte earlier this month and took a few minutes to speak with me about Project Repat’s partnership with Opportunity Threads – a cut-and-sew company in Morganton – as well as why people get so attached to their shirts.

This t-shirt blanket made by Project Repat displays the memories of a customer who had been active in Greek Life in college. 

“I think it’s a modern form of scrapbooking,” Rothstein said. “They’ve become a cheap commodity that don’t cost too much to make and are given out like a photograph or postcard. People, when they travel, they get a shirt, (or) to represent any event,” he said.

“Running shirts are an adult form of trophies. Those are really your mementos, and each tells a lot,” Rothstein said, noting the process of turning T-shirts into blankets isn’t all that different from sending rolls of film in prepaid mailers to be developed and waiting for pictures to return several weeks later.

When Project Repat first started up about a year and a half ago, the idea was to recycle shirts into tote bags and circle scarves, Rothstein said. So how did they find their way to North Carolina? Rothstein said he and Lohr had heard about Opportunity Threads, which is a worker-owned company, and wanted to send business their way.

They drove down boxes of shirts in March 2012, had about 200 tote bags made, and sold them at markets in the Northeast, he said. “But most people were asking if we could turn their own t-shirts into quilts.”

Now, the local company made roughly 600 blankets for Project Repat in December, Rothstein said, and they plan to continue to partner with them in 2014. “They’ve done amazing work, because the stakes have been so high. You can’t really mess this up. These T-shirts (store memories).”

While T-shirt blankets are “definitely not a new idea,” Rothstein said, Project Repat allows customers to choose the size of their blanket.

“What we figured out is a more affordable way to do it. … We’re trying to make it more accessible for all the people in the country who have memories associated with their T-shirts,” Rothstein said.

“It’s really an amazing study of what Americans care about. … We’ve (even) seen this as a powerful way to memorialize someone who’s passed away,” he said.

A sports-themed T-shirt blanket made by Project Repat. The company has a partnership with Opportunity Threads – a cut-and-sew company in Morganton. 
In 2013, Project Repat made more than 11,000 custom T-shirt blankets, Rothstein said.
“When someone buys from us, they’re recycling, not adding more waste to the textile stream, and adding fair-wage work,” Rothstein said. “They preserve memories, free up closet space, and bring their memories (into the) public.”

Project Repat’s blog is full of photos and the stories behind the personal creations the company makes. Whether it’s Greek life, high school sports, travel mementos or a completely random assortment, Rothstein said, they hear over and over that the blankets are “a talking point, like you’d show photos from a trip. They’re a great conversation piece.”

“There’s an endless supply of T-shirts. We believe we can grow the market and provide a lot more work in the U.S.”

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The one-minute smoky eye

Just in time for all those Christmas Eve photos, celebrity makeup artist Tina Turnbow demonstrates how one eyeliner can create a glam smoky eye in less than 60 seconds, courtesy of PureWow.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Stylish and stress-free Saturday

Happy Friday. Here are a couple things going on this weekend that will help make a soggy Saturday a bit more lively...

Appropriate timing

Aveda Institute Charlotte is holding a "Stress-Fix" event today and tomorrow which features a number of goodies that include complimentary Stress Fix rituals, complimentary holiday shampoo and style with any purchase, a free Stress-Fix gift with the purchase of any gift set and more.

If you've never tried their Stress-Fix products, they're quite nice. Heavy on the lavender but surprisingly effective. I won't pretend it cures all ails, but I do carry a roller bottle of the concentrate in my Mary Poppins handbag...

Aveda Institute Charlotte
1520 South Blvd. Ste. 150
(704) 333-9940

Holiday grooming

Gentleman, you've got the opportunity to get some grooming upgrades for free at the new Sport Clips location near the Arboretum.

Located at #1700 8206 Providence Road, this is the sixth location to open in the Charlotte area. Jason McManus, owner of the new store, is a Charlotte-area native that says he's planning to open still another local location in the next 12 months.

The new location opened Thursday and will provide free 20-minute “MVP upgrades” - which include a massaging shampoo, hot-steamed towel treatment and neck and shoulder massage - to all new clients who purchase a haircut service.

McManus said special lighting and massaging chairs in the shampoo area promote relaxation,and you can watch football/basketball/hockey/NASCAR throughout your entire visit. Bonus.

Details: haircutmenarboretumcharlottenc.com, 980-237-3322.

Also on Saturday afternoon, "Style Travels" fashion show:

A group of teen models from Acting Out Studios - a local talent development company - will host a fashion show to benefit Bright Blessings, the local organization that provides birthday and Christmas gifts to homeless children and families in Charlotte.

In lieu of an admission charge, attendees can bring a donation for the children of Bright Blessings.

Organizers hope the fashion show will become an annual tradition that will benefit other local charities and non-profits. Because, as their Facebook page states, "(We're) a group of models who've learned beauty isn't clothing or makeup, but the way we give ourselves to others."

Trends from L.A., London, NYC and Paris will be worn by 16 models starting at 2 p.m. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. at Acting Out Studios, 8154 Ardrey Kell Road, Charlotte. Additional details here.

Enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holiday giveaways

Less than two weeks till Christmas. What the what?

I had big plans of parceling out reader give-aways throughout the month to help everyone feel festive. But clearly, my time management skills are lacking and we'll have to improvise instead.

Basically, there's a drawer full of swag from a number of companies and it all needs a good home. (If you want to re-gift, I won't tell.) So read on for an unofficial and unexpected gift guide, brought to you courtesy of my random desk drawer.

For the feminine:

L'Occitane en Provence makes incredible hand cream. Years ago I found myself in NYC in January with chapped, cracked, miserably stiff claws where there should have been hands. I'd packed a tube of the "Shea Butter" hand cream that Santa brought, but I had yet to try. I nearly cried it was so lovely.

It's the only product of L'Occitane's that I've used, but I'll vouch it's worth every penny. 

So what does it mean for you? Free stuff that's probably amazing. 

There's a full size tin of "Rose Tenderness" ultra rich body cream, which is apparently "exceptionally concentrated" with 25 percent shea butter. It's my impression this is a limited edition fragrance, and while the product itself is sealed, when you open the tin you catch a waft of something dreamy.

Also for giving, we've got a squeezy-tube of the limited edition "Jasmin Passion" lip balm. I have no idea what it smells like or how well it works, but I suspect it's likely legit.

For the techie/minimalist:

Pursecase was seen on ABC's Shark Tank and is touted as being a "stylish and elegant" way of carrying an iPhone, cash and compact mirror without wrestling around inside the depths of our beloved "Mary Poppins" handbags.

Available for iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5, Pursecase comes in a variety of solid colors (including a neon yellow that glows in the dark), has a chain handle and front clasp that bear resemblance to an iconic line of quilted hand bags. 

These cases run about $30 on the official website and a coworker gave one a whirl for a few days. She felt her phone and cards were secure and said she would likely buy one for herself. ("Definitely, if I was still clubbing.") 

Pursecase has been mentioned in the Los Angeles Times, Glamour, Lucky and Real Simple, among others. 

For those who like to go hands-free, Pursecase also offers a cross-body chain strap addition for $8 that's currently sold out on the website.

Want one? We've got a hot pink iPhone 4 Pursecase for to give away.

For the nostalgic:

Personal reflection is essential for mental well-being and this delivers in a non-painful way. The 90's gave us so many treasures, and "The 1990s Coloring Book" is an entirely entertaining reminder of things forgotten not-so-long ago. 

Giga-pets. The song (and ensuing fashion statement) "Rico Suave." AOL.  The phrase "If the glove don't fit, you must acquit."

Solid gold.
Inside you'll find a quirky mix of pop culture, outdated technology and activities such as 'Design your own Trapper Keeper."

For $10, this could make you the most popular gift-giver of the year. It's available online in a number of places and physically at Barnes and Noble, Urban Outfitters and others.


For those with curly/natural hair, I've got multiple items for you.

Cantu has provided four, full-sized shea butter products from their new line. I wish I could say I've tried and loved these products, but my hair couldn't be straighter and these would be wasted on me.

But here's how Cantu describes what we've got to give away:

Shea butter coconut curling cream- heals dry, damaged hair while providing moisture and strength. Also defines, conditions and adds manageability to curls. Can be used on damp or dry hair. 

Shea butter daily oil moisturizer- helps prevent breakage, tangling and frizz; restores moisture to dry or damaged hair and scalp; provides silky texture with lasting shine.

Leave in conditioning repair cream- stops and mends breakage and is formulated for severely damaged, dry or coarse hair. Can be used for daily styling or overnight as an intensive leave-in treatment. It supposedly promotes strong, long and healthy hair when used daily.

Shea butter for natural hair deep treatment masque- moisturizes and repairs "extremely dry, damaged hair" that's brittle, and there are several ways to use this masque, depending on the level of damage already done.

See something you liked? 

Email me by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19 with "Giveaway" in the subject line and a note about what you'd like to have turn up in the mail. (Please include your phone number and mailing address.) We'll announce winners and start shipping on Friday.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

DIY meets holiday parties

*Correction: Today's column in the Observer Style section listed the incorrect date for the Carolina Place H&M opening. The updated (yet tentative) opening date is for mid-January, 2014.

An invitation to the Montolinno Christmas party arrived before Turkey Day, the first of a number of holiday gatherings to "look forward" to. And I started thinking...

In theory, these seasonal soirees are such a lovely idea: Get dressed up, spend time among friends - undoubtedly in a festively-decorated environment with music and dancing - have a few cocktails and delicious snacks, maybe exchange gifts, then call it a night. (And since this is a total fantasy, there would even be snow.)

To be fair, I've only been on the holiday party circuit about a decade, so maybe I just haven't been patient enough. But the above description has never actually been the way a holiday party has played out.

Oh no. True to my nature of making things more difficult than they need to be: What's the appropriate host/hostess gift? Do I need to bring a dish or drink? Is it fancy dress? Etc.

But hopefully my neurosis can help your holiday season, or at least the parties, be as painless and joyful as possible.

Clothing conundrum. You want something a bit out of the ordinary, but it can be time consuming and daunting to put together something fabulous, with the added guilt of self-spending when you’re supposed to be thinking of others.

PureWow is one of a slew of sites that offers several, trendy options that vary according to occasion (and age.) Their featured frocks are pretty well out of my acceptable party-clothes price range, but the slideshow is a fun source of inspiration. 

Want something new-to-you on the cheap?  Retailers such as Target and H&M routinely have festive finds for prices that are mostly affordable.

Or try one of the 22 area Goodwill locations or other local consignment shops, such as Buffalo Exchange or Boris + Natasha, to name only a few. 

If you were able to think ahead for Holidays 2013 and hit a Goodwill last January (and/or when people started switching over to their spring/summer clothes) the recently worn NYE outfits – and amazingly ugly holiday sweaters – are among the first items people part with.

Accessorize accordingly. Glitzy jewelry and tiny handbags. Yes, please. But again, the buyers' remorse that comes from spending on yourself during the holidays can suck all the fun from the experience. 

So when I saw the DIY tutorial for a pearl-embellished clutch on P.S. I made this... I was more than a little excited. 

The supplies are affordable (Jo-Ann and Michael's regularly have decent coupons) and you can refurb a bag from previous parties. Added bonus: the level of necessary skill is low enough to keep it fun, not frustrating, making it perfect to tackle while watching The Muppet Christmas Carol or Scrooged.

Go big. There are endless variations of hair and makeup options that seem to center around the same themes every year: Smoky or glittery eyes, bold statement lips, sparkly/funky nails and hair that's either an updo, super-sleek or extra voluminous.

Everyone from Real Simple to Cosmopolitan and All Women Stalk offer their own take on how to do it best. Spend 10 minutes on Pinterest's beauty boards and you'll likely find a look to try. It should go without saying, but don't over do it. It may be the season of excess, but stick to just one of these beauty elements, any more will likely be too much.

Cheers to the season. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Soap for Hope

Happy December.

Just because October and November are officially over doesn't mean you can't still care about the cause.

Method, the people against dirty, launched two limited edition soaps aimed at raising awareness (and some research funding) for breast and prostate cancers.

They sent us a sample of the botanical garden scent, which comes in a mustache-bedecked bottle and (despite the name) actually smells mildly masculine. In a good way.

There's also the mimosa sun scent.

Both 12-ounce bottles have a suggested retail price of $3.99 and will be available nationwide through March.

And apparently, these two "designed for good" products are only the most recent installment in Method's series meant to raise awareness of various issues. Previous releases have focused on the ethical treatment of animals - Method products are 100-percent vegan and cruelty-free - the importance of being non-toxic, as well as recycling.

While I've loved Method as a company for years, it's peeving that the brand frequently discontinues products you've already fallen in love with. (Le Scrub soft abrasive bathroom cleaner and the "cut grass" air fragrance capsules, I can't find comparable replacements.)

So if you like these limited-edition soaps, stock up now. At least in this case Method was upfront about the fact they won't be around forever.