Thursday, January 30, 2014

Party post-Super Bowl with former NFL players

Gentlemen, (and female football fans) you’re about to find yourselves in a win-win situation.

What if I told you that this Sunday doesn’t have to be the end of football season? Suppose instead there’s a post-Super Bowl party featuring drinks and discussion with former NFL players, who will break down the biggest plays from Sunday’s game?

Oh, and P.S., you’ll simultaneously be helping area women break the cycle of poverty.

You’re all in, right?

Next Wednesday, Dress for Success Charlotte and The Charlotte Former Player Foundation will host their first “Football Finale” event at Charlotte City Club. Cocktails start at 5:30 p.m. and the program will start at 6:30.

What exactly is Dress for Success Charlotte? It’s the local affiliate of an international nonprofit that helps disadvantaged women achieve financial independence – by providing professional attire, career development resources and more – all at no cost.

The Dress for Success Charlotte location is a former hardwood floor showroom that didn't survive the recession, Barr O'Connor said. The interior design was done pro bono and utilized donations such as the dressing room curtains.
Kerry Barr O’Connor, executive director with Dress for Success Charlotte, said at least a dozen players (maybe as many as 20) will attend Wednesday’s party and give first-hand perspective on the game, be available for autographs, one-on-one networking and more.

Through Friday, tickets to the party are $40. After that, the price goes to $50. Either way, all proceeds go toward helping local women be successful in the workforce.

“A lot of these (NFL alum) get it, they were raised by single moms,” Barr O’Connor said. “They’re teddy bears off the field who want to open a door for women in the community.”

I toured the Dress for Success Charlotte boutique off Clanton Road this week and was surprised and impressed with what I learned about the organization.

Bobbi Brown, founder and CEO of the internationally-known cosmetics brand, is a board member of Dress for Success. The Charlotte location features a Bobbi Brown counter, part of the no-cost "suiting" each client receives.

Through community donations, volunteer help and agency partnerships, Dress for Success provides women with little to no income at least two interview-appropriate outfits for free. Job training resources, professional and leadership development are also available at no cost.

“We say women leave here four inches taller than when they walked in, and it has nothing to do with the shoes we give them” Barr O’Connor said, adding the right outfit helps to build a woman’s confidence.

Yeah. Clothes can do that.

Dress for Success Charlotte is one of 130 affiliates worldwide and works with more than 40 referral partners locally. Every affiliate is different, Barr O'Connor said, but the client suiting program is the one thing they all have in common.

Once she’s landed the job, Barr O’Connor said, Dress for Success tries to make sure each client has up to five work-ready outfits when inventory allows.

Featuring six private dressing rooms, Dress for Success Charlotte helps to build client confidence at their boutique with interview-appropriate clothing. Last year, about 500 volunteers spent roughly 5,000 hours acting as personal style consultants, providing professional development, helping to process donations and more, Barr O'Connor said. "We passionately believe everybody has something to give, however they want to plug-in."

1) I think I found the solution on where to donate clothing in the future and

2) Dress for Success Charlotte has an incredible inventory: Suits, separates, dresses, bags, accessories, shoes, etc. in a huge range of sizes.

And it’s not like these items are visibly worn castoffs that are outdated.

Donations are taken by appointment only, Barr O’Connor said, and their inventory was impressive with its sizes, styles and brand representation.

While I was at the boutique, waiting in a plastic bin to be processed were a brand-new pair of Manolo Blahniks, still in the box. They were in good company with a pair of Salvatore Ferragamos, Tracy Reese and the like.

You’ll be happy to hear that three times a year Dress for Success Charlotte hosts an “inventory reduction” event and the next one is March 8.

During the first two days of the sale, clients get first dibs, as their need for professional clothing is greatest. “We try to do inventory reduction at the first part of the month so clients can extend their wardrobe,” Barr O’Connor said.

But the third and final day is open to the public and Barr O’Connor said there are “some fabulous deals.”

Entire outfits (shoes, slacks or skirt, shirt and jacket) for $20; shoes (such as the pair of Stuart Weitzmans that Bar O'Connor found), blazers, purses and slacks for $5; two scarves for $1 and more. All proceeds go back into the program.

Other services provided by Dress for Success Charlotte include job preparedness, such as having an email account set up, understanding social media and resume building, Barr O'Connor said. "Sometimes just getting them set up with an email (account) could be the difference between getting a job or not. Who's taking paper applications anymore," she said. "That one hour can change the direction of somebody's life."

By the numbers

In 2012, Dress for Success Charlotte:

  • had 950 women referred to the organization locally, and 842 used at least one of the career transformation services.
  • On average, clients are 46 or older, 80 percent of those clients are single heads of households, Barr O'Connor said, and 10 percent are grandparents who find themselves in a parenting role.
  • Of those who participate in the professional women's group - which offers free membership, financial literacy, leadership training and more - 75 percent of participants retain employment.

Friday, January 24, 2014

'But it's cold out'

Despite all the deceptive sunshine lately, it's not exactly pleasant outside. And it doesn't sound like we can expect a heat wave anytime soon.

I can hear the siren song of my electric blanket, but we learned earlier this week (through Washington Post infographics) exactly why sitting too long is truly bad for us.

So I've rounded up a couple options for the weekend that might help inspire you not to burrow in bed till Monday.

Craft time

Minus a quick trip to the craft store, you're going to be indoors all weekend anyway. Might as well have something (sparkly) to show for it come Monday.

P.S. I Made This to the rescue again with the DIY Swarovski statement ring.

Stick with it

For those who are still going strong with their New Year's resolutions, I applaud your efforts to begin with, and even more so for not letting the frigid temps derail you.

A reminder to stay on track, Daily Worth shares 12 ways to "Whittle your waistline, not your bank account." Some of the tips are more useful than others, but they make a valid point that you can find workout tools at home, no fancy or expensive "memberships" required.

Stir-crazy socialization

Want to get out and about for a bit?

doll. (a boutique) on Selwyn is hosting its "Beauty Bash: Botox, Beauty and Fashion" event Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.

Clear the racks sales, "light bites and wine." Tempting.

Added bonus: You can ask the Laura Mercier reps to help recreate the fresh-faced, minimalist look that Elle touts as a celebrity fave at Sundance.

Stay warm and happy weekend.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Time to consign?

So I've been cleaning out some closets.

To be fair, I'm pretty good about weeding my clothing. (We live in an apartment and the closets aren't the biggest, so I rotate clothing in and out of our storage unit by season.)

When it gets unpacked and when the season is over, I take a look at what I haven't worn, what I don't really even like anymore, if anything got ruined/doesn't fit.

Obviously that doesn't mean I don't have sentimental things I've held on to for no logical reason (That would be you, drawer full of old T-shirt) but I make a conscious attempt not to hoard.

I keep a bag next to the closet at all time for things that can go and live elsewhere. When it's full, I put it next to the front door so I get a daily reminder to get it out of our living space.

Sometimes the bag rolls around the back seat of my Subaru for a few weeks. But since we moved to  Charlotte, I've (eventually) dropped everything off at my neighborhood Goodwill.

(It's between Target and my branch of the library, so it's a relatively easy and convenient way to get things out of my hair.)

But lately I've come across some things that I don't want/need, but wonder if I might be able to recoup some of the purchase price.

I'm not talking about the one-season trend tops that were bought inexpensively and have outlived the "cost-per-use" purchase justification formula.

(While in law school, a friend who lives to shop had to get a grip. So she started using this formula as a buying guide. 'Would I be willing to pay $1/$10/whatever amount each time I want to wear this? If so, will I wear it enough times that it'd pay for itself?' Classics such as boots and suits yes, trends such as neon statement earrings or patterned designer skinny jeans, no.)

Because I've not always had this method, the closet still has some handbags I'm not wild about and barely-worn shoes I can live without.

When we were living with Nashville, I had a network of friends roughly the same height/size that I'd swap stuff with. (Miss you, Bess and Alaska.) Same thing in Knoxville during college.

So now what?

Clothing swaps were really popular a few years ago, did they have any staying power? You'd pay a small fee, bring all the stuff you didn't want and could leave with what you liked from what others brought.

A quick Google search for CLT wasn't terribly successful, though there was at least one group on the social forum Meet Up that had upcoming swaps and "consignment shop hops" on its 2014 calendar.

But what about those who don’t feel like swapping? I’m told there’s always consignment.

The one and only time I’ve gone that route was in college when a roommate talked me into it. Once there, “buyers” have you browse their inventory while evaluating what you’ve brought in.

I suspect this was deliberate, but by the time they called me to the counter, I’d found a number of things I couldn't part with. The visit ended with me spending all the store credit I’d just accrued and then some. (Was not impressed with myself or this process.)

But Charlotte has a seeming plethora of consignment shops. Some accept housewares, others only designer label clothing. Everything I’ve got seems to fall somewhere in between.

So perhaps consignment merits another try? This weekend might be a good time …Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Cold weather doesn't have to mean 'hat hair'

Just in case you haven't heard it a million times already today ... Apparently it's going to get cold this afternoon. (As in, snow cold. Dare I even hope?)

And it will likely stay cold through Saturday.

Among the many things I learned growing up in southwestern Colorado: Hats are crucial for staying warm.

One of my most favorite winter hats is a dark grey knit, with ear flaps and a white moose pattern stitched in. (The moose glow in the dark. Amazing, I know.)

In my mind, there is no such thing as a bad hat.

Titans vs. Jaguars @ LP Field, Nashville, Tenn. 2010
But, the oft-ensuing hat hair isn't something women are wild about.

Thankfully, Refinery29 shares six hairstyles (and the steps to get them) that both invite and survive winter hats.

After the great chop I won't be able to pull any of these styles off, but I hope you'll embrace the opportunity to bundle up.

And as always, send me your pics!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 = realistic resolve

While I don’t believe in making New Year’s resolutions, that’s not to say there aren’t plenty of areas with room for improvement.

I learned in my early 20’s that resolutions almost beg to be broken. I’d set idiotic or unrealistic objectives – “This year I'm going to quit smoking, cold turkey, in three days. And no more Diet Coke for breakfast. That will help lose the 15 pounds I've been loathing.” – with no advance planning or thought to how to achieve said goals.

No wonder I failed at the time.

BuzzFeed is chock-full of testimony and lists of the many things we don't know in our 20s, and (gasp!) I'm finding a lot of them to be both humorous and true.

What I didn’t know then is that sometimes it takes more than a year to get where you want to end up. Habits are hard to break.

It took me the better part of a decade to finally quit smoking. It was only after years of unlimited access to Diet Coke while bar-tending in college that I learned (through saturation) I prefer water to soda.

Those 15 pounds have come and gone several times. I’ve accepted I’ll never be able to swear off pizza and to just be thankful that I’ve got enough to eat. First-world problems, right?

So what’s on the to-do list this year? Plenty. But they’re mainly general guidelines rather than specific goals with hard deadlines.

Make sense of the chaos: The lease at our infuriating apartment complex is finally up in May, and during our countdown to liberation I plan to weed out items to be donated or trashed. My hope is we won’t end up packing/moving/unpacking and finding a place for junk we don’t want or need. (Again.)

There’s a household/organizational purge on Pinterest that suggests getting rid of – either via trash, recycle or donation – 10 items every day for 30 days. Challenge accepted. Anyone have a favorite consignment shop to recommend?

Be gentle: After years of struggling with insomnia, I’d like to start getting more sleep.

Perhaps I’ll literally schedule time during the week (outside of yoga Tuesdays) for some physical activity. Not to lose weight, but because it makes me happy.

I might also try to offset the pizza-consumption by cooking at home more often and adding more produce and unprocessed food.

And that stack of books I’ve been collecting with every intention of tackling might become part of a regular routine.

Be realistic: For better or worse, my 20’s are behind me. Along the lines of lessons learned, I think I’m ready to break up with my MasterCard. We’ve probably had far too much fun together over the years and it might be time to truly make it “in case of emergencies.” (No. 17.)

Get involved: I love talking to senior adults. And helping animals. Literacy (at any age), homelessness, the environment, mental health and poverty are just a few areas I care very deeply about.

So instead of binge-watching a season of something on Netflix during the weekend, I am committing to volunteering with an area organization at least once a month. Because if I’m able to do more than just cut a couple checks, my hair and donate blood, why not?

It looks as if I’ll have plenty to keep me busy and out of trouble in 2014 (and beyond.) We’ll see how much of it actually sticks and gets accomplished.

Need some resources for encouragement and sticking to your resolutions?

The Fitnessista blogger Gina Harney shares five tips with Stitch Fix to make taking care of yourself a little easier.

Whole Foods has a wealth of information when it comes to healthy eating. They offer expert advice on how to make a sustainable transition to healthier eating habits. (See entries on affordable, batch cooking.)
Regardless of where you shop, their site has a ton of recipes.

More inspiration?

Yoga instructor Nancy Nicholson shared this with our class on Tuesday.

Help Me Believe In Beginnings from the book "Guerillas of Grace" (adapted by NN)

"I’ve known death and birth;

I’ve been brave and scared;

I’ve hurt, I’ve helped;

I’ve been honest, I’ve lied;

I’ve destroyed, I’ve created;

I’ve been with people, I’ve been lonely.

I’ve been loyal, I’ve betrayed.

I’ve decided, I’ve waffled.

I’ve laughed, and I’ve cried.

Help me to make beginnings:

To begin going out of my weary mind into fresh dreams,

daring to make my own bold tracks in the land of now;

to begin questioning the unquestionable that I may know truth;

to begin disciplining that I may create beauty;

to begin sacrificing that I may accomplish justice;

to begin risking that I may make peace;

to begin loving that I may realize joy.

Help me to believe in beginnings, to make a beginning, to be a beginning

so that I may not just grow old, but grow new

each day of this amazing life."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bumble and bumble + free brow waxing

Woo Skincare and Cosmetics on Selwyn is hosting a Bumble and bumble event tomorrow from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to introduce the brand's new prêt-à-powder.

Dry shampoo powders have been touted as being better than spray formulas (less drying) and this new release claims to also extend your hair's style and re-vamp volume.

A rep will be in the store and can talk customers through how to use it themselves, or demonstrate/style for them. (No purchase required.)

Woo is also offering a free brow wax with any facial booked between Jan. 21 and 31.

Want some more brow advice? Real Simple shares nine "smart" beauty tips for the new year.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Despite the loss, Panthers fans have winning style

Well, that didn't go quite the way we had hoped. But there's still a lot to be proud of.

Despite the disappointing playoff loss to San Francisco on Sunday, we still love our Panthers.

Thanks to all the fans who submitted photos of their tailgate/game day style for our online slideshow. Between the start of the season and #Black Friday, it looks we had a pretty good time.

Here's to next season...

For more photos, click here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fan-tastic playoff style

Charlotte residents, Panthers fans and the broken-hearts seeking vindication for Green Bay know Sunday needs no more hype; we’re excited enough on our own.

Steve Smith being well enough to play, Ric Flair acting a fool and the busy social schedule leading up to the game (FAN Friday, three-day pep rally at Epicentre, the Observer tailgate) I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone feeling less than festive.

Fan fashion will undoubtedly reach new levels this week, so whether it's a jersey or jewelry, eyeliner or full-blown body paint, I want to see what you wear to support the Panthers.

Gentlemen, this includes you.

Got pics of your favorite look from a previous Panthers tailgate? Photos of someone in your office embodying team spirit on FAN Friday? Whatever suits your style for tackling San Fran on game day, send me pictures  and I'll post them online before kickoff.

Michelle Wright lives more than two hours outside Charlotte, but a self-professed "monster" fan, she helped simplify the Panthers to-do list in a letter of encouragement she sent the team earlier this week:

"NFC South Champs? Done.. To do: Beat the 49ers."
Living so close to Raleigh, Wright said there are times when she's been the only person at the sports bar in Panther's gear. She owns a range of team paraphernalia, from snuggies and santa hats, to flasks and jewelry. Come Sunday, she'll be wearing her #89 Steve Smith jersey with black-and-teal sneakers.

But if sports gear isn't your thing...

I usually wouldn't encourage anyone to get lost in the black hole that is Polyvore. (It's a seemingly-innocent time suck that nearly rivals Pinterest, and you later realize you've been down the rabbit hole for hours.)

But in less than 10 minutes, I found a few examples of how easy it can be (for any age and apparently, weather scenario) to get your style right for Sunday.

Keep in mind: If you're headed to the stadium, you won't be able to bring the majority of the handbags after the security measures implemented this season. (Safety before style though, non?)

Switch out those snowflakes for the visage of Sir Purr and we're in business.

Or, keep it simple and follow one of the team's fave hashtags:

Need some beauty ideas?

Urban Decay has a Panther-ific eyeliner called Deep End, available locally at Sephora, among other retailers.

I was not previously familiar with the blog Makeup by Candie, but she gives a (moderately entertaining) YouTube tutorial on achieving "Carolina Panther" eyes, using mainly MAC cosmetics.

If you don't need much guidance on product selection or application technique, Charlotte-based makeup artist Lisa Her has a fast-paced video on Carolina-inspired "Catty Eyes."

For a Fan-tastic mani/pedi, it made sense to consult a CLT-centered source for the best colors in the Carolinas. Pistol Polish founder and creator L.T. Niosi Brady made a few playoff picks from her color lineup, available locally at The Boulevard at South End, or online at Pistol Polish.
"Run the World"

"'Big Bang' is perfect for Panther nail art "
"Pay Day"

Also in the Queen City, Alli - with The Daily Varnish - shows off a Pantherific "Fanicure" using Covergirl colors.

But no matter what you decide to wear on Sunday, have fun, be safe and go Panthers.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Newly shorn for 2014

Is there a draft in here?

For the first time in more than half a decade, the back of my neck is cold. But, I guess that's to be expected when you part ways with about 18 inches of hair.

This past Saturday I took a trip to Bang Bang Salon, met the highly-recommended stylist DJ Makowski and couldn’t be more pleased with the experience and results.

Localized anesthetic
I showed him my Pinterest board, he asked a few questions about layers, bangs and length, then away we went. It was an easy, chummy hour that we spent together, chatting about football, New Year's resolutions, families, etc.

Quick and painless
"It's like a nearly 19-inch tail..."

 Originally from Buffalo, DJ has been cutting hair practically half his life. He's had Bumble and Bumble razor cutting training, so I had no apprehension when the straight razor came out instead of shears. (And the fact that he himself has great hair also inspires confidence.)

The end result? A ton of body and movement, while still being very sleek. After the mono-length mass I've had for years, the short style feels super light and healthy. DJ understood when I told him I’m not particularly gifted when it comes to styling, so outside of some relatively basic blow-drying, this style doesn’t need much. Added bonus: Even after sleeping on it, it just needs a bit more spray wax and we’re back in business. 

Before we got started, I forgot to mention the part about wanting to be able to pull my hair up, but I'm actually kind of glad. I may not have ended up with something so fun and different if I’d made those kinds of stipulations.

I can pull the top potion into a super-high, tiny ponytail, channeling Pebbles from The Flintstones. But the hair at the nape of my neck is maybe two inches long, tops, and I affectionately call these ‘twee tresses my pin feathers.

So, what did we learn from this little adventure?

1) Washing your hair every third day isn’t disgusting, but actually quite prudent, as it prevents over-drying. "Would you wash your favorite pair of jeans every day?" was the comparison DJ made. His recommendation to clients is at least go every other day, if not longer, between washes.

2) Leave-in conditioner is your friend, it helps prevent breakage and damage. Aveda's “Brilliant: Damage Control” leave-in spray smells like heaven, protects against UV and thermal damage and was so impressive I give bottles of it as gifts. A little goes a long way so the standard 8.5 ounce bottle actually lasts quite awhile.

3) The donation choice has been a tough one. 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. I listed more in-depth findings here.

There’s a history of breast cancer in my family, so Pantene’s program seemed like a natural choice. At the same time, life is hard enough whether you’re a kid or an adult, but trying to be a kid while facing an illness that causes you to lose your hair? Wigs for Kids will have my postmarked donation as soon as the 18-inch ponytail is fully dry.

Pantene requires a donation of at least eight inches, Wigs for Kids needs 12. I’ll undoubtedly grow to donate again, but who knows if I’ll ever have the patience or ability to grow 12-plus inches again? It will be Pantene’s turn next time.

I must have been really ready: I was a bit surprised by the lack of nerves Saturday and have yet to feel any regret. A coworker asked me which I feel is the more natural, best version of myself: long or short?

At this point, it’s too soon too tell, but I’m very much enjoying the change.

Here’s to a new year.

Thanks friend! See you in eight weeks.