My Christmas Wishlist – or – Why I’m going apeshit over the holidays this year

I haven’t properly celebrated the holidays since 2009. Initially, my family stopped doing gifts for reasons financial, philosophical, and – later – emotional. And we never got back to it in full swing. But this baby girl (yes, I’m referring to myself in third person) has a steady income and a need to shower my loved ones in PRESENTS!!! To fully understand my obsession, you must first understand the backstory(s). I’ll concede.

2009: Christmas as usual. I got my travel backpack and my mother’s commitment that she’d go to Europe with me in May. Basically, I got the world for Christmas. Big potatoes.

2010: The family had a rough year, emotionally. In lieu of presents (though we still did stockings), we started volunteering our Christmas morning, serving those less fortunate than we. Also, I saw little kids hug my dad like he was their personal angel. An amazing sight, friends.

2011: The year that rocked our lives. Several people died and Christmas would have been miserable. We volunteered again, and celebrated the coming new year (and new start) like it was the new Y2K.

2012: We were in Europe (I know, I know, woe is we) and didn’t do gifts or stockings. We did share some trinket-y little gifts, soak up the joy of each others company, and revel in the beauty of Paris. I should omit this one from my sob story.

2013: I moved Christmas Eve. For the bajillionth time. Christmas day, I got Chinese food. (Kind of evens out 2013, huh).

So now this year!! Not only am I going home, not only do I get to drown my favorite people with love, but I’m bringing home the boy, too! AB gets to meet my puppies, see my childhood home, sit in my glorious jacuzzi… It’ll be epic.

Now, as for the below…Ideally I’d show you everything I’ve found for my lovelies – the good, the bad, and the illegal. But I like surprises, so instead I’m posting my wish list. And I suppose this also serves as a little teaser for my yet-a-work-in-progress 2015 bucket list, because I plan to buy myself most of these little tchotchkes.

So excited for the holidays!

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 9.20.49 PMWORK GOODIES: gold foil print, Kate Spade gold folders, space heater | WARM GOODIES: J. Crew duck boot, brown sweater boot, knee high socks, hat, black nylon boots | WORKOUT GOODIES: gym shoes, GAIAM gym bag, amiigo fitness tracker

Things I’m Loving: Color, Sparkle, and Paper Goods

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 9.21.51 AMRecently, I’ve been lamenting the lack of color in my life. So I’ve been working to brighten my days in small ways. Below are some recent finds I’ve been loving. Clockwise from lop left:

Whitney English hosted my favorite Alt for Everyone session and makes this outstanding planner that incorporates three daily goals, an hourly breakdown, and plenty of room for lists. So obviously I’m craving one more than a slice of red velvet cake. Check them out on etsy, and preorder her August – July version. It comes in gold stripes too! Glitter? Count me in.

A recent copy of WOOF Magazine featured a fellow Northeastern student who founded Heads Up 4 Charity. The company started with bracelets made from pennies (hence, Heads Up), and now sells jewelry and clothing. A portion of the proceeds go to various charities.

Oh, Klean Kanteen. Forgive me for getting all worked up about a water bottle, but it’s amazing. I love their vacuum-insulated bottles. My mom’s kept ice intact when we left it in her 120+ degree car. And It keeps hot things hot, too, as I learned chugging coffee on the way to my 4:00 a.m. broadcast internship. It’s BPA-free, sustainable, and—with all the bright colors—all-around awesome.

I bought myself these stellar Jack Rogers as a graduation gift to myself. I’m still working them in, but they go with everything, and have just the right amount of sparkle.

I’ve been going on several interviews lately, and have thus been burning through stationary like crazy. I love Kate Spade’s stationary cards for sending a little love to the important people in my life. After all, it is on my bucket list (#38!) to send more thank you cards, this year!

I just finished reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette with my mom. It was interesting but I’m not entirely convinced it lived up to the hype. Nonetheless, I was giggling a couple of times—It’s hard not to love a schitzo. Next on the list? The Signature of All Things, Liz Gilbert’s most recent novel. Turns out she’ll be doing a reading in two weeks in the tri-state area. So I might finally meet the woman who first made me want to be a writer. How’s that for boosting creativity!

 

 

Alt for Everyone Recap -and- Giveaway!

MSWgiveawayForgive the hiatus… I’ve been a very busy bee. For the last several days, on top of tons of interviews and work, I’ve been participating in Alt Summit’s all-online Alt for Everyone conference. It’s a little nerdy and a whole lot of fun—the perfect solution to help beat my limp celery blueeeess *cue jazz music.*

As a participant in the conference, I get to attend seven classes, one keynote, and one meet-n-greet type session. I won’t get too into the nitty gritty details, but to summarize, I listened in on:

Branding with the amazing Rachel Shingleton of Pencil Shavings Studio. Rachel was so wonderful and this was such a great class to start with—she built out several prompts to better identify what my blog / brand is and what my brand is not. Not quite as easy as it sounds, but hopefully my new brand can help drive the success of Musings she Wrote!

Break into Video with the bubbly Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show. Alison literally named her show after herself. But she’s the main attraction; she’s super engaging and upbeat and was great about expressing the importance of just getting out there. Down the road, I hope to build more video content into the blog, but I’m still working out the kinks so bear with me.

The ABCs of SEO hosted by the king of “geek chic,” Duane Forrester of Bing. Duane was an incredible resource, chock full of various techniques and widgets and all kinds of nerdy analytics. Not only will his course help me grow my blog, but it’ll also help me build my family’s business and help me professionally.

Working with Brands, sponsored by Collectively, Inc. Working with brands—big and small—is how bloggers make money nowadays. And as a PR professional, I was interested in both sides of the equation. As a blogger, I think collaborations are a great way to share the things I love with my readers, so I’m working on it!

Making Money in a Changing Media Landscape with Meg Keene of A Practical Wedding. This class was really interesting, in that it taught me that more and more, bloggers have to get creative about leveraging their brand for the moneysss. It was also an exercise in humility. I, unsurprisingly, am small potatoes in the blogosphere.

Overcome Overwhelm with Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society and Whitney English. This class was amazing (and I tweeted up a storm while watching it). Hilary and Whitney were just *so good* together, building off one another’s ideas and promoting general debauchery. This class was by far my favorite—blogging meets goal-setting meets talking nerdy about organization. How could a type-A creative like me say no?

How to Win Your Dream Sponsor with Erin Loechner of Design for Mankind. Erin covered her own pitching techniques and how others can adapt and personalize their approaches. Great insight!

I came away from the conference with a newfound passion for creativity, and so many ideas and tips and I a little bit feel that my head might explode—so bear with me if I start getting my blog on. I can’t help it!

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As part of the conference, Alt sent “goodie bags” full of treats—things like cards, gift tags, reusable gift wrap, more gift tags… there seemed to be a theme. Giving.

And because I thought Alt was amazing, I thought I’d share a little bit of that experience with my wonderful readers by sharing some of the loot, specifically a three pack of lip gloss in scrumptious springy colors. I know it’s not anything extravagant, but it’s still a fun surprise! And I’m now reaching out to some of my favorite brands to be able to do things like this more often.

InsideandOutThe Inside and Out lip colors come in three colors and are 100% certified organic. Further, the company donates 10 percent of all revenues to charities that support women. Amazing, right :)

There are several ways to enter:

—> Tweet about me with a link to mariandaniells.com.
—> Leave an engaging comment on any of my posts.
—> Start following me on Twitter, Bloglovin, or subscribe via the “follow” tab at the bottom right of the screen.

You can enter as many times as you want between now and May 20th. At that point, I’ll work to calculate all the submissions and pick one at random! Best of luck and thanks for sharing in my Alt for Everyone experience.

Isn’t Life Colorful

It was on my 2013 Bucket List—and later “shuffled” to my 2014 list—to buy myself a graduation present. Which I would totally do if I made more than the less-than-minimum-wage I’m currently bringing in. The only things I really want right now are (1) a job—which I’m working on, (2) an apartment—which I can’t manage until the job thing is set and I find an emotionally and financially stable roommate, (3) a comfy reading chair and ottoman—which I can’t manage until the apartment thing is set, and (4) a puppy—which I can’t manage for a long, long while. Pouty face.

So… to tide myself over, I’ve come up with some quasi graduation gifts, a few fun who’s-its and what’s-its galore to brighten my day and my outlook. Some practical. Some wonderfully impractical. C’est la vie.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 9.12.42 PM{ Pants, Lands End | Glasses, Warby Parker | Book, Amazon | Necklace, J Crew | Countertop Mixer, KitchenAid | Sandals, Jack Rogers }

Making My Pod Pretty

photo (4)I like glitter. And pretty things.

This is how I tried to explain to a coworker in my “pod” why I spent my free time sticking stickers to tacks to decorate my desk. There was some judgement. Well, judge away. I find that when things are pretty (and organized and clean), I am my most productive and creative. So I take the time to surround myself with pretty things.

I’ll be brief, but I thought I’d share my desk decor.

Clockwise, from top left: (1) This little quote is a new favorite and inspires me to not only be the best that I can, but to show improvement—and ultimately get hired for realsies; (2) the DIY shiny thumbtacks referenced earlier, materials from Target; (3) my favorite picture of my family, from a trip to Baja, Mexico in seventh grade; frame from Marshall’s; (4) a soon-to-be-purchased, bright mouse pad, $12 on Etsy; (5) a leather weekly planner from Barnes & Noble; and a tea cup pencil holder, $3 at Marshall’s.

Pretty, but not too over-the-top. Just enough to make my desk feel like home. That’s a good thing, right? Comment with ideas for additional ways to personalize and decorate!

Perfect 10 Workwear and Shopping Tips

photo (3)I start tomorrow. Thirty-three hours to be exact. I’m temporarily camping out at AB’s, until I move into my month-to-month furnished apartment in Stuytown. The whole moving out process was a little overwhelming—For a while there, I thought I was going to have to knock on neighbors’ doors to find someone to help me move my dresser downstairs. Note to self: Never try to move the week of Christmas; there are so few people around to help! But I managed okay and here I am, galavanting around the city, visiting secret speakeasies and brunch hotspots. Side note: The fried oyster, egg, and bacon sandwich at Penrose is amazing, decadent, delicious. Ask for gruyere cheese.

Foodie/Drinkie talk aside, the real world is here. As a graduation present, AB’s mom got me a generous gift card to Ann Taylor, and I went to work searching for Perfect 10 pieces that are appropriate for the workplace, but still reflect my style (I have a downright love for knit and leggings. Not exactly professional, but I try to integrate comfort and class). In the best twist of fashion fate ever, LOFT happened to be having a 50% off everything sale. So… I made off like a bandit.

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1. Marisa Straight Leg Pants in LOFT Bi-Stretch — 2. Lurex Jacquard Long Sleeve Sweater — 3. Short Blue Stone and Enamel Necklace — 4. Shirred Button Down Blouse — 5. Diamond Jacquard Straight Skirt

Also, a special shout out to these amazingly comfortable flats from Payless, which I also picked up (because everyone needs black flats) and spent the last 24 hours falling in love with.

In the process of moving out, I was able to do even more filtering of my wardrobe and “stuff,” donating a total of five trash bags of goodies to various charities, and throwing away more than two trash bags’ worth. After so much cleansing, I’m a hesitant shopper. I believe in the one-in-one-out rule, so things must be perfect. Here are some helpful hints and shopping tips I learned in Perfect 10 shopping.

Use Retail Me Not. This seems obvious to me, but in case there’s anyone out there that doesn’t know what it is… learn. Similarly, ask store associates (not managers)  if there are any special discounts. When I worked in retail, I was happy to inform people about “secret” family and friends discounts. And student discounts are the best. Doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

Know your style. I’ve alluded to this a little bit, but let me explain: Just because I work in an office doesn’t mean I’ll need to wear suits everyday. I would hate it. There are many components to one’s “style.”

Lifestyle. Don’t buy sweats if you work in an office. Don’t buy suits if you work at a gym. The proportion of your wardrobe should be roughly equal to how you spend your week. i.e. If you work 60% of the week, and lounge 10%, then have 60% of your wardrobe work-appropriate and 10% leggings and sweats. This isn’t rocket science, but it does mean that there is a little adjusting necessary during a lifestyle change (say, from student to employee).

Personal style. Even if you work in a conservative office, if you’re not the suit “type,” there are alternatives. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. I know I’m not likely to spend the time ironing my shirts, so I buy the silkier types that need less TLC. Similarly, don’t buy something for one occasion (like a party or holiday); chances are, you’ll never wear it again. And don’t buy something just because it’s “in.” I’ll never wear harem pants, because they aint me. And polo shirts? Lol, no, thanks.

Body style. This point has two parts: your body shape, and your coloring. Knowing both is of dire importance. For example, with my build (read: butt), I know I need to buy bottoms that fit at my natural waist, rather than my hips in order to avoid—ahem—crack. As for coloring, I have very fair skin, with “cool” tones, and dark brown hair—classic winter coloring. So I know that I look best in dark jewel tones, tans, greys, and blacks. If I were to wear, say… yellow, I’d look downright sickly. If you don’t know your coloring, this site has a pretty comprehensive overview (To be more specific, with my green eyes, I’m a clear winter. See the similarities with the colors above?).

Plan your shopping. Much of the Perfect 10 wardrobe relies on planning in order to avoid impulsive, un-researched purchases. In order to perfect the art of Perfect 10 buying, take your time. Write a list of the things you really need, and keep to it. Do some research by reading blogs or online customer reviews. Most importantly, try things on and be honest about whether or not they fit. And lastly, be patient. It can be difficult to walk out of a store without buying something, especially when you need it. But quality costs time, money, and patience.

Return, refund, exchange. I do a lot of my shopping online, which has it’s advantages (online customer reviews, convenience) and disadvantages (paying for shipping, things don’t fit). Many stores will accept online returns. When I accidentally got the wrong size and width in the Payless flats, I called ahead, walked into the closest store, and walked out with the perfect pair. Similarly, I recently saved $100 by “returning” and repurchasing a suit during a sale. Sneaky? Eh, I call it thrifty.

Happy shopping Ten-ers! And special thanks again to AB’s mom and her generosity. I can’t wait to style it up at work—eek!

The Mary Poppins Essentials

Beauty Essentials On TravelingYou know what I was thinking about last night? Mary Poppins (because I’m weird like that). I was thinking about her magical purse—side note: Hermione totally stole her purse from Poppins. Just saying—and how awesome it would be to fit everything in there. Since I moved further away from campus, I’ve turned into something of a bag lady. I carry around my Longchamp with the necessities (laptop, notebook, planner, kindle, water bottle, wallet), and then there are the slew of classy plastic grocery bags with my lunch, snacks, laptop charger, gym clothes, running shoes, interview clothes, whatever. Bag lady.

Anyway, while I was dwelling on the inexplicable awesomeness of a true carry-all bag, I was also painting my nails. During my work study. Because I’m that girl. And I’m not trying to brag but my top coat is the shiz. All my girlfriends borrow it and it makes my $2 bottle of off-brand nail polish look like a professional gel manicure. Just saying.

Bag. Top coat. In true Marian, scatter-brained, brain-barf fashion, I started crafting a list of what I consider my favorite essentials. It’s on this year’s bucket list to host a “favorite things” party. The rules are thus: buy enough of your favorite product (with some price limit) for all attendees. Say a little something about it, and hand it out. Thus, at the end of the party, everyone goes home with their own little goody bag of products their friends love and recommend. And also a belly full of wine and snacks.

Now, after the longest introduction ever, here are some top contenders for what I would pass out at the party.

Essie “good to go”:  I also really love Seche Vite, but both top coats are super glossy and dry fast. I’m not afraid to lay ’em on thick, because I figure a good top coat is like a suit of armor for my nails. A week later, they still look amazing and interview-ready. A decent top coat is a little more expensive, but not as expensive as the numerous manicures you won’t have to pay for now that you’re a pro. Just saying.

Pantyhose: I’m not loyal to any particular brand, but I still can’t for the life of me understand why women of my generation don’t wear hose. I get that legs are sexy, but, like… keep the sexy bare legs for summer picnics and nights out. Not work. At work, I want to look uniform and good, but not sexy. On a tangential side note, here’s why women in my generation should beg to wear hose: those control tops are like a skinny-making machine, plus if you tuck your shirt into the hose, it keeps it tucked into your skirt. Genius! Plus, it means avoiding uncomfortable leg-on-leg sweating/sticking. Get it together and buy a pair of $2 hose. Or come to my party and I will.

Ban’s “sweet simplicity”:  Okay, so I know deodorant (or what I call “Deo for the B-O”) isn’t all that sexy, but it is essential, so hear me out. I’ve been using this brand of deodorant since 7th grade. Back in the day, my hormones were evil and I was one of those awkward kids that wore a sweatshirt every day to hide my pitting. See? Not sexy. But inspired by my awkward, um, problem, I did some research and learned what chemical in deodorant is actually the antiperspirant. Aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly (say that five times fast). And Ban has the maximum amount allowed for OTC deos. Also it smells like a tropical paradise. Which is way better than body odor. So there. **Side note: Ban is TWO DOLLARS on Amazon?!?! Never buying in-store again.**

NYC liquid eyeliner:  While I’m really particular about some things—like deodorant and gum, for example—I’m not a big loyalist when it comes to beauty products. I’m a Birchbox user, and like to try a little bit of everything, switch up my look, whatever. But one thing that remains consistent is my use of liquid eyeliner, the unsung champion of the beauty world. Liquid eyeliner is, well, amazing, and when applied correctly gives a look more “pop” than neon pink lipstick. For real. And it doesn’t need to be expensive, either. NYC’s version has a super skinny brush for a precise line. For cheap (it’s actually cheaper at CVS).

Nivea Sun-Kissed Radiant Skin:  So apparently CVS hates me because they stopped selling this, and it is, without a doubt, the best lotion out there—and that’s not even taking into account the tanning aspect. As a native Californian, I treasure a “healthy-looking” (whatever that means) tan, but I can no longer justify tanning beds. This is cheaper and easier. And—wait for it—smells amazing. Tanning lotion that smells good. I’m not kidding. It even has a teensy bit of sheen to it. I stretch a bottle (and avoid any potential streaks) by mixing it with my other favorite lotion. **Side note: ALWAYS buy the fairest version of a lotion. The others pack on more orange, which is gross.**

Party invitation to come.

Workout wear for every price point

I used to wear a freebie T and $4 Soffee shorts to work out, but that’s back when I was playing high school field hockey and a workout meant taking a bath in mud and intentionally running in the way of a rock-hard ball and a stranger wielding a stick (shoutout to any fellow flyers!).

Nowadays, the same competitive spirit is there, but I place a little more importance on my aesthetic appearance when I’m working out. I love bright colors, cute clothes, and funky tan lines–because when you have cute workout gear, you’re more inclined to put it to use. At least that’s my justification for shelling out the big bucks for some sexy spandex. Workout gear is expensive, I know. And surprisingly limited to the few big brands. Which is why I’ve compiled a list of gym getups at every price point. Now get out there and start moving and lifting–you can thank me later.

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 4.25.36 PM$  It’s not rocket science that coming in at the low end of the price scale is Forever 21. Low cost, but high style, and the quality of their workout clothes is consistent and good. Their bottoms tend to hit at the natural waist, which is flattering for all figures, and the seasonal lines switch over quickly (so snatch things up before they’re gone!). They don’t have shoes or any sort of real specialty clothing, but for the everyday gym-going (or–heck–just plain comfort-seeking) stylista, it’s a safe and solid bet. Price range: $12-30

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 4.27.31 PM $$  I’m obsessed with this new site called Ellie. It’s like Birchbox for workout clothes. Think I’m kidding? Check it out. You’ll be prompted to take an online quiz that inquires about your clothing style, comfort style, workout style and location, preference for shorts v. pants, color v. solid, etc. Then, the site generates a selection catered solely to your needs. Of course, you can always just shop the entire selection. But the real perks? Become a member and for about $50, you can get two articles of clothing. A month. Plus, sign up now and you and a BFF get $20 off your first order. Styles sell out quickly, so check it out early in the month. Gotta say, though–I love everything about it. Price range: $25-50

LW1995S_9939_1$$$  I’ve mentioned before, but I am a huge fan of color. Something about neon workout gear is such an upper, and I find myself especially motivated to dirty up colorful new clothes. Nike has a great selection, though not comfortably in my price range, as does adidas and Brooks and other big name brands. But the most popular among my fellow fitness femmes? Lululemon. By a long shot. With clothing catered to yoga and running, there’s a little something for everyone’s taste. Just not everyone’s budget. Price range: $40-100

Socially Conscious Shopping: Style on the inside

To fulfill the business elective requirement for my business minor, I’m currently taking a social entrepreneurship class, analyzing various socially conscious charitable and hybrid businesses on their business models, their missions, their sustainability. Today, we talked fashion.

Who here loves TOMS shoes? I mean nothing’s cooler than buying a hippie-chic pair of shoes and knowing that you’re helping someone in need in the process, right? Only, as we discussed in class—TOMS is a terrible company. Not only do they charge $60 for two pairs of shoes that cost $3 per pair, but they then give that second pair away, meaning they’re robbing some shoemaker in a developing country of his job. My good friends at Forbes have more info.

There’s no denying that the socially-conscious trend is popular, though. There’s something just so damn stylish about helping those in need. It certainly helps justify a shopping trip. So I compiled a couple of brands that have sexy products, and a stylish, social-minded, self-sustaining business model.

tenley-sunglasses-violet-magnolia-front-normal_1Warby Parker is an eyewear company that sells prescription lenses, as well as non prescription sunglasses—all with super classy, vintage-inspired lenses. They’re cheaper than most artificially priced prescription glasses, and a huge chunk of the profits go towards training clinicians in developing countries to test locals’ eyesight, as well as providing those vendors with glasses to then sell at a much-discounted rate. The short of it? Buy a pair of glasses, help someone who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it to see. (P.S. I love these sunglasses!)

bella_multi_131 BITS is a chic jewelry company with a wide selection of colorful knick knacks made from recycled materials. The founder buys the beads from women and sells them at a surplus on the international marker, then uses the profits to fund educational programs for the same women she purchases from. Helping women in need? Using recycled materials? Looking chic and saving the world? Now that’s style, especially if you’re rocking this Bella necklace.

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Njabini Apparel was started by a Northeastern students, and I actually wrote about the company for the Boston Globe. They sell home goods and accessories that are designed in-house, manufactured by women in Njabini with children, women who would otherwise be unable to work. Those women make generous incomes, and the additional profit generated by sales is recycled into financial education programs, microlending programs, and all around awesome-ness. Personally, I don’t think this loop scarf can do any wrong.

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Radiant Cosmetics sells—you guessed it—makeup. Nothing provides that classy finish like a layer of red lipstick and an enlighted soul that’s helped others in need. Though their model isn’t as involved or creative, Radiant donates 20% of their profits to The Captives, an anti-human trafficking organization. Embrace sexy femininity, while empowering other women to embrace their own inherent beauty. And won’t you look just stellar in this matte lipstick in Madrid?

 

The most important thing in looking for socially-minded brands is to do your homework. Lots of people will try to capitalize on the growing trend of caring about others. Don’t let your care go wasted (or worse—actually do harm). Look at companies’ missions statements, their financial statements and transparency, run a basic Google search. Should you need more information or ideas, SOCO Marketplace has some great suggestions. Happy shopping!

NECN: Valentine’s Day fashion

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I had the incredible opportunity to serve as a model for a segment on “The Morning Show” featuring various Valentine’s Day date outfits. To the left, a video still (Sadly, no, I didn’t keep the clothes. But I would KILL for the pink outfit Torre wears). Click the photo to be connected to NECN’s website and the online video.