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Posts by strutsandstumbles:

Best April Fools’ Pranks of 2016

Every year when April 1 rolls around, the internet becomes a playground for tomfoolery and frankly, I can’t get enough.

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This year left no short supply of companies getting in on the fun. A few of my favorites were Hamburger Helper, Trader Joes, YouTube, H&M and Black Milk Clothing.

Hamburger Helper dropped an album of BANGERZ.

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Trader Joes gave us all a heart attack claiming to be closing their doors in 2017.

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Black Milk gave us the camel toe leggings we’ve always dreamed of.

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YouTube went came in strong and brought out Snoopavison – in beta of course.

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Mark Zuckerberg and H&M took his “one less thing to think about in the morning” attitude to a new level.

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Basically the internet gave us all a super fun Friday.

What was your favorite prank this year?

as always,

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole

 

Hell Week

Hi friends!

Have you ever had the kind of week that feels like everything is falling apart? Folks, all the things went to hell in a handbasket for me last-last week.

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As a disclaimer, I’m usually an open book on MY life, but when it comes to the people around me who contribute to the struts and stumbles of my days, I have to draw a line as to what I share publicly to protect the innocent – and the not so innocent.

That being said, contributing factors to the litany of shit included:

  • The dude has been sick and was hospitalized for 12 days
  • The pooch was poisoned
  • The investment property had a very expensive leak
  • The day job had ‘challenges’ with activations at SXSW
  • The freelance gig had some unexpected alterations

Let’s talk about The Dude. Happily, he’s out of the hospital as of Monday night. Thank sweet lawd baby jesus. I’m not going to dish all the details, but his stay included countless MRIs, CAT scans, a spinal tap and culminated with a biopsy of his brain. Lucky for my sanity though, the biopsy date coincided with the day my dog was poisoned – nbd right? uhhhhh.

I’m so grateful he is out and doing well. We’re optimistic about the course of his medical care and looking forward to getting on with our future.

On to The Pooch. My weasel had a rough time last week, but I’m happy to report that she’s also doing well post intensive care. She got in to a toxic substance on Tuesday evening, which I found out late in to the night where the only options were to 1) watch her at home or 2) take her to a 24 hour emergency facility.

I’m very lucky to have a few great friends with knowledge how to care for four-legged friends, so after reaching out to one of these experts I decided the situation was not escalated to emergency status and I would watch her for the night and see how she did through the morning. She had a rough night. Affects of this substance had her panicky and reactive to light, movement and sound which made for an unnerving evening for both of us. The next morning she was still clearly uncomfortable and sluggish, so I stayed home from work to monitor her symptoms and take her to the vet on a moments notice in case anything got hairy – no pun intended.

A few hours in to our time together, I took her to the lawn to see if she would do her business, where she reacted by swaying back and forth trying to hold her body weight up, then collapsing in to the grass and refusing to move. This really freaked me out. I immediately scooped her up, jumped in my car and headed to the vet who took her back to an exam room tout suite. Her body temperature was dangerously low at 94 degrees; a healthy temperature for dogs is around 99 degrees. I was advised she would be given fluids and a heating pad to help her body normalize and told to come back at five to take her home and monitor her progress. Feeling overwhelmed but grateful for the support of Dr. Debbie, I  left my baby under the watchful care of the clinic for the remainder of the day.

This is where things really began to break down. I called in the afternoon to check her progress and was given a positive report her temperature had increased and I should proceed with the plan of picking her up at five. When I arrived, everything hit the fan. My lovely Dr. Debbie was gone for the day and replaced by a haggish older woman who was now in charge of patients at the clinic and seemed none too pleased about it. She was the most un-helpful, rude and aggressive person I’ve ever encountered in my many years of pet care.

Here’s how it went down.

  • I came in to pick up my dog and was greeted by the receptionist, who went back to Dr. Hag in the exam room, visible by the waiting area.
  • Dr. Hag hands the receptionist a FLUID BAG which she brings up to me with no other explanation but “you need to take your dog to the 24 hour emergency vet overnight.”
  • I ask questions. “What’s going on with her?” “Why did the vet this morning tell me I can bring her home tonight?”
  • Dr. Hag shrieks from the exam room, still not even coming out to talk to me after I’ve already handed over hundreds of dollars to pay for the visit, ‘The other vet was WRONG. You are an educated consumer and you can do whatever you like with your dog, but this is MY recommendation.’
  • My blood boils.

I don’t need to take you through the remainder of the interaction with this obviously miserable woman, but the kind receptionist offered to help me get my baby out to the car and let me know she would try to call Dr. Debbie for me. I once again reached out to my animal care support team (aka Morgan & Alicia – love you both) and decided to ignore the horrible woman’s advice and take my little one home to watch for the night. Thankfully, I quickly received a call from both Dr. Debbie and my normal vet and owner of the facility, Dr. Evans, both apologizing for the exchange with Dr. Hag and letting me know they both agreed home care was the best course of action for my girl.

She made it through the night with steady improvement and I brought her back to the vet Thursday morning as advised, where she stayed the remainder of the day for observation. She was cleared to come home Thursday evening with a follow-up visit scheduled on Saturday. She’s fine now, back to her bouncy obnoxious self, though my nerves are still shot from the experience and my back account took a heavy beating. Two disasters down, three to go.

The House. Most of you know I’m part of an investment team on a property in Pomona, as I lived in the house for the past six years before deciding to rent it out back in November. We received a call a few weeks back from the current occupants detailing an issue with some cracked tile resulting in a minor injury for one of the tenants. Needless to say, the flooring needed fixed. I sent out a contractor to check out the scope of the work for replacing the cosmetic damage to the floor and was well, floored with the response I received. Not only was the floor needing to be replaced, there was likely foundational damage to the underside of the house resulting from the dreaded lifeblood of our planet – water.

Anyone with responsibility to a property knows water can be the most destructive necessity around. After a few weeks of back and forth with our contractor of choice, we settled on sending him in to repair anything damaged by the leaks. The floor was replaced, along with a whole mess of wood on the underbelly of the property and swapping the pedestal sink for a vanity in the master bathroom. It all turned out lovely. To be honest, the process was relatively painless, but once again my bank account took an unexpected wallop. So much for my diligence in saving money lately.

The Day Job. This was less dramatic, but we had a series of unfortunate events with some client activations at SXSW. Ever the pros, the team handled the setbacks as well as they could and made it out alive. These blips sent the office in to a bit of a frenzy during the festival week, contributing to the workload of the few who remained in the bullpen and away from Austin. The stress was palpable and definitely contributed to the overall chaos of my already challenging week.

The Gig. The life of a freelancer is often tumultuous. While I keep myself well prepared for these types of setbacks, I still have learning to do when it comes to selecting honorable people to do business with. Without giving away too much about the not-so-innocent, I had a client deeply disappoint me last week by wasting hours of my time in research, communications and preparation of a contract only to be told at the last minute (after getting a taste of my strategy) that we weren’t a good fit for business. He agreed to compensate my hours, but has since made it very difficult to connect regarding my invoice. This hit me for two reasons.

Of course I was looking forward to completing the project financially. It’s a given fact that the exchange of goods and services for payment is how most of us continue to live in content and are able to pay our rent. But aside from the financial setback, this situation is particularly disappointing as I was genuinely excited to work on the project from a creative point of view. I saw potential and went out of my way to prepare a great plan, only to have that plan witnessed and the project participation aborted. Can I say with finality that this guy straight up stole my ideas and doesn’t intend to pay for them? Not with certainty, but that’s where he seems to be heading.

Though he mentioned compensation for my time, essentially a consolation prize for the services previously rendered, this guy has been nearly radio silent since I sent my invoice. To see if I actually receive the compensation I am due is to be determined. For now, I’m taking away a few lessons other budding freelancers may heed as well. Moving forward I need to to tighten up my contract language and set boundaries on the amount of time spent communicating with a client prior to signing an agreement and receipt of payment.

If you made it this far, thankyouthankyouthankyou for reading.

Any freelance advice for me? Want to share your hell week story? Leave a comment, I love to hear from the squad.

as always,

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole

21 Days of Beauty at Ulta

Hi friends,

I’m a few days late to the Ulta 21 Days of Beauty party, but to be honest there weren’t any products I would have recommended in the past through days. Sorry about the untimely posting though!

That being said, there are some deals coming up in the next few days I don’t want anyone to miss, starting with the Tarte Tarteist Clay Paint Liner tomorrow ! Everything I recommend from this event is cruelty free (as ALWAYS on S&S) and my opinion of a great value for what you’re receiving.

Here are my suggestions on what to score and what to skip for Ulta’s 21 Days of Beauty:

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March 17: SKIP

March 18:

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TARTE (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Tarteist Clay Paint Liner*
50% OFF \ NOW $12

I haven’t had a chance to try this product yet, so I’m thrilled to be able to experiment without throwing down too much green.

March 19:

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TOO FACED (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Sweethearts Perfect Flush Blush*
50% OFF \ NOW $15

PHILOSOPHY (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Purity Cleansing Cloths 30 ct.*
50% OFF \ NOW $7.50

These are both awesome products for such a steal! You may know I used to work for philosophy as a business manager, and during my time with the brand we launched the Cleansing Cloths. I’m a huge fan and can’t wait to stock up!

March 20: SKIP

March 21:

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TOO FACED (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Lip Injection Plumping Lip Gloss*
50% OFF \ NOW $11

CARGO
ONLINE ONLY STEAL
Bronzers & BeachBlush*
50% OFF \ NOW $14.50-15

Today is another double-dip for two great products. I’m expecting the Lip Injection Plumping Gloss to sell out QUICK so be sure to jump online or pop in to Ulta as soon as their doors open to make sure you score all the shades you’re crushin’ on – I’m going to grab as many as I can get my hot little hands on!

March 22: SKIP

March 23: SKIP

March 24:

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SMASHBOX (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Photo Finish Primer Water*
50% OFF \ NOW $16

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PHILOSOPHY (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Anti-Wrinkle Miracle Worker Miraculous Anti-Aging Moisturizer 2 oz.*
50% OFF \ NOW $30

Once again, I was with philosophy when we launched the Miracle Worker series and this moisturizer has done great things for my skin. I cringe to shell out the full price, so this half-off deal has me tickled. I’ve heard awesome things about the Photo Finish Primer Water as well, so my recommendation is to swoop on both of these.

March 25:

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ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Perfect Brow Pencil*
NOW $12 \ REG $23

Anastasia has been THE name for brows for years now, though this product isn’t always included in those singing her praises. I recently changed my hair color so I’m in the market for a new brow product to correspond with the grey/ash blonde and this might be just the ticket.

March 26:

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TARTE (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-In-1 Mascara*
NOW $10 \ REG $21

MARIO BADESCU (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Entire Brand*
25% OFF \ NOW $3.75-34.50

Definitely pick up the Drying Lotion & Moisture Magnet SPF 15, but if you’re in the market for ANY other skincare I highly recommend this brand. Their moisturizers are great and their scrubs and masks work well too. Everything is very gentle for my skin type (always check products with a patch test on yourself first) and of course cruelty free.

March 27:

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IT BRUSHES FOR ULTA (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Airbrush All-Over Shadow Brush #119*
50% OFF \ NOW $7

This brush looks fluffy and great for blending. Yes, please.

March 28:

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BLISS
ONLINE ONLY STEAL
FatGirlSlim*
50% OFF \ NOW $19

I’m iffy on this deal, but I might still indulge anyway. Jury is out but the price point is good and summer is around the corner – we will see if I actually pull the trigger on this one.

March 29: SKIP

March 30:

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LORAC (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
Riesling Romance
Eye Shadow Palette*
$15 \ $70 VALUE

LORAC (IN-STORE & ONLINE)
CC Creams*
50% OFF \ NOW $15

DERMABLEND
ONLINE ONLY STEAL
Setting Powder*
50% OFF \ NOW $13.50

Today is the day to stock up on palettes for birthdays, hostess gifts, bridal shower prizes…. you can throw down this Lorac palette as a gift for any occasion and the lucky recipient’s eyes are sure to sparkle. Pun intended. Half off on the Lorac CC Cream and Dermablend’s famed Setting Powder are great additions to any glamazon’s routine as well. I’m diggin’ today’s picks.

March 31: SKIP

April 1: SKIP

April 2: SKIP

That wraps up the event, but keep in mind the daily deals as well. These reoccur on each coresponding day thoughout the duration of the event

Mondays:
March 14, 21 & 28

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Ulta Beauty Foundation
NOW $5 \ REG $12.50-14

Tuesdays:
March 15, 22 & 29

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Ulta Beauty Lip Gloss
NOW $3 \ REG $8-9

Wednesdays:
March 16, 23 & 30

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Ulta Beauty Mascara
NOW $4 \ REG $10-12

Thursdays:
March 17, 24 & 31

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Ulta Beauty Nail Lacquer (probably a SKIP for me)
NOW $2 \ REG $6

Fridays:
March 18, 25 & April 1

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Ultra Beauty Eye Shadow Palatte (SKIP for me)
NOW $12 \ REG $20

Ulta Beauty Shower Gel & Body Lotion
NOW $4 \ REG $9.50-15.50

Saturdays:
March 19, 26 & April 2

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Ultra Beauty Automatic & Gel Eyeliner Pencils
NOW $3 \ REG $8

Ulta Beauty Smoothies, Butter & Scrubs
NOW $5 \ REG $9.50-19.50

Sundays: March 13, 20 & 27

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Ultra Beauty Lipstick & Lip Butter
NOW $3 \ REG $8-9

These are all the deals I’m eyeing from Ulta’s 21 Days of Beauty. What are you going to score on? Leave me a comment and don’t forget to subscribe via email to never miss an update from S&S!

as always,

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole

February was a good month.

Friends, February was pretty great.

Accomplishments were made in my professional life, I spent a ton of time with my honey, family & friends, got back in to a healthy schedule of consuming literature, made some effort to update and elevate my outward appearance, committed to drinking more water and moving my feet more (still working on this), went HAM on some adulting duties, took ‘treat yo’self’ to a new level, made time for enriching experiences in the great outdoors and continued working toward my financial goals.

I take a lot of photos monthly, but I don’t always take the time to share them on my social media channels. I thought it might be fun to start having a place to put them all, monthly, as sort of a reminder of the good times and my own rendition of the traditional ‘Favorites’ fare, while wrapping up with establishing a set of goals for the following month. Accountability has been an issue that has plagued my life for the last 26 years and I’d like to think this could be a small step toward being my own coach & cheerleader in an effort to improve my life regularly – which is what I think I’m ultimately here to do.

So here it is; the February S&S lowdown…

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A combination of THREE of my favorite things: Sunday champagne brunch with my family at the Anaheim Hills Country Club, an epic ‘Top Gun’ inspired romper from Old Navy & this ridiculously cute and highly necessary (aka: couldn’t live without it) Kate Spade ‘Bubble Over’ Champagne Coin Purse.

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Newly discovered; THIS ISH IS BANANAS – and really easy to use. I like my lashes long and strong and…. sometimes super clumpy. This little pal does the trick to achieve length and volume when paired with my usual L’Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black Mascara. Start with a single coat of mascara, then pop open the tube and dust your lashes with the Milani Length In Seconds Lash Extension Fibers, then follow with another coat of mascara. Repeat the process as many times as you like and follow with a good strong curl with your lash tool of choice, mine has long been the Shiseido Lash Curler.

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Oh, Prim. She’s my new daily companion. My former go-to bag, Ariel the emerald green Michael Kors Hamilton Traveler, was taking a bit of a beating so it was time to give her a rest and swap for this semi splurge: the Rebecca Minkoff Avery Tote in ‘primrose.’ Rebecca Minkoff’s web store had a screamin’ deal on their sale items in early February, coupled with Ebates cash back and free shipping, so I took advantage of the shopping gods smiling upon me and found a new best friend in Prim. More on her a little later.

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Baubles! Mr. Kate’s jewelry is my absolute favorite. Periodically she does great specials on her pieces and I missed out on Black Friday’s sale last year, so when I saw she was offering 40% off for Valentine’s Day I grabbed the Forrest Horizon Cuff and Meteor Cuff I’ve had my eye on for a while now. They’re both perfection and I’m already planning to re-purchase each in the inverse metal finishes.

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How fun are these cups? I have a super special project coming up with these folks I can’t wait to share as the time grows closer.

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Danielle and I are making our sophomore appearance at BlogHer and I’m just tickled about it. We bought Early Bird tickets and will be heading to LA Live in November to experience a weekend of learning from the Experts Among Us, exploring innovative digital technology, aligning with potential partners and mingling with like-minded creative ladies (& a few brave men.) Really looking forward to keynotes Sarah Michelle Gellar and Mayim Bialik.

Goals for March:

  1. Keep drinking water and focusing on my financial goals
  2. Start apartment shopping
  3. At least 1 blog post per week
  4. Get back to a meditation practice
  5. Beat my ‘steps’ calculation from February on S Health

How was your month? What are your goals for March?

as always,

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole

Not that kind of girl.

Today I’m having a particularly “Lena” type struggle, so I figured it would be a good day to share my favorite quotes from Lena Dunham’s FANTASTIC book, Not That Kind of Girl.

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I know there is a lot here and I don’t expect you to read through them all, but each quote has a significance to me that’s worth keeping and cataloging for future reference when I need some eloquent words to describe my momentary disposition or I need reassurance on a particularly dark day.

On being an ‘adult’ and growing up:

  • “I always reminded myself this wasn’t exactly where I was meant to be, but pit stops are ok on the road of life; aren’t they?”
  • “The end never comes when you think it will. It’s always ten steps past the worst moment, then a weird turn to the left.”
  • “I didn’t drink in the essence of the classroom. I didn’t take legible notes or dance all night. I thought I would marry my boyfriend and grow old and sick of him. I thought I would keep my friends, and we’d make different, new memories. None of that happened. Better things happened. Then why am I so sad?”

On self respect

  • “When someone shows you how little you mean to them and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself. You are not made up of compartments! You are one whole person! What gets said to you gets said to all of you, ditto what gets done. Being treated like shit is not an amusing game or a transgressive intellectual experiment. It’s something you accept, condone, and learn to believe you deserve. This is so simple. But I tried so hard to make it complicated.”
  • “There is a common superstition that “self-respect” is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation. —JOAN DIDION, “On Self-Respect”

On past relationships:

  • “I’ve always been attracted to jerks. They range from sassy weirdos who are ultimately pretty good guys to sociopathic sex addicts, but the common denominator is a bad attitude upon first meeting and a desire to teach me a lesson.”
  • “I always run in to strong women who are looking for weak men to dominate them”- Andy Warhol
  • “What had initially seemed like a deep well of pain caused by unattainable women was actually a Philip Rothian disdain for the fairer sex. It’s become horribly and offensively popular to say that someone is on the autism spectrum, so all I’ll say is his inability to notice when I was crying had to be some kind of pathology.”
  • “You will find,” she says, “that there’s a certain grace to having your heart broken.”
  • “After what felt like months, he sat across from me, one foot still on the floor, and looked at me a long moment, like he was preparing to eat something he wasn’t sure he would like. I wasn’t offended. I wasn’t even sure I was real.”
  • “But I also think when we embark on intimate relationships, we make a basic human promise to be decent, to hold a flattering mirror up to each other, to be respectful as we explore each other.”
  • “It made me feel silenced, lonely, and far away from myself, a feeling that I believe, next to extreme nausea sans vomiting, is the depth of human misery.”
  • “The way I saw it, I was fully capable of being treated with indifference that bordered on disdain while maintaining a strong sense of self-respect. I obeyed his commands, sure that I could fulfill this role while still protecting the sacred place inside of me that I knew deserved more. Different. Better. But that isn’t how it works.”
  • “This is what it could have been like. This is what it had never been like. And so I was angry.”
  • “We spent torturous weekends attempting to share brunches and movie dates like people who knew each other. But he wasn’t impressed enough by how funny my dad is, and I didn’t understand what was so cool about his friend Leo the puppeteer. I attempted to break up with him on no fewer than seven occasions, and each time he would cry, beg, and show more emotion than he ever had during our silent sexual encounters or our mornings drinking tea in bed. “You care about me,” he’d tell me. “You’ve never felt like this before.” And who was I to object?”
  • “I did love Ben, in a sense. Because he cooked for me. Because he told me that my body was beautiful, like a Renaissance painting, something I badly needed to hear.”

On body image:

  • Barbie’s disfigured. it’s OK to play with her just as long as you keep that in mind.”
  • “Weak eyebrows = weak presentation. It’s like having a bad handshake, but worse because it’s right on your face.”
  • “A friend once told me that when you’ve been in AA, drinking is never fun again. And that’s how I feel about having seen a nutritionist—I will never again approach food in an unbridled, guilt-free way.”

On anxiety and learning to how to heal:

  • “I’ve started translating poems from languages I don’t speak, some kind of Surrealist exercise meant to inspire me but also prevent me from thinking the perverse, looping thoughts that come unbidden: I am hideous. I am going to be living in a mental hospital by the time I am twenty-nine. I will never amount to anything. You wouldn’t know it to see me at a party. In a crowd I am recklessly cheerful, dressed to the nines in thrift-shop gowns and press-on fingernails, fighting the sleepiness that comes from the 350 milligrams of medication I take every night. I dance the hardest, laugh the hardest at my own jokes, and make casual reference to my vagina, like it’s a car or a chest of drawers.”
  • “The anxiety that has followed me through my life like a bad friend had reappeared with a vengeance and taken a brand-new form… I didn’t know why this was happening. The cruel reality of anxiety is that you never quite do. At the moments it should logically strike, I am fit as a fiddle. On a lazy afternoon, I am seized by a cold dread.”
  • “The most terrifying aspect of human health is our refusal to take steps to help ourselves and the fact that we are so often responsible for our own demise through lack of positive action. It makes me want to take a nap.”
  • “I have only the vaguest memory of a life before fear. Every morning when I wake up there is one blissful second before I took around the room and remember my daily terrors.”
  • “And then I made myself sick to my stomach waiting for an apology that never came.”
  • “And when I emerged, fifteen pounds lighter but too shaken to enjoy it, I thought, I could spend the next eight years just getting to know myself and that would be fine. The idea of sex right now sounds about as appealing as putting a live lobster up there.”
  • “Sometimes that old feeling slips back in. Of being invaded and misunderstood. Of being outside your body but still in the room, like what you imagine a spirit does immediately after death. You used to own the night and put it to good use, during that sweet spot after your father could no longer tell you when to go to sleep and before you shared an apartment with someone else. Is togetherness killing your productivity? When’s the last time you stayed up until 4:00 A.M. testing the boundaries of your consciousness and Googling serial killers?”

On career and passion:

  • “But ambition is a funny thing: it creeps in when you least expect it and keeps you moving, even when you think you want to stay put.”

On the struggles of being a female:

  • “the gynecologist prescribed birth control, which has helped with regularity, but nothing can help the mood that still descends a few days before my period begins, like a black cloud rolling in. I am uncharacteristically dark and nihilistic. Everyone is out to get me, to hurt me, to uninvite me from their tea parties, to judge my body and destroy my family. I am like a character on Dallas, obsessed with subterfuge and revenge, convinced I have discovered unlikely yet real-seeming plots against me.”
  • “As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come, there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren’t needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter.”
  • “My friend, a woman whom I admire for her independent spirit, told me she had a similar experience. “I made my first movie and all these men crawled out of the woodwork, looking for … something.” She was once a punk. The real kind, not the kind who buys her clothes at the mall. “But they didn’t get it: I’m not here to make friends with you. I’m here to destroy you.””

Words you desperately need your best friends and family to tell you:

  • “What a goon. He’s lucky to know you, but too stupid to ever realize it.”
  • “If you have a bad feeling about someone, don’t worry about offending them. Just run. Being polite is how you get your purse stolen or your ‘purse stolen’.”

On falling in love:

  • “Then he appeared. Gap toothed, Sculpey faced, glasses like a cartoon, so earnest I was suspicious, and so witty I was scared. I saw him standing there, yellow cardigan and hunched shoulders, and thought: Look, there is my friend. The next months were a lesson in opening up, letting go, being kind and brave. I have written all sorts of paragraphs recounting those months together: first kiss, first Mister Softee, first time I noticed that he won’t touch a doorknob without covering his hand with his sweatshirt. I have written sentences about how the first time we made love it felt like dropping my keys on the table after a long trip, and about wearing his sneakers as we ran across the park toward my house, which would someday be our house. About the way he gathered me up after a long terrible day and put me to bed. About the fact that he is my family now. I wrote it down, found the words that evoked the exact feeling of the edge of the park at 11:00 P.M. on a hot Tuesday with the man I was starting to love. But surveying those words I realized they are mine. He is mine to protect. There is so much I’ve shared, and so much that’s been crushed by the sharing. I never mourned it, because it never mattered.”

On hope for the future:

  • “Deep in her soul, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a sailor in distress, she would gaze out over the solitude of her life with desperate eyes, seeking some white sail in the mists of the far-off horizon. She did not know what this chance event would be, what wind would drive it to her, what shore it would carry her to, whether it was a longboat or a three-decked vessel, loaded with anguish or filled with happiness up to the portholes. But each morning, when she awoke, she hoped it would arrive that day.… —GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary”
  • Life is long, people change, I would never be foolish enough to think otherwise. But no matter what, nothing can ever be as it was. Everything has changed in a way that sounds trite and borderline offensive when recounted over coffee. I can never be who I was. I can simply watch her with sympathy, understanding, and some measure of awe. There she goes, backpack on, headed for the subway or the airport. She did her best with her eyeliner. She learned a new word she wants to try out on you. She is ambling along. She is looking for it.
  • “You’ve learned a new rule and it’s simple: don’t put yourself in situations you’d like to run away from. But when you run, run back to yourself, like that bunny in ‘Runaway Bunny’ runs to its mother, but you are the mother, and you’ll see that later and be very, very proud.”

as always,

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole

can’t I just spend all day at home?

When I was young, before I knew what was up, I dreamed about adulthood and how I wasn’t ever going to stop and I was going to run free and wild and party as much as I wanted and stay up late and go forbidden places and do spontaneous things…

{and that people would understand that run-on sentences are how my brain thinks, and how I choose to write my thoughts, because…. this is MY story and grammar is subjective anyway and… yeah mind yo own businass}

… and while many of the manifestations of my former years come true for me daily, I find that I most often crave the thing that would have horrified my 16 year old self: quietness and stillness.

At the moment, I’m dreaming of nothing more than spending some much needed time at home painting, organizing, cleaning, meditating, purging, storing and creating my soulful and happy place to thrive in the quietness of sanctuary.

I guess until you know and process chaos (and I have years of experience in chaos), you never fully appreciate the stillness in peace.

I had a long weekend ahead and one that I anxiously awaited and will long be grateful for. I have no business complaining about the opportunity to:

1) work alongside one of my best friends doing something I’m truly passionate about
2) meet one of my longtime idols and learn from and assist her in the largest event for our brand on the West Coast
3) the ability to travel, meet new friends and practice my craft, passion and art form outside a traditional 9-5 existence
4) ALL THREE of these fabulous things less than a week from returning from a world renowned music and art festival many people can only dream of attending.

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Am I tired? Hell yes. Am I complaining? Not on my life.

I have the unique experience to be living a life I have taken years co-creating and though it isn’t always how my former self would have predicted it, I am grateful and blessed to say that the joy and contentment I have in this moment is better than I could have come up with on my own.

I guess this post is pandering to a bit of a #humblebrag, but I’m really in awe of the way the Universe times things out for me sometimes and I’m so effing grateful I couldn’t think of any better way to express myself than with my pen…. err, keyboard.

If you made it this far, you get a virtual gold star and know that I love you and I’m grateful for you and I promise all my writing won’t always be this self indulgent but yeah… some of these posts are going to end up like this.

And now, we stop abruptly.

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole

Instanatural Retinol Serum and Mositurizer Review

I was recently offered an opportunity to start working with BrandBacker to try out some new products from different companies. Two of the samples I was sent for review were from InstaNatural– Retinol Moisturizer with Vitamin C & Age-Defying Retinol Serum.

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I’m a big fan of Retinol treatments, ever since my days with philosophy cosmetics using their Miracle Worker line and Help Me treatment. I have also been looking in to ‘clean’ beauty products and attempting to learn more about the chemicals in products I use, so trying these products from Instanatural was a great first step.

InstaNatural Retinol Moisturizer

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Here’s what the brand says about the product:

“InstaNatural’s Retinol Moisturizer contains a robust formula of handpicked ingredients designed to transform older, damaged skin into a healthier and youthful appearance. Retinol is a powerful antioxidant derived from Vitamin A, one of the strongest and most trusted ingredients for anti-aging skin care. Once absorbed, Retinol is converted into Retinoic Acid, which starts working to help restore skin and diminish the appearance of sun damage and signs of aging, such as wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, hyperpigmentation, rough texture, and more. Vitamin C – another powerful antioxidant – works synergistically to aid in this process of battling early signs of aging, as well as repairing existing damage to promote healthier skin. Simultaneously, Hyaluronic Acid, Jojoba Oil, Shea Butter and Green Tea deliver premium nourishment and hydration to keep your skin moisturized. This intensive moisturizing cream is the perfect addition to your regimen to restore and renew firmness, elasticity and thickness of the skin for a flawless and radiant complexion.

Key Ingredients:
+ 2.5% Retinol
+ Vitamin C
+ Hyaluronic Acid
+ Jojoba Oil
+ Shea Butter
+ Green Tea”

The short list of ingredients was a plus for me. The overall consistency of the cream was not too thick and felt nice on the skin. Unfortunately after using the cream and serum, my mom (who I passed these along to after testing them out) reported that they were too harsh on her skin and resulted in a dry and itchy patch. I will be testing these myself again to check for similar results.

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InstaNatural Age-Defying Retinol Serum

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InstaNatural’s Age-Defying Retinol Serum contains a proprietary blend of antioxidants and nutrients that nourishes your skin while helping it to look younger and healthier. The serum contains Retinol (Vitamin A), which is an antioxidant that protects against free-radical damage that causes your skin to look and feel older. It is highly effective in reversing the appearance of sun damage and signs of aging, such as wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation and rough texture. Vitamin C works synergistically to aid in this process of repairing and restoring damaged skin, while also stimulating new healthy skin to appear. Meanwhile, Hyaluronic Acid traps moisture in the skin to prevent further loss so you can enjoy a younger looking appearance with firmer, plumper skin.

Key Ingredients:
+ 2.5% Retinol
+ 20% Vitamin C
+ 10% Hyaluronic Acid
+ Plant & Fruit Acids

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Once again, I liked the natural ingredient list from this serum. The consistency of the product was a very thin fluid, it doesn’t feel oily or sticky to the touch which is something I look for in a serum. I didn’t notice any adverse reaction of the product on my skin, but my mom experienced discomfort and a bit of a flaky dry patch on her skin after use.

All things considered, the InstaNatural Retinol Moisturizer and InstaNatural Age-Defying Retinol Serum are a bit of a wash. I didn’t have any bad reactions, but mom had a really hard time with the product- despite us both loving the smell, texture and ingredient list.

I love to give credit to budding organic brands, so please go check out InstaNatural for yourself. I have a few other products from the line I was sent to try, and I will be posting those reviews shortly too.

Have you tried out retinol products? Any suggestions for others (maybe less active) I should look in to? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, thank you all for reading and I hope you’re having an amazing day!

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole

‘starting over, yet again’

So it has been a little quiet around here lately; hasn’t it? Days turned in to weeks, weeks to months, and over a half a year has gone by in darkness on my blog.

You may wonder, ‘Did she call it quits? Was this a phase? Did she burn out?’ All of these, and none of these, are the truth; le sigh.

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The truth is, since we last connected, a lot has transposed. New job, new living situation, failures and successes, new friends in, old friends rediscovered and old relationships put to rest, medication, healing, therapy, car accidents, spiritual awakening, weddings and births, meditation, prayer and the greatest trauma I have ever experienced… but that’s a story I’m not yet ready to tell.

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For right now, I can tell you I’m living each day with a clear intention:

“There is a way of living in the world that is not here, although it seems to be. You do not change appearance, though you smile more frequently. Your forehead is serene; your eyes are quiet.”-ACIM

Doesn’t that sound amazing? I find myself in uncharted water. I have spent the last 25 years of my life in fear, repeating the same chaotic patterns and always wishing I could find a better way. I blocked myself from experiencing miracles, ignored divine guidance and clung to my limiting beliefs of a fearful world I projected as my experience. This was my ‘real world.’

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Totally effed up. Totally meaningless. Flailing about in my daily life playing the ‘what-if’ game, succumbing to romantic illusions, and living each day as a puppet to anxiety and fear. I’m so incredibly done with that crap.

Daryl-Beth

(done with that CRAP)

Today, each day I’m doing my best. Happiness is my only function and I believe in my heart there is a way through every block and only love is real. I’m happily engaged in co-creating my life. I’m armed with new ideas, amazingly supportive healers and teachers, a redefined purpose and a thirst for knowledge, happiness and peace. I’m not in a cult, I’m not in a phase. My intention is not to preach, I just feel called to share my story.

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Eventually, I will get around to shining some light on the hard stuff. But for now, let’s just focus on the miracles… and let me tell you, there have been A LOT of them. The compounded chaos in my last 25 years has been a great blessing to crack me open and let me see a much easier way of being; my intention is to live in the flow.

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Thank you all for spending some time reading and I hope you’re having an amazing day!

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole

Always, Always, Always The Bridesmaid #1

I have had the pleasure of being asked to participate in the bridal party of FOUR weddings in the last few years. One of these nuptial events already took place last year, but I have three coming up to look forward to! I am blessed with some truely awesome friends, and each wedding experience I get to be a part of is a new and exciting learning experience for me about friendship, event planning and of course: love.

I thought it would be fun to write a little series about the upcoming and past wedding celebrations I have been a part of as a bit of a ‘Bridesmaid Diary’ I can look back on, since these are such special and fleeting memories I never want to lose.

That being said, here are some photos from the first wedding I had the pleasure of being a part of: The wedding of Becky Sue Means & Matthew Means! These two tied the knot on May 26, 2013 and have since expanded their brood (which already includes 2 adorable fur babies) and are expecting a bundle of joy arriving in August 2014. 🙂

Here is a photo compilation of my experience in The Means Wedding festivities from start to finish, I can’t believe it has already been almost a year!

Flashback to Becky’s Birthday, right after she got engaged! She’s sporting her new bling and we’re all excited to celebrate. From left to right: Lisa, Myself, Becky & Stephanie

Becky's Bday

Becky's Bday 2

Next item, Engagement Party!

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Becky, Lisa and I at the Engagement Party. Lisa and I accidentally matched and inadvertently accidentally both wore the wedding colors… funny how things work out. 🙂

Next up, Bridal Shower! We went with a CANDYLAND theme!

Shower Cake

Candyland 1

Panty Line

Shower Bridesmaids

shower silly

The bridal shower was a huge success and everyone had a great time. A few months later, it was time to get crazy in Vegas for the Bachelorette Party!

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bachelorette 3

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We had a lovely suite at The Venitian and spent time by the pool during the day and went out for dancing and drinks at night. Vegas did Becky right that weekend LOL.

A few short weeks later it was time to get Becky down the aisle and in to wedded bliss. Here are some of the moments from that day…

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Hotel room bridesmaid fun!

Hotel 3

Dressing Becky

Getting Becky dressed…

Hotel Pose

More poses in the room.

Candid Hair

Candid Pose, Great Hair Shot

Check out my cool hair!

Bridesmaids Pre Ceremony

Posing before the processional.

Maid of Honor Walk

Walking in with the Best Man.

Candid Ceremony

Ceremony candid.

Walking In

Walking in the reception hall with the Best Man.

New Mr & Mrs

Greeting the new Mr. & Mrs. to the reception.

Toast

My Maid of Honor Speech!

Bouquet

Bouquet Toss: I wanted Lisa to get it!

Boogie 1

Getting our boogie on on the dance floor.

Boogie 2

Boogie 3 

Boogie 4

Bridesmaids Formal

Formal photos with the bridal party.

Formal Pose

MOH Pose MOH Stare

Becky and I having a moment, I love these shots!

Favors

Wedding favors

Food

They had Ruby’s cater the food, yum!

Flowers

The flowers.

Theme

Centerpieces and wedding theme.

Cake

Becky with the gorgeous cake maker (and my neighbor) Shelly!

Car Pose

Getting the Mr. & Mrs. ready to ride off in to the sunset.

PUG Feature

So much fun! We did the ‘Bridesmaids’ pose and got featured on Pinup Girl Clothing’s Instagram as their PUG Pinup of the Day!

For all those interested, the entire bridal party’s hair was done by Lissette Castaneda, the dress is here from Pinup Girl Clothing and my makeup was done by me. Becky’s makeup was done by the lovely and talented Christina Cofran!

I hope you all enjoyed these photos from the  Means’ Wedding! Like I mentioned before, I have two weddings coming up this summer I have the pleasure to serve in the bridal party of and another wedding next fall I will also be a bridesmaid in, so this is the first post of MANY wedding related blogs. 🙂

Always, always, ALWAYS the bridesmaid (never the bride) but that’s A OK in my book!

Thank you all for spending some time reading and I hope you’re having an amazing day!

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole

The Wet Brush, the brush that changed my life!

The Wet Brush. It’s here, and it’s going to save your hair!

I have to start out by saying I was a skeptic. I had seen some YouTube beauty gurus talk about this brush, but I don’t trust many of those gals because I KNOW they are usually being sent product for free or are being paid to talk about stuff on their channels.

I was a skeptic because I have a long history of disappointment with hair products claiming the world and not living up to my expectations. I have LONG, blonde, thick, dry, color treated, tangled hair and it is always an ordeal to brush it out after a good washing. That being said, I finally tried out The Wet Brush and it CHANGED MY LIFE!

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I received The Wet Brush in my October PopSugar Must Have Box and didn’t pay much attention to it. Truthfully, the brush had stayed nestled in its original plastic packaging until my boyfriend and I happened upon it while cleaning out my spare bedroom a while back.

He said, “Hey, isn’t that the brush you got in your box?” and picked it up off the dresser. I told him it was and that I hadn’t tried it yet, but my hair was wet at the time so he suggested we try it out.  Let’s be honest here, when I say ‘suggested,’ that’s more of a loose interpretation of what really happened which was more like him grabbing the brush, ripping it out of the packaging and savagely attacking my wet head. LOL!

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(Yup, that’s my head. Long, damaged, bleached hair. My hair is extremely thick, coarse and brittle, making it a nightmare to brush while wet.)

I never let anyone brush my hair for me, but I figured since The Wet Brush makes such hefty claims, I figured I would try it out to its full potential and let him attempt to brush out my wet, tangled locks. At the first pass through, I was astounded. There was no pulling, no ripping and no pain! He continued to run the brush through my hair and the tangles were no match for the magical bristles of The Wet Brush.

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(This is with a few strokes of The Wet Brush, my tangled mane was tamed!)

Needless to say, I was floored. This seemingly innocent little brush packed enough gentle strength to coax out the most stubborn snags painlessly. The Wet Brush is AWESOME and I suggest it enough!

Here’s the specs for The Wet Brush according to their website:

“The Wet Brush, The Best Detangling Brush EVER!”

“• Super soft IntelliFlex™ bristles.
• Detangle hair with ease.
• Works great on wet or dry hair.
• Perfect for men, women & kids.
• For thick, curly or straight hair.
• Great for hair extensions & wigs.”

This product is available online at their website and also in store at some salons, though I have yet to find this product in a shop around me. On their website a standard Wet Brush will set you back $14 and the Pro Paddle Brush I’m after costs $16. The site boasts a variety of styling tools and additional brushes to try including The Squirts (for little hands), The Hot Brush (for heat styling) and they even have specialty brushes for your pooch called The Love Brush! So cute! 🙂

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I think you all knew from the title, but The Wet Brush is a huge STRUT in my book. I love my standard brush and even plan to purchase the larger Pro Paddle Brush in the future.

As always, thank you all for spending some time reading my rambles and I hope you’re having an amazing day!

struts, stumbles, hugs & kisses- Nicole

FTC: I was not paid to write this post. None of these links are affiliate links. I received The Wet Brush in my Popsugar Must Have Box, which I paid for with my own money. When I reached out to compliment the company, The Wet Brush sent me one additional brush for review. All opinions are my own.