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THE POM POM SWEATER

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I might have been a cheerleader for a year in high school. I have so many fond memories of that time with my teammates, smiling through freezing cold football games, and getting our hair up into our banana clips perfectly. Did any of you wear banana clips? Yes, that was a looooonnnngggg time ago. I also have a scar that remains on my calf from falling off the top of a pyramid and having Pam Barron break my fall...with her fingernail. I still love you for saving my life, Pam!

Ironically enough, we didn’t use pom poms a lot, but that term just takes me back to those days. This year, I’ve seen so many pom pom sweaters, and I’m in love with the one I’m wearing because it’s so versatile. I wear it with denim (distressed, gray, black), coated jeans, and leather leggings. While this particular sweater from Madewell is sold out in most smaller sizes, I’ve provided options for a few others if you love this look as much as I do. Simply click on the images below to SHOP THE LOOK. In addition, if you like the cut of this sweater (the sleeves are fabulous), Madewell sells it in other colors without the pom poms here.

 
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SHOP THE LOOK

SHOP ACCESSORIES

 
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SWEATER DRESSING

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Christmas tree shopping in NYC. Nothing like it in the world. I mean that. Sharpen your negotiation skills before you go. It’s like buying a car…don’t ever pay the first price they quote. And maybe not even the second.

 
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I didn’t really go tree shopping in a sweater dress and stilettos, but hey, perhaps if I had shown up like I meant business, I would have gotten a better price. These photos were actually taken at the tree stand in front of the Museum of Natural History on Columbus Avenue, and the staff couldn’t have been friendlier. Had it not been a few blocks too far from our apartment, we would have purchased from them this year.

 
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The truth is that the holidays are full of opportunities to dress up. While there are occasions for lots of shimmer and shine, not every gathering requires us to be that gussied up. A sweater dress is a perfect blend of dressy, cozy, and somewhat casual/not trying too hard. I’ve recently rediscovered Banana Republic. I loved shopping there when I was in college, and then I went through a phase where it was hit or miss. But lately I’ve found that I can find some pretty great wardrobe staples, and with their frequent and fabulous sales, you almost can’t go wrong. This pale gray sweater dress is from Banana, and I purchased it during their Black Friday sale. It comes in multiple colors, but while I was trying it on at home, I threw it down next to this scarf, and it was almost as if the fashion gods were screaming at me. I love the ruffle cuff that adds just enough to keep the dress from being boring. The fabric falls so nicely and isn’t clingy—clingy does not work for me in a knit dress! And best of all, it’s presently on sale!

The scarf was also featured in my Holiday Gift Guide for Her and is still available. Later this week, I’m going to do a round up on my favorite scarves because they are a terrific way to accessorize AND many can be found at a reasonable price point, making them the perfect gift this holiday season.

 
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I’ve curated a few other sweater dresses that are perfect for this holiday season and beyond. Personally, I can’t wear the minis, but if you can pull it off, I love the look with a pair of boots—over-the-knee, just under the knee, or even booties. For the sleeveless options, throw on a great blazer, a poncho, or even a duster. And sweater dresses are always great to try with a belt if the style permits. Simply click on the images below to SHOP THE LOOK for all of the dresses and the rest of my ensemble featured here.

SHOP THE LOOK

FEATURED ACCESSORIES

HOW THE GRINCH SAVED CHRISTMAS

Jennifer Mejia

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This past weekend, we took our kids to see “The Grinch.” When the movie ended, I realized that I probably needed this movie more than my boys did. As rosy as someone’s life may seem, it’s not always as easy and as glamorous as it looks. Social media can be so misleading and deceiving. I’m talking about myself, not just a hypothetical someone. Far too often, I allow the stress of “adulting” to get the best of me. And although I begin each day with a grateful heart and the best intentions, I, too, am guilty of snapping at someone or losing it with my kids. It’s so easy to believe that if everyone around us would just get their act together, life would be so much simpler. It’s easy to become frustrated with others when there’s a lot of “stuff” going on inside our own heart and mind. 

I’m not sure if I just need to get out more, but I left thinking that “The Grinch” was one of the best feel good movies I’ve seen in quite some time. It reminded me of that poem, “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten,” because so many aspects of a successful and happy life really are that simple. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so before the holidays are over. Why? Because during this time of year especially, we often find ourselves getting caught up in the rush of parties and shopping deadlines, the pressure to buy the perfect gifts, wrapping up things at work for year-end, and the list goes on.  It causes us to lose sight of what’s really important. After the movie ended, I couldn’t help thinking that it should have been called, “How the Grinch Saved Christmas,” because I counted at least five important lessons in that short hour and thirty minutes. 

 
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Lesson 1: Loneliness can turn a good person into a toxic creature. As the movie begins, the title character is everything the age-old story has taught us. Mean, grouchy, conniving, vindictive, and…alone, except for his dog, Max. Hearing happy tunes when his alarm sounds in the morning is enough to send him over the edge. Atop Mount Crumpit, he is a hater of the worst kind, planning and plotting to steal Christmas and the happiness of everyone residing in Whoville. I’ve encountered a lot of grinches throughout my lifetime. Heck, I think I’ve been deserving of that description on more occasions than I care to admit. I’ve also learned that loneliness can turn good people with genuinely good hearts into a modern day grinch. I see it most often in grocery stores here in NYC, where typically, an elderly person is rude to the cashier or others around because they’re alone and can’t do things fast enough, they can’t find things they need, and they have difficultly maneuvering in the chaos of this city. It’s almost as if they are crying out, “Can’t someone just help make this easier on me? I’m so tired of doing it all alone!” Similarly, as we experience flashbacks of the Grinch’s childhood, we learn that the loneliness of that time was to blame for his miserable existence.

Lesson 2: No one can steal anything from you. Things are things. They can’t steal what matters. Fortunately for the Grinch and all of us, this story has a heroine, and her name is Cindy Lou. For most of the film, she is determined to meet Santa in person because she wants to give her mom a gift that money can’t buy. She recognizes and appreciates how tirelessly her mom works to take care of the family and that she attempts to do so without any indication that she’s exhausted. I’ll have to admit, I teared up a bit during this part, as it hit a little too close to home. 

At first, Cindy Lou was devastated when she woke Christmas morning. She blamed herself for upsetting the man she believed was Santa, causing him to steal their Christmas. At that point, her wise and selfless mom reminded Cindy Lou and rest of us that no one can steal anything from us. Sure, they can steal toys and decorations. But those are just things. All that really matters is what’s inside each of us. I try to remind myself of this often, not only at Christmastime. As I’m drowning in my problems, some of them big and real and some of them “first world,” and as I am tempted to blame others for everything that isn’t perfect in my life, I remind myself that no one can steal my love, my determination, my resilience, and my kindness. Most importantly, I remember that only I am responsible for my happiness. I can’t control the words and actions of others, and I often can’t control things that happen. But I can control how I react, and I can choose how to move forward. 

Lesson 3: Be the better person. After the Grinch had stolen the gifts and decorations from every home in Whoville, Cindy Lou marched up Mount Crumpit, knocked on his door, and invited him to Christmas dinner. The Grinch was shocked and even expressed that he wasn’t deserving of such kindness and forgiveness and that he’d always been alone. Cindy Lou replied, “Well, you’ve been alone long enough.” Doing the right thing, being the better person, reminds me of a quote I once heard from Dwayne Johnson. “Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.” That Cindy Lou…she sure is wise beyond her years.

Lesson 4: Being unkind to others won’t erase the past and it certainly won’t mend a broken heart. As for The Grinch, he recalled moments from his childhood and realized that loneliness was the source of his anger and desire to destroy others. All this time he thought that making others share in his misery would somehow heal his aching soul. I hate to admit it, but I’ve had many days when I was down and felt like the world was against me. And I’ve been guilty of taking that anger, hurt and disappointment out on others. But it didn’t make me any feel better in the end. In fact, when my conscience caught up with me before it was time to rest at night, I felt so much worse. Being unkind to others couldn’t change the Grinch’s past, and it can’t change mine, either. It can’t undo events that have caused our hearts so much pain.

Lesson 5: Only love and kindness can change the world. Hate cannot. For the Grinch, his heart, once two sizes too small, actually grew and became filled with love because those around him showed kindness, even after a despicable act made him seem undeserving. Sometimes all it takes to change someone’s life is for one person to believe in them. That’s a truth that isn’t reserved for fairy tales. That’s real life. And that’s something we’re all capable of doing. During a season when it’s far too easy to focus on what money can buy, it’s important to remind ourselves that love is the greatest gift we can give.

If you’ve seen “The Grinch,” I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. If you haven’t, and especially if this holiday season isn’t bringing you the joy you expect, spend an hour and a half with this green creature. I promise you’ll leave with more perspective and hopefully a warmer heart. 

IT’S GONNA BE A GRAYT DAY

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Charcoal isn’t just for summer barbecues anymore. While black is always a universally flattering color, sometimes we want a somewhat softer look. Charcoal gray (or even a lighter gray) is often a great solution. I swapped sweaters after my Coated Jeans post to the simple oversized gray sweater featured here. And I will happily wear it with distressed blue denim, white jeans (yes, I do white jeans in winter!), camel trousers, and the list goes on. Gray is as versatile as black.

In addition to this sweater, I’m showing you a few “grayt” pieces that I believe you’ll wear all winter long. Most of these items are accessibly priced, making them great gifts if you’re still on the hunt. Simply CLICK ON THE IMAGES below to SHOP THE LOOK.

 
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SHOP THE LOOK

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MY HEART FOR ART: ALEXIS WALTER

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Photo via Paloma Contreras Design from her
Southern Style Now 2017 Showhouse Room

 

It’s been a while since I poured out my heart for art. But rest assured that my love has not waned. Art is very subjective. And I’ve found that I can like most of an artist’s work and still not love all of their pieces. But one exception to that rule is Alexis Walter. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of her work that I wouldn’t be thrilled to hang in my home. From her stunning layered acrylic pieces to her soothing and serenely beautiful watercolors, every piece is a masterpiece.

Whenever I fall truly, madly, and deeply in love with an artist’s work, as I have with Alexis’s, I have a desire to know more about the person behind the easel. People often ask me how I find art. What do I look for in a piece? How do I know it’s worth the money? While I am certainly drawn to certain palettes more than others, I usually decide to buy a piece of art based on how it makes me feel when I look at it. I usually sense some sort of connection, as strange as that may sound with an inanimate object. So when that happens, I like to know what inspires the artist and what kind of story might be behind their creations. It sort of completes my connection with the piece.

Fortunately for me, I recently had the opportunity to interview Alexis Walter, whose stunning work you’ll see throughout this post. She was so gracious and kind and provided a view into her world so that those who admire her work could get to know her a little better. Alexis is based in New Orleans, and I’ve been a fan of hers since I first laid eyes on her work via one of my favorite designer’s Instagram feed. I have sworn that when I have the opportunity to redesign my NYC living room, I’m going to splurge for one of her larger works to be the centerpiece over our sofa. The question is, how would I ever choose since there is so much to love?

So without making you wait any longer, meet Alexis Walter and feast your eyes on the stunning work that her magical hands and soul create.

Jennifer: When did you first discover your talent? Or when did someone else first discover it? 
Alexis: I am very fortunate to have parents who fostered my creativity from an early age. I was always taking different art classes throughout the year, especially during summers. It was pretty amazing to be able to learn and play around with a bunch of different mediums at such an early age.

 
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Watercolor Minis

 

Jennifer: Who or what serves as your inspiration? 
Alexis: Really, almost anything can serve as inspiration. Usually travel has inspired me in the past; however, we haven’t been traveling as much recently, and I’m finding most of my inspiration in my everyday life. My latest group of paintings was inspired by my courtyard garden, which is right outside my studio French doors. I think as I get older, the experiences I've had are inspiring me more than anything.

 
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Photo via Meg Lonergan Interiors Instagram
Featuring Alexis’s work over the bed

 

Jennifer: Your mixed media works have so much texture and dimension. What media do you use? Can you briefly describe the process and tools used to create one of them?
Alexis: Thank you! My process is one that started in high school. I loved working with pastels and wanted to use them on canvas, so I developed a technique which worked to hold the pastel to the canvas. It was really pretty but a total mess! About 15 years ago, I had a canvas prepared for pastels and decided to try oils on it. It worked beautifully. I love the look and the way oils paint. Now I have switched to acrylics, which are so much easier to clean up and work better for my small studio. Over time, I’ve developed my own acrylic concoctions to give my work more of an oil look and feel.

 
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Jennifer: Do you remember the first piece of art you sold? When was it? Can you describe the piece and how you felt when it sold? 
Alexis: I do! I don’t think any artist ever forgets. It’s such an exciting moment!! The piece was an early watercolor (which is my first true love). It was the first official opening I had. The first couple to walk in the door bought it right away. I was beyond elated. Honestly, I still feel the same way, especially when I am able to meet the clients who are bringing home their painting. More often than not I’ll say to my husband after a big day, “Can you believe I’m doing this and people are buying my work?” It’s still very exciting.

 
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Jennifer: Can you describe your art education?
Alexis: My education in general took many detours. I went back and forth between Fine Art and Interior Design all through college. Now that I look back, I am so thankful for being able to learn so much about each major. I loved interior design, but I just do not have the brain for the math. Now I spend all day working with Interior Designers and am able to be inspired by their palettes and designs while I create special pieces for them. It really is the best of both worlds!

 
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Jennifer: Who are your favorite artists, including contemporary artists?
Alexis: My all time favorite is Nicolas de Staël. His palettes and textures are phenomenal. There are special places in my heart for Gauguin and Picasso, as well. For contemporary artists, I’m dying for one of Donald Martiny’s pieces. There are also a few young artists I love following on Instagram. I just bought one of Kristin Blakeney’s small landscapes. She’s doing some really interesting things with landscapes and abstracts. I also really adore my friend Ashton Shaw Despot’s abstract impressionist work.

 
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Photo via Rivers Spencer Interiors, which carries a lot of Alexis’s work

 

Jennifer: If you weren’t an artist, what else would you be?
Alexis: I would be doing something with flowers and gardens or have some sort of specialty shop. I love the hunt for special things and would love to share them with others.

 
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Photo via Paloma Contreras Design Instagram

 

Jennifer: What is your favorite travel destination?
Alexis: Venice, Italy is probably my favorite. We haven’t been in years and we’re due for another trip sometime soon. I love being on the water, and being on the water in such a beautiful historical place is just the ultimate. Not to mention the shopping is DIVINE! 

 
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Foyer in our Southampton home featuring a
flash sale piece from Alexis

 

Jennifer: What are your hobbies?
Alexis: I love to garden and to look at other people’s gardens and dream about future gardens I might have. I’m a big daydreamer. I also love to cook.  

 
 
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Jennifer: Tell us about those adorable furry friends of yours!
Alexis: Miette and Celie, are the sweetest cocker spaniels with very strong and very funny little personalities. I’m so spoiled working from home and getting to spend so much time with them. At any point in the day while I’m in the studio, if I look in my den windows, I’ll find both of them watching me work. That is, of course, when they aren’t in the studio attached to my hip.

 
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Photo via Betsey Mosby Interiors Instagram

 

Jennifer: How has social media changed your business?
Alexis: Social media has been huge for my business. Early on, I had a blog through which I met so many amazing people. Instagram has also been a large part of business for me. I love being able to connect with people from all over. I’m always amazed whenever I meet someone through social media—we always have a person, a school, or a place in common. It’s such a small world!

 
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Jennifer: Do you work with interior designers and/or homeowners to create commissions
Alexis: I do! The vast majority of my business is commission work. I love painting pieces especially for a space. Part of that is definitely due to my love of interior design, but I also love seeing the design of a room and crafting the perfect piece for it. There’s always a bit of trial and error but it is extra fulfilling when the project is completed and I’m able to see my painting photographed in the finished space.

 
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Jennifer: Besides your mixed media and watercolors, are you considering exploring any new directions?
Alexis: Always. I have been working on a fabric line for about six years. While I was going to High Point Market, I could never find the time to finalize the designs and really follow through with production. Now that I’m taking a break from Market, I’m hoping to have the time to get the ball rolling again. I also love to collaborate with other artists working with different mediums. There’s usually a project or two going on behind the scenes.


And finally, Alexis was kind enough to share a list of her “best of” New Orleans, but I’m going to save that for another post so you all have something to look forward to. I promise I won’t keep it a secret for much longer. For today, I hope you enjoyed learning more about the person and her art and have fallen in love just as much as I have. The Alexis Walter Gallery is located at 5702 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70115. You can find her on Instagram at alexiswalterart. Her website is officially alexiswalterart.com, but it’s best to check her Instagram feed and stories for dates and links to available work. And of course, you may email her for current available work or to inquire about commissions at info@alexiswater.com.

Thank you, Alexis, for sharing your talent, and now more about yourself, with the world.

COATED JEANS

Jennifer Mejia

 
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A coat. It’s good for more than just warmth. It’s a fabulous way to make ordinary jeans a little snazzier (is that a word?!) You guys know I love my leather leggings, but sometimes I want a similar look in a more casual style. Enter the coated jean. I got tired of wearing blue jeans every day, so I’ve started branching out into colors and coated jeans again to make things a little more interesting. You can wear them with boots or dress them up with pumps. They’re extremely versatile, and you know that’s my thing.

 
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I found this pair at…wait for it…Zara! Shocking, right? They sold out in many sizes during the Black Friday sale, but if you click through to the site and don’t see your size available, you can add your name to the waitlist. More are coming! They’ll email you when they’re in. Their system actually works, and I get highly coveted items all the time just after all I think all hope has been lost. They do run a little snug. I went up a size and recommend you do the same. If you simply can’t wait if your size is out of stock, I’ve included a few additional options from other brands. Nordstrom has a ton, and with their great return policy, just order a few and try.

 
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This cropped sweater is wonderful. It’s tweed and has subtle sequins throughout. I have a very long torso, so it won’t be as cropped on most people. I went out on a limb and tried cognac boots and a belt to change things up, and I like the look versus all black. I also think it makes the entire ensemble more casual. Simply click on the product images or names to SHOP THE LOOK in the section below.

This winter, apply two coats. And I’m not talking paint! xoxo!

THE ULTIMATE SPA EXPERIENCE

Jennifer Mejia

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Image via Ninotch website

It’s the holiday season. And as much joy as it brings us, it also brings stress. Some have financial stress over the pressure to buy the best gifts. And where do we find the time to shop? Some have stress due to travel—traffic, hours in the airport. And some have stress when they’re around family members for too long. Stress, joy, stress, joy! It can be quite overwhelming and…stressful!

During this busy season, and certainly after it’s all over, we need to take care of ourselves. I’m a firm believer in maintenance and prevention. I don’t like taking pills or having surgery to fix problems after the fact. I’m also a big believer in caring for ourselves inside and out. Stress contributes tremendously to chronic illness and pain. And there are loads of natural ways to relieve stress, from meditation to exercise to simply practicing your breathing. Floatation Therapy is a powerful tool for wellness. And I recently had the opportunity to experience my first float at Ninotch, An Urban Retreat, in Tysons Corner, Virginia. In addition, after the float, the founder and owner of Ninotch, Tatiana Tchamouroff, performed a Hydrafacial, which cleared and soothed my skin, plumped it up, and brightened it, giving me that perfect holiday glow. Lucky you, I’m sharing my experience, AND if you read through to the end, there’s something in it for you, too!

So what’s the real deal with floatation therapy? And why go to Ninotch for it? Allow me to plagiarize a bit from Tatiana. “Ninotch’s float rooms are designed to encourage your body to take a gigantic mental and physical sigh of relief.” Other spas offer floatation therapy, but it’s often in a float tank, kind of like being in a coffin. That’s my analogy, not Tatiana’s. I would never be able to relax in that type of environment. Ninotch’s two float rooms are just that—two separate rooms, each with a huge pool, even large enough for two people if you’d like a floating partner. The room is like your own personal spa. Beautifully tiled, beautifully lit (or you can opt for complete darkness), with a rain shower, organic toiletries to cleanse before and after your float, and a comfy robe and spa sandals in case you’re having another treatment. The rooms are insulated to block noise from the outside world, and there’s also relaxing spa music that can be heard even with the back half of your head submerged.

The pool itself is filled with just under a foot of water and 1,200 pounds of Epsom salt. That amount of salt ensures you stay afloat. The water is maintained at 94 degrees to match the average external temperature of the human body. This temperature is known as skin-receptor neutral, meaning the water creates no cues for the skin to report as stimulation. Translation: Your ability to relax won’t be affected by the fact that half of your body is above water.

 
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A Float Room View

So what are the benefits of floating? The obvious one is softer skin, but that’s not really why you float. Floating helps relieve chronic and acute muscular and joint pain. There is ongoing research investigating and suggesting that floating provides relief of pain from fibromyalgia. It improves circulation, increases mobility, combats inflammation, and actually improves sleep for a few days after the float. One hour of sleep during a float is equivalent to four hours of regular sleep. It’s calming and alleviates stress. Interestingly, an average person in a good float has been shown to produce brain patterns similar to those of Zen monks who have been practicing mediation for over 30 years. And finally, there is research showing that when floatation therapy is combined with counseling, it improves outcomes for addiction and trauma patients. It is also instrumental in creating positive changes in brain patterns associated with addiction and anxiety.

If you still need one last reason to try floatation therapy, just look at the practices of some of the nation’s most famous sports teams like the New England Patriots and Chicago Cubs who use it as a component of their training programs. For athletes, floatation therapy can improve clarity of mind, quicken reaction time, and aid in recovery when used as part of their training and conditioning programs.

Finally, for any germaphobes like yours truly, floating at Ninotch is sanitary, and more information than you probably want or need about their maintenance and filtration process can be found on their website. I won’t bore you with that here, but I wouldn’t have gotten in the pool if there was any doubt in my mind.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first float and felt extremely relaxed. In hindsight, I wish I’d done a 90-minute float. I didn’t sleep the entire 60 minutes, but I assume that’s normal since it was a brand new experience unlike anything I’ve ever done before. But I did manage to drift off a few times, and there is no doubt that I felt calm and relaxed when the overhead light illuminated slowly to wake me.

 
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Image via Hydrafacial.com

After my float, I showered with organic shower gel and washed my hair with organic lavender shampoo to keep me in that relaxed state for my next treatment, the Hydrafacial. This facial is truly innovative. The biggest difference for me was that this facial did everything a typical facial does (and then some) but I was relaxed the entire time. There are some facials where I’ve felt burning from exfoliation and pain from extraction, but this facial actually felt good. You know how brushing your teeth and flossing always makes you feel clean and refreshed? This was a similar experience for me. I actually enjoyed feeling the suction from the Hydrafacial instrument on my face.

Hydrafacial is a facial for everyone. You name the skin issue, it can help. In 30 minutes, perhaps longer if you include a Booster to address specific issues, your skin will look and feel brand new. At Ninotch, Tatiana adds one step to the normal 3-step procedure during winter months. Before the official Hydrafacial begins, you get a “Pre-Cleanse,” during which a soothing cream cleanser is applied and an electrical, rotating brush is used to remove makeup, excess dirt and oil, and exfoliate. The three official steps are as follows:

  1. Cleanse & Peel: Uncovering a new layer of skin with exfoliation and resurfacing. Glycolic acid is used to assist in the removal of dead skin cells and to unclog pores.

  2. Extract & Hydrate: Debris is removed from the pores with painless suction, and the skin is nourished with intense moisturizers that quench the skin. Salicylic acid is used to aid in extraction and also helps to calm and soothe redness from acne.

  3. Infuse & Protect: The skin’s surface is saturated with antioxidants and peptides to maximize glow. Antioxidants help limit the production of free radicals that cause skin damage, allowing skin to repair itself. With your eyes covered, red light LED is applied to stimulate collagen production to give skin its plump look and to help minimize fine lines and wrinkles. It also reduces any redness that might occur after facial treatments. Finally, a choice of 30 or 50 SPF is applied to protect the skin. 

In addition to the standard Hydrafacial just described, you can add Boosters. These super serums can be tailored into the treatments to address specific skin concerns. Options are:

  1. Britenol: Minimizes the appearance of dark spots and sun spots to even out complexion. Leaves skin glowing with a more even complexion.

  2. Dermabuilder: Minimizes signs of aging and recharges skin with a patented combination of peptides to help effectively address fine lines, skin tone and texture. It hydrates, firms and soothes skin.

  3. Growth Factor Boost: Specifically designed to restore skin health, which helps diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Growth factors are naturally occurring proteins that regulate cellular growth and play a key role in maintaining healthy skin structure and function.

After my Hydrafacial, I felt so refreshed and my skin looked more even and fuller/plumper. My husband’s was clearer and smoother. I thought his skin actually looked better than mine, as I still have a lot of work to do, primarily age spots from sun damage. Next time I’m going to try a booster. And for any of you wanna-be dermatologists, you can actually see the product of the extraction in the Hydrafacial canister after the procedure is complete. It’s pretty cool and disgusting all at once!

Now, the bonus for reading until the end of this post. For any of you who live in or may be visiting the Washington, DC metro area between now and the end of 2019 (that’s more than a year from now), Ninotch is offering a special 20% discount off of your first Float and/or Hydrafacial at Ninotch Tysons Corner. Just provide PROMO CODE: BLG20.

If you aren’t planning to be near Ninotch, you can find a Hydrafacial provider near you by using this locator.

And finally, I have to give a shout out to my friend Tatiana, the founder and owner of Ninotch. She is one amazing woman! She started this business as a massage therapist in 1996 under a different name, and in 2008, it became Ninotch as a tribute to her late father. In addition to massage therapy, flotation therapy, and facials, Ninotch provides a wide variety of services between their Bethesda, Maryland and Tysons Corner locations. Airbrush tanning, eyelash extensions, waxing, fascial stretch therapy, and kinesio taping services to name a few. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll love knowing that Tatiana and her staff served as the massage therapy group for the Washington Nationals from 2007-2012. And many of the players and their families still call on Ninotch today for a variety of services.

During this busy season and throughout the new year, you owe it to yourself and/or a loved one to relax. Take care of yourself, inside and out. We all lead stressful busy lives, so take a break…or a float…and give your mind, body, and skin a beautiful refresh.

HOMEMADE BATH BOMBS

Jennifer Mejia

 
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Bath Bombs make a great gift from your little ones. It teaches them that gifts don’t have to cost a lot of money. They just need to come from the heart. My kids and I love making these on a rainy day, so I purchase the ingredients and keep them on hand. These easy DIY Instructions are from Family Fun Magazine. We double this recipe to make about 8 large bath bombs. I’ve provided links to purchase citric acid and Epsom Salt, although the latter can usually be found at any pharmacy or drug store. I purchased a 5 lb. bag of citric acid, but the same brand makes a 1 lb. bag if you are doing this as a one-time project.

You’ll need to purchase your own bath bomb molds. I purchased these from Amazon. Here is another option.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup Citric Acid

  • 1 cup baking soda

  • 1/2 cup corn starch

  • 1/2 cup Epsom salt

  • 1 tsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp water

  • OPTIONAL: 1-2 drops essential oil (lavender is nice)

  • Food coloring

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine first four dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. In a separate small bowl, combine water, olive oil and essential oil using a wire whisk. Drizzle the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Then mix it together quickly so it doesn’t bubble too much (it will bubble some). I find it easier to mix with my hands. Once combined, it should feel like wet sand and stick together if pressed in your hand. If it’s too dry, add olive oil, one drop at a time, to moisten. But DO NOT OVERSATURATE. Allow the mixture to sit for a minute or two.

Separate the mixture into smaller bowls and add a few drops food coloring. Again, mixing by hand is best (even if messy). Mix some before deciding to add more food coloring.

Layer the mixture into both halves of the molds, packing them down. Fill each side so there is a slight mound on each half. Press the two halves together and gently rotate until the sides meet. Some excess powder made drop out. That’s okay.

Set the combined bomb aside in the mold for a few minutes. Then carefully twist one side of the mold to remove it. Allow each bomb to sit and dry in one side of the mold for an hour or two, then carefully remove the remaining mold. Allow the bombs to dry overnight.

Get ready for fun with the kids! Or, if gifting, wrap them in a clear cellophane bag with colorful ribbon or raffia.

NYC FAVORITE EATS

Jennifer Mejia

 
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I’m wondering if anyone else has seen enough turkey and stuffing to last them for another year? While I love Thanksgiving, the sheer amount of food prepared and consumed over the long four-day weekend is obscene. I think I’m one of those people who only eats turkey around Thanksgiving, not counting a turkey sandwich here and there, of course. But because no family ever eats all of the food prepared for that day, there’s somewhat of an obligation to eat as much as possible before the weekend is over. Sadly, I believe I personally consumed an entire pumpkin pie (yes, that’s eight slices) from Thursday to Sunday, including one slice as part of a healthy breakfast this morning.

Not surprisingly, I’m looking forward to getting back to meals that do not include anything that once gobbled or is orange. Fortunately for me, New York City has some of the best restaurants in the world. And given that the holidays are officially here, I thought it might be nice to list some of my favorite restaurants for those native New Yorkers who are looking to get out and celebrate a little and for those of you who might be visiting during the holiday season. A seat at some of these joints is often hard to come by, regardless of the time of year, but especially between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Open Table and Resy can be helpful in your search, but I’ve found it’s always better to call, as sometimes the restaurant will confirm a spot that isn’t showing online. But if both avenues fail, don’t despair, as people always cancel, so keep calling up to a few hours before you want to dine. In addition, many places also take walk-ins, so if you have the time to go early around 5 pm when they open for dinner, your chances of getting a table without a reservation are still promising.

If you have any questions on these restaurants or others not listed here, you can always contact me. I love playing travel agent. Here are my favorites, in no particular order. Bon appetit!

 
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at Gray’s Papaya enjoying a…hot dog!

 

GREEK
Milos (I’ve always known it as Estiatorio Milos) in midtown is my favorite Greek restaurant. I’ve loved Greek food ever since we honeymooned in Greece in 2006! It’s difficult to compare to restaurants in Greece, but Milos does…it’s that good! The restaurant is also stunning. All of this comes at a price, BUT you can always go for lunch and order off of the $32.00 three-course prix fixe menu. It might just be the best deal in town!

ITALIAN
I’ve never trusted a person who doesn’t eat pasta. My love for Italian food knows no boundaries, except for cannolis and tiramisu, which I don’t really care for. For Italian cuisine, I really couldn’t limit my favorites to one. So I’m giving you three.

Marea is everything wonderful that you could imagine. Why? Because they serve two of my favorite things—pasta and crudo—and they do it like no other. But that’s not all. Want oysters on the half shell? Check. Caviar? They have that, too. And all of the cooked fish and pasta you could want but never knew you needed. They offer a four-course prix-fixe menu that is a bit steep, but a la carte is also an option.

Emilio’s Ballato on Houston Street doesn’t even have a website. They don’t need one. They also don’t take reservations, unless your name is Alec Baldwin, who we saw the last time we dined there. But they take walk-ins, and as luck would have it, we went on a very cold night around 9 pm and didn’t wait at all. They serve all of the classics like spaghetti and meatballs, which are the best you’ll ever have and smell sooooo good. But they also have nightly specials, and I recommend trying those, as well. It’s worth the wait if there is one.

If restaurants gave out frequent flyer miles, I’d have a ton at Lupa Osteria Romana. When we lived downtown, I think we ate there at least twice a month. Owned by Joe Bastianich (started as a partnership with Mario Batali, who is no longer involved), it’s the best Roman cuisine at a reasonable price. They also have daily specials, and you’re a fool if you don’t order one or two because they are masters at preparing seasonal ingredients.

STEAK
Strip House Downtown is the place to go for steak. For this restaurant, I think location matters a lot. Downtown’s red and dim interior gives it a sexy vibe to go along with the delicious food. The midtown location is too corporate. Fabulous steaks, an outstanding wine list, and raw oysters are a few of the reasons it’s been on my tops list for years.

SUSHI
There is no shortage of fabulous sushi restaurants in NYC. Thankfully. Because if it wasn’t for the fear of mercury poisoning (and my budget), I think I’d eat sushi every day. Right next to Lupa on Thompson Street in the West Village is Tomoe Sushi. You’ll know it when you see the line down the sidewalk because they don’t take reservations. Besides Lupa, I think I’ve been to this restaurant the most out of any in NYC. You go to Tomoe for the fish, not for the ambiance or decor. It’s nothing fancy. But I promise you will not be disappointed with the sushi. They only accept cash and American Express. And it'’s difficult for them to accommodate parties larger than five.

Also in the West Village is Neta. I’m usually a gal who likes her sushi simple. But Neta dresses up raw fish better than anyone. The best part is that every server we’ve had has been spot on for recommendations. So if you’re not sure what to order, fingers crossed you get someone just as knowledgeable. But to be safe, sit at the sushi bar. Those guys know what’s up.

When I worked in the food industry, the account rep at the agency we hired was a huge foodie. He introduced me to Jewel Bako, and I’ve never looked back. While it’s a hike from our present home on the Upper West Side, it’s worth the trip to the East Village. It’s a bit expensive, but it’s a sexy setting and the sushi doesn’t get much better. As with Neta, it’s wonderful if you can snag a seat at the sushi bar.

FRENCH
I don't know if it’s just me, but I’ve never found great French food that comes cheaply. So when I want good French food, I usually reserve it for a special occasion. Hands down, Daniel is the best I’ve ever had. The entire experience is top notch. The restaurant is gorgeous, the service impeccable (they even give you a little stool on which you rest your handbag), and the food is what I’d request for my last meal on this great Earth. It’s a special occasion type of place (I went for my 40th birthday), but if you’re visiting, I think that’s a special occasion. Go for it! And get all gussied up. It’s not a jeans and t-shirt type of place. But the service is not stuffy.

I went to Gabriel Kreuther to celebrate another birthday. I wanted to kiss Chef Gabriel after my meal. As with Daniel, perfect food, service and ambiance. It’s also right at Bryant Park, so taking a stroll before or after dinner just adds to the experience.

BURGERS
As I was typing this section title, I was about to write “Burger Joints.” That’s kind of funny because a favorite burger joint of mine is called The Burger Joint, and it’s off of the lobby of the Parker Hotel (formerly Le Parker Meridien). You enter through a thick velvet curtain. It’s dark but not depressing. You order at the counter and find a seat while you wait for them to prepare your food. You’re going for burgers, fries and a milkshake. Oh, and onion rings.

We used to go to Corner Bistro in the West Village a lot when we lived a few blocks away, but we haven’t been for years. That said, it used to be a favorite, so if you’re in the ‘hood, I’d say it’s worth a shot.

NEW AMERICAN
Anyone who knows NYC might think this is a no-brainer, but I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t include Gramercy Tavern. I don’t know of any other restaurant that has consistently fired on all cylinders for so many years running. The tavern where you enter is gorgeous…like something out of a fairy tale…perfectly rustic and chic all at the same time. The food is perfection and the service superb without being stuffy. Reservations are hard to come by, but the Tavern is walk-in only, so go early and fall in love.

Tocqueville’s website says it’s French-inspired, but it’s New American in my book. The food is outstanding. Years ago, one of my girlfriend’s boyfriends rented out the private dining room for dinner with her parents. Someone was trying a bit hard, don’tcha think? So I was reluctant to try it, thinking it would be too stiff for me. And while I wouldn’t refer to it as a hip restaurant, it’s lovely and the food is outstanding, and I consistently return, year after year. Not in the private dining room…in the main restaurant. (Insert wink emoji.)

 
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Photo via La Mercerie Cafe Instagram

BEST BRUNCH
La Mercerie Cafe downtown is a feast for the stomach and eyes. While you can go for dinner (they’re open until 10 pm), I think brunch is a much better choice so the light pours in to illuminate the stunning space. Oh, and did I mention that it’s one of Ina’s favorites? Sold!

KOREAN BBQ
Koreatown is full of Korean BBQ restaurants. One of my husband’s business school classmates organized a group outing to one every year, and I’m actually going with friends this coming Saturday to one, followed by karaoke. That should be a night full of good stories. But if you’re not a risk-taker, you can head to Cote. Sadly Do Hwa in the West Village is now permanently closed, as that would have been my first recommendation. But Cote is wonderful and indulgent with in-house dry aged beef you grill right at your table (without the smoke, which I sort of like for an authentic experience, but I’ll live!)

BEST “HAPPY HOUR”
If an early dinner fits your schedule and you’re looking to explore a popular family neighborhood, visit The Mermaid Inn on the Upper West Side. From 5-7 pm, this spot is the best deal in town. It’s a lively atmosphere so although you’re going for the food, it still has that happy hour feel. $1.25 oysters on the half shell and $6.50 fried clam sliders are two of my favorites. And of course, lower than usual cocktail, beer and wine prices. We take our kids, and you can, too, as they have a wonderful kids menu to boot. But it’s still hip and not at all overrun with toddlers.

DELI
On Houston Street is Katz’s Deli. I don’t think my mouth will ever be able to open wide enough to take a full bite of one of their sandwiches. It’s the only place to go if you want to visit a quintessential New York deli.

HOT DOGS
And last but not least, there are hot dogs in NYC. I’m at the famous Gray’s Papaya on the Upper West Side in these photos. There aren’t any seats, but that means the service is fast. The hot dogs are surprisingly decent, and you can wash it down with a delicious papaya drink. If you're going to get a hot dog in NYC, avoid the street carts and head to this spot right by the 72nd Street 1-2-3 train.

I hope you’ll try some of these places if you haven’t. If you do, please write to me and tell me about your experience. Bon appetit!

HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE FOR HIM

Jennifer Mejia

 
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We all have special men in our lives. Whether it’s our husband, father, son, boyfriend, best friend, uncle, cousin…I know I’m missing someone…we love to love them. They bring so much joy to our worlds. And gift or no gift, they will love us simply for who we are. But knowing that, we always want to buy them something that they’ll enjoy because we live for their smiles. That said, I think it is so difficult to buy for men. One reason is that I feel like so many great gifts for men are expensive. There are a few of those on here. But I’ve also managed to find gifts that won’t break the bank, and I think they’ll be just as thrilled with those if you aren’t able to splurge for the pricey gadgets. CLICK ON THE PHOTOS OR NAMES BELOW TO SHOP.

 

Bose SoundTouch 300 Sound Bar

Every man loves a good sound system, so I always try to include one in my gift guides. Bose almost never fails. And this one is also really sleek and cool looking. Sort of like a sports car, and if you can’t afford one of those, this is the next best thing, right?

GoPro Hero7 Black

For the active man who wants to capture all the thrills and excitement of his life. And that of his family. So ladies, this could be a good thing for you, too.

Pat LaFrieda Urbani Truffle Burgers

This was also in my Holiday Gift Guide for Her. But let’s face it, men really enjoy grilling. Somehow it’s not like cooking to those who don’t normally cook. But these burgers take it up a notch. If you’ve never had Pat LaFrieda burgers, they’re great on their own. But O. M. G. with truffles added!

The NEAT Whiskey Glass

The unique shape of this glass allows your whiskey or bourbon drinker to forego the strong alcohol fumes of their favorite spirit and enjoy only the natural aroma they love so much.

Pedro Ximenez Sherry

This was also in my Holiday Gift Guide for Her. I love dessert wine and cordials. But every time I order it at a restaurant, they always bring it to my husband. So does that mean dessert wines are usually more for men? Regardless, this really isn’t a wine, but if a guy in your life loves Port wine, he will love this. Surprise him. Show him something new!

Floatation Therapy

Floatation Therapy is a powerful tool for relaxation, pain relief, sleep deprivation and relief after intense workouts. It also calms the mind. My friends in Northern Virginia own Ninotch, a spa with open float rooms. Give a hardworking man in your life some time to float, relax, and come back to you refreshed. And for those of you outside of the Washington, DC area, be sure to look for a spa with floatation therapy in open rooms near you. You can learn more about the therapy by clicking through here.

Kiehl’s Mighty Moisture Set

Dry skin plagues us all during Winter months, especially men. But a lot of men don’t take the time to really care for their skin. Kiehl’s Creme de Corps has always been the most hydrating formula in my mind. So I love that it’s teamed up with others in the Kiehl’s line for the coming Winter.

Portable Backgammon Set

So many men love to play backgammon. And my older son is no exception. He loves to play with his father. What a perfect gift for both and a way to keep them off of the iPad when traveling.

Light Up and Reflective Cap

No, this is not a Minions cap. It’s a smart and safe cap for those men who like to run and do other things at night. With reflectors and a removable light, it ensures he’ll be noticed.

Buck Mason Pima Tee

Every man is always in search of a great t-shirt or two. This comes in 12 colors and has received reviews as the best all around t-shirt. I think it’s worth a try.

Guardman 11-in-1 Pocket Bottle Opener and More

This 11-in-1 tool that serves as a bottle opener, can opener, screwdriver, ruler, and so much more will be the perfect gift if your guy is a Mr. Fix It!

Nomad Slim Charging Wallet

Nomad Bi-Fold Charging Wallet

These wallets will keep your busy guy all charged up without adding tons of extra bulk and weight. The iPhone charger is built right in. And they’re actually very stylish to boot.

Navy Shearling Slippers for Men

Because who needs another pair of tan or brown slippers? And I like the soles on these because it wouldn’t be the end of the world if he walked outside in them.

Quarter Zip Sweater with Leather Trim

This sweater can be worn casually with jeans with a t-shirt or collared shirt underneath, and also worn with trousers. Or layered under a blazer. Versatility is always a good thing.

Colorblock Scarf

Every man needs a good scarf to finish off a beautiful coat. And I love this one because it can complement black, gray, and camel, popular choices for men, so a safer bet for a gift.

Man’s Search for Meaning

Amazon’s Review: Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. He theorizes that our primary drive in life is the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all! And remember that time with your family and friends is more important than the hundreds of Black Friday sales that have already begun the race to your wallet. Take Thursday off. Shop now or Friday. xoxo!