…and other thoughts on all things fashion, beauty, food, and culture.

Confession time: I’m a sucker for a new product – gimmicky as it may appear.  Cellulite cream, whitening toothpaste, primer…you name it, I’ll probably try it, especially if I can get a free sample.  Also, I wouldn’t say I’m all that big on natural or DIY products and treatments.  I went on a natural toothpaste bender for a while, but its thin texture meant it splattered all over my bathroom (and me) thanks to the whirring motions of my electric toothbrush.  Generally, I’ve been trying more and more “natural” and earth-friendly products of late in the interest of reducing my environmental impact and absorbing fewer synthetic compounds through my epidermis, but ultimately, I’m still sticking with what works.

Given the extreme cold and dryness (ok “extreme” is a relative term) we have been experiencing, I toyed with the idea of trying an exfoliating lip treatment.  Sephora, for example, wants $22.50 for Fresh’s Brown Sugar Lip Polish:

The ingredient list reveals sugar, several types of oil, and several iterations of Vitamin E, as well as some emulsifiers and preservatives to keep the concoction together, and shelf-stable.  Were money no object, I’d likely pop on over to the mall and snap this up.  However, on a particularly desperate evening, I took a look at my bottle of extra virgin olive oil and thought hm – I could probably do this myself.  A quarter teaspoon of white granulated sugar and a couple drops of oil later, I had significantly smoother, moisturized lips and $22.50 still in my bank account (and probably more, given that I’m really not capable of ducking into Sephora for just one item).  I gently massaged the mixture over my lips for about 20 seconds, rinsed off with warm water, then sealed in my efforts with Smith’s Rosebud Salve.

I’ve read about similar recipes for an all-over body scrub using olive oil and sugar, but really, I’d rather save such large quantities of foodstuffs for, ya know, food.  A couple drops of olive oil and a sprinkling of sugar once a week in the winter however seems a lot more justifiable.  Shoot for a couple treatments a week if you really struggle with flaky dryness.  Either way, I can assure you your lips will be as good as new.  Bonus points if you use vegan sugar, if that’s what you’re into.

Only a week and a half remains until the Groupon to my store expires.  I speak for a lot of us when I say I’ll be relieved to see the end of $50 sales turning into $0 sales, $18 Alternative Apparel t-shirts waltz out of the store for $1.36 each, and when my IPT (items per transaction) is above two, yet my ADS (average dollar sales) remains well below the desired $100.  However, in spite of these frustrating retail challenges, it has been very interesting and educational to see customers’ reactions when they learn that their seemingly generous friends, relatives, or boyfriends have used a $50 discount on their gift.

During the holiday season, a husband and wife approached the register brandishing a gift receipt and wanting to return an shimmery blue Michael Stars v-neck top.  A red flag should have gone up in my head from the start (me: “Could I have your last name please?” Customer: “You have the receipt…you shouldn’t need that. Why do you need that?!”).  Anyhow – I entered the four-letter code from the gift receipt (please see the previous post for a more in-depth rant on returns and exchanges) into the price field on the computer.

My mouth probably fell agape as $16.75 appeared on the screen.

Anyone in their right mind knows that no Michael Stars product that’s not on massive clearance would retail for $16.75.  I probably muttered something like “hm, that doesn’t seem right,” and entered the gift code a second time.

$16.75 stared back at me again.

At this point, I alert my store manager who is at the register next to me.  By now, the couple looks very confused and a bit agitated (albeit, understandably).  I explain to her that I have entered the gift code for this top (the full price of which is, in fact, about $75) but *this* is what appears.  Initially my manager seems perplexed, while the couple is still in the dark – probably presuming I have no clue how to operate my computer.  I explain to them that upon entering the code on the receipt they provided me, it appears that the purchaser paid only $16.75 for the top.

“No way!” Exclaims the wife.  “Not possible. If my mom had gotten a good deal on that top, she would’ve told us,” claims the husband.

At this point, my manager chimes in: “What probably happened is that she used her Groupon on it; that’s the only way the price could be so low.”

Still in disbelief, the couple attempted to wrap their heads around the situation while demanding the full price of the top in store credit.  Unfortunately for them, no sales associate or store manager is about to give an additional $50 to anyone without the original receipt. The couple ended up canceling the transaction and leaving in a confused, exasperated huff – I think more exasperated with the husband’s mother than anything else.

It’s never fun to come to the realization that your mother-in-law skimped on your Christmas gift.  Of course, this was only the first instance in such a series:

A girl wanted to exchange an Anna Beck necklace her boyfriend had given her.  She had her gift receipt in hand, but was insistent that she should be getting at least $50 in store credit given that the necklaces go for about that much.  More than likely, she had come in with her boyfriend and selected the one she liked on a previous visit.

Price the boyfriend paid? $1.25.

I renamed/rebranded the blog to allude to my time in retail because well, it’s paying the bills for now.  By “paying the bills,” I mean supporting a steady diet of cappuccinos from the Barnes and Noble Cafe, $10/day parking garage fees, and 100-calorie packs of brown sugar and cinnamon Blue Diamond almonds.  Lately however, I’m already nostalgic for the holiday season – you know the time where everyone’s excited for Hanukkah and Christmas (no, I never had a customer purchasing a Kwanzaa gift) and buys everything ($80 tops, $170 jeans, $350 Marc by Marcs) and really appreciates that you’re voluntarily giving them a gift box and some ribbon (“It’s pre-cut to the size of the box!”).

The holiday season is sharply contrasted by the last two weeks: thousands of dollars in returns, hundreds of items to markdown (and re-mark the following Thursday), and customers who have left their receipts, original method of tender, and manners at home.  In fairness, a good many of my customers are 100% polite, agreeable, and understanding of our return policies (that are shockingly similar to those of most other stores in the universe and are clearly printed along the back of each and every receipt).  Others, however, seem a little lost as to the standard protocol involved when they would like to make a return, so on behalf of sales associates everywhere, here are some points to remember:

  • Before you leave your house: Locate your receipt.  Try to ensure that the item you want to return is actually listed on that receipt (match the item number on tag to the one on your receipt).  Skim the store’s return policy on the back so you know what to expect at the store.
  • Note how you paid for your items.  If you paid with a credit card, note which card it was and ensure that you have it with you.  More than likely, the store CANNOT “look up” the card you used in order to credit that card.  To credit an amount back to a card requires the FULL card number and expiration date.  Stores do not save this information in order to prevent unauthorized use of your card.
  • If you are returning an item you received as a gift accompanied by a gift receipt, you may notice a code in place of a dollar amount for the item (e.g. “1 @ IBEP”).  These letters are entered into the computer to reveal the amount paid for the item at the time it was purchased.  You will receive store credit for this value or any remaining value if you make an exchange.
  • Without a receipt of any kind, store credit will be issued for the current price of the item so long as the tag is with the item.
  • In order to return an item, it must not be altered in any way.  For example, the straps sewn into the shoulder that keep the item on the hanger cannot be cut off, the item cannot be smeared with deodorant and/or makeup, and the item cannot be saturated with the scent of your perfume.

Hopefully none of this comes as a shock?  If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the customer might always be right, but businesses still have to protect themselves from fraud.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there looking for free money (or free product) and will do what they can to get it – thus the advent of the Return Policy.  If the associates at your store are worth their salt, they will understand the policies, too, and should be happy to accommodate anyone who meets them halfway and respects a store’s policies.

Now go forth and shop (and quit returning stuff! Pre-spring merch is coming out!)!

One of my favorite things about the advent of a new season is the deluge of nail trends that pop up before we’ve even begun to process the rest of the trends that marched down that season’s runways.  I’m especially into anything that evokes fall/winter when it comes to nails.  I have to admit that I don’t get all that excited over the airy light iterations of cream, pink, pastel, and candy colors that seem to come around every spring.  I really look forward to fall’s moodier colors.  Given the ridiculous weather around here (highs in the 50′s one week and 80+ the next), nail color is also one of the easiest ways to get into the season without forcing yourself to don a scarf just because it’s mid-October.

Perhaps the coolest and simultaneously most accessible nail trend is the “greige” nail.  A greige polish strikes a balance between well, grey and beige tones.  Maybe some would argue that only a few shades can be considered greige, but after reviewing a lot of the recent “collections” in nail color, I think I’ve decided that griege is more a color family nowadays than a term confined to a few specific colors.

Chanel’s Khaki Rose and Khaki Brun are two shades that take the military look and the ubiquitous neutrals seen on the F/W ’10 RTW runways to another level, in my opinion.  Khaki Vert is the third color in this collection (especially designed to commemorate Fashion’s Night Out), but I’m inclined to think that it’s taking military to too literal of a level to have much wearability through the seasons.  I applied le khaki rose to my toenails a while back, and after wearing it for a while, I realized that I’m pretty much in love with it.  At first glance, I had to stop myself from wondering why my nails looked so muddy (I hear similar sentiments often from other women trying out a shade in the greige family).  Eventually though, I loved seeing how my nails always looked “dressed” without making too strong a statement in the usual reds, blacks, navys, or brights.

 

From left to right, khaki rose, khaki vert, khaki brun

 

Dying to have this applied to my fingernails.  I could give it a shot on my own, but I’d rather a professional handle it to ensure the best finish!

In keeping with the neutral/greige bender that I’m on lately, another shade I’m nuts over is butter LONDON’s “Yummy Mummy.”  butter even claims on their website that “this medium beige colour is simply stunning on EVERY skin colour” (note the British English!).  Having seen several ladies sporting this shade (myself included), I have to say they’re correct.  A big selling point of butter’s is their “3 Free” campaign; their products are free of formaldehyde, toluene, and DBP (studies have shown these ingredients to be carcinogenic).  Their polishes go for about $14 a pop, and $18 for their Flawless Basecoat and P.D.Quick-Dry Topcoat (but those are another post entirely).  Just an FYI – Sephora by OPI and NARS polishes are also “three-free”!

 

butter LONDON's "Yummy Mummy"

 

Best news yet? “Yummy Mummy” and several other fabulous butter LONDON shades are available at the store where I work :)

Lastly, I want to address my new favorite glitzier neutral, Sephora by OPI’s “Already Famous.”  This polish provides a serious hit of shimmer, but the champagne tone allows it to transition easily from weekend into the workweek, unlike chunky glitter varieties or highly pigmented colors.  Another bonus – the fine glitter means it’ll adhere to nails much longer!  I rocked this shade with my anniversary ensemble (a dark dark burgundy crepe de chine dress w/a black sequin inset along the chest and taupe suede Steve Madden pumps) in order to glam up my nails without detracting from the dress.  Wore it the rest of the week and received tons of compliments at work. :)

 

Sephora by OPI's "Already Famous"

 

Maybe I’ll post pics of future manis?  Happy Mani/Pedi Time!

You may notice…

Hi there – you may notice some changes around my blog, namely the title, and the fact that I’ve come a long way since my post on leggings-as-pants. I’ve decided to visibly narrow my blogging focus and hopefully I’ll be doing it more often as a result. As of the past couple months, I’ve been working at a trendy clothing store in Arlington, VA, where we’ve been known to encourage the (TASTEFUL) wearing of leggings-as-pants. Everything in moderation, I suppose…. In any event, I should be around quite a bit more. Been saving up lots of material for posts, particularly about beauty products (read: my favorite pasttime). Get excited! Back soon… <3

Reflecting on the year

It has been almost exactly a year since I moved into my Arlington apt w/the boy and started my MA program.  I promise this will not be an insanely long deep philosophical reflective treatise on the past year, but I figured I really ought to commemorate this occasion and actually blog again if I’m gonna link here from my twitter profile (follow me – I’m antigravityamy).

This year has produced some unbelievable ups and downs, as they all seem to do, but I’m always impressed by how poorly I can anticipate what a year will bring beyond the obvious (school, stress, writing papers, stress, fail to find wall decor, etc etc).  I have encountered and learned from some of the most amazing, fun, interesting people and am working on becoming the person I most want to be, though I don’t imagine I’ll ever actually complete that process.

Perhaps most gratifying about this year are the new relationships I’ve developed.  Getting to know people in my MA program has been really rewarding and fun.  We’re all reflections of each other in some way.    Meeting people with the same passions, perspective, apprehensions, and level of aspirations as me is so reaffirming and exciting!  I hope I will get to work with some of these amazing people on day.  My professors have also blown me away.  They have helped me realize that I want to put my analytical and writing abilities to work in support of the American warfighter, helping in-field commanders execute US foreign policy goals effectively.

I have also grown a lot in the kitchen.  While I often remain tethered to recipes, I am slowly but surely more and more willing to branch out and create my own meals for us with what we have in the kitchen.  Of course, having the Harris Teeter and the Whole Foods a stone’s throw away is also very helpful for getting creative.  I’ll admit that WF used to intimidate me, but now I practically live there.  I rely on it for great produce and proteins, but the Teet takes care of my basic needs e.g. paper products, snack foods, cereals, pantry basics, etc.  While pasta and/or chicken still dominate en mi cocina, shrimp makes a regular appearance, and tilapia has also been spotted there once.

Sadly, summer is winding down.  Even more depressing is the fact that this summer is truly my last leisurely summer as a student.  By this time next year, ::fingers crossed:: I should have a regular 9-5 gig that doesn’t exactly take 2 months off in the middle of the year or 3 weeks around Christmas.  However, that should be accompanied by regular income.  At this point, I can’t even imagine the satisfaction that comes from actually earning one’s keep.

In a couple weeks, I’ll be going to Iowa to dedicate a memorial to my paternal grandfather and to spread some of his ashes.  He died exactly 14 months ago – nine weeks after my maternal grandfather.  Already, so much has changed since last summer, but my memories of them both serve to give me perspective as to where I’m going and where I’d like to end up one day.

Vacay

I am such an urbanite at the beach.  I clearly can’t go for more than 24 hours w/o being on my laptop, reading articles in the Post, seeking out the nearest Starbucks, or texting one or all of my friends on my BB, after which I’ll update my facebook status and tweet about how cute our beach-side villa is.  I’m realizing I’m a little too connected, and it’s kind of exhausting.  I need to remember why I’m here: to relax & be w/the bf.  When I’m home, I need to be more present with what I’m doing at that moment.

Technology is of course v. helpful.  I can have my schoolwork w/me, which I’ll need to work on, I can talk to my parents, store pics, get directions, restaurant recs etc, but I know I don’t tow (toe?) that happy medium line.  ::sigh:: something I need to work on.  

Everyone knows that person who is always too available.  Always ready to reply to their tweets or IMs or messages.  I could definitely see myself as that person…and I’d rather not be!  I don’t know what I’m afraid I’ll miss out on by not being so connected.  I think it may be b/c I’m getting a new set of friends and I want to seem up for things, therefore I make myself (digitally?) available.

In any event, I don’t want to remember this trip (nor do I want Matt to remember it) as where I basically did the same thing I always do, just in a different location.  It is hard though – I don’t want the “reentry” to routine & school this weekend/next weekend to be so difficult, so I feel like if I stay linked up to everything/everyone, at least one element of life will be just like it was, where I won’t have to waste time going “back to normal.”

Really though, I need to accept that if ppl want to get in touch w/me, they’ll get in touch w/me, and if they don’t one weekend or two, it’s not personal.  I take things hard.  I take them personally.  I internalize.

Ugh anyway more happy thoughts about actual vacay later!

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