Everything Old is New Again

I cannot believe that a month has gone by since my last post here. In the interest of not beating myself up for still not having a daily routine that includes blogging, I am going to forgive myself. Moving is ALWAYS challenging and Jim and I had some especially tough times thrown in the mix of the last month, too. More on that later.

Last I posted, we were busily packing and getting ready to uproot and settle all the way across the city from where we used to live. I had lived in Hyde Park and the South Loop in my decade in Chicago; Jim had not only lived for double that time in the South Loop but had always lived in a very small radius of a particular section of the South Loop. We moved to an area on the far north side where we are not familiar with anything- I have had to Google directions to the grocery store, the bank, the post office, work, everything I previously took for granted. This is not a complaint, of course, because sometimes big changes are needed. And we are quite sure this was needed.

We have moved from 958 square feet with a small balcony in a very urban setting that included hundreds of other units and residents in our building. We had 24/7 security and doormen, package care, dry cleaning, a party room and fitness center, even a business center with free wifi and printing. No question we loved living there for the last 4 years. We were the first ones to live in our unit and enjoyed everything being brand new, from appliances to carpeting. We installed the light fixtures and painted the walls for the first time. It was our most favorite place that either of us had ever lived and I think it was because it saw so many changes in our lives together and we were so comfortable. Personally, it was the first place I’ve ever lived where everything was decorated exactly to my taste and it was all finished. It took me about a year to decorate completely and then we were simply very happy and cozy. I had never done that before.

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Our new place is about double the square footage with a basement for laundry and ample storage. We actually have a dining room (say what?!). The unit is vintage and freshly rehabbed after some years spent empty so once again we are first ones to call this place home. We have traded our balcony for another with a view of a park instead of the lake and have gained a backyard (a backyard. In Chicago. I know!). Instead of changing our parking space every time we pull into a residents’ garage, we have a private garage that also houses our bikes. Instead of brand new appliances, we have a new fridge but a vintage dishwasher and stove that were purchased decades ago but barely used by the previous owner and resident. We have a fireplace that stopped working decades ago, but is a nonetheless gorgeous focal point in our living room. We traded our modern HVAC system for steam heat and window AC units. And instead of hundreds of neighbors we never met and a huge management company, we will have one neighbor we’ll probably see a lot of and landlords that text us.

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We now have plenty of room to entertain guests and have already had two overnight guests. Yesterday after Easter dinner, all 11 of us strolled outside to enjoy the park we back up to. My dad threw frisbees and footballs off of the balcony all the way into the park and we had an impromptu family catch session. Fitting 11 people into this house is still a “full house” feeling but there is plenty of room for everyone in the dining room and in the living room. I can’t wait for the housewarming party.

We have long begun to unpack and decorate since I took those sparse empty room photographs. I am starting to feel like I am home again.

 

Why Become an Ethical Consumer, Part Three

I’m excited to serve up a third installment of Ethical Consumerism. I’ve been enjoying the learning process myself. I will get back into outfit posts and more pictures soon, I promise. Jim and I are in the midst of a big move and lots of stuff is in a state of upheaval. I’m stealing time away from packing to write every now and again but looking forward to things settling down again in gorgeous new digs. With newfound outlooks on our possessions, might I add.

In my last post, I wrote about Wanting Things, especially those that are new, shiny, fun, and how that can sometimes lead to excess. I promised that I’d share some examples of folks who have downsized and enjoyed the process. Some are more radical than others but all have wisdom and insight to be gleaned. I’m keeping it to a list of 5 articles that I’ve enjoyed recently because longer lists tend to get overwhelming.

  1. I can relate personally to this one: Building A Grownup Wardrobe. Fashion blogger AJ writes about her accumulation of stuff, specifically clothes and accessories, that had spiraled out of control and was consuming more space and energy than it should. Reading through the steps she took was inspiring, especially since I’m another one of those women that people gawk at for their shoe collections. I like that she has concluded that owning better quality items is superior to owning throwaway fashion. I totally agree and kudos!
  2. Why I Gave Away Most Of My Belongings (And Why I’m Happy I Did): This qualifies as one of the more “radical” stories. This writer made a big shift in downsizing her home with her husband and has a great checklist of both reasons why it was so freeing and advice to help anyone else let go. I love her tip on boxing items up, waiting to see if you use them, and if not giving them away.
  3. This is a great blog called The Minimalists and I like this post: Letting Go of Sentimental Items. These are the hardest things to manage and let go of and sometimes, as referenced in the first item on this list, clothes can be sentimental as well. This powerful essay recounts how the writer was able to let go of his mother’s possessions after she passed away. I don’t know that I’d be able to be quite so radical myself but it is inspiring me to go back through my old school papers and diaries with a more ruthless agenda.
  4. One major roadblock to decluttering (I have it!) is the notion that “Hey, this is worth something so I should hang onto it even though I don’t use it or need it!” I have been working through this in a big way in this move. This is a great post about it: The Wastefulness of Decluttering; or How to Make Less Count for More. While I maintain the belief that simply filling a dumpster with perfectly good items that someone else can use is terrible to the Earth, often there are things we hang onto because of the work involved in getting rid of them. I have been working to get rid of stuff that has value on eBay and Craigslist, donating what doesn’t sell or can’t ship, and throwing out the rest. The major lesson, as outlined in that post, is to simply Not Acquire So Much Crap in the first place. Indeed.
  5. Finally, just in case you think this is a fringe idea, here’s an article from TIME Magazine online: How to Live with Just 100 Things. Admittedly, the article is a few years old and written during the recession. Many were looking to cut corners and acquire less at that time. I think that that spirit remains alive and well, however, and that we will continue to see people choosing to downsize and acquire less, especially given the global trend of urbanization and the space restrictions that imposes by default.

donating stuff, goodwill, decluttering, minimalism
As for myself, I have been enjoying the chance to pare down and declutter. Jim and I are actually moving to a bigger place and the challenge is to not simply fill up all the extra space with More Stuff. I am committing to keeping a cleaner house by virtue of lack of clutter since it helps both of us feel more relaxed and at peace. Every load of stuff we take to donate makes me feel lighter, just as promised. The above cart full of stuff was the first of three such loads we have donated thus far. I have also sold countless items on eBay, and given things to family and friends. I am finding that less is more in ways that I was previously too afraid to explore.

Are you decluttering or trying to own less? I’d love to hear what you’ve learned.

Why Become An Ethical Consumer, Part Two

In my last post, I talked about the impact consumers have on the fashion industry and on our planet. We live in a highly disposable culture, more than this world has ever known. That has effects and I recommend that you take a look at those numbers if you are just beginning to have this conversation in your life, whether it’s with yourself or others.

I mentioned that there are a lot of WHY questions that are asked when I talk about Consuming Less Stuff, or Ethical Consumerism. The first one was about the impact we all have when we purchase and ultimately dispose of things, with my focus being on fashion. The next WHY I’d like to talk about is whether or not it’s wrong to want nice things.

Disclaimer: This is a personal decision and one that has to be made for each individual, family, and community. I will talk about my own experiences and feelings today, with more to come in the future. Hopefully this will foster discussion and ideas and help everyone find their right balance.

What’s wrong with wanting nice things? Why can’t I have what I want?

This question almost immediately ruffles my feathers a little bit, I must admit. When people ask this sort of question or one that sounds a lot like it, there are a few assumptions underneath, which are:

  • Those who try to consume less don’t like our culture, our country, our way of life, fill in the blank…
  • Ethical consumers are crazy hippies who are focused on this “green” movement at the cost of both efficiency and fun
  • And perhaps the biggest one: Ethical consumers are looking down on me and judging my way of life!

I can’t speak for everyone. I shouldn’t. I can only speak for myself. Here’s where I’m coming from, for those who are just meeting me and those who could use a refresher:

I am an American woman, born in the United States with roots going back as far as the American Civil War in the state of Illinois. I like living where I do and being who I am. There are things I disagree with and dislike about our culture but luckily I’m allowed to say that. I’m striving to become more ethical overall but I am pretty sure that there are some things I will never do. It is doubtful that I’ll end up a monk in the mountains, live in a tiny house, or give up driving a car. I am not so sure that I’m cut out for producing the majority of food that I consume, making all my own clothes, or hunting wild game. Bless you if you do any of those things (shoutout to mountaintop monks with internet access?) and bless you if you don’t! Some folks have tried extreme experiments in the name of being a better citizen of Earth and it’s commendable. I like reading about them and I admire them for their hard work and inspiration. It’s also unlikely that any sort of majority of us could make those radical things work. I like to think that Ethical Consumers recognize this and know their limitations while simultaneously working to expand and do better where they can.

I am a big fan of “You Do You.” Which is to say, you decide what’s right for you and I’ll do the same. Life is about balance and each of us have to decide our top priorities. Maybe you live in an urban environment and keep a small footprint because you don’t need a car and a large living space but your consumption of technology and imported goods outpaces others in rural areas who have bigger homes and consume more fossil fuels but live closer to the land. What is important is how we treat each other directly and indirectly. It’s important to be polite and courteous (just like your mother said!) but perhaps we can think about indirect actions and what we can do better for the planet as a way of extending courtesy to others who might never even find out.

Ethical Consumerism, Part Two by That Redhead, Creating Contentment smiley on the beach

 

I might never get any credit for picking up litter around the bus stop, putting something into the recycling bin instead of tossing it, or deciding not to buy something that I don’t need. What matters to me is how I feel about myself and my choices and I hope that matters to others, too. Besides, if you really need to brag, you can get this app called Happier that I love and be proud of yourself unabashedly for the right reasons and share it with an audience who will appreciate it, which I sometimes do!

The last assumption is the hardest one to answer. Do Ethical Consumers (and really, any folks who are trying to be “green” or do better) judge those who aren’t? Short answer: I don’t know. Maybe. It is difficult to see things you don’t agree with. I don’t like it when I see someone litter and waste and I have a hard time with massive gas-guzzling cars that have one person inside. It is hard to see someone mistreat their body and take poor care of it. It is SO HARD not to judge and take the high road instead. I have to remind myself that there are lots of reasons why that person might make those choices and that they live in the same consumer society I do with the same pressures and advertisements. For me, the best thing to do is to extend everyone a measure of grace. It certainly helps my energy profile to judge less and ask for the insight to understand. Sometimes the insight bounces back like an automatic text message and I can instantly feel the harsh words melt out of my head. Sometimes not. ;)

No one likes to be criticized needlessly and all I can promise is that I’ll do my best to keep this little space on the vast Web friendly and supportive, starting with me. Cheers to that, right?

 
Next time, I’ll put together the thoughts of others who have discovered that consuming less has actually made them happier and more free than before. There’s all kinds of evidence that detaching from Stuff and Things actually frees you to attach to other things far more worth your time like People and Joy. And I am ALL ABOUT finding more ways to encourage Joy wherever I can!

Tell me your stories and thoughts, if you’d like. What are you doing to consume less? Does it work? What are your goals and experiments?

Why Become an Ethical Consumer, Part One

Why Ethical Consumerism is Important, overconsumption, black friday

The first question I receive from folks who hear about my new choices in fashion and consumerism is often, “WHY?” As in, “Why go to all that trouble? How much difference does that really make?” and “What’s wrong with wanting nice, new things?” and “Why should I care about what’s happening to people I have nothing in common with, halfway across the globe?” The last sentiment is one that I find the most problematic but if altruism isn’t a convincing cause, perhaps data will be.

The questions “WHY” are perfectly valid and deserve an answer. Even if you already understand the effects of overconsumption on our planet, economy, and societies, I think it’s useful to review the information and remember what’s really important. For me, what’s really important is to have my needs met, to be in good health, and to have a fulfilling life of Joy and adventure and surprises. Your definition may vary but I suspect that we are all more similar than not and that we are happiest when we keep to our simplest definition of Joy and consider things outside it as blessings. Let’s press on and tackle the first WHY.

Why go to that trouble? Can I really make an impact?

The short answer is YES! Of course! Consider this:

  • Americans purchase an estimated 20 billion articles of clothing a year, give or take. That breaks down to about 70 garments per person each year, or an average of more than one purchase a week. (source)
  • Americans are in a lot of debt. The average indebted household carries a credit card balance in excess of $15,000. Some of that debt MUST have been incurred purchasing all of the “stuff” referenced above. (source) Additionally, while overall indebtedness is falling in America, the source referenced here states that it is more due to defaults than repayment. Added to that, Americans are saving less money than in the past and are also socking away less than citizens of other nations. (source)
  • Clothes are inexpensive in an unprecedented way. Clothes spending in the 1960s accounted for over 10% of a household’s budget but the average person bought less than 25 items. (source)
  • Clothes cost less and we buy more of them. So what happens once we are tired of them or they fall apart? We throw them out. Apart from what is donated, given away, or resold, we throw 11.1 MILLION TONS of textiles into landfills. (source)

Why Ethical Consumerism is Important, the high cost of cheap fashion

The big picture? We are a nation of over-consumers. We have a lot of stuff and a lot of debt to go with it. We have thinner safety nets than ever. And we are wasting a ton of resources only to throw stuff away in the end. Cutting your consumption of cheap fashion will immediately help you in a direct way by allowing your money to do better things than end up in a landfill but also contribute to a better planet. Those are reasons to go to some trouble, if you ask me! What do you think?

Stay tuned for more answers and more data as I tackle the other WHYs in segments to follow.

(images courtesy Southern Savers and Care 4 Kids Worldwide)

There is a Season

This has been a changing season in my life, more than I even realized when it began.

I suppose it all began with my engagement and wedding planning but I think I knew it in a much deeper way when my Grandma was taken ill and died three days before the wedding day. I realized that I was in a deeper period of change than I had given credit for and to date I’m still not exactly sure how the end results will look. Jim and I are now planning on a big move that, while still very much in Chicago, is the biggest upheaval and shift in terms of geography that we’ve experienced together. Super exciting times. There is change afoot everywhere and this blog is not exempt.

A return to writing is inevitable and long-awaited. After some deliberation, I will be returning to write here but really felt for a long while that the initial direction on the blog was a little “off” of where I would like to end up now. To radically change my habits for almost a year before the wedding (no shopping, less spending overall) and then simply return to my old habits once that Season was over didn’t sit right with me. In that time away from acquiring more stuff, my priorities shifted and I read a lot about Where Things Come From, to oversimplify. I was disheartened to know that many things I love were created overseas by people who are not adequately or fairly compensated for their labor. Sometimes they work in dangerous conditions. Sometimes they are children. And more often than not, when people in those positions choose to protest or demand better pay and working conditions, they are oppressed or fired. Until recently, there has been little exposure and little platform for small voices against the megalith that is the fashion industry. This is changing, too.

Every one of us who buys something, anything, is supporting someone else. It can be as simple and direct as buying a jar of homemade jam at a farmer’s market. But more often than not in today’s global economy and marketplace, your support in the form of money is divided and divided among many hands and a shamefully small part of it gets back to where it began if we keep our focus on the fashion marketplace.

I floundered. Most personal style blogs feature shopping in some way. And many of the big companies that sponsor posts and are popular and affordable have some serious shortcomings in regards to their ethical sourcing and buying of garments. When I tell you that I’ve been meditating on what to do for months since I woke up to the reality of where my sweaters came from, I do not exaggerate.

Today’s announcement of change is a simple one but radical: I cannot go back to sleep. I cannot ignore the knowledge of my support and connectivity to an industry that makes very powerful decisions that have long-reaching effects. I have decided to become a more ethical and conscious consumer and I have a bunch of ideas to get there.

That Redhead, both the person and the blog, will now focus on “Living a Joyful Life” as it relates to making better choices about fashion most especially. I plan on making better choices in other areas, too, which may or may not end up documented here.

I hope you’ll stick around for the ride because I’m excited to “go public” and start a new chapter here. Change is good.

Valentine’s Day Manicure

I have gotten so many compliments on my nails since I did them on Sunday! And they were pretty easily, though a little tedious and time consuming. Check it out!
valentine heart nails manicure red romantic cute
valentine heart nails manicure red romantic cute

I wanted to do something cute and almost put those small red heart stickers on my nails but wasn’t sure how well they would last. And I wanted something a little more original! In the end, I used a larger heart sticker as a “guide” to ensure the polish made the shape I was looking for. Here are a few tips:

  • Find a white polish that is opaque and apply two even coats over your base coat. I used a brand from Sally Beauty called Nina.
  • Allow it to dry for at least an hour (I did this while watching the Olympics).
  • Place the heart sticker in whichever direction you prefer and press down evenly to make sure there is a good seal. You can also use guides like these.
  • Use a bright red polish that is very opaque. I used Revlon’s Colorstay brand. Apply enough to cover the white but try to do it in one pass.
  • Remove the sticker right away because the longer it sits, the more likely it is to remove the white nail polish underneath it. I found it easiest to do one nail at a time and wait a bit between hands.
  • Allow the red to set as much as possible, then apply topcoat. The red and white can drag into each other with the top coat and smear your hard work. Best to apply one stroke of top coat at a time, wiping the brush on a paper towel in-between. If you see the brush get pink/red at the tip STOP! Wipe it off or else it will deposit that right onto your design.

Hope the tips help you get perfect… tips. ;) And enjoy your Valentine’s Day!

A Return to Writing

My oh my. So much has happened in the months that I haven’t written.

I finished planning my wedding. It became a full time job in the last two months.

I worked as much as possible to have as much cash as possible to cover my time off as well as pay for the wedding without going into massive debt. Jim worked a bunch, too, so we didn’t see much of each other. We’re back to our normal schedules now and learning, once again, how to carve out time and space for each other.

 

Unfortunately, my grandma passed away in the week before my wedding. I have a lot more to say on that topic and I miss her deeply.

Grandma’s funeral was the same day I left with Jim for our honeymoon in Jamaica. Part of me wishes I had rearranged our plans to be there, even though I did get to say my goodbye while she was in the hospital.

Reentry to work and “real life” minus wedding planning was rough at first and is still in process. The grief I felt for my grandma’s passing was intense but somewhat on hold once the wedding weekend and honeymoon began. Post-honeymoon it was like a crushing weight that suddenly dropped on my chest and took the first two weeks to slowly reduce in size.

We are now about a month and a half post-wedding and tomorrow will mark a month since we returned from Jamaica. I am happy to say that I am finally feeling like myself again and am excited to return to blogging. In the future, I hope to have my writing muscles developed enough to continue writing through my challenges. It’s a discipline like any other.

In any case, I’m glad to be back. I’ve got lots to share and I can’t wait. :)

Monday Manicure: Essie In the Cab-ana and My Better Half

Ah, the feel of a fresh coat of lacquer on both fingernails and toenails! Jim and I tried to have a relaxing, de-stressing weekend since last week involved us finding out that our car was no more and subsequently replacing it. That with wedding crunch time made for two very frazzled people by the end of the week so we chilled at King Spa on Friday and got dual pedicures (his first ever!) on Saturday. Like any good drug dealer, I paid for his first one knowing full well he’ll probably join me again in the future. Let’s talk polish!
essie resort 2013 in the cab-ana bright blue nail polish manicureessie resort 2013 in the cab-ana bright blue nail polish manicureessie bridal collection 2013 my better half pedicure

In honor of our first pedicure together, I chose from Essie’s new Bridal collection for 2013. I love, love the entire collection! I’ll probably use it for my upcoming wedding but chose My Better Half. It’s described as a peony pink, which I think is perfect. Peonies are some of my all time favorite flowers- I even gave my Mom a peony plant for Mother’s Day! I have no idea why my pinky toe has decided to hide in the picture above, but I’ll forgive it.

As for the nails, I wanted something bolder since I change my manicure weekly but my pedicure maybe monthly. I chose Essie again but this time from their Resort 2013 collection, which had lovely bright colors that are perfect for summer (or an early escape on vacation, if you managed to sneak one in a few months ago!). It was a great collection and reminds me a lot of the Neons that they recently released. In the Cab-ana can only be described as an electric turquoise blue. I might pick it up and add it to my collection in the future since it will be great for nail art purposes. I can imagine it as a cute star or stripe within a fun summer design on my toes- how about you?

What are you wearing on your nails this week? Don’t you love sandal season? I have my first blister already (boo hoo) since my toes aren’t used to flip flops yet! As always, I love to hear your ideas on what I should try next!

Visiting Grandparents, Nautical Secrets

Today is a great day to follow me on any of my social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I have a really awesome photoshoot planned with Ashley Biess Photography and La Belle Fleur Events and assorted other Chicago wedding vendors. It’s going to be amazing and I’ll be posting behind the scenes stuff all day today.


I visited my grandparents recently and I’m finally getting around to posting about it. The adventure included some of my longest-running partners in crime, my sisters:I've always been a ham.

Clearly I’ve always been interested in mugging for the camera. Some things never change. Here’s me and my grandpa today:

We also got to spend some time with Bandit, my grandma’s one-eyed cat.one eyed cat

He’s handsome with or without two eyes, I don’t care what anyone says. What a little lovebug- he wanted nothing more than to get cuddles from everyone he could. The real purpose for the trip, apart from visiting and catching up, was to scan in a bunch of old photos for wedding decoration purposes. Here’s my gorgeous grandma from the way-back machine:marjorie ella hailey slabaugh

Can you see the resemblance? I love this photo and scanned it in first. I really had a fantastic weekend catching up with everyone.

But on to other important things. What did I wear? ;) thatredhead's nautical inspired outfit with stripes and gold details. pieces from J Crew, Target, Nine West, Forever 21thatredhead's nautical inspired outfit with stripes and gold details. pieces from J Crew, Target, Nine West, Forever 21thatredhead's nautical inspired outfit with stripes and gold details. pieces from J Crew, Target, Nine West, Forever 21
thatredhead's nautical inspired outfit with stripes and gold details. pieces from J Crew, Target, Nine West, Forever 21

When: Saturday night. We went to a restaurant in Peoria where you can cook your own steaks called Alexander’s. Jim cooked every one’s steak himself! Genius choice on my Grandma’s part.

What I Wore: toothpick cropped skinnies from J Crew, striped sweater from Forever 21 (similar), jacket from Thom Brown by Neiman Marcus for Target (holidays 2012, now here on eBay), Bianca necklace by Stella and Dot, watch by Kate Spade via Nordstrom, sunglasses by Tory Burch via Nordstrom, polka dot heels by Nine West via Macys (I like these).

Notes: There’s something so appealing about a nautical-inspired outfit for spring (and summer, too). I love navy blue, the crisp stripes, the contrast between the colors, the gold details (the buttons have anchors on them and the necklace looks like a rope!). My grandpa is a Navy veteran so it seemed only appropriate to wear something that honored that, in my own little way. No one really knew that’s why I chose this outfit (until just now, that is) but it made me happy to have my own fun secret. And yes, there was a squirrel chattering at me in that tree. Apparently he didn’t get the memo on the nautical photoshoot.

Do you have a favorite trend you’ve been enjoying this spring? Are you crazy about the nautical look like me? I swear it’s trendy every year because it will never go out of style.

Monday Manicure: Revlon Provence with a Heart!

Ah, it feels good to be getting back into this blog. I never intended to actually “go” anywhere but life, as they say, happens. I visited my Grandma and attended a funeral on two back to back weekends which took my time and didn’t have much in the way of internet connectivity. Add to that the sheer crush of time and social commitments as Jim and I get to the sub-4 month mark in our wedding countdown… I feel lucky that I’m able to blog at all! Eek! I’ve had a cake tasting, a hair appointment, a fitting, a site visit, two tuxedo scouting missions, and the list goes on. I can only do my best and I’ve accepted that sometimes my best means that I’ll be so tired when I’m finally home that I’ll just stare blankly at the wall and have no energy to create a post. Glamorous.

That said, I have a backlog of outfits and photos to post! I’ve been taking photos as time allows and just been short on energy and time to process everything. This manicure, for example, I actually did last week on Monday. However, it still hasn’t chipped a week later so rather than redoing it when I never posted about it in the first place, I’m posting now! Expect more posts this week as I get back into a better balance with my time.Revlon Provence Colorstay nail polish with pink heart detail. Romantic and girly, lavender purple manicure.Revlon Provence Colorstay nail polish with pink heart detail. Romantic and girly, lavender purple manicure.

I really was in a girly mood and wanted to try these nail dotting tools that my sister gave me. I dipped the dotting end into Essie’s Madison Ave-Hue (my go-to girly pink) and made two dots, then dragged the polish lightly to connect them into a heart shape. It worked great and I was so excited about it I took the picture of my nails before I had even finished cleaning them up completely. I’ve posted before about the wonders of Revlon’s Colorstay nail polishes here. They continue to be some of the best formulas with serious tenacity on the market. I tend to buy mine at a drugstore when I have a coupon but you can also get them on Amazon which has some of the best prices. Provence is a great spring purple and I’m glad to have it in my arsenal.

So, did you miss me? ;) What’s on your nails this week? If you want ideas, check out my past manicures here.