September Raves

By Tara Cushing (@TheBravoBlonde)

It’s fall ya’ll, and as much I try to protest the end of every summer, I always surprise myself with how much I really do enjoy this season. There are some wonderful smells, foods, events, and fashions that just don’t feel right any other time of year. On that note, here’s what I’m raving about this month.

Harry & David Pumpkin Macaroon Candle

Harry & David Pumpkin Macaroon Candle

Nothing is more fragrantly fall than anything pumpkin. It’s mandatory to burn pumpkin scented candles in my home each night from mid September to Thanksgiving. This year my pick is this pumpkin macaroon (yes macaroon, not macaron) scented candle from Harry & David. Even better was the price. I picked it up from Home Goods for $5.99. It has kept my home smelling perfectly pumpkin. I may have to go pick up a second one, just because.

Rare find on Facebook!

Rare find on Facebook!

Speaking of Home Goods I’d like to give a special shout out to them and Pier 1 Imports. I recently moved and both stores have been my go to for decorating my new space, without overdoing on decor and dollars. If there’s anything I’m raving about this month it’s minimalism. I’ve always been a minimalist, but moving gave me the best excuse to purge. I got rid of so much stuff that I didn’t use via Goodwill and Facebook sale groups. I’m totally raving about Facebook sale pages. Not only was I able to get money for and recycle things I no longer needed, but I also found some great furniture that I did need. I picked up a fabulous sleigh bed for my son and an amazing (possibly one of a kind) entry table with mirror set. Check out your local Facebook buy/sell/barter pages. You never know what you might earn…or find!

Eve's Tree hoodies clockwise from top: The Sophie in Evergreen, The Ashley in Sienna, The Lisa Golden

Evy’s Tree hoodies clockwise from top:
The Sophie in Evergreen, The Ashley in Sienna, The Lisa Golden

Finding things is awesome and my favorite recent find is a small company (that’s growing larger by the minute) called Evy’sTree (evystree.com)After I purged I made a vow to never again buy ANYTHING unless I absolutely NEEDED or LOVED it. I just can’t take having unnecessary stuff (or spending) in my life. Well, I may not need everything from Evy’s Tree (though I have convinced myself that I do), but I LOVE everything they make, and when I love something (as evidenced by the throw blanket on my couch that I bought in college) I’ll hold onto it forever, getting more than my money’s worth. I found Evy’s Tree on Instagram while I was doing work for a social media client. They make fashionably addictive and comfortable hoodies with feminine touches like ruffles and patterned lining. I purchased one and commented about it on Twitter. After that they asked me to test run two of their products. Brilliant of them, because I’ve bought two more since. They release new hoodies each month and offer them at pre-sale prices. I can’t wait for my next two to get here. I finally can feel like I’m wearing sweats all the time, but look polished and pulled together. Prices range from $79(intro) to $119 (full). Follow them on Instagram @evystreeofficialTwitter @EvysTree and find them on Facebook. Tell them I sent you, and then thank me when you are luxuriating in the highest quality, most comfortable hoodie you’ve ever owned.

Dare Maple Leaf Creme Cookies

Dare Maple Creme Cookies

Fall flavors are fantastic. Say that one ten times fast. Costco makes a pumpkin muffin to die for. It’s one of my weekend cheats, as you all know I eat clean Monday-Friday (I need to write about that again as it’s really working, people keep asking me how I’ve gotten so slim). Another fall treat in my home are Maple Creme Cookies by Dare cookie company. I dare you to try these and not get addicted. I first had these maple leaf shaped treats on a trip to Vermont many years ago. They are extremely popular there. They look beautiful in a glass cookie jar. Tasty, and fall functional.

The Skinnygirls await my housewarming party.

The Skinnygirls await my housewarming party.

For those of us that can’t let summer go, you can enjoy the perfectly peach taste of summer year round with White Peach Margarita from Skinnygirl Cocktails. My awesome friends over at SG sent me some samples of their line to taste test on a few friends (a Skinnygirl “sponsored” housewarming party is in the works). I held a small unpacking party and this flavor went very quickly. It’s got just the right amount of sweet, which I think compliments any dessert, no matter the season!

So those are my current obsessions. Let me know what you think of them and tell me, what are YOU obsessed with? If there’s something you think I need to try for my next Rave Page give it a shout out in the comments!

Regards and hugs,

TBB

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Jersey Shore Poor

Our family sandcastle.

Our family sandcastle.

Memorial Day weekend I needed to get away. I’d been stressed and busy for so long that I needed some downtime away from it all to just reconnect with my family. Being it would be what America has accepted as the official start of summer, what better place to go than the beach? I found a three night deal at a typical Jersey Shore motel (aka, a humid room where your bathing suit never dries and the shower has the pressure of a watering can) and then left it up to chance. If the dog camp had an opening then we should go. The vacay gods were in our favor. Our dog got his accommodations and we got our own. Hooray, beach bound!

We booked our weekend in Point Pleasant, NJ. This was the same beach I shared with Rosie Pierri two summers ago. Now this is not the reason I went back, as much as I do adore Rosie. I’ve been visiting Point Pleasant since I was a fifth grader in camp. It’s great for both day trips and overnights from where I live. It’s been a happy constant in my life. So happy, in fact, that I was married in the neighboring town of Spring Lake in a beachside ceremony. Last summer I may have been Hamptoning with New York’s Housewives, but my true roots are in the land of Snookie.

Back in the day the Jersey Shore trip was the bare bones of summer family travel. The bulk of your budget went to the damp motel room, or share of a house not quite different from the shack John Candy and company ended up inhabiting in the 80’s film Summer Rental. You spent little during the day, sustaining yourself on pizza, ice cream cones, and funnel cake. The largest expense was if your sunscreen ran out and you had to be the chump who spent double for it on the boardwalk.

Lord how things have changed! My weekend in Point Pleasant left me feeling like the Point Peasant. That pizza is now upwards of 4 bucks a slice, parking (which I used to do for free on some side street) is now commanded by those municipal  meter machines (lining the streets like little soldiers of financial warfare) that charge $3 per hour, and dinner at restaurants that serve your tartar sauce in a package can cost your family around $80!  My vacation budget went right out the window!

Beyond food and parking there are the entertainment costs; $9.50 per adult to get onto the beach, $25 for the smaller book of ride tickets…and the rides cost 3-5 tickets each; if you want to go to the aquarium,funhouse, or miniature golf course, be prepared to shell out upwards of $30 for a family of four. It’s truly out of control.

I’m not sure if it’s inflation or the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but being Jersey Strong costs an arm and a leg. It also seems you can build a pretty dope house with insurance money. The rebuilds there are  gargantuan mansions…and these are only summer homes?

On the upside we had a fantastic time and made many beautiful memories. Interacting with little ones at the beach is priceless. The joy as my twins and I (ok really I) built our first family sandcastle was worth every inflated penny I spent. However, if you are going to the Jersey Shore, or on any summer getaway, in the next 3 blissful months here are some tips for saving:

*Bring some things from your own supermarket to save on extra spending:water, juice boxes, iced teas etc. as well as easy to pack snacks. Having some of your own food and drink will carry you between meals and many motel rooms do offer a small refrigerator and microwave. If you rent a place with a kitchen you can cook many of your meals for even bigger savings.

*BYOB- Whats the beach without a cocktail? Bring a bottle of your fave and imbibe before or/and after a night on the town. If you are traveling with kids please do it after!

*Locate the nearest CVS or other big name pharmacy. Go there if you need any toiletries, sunscreen, etc. If you buy anything at a beach shop it will be 150% the price. Even better if you use a coupon!

*Locate the nearest Dunkin Donuts and grab your breakfasts there. At DD’s we spent an average of $10 per breakfast. The morning we went out for pancakes we spent $32! (Be really frugal and bring a bag of pre-sliced bagels and your favorite spread and put it into that motel fridge)

*Don’t always buy on the Boardwalk. An ice cream sundae cost us $7 on the good ol’ BW. It was half that at a popular shop in town.

* Go to budget stores like Christmas Tree Shops and invest in your own beach gear as opposed to paying umbrella and the like rental fees.

Oh and one last piece of advice, that silly ticket from the evil parking machine? Make sure it’s got center stage on your dashboard. We got a $48 parking ticket because an officer felt it was not displayed right. Then there was an additional $2 fee to pay it online. There’s a fine line apparently between Jersey Strong and Jersey Gipped!

Happy summer everybody!

On Beyond Anthropologie: A Shopaholic Learns A Valuable Lesson

Fabulous find for less!

Fabulous finds for less!

The past few years I’ve been a creature of habit shopping at the same handful of stores. Most of my clothing hails from Anthropologie, J. Crew, Lord and Taylor, Macys, and Bloomingdales. Two factors contribute to why I always go to these same places; store credit cards  (which I hold for the latter four) and the belief that nowhere else, but my beloved Anthro, could I find the very feminine whimsical clothes I am drawn to. I carried this belief for possibly the last decade despite the cost of the clothes at Anthropologie, also I found it very easy to peruse the website, pick stuff out, and grab it at the store. I’m not a huge fan of shopping for hours. I like to go with an item in mind, grab it, and get the *&^$ out of the mall.

During this time I always admired the style of one of my co-workers. Her clothes have the same lacy details I love. I’m guilty of “copying”her on more than one occasion, a fact I’ve apologized to her about many times. Recently, due to being assigned to the same department, we’ve been working more closely and getting to know one another a lot better. Of course this leads to a lot of “Where did you get that top, pants, those shoes…?” Expecting to hear answers like the ones above I was caught off guard by Target,Old Navy,The Gap. “I like your clothes too,” she tells me, “but you spend way too much.”

Now I am not a fiscally irresponsible person. I don’t swim in credit card debt and I hold my family to a firm budget each month. I prefer to do things myself when I can (no cleaning lady for me…yet) rather than paying for them. Wasting money is not something I believe in, but when it comes to clothes I like quality. I admit it’s been years since I’ve shopped in some of the average mall stores, I guess I no longer knew what they could offer. So last night I gave myself an assignment. I was going to give some of the thriftier chains a try.

My first stop was Charlotte Russe. I had noticed a pal in the Hamptons last summer mixing items from this store with Christian Louboutins. It wasn’t awful, if you don’t mind dressing like Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface. Totally not for me. So I trekked on. I was in and out of several places before I finally struck gold in The Loft, which I guess is supposed to be Ann Taylor‘s less polished (er cheaper) sister. Not only did I find many tops that looked worthy of a spot in the Anthro catalog, but many that my co-worker owned. They were also on sale…not like old things that didn’t sell on sale, like on sale for the hell of it, something Anthro rarely does.

I left The Loft with two adorable tops that thrilled me as much as any of my beloved ones from that other store. I probably would have walked out with more, except most of them my stylish co worker already had and well, that would have just been really creepy. The next place I scored was at The Limited where they were having a BOGO sale on tops. BOGO on clothes? I thought that was as big a myth as the unicorn! I walked out with two more tops.

“Any luck with tops?”my work friend/stylist texted me. “Yes four!” At this point I had been shopping for four hours and was also toting two new pair of Michael Kors shoes (marked way down, of course) and a comfortable bra, which really is a unicorn after breastfeeding twins. I still needed to find pants. I got lucky…at J. Crew but hey, you can’t argue the value on a flattering pair of pants. All in all, I did very well considering I am reforming. I got home to find my four new tops cost me less than $90, embarrassingly about the cost of one top at Anthropologie.  Don’t get me wrong, it will always be my favorite store, and my co worker will even admit to going once in a while, but from now on, this frugal fashionista will look elsewhere first.