24 April 2017
Most of my hair and makeup knowledge is circa 2002, the year of my most devoted readership to Seventeen and Glamour. I kept big binders of product recommendations and blow drying tutorials I’d torn out and saved, but I never seemed to do much with them — my friends and I didn’t really swap tips or play with each other’s hair, and most of the makeup I owned was the stuff I was required to buy for my ballet school’s performances.
Up until last year I was still mostly operating off of that banked knowledge from high school, as well as trial and error over the years and a few tips picked up here and there. It was nothing fancy, but it got the job done! My job requires me to be photographed fairly often, however, and I’ve wished for a long time that I had a better base of knowledge to rely on when left to my own devices for these occasions.
In a stroke of inspiration, I reached out to my sweet friend Sam of LULA Hair + Makeup to see if she might be willing to let me hire her for an hour or two to teach me some of her makeup wisdom. I kind of felt like it was a long shot, as she’s a busy lady and I wasn’t really sure if she did that sort of thing, but she replied right away. Apparently personal consults are one of her favorite things to do!
Photo of Sam by A.J. Dunlap
Sam charges $200 for a two-hour consult. With so much free information on the internet, I can understand why some gals might not be into paying for knowledge they can get elsewhere for free. But that’s just it – there is SO information out there, and the way I want to spend my limited free time is not wading through it to sort out the good from the bad, and the good for me from the good for someone else. After all, time is money!
I also know many makeup counters offer consults, and they are probably great, too! But I have worked with Sam many times over the years, and every time she has done my makeup, I have been thrilled. She knows my style, she knows my lifestyle; I knew we wouldn’t have to waste time getting up to speed. Plus, she’s one of the kindest, most encouraging and peaceful people to be around!
So, what did we do? Sam asked me to bring all of my makeup and skin care items with me to her home studio. We started by walking through my skin care routine, and she asked questions and recommended a few product swaps or additions along the way. For instance, she suggested that for my skin, I should use my Clarisonic just once a week instead of every other day like I’d been doing, and add a weekly moisturizing mask (she suggested two in different price points!). She also said I had beautiful skin, which was practically worth the price of the session in itself, haha!
Then we moved on to makeup, and I again walked her through each step of my routine. For any of my current products I wasn’t happy with, we tried out a few alternatives from her kit, and she offered application tips. I’ve since bought a few of her recommendations; one of my favorites is the Stila Convertible Color Lip and Cheek Cream in Gerbera – so pretty!!
I had specifically requested that she teach me how to do a fancier eye look (a la my 60 Before 30 list!), so we spent a good chunk of time on that. She narrated as she made up one eye, and then I mimicked her on the other.
A few days after my consult, Sam emailed me an extensive sheet of instructions for everything she taught me, complete with dozens of product recommendations that she specifically chose for my skin and lifestyle. I’ve bought one or two every month since and have slowly been incorporating them into my routine!
I adore Sam and can’t recommend her enough, so if you, too, are looking for some grown-up makeup help, shoot her an email! What do y’all think – does this sound like something that would be helpful for you? I’m considering hiring her for another session focused on hair! :)
18 April 2017
Today I am very excited to present my Durham, North Carolina city guide! Durham has skyrocketed to culinary fame over the last few years (Southern Living named it the South’s tastiest town in 2014!), but there is so much more to love about this post-industrial town than amazing restaurants. Let me take you on a tour of a few of my favorite places!
WHERE TO EAT
Matt Kelly, the chef and owner behind several of our downtown favorites, pretty much runs this town. Mothers and Sons Trattoria offers inventive and delicious pasta, and is perfect for a date night – the plates are small, so you can split several. We love to bring visiting family or meet up with larger groups at Mateo so we can try as many tapas as possible (my favorite is the chicken croquettes, a “special” that’s been on the board every time I’ve dined). If you’re looking for a quick lunch, you can round out your MK experience with a meatball sub or the sweet potato and leek soup at Lucky’s Delicatessen. Pro tip: these three are right in a row on W. Chapel Hill Street!
The wait at Pizzeria Toro can be long, but is always worth it. It has a fun, buzzy atmosphere, and is perfect in the winter when the huge wood-burning pizza oven makes for a cozy atmosphere in the open space. Try the kale salad, and leave room for zeppole for dessert. Or, walk down the street to Parlour for your sweet fix instead – their frozen sandwiches, like blackberry ice cream squeezed between two chocolate chip cookies, are my favorite!
If you find yourself out by Duke’s campus (and you should – see below!), there are several excellent options for dining. Foster’s Market will always take the blue ribbon in my book. Sara Foster is an acclaimed Southern chef who makes delicious, feel-good food. My go-to is a solid helping of the day’s casserole special (weighed by the pound) followed by a towering slice of coconut cake or chess pie if I’m feeling indulgent. For brunch, we move next door to Guglhupf, a German bakery and cafe with a pretty outdoor patio. The desserts are not to be missed here, either (can you sense a pattern?).
Around the corner are a matched pair of Scott Howell restaurants that couldn’t be more different: Nana’s is upscale and old school, the perfect place for a celebratory night out (we made reservations there the night we thought we were going to find out whether June was a boy or girl!). NanaTaco is a garage-turned-taco spot, except that it features fillings like braised local hog jowls and house smoked duck. (See also: NanaSteak, his fancy steakhouse near the American Tobacco Campus!)
It wouldn’t be an Em for Marvelous city guide without a few recommendations for my personal weakness. The original Rise location is in Durham, and while the Southpoint location is not the most scenic, the biscuits and donuts make up for it. My friend Sam practically lived on them during her first pregnancy. The line at Monuts is always long, and with good reason: their donuts are probably my favorite of all time. Try something fun – they feature creative flavors like Irish coffee, horchata, and brown butter hazelnut, and I’ve never been disappointed.
You might be surprised to see a seafood pick on my list, but Saltbox is that good – even I admit their beautifully seasoned shrimp roll, topped with tangy slaw, is delicious! Right now they’re in the cutest shack there ever was, but they’re opening a second, larger location in Rockwood (near Foster’s) this summer.
I pretty much only go to Vin Rouge (another Matt Kelly gem!) in the summer, because sitting on their garden patio under twinkle lights is the absolute best way to eat gratin de macaroni, tartiflette, and pommes frites. Actually, wait, I don’t think there’s a bad way to eat any of those things :) Fun for a date night!
For your winter list: Dashi, a downtown ramen spot with offerings as warm and comforting as a hug. They also offer exquisite small plates on their second level!
WHAT TO DO
Work off all of your delicious meals with a hike at Eno River State Park. It’s an extensive and beautiful property, lovely in any season – our favorite trails are Bobbit Hole, Buckquarter Creek, Cox Mountain, Dunnagan, and Pea Creek. If it’s hot, take a dip near the waterfalls at the Fews Ford access, and don’t miss a trip across the suspension bridge! The best way to end an Eno hike is with a Locopop, just down the road from the park entrance.
The Sarah P. Duke Gardens is one of the loveliest spots in the Triangle, hands-down. Bring a book and a blanket and stretch out on the South Lawn for a few hours, but not before roaming the pathways (my favorite sections are the camellias and the terrace garden!). We love to pick up Foster’s for a picnic on our way in.
The American Tobacco Campus, arguably the heart of Durham and one of the coolest examples of industrial repurposing anywhere, hosts several of our favorite summer events. The Durham Bulls, a AAA baseball team with absurdedly good concessions, play nearby, and our public radio station hosts an outdoor (free!) bluegrass concert series every summer that is wall-to-wall popular. Every ATC event allows you to appreciate the campus itself, which transformed from a decrepit factory with trees growing out of the roof and used for SWAT team drills to a pristine, ingenious community space complete with a meandering stream running down the center – right under the original Lucky Strike tower. Its reimagination is truly inspiring!
When faced with a hard-to-shop-for friend, my first stop is Parker & Otis, a modern general store with the coolest brands. (Tagline: “a lot of things you want.” Yes.) I’ve never spotted a dud on their shelves, but their baby section is particularly refined.
Finally, find yourself a kid if you don’t already have one just so you can take a trip to the Museum of Life & Science. Every section is spectacular, but Hideaway Woods is literal kid perfection. It features eight treehouses (some up to 20 feet high!) connected by rope bridges and cargo nets, a free-flowing stream, giant logs, life-size twig sculptures, and so much more. All of my kid + nature cravings find their zenith here.
WHERE TO STAY:
You’re in luck! After decades with nothing but a lone Marriott on the scene, Durham now has not one but two fabulous boutique hotels: The Durham and 21c Museum Hotel. We recently stayed overnight at The Durham for a mini belated birthday getaway, and their dedication to sourcing locally (everything from Big Spoon Roasters in the amenities tray to Raleigh Denim blankets on the bed) was impressive. Locals, don’t miss the Saturday morning yoga class on the rooftop – complimentary for guests and $15 to drop-in. One of the best classes I’ve ever taken! Of course, drinks on the roof by night is also fun!
I know this guide only scratches the surface of all that this vibrant, ever-changing city has to offer, so please, if you’re a Durham fan, leave your favorites in the comments! I’m going to add a few honorable mentions to kick us off. I’d love for the comment section to be a resource for readers just as much as my post! xo!
Pizzeria Toro photo by In Honor of Design, Nanataco photo by Map & Menu, Saltbox and Duke Gardens photos by Bit & Grain, Hideaway Woods photo from The Triangle Review. Remaining photos either personal or from their respective sources.
28 December 2016
As I suspected, having June born in January was such a treat for my logical brain, as demonstrated so beautifully by this post. What a treat to watch her grow from a nugget in my belly to the cheerful, funny, sweet little girl she is today in just a few months!
There will never be another year like this one, the year in which we welcomed our first child, and though sometimes that makes me feel like the sobbing emoji… it’s okay. The best is yet to come! Here are a few highlights of this very special year on Em for Marvelous and in our lives.
Well, pretty much the first thing we did in the new year was have a baby!! (Oh yes, I did share my 2016 guideposts and vision board first.) June was born on January 7th, leading me to share “notes” from my hospital stay as well as the meaning of her name. John and I also celebrated our 11th dativersary, and I posted the first of many Marvelous Mama interviews!
I celebrated a very sweet birthday with friends and chocolate raspberry cake in February. June also met her cousin Tegan and the rest of my family – such a wonderful week!! As we rounded out our first six weeks, I shared two more posts with newborn tips and tricks.
The best part of March was celebrating Easter as a family of three! June also got to spend some time wearing matching headbands with her buddy Milly :) Even once John went back to work, I enjoyed every bit of maternity leave, especially our daily afternoon walks around a local lake!
In April, we headed to Charleston for a last hurrah of my leave. We had the best time staying downtown, walking the city, and eating delicious food, all with Junebug in tow! My Mom came to stay with us for three weeks as I transitioned back to work, and we all took a work trip to Atlanta. We also planted our vegetable garden and picked strawberries! I wrote about thanking our postpartum nurses and our baby favorites from the first six weeks.
May brought more work road trips with my Mom and June, including to the fabulous Greenbrier in West Virginia. We also had several visits from family, and we celebrated my first Mother’s Day! I shared my pregnancy book recommendations.
Good golly, look at those rolls!!! June’s first June was more of the same — visitors and road trips, for work and for play. We had the best time in the mountains with the Henrys and clocked a new family record of six trips to our local u-pick blueberry farm in just a few short weeks — one of the best things we made time for all year. You can see much more from this month in the first installment of June’s video series, June in June! :) On EFM, I shared our five month baby favorites and our summer fun list, of which I’m happy to say we accomplished much!
July! What a month! We spent the week of the Fourth on our beloved Island, and despite June’s first terrible cold, it was wonderful. We made another New England road trip just a few weeks later, this time for a friend’s wedding and a week with John’s family in Connecticut. In between, we celebrated that great Southern holiday: Cow Appreciation Day!!
What a treat to spend a week in our hometown in the summer, showing June all of our favorite activities and places from growing up! We had the best, best time. On the blog, I told you about Lisa’s baby shower and a fun date night idea.
The most exciting event in September was our first family camping trip!! We are already itching for the next one! We also enjoyed lots of al fresco meals, neighborhood walks, and playground swings. I shared our eight month baby favorites, all of the articles we’ve read in Articles Club, wisdom from four years of marriage, and we chatted about signature family dishes.
In October, we marveled at the flooding from Hurricane Matthew (June from inside foul weather gear), had lots of family singalongs, spent the weekend in Asheville with my sister and her boyfriend, and donned the foul weather gear again to dress as a lobster, lobsterman, and seaweed for Halloween! Some of my favorite posts were written this month, including three posts on how to slow down time, a favorite home improvement, and the best cooking playlist.
So many celebrations in November, including the magazine launch party, Thanksgiving with family and then again with friends, birthday parties, and more. You all helped me vote on a Christmas card, I shared how we plan our yearly budget, and we talked about Christmas traditions.
And finally, December. We drove overnight to spend ten days in Connecticut with our beloved family, and it was as sweet (and crazy – three cousins under three!) as we could have hoped for.
Friends, thank you for reading. I just love y’all – sharing with you, hearing from you, getting your opinions, and seeing what you’re up to. It is a joy to write here, and I can’t wait to see all the adventures 2017 will hold!
2015 year in review
26 August 2016
2014 year in review
2013 year in review
2012 year in review
John and I don’t go on a lot of dates, or we go on dates all the time — depends on how you figure it :) I generally don’t consider going on a hike, heading to a swimming hole, going to a concert or a movie, or even getting dressed up for a fancy dinner as a date. That all just seems like doing life with my husband. Maybe that’s what a date is when you’re married?? Anyway, we recently tried something new, and if you’re looking for a “date” idea, this might be it :)
Last weekend, we decided to do a dessert crawl in downtown Raleigh. We started at 5pm at our favorite patisserie, lucettegrace. Triangle friends, if you haven’t been here, absolutely put it on your list — SO GOOD. We split the Videri Chocolate Cream Pie (dark chocolate cremeux, almond shortbread, brown butter cocoa nib custard) the Blueberries + Cream (vanilla cheesecake, blueberry mousse, pistachio cake, almond cake, blueberry compote), and a citrus agua fresca.
We walked around the block a few times (June was in the stroller!) before heading to our next destination, Bittersweet. Their seasonal peach and blackberry cobbler (with pie crust “fries”!) was a delicious second course.
A few more laps, and we were ready for our last sweet of the evening, at Treat. They have a kiddie scoop that is practically thimble-sized, making it the perfect final stop on our sugar quest (though John opted for two scoops!!).
By 7pm, we were back in the car and headed home to tuck June into bed. Once she was asleep, we ate a small (healthy) dinner. The novelty of eating dessert first, combined with walking Raleigh’s summery streets, made for a fun evening out (and, no babysitter was required).
I’m curious: If you’re in a long-term relationship, what do you consider a “date”? Every fun activity? Maybe an activity that one person plans? Or one that simply has advance planning? Something expensive? Something fancy? I’d love to hear your criteria!