the sparkly life

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Day I Designed My Own Sandals at Amanu

amanu sandals
amanu leather sandals
amanu sandal maker
amanu sandal makers
amanu sandals
During the summer after I graduated college, I went to Greece with my family. And one of my favorite memories from the trip was visiting "The Poet Shoemaker" in Athens. This was a famous elderly man who was both a poet and a cobbler, creating gorgeous leather sandals fitted exactly to your feet, while you waited. It was the coolest experience, the sandals were beautiful and fit perfectly, and I still have them. (The quality was and is incredible!) So, when I caught a mention of Amanu, a sandal-making studio in Los Angeles, on my friend Hitha's Instagram, it brought back those custom-sandal memories.

When we headed out on our West Coast road trip this summer, I knew I had to check them out. So one morning in L.A. (I'll write part two of the road trip soon, I promise!), my sister-in-law Kerri and I left our kids with our husbands, and headed off on our own to make some shoes! (Note: I'm pretty sure they accept walk-ins, but we had pre-booked slots online, so there woudn't be a wait.)

Amanu is a small, adorable little 
shop tucked just off Melrose. You choose from around ten different styles of sandals, two different leather soles (black or nude), and then a large selection of colors, materials, and sizes of straps. I'm super indecisive, so if you go, I'd recommend doing what I did, which was looking at their website and Instagram beforehand. That meant I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted before I got there. 

I had fallen in love with Style 08 almost immediately via Instagram. It has a thin leather strap around your big toe, a second over your foot, and then long suede straps that tie around your ankle. And though there were a million different ways I could have gone in terms of color, I actually didn't take long choosing my those either. I went with nude soles, rose-gold leather for the foot and toe straps, and then tan suede for the ankle ties. (Kerri got Style 09 with tan straps on a black sole.)

Then, comes the really cool part: They measure your feet for a custom fit, and start building your shoes! You're paired with a cobbler or "maker" (mine was Khoi) who creates the shoe right there in front of you, and it all happens right in the middle of the store, hammers, tacks and all. They'll stop occasionally to place it on your foot to test out the fit, but the whole process is surprisingly quick--maybe 30 minutes? 

Once the shoes are completed, and you're totally happy with the fit, they'll place them in one of their cute reusable crochet shopping bags. (They each have a piece of leather stamped with "Amanu," which I learned is actually repurposed scraps from the shoes. Love that. No waste!) 

The shoes certainly aren't cheap (they vary a little depending on the materials used; mine were around $250), but they definitely don't feel cheap either. They are clearly beautifully made with high-quality materials. I love mine, and can't wait to go back. Maybe a black pair next time? ;)

(And because it needs to be said: This is not sponsored and I received no discount on my shoes!)

Friday, September 28, 2018

21 Cool Things You Need to Click On Today

vote tee shirt
Shirt by Catch A Wave Designs; nail color, Deborah Lippman Laughin' To The Bank

This is one of those days when it's tough to write a post like this. The air in this country feels heavy right now. It is heavy right now. And it can feel wrong to focus on "frivolous stuff" when the world feels like it's burning. But at the same time, I know that I use these kind of things as an escape--and I sure as hell could use one right about now. 

I spent most of yesterday glued to my TV watching the live feed of the Kavanaugh hearings. When they would take a break, I would, too. I'd mute my TV and scroll through Instagram or check out some of my favorite blogs. And let me tell you, those few moments of latte art, perfectly styled outfits, and lifestyle tips felt like a goddamn glorious little respite before the next round of heartache began. 

I hope I can be that for you right now. 

Here's a few links I enjoyed this week. I hope you like them, too. Have a great weekend! We deserve it.

• A few months back, I tested the Aveda Invati Advanced three-step hair thickening system for several months. My review is here, but the Cliff's Notes version: In my experience, it definitely worked. My hair was noticeably thicker immediately and over time. Sooo...if you've been thinking about trying the line, this is the time to do it. With the purchase of any two full-size Aveda Invati products (so, say the shampoo and the conditioner), you can get the third step in the system--the Scalp Revitalizer--for FREE, which is a $65 value. Click here to get the deal and use code ALYSSAAVEDA. Enjoy!

• I did a doubletake when I saw these gorgeous rose-gold loafers. They're from Target! And just $22!

• I had read some mixed reviews about the new Nars Climax Mascara, but I tried it this week myself, and I totally loved it! It has a big, bushy brush that grabs on to the tiniest hairs, so it makes you look like you have a million lashes. 

• Looking for something to read? I've read a ton of good ones lately. I finished The Book of Essie a few weeks back and really enjoyed it. It's the story of a teenager who has grown up in a very religious, Duggar-like reality-TV family. Loved the premise and it was a fun read.

• Next, came Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult, which I also loved. It tells an intertwined story from two perspectives--one, a white supremacist and the other, an African-American nurse. Like all of Picoult's book, it's a really good story that's quick to read and definitely tough to put down. 

• Most recently, I finished Yes We (Still) Can by Dan Pfeiffer, a former Obama staffer and one of the hosts of the Pod Save America podcast. It's part memoir of his time working in the White House and part political inspiration for our current times. I loved it, and in an age when it can be hard to feel a sense of optimism, it actually made me feel hopeful. 

• Right now I'm about a third of the way through The Dinner List, which came highly recommend from many of my favorite book people. You know how everyone always asks who you'd have dinner with if you could dine with any five people, living or dead? Well, this is the story of what happens when one woman gets that dinner with her best friend, a college professor, her estranged (and now deceased) father, an ex-boyfriend, and Audrey Hepburn. Really liking it so far, and it's a very easy read, which is nice.

• Love this leather tote bag that doubles as a backpack. So smart!

• Do you remember awhile back when I introduced you to my friend Tia Williams? Well, she just wrote an amazing essay for Glamour about the lessons that black women are passing down to their daughters about hair. A really great piece.

• Remember my quick trip to L.A. this summer? Well, I wrote about what I did there, here: I Got A Facial From Jessica Alba's BFF!

• I shared some of my back-to-school tips with PureWow.

• Funny because it's true: Why is goat cheese packaging so annoying?

• This is one of those stories that seems absolutely unbelievable, and when you realize it's true, you're going to be livid. In nearly all states, it is legal (and common!) for doctors to give non-consensual pelvic exams to patients who are under anesthesia. Yes, really. 

• Another medical story guaranteed to piss you off: For months, doctors wouldn't take this woman's medical complaints seriously. And she died because of it.

• New life goal: Steal this woman's job so I, too, can get paid $6,000 a day to write quotes for Instagram.

• If you've been thinking of joining BJ's Wholesale Club (and this is why you should), for the next one day only, you can get a membership for just $25 (it's regularly $55). Click here to get the deal. So worth it!

• My friend Liana just wrote a powerful essay for Teen Vogue on her time spent at a Catholic girls' school just a stone's throw from Georgetown Prep.

• Are you registered to vote? Are you sure? Go to Vote Save America to double check that you're registered--or to find out what you need to do to get registered. The midterms (which take place in just over a month!) is the most important election of our lifetime. And your vote matters.

And in case you missed it, I..

• Recapped our road trip to Seattle and Portland.

• Gave my tips for getting a great blowout (with inexpensive products!) at home.

• Shared some of my all-time favorite beauty products.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Our West Coast Road Trip: Seattle and Portland

space needle seattle
When my husband initially suggested we do a West Coast road trip with his brother, my sister-in-law, and their kids, I was less than enthused. While I loved the idea of teaming up with them for a vacation, I was less into the idea of a road trip since I hate driving and generally just spending a lot of time in the car. But I was torn because I love California, and both Seattle and Portland have been on my bucket list forever. (I'd been many places, but never to the Pacific Northwest.) What ultimately sealed the deal was that my husband and his brother said they were going to plan everything. Sold!

So, it was on, and in early August, we flew out to Seattle for what would end up being an 11-day trip with myself, my husband, my brother-in-law (Tim), my sister-in-law (Kerri), my ten-year-old nephew and niece (Brody and Madison), my kids, and our au pair, Pau. As you'll see, the guys planned a very, very packed and very, very planned-out trip. (This is not how I typically choose to travel, FYI. I'm more the let's-come-up-with-a-few-key-things-we-want-to-see-and-then-see-where-each-day-takes-us type.) It was quite the whirlwind. But it worked, we had fun, and we're still speaking to each other!

Here's how the first few days of our trip went down...


space needle glass floor

Day 1: Seattle

After an early six-hour flight and the three-hour time difference, we arrived in Seattle around noon. I couldn't believe how green everything was! (So many pine trees!) I also couldn't believe how cool it was, temperature-wise. High 60s/low 70s, which was a little shocking after leaving 90-degree weather at home. After checking in to our hotel (Sheraton Seattle), we headed out to explore the city, hoodies in hand.

First stop was Tribeca Kitchen & Bar for lunch, which we just stumbled into while walking around searching for a restaurant. Turned out to be a great choice. (Local beer and amazing homemade pasta!) Next, we hit Pike Place Market. We only had a few minutes there, but it was fun to see. (I got major Real World Seattle vibes walking around that area.) Then we hit the infamous Gum Wall for a photo opp. It's right next to Pike Place, so it's worth stopping by quickly, but heads up: The entire concept is kind of gross (thousands of pieces of used gum stuck on the walls), and there are also tons of bees around because of the strong, sickly-sweet smell. We quickly checked out the first Starbucks (because obviously), then headed to the Space Needle. 

The area around the Space Needle is very cool (street performers, food stands, a Chihuly exhibit), but we had no time to check it out because of our tight schedule. We took the elevator to the top, and spent probably 15 minutes up there, which was plenty of time. The view is great, and they now (literally as of the day we visited!) have a glass floor that you can lay down on to take photos. I was a little freaked out by it, but the kids had fun laying on it. (My son would only lay next to the glass though!)

Next stop: dinner! We ate at Six Seven, which was delicious and had gorgeous views of Puget Sound. I was worried that it wasn't going to be kid-friendly, because it was all teetering-crystal-stemware-and-white-tablecloths in there, but turns out there was a good children's menu and all of the kids found stuff they loved. (I had the burrata--YUM--and then the cedar plank salmon, which was so good, but I could barely even make a dent in it since my stomach was so full of burrata by then.) 

At this point, allow me to remind you that this has all (including our six-hour flight) happened in ONE DAY. (I told you the guys had packed it in for us.)


mt. rainier
outdoor hot tub

Day 2: Mt. Rainier

After a quick breakfast at the hotel, everyone but me went on a Seattle Seaplane. Unnecessary flights and landing on water aren't really my thing, so instead, I ventured across the street to get Starbucks (which, weirdly, feels almost like a tourist experience when you're in Seattle). Once everybody got back, we hit the road.

About halfway to Mt. Rainier (it's only about a two-hour drive), we stopped at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, so the kids could stretch their legs. We ended up spending hours there, eating lunch and letting the kids tackle the adventure course. As a result, we ended up pulling up to Mr. Rainier way later than expected.

We drove to an overlook, snapped a few pics, and then drove a little further to a visitors center. By this time, it was a bit of a disaster. The kids were tired, I was stressed out that we were going to end up driving the windy forest roads after dark, and my city-kid daughter was apparently allergic to something in the Pacific Northwest nature, so her eyes had swelled up like crazy and were super red. After administering Benadryl in the parking lot, we tried to convince everyone to go on a short hike, but no one was having it. We bought a souvenir Christmas ornament and got the heck out of there. 

After a quick stop at a "grocery store" to pick up some food (it was essentially a rural 7-11 with...not much), we drove to our cabins (we were split between two of them, and they were cute and outdoorsy, but cramped and honestly a little too rustic for my taste. I'm a hotel person--sue me). We made dinner and passed out in bed. 

candy store portland

portland jet boat
departure portland

Day 3: Portland

The next morning, because of the tight schedule, we woke up at the crack of dawn. And since we had five people and only one bathroom in our cabin, we let our kids take their "bath" in the hot tub out on the deck. (Not sure how clean they got, but it was a pretty cool experience!) Then we started the two-hour drive to Portland.

Our first stop was my nephew's one request for the trip: a two-hour boat tour of Portland via Willamette Jet Boat Excursions. Brody, I love you, but let's just say, this boat ride was not for me. If you have adventurous kids, they will have the time of their lives. If you care about your hair (or your clothes) staying dry, you won't. I was told I might get "a little wet" on the trip. Um, I (and everyone else) walked off that boat looking like we had just stepped out of the shower. 

The trip itself is mostly a leisurely tour down the river with your guide pointing out the sites (there are some gorgeous homes on the banks!) and giving you some history of the city. (Side note: We did the two-hour tour, which was our first mistake. If you do this, I highly recommend doing the one-hour tour. Maybe two hours would work if you were in Chicago or Boston, but--no offense, Portland--there is just not enough interesting historical stuff to see and hear there.) But what you really need to know (and what the kids really loved and I didn't) is that in beween the history lessons, your driver will drive super fast and basically do donuts on the water, sending literal waves into the boat and onto you. You will be soaked. I--and my blowout that was supposed to last me a week--did not appreciate this.

With my dripping-wet head hung low, we then drove to our hotel (The Nines). The rooms weren't ready, so we dropped off our bags, got some snacks/late lunch at the lobby restaurant, then headed out to explore. We didn't have a plan, and just kind of meandered around the area. The kids (and adults) especially loved a very cool little store called Rocket Fizz, which carries every kind of vintage candy and soda you can imagine. 

Once our rooms were ready, we headed back to the hotel to change, and the grown-ups headed out to dinner. (The kids stayed in the room to watch movies and order room service with our au pair, which is one of a million awesome things about having an au pair. Thank you, Pau!) We went to Imperial, which was really yummy and had a cool, Brooklyn-y vibe. I ordered the grilled Caeser salad and the tagiatelle carbonara (both incredible), but it was one of those places where I totally wanted multiple things on the menu. We ended the night with drinks at our hotel's rooftop bar, Departure. It was a gorgeous night and the views of Portland were perfect! 

voodoo donuts


voodoo donuts
Day 4: Portland/En-route to San Francisco

After breakfast at the lobby restaurant, we quickly walked a few blocks to fulfill the one request on my Portland list: Voodoo Doughnuts! It did not disappoint. I got a Chocolate Ring (plain yeast donut with chocolate frosting) because that's my jam, but everyone got something different (my daughter got the famous voodoo doll donut!), and everyone loved their choice. It's a tourist-y place, sure, but worth a stop. Then, it was time for the airport!

And that concluded our whirlwind of a visit to Portland. The original plan of this trip was to drive from Portland to San Francisco, but I nixed that when I found out the drive was TEN HOURS. Nope. We flew to San Francisco, instead. Thank god.

...And that's a wrap on the Pacific Northwest! Next post will cover the rest of our trip, which included San Fran; Cambria, Monterey, and the PCH drive; and Los Angeles. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 14, 2018

{GIVEAWAY} Want to Win an iPhone 8?!

iphone giveaway

Hi guys! I know you love giveaways (I do, too!), so today I have a fun one for you. I've partnered with 13 other bloggers to give away your choice of two prizes: You could win a rose-gold iPhone 8 (!!) or $600 in cash. Not bad, right? 

You can enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck! 



One person will win one of two amazing prizes:

iPhone 8, open to any carrier, 64gb in rose gold
$600 PayPal Cash!!

Which one will you choose?


If you unsubscribe/mark the newsletters as spam you will not be eligible for future giveaways. Please remember that when you mark a blog newsletter as spam it puts a bad mark on the delivery system, and this causes major issues. Large amounts of unsubscribes also give us a bad mark, so if you truly don’t want to receive the newsletter and will just unsubscribe or mark it as spam, please DO NOT ENTER!

The giveaway will run for 33 days, from 8/7/18 12pm est to 9/14/18 at 12am est. To enter just click on the above rafflecopter form and complete the many different tasks to double and triple your chances of winning many times over.
You must be 18+ years of age and reside in the US, AUS, & CANADA to win. VOID where prohibited. The winner will be notified within 24hrs of the giveaway closing and he or she will have 48hrs to respond, or a new winner will be selected. Feel free to read the full 
Terms and Conditions for the complete rules and regulations.
Good Luck!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

6 Steps To Getting The Perfect Blowout At Home

BJ's wholesale club
BJ's wholesale club

Photos by Isis Paulina Loyo Fernandez

If you've followed this blog or my Instagram for any amount of time, you surely know that having my hair perfectly blown out is, shall we say, important to me. And though my absolute favorite is a salon blowout, I've also honed my at-home hairstyling skills and can give myself a pretty good one, too.

Today, I've partnered with BJ's Wholesale Club to show you how I get a great blowout at home.

1. Start with a good shampoo and conditioner. I always go with either a moisturizing formula or a smoothing one. If it's super humid, I might go for the smoothing so I get some extra frizz-control. If it's in the winter or my hair is feeling extra fried, I'll do a more moisturizing formula. I love this one--Pantene Pro-V Smooth & Sleek--because it happens to cover all the bases. It helps stop frizz, and it's super moisturizing. I also love these giant bottles, which a) ensure it takes forever to run out, and b) cost--wait for it--just $8.99 each!

2. Work a heat-protecting smoothing cream through your hair. This helps condition the hair and protect it from all the heat you're about to inflict on it. It also just makes your hair feel so much softer and your blowout look better. Don't skip it!

3. Use the right tools. My two essentials are a round brush (I like the ones with a mix of both boar bristles, for smoothing, and nylon ones, for gripping), and then a high-powered blowdryer with a nozzle. The nozzle is a must; it concentrates the air directly onto the hair that you're working with instead of blowing it all around every which way. This speeds up the whole process a ton.

4. Section out your hair. You can use fancy alligator clips, a scrunchie--whatever. I have a giant claw clip that was super cheap and works perfectly. I gather all of my hair on top of my head and secure it into the clip. Then I let down small sections, a bit at a time, starting with the nape of the neck and moving up and forward as I go. Never attempt to blowdry your hair without sectioning. It goes so much faster this way and you'll get much better results.

5. Seal it in. After everything is dry and smooth, I finish with a few drops of a serum or an oil like OGX Renewing Argan Oil. You can add it allover for lots of shine, or just use it sparingly. I usually work it into my ends, which are always very dry and scraggly, and then add a touch to my hairline where I tend to get flyways. 

6. Lock it in with hairspray. This is an optional step for me, but it can be an important one. I don't use hairspray on every blowout, but it's a must if I've done a blowout with loose curls, or if I just want my style to look extra perfect and last for something important later in the day like a photo shoot or a big event. The key is to use a formula with a touchable hold. If you use something super strong, your hair is going to feel crunchy and it's going to look awful. But a formula like this one (Nexxus Comb Thru Touchable Hold Finishing Spray, which BTW, comes in a two-pack at BJ's so you can keep one in your bathroom and one in your gym bag!) provides just-enough soft hold, so it keeps your style looking good, but feels like barely anything. (And true to the name, you can even brush through it!)

Thank you to BJ's for partnering with me on this post. Are you a BJ's member? If not, use this link to sign up for only $25 (over 50% off the usual price!). Click here for details.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

My Fall Bucket List

fall bucket list
Art by the very talented Sophie & Lili
So I did okay on my Summer Bucket List. Quick scorecard: It was a "Yes" on the reading, the nap outside, the fruit picking, and the multiple Cliff's ice cream cones. It was "sort of" on the cobbler (my mom made one--and I ate it!), solo stuff with each kid (I took my daughter to a big day at the outlets, but that's pretty much it), and the dinner party in our new backyard (we're having a party--though not really a dinner party--there in two weeks!), and a sad "No" on more date nights and learning to make a green acai bowl. 

But now it's (almost) fall! Here's what's on my to-do list so far. (BTW, I'm going to write it on this adorable fall bucket list printable, so I can do some very satisfying crossing out!) 

Go apple picking. We went peach picking this August, and my kids loved it (well, until they both got allergic skin reactions to either the peach fuzz or the pesticides. #city kids). I know they'll love apple picking--and the hay rides that go along with it--even more. Plus, we haven't done it in ages. 

Go pumpkin picking, too. At an actual patch. We usually just pick one up at the garden center near us, but I think my kids would love to do it at the patch. Maybe combined with apple picking?

Use my resusable cup for all those lattes. I'm not a PSL girl, but I love my regular lattes. And it pains me how much waste I alone create by visting Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts every day (and sometimes even twice a day). I've tried to get in the habit of bringing my own reusable cup before but it's never really caught on for me. But I just got one I'm really excited about. The Stojo cup is absolutely adorable, it works for both hot or cold drinks (has its own reusable straw!), and (best part) it collapses into itself and squishes down into a little disc that is much easier to throw in your purse. I really, really want to start taking it with me--and using it. Wish me luck! #notsponsored

Beef up my fall wardrobe. It's sad, guys. Since I rarely go into the office anymore, I tend to shop less. My fall wardrobe definitely needs a kick in the butt. I want to focus on great basics and a few fun things. I just bought this J.Crew Factory sweater (love the bright blue and the fact that it was just $21!) and this camo fleece jacket.

Decorate the house for Halloween. Sometimes we go all out decorating; sometimes we just kind of phone it in. Halloween is big in my town though, and this year though, I want to be one of the must-see houses in the 'hood.

Take some fall photos. We want family pics, pics of the kids, and also some shots with our au pair!

Make at least one photo book. I need to make about 1,000 of these, but there's one I need to get done by a mid-fall deadline, so...I'm going to do it!

Clean up/organize dining room and kitchen. The list of places that need to be de-cluttered and properly organized in my house is long, but I'll start with these two rooms. (Do you guys follow @horderlynyc? She's been an inspiration to me!)

Host an outdoor fall party in the backyard. We never got around to doing the summer dinner party, so I want to do an outdoors fall party before it gets too cold. S'mores on the fire pit would be fun, right?

See a Broadway show. I love seeing plays and musicals, but when you live in NYC, it's one of those "Oh I could do that anytime" things that you end up never doing. I'm trying to be better about seeing them more regularly though, so I'd definitely like to catch one in the fall. On my list right now: Waitress, Harry Potter, Mean Girls, The Band's Visit, and maybe Dear Evan Hansen (for the third time...eek!).

Go to a football game. I generally hate football, but we already have plans to go to a college football game in Chicago this fall, so I'm cheating and putting this on the list. Now there's at least one thing that I know I'll cross off! ;)


So, that's mine. Nothing earth-shattering, but seems like the start to a pretty good fall to me. Now, tell me: What's on your fall bucket list?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Best Beauty Products At The Big Sephora Sale

Sephora is having a sale! This is huge, because the annoying thing about beauty products is that they almost never go on sale. But those rare times when they do are amazing, because it's the perfect time to either a) stock up on your favorites or b) try something new you've had your eye on.

Below I've listed what I'm humbly calling the very best things in the Sephora sale. I've included some of my all-time favorites, many of the awesome products I currently use in my own routine, and a few newer things I'm dying to try myself.

Before you get shopping, here are some basics to know:

-The sale starts today and goes through Monday. 

-Insiders gets 10 percent off with code YESINSIDER. (Note: Anyone can become an Insider--there's no cost or catch. Joining is really a no-brainer--it even gets you free samples with every order! You can join here.)

-VIB members get 20 percent off with code YESVIB. 

-You can only use the code once online, but you can use it in store as many times as you want.

-The only brand not included in the sale is Dyson, and the only other rules are that you can only get three Drunk Elephant products (make sure Baby Facial is one of them!) and three Tatcha products. 

Other than that? GO. TO. TOWN.

Here what I'd get....


The brow product that changed my life, the world's most flattering eyeshadow palette, my favorite concealer, and more

A truly clear face sunscreen, the best glowy moisturizer, my favorite vitamin C serum, etc.


miracle-worker for hiding gray roots, my all-time #1 hair mask, the best curl cream, and more.


The best citrus-y shower gel, Chrissy Teigen's glow made easy, a smoothie add-in that improves your skin, and more.


Happy shopping! (And if you get a chance, tell me below what you have your eye on. I'd love to know!)