Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Music Review: Madonna’s Rebel Heart #O2O #RebelHeart

Madonna is an icon.

I don’t say that as a supreme fan girl. I say it because it is a reality. She broke rules, stereotypes, and gender norms. She showed that strong is sexy. She proved that dancing unapologetically is worthy of celebration. She balances motherhood and work. Her eldest is away studying at a university and like any parent, she is proud of her. I find myself relating to her and grateful for the road she paved.

When One2One Network gave me the opportunity to review her 13th studio album, Rebel Heart, I jumped on it. I enjoy Madonna’s music. Not every single song, but most of it. I appreciate that she makes music I can dance to, but I love her slower ballads, too (Cherish is one of my all time faves). In a recent interview for Billboard for this album, she says, “Rebel Heart explores two very distinct sides of my personality, the rebellious renegade side of me and the romantic side of me.”

This album is chock full of collaborations and some of the best producers in the industry. My two favorite tracks are Ghosttown and Wash All Over Me. Living for Love punches you immediately in the face and makes you wanna dance. Of course, it makes you ask, what are you living for?  Check it yourself:

 

Even if you aren’t a big fan of hers, I think you will enjoy this album. The lyrics are very personal and the title seems true to her image…someone with a Rebel Heart. There are explicit tracks, so those of you with smaller ones around be aware of some of the songs—I’m staring at you Holy Water.  There are 19 tracks on Rebel Heart (deluxe edition), for an hour and 14 minutes of listening pleasure. She will have a World Tour starting this August. In true Madonna fashion, the concert is an event you will certainly not want to miss, because she puts on a show, full of dancing, visual eye-candy, and an army of dancers. It is truly a SHOW!

Rebel Heart Track List

  1. “Living For Love”
  2. “Devil Pray”
  3. “Ghosttown”
  4. “Unapologetic Bitch”
  5. “Illuminati”
  6. “Bitch I’m Madonna” (Feat. Nicki Minaj)
  7. “Hold Tight”
  8. “Joan Of Arc”
  9. “Iconic” (Feat. Chance The Rapper & Mike Tyson)
  10. “HeartBreakCity”
  11. “Body Shop”
  12. “Holy Water”
  13. “Inside Out”
  14. “Wash All Over Me”
  15. “Best Night”
  16. “Veni Vidi Vici” (Feat. Nas)
  17. “S.E.X.”
  18. “Messiah”
  19. “Rebel Heart”

 

REBEL HEART WORLD TOUR 2015

  • Aug. 29 Miami, FL American Airlines Arena On Sale Mar. 9
  • Sept. 2 Atlanta, GA Philips Arena On Sale Mar. 16
  • Sept. 5 San Juan, PR Coliseo de Puerto Rico On Sale Mar. 21
  • Sept. 9 Montreal, QC Bell Centre On Sale Mar. 14
  • Sept. 12 Washington, DC Verizon Center On Sale Mar. 16
  • Sept. 16 New York, NY Madison Square Garden On Sale Mar. 9
  • Sept. 19 Brooklyn, NY Barclays Center On Sale Mar. 9
  • Sept. 24 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center On Sale Mar. 16
  • Sept. 26 Boston, MA TD Garden On Sale Mar. 16
  • Sept. 28 Chicago, IL United Center On Sale Mar. 9
  • Oct. 1 Detroit, MI Joe Louis Arena On Sale Mar. 23
  • Oct. 3 Atlantic City, NJ Boardwalk Hall On Sale Mar. 16
  • Oct. 5 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre On Sale Mar. 9
  • Oct. 8 St. Paul, MN Xcel Energy Center On Sale Mar. 16
  • Oct. 11 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place On Sale Mar. 9
  • Oct. 14 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena On Sale Mar. 9
  • Oct. 17 Portland, OR MODA Center On Sale Mar. 23
  • Oct. 19 San Jose, CA SAP Center at San Jose On Sale Mar. 9
  • Oct. 22 Glendale, AZ Gila River Arena On Sale Mar. 23
  • Oct. 24 Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Garden Arena On Sale Mar. 16
  • Oct. 27 Los Angeles, CA Forum On Sale Mar. 16

 

ITUNES: http://bit.ly/REBELHEART

WEB: www.madonna.com

INSTAGRAM: www.instagram.com/madonna

TWITTER: www.twitter.com/madonna

YOUTUBE: www.youtube.com/madonna

**I participated in the Madonna Rebel Heart album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.**

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Open Letter to My Sugarbean on Her 7th Birthday

Dear Mari,

Seven! Seven years ago, you came into this world ready. Ready for what? I’m not certain, but ready for almost anything you have been. As the oldest, the bar has been set pretty high for you. We have been firm in your discipline and have been firm in setting expectations. But not matter how firm we have been, you’ve met us, headstrong, filled with your tenacious will to do things your way. At times when you are reluctant to approach something new for fear of failure, you surprise me with how easily you can change your perspective and work through a problem, even more so when I give you the room to figure it out.

This year, you have surpassed me with your speed. In a 50 yard dash, you will win, but I still need to teach you about endurance. During the Santa Run this year, you confided in me that the sun gives you energy and water also gives you lots of energy. At the halfway point, you took a couple of cups of water and finished remarkably faster than I expected. There were tears during the race, where you had doubts you could finish. That was the first time that I tried to explain to you the metaphor of running and life. You don’t give up and quit. It may get difficult. You will want to quit, but you just have to have a moment to regroup. Slow down, get some perspective, take some deep breaths, then start again. I did my best to explain to you why I needed to stop running marathons. You had become so accustomed to me running and running for a long time, that when my training changed, you had questions. Then you touched my heart deeply because you told me that one day you were going to run a marathon for me because I couldn’t. You said, “Mama, you ran your marathons for Nana, so I want to run my marathon for you. I want to be able to run for my mother just like you did!” You turned to your father and asked him to run with you and to help me train you. I don’t know if you will ever run a marathon, but your heart---your beautifully empathetic heart reaches out and connects to people.

We took a leap of faith and switched your education to a project-based Charter school. While we were incredibly apprehensive, you have really made great strides and are flourishing. You aren’t yet devouring books, but you do enjoy reading a great deal. You also enjoy writing and observing the world around you. You are still very artistic and are happiest when you are painting or drawing.

You are just as happy when you play with your baby sister! I absolutely adore the relationship you two share. Yes, at times you bicker with one another, but the love that you each have for the other, the kindness, the generosity, the willingness to put the other before yourself…that’s what I admire most of all and hope that you continue with that leadership so you can share that relationship for the rest of your lives.

You tell me that all the colors of the rainbow are your favorite, one not more important than any other. You have such a thirst for knowledge and I often have to pull you back into reality because you drift off into your head…what a magical place your imagination must be!

Since you are turning 7 on the 7th, this year marks your golden birthday! You asked for me to surprise you for your birthday. I’ve clued you in on some details, but not many. When you wake up, there will be gold tassels, gold helium balloons, gold glitter tulle, and gold rose petals covering your room into a golden bomb. Out front, there is a yard sign signaling the whole neighborhood of your special day. In the morning, your sister and I will shuttle you off to The Drybar for a birthday blowout. You will wear your new gold sequin frock given to you from your baby sister. Afterwards, we will head home and have brunch with friends and family. Later, you will have your first not-at-home party with your classmates and best friends. It is a bit lower key for us because one of your birthday gifts is a plane ticket to California for later on in the year! You will get to tear into your 3-tiered golden cake with your 7 golden candles and a 7 sparkler, too! At home, we will revisit your birth story and see what else you would like to do for the rest of the day. And a big surprise! You will take a cooking class the very next day with your father with a real chef! You love Master Chef Junior and really wanted to have some basic cooking lessons. You get many lessons and often from your father, me, and your Uncle Simon, but this one will be away from the home and a special time just for you and your daddy. Your father and I are so very proud of you!

Thank you for your laughter, for your hugs, for your curiosity, for your love! I still don’t know how I got to be so lucky to be your mommy, but every single day I am grateful that our God saw me fit to do just that. I love you, Sugarbug, oh so very, very much! Keep flying high my little butterfly! Happy Golden birthday to you!

 

Love,

Mommy.

C25_5852 2

Monday, January 5, 2015

Book Review: “After” by Anna Todd #O2O #AfterSaga

I was a reader. I inhaled books, not nearly as quickly as some of my other reader friends, but certainly had a love for getting lost in the written word. When One2One Network approached me to do a book review, I jumped on it! I wasn’t too aware of what I would be reading, I just knew the backstory of this book and how it came to be. (It is a tale of how an author becomes published through technology and social media…intriguing—to me.)  Let me introduce you to Anna Todd:

 

Twenty-five year-old Anna Todd is a first-time writer spending her days in Texas with her husband, with whom she beat half the statistics by getting married one month after graduating high school.

Anna never thought she’d be an author. In fact, between her husband’s three deployments to Iraq, she worked a number of odd jobs - from a makeup counter to the IRS processing center. It wasn’t until 2013 that Anna combined her love of reading and One Direction to create After on Wattpad, a free social reading and writing app. 
Writing the majority of After from her mobile phone while in and out of appointments and running errands, Anna extended the After story world beyond Wattpad, using Instagram and Twitter to share photos, videos, songs, and art created by readers. By 2014, Anna’s story had over 1 billion reads and more than 6 million comments (and counting!)

Find her on Wattpad as Imaginator1D: http://www.wattpad.com/user/imaginator1D
Twitter at @Imaginator1Dx https://twitter.com/imaginator1dx
Instagram at @Imaginator1D http://instagram.com/imaginator1d

What?? She wrote the majority of this book on her phone??? Talk about some serious maximization of time! I need to be honest here. I don’t know anything about One Direction. I think that one singer used to date Taylor Swift.? maybe? Dunno. (I like Taylor Swift.—Hi Taylor! Thanks for making music that I can listen to with my girls without having to explain things that I’m not usually prepared to explain.) In any case, I looked them up to see a picture of this guy and channeled my inner teen, remembering the time when Joey McIntyre made my 11-year old heart swoon.

When my book arrived, I was immediately intimidated by the size. 582 pages!! So much content and on a phone, no less! Wow! This is a 4-book series published by Simon & Schuster AND Paramount Pictures picked up the film rights to adapt it to the big screen. I am now further intrigued to read--Very cool!  So, what IS After?

The After series tells the story of Tessa Young, an optimistic freshman at Washington State University, and the dark, troubled British bad boy who has stolen her heart.
Since becoming one of the most talked about stories on the internet, the After series garnered attention from Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, who published the first installment of the novel, which went on sale on October 21, 2014.   On Wattpad*, After has over 1 billion reads, more than 6 million comments and the print edition is available in 26 countries.  

Hmm… ok. I chalked it up to being on a similar level of Twilight with possibly more accelerated romance. First off, I like how each chapter is divided up into to bite sized nuggets. I was curious how you would take something from Wattpad and translate it to print. Being a busy person, I was grateful for shorter chapters to read when I only had 10-minute breaks in my day. I didn’t feel like I would have to play significant catch up for the characters. Admittedly, it took me a bit of time to get into it. This is how I am, though. It usually takes me between 50 and hundred pages before I’m invested into a book.

I liked that this book forced me to take my mind away from all of the directions I am pulled at this stage in my life. I was forced back into my late teens/early 20s thinking. (I am not the only person who gets fully submerged into the books as an observer of the time, right? You do that too!) I was quite frustrated by the relationship that Tessa and Hardin share. Then again, I get frustrated by many literary couples, so there’s that. One thing I wasn’t quite prepared for was the graphic and detailed scenes of passion (sex, people, there’s sex in this book. lots of hot sex.) Wowsa! I’m no prude, but I wasn’t entirely prepared to read some of those scenes. It was a wait, whaaaaaa??? moment. Like, am I reading this? I felt like I’d just seen something naughty on my phone and wanted to hide it, but didn’t feel as exposed because they were written words, but still. Especially the moments when my 6-year old would walk up to me. I didn’t want her reading over my shoulder! ha ha ha! (She just needs see her parents reading and will think reading is cool and will pick up on that. It matters not the content.) I’ve not read the 50 Shades series, but from what I have heard, there are similar levels of lasciviousness to it, so be forewarned. This isn’t appropriate for tweens to read. Also, I understand why it was so popular. You want to know what direction the characters will go. You inevitably have the same questions they have and you want answers. So if you like fiction novels about romance and passion, then give this book (and series) a whirl.

You can find After - Barnes & Noble: http://w.tt/wp | E-reader: http://w.tt/sns2


*Wattpad is the world’s largest community of readers and writers. It has connected over 40 million people around the world who share a love of reading and writing. 
Wattpad is a new storytelling experience that’s mobile and social.   Wattpad stories are free. 

Mobile: With Wattpad you can read and share stories from your phone, tablet or computer. Whether you’re online or off, use the devices you already own to carry an entire library of stories wherever you go. 


Social: Wattpad creates direct connections between readers and writers. Everyone participates in storytelling on Wattpad. Some people may not identify with being a writer, but they can share plot suggestions via comments and messages or create original art/music to go along with the stories they’ve read. 


Anyone can share a story on Wattpad. Whether you’ve never written before, or published multiple books, Wattpad offers benefits for writers of all levels. One of the greatest benefits of Wattpad is a direct connection between readers and writers. Readers receive notifications whenever a new chapter of a story is posted. Many writers share their work serially: posting stories one chapter at a time, so readers keep coming back. As soon as a story is uploaded it can be accessed by millions of readers around the world.

 

***I participated in the After by Anna Todd blog program as a member of One2One Network. I received compensation but all opinions are my own.***

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wonderful 2015

Some compare it to an empty book with 365 pages in it. I like to imagine a photo album with 365 images each with  a different story.

I was fortunate to have had more than 365 adventures in 2014! Embracing my one little word, I feel I moved forward/adelante and found that unknown thing I was searching for, several things, in fact. I had a discussion with my parents the other day. They’d gone to see the movie Wild and it made them think of me. I knew a bit of the story’s synopsis and had wanted to to go see it, but haven’t just yet. My mom said the characters journey of hiking to process things really made her think of me. I didn’t piece them together, until she followed it up with, “You know, because of you running.” Some people run for fun. Others will run because it is like their religion. When I run, especially my longer distances and when I’m alone, I’m processing and chewing on things. I have a lot of conversations with my Maker: attempting to find the answers, trying to let go of hurts, forcing lingering voices in my head to quiet down. I ran a great many miles to push my soul forward, to get beyond the place of where I had been. Reflecting back, I found myself…a happier, less bitter, more forgiving, more engaging person---still in need of caffeine to keep the headaches at bay. ha! I continue to look forward, so 2015’s word is:
Wonderful2015
adjective
  1. inspiring delight, pleasure, or admiration; extremely good; marvelous.
Thank you, 2014. Ok, 2015…Let’s Go!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Music Review: Idina Menzel’s Holiday Wishes #HolidayWishes #O2O

 

It is the Holiday season. I like to think the Holiday season begins in October with Halloween. Immediately afterwards, you have Dia de los Muertos, All Saints Day, Thanksgiving, then Hanukkah, Festivus, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, 3 Kings Day, and then Valentine’s Day will roll right along. Whew…It is a lot of celebrating, but you know what? I don’t mind having something to celebrate, especially on dark days, when the sun has taken a break, the leaves fall, and the world tries to manufacture a bit of warmth to get us through. I don’t know about you, but I get such a overwhelming melancholy in December, I rely on my many traditions to cope. Celebrations with friends, gazing at lights, sending Christmas Cards filled with love to those far away. All the while, trying to curb the urge to spend, spend, spend and eat, eat, eat.

When One2One Network invited me to review Idina Menzel’s new album Holiday Wishes, I jumped at the opportunity. No, I’ve not tired of her version of “Let it Go,” nor do I think her voice is too nasally for my liking. Much like the power ballads of the 80s, I am unashamed to admit I like it when she builds up the song and belts it out.

Listening to the album, I know the words to the songs because I grew up singing many of them. If you are someone who likes to sing along to music, then this album will be for you, even if the arrangements may not be too familiar. Her duet with Michael Buble for Baby It’s Cold Outside is fun, but then again, I loved it when Buddy the Elf sings it, too. It is a great song! I will also say that I was not happy about her performance for All I Want For Christmas. It is a much beloved favorite because of Mariah Carey in her heyday.  I think my favorite on her album is What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? This is the song I can sing in my car, pretending I’m in a glittering gown on a stage, singing with a piano accompaniment. Immediately following, December Prayer…this is the one you listen in the dark of night when fat snow trickles down from the unseen clouds above. “Hear the song within the silence. See the beauty when there is nothing there. Sing a song within a silence that hope and love are everywhere…” River is also a tremendous favorite of mine. I’ll let you take a listen and form your own opinion. Overall, I know some of her songs will make it to my playlist and my girls will grow up listening to the songs I heard as a child, but they will also hear her voice, too. You can check out her album now at  iTunes : http://bit.ly/IMHolidayWishes and on Amazon:  http://bit.ly/IDINAHOLIDAY. (or you can listen on Spotify, too!)

About Idina Menzel & Holiday Wishes

Holiday Wishes, a Christmas album recorded by Tony Award-winning singer/actor Idina Menzel, is out now on Warner Bros. Records.
The album was produced by Grammy Award-winner Walter Afanasieff (Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey) and features such classic favorites as “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” as well as Joni Mitchell’s Christmas-themed “River,” one of Menzel’s favorites. Another highlight is a duet with international superstar Michael BublĂ© on “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” An exclusive Target edition of Holiday Wishes features two bonus tracks, including “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”.

Idina’s career has traversed stage, film, television, and music. She was most recently heard as Elsa in Disney’s global box-office smash Frozen, in which she sings the film’s Oscar-winning song “Let It Go.” After her performance of the multi-platinum song at the 86th annual Academy Awards, she made history as the first person with both a Billboard Top 10 hit and a Tony Award for acting.

Idina currently stars as Elizabeth in the original Broadway production of If/Then.


Holiday Wishes Track Listing

  1. Do You Hear What I Hear
  2. The Christmas Song
  3. Baby It’s Cold Outside (Duet with Michael Buble)
  4. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  5. All I Want For Christmas
  6. What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?
  7. December Prayer
  8. When You Wish Upon A Star
  9. Silent Night
  10. River
  11. Holly Jolly Christmas
  12. White Christmas

Bonus Tracks on Target Exclusive
  1. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
  2. Mothers Spiritual

 

Online Presence:

* iTunes: http://bit.ly/IMHolidayWishes
  * Amazon:  http://bit.ly/IDINAHOLIDAY
* Official Idina Menzel website: www.idinamenzel.com
* Twitter - @idinamenzel
* Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/IdinaMenzel
* YouTube - http://bit.ly/IMHWVID

 

**I participated in the Idina Menzel Holiday Wishes album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Album Review: Mary J. Blige The London Sessions #TheLondonSessions #O2O


If you were of some kind of age in the '90s, then you are intimately familiar with that melodic and enchanting voice filled with so much heartache and pain that oozed soulful hip hop. Mary J. Blige personified that era perfectly as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. She remained true to her roots. To this day, her tracks Real Love and pretty much anything from What's the 411? is iconic, classic and music for now. 

When I was given the opportunity to review her album by One 2 One Network, I jumped at the chance. Are you kidding me? Mary J. Blige has once again confounded expectations and ventured into new musical territory by crossing the Atlantic to collaborate with some of this decade’s most celebrated UK musical talent – including Disclosure, Eg White, Emile SandĂ©, Jimmy Napes, Naughty Boy, SAM ROMANS and Sam Smith – and recorded a new studio album, The London SessionsThis extraordinary new collection will be released December 2 on Capitol Records. 

With a track record of eight multi-platinum albums, nine Grammy Awards (plus a staggering 31 nominations), a 2012 Golden Globe nomination, and four American Music Awards, Mary J Blige is a global superstar. And in ensuing years, the singer/songwriter has attracted an intensely loyal fan base – responsible for propelling worldwide sales of more than 50 million albums. I am among those fans. 



I have given the album a thorough listening a few times. I can't listen to the lyrics for some of those songs without feeling an overwhelming sense of melancholy, but the beats, the groove, her voice, all of those things combined get me going. Dancing to the beat, I find myself singing along. I can definitely foresee many of these tracks being remixed to play at clubs around the world. 

Off the bat, Therapy is a reminder of been there, done that in relationships where you hit the tipping point of where you need to leave because neither of you are doing anything about making the relationship better. However, it still hurts when you are gone. If you've ever suffered a broken heart from that kind of relationship, then you know what I'm talking about. That first song also reminded me of how her lyrics are always tough, but optimistic, too. They are like an internal dialog of feeling worthless, but then a reminder to pick yourself and keep going. That's why I like her music. Then there is Right Now, a groovy beat of self-empowerment, not taking the bad any longer. Finally, with Whole Damn Year there is reflection of a relationship gone bad, but then surviving the heartache. 

Overall, I enjoyed this album. I have it playing while sitting in traffic, singing along to her, because let's face it, she has a good voice and I can feel like I'm singing along with her. This  is quite a change from constantly singing Let it Go with my girls. Singing grown up music makes me feel more like an adult and helps the commute go faster. The album releases on December 2 and you can find it on iTunes : http://bit.ly/MJBLondon and  Amazon:  http://bit.ly/MJBLS or view some of the videos on her YouTube page


Online presence located here: 
* iTunes: http://bit.ly/MJBLondon
  
* Amazon: 
 http://bit.ly/MJBLS
 
*Official Mary J Blige Websitewww.maryjblige.com
Twitter @maryjblige
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/maryjblige  
* YouTube - http://bit.ly/MJBVIDEO   

Track Listing1. Therapy
2. Doubt
3. Not Loving You
4. When You're Gone
5. Right Now
6. My Loving
7.Long Hard Look
8. Whole Damn Year
9 .Nobody But You
10. Pick Me Up
11. Follow
12. Worth My Time

**** I participated in the Mary J Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own. ****

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Party Shortcuts for the Busy Working Mom (Fashion, Hair, Makeup)

It is the holiday season, so I have quite a few events to attend: black tie, dressy denim, holiday festive, and a handful of cocktail soirees. I like getting dressed up and I LOVE socializing. I don’t have a whole lot of time, so I need to maximize it the best way possible. Here are three of my go-to’s for working women/moms. 

FASHION

Last week kicked off the party season for me, starting on Thursday with a charity cocktail mixer, attire is Birthday Denim. I put on a cocktail dress that I had on hand (purchased on EBAY AFTER renting it from Rent the Runway, because I loved it that much) and paired it with my Lucchese boots, because why not? I live in Texas and it actually worked out. On  Saturday, I attended a bonafide Ball—The Dallas Margarita Ball, where you can’t ever be overdressed. I’ve talked about Rent the Runway before, but I wanted to revisit it again, for those of you who may have recently had a need to rent a dress.
Rent the Runway is the premier online destination for access to your dream closet. With a revolving roster of over 200 top designers of the season's hottest dresses and accessories, Rent the Runway is designer fashion delivered to your doorstep for all of life's occasions for just a fraction of the price!
I don’t like is having to wear the same things over and over, nor do I want to spend a whole lot of time shopping, attempting to pair something that fits within my budget and looks right on me. This isn’t to say that I don’t have such pieces of clothing, because I do. However, I’d rather spend my money on my corporate everyday wear. RTR carries sizes 0 to 16, from daytime wear to black tie. You can also rent accessories or buy foundation garments from them.

I searched for a while for the dress that I wanted to wear to the ball. The more glam and  sparkle, the better. I’ve attended this event before and being in Dallas, there are no limits to what you will see. For me personally, I wanted something understated, which would accentuate my best features, and be comfortable enough to dance the night away. Chic and elegant are what I came up with and I felt these dresses would pair nicely with accessories I currently own.
mgrta2012a
Halston Heritage and Robert Rodriguez for the win! Why two dresses? Well,  a gal likes to have a choice and when they arrived, I was gonna go with the one that felt the most comfortable. At the price point for rental, it was still CHEAPER than committing to a gown. I was gleefully happy until I received notification that both of my dress choices had been damaged beyond repair and they would not be available. UGH! Here is where I have to rave on the customer service of Rent the Runway! Rather than stopping with their condolences, they invited me to select my top 5 choices at any of their price points for my original rental price! WOW! WOW! WOW!
While they still had plenty of selection to choose from, there weren’t AS MANY choices as I would have wanted. I sent my my selections and these are the two that they sent me:
mgrta2014b
Badgley Mischka and ML Monique Lhuillier for round two! These dresses may seem polar opposites to one another. One screams va-va-voom siren and the other states conservative charm. Both of these gowns satisfy the two sides of my Gemini nature. I was able to rent them at my original rental price, so the price is DEFINITELY right! When they arrived, the zipper on the black and white gown was damaged so badly that I couldn’t wear it. The red gown was shorter than I wanted it to be (who looks at feet anyway?). I contacted Customer Service immediately and they sent another gown out to me overnight. It was larger at the top and not very flattering, so I took my chances with the Badgley Mischka. I had a pair of black opera gloves I wanted to wear with it, but sadly, one glove is missing and I have a strange feeling it is mixed in somewhere in the dress up trunk of my darling girls. The shorter gown paid off, because I had to walk through rain and some puddles to get to my destination and didn’t have to worry about my dress dragging. Score!
10355710_10205232123985388_8192163064132086994_o
To make up for the lack of fit, they gave me a discount code off a future rental, which made me very happy. My next rental from them will likely be a sparkly cocktail dress. I’ve not yet settled on which one, so I won’t share here. I have about 6 in my queue that I’m considering. In any case, if you have a formal event (wedding), a cocktail party or you just want something nice to wear on a night out, then I would recommend Rent the Runway. Click my referral link to start browsing. I think you get 20% off the first time you rent! Yaaay!

HAIR

I have a LOT of hair. When I give myself a blow out, it is usually a two day process for it to look how I want it to look. I spend almost an hour blowing it out the night before, then will spend another half an hour the next day (after it has settled down) curling it or running a flat iron through it. If there is any modicum of humidity outside, my hair gets excited from the moisture and frizzes up. It isn’t a good look, not to mention, I’m angry for all of the time that was wasted in attempted to calm my mane. That isn’t to say I don’t love my hair because I do! I love, love, love, love my hair!

With that said, I go to The Drybar for blowouts. I have been going to them for several years now. What I love most about my visits to The Drybar is that no matter which location, there is consistency. The styles remain the same, they are very true to their branding, and it is a treat for me. My styles are never compromised with the humidity and will hold strong for about 4 days. My girls both know when I’ve gone for a blow-out not only because my hair looks awesome, but also because of how it smells…and it smells so good! Cost of a blowout is $40 + tip (they encourage $10). Case in point, my hair above was blown-out on Thursday before my Birthday Denim event and it held up until Sunday evening when I washed it. Here it is Sunday morning after I woke up from a night of dancing and walking in the rain.:

MAKE-UP 

I am a vaseline, eyeliner kind of gal. I own all of that other stuff, but I don’t use it regularly. I’m trying to get more into my mascara and lipsticks. As I get older, my moisturizers are key, but small beauty tricks can go a long way. Curling my lashes and brushing on a bit of mascara really opens my eyes. A complimentary lip color really works a dazzling smile, too!

I am very lucky to be related to the best make-up artist ever (in my opinion), but he lives in Southern California. While it is no big deal to hop onto a Hangout, he hasn’t yet figured out how to make product magically appear through the screen. So for me, when I need something immediately, I pop my head into Sephora and opt for a free 15 minute beauty tutorial consultation. There isn’t an obligation to buy, but often when I’m going in, I know I will be purchasing a product. If you are a noob like me, you will need someone to teach you how to best use what you purchased, and their artists know their stuff! Are you gonna spend more than $50? Then sign up for the total beauty make-over, complimentary with $50 or more purchase. It is for 45 minutes and they will work your whole face!

Recently, I went in and bought some new items that I’ve fallen in love with: Marc Jacobs Beauty Gel Crayon, Hourglass Femme Rouge Velvet Creme in Icon, and Make Up For Ever’s Blending Brush. I used to be a loyal Urban Decay gal when it came to my liners, but at the end of the day it still smeared and gave me the look of bruised eyes more often than not. I’ve been in search of a great red lip color and so far Hourglass has satisfied. It has no nasty fillers and doesn’t dry out my lips. And the blending brush because holy wow does it make a difference. I never knew. After my session, I had tips on how to make up my face for future events!
Tips that I learned from my quick beauty tutorial:
  1. Johnson and Johnsons baby wash will clean my brushes just as good as fancy brush cleaner, just be sure to lay the brush flat to dry.
  2. Urban Decay’s primer is key before applying make-up.
  3. Apply moisturizer, primer, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, then concealer. <---I’ve been doing it wrong forever, no wonder I looked like a clown.
***************
So that’s it. Those are three things that have helped me. I realized that not all of these things will work for everyone. Budgets, time constraints, etc can get in the way. Rent the Runway is not a common thing that I use. Plus, I always try to find a discount code to apply before placing my order. I realize that there aren’t Drybars in every city. Most salons  can do blow-outs for less and odds are, they can give you what you are looking for. Sephora will actively encourage you to try their products without committing to purchasing. I would highly encourage you to do that before you invest in something that you probably won’t need. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

While I’m still sore from smiling and running…

I did it! I had the wildest and most amazing marathon retirement party ever! But first, let me start with this…

I didn’t make my goal time. I aimed for a 4:40 finish. I trained for it, even left some cushioning in my training for a 4:45 minute finish. I ran in temperatures over 100 degrees. I ran in wind. I ran in rain. I trained in the Texas summer heat. I cross trained through Camp Gladiator and followed Coach Sara’s plan each week. I tapered like I was supposed to. I sought chiropractic relief. I altered my hydration and diet, too. In my training, I gained back the confidence to run a 10mm pace for a half marathon. I had the confidence to run a 10:30-11mm pace WITH HILLS. I lost weight and shook off a large chunk of depression.

I didn’t make my goal time. My finish was 5:10:51, a full 11 minutes slower than 7 years ago for my other time of running this.

BUT…

I did it! This race was EVERYTHING I needed from a final race. It was brutal! Why? The conditions were low 40s with 20-30 mph winds. The winds were so high that they didn’t even allow the handcycles to start in Staten Island, cutting off the Verrazano Bridge entirely for them. I opted to walk that bridge, braving the masses, but staying on the side out of harms way, or so I thought. I was pelted with discarded gloves, water bottles, makeshift windbreakers from garbage bags, a race bib (!), a fuel belt, and sweat shirts. I fought against the wind to get this image:

See those white caps. See those clouds? Brrr…(my lungs started wheezing moments after snapping this. Inside I cursed them and said, Not today!)

And we fought through that wind, running against it for about 20 of those miles, and then we were faced with uphill, no sun, tired legs. Before that, though…

I caught those unicorns I’d been chasing for a while!

I sat in that huddle of people to stay warm before the race. Robin Hood, you guys continue to touch my soul!

I stood in my corral waiting for that BOOM of the cannon and Frank Sinatra to belt out “New York, New York” while we ran past.

I nervously chatted with a local gal, a gal from Atlanta, and 3 women from Argyle, Texas! Wow!

I humbly wore the discarded Dunkin Donuts fleece hat that I had to cut a hole out of the top so my hair would fit.

At mile 13 I took a selfie in the sun!

At mile 15.5 I knew I was still plenty strong.

At mile 19.5 I took another selfie in the sun.

My face hurt from smiling so much! I ran strong! I ran my race. I ran with so many strangers cheering me along the way. I ran while my loved ones cheered me on both in person and through social media. I ran for all of them and for myself. The race was what I needed. It was a metaphor, a true test of determination, strength, endurance, and will. I didn’t really hit a wall. My lungs did feel like they wanted to collapse at one point. I lost feeling of my 3rd toe on my left foot around mile 8. At mile 9-10, I ran alongside my Teej! I saw her and nearly knocked her down because I was so happy to see her. I cried and cried, and squeezed so tightly. She ran in the crowd next to me, and when she hit her street, she hollered “Go!” and I went. At mile 11, I saw my Beloved!! He’d landed and made it to me. At mile 13 I messaged my beautiful friend on bedrest, who was cheering me on, texting me messages of support along the way! I hopped on social media at mile 15-16. I saw a few more familiar faces and beautiful souls at mile 17-19! At mile 20, Robin Hood’s block party erupted in cheers when they saw my shirt! I felt like such a celebrity! I had a pinched nerve in my right shoulder starting at mile 21. But I kept right on pushing. I ran to the Asian drummers beat. I high fived one of the rappers who was performing. I high fived as many kids as I could along the way. I held hands with a gal who was running to honor her mother at mile 23---she’d died on October 28th from cancer. I hugged a Swiss guy whose legs were giving out. I was going so fast, I missed My Michael at mile 24, but I saw my Beloved again at mile 24.5.  I put my phone away after that and focused on finishing. I happily ran under the foliage of My park, Central Park. We emerged out of park a bit after 25 and I saw the GM building…Maverick! I’ve walked MANY times to Columbus Circle, time to pick up the pace! (Screw you, lungs, stop sucking air, we have a race to finish!) I spotted people to try to reach and pass and I did. When I hit mile 26, I shouted BRING IT! and took off at an accelerated pace for that last quarter mile. I passed so many people and felt so light. When I crossed, I didn’t cry in my photos. I just beamed with the biggest smile. That was it.

I did it! 5 hours, 10 minutes, and 51 seconds of happy…happy that isn’t artificial, genuine happiness from achievement and support from more than 200 people! All 200+ of you that know me directly who reached out….

THANK YOU, MERCI, GRACIAS, DOMO ARI GATO, DANKE, GAMSAHBNIDA, GRAZIE!!!

The lady who handed me my medal, she was an older woman, and I just stared at her, and asked her for a hug. And she hugged me tightly like my abuela, and told me that she was so proud of me! Thank you strange lady! Thank you for being proud of me and giving me such a hug! And then I sobbed. Big, fat, joyful tears of happiness and sense of accomplishment.

The trek to my room was a journey all by itself. But I got to see my Beloved again before he headed out to the airport. I was able to laugh and recover with My Michael and Gen at a tea place. I was able to talk about the journey with my running friends and hosts after they returned themselves. The next day, I was tight, but I walked around my park for a while capturing engagement photos (yes, I had an engagement photo shoot and it was amazing!!). I had some amazing food, I had a blowout, and then I came home.

I’m tight, but not overly sore. Only my toe is really hurting, but I feel fine. It was a great retirement and the perfect way to say goodbye to my final endurance run. And now, I pass on the torch to everyone else who is able to do so! I will cheer them on!

Coach Sara…you helped me earn every single bit of this race! THANK YOU! Coach Mark, our time so far has been brief, but you helped me, too! Running friends, thank you for pushing me, even when you didn’t know you were. Mom, thank you for throwing me in the deep end and telling me to swim. Daddy, thank you for never slowing down when we raced! Thank you NYC for showing up, like you always do. I know I can make it anywhere!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 TCS NYC Marathon Miles Dedication

religion: a particular system of faith and worship

To me, running is a type of religion. Not because I’m worshipping the god of running, but because rather it is a system of faith and worship. I am wholly present in my mind, my acts intentional, my faith LOUD—within me.
So while I run, it should come as no surprise that I often find myself meditating, holding tightly onto mantras I chant to myself, I’ll pray the rosary, but where I find the absolute BEST peace is when I consider and pray for others. With that in mind, these are my miles dedications.

1. My mother – The first mile is the most exciting mile. It requires the highest climb, with the freshest legs, and the most enthusiasm that you will have to control to make it through the rest of the race. Wings to fly, legs to run…Mom, I remember all of the times you were in my peripheral vision, cheering me, championing me, willing me to strive to be the best I could possibly be. Hurt back, push through. Fall down, pick yourself and keep moving forward. Crying, wipe your tears and smile. This is a race of endurance and motherhood is such a race.

2. Sister – For all of my childhood, I chased you. Literally and figuratively, I chased you to become more like you. When you pushed me away, it hurt, but it taught me that I needed to be my own person—and whomever that was, you would be there to support me, regardless of my choice. This mile, is an easy mile, through a Brooklyn neighborhood that I know you would enjoy visiting.

3. Brother – Because there was a time not long ago that you didn’t think you could run a 5K, and just a short while ago, I turned around to find you, insisting that I NEEDED to cross that line with you. Not because I didn’t think you could do it, but because I wanted to grin from ear to ear and witness you crossing! All of those times you cheered for me and watched me succeed, I needed to be there for a big moment for you. This mile, we run together, not racing, just running on a cool morning while the sun kisses our cheeks. Turn up that Milky Chance Stolen Dance and let’s find our groove.

4.  Tesla – You will be 4 next year, even though you want to say you are 4 this year. You were the 4th member of my family. Your tiny spirit brings so much joy to everyone who meets you. You are so unabashedly stubborn and are so completely focused on your goals , it is something that I try to remember for myself.Baby, Mommy loves you and can’t wait for you to see the new medal to add to the collection!

5. My Brooklyn Beauties – Gen, Mali, Teej, I’ll be looking for you. Each of you inspire me in so very many different ways. All of you are so very strong, both emotionally and physically, I’m running your burough’s streets!

6.  Marisabelle – For you I learned what it meant to be a mother. Because of you, I try my hardest to be the very best mother you need me to be. You show me grace, you show me patience, you have given the the opportunity of wonder…and when I feel like my legs are heavy, I’ll remember your little voice, goading me: “Let’s race, Mommy! I can be fast like you!” Yes, baby, you compliment me by saying you are fast like me. You are already faster than me—and I love it!

7. Internet Friends – I was afforded in real life friendships with you and am able to maintain our friendship online. This means you Camille from Twitter, who shares a similar humor as I do. This also means you Makita, who has a beautiful and vulnerable strength I’ve not seen before—because of you, I am stronger in my actions and more purposeful.

8. For Diego, Kittens, & Unicorns – Diego went on a few of my early training runs with me, fumbling through each step until we figured it out. Your time with us was brief, but your tender spirit lives on. Kittens because well, I’m not allergic to them yet and they are so soft and adorable, and just want to curl up to be loved. Unicorns because they are fabulous and awesome!

9. For my Primo, Simon – Nine rhymes with wine and well, I know you love it! Simon, your wit, your but gusting laughter, and the wine….oh so much wine! I know if you were in town, you’d be cheering for me, throwing water balloons filled with some kind of libation at me, singing Fuego fuego…

10. My Min-Min – You’ve not questioned my sanity for wanting to do this. Instead, you’ve reached out to me to be sure we remain connected in spite of me running all of the miles all of the time. Whether you are there waiting for me at the end of the race with jello shots ready to share a hearty carb-load meal, you are there for me. Even now, I know you will be shouting from where ever you are enjoying Sunday Funday.

11. Margie – Adelante y orgullo: I only barely understood the definition of those words when I first chewed on them. Now, I understand them more. I can’t hardly get the words out to write more because the emotion just flows straight from my heart and out of my eyes. Happy tears of joy and gratitude. I’m so, so, so grateful for you!! I give thanks for your life, for your willingness to fight and continue to fight, every day.

12. Shannon – What a pleasure it was to find you at mile 12 during the Plano Balloon Festival Half. I was struggling, but with you, I was able to push through that final mile. Your exercise posts keep me accountable and remind me to not lazy around.

13. My Happy Half Marathoners – Each of you, declaring publicly which races you would run and peer pressure would kick in and I’d sign up. Mostly to ensure I’d hit my training run milestones, but even more so to be with you all. I didn’t and don’t want to miss any time I get with y’all. For the laughs, the grunts, the aches, the tears, the hugs, the encouraging words, the hilarity of so many things…thank you Dina, Meighan, Alison, Gail, Bonnie, and Danika. A great big heartfelt and SHOUTING dedication to Coach Sara, who has pushed me all along the way, encouraged me, and come up with creative solutions for any obstacle I threw at her!

14. Dan – I had no idea how much my life would change just by meeting you. My heart is more open, my eyes more open, my spirit willing to experience almost anything, entering the adventure with joy and enthusiasm. Just the way you live is a great example of how I want to live. I’m so glad you are not only my friend, but a mentor as well.

15. My extended family – I’m grateful for all of the strong aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, in-laws. Each of you have sent me words of encouragement! They mean so much to me. I consider the women in my life and how life will throw them a curve, and they just shrug their shoulders and deal. it’s how they are. When my Uncle Mutt gave me the biggest hug after a run and how he looked at me, I felt his pride and I was humbled. He reminded me of my previous life as an athlete in college and I remembered that she was still inside of me. My Aunt Frances cheering me on, giving me support, too! Thank you!

16. My Primo Phillip – Because this was the number of miles we walked that day in August while we cheered Don on. If I could have that much fun walking 16 miles in one of my most favorite cities, then I know I could run another 10 as long as I remembered the adventure we shared. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing that day with me!

17. Carol – Your presence helped my training become possible. Otherwise, it would’ve been a greater challenge attempting to push the girls and log my miles. Your life changed dramatically at 17 and since then, you’ve persevered and thrived. I hope you see it that way because so many admire you, as I do. Thank you for all you did and all you do!

18. My Einstein’s Crew – Especially the Saturday morning gals! Renee for the distractions and laughter and Marisa for that last quarter mile sprint to finish strong! Fist bump!

19. My Inner Circle – You all know who you are. We may not see one another often. Sometimes it is in the parking log of a Dry Cleaner, on the phone on my way to the doctor office, for a quick bite to eat, when our kiddos play dress up, when I watch your daughter play volleyball, when we paint together, when we go camping, when we go cruising, when we meet for wine night, when we celebrate our kid’s birthdays…regardless, you are my family. For the big moments, you all are there! This one is for you!

20. Nina Dani – You never let a little thing like sleep or asthma or money get in the way of a good time. You are so giving and humble, for those traits and so many others, we chose you to be our daughter’s godmother. For believing in me, and telling me to shake off the haters.

21. My Beloved – You arrive at noon and will race to find me at some point along the way. Each training race, you have helped me recover by allowing for some quiet rest. During our training runs. you run ahead of me, letting me chase you, forcing me to be better. You believe in my dreams and champion me. You push me to find amazing and are there right by my side when I discover it. Thank you for this adventure!

22. My Michael – New York!! You are there now and it is near this mile you will find me. I love you and I can’t wait to see your face and laugh. I know there will be a great many more trips out to see you in the future, too! I already love the memories we’ve created there, so far.

23. Ada – Because Bianca Fight Never Dies, because running is stupid and why would any one want to do something like that outside when you can be crushing balls in the air conditioning, because people are idiot drivers who merge in the fast lane only to go slower than the speed limit, because of Whataburger taquitos, because of acorns on the ground, because “I’m like a bird,” because of cherries, because of tears of joy and tears of ache, because I am whole all over again when you hug me. This one is for you!

24. Lindsey – My Bish, my friend, even though you think I’ve lost my mind in doing this, you know that it was gone a longer time before that! I may be doing a type of zombie-like run at this point. I will endeavor to champion my inner zombie, made evident by your crew.

25. My Mavericks – Their financial and emotional support has been overwhelming and, as always, humbling. I have raised nearly $7,000 (and counting) for Robin Hood, largely because of their support. Amazing! When I turn the corner by the NY office, I will smile proudly and fondly knowing so many of my colleagues are cheering me on!

26. Daddy – The race is won by running. I will not give up. In the thundering echoes of the roaring crowd, I will hear your voice. I will keep going and know that THIS race…Life, I don’t give up. Even when I feel down, I am a VALENCIANO, I lift my chin, I look it square in the eye and say, “Bring it!”

.2. Me…that last quarter mile is for me. A celebration of what I’ve achieved and a moment of definition, of closure, and gleeful gratitude to my body. Thank you self, for this. You had many doubts if you could do it, but still you managed to get there.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Music Review: Neil Diamond’s Melody Road #MelodyRoad #O2O

Neil Diamond has sold over 125 MILLION albums worldwide and he’s been inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame AND the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You know him, you love him, and now Neil Diamond has a new album, Melody Road, which arrived in stores October 21. The album, marks his first original studio release in six years and first since signing with Capitol Records.

I am quite a bit Neil Diamond fan. I’ve been listening to his voice for about as long as I can remember falling in love with music. I was so jealous of my friend Caroline growing up because he sang a song about Caroline! And who doesn’t have a good time when they listen to Cracklin’ Rosie get on board” even though, I learned that it was a song about alcohol, but whatever.

In any case, I had the chance to listen to his new album and wanted to share what I thought. Here’s the thing, Neil Diamond is a no-frills, no auto-tune singer, with a guitar, maybe some backing instruments, and really strong lyrics. Throw in a bit of country twang and well, there you go, you have some Neil Diamond music. I’ve listened to the album a few times and it hasn’t gripped me—the album as a whole. The lyrics, though, the lyrics are beautiful and wonderfully put together and just give you the smiles. Wholesome and good music that I can share with my kiddos. “Melody Road” the title track with the finger pickings on the guitar and add the whistling tune in the middle, is just fun. There is one song, “Ooo Do I Wanna Be Yours” that is a surprise and a punch in the throat. It has so much emotion filled with desire from a loved one to another. It is filled with the kind of love that we all desire to have. It is worth a listen, but if you aren’t a Neil Diamond fan, then you probably aren’t going to really understand what you are listening to. If you are, and are interested in listening to music familiar from your childhood or from different times, then yeah, check out his album. I’ve included the details of where you can find his stuff below. Also, he’s going on tour!! (Why are tickets so expensive??)

 

* iTunes: http://bit.ly/NDMelody

* Amazon: http://bit.ly/MelodyRdND

* Official Neil Diamond Website – www.neildiamond.com
* Twitter – @NeilDiamond
* Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/neildiamond
* YouTube – http://bit.ly/NDMelody

**I participated in the Neil Diamond Melody Road album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.**

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin