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the expectations game

blairbee

| Yep, I always ride my bike in a silk skirt. With my $5,000 Chanel bag in the front basket, obvi. |

Friends, I don’t know about you, but lately the internet has been getting me down. One of the biggest problems about having access to so.much.information is that it’s become all but impossible to tune out the things that make you feel inferior. Reading about how blissful everyone else makes their life sound on Facebook while you’re curled up in a ball on your sofa with a juice glass full of rosé. Scrolling through painfully perfect images on Instagram, wondering how everyone else’s houses are so full of pristine white backgrounds and custom furniture while you can barely keep the piles of discarded shoes from eating your living room. The million-dollar listings, the runway shows, the bloggers with horrible grammar getting free Gucci bags…it’s all a lot to take.

Of course, we can tell ourselves it’s fake. And we do, sometimes. We remind ourselves, in our saner moments, that these photos are posed. They are staged, lit and airbrushed and styled, sometimes by actual professional photographers. The clothes are on loan, the furniture is from a showroom, it’s all an act. “This is not real life,” we repeat to ourselves over and over. But still. That green-eyed Internet monster…she’s more powerful than you’d think.

It’s even worse when you’re in the line of work I’m in. Being a person who’s been in the style/design/writing biz for approximately 87 years, the problem is that I know. I know that these girls posting about their fabulous new dress from Brand X aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their heart. I know that when a blogger I read starts writing a little too gushingly about her newly renovated sunroom or her “preview tour” of the Nordstrom flagship store in Seattle, she got it for free. And my jealousy…lord, but it runs deep. Sure, I want the room or the trip, just like you do. But I also want the gig she got, wherein a sponsor not only designed the room for her or flew her out first class, but paid her quite a lot of money to talk about it. I want to know how she got there and I didn’t. Why she has 120,000 Instagram followers and I don’t. Instead of taking the high road and being happy for her, I’m bitter and jealous. I start to feel horrible about myself and what I’ve accomplished – or, more specifically, what I haven’t accomplished. Shame spiral for one, please.

But. Much like life in general, there’s no fairness in blogging. Longevity doesn’t equal success…nor, frankly, does quality. (As evidenced by the fact that there are bloggers making serious, serious money who can’t even be bothered to use spellcheck. But I digress.) And so we all, bloggers or lawyers or baristas, have to find a way to check our Instagram feeds or “like” our friend’s photos of her $100,000 destination wedding without feeling bad about ourselves.

We have to find a way to remind ourselves that a perfectly-staged photo of a bowl of cherries doesn’t mean a person’s life is any better than ours. It just means that they’ve spent the last 3 hours piling those cherries just so, and another hour testing different filters and strengths and saturation levels. (Or that they’ve somehow mastered VSCOcam, even though you find it utterly incomprehensible.)

My photo of that bowl of cherries, on the other hand? It was probably just okay. I almost certainly got the filter wrong or there was a smudge on the bowl or my background wasn’t perfectly, pristinely white.

Why? Because I was busy eating the cherries. And you know something? They were delicious.

If there’s a lesson somewhere in this random ramble I’ve just dropped on you (and believe me, it’s one I have to repeat to myself at least once a day), it’s this:

Eat the cherries.

Just live your life, my friend. Your hilarious, messy, imperfect, dishes in the sink, dirty laundry, occasionally beautiful life. And sure, go ahead and take a picture. Or don’t. Maybe it’ll turn out perfectly – after all, occasional moments of beauty are everywhere, even in the midst of disaster. But friends, the thing to remember is this: the photo isn’t the experience. The cherries are the experience.

So, eat the cherries. Post the photo or don’t, but eat the cherries. And enjoy every last bite.

 

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travel in style: florence

florence view

View of Florence from the Boboli Gardens (all photos by me or Mr. SMC).

Friends, I can’t quite believe it’s taken me this long to tell you about my unforgettable trip to Florence this spring. I was a little worried I was deluging you with too many tales of that fantastic trip of mine, and that if I incited any more wanderlust, you’d rise up and demand that we all take a group, SMC-led trip to Europe immediately.

Which, as I think about it, would be kind of amazing. florence travel guide

Still, I think I may very well have saved the best for last. Because for all of the amazing things I did and saw (…and ate) in Paris, it was Florence where I felt most like I found some truly hidden gems: the little jewelbox of a trattoria tucked away on an alley behind the Duomo, the secret gelateria that you’d never find again without a business card and a faded photo of you with the best cone of your life. The places that you absolutely can’t wait to get home and tell your friends about. Luckily, you’re my friends! And I can’t wait another second to share these stories with you.

Read on

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travel in style: happy feet

comfortable-travel-shoes, best insoles, no show socks, happy feet, comfortable walking shoes

Friends, I wear my thirtysomething badge with pride (really, who among us would want to be 22 again?!), but there are times when the reality that I’m not the spring chicken I once was really comes home to roost. And that fantastic trip I took this spring was one such occasion. Assuming you might have some summer travel on the horizon (perhaps even this weekend?), I thought the time was right to share a few secrets I learned about keeping my feet happy on any adventure.  mfortable travel shoes

Read on

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a quiet season

JosephOHolmes_NethermeadPhotographerUmbrella_0002_1000px_1024x1024

|  Photo by Joseph O. Holmes, c/o 20×200  |

“It came without ribbons.
It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.”

Moving into a new house two weeks before Christmas…hoo boy, what was I thinking?

I haven’t baked a single cookie, haven’t mailed a holiday card. My Christmas tree is safely ensconced in the mountain of boxes in my garage, where I suspect it will remain until next December.

By now, my kitchen should be bustling, filled with homemade caramels and kitschy tins of Chex Mix. Instead, the fact that I can see my countertops feels like the greatest Christmas miracle of all.

The Hubs and I decided to skip gifts this year. The two of us are spent, in every possible sense of the word. I can’t even find the energy to choose towel bars, let alone pick out a gift that shows him how much I appreciate the unfathomable amounts of time, energy and patience he’s put into making this house perfect. (Lesson One: no house is perfect, not ever.)

In fact, come to think of it, I haven’t bought a gift. Period. Not for anyone. It’s almost unthinkable.

And yet… Somehow, even without ribbons and tags, Christmas creeps in. In between the mountains of stresses and boxes and drama, it shows up in the most surprising ways.

It’s different without presents, without a tree, without my grandmother’s Nutcracker on the mantle. It’s quieter. More subtle and soft – peripheral, almost. But it’s there. And every so often, I catch a glimpse.

A dear friend drove an hour out of her way to bring me a miniature tree her adorable daughters helped her decorate for me. And as the Hubs and I wandered Union Square one evening last weekend, I watched a half dozen strangers drop their shopping bags on the sidewalk to rush to the rescue of a car that broke down in the middle of the busiest street in downtown San Francisco. For anyone who’s ever lived in a big city, if that isn’t a Christmas miracle, I don’t know what is.

And speaking of Christmas miracles… Slowly but surely, just as all of you promised me it would, this house is becoming home. The pile of boxes is shrinking, and the pile of checkmarks on my to-do list is growing. Last night, I finally cooked dinner in our new kitchen (oh, do I love it!), and when I was done, I realized the smell of fresh paint had given way to the smell of fresh-baked cornbread.

I miss the usual holiday fanfare, I can’t deny it. But this quieter Christmas has its charms. Curling up on the sofa to watch a movie in between loads of laundry. Getting a quick fix of carols on the car radio between errands. Anxiously awaiting the fireplace installation, in the hopes that St. Nick will see a gas log flickering in our hearth.

However your holiday comes to you this year, my friends – whether it’s filled with sugarplum fairies and tinsel or whether Christmas morning brings nothing more than a quiet cup of tea with someone you love – I wish you joy. So very, very much joy, and a new year filled with possibility. Over these last ten years, you all have brought me more joy and more possibility than you’ll ever know, just by being your amazing selves. I’m profoundly grateful, today and every day, for the love and support you’re never shy about sharing with me.

Happy holidays, my friends – whatever you celebrate. May they be merry and bright, and filled with love.

xox,
B

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4 design books worth your dime

|  via Instagram  |

I’ve been waiting for this bad boy to come out for SIX months! It’s finally here, and it totally lives up to the hype. So many design books make me crazy – they’re impossibly perfect and offer no useful advice. If you’re curious, I made a list of the only 4 I’ve read that have actually been helpful during this reno. Great aspirational photos, ideas that can actually be pared down and recreated, plus oodles of real-world advice (snaps to Remodelista & Emily Henderson in particular for making this process slightly less terrifying).

You should probably just buy them all for yourself. Right now. In fact, here are some links:

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giving thanks, and why i’m skipping black friday

fall leaves shoppingsmycardio|  via Instagram  |

Am I the only one who’s already stressed about the holidays, and they haven’t even technically started yet?

Didn’t think so.

Seriously. I’ve been getting Black Friday emails in my inbox since last week. And most of the sales have already started! It’s getting so out of control, I found myself siding with those hippie-crunchies over at REI for possibly the first time ever.

I need a breather, friends. And I’m guessing you do too. This has been a rough month for me. Health drama, house drama, family drama…I’m in one of those life phases when you’re convinced the universe has it in for you. And the truth is, I’m getting a little too good at wallowing in my own crap for my own good.

So this year, I’m taking Black Friday off. Ditto for Small Business Saturday (which you should absolutely support, btw), Cyber Monday, and whatever other panic-inducing schemes retailers have concocted to make you feel like you’re going to miss out on something unmissable if you don’t give them all your money rightthissecond.

I mean, I can’t lie: if you do shop, I’d be super grateful if you’d use a few of my affiliate links at some point, since it turns out running a website is sort of expensive. (I’ll list a few below that I already know will have knock-your-socks-off deals happening, or just click any of the pretty pictures on your right.)

But you know what else would be okay? Not doing any of that.

Here’s my big idea: Let’s make this weekend our breather. Instead of a frenzy of parking lots and coupon codes and early bird specials, go see a stupid movie (or a great one). Take your dogs for a hike. Buy yourself a book you’ve been dying to read, open the good wine, and don’t talk to a single soul for an entire hour.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to try try try to find the gratitude. It’s going to be uphill, for sure. But I’m going to do my darnedest to remember what my grandfather would be saying to me right now, which would be some variation of reminding me to look on the bright side, and to remember that there’s actually very little in this crazy world over which I have any control at all. Which is both horrifying and strangely comforting.

I’m grateful for friends who haven’t given up on me yet, despite the fact that I’m not the most fun person to hang out with these days. I’m grateful for yoga pants and sneakers having been deemed “athleisure” by the fashion set (thanks, Eva!), because it means that my sore stomach and joints get some relief without my having to feel like a total schlub. And I’m grateful for fall‘s crisp air and red leaves, which clear my mind and lift my spirits every time.

And, as I am every other day of the year, I’m grateful for you. Thanks for all you do to lift my spirits every day, friends. I wouldn’t be the same without you.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!

xox,
B

PS: Behold, the links you could click if you just can’t resist a sale and want to support SMC:

  • Amazon (got a sneak peek at their sales, and they’re great this year)
  • Shopbop (spend some, save some)
  • Nordstrom (always a mystery, but always worth a look)
  • Jonathan Adler (20% off sitewide)
  • Cusp (40%+ off)
  • Saks (I’m betting on a sitewide discount)
  • Tory Burch (spend some, save some)
  • James Perse (if you’re buying for everyone else, might as well treat yo’self)
  • Net-A-Porter (a mighty, mighty good sale going on.)

Thanks, friends. I owe you one!

 

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postcard

|  via Instagram  |
This is not my beautiful house, but that IS my beautiful custom table, which my amazeballs hubs designed for me when I had a panic attack about the dimensions of our new dining room and how badly our now-former interior designer botched the plans. Renovations are hard, yo.
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drop the act!

One of the things I have truly loved about writing this blog is the friends I’ve made along the way. Real live, in-person friends? Absolutely. But I also have a stalwart crew of amazing women who have become dear friends and people I truly admire…whom I’ve never clapped eyes on.

Beth Thomas Cohen is one of my dearest “blog friends”. She ran a fantastic PR firm for years with her bestie, and was one of the people who believed in SMC and what I was trying to do almost from Day One. Plus, she’s hilarious, brilliant and doesn’t suffer fools. How could I not love her?

So, when Beth told me she’d written a book, I was thrilled for her (and, okay, mildly jealous. The book’s about being more honest, after all.). When she told me the title, I laughed out loud and said, “Hey, how about you write something for my readers?” She immediately agreed, and we decided the thing to talk about would be how much time we all spend pretending to be a different version of ourselves on social media…which is, as you might recall, a topic I have some feelings about.

Beth’s fantastic new book, Drop the Act, It’s Exhausting!, is out this week, and it’s jam-packed with all of the sassy, savvy, real-life advice you need to keep yourself on the track to sanity. Reading it is exactly how I imagine a dinner date with Beth would be. And by the time I’d turned the last page, I was ready to hop on a plane to do just that.

Below is the piece Beth wrote for us. Read it, love it, buy the book.

drop-the-act

The Act: I’m Throwing a Social Masquerade Party!

Why To Drop It: Because you don’t need to be at any party where you hide your true self behind a mask

I find it fascinating that the world we live in is filled with amazingly different types of personalities and people…and we waste the diversity by not getting along. Whether it’s politics, race, religion, socio-economic differences, you name it, we keep overlooking that we all have a giant thing in common: the need to be accepted.

I see this need for acceptance play out every day on social media. I mean, can you get more literal than using “likes” and “followers” as a gauge of your value? I’m no different. I too want to be liked and “followed” on social media. I can go through my Instagram feed, find a person from Qatar and see that his group of friends are having a better time than my group of friends here in NYC, and immediately feel jealousy creep in. His picture of his friends at a bar has 837 likes? Mine only has 43. What’s wrong with me?! But something dawned on me one recent morning at the beach:

Maybe those guys in Qatar were full of shit.

A few college-age girls strutted out from their car toward the shore with their obnoxious “selfie stick” in hand, took a few shots in front of the waves and another few by the boardwalk, got back into their car and drove away. I’m presuming they posted their five-minute photo shoot as an actual experience that others, like me, will actually be jealous of.

Drop the act! How is that considered “connection”? Last month I turned 40, smack in the middle of the teeter totter of life. And suddenly, instead of throwing up pointless posts, I found myself stopping and remembering the point of social media: to mix with others, not masquerade.

We have a duty to everyone to make sure that the intention behind showing our fun, our successes and acquisitions is not to make others feel small. We need to be sharing important messages mixed in with the fun. We need to use social media as a catalyst to spark important conversations, share charitable ideas, and build self-esteem. If we used social media as a platform for more important messages, life might be a little bit sweeter. Everyone might just feel better about themselves, without needing outside approval.

In my book, I talk about the masks we wear all day, every day. And social media? It’s one hell of a convincing mask. So, what if we stopped using social media as a masquerade? Try it. Not only will you discover who your “friends” really are and what you actually “like”, you’ll learn a whole lot more about yourself in the process.

Drop the Act, It’s Exhausting: Free Yourself from Your So- Called Put-together Life, by Beth Thomas Cohen, is available this very moment on Amazon and at all kinds of awesome indy bookstores, which you should absolutely support whenever possible.

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travel in style: istanbul shopping guide

istanbul blue mosque-shoppingsmycardio.com

| Blue Mosque, Istanbul. // All photos by me or Mr. SMC |

Second only to an ill-conceived, 24-hour adventure in Tangiers in my 20s (buy me a couple of drinks sometime, and I’ll tell you a tale), Istanbul is bar none the most “foreign” place to which I’ve ever traveled. By which I mean I don’t speak the language, don’t know the culture, the food, the traditions…did I need head scarves? Long sleeves? Was I allowed to wear jeans? Because, let’s be honest, inadvertently botching a cultural norm in a country I’ve already admitted was utterly foreign to me (in every sense of the word) sounds like an intimidatingly easy thing to do.

And yet. Once I arrived, much like my time in Morocco, I knew immediately I’d worried for nothing. I found the people in Istanbul to be unfailingly, overwhelmingly friendly, helpful and welcoming. On the rare occasion someone didn’t speak English, they either found someone who did, or we successfully (and cheerfully!) mimed to each other until we sorted it out. The 3 Turkish phrases I frantically committed to memory on the plane elicited so much appreciation from locals that you’d have thought I mastered the language. It is busy, and crowded, and…well, foreign, but I didn’t see a single act of protest, let alone violence. Some people wore head scarves (you do need one to visit mosques), but my tour guide showed up the first day in a tank top.

I honestly don’t know whether this is a case of low expectations being exceeded or whether I really loved Istanbul as much as I think did, but truly – it was unforgettable, and I’d recommend it heartily to anyone at all! Read on

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friends & family: shopbop + saks

[This F&F duo has expired, alas. Luckily, most of these goodies are on sale now!]

No matter how totally insane and overwhelmed I’m feeling, I still consider it my sworn duty to make sure you know about any sales worth your time. And friends, this morning, my inbox runneth over.

First things first: Take 25% off sitewide at Shopbop with code INTHEFAM25 (through 10.15). Me, I’d buy a new black blazer since I just KonMari’d the sh!t out of my closet and realized I didn’t like a single one I owned. I also got rid of all of my white tees, so there’s room to grow there too. Oh hell, let’s just slideshow it, shall we?

Next up is Saks…also 25% off sitewide, with code THANKYOU (and then you inexplicably have to use the code FREESHIP to get your free shipping). More basics and more brands we love, but more exclusions, which is frankly a little aggravating. Still, plenty of trouble to get into. See e.g., basically everything from Vince’s fall collection. Also, I need a new wallet something fierce…alas, I’m pretty confident the Prada I’ve had my eye on is excluded. But I will say this: occasionally, if you call a store, they’re a little more…open-minded about what’s on F&F. I may, for example, be making a call like that about this bad boy.

Speaking of shenanigans, as always, I’m sure Nordstrom will price match all of this. But honestly, I can tell I’m getting old and impatient because I just don’t care that much about jumping through all those hoops just to be loyal to one store. Plus, Shopbop has that lovely free 2-day shipping, which is quite compelling.

So, tell me friends: what are you buying? I have an ancient Shopbop credit burning a major hole in my pocket this morning…want to help me spend it?

 

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