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How To Get The Perfect Eyebrows

For years and years, I heard makeup artists and various beauty-type experts going on and on about how “if your eyebrows look good, your face looks good.” And I completely ignored them because: stubborn.

And then I (finally) gave it a shot myself.

Oh.

(Click here to check out more of my Allure Insiders segments.)

Homemade Fruit Sorbet Cups

orange sorbet

I make these all the time.

I know that they look slightly too fussy for like, a Tuesday night, but I promise: they’re so easy, and they’re so pretty-looking if you have guests over, and even if you don’t, kids love them.

Grownups love them.

Everyone loves them.

Here’s how you make them:

1. Choose your fruit (pictured here are tangelos, but regular old oranges, lemons, grapefruits and peaches all work well), and choose a complimentary (or contrasting) store-bought sorbet to go with it – lemons paired with strawberry sorbet are especially pretty, just FYI.

sorbet cup step 1

2. Cut your fruit into three parts, as shown above. Toss (or eat) that middle slice, and put the top slice off to one side; you’ll need it in a minute.

sorbet cup step 2

3. Use a serrated knife to carefully separate the fruit from the peel (this is easier with thick-skinned or slightly underripe fruits).

sorbet cup step 3

4. Scoop out the flesh (use a grapefruit spoon, if you have one handy).

sorbet cup step 4

5. Fill your little guy with sorbet…

sorbet cup step 5

6. And put on his hat. Aw.

orange sorbet cups

(Serve with prosecco for the adults, obviously.)

Let’s Talk House-Buying Logistics

couple buying house

Don’t you love it when the word “logistics” is in a post title?

Doesn’t that make you DESPERATE to read it??

But seriously: Enough people said that they want to know about how we’re handling things like the great Rent vs. Buy debate, school choice, and home selection that I’m convinced that at least some of you will be able to keep your eyes from glazing over. (I mean, I certainly don’t find this stuff boring – I think real estate is totally Grand Drama, and kind of the most fascinating topic ever, but I also get that I definitely didn’t want to talk about, like, taxes and variances and school districts in my former life as a non-parent-y rental apartment-dweller.)

Anyway, let’s keep on trucking.

I figured the best way to do this would be to answer a few of the questions I’ve gotten via email, Twitter, FB et cetera over the past couple of days in a single post. If you have any more questions put them in the comments, and I’ll add the answers to the post. And please, please – if you have information on any of this stuff, share it! The below, as always, is only my inexpert opinion, so take it for what it’s worth.

To Rent Or To Buy?

There are three primary reasons that we feel that it makes more sense for us to purchase (the first applies to anyone considering buying, the second applies only to people who currently own a home and are considering purchasing a new one, and third applies only to people who operate a business out of their home):

1) You get significant tax breaks as a homeowner (a 4000/month mortgage, for example, could yield about 700 a month in tax breaks, making the “actual” monthly payment more like 3300) – you can choose to increase the number of deductions and reap the benefits immediately (e.g. with a higher paycheck every month), or have the benefits accrue and create a situation where you’ll get a tax return at the end of the year;

2) If you make money on the sale of a property, you have two years to reinvest that money without paying taxes on it. Edit: I was wrong about this; what I cited above is an old law. Single homeowners can avoid paying tax on profits up to $250k, and couples can make up to $500k on the sale of their primary residence without paying capital gains tax, even if they do not subsequently purchase. Click here for more info.

3) If you operate a business out of your home (whether you’re a writer, an artist, a therapist who sees patients in her own home, whatever), life is easier in some ways if you’re in a single-family home (as opposed to a rental apartment, but this also applies to co-ops, HOAs, or any living spaces where a landlord or board may have instituted rules preventing using the home for business-related purposes).

In our case, the area we’re looking at is so expensive to rent in (largely because the housing market is so insane, which drives up rental prices as well) that the tax break on mortgage payments makes the monthly cost of ownership much more comfortable for us than the monthly cost of renting. And we did end up making money on the sale of our house, so we have two years to reinvest that…but all other things considered, we prefer reinvesting right away to moving twice over the next year or year and a half and blowing through a portion of our savings on inflated rental prices. (Again, we’re open to the idea of living in a month-to-month rental for the first couple of months so that we don’t feel rushed into a purchase.)

And finally, I do a lot of work with home decor and home improvement clients, and it’s important to me to have a space both that I can physically work on and alter (which you can to some extent with a rental, but not to the extent that I’d need), and one that I can shoot in without potentially being in breach of contract with a landlord. I sometimes have crews and vans and tons of equipment in my home, and that’s not necessarily something you can swing if you’re renting.

What Size House Are We Looking At?

When I mentioned that I felt like we were going to need to compromise a bit on interior space, a reader asked what I meant by this in terms of square footage. Of course what you need is particular to your own family, but for us – two kids under four, two small dogs, and two people who both do a lot of work at home (Kendrick with music, myself with everything you see here) – what that works out to is at least 1500 square feet.

What we’d like to find is a 3-bedroom house with some kind of extra living space: a backyard with extra room for the kids to play, or (ideally) a family room right off of the kitchen. We get that the bedrooms will likely be tiny if part of the square footage is taken up by a family room; that’s preferable for us. (And if you’re looking, always remember that the square footage that you see listed may not be the actual square footage; our house, for example, is technically about 1200 square feet but has two bonus spaces that aren’t included in the square footage – the finished attic and the garage, which has been converted into a studio – that make it feel quite a lot more spacious.)

How Are We Choosing A School District?

This has been a learning process. What we’ve been doing is plugging every house that we come across into SchoolandHousing.com, which gives you the API score of the elementary, middle and high schools assigned to that address; we’re really only focusing on the elementary schools, because that gives us a lot of time to make a change if need be. If the score is too low, I don’t even bother looking at the house. If the score is very high, the house is an automatic possibility because we’d be willing to compromise on quite a lot for a truly great school. If the score is in the middle range, I do some more intensive research into the assigned school (because of course there are lots of other factors to consider besides test scores) before deciding whether to view the house.

Two more resources I’ve been using to cross-check schools: GreatSchools.org, which gives you a rating based on parent and student-submitted reviews (so it’s highly subjective, but still helpful) and SchoolDigger.com, which provides information on demographics, student body size, student-teacher ratio, and a lot of other elements that can help you get a fuller picture of what the school is like.

What Are We Looking For In A House?

1. Good school district (see above);

2. At least three bedrooms (we want our kids to share a bedroom when they’re very young because it sounds fun and bonding, but very much want a room for guests to stay in…or a room to move our other child into if the shared-space thing ends up being less “fun and bonding” and more “terrible and everyone is awake all the time, always and forever”).

3. Some kind of bonus space: a family room in addition to the living room, a spacious yard, whatever. Just something.

4. Light. I need light. (But I’ve spoken to contractors about some of the properties we’ve looked at, and FYI apparently skylights aren’t especially expensive to install…and make a huge difference when you’re dealing with those low-ceilinged ranch houses that make up like 99% of what’s available in the South Bay.)

5. Elements that I can fix up to add value and personalize the space. I actually prefer a slightly unfinished house, because I think it’s fun to do things like paint walls and redo floors, and houses that are a little dated in those ways tend to sell for a lower price. What I don’t want are major structural issues (foundation issues, retaining wall issues, etc), since those problems can end up costing literally tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars, and: no.

So: those are the questions I’ve gotten so far. Anything else? Ask away!

Related Posts:

How To Buy Your Very First Home

How To Sell Your House (Or: How I Sold My House Without Going Insane)

Our House: A Quick Tour, Just For Fun

The Summer Of Us

Remember when I wrote about how I kept a kind of free-form travel diary when I lived in London during college? And how my #AlamoDriveHappy resolution was to start a travel diary for each of my kids, so that they could learn how to travel consciously, and have their own reminders of where in the world they’ve been?

I improved on it a little.

Before we left for California I bought a journal to start for my son, but then when we sat down together to paste in things we’d gathered over the first couple of days, I realized that this moment in our lives isn’t exactly about “what I’m experiencing” or “what Indy is experiencing.” It’s about what we’re experiencing all together, as a family, and that’s what I want to use this journal to commemorate: our spring and summer of us, when we leave the life we had for a whole new one, and everything that happens in between.

travel diary familyfamily travel journal

So rather than making separate travel journals for each of my kids, I decided to make a journal for all four of us. The first few pages are filled with the trip to San Francisco and San Jose that kicked off our move, and the rest of it will be a record of our cross-country drive and the weeks that we spend settling down in our new place (wherever that may be). What’s in it so far is everything from a postcard from a diner in San Francisco to a flower that Indy picked for me on the side of the road when we were house-hunting in San Jose to a fortune from the airport Chinese restaurant that says “Just to be alive is a grand thing.“

But I didn’t want to only put in the “perfect” stuff: our receipt from the trip to the urgent care clinic is in there, too, because that’s just as much a part of what happened as anything else. And the truth is that even the time we spent in bed recovering was special its own way; that feeling of being in it together – in all of it; even the less-than-fun parts – is something I want to remember just as much as steam train rides and carousels and such.

As it turns out, making a resolution – choosing to approach family travel consciously, and not just defaulting to what I’ve always done – gave me the little kick I needed to start something that I hope will become a family tradition, returned to whenever we have these kinds of big experiences involving travel and adventure.

I’d love to hear if you have any fun ideas for how to improve family travel or resolutions of your own – just post them on Twitter or Instagram using #AlamoDriveHappy so I can check them out (and be sure to tag a friend who you think could use some inspiration)!

This post was created in collaboration with Alamo.

The Who-Knew Essential

cashmere sweatpants

Outside our super-cute Air BnB in DKNY Sweatpants; Zara Blazer (similar); Loeffler Randall Clutch; Steve Madden Heels

When I was hosting the DKNY event a couple of weeks ago, I saw someone buying these cashmere sweatpants. And I stared at them for a minute, thinking “Ooh those are so cute,” and then went straight to “No. They are CASHMERE SWEATPANTS. You are not allowed to own cashmere sweatpants.”

Step away from the cashmere sweatpants.

And then, because I’m contrary, I went ahead and found a pair in my size (just to try them on, just for a second, just in case), and discovered that they were massively on sale (they’re an additional 30% off of the sale price online, and for some reason even more discounted in-store). So I went ahead and bought them even though they were cashmere sweatpants, which are a fully ridiculous thing to buy.

Guess what?

Not ridiculous.

I ended up bringing them with me to California last week, and let me tell you: I wore practically nothing else the whole time I was there, because I very quickly discovered that cashmere sweatpants? Are basically the most versatile thing ever. Obviously they’re great for lounging purposes – and ooooo are they nice to fly in – but if you get the right shape (slouchy up top; skinny at the bottom) you can totally wear them out (or even to work, if you’re in an informal office) with a great pair of heels.

A few ways I wore them (and oh yes, they were totally disgusting by week’s end; they’re presently sitting in a Dryel bag, don’t worry):

  • On the plane, with a big sweater, cozy socks and white Converse;
  • Wandering around Berkeley, with wedge sneakers and a loose black silk blouse;
  • Out to dinner, with simple black heels and an oversized white t-shirt tucked in at the front;
  • Out to dinner again, with a navy blazer and a snakeskin clutch (pictured above).

Love them; think you should own them.

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