Why Every Little Girl Needs a Twirly Dress

Some dresses have the power to do this—to transform the mindset and elevate feelings of joy from within. A twirly dress can make any little girl smile, dance like a ballerina and even ease tantrums—nothing distracts unhappy thoughts more than the idea of twirling around in a dress!
TWIRL ALL THE WAY TO NEVERLAND, LITTLE ONE! This adorable Twirly dress by Dotdotsmile Lori Weitzel VIP in splashes of fun watercolors makes for the perfect summer dress.

TWIRL ALL THE WAY TO NEVERLAND, LITTLE ONE! This adorable Twirly dress by Dotdotsmile Lori Weitzel VIP in splashes of fun watercolors makes for the perfect summer dress.

If you happen to be a mama to a spunky six-year-old girl, you know you have your hands full when it comes to dressing her up. The little one has always been independent from the moment she discovered she was capable to doing things on her own. From the time she could pick out her own clothes, she had always tried to put her own spin to her adorable little style.

Some days it works (adding pink bracelets add a girly touch), on other days it doesn't (wearing a dozen necklace is a little overtop). While I encourage her to dress based on what makes her feel comfortable and confident, I also have to steer her gently from looking like Bozo the clown. And really, on days when tantrums are flying everywhere because she simply needs to assert her independence on mixing and matching clothes, I've learned to pick my battles wisely.   

Unless it's not season-appropriate ("No, you can't wear open-toe sandals on a rainy day!"), I let her experiment and play with the clothes she wants to wear, even when I sometimes desperately want to hold a sign in public that says: "Don't judge me. She dressed herself up." 

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Thankfully, most of the time, she dresses herself well. I do find it interesting that she is quick to pick up style cues just by observing how I put together her outfits, preferring to match her colors well and favoring dresses, more often than not. 

So when we received our first DotDotSmile Lori Weitzel VIP in the mail, the little one was beyond thrilled. From her reaction, you would think Christmas came early and that she just opened a present from Santa! After seeing the pure joy on her face, I've come to a conclusion: Every little girl should own at least one twirly dress!

"Mommy, I feel like a princess!" she exclaimed as she twirled around. To a mom, that was the perfect compliment. It is like me trying on a little black dress and telling everyone I feel like Audrey Hepburn! Some dresses have the power to do this—to transform the mindset and elevate feelings of joy from within. A twirly dress can make any little girl smile, dance like a ballerina and even ease tantrums—nothing distracts unhappy thoughts more than the idea of twirling around in a dress!

A SPLASH OF COLORS. Nothings says happiness than a splash of fun colors.

A SPLASH OF COLORS. Nothings says happiness than a splash of fun colors.

I often prefer subtle prints when shopping for the little one's apparel, but the explosion of hues on this dress reminds me of a watercolor canvas—so fun, playful and creative. The little one loves the splash of colors too, but more importantly, she loves how the ultra-soft fabric feels. The stretchy yet soft fabric is luxurious to the touch  which makes it the perfect material for an airy, summer dress. 

Of course, because we live in the Sunshine State where summer is year-round, this twirly dress is, technically, a year-round dress. And from the way things are now in which she resists the idea of taking the dress off, I am more than certain this dress will be on her weekly style rotation.

Does your little one own a twirly dress? How do you help your little fashionista build confidence in dressing herself up? Let's chat, style mamas?

Disclosure: Although this post is sponsored by DotDotSmile Lori Weitzel VIP, we always provide our honest opinion as we only work with brands we love.

To explore all the delightful twirly dresses, join DotDotSmile Lori Weitzel VIP. Plus, hurry and avail of the 10% discount this Thursday (July 18). DotDotSmile Lori Weitzel VIP offers weekly discounts so be sure to join the VIP group on Facebook or follow the group on Instagram. But just in case you need to shop more, use the code "gospelofbeauty" for a discount on your first purchase! Happy shopping, mamas!

Summer Outfit Ideas to Help You Transition Your Look from Day to Night 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY REALTOR BRIAN JOHNSON

Summer is rolling in fast and furious down in the lovely Sunshine State. Expectedly, this mama is embracing the summer glow and balmy evenings with a little bit of a minimalist vibe. If you have been following my previous style posts, you probably have seen a bit of a trend when it comes to my fashion choices: I tend to favor neutral hues, white especially, but with unexpected details. 

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White is the perfect summer outfit idea when you want fresh, clean aesthetics—whether you are planning a weekend beach rendezvous or simply heading out for happy hour with girl friends. Plus, white offers the perfect contrast to show off your beach-ready tan complexion!

Like its more popular sister, the Little Black Dress, the mini white dress is extremely versatile and can be dressed up or down, depending on the occasion. While searching for summer outfit ideas that I can easily transition from day to night, I came across two current favorites from The Lillipad Boutique, a new online shop that carries an adorable collection of on-trend fashion.

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Summer Outfit Idea 1: Daytime Bohemian

Nothing says summer than a touch of cool bohemian to a favorite summer outfit. I adore the airy silhouette of this white off-shoulder dress. It's casual enough for window-shopping but equally interesting to be paired with strappy heels for a fun dinner date. 

The off-shoulder detail adds just the right amount of sass, so it shows a little skin but still exudes an overall classiness. I absolutely love the boho-inspired stitching as it gives a lovely visual interest against an otherwise all-white dress.

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To make it appropriate for a completely chill Saturday, I paired this summer dress with a statement piece—a pair of gladiator sandals. These Roman-inspired sandals make for a killer fashion piece for summer as they can be worn with shorts, dresses or denim skirts.

To finish off this daytime boho-inspired look, I opted to accessorize with a subtle Dear Isabella necklace with Larimar gemstone in safety pin design and a Jessica Simpson white and gold weaved shoulder bag.

Summer Outfit 2: After-Hour Classic

When I saw this Temple dress by The Lillipad Boutique, I know I've found a versatile piece that I can wear with a pair of flats for a daytime coffee run or heels for a night of dancing.

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For an evening look, I kept the accessories minimal so all eyes are on the ultra-feminine lace and ribbon detail around the neckline. The lace says prim and proper but the skater silhouette suggests adventure and fun as it makes for a great swing dress. 

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Ultimately, I opted to pair this with simple strappy heels but kept the evening bag interesting which has embroidery, sequins and glass beads.

Which summer outfits are pulling double-duty for you as you transition from day to night? Which statement piece do you add to change the vibe of your dress so it may fit from beach to happy hour? Let's chat fashion, style sisters.

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Disclosure: Although this post is sponsored by The Lillipad Boutique, we always give our honest opinion as we only work with brands we love. To learn more about this new online shop, read their latest blog. Or keep up-to-date on their latest arrivals by following them on Facebook and Instagram.

Styled by Trendage: A Fashion App for the Style-Savvy

If you are old enough to remember Clueless, a classic teen cult movie in the '90s starring the adorable Alicia Silverstone, then you know Cher Horowitz and her drool-worthy revolving closet. Goodness, I can still recall how my knees turned weak at the sight of Cher's collection of high-fashion ensemble! 

Yes, I would be lying if I say adulthood has turned me sensible and that a revolving closet is no longer on my wish list, but truth is, this mama would give up precious nap time for a brief access to Cher's closet so I could elevate my sartorial game! 

In this day and age, the next best thing to a revolving closet is an app that serves as your digital stylist on speed dial. While tinkering on my phone for style apps that could help alert me on the latest fashion releases on the racks as well as highly sought-after markdowns, I happen to discover Styled by Trendage.

Need a revolving closet? Styled by Trendage allows you to virtually try the latest finds on the racks.   

Need a revolving closet? Styled by Trendage allows you to virtually try the latest finds on the racks.   

And what do you know? The iOS-compatible app was actually created with Cher's revolving closet in mind. Universe alignment, anyone? This means after creating a digital avatar of myself, I was able to virtually try on a revolving collection of clothes available in stores like Nordstrom, Little Black Dress and David's Bridal. 

More than anything, I'm a window-shopper, so I enjoy the concept of virtual shopping and the surprise of not knowing what dress awaits with every swipe. After spending some time testing out the app, here are a few highlights of the things I love and the things I wish it has.  

What I Love:

I love that I am able  to take a selfie and customize my hair style and body measurements.

The app gave me the option to either take a new selfie or select from my photo library. I then was able to select different hairstyles and body shapes as well as add my height and weight information. I appreciate these customization features because I am able to see the looks on my own size and silhouette, as opposed on models.

I love that the clothes shown are completely shopper-friendly.

As if it's not fun enough to tap on the screen and see how clothes may fit virtually on me, it's even more exciting to know that all in-season looks are actually available for purchase online. By clicking on "Details," a thumbnail that shows the price and store location pops up. Clicking on "Visit Website" redirects to the store's online product page for easy purchase.

I love that I am able to earn discounts with every new looks I discover.

Each time I search for more looks, I was rewarded with unlocked discount codes that I can use to shop in some of my favorite shops, such as Bath & Bodyworks and Target.

Styled by Trendage allows you to customize your body weight, height and hair styles.

Styled by Trendage allows you to customize your body weight, height and hair styles.

What I Wish It Has:

I wish it has better photo editing and touch-screen features.

While customization is a plus, I wish the app creates better avatars. Even after customizing my height and weight, the proportions didn't seem to look right. I've played with a similar style app in the past that gave me the option to resize hair styles by touching on the screen. Unfortunately, this app doesn't allow me to do that. In my opinion, having this feature will not only make it easier to fit the right hair style on to one's avatar, it would also ensure that proportions are conveniently customized.

I wish it offers a personalized survey so it can customize my style preferences.

Although I love the idea of being surprised with every tap, I do think having the option to fill out a survey that helps to narrow down ensembles based on my personal style will make the experience better and increases the likelihood of me actually purchasing an apparel online. 

I wish it has an option to mix and match fashion pieces.

Part of why I enjoy virtual shopping is the opportunity to mix and match clothes and accessories with a flick of a finger, making styling a painless experience. A mix-and-match feature will certainly be a game-changer as it would allow users to create personal looks and turn runway-fresh finds into street-wear style.

Have you ever used an app to help you find the latest on-the-rack styles? Let's exchange some style tips on the comment box below, fashion sisters!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Styled by Trendage. All opinions are my own.

Style Chat: A Mother's Take on Fashion and Wardrobe Essentials

Style Chat is a special section about fashion influences, style evolutions and wardrobe staples. In this first Style Chat feature, we highlight Leah Weber, the fashion-loving mom behind the blog, scenesfromcedarstreet.com. If you want to be on our next Style Chat seat, connect with me at thegospelofbeauty@gmail.com.


Stay-at-home mom Leah Weber favors classic comfort over trends when shopping for her style essentials.

Stay-at-home mom Leah Weber favors classic comfort over trends when shopping for her style essentials.

As a mom, Leah Weber wears many hats. She juggles her time between taking care of her 10-month-old baby girl and working alongside her husband who works for a ministry called Campus Outreach at The University of West Georgia. "I help provide counseling and lead Bible studies and Discipleship groups to college students. We live in a small town and our favorite activities are having people over to hang out, playing with our baby, and hanging out on the square in downtown Carrollton," she says.

In this Style Chat, the stay-at-home mom talks about her personal style, her fashion influences and the style essentials she can't live without. 

The Gospel of Beauty: How would you describe your fashion sense?

Leah Weber: Classic, feminine and simple.

TGOB: What's your typical mommy weekend outfit?

Weber: My favorite pair of jeans, a comfy but cute blouse, and a pair of boots, Converses, or sandals—depending on the season.

TGOB: Who would you consider to be your biggest fashion influence?

Weber: Joanna Gaines. She’s obviously known for her amazing interior design skills but I also love her fashion sense. She has impeccable taste and combines function and style well together. This is essential for any mom.

TGOB: What's the one piece of wardrobe staple you can't live without?

Weber: It’s a tie between my my black LuLaRoe leggings and my favorite pair of jeans.

TGOB: What types of apparel fill up your closet?

Weber: I’ve recently downsized my closet to include only the things I love. I have a dress for every season and occasion. Numerous neutral-colored tops and blouses, and a few fun, colorful pieces.

This pair of black LuLaRoe leggings is one of Weber's favorite items in her closet.

This pair of black LuLaRoe leggings is one of Weber's favorite items in her closet.

TGOB: Where are a few of your go-to shops for your fashion essentials?

Weber: We live in a small town so shopping for clothes can be difficult sometimes. I like our local small boutiques as well as jane.com. When I do have the chance to go to a mall, my favorite stores are Anthropologie, Madewell and The Loft.

TGOB: Who are some of the fashion icons who inspire you?

Weber: Audrey Hepburn, Kate Middleton and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. 

TGOB: What's the best fashion tip you've ever received?

Weber: Trends come and go. Wear clothes that you love and feel comfortable in.

TGOB: Looking back at how your fashion style has evolved, what's the one fashion item you swore yourself you'll never be caught wearing again?

Weber: I hated skinny jeans when they first came back into style. I thought I would never wear them. Now, I wear them almost every day!

TGOB: How do you share your love of fashion to your little one?

Weber: My baby girl is only 10-months-old so I haven’t been able to share my love for fashion with her yet but when she’s older, I want to teach her not to be defined or consumed by the latest fashion trend or whatever everyone else is wearing. I want her to be confident in who she is and not let fashion define her. I want her to be a trend setter, not a trend follower.

TGOB: What's your advice to other mothers to help them elevate their personal style?

Weber: When you become a mom, it’s easy to neglect yourself in a lot of different areas of your life because you are completely consumed by taking care of your baby. I would encourage you to take time for yourself and your style. Re-evaluate your wardrobe. Go through your closet and get rid of clothes you don’t like and slowly replace your wardrobe with pieces you love. Don’t feel like you have to keep up with the latest trends. Just buy what is comfortable, practical for your lifestyle, and makes you feel beautiful.

SHOP OUR STYLE FINDS

Treasures and Gems: Style Lessons from Mother to Daughter

LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER. Dear Isabella necklaces in safety pin design make for the perfect mother-and-me heirloom that can be passed on from one generation to another. PHOTOGRAPHY BY Realtor Brian Johnson.

LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER. Dear Isabella necklaces in safety pin design make for the perfect mother-and-me heirloom that can be passed on from one generation to another. PHOTOGRAPHY BY Realtor Brian Johnson.

When it comes to style influences, no one has probably influenced us more, especially during our young and transformative lives, than our very own mothers. After all, didn't we all once sashay in our mother's oversized heels while we pretended to walk down imaginary runways? Was it not that the first lipstick we played with belong to our mothers? Didn't we once dig through their treasure box of accessories so we could wear one precious item to match our own Sunday's best dress?

SAFETY FIRST. Dear Isabella's safety pin necklace is the perfect symbolism of a mother's love and protective care.

SAFETY FIRST. Dear Isabella's safety pin necklace is the perfect symbolism of a mother's love and protective care.

I have my mother to thank for exposing me to the possibilities of mixing and matching style pieces. A firm believer of self-care, she would never be caught looking anything less than put together. Her trademark bold red lipstick spoke of unmistakable confidence, a trait I continue to emulate now that I've become a mother myself. 

MOTHERLY LOVE. She's always put your wants first. Return the favor this Mother's Day and surprise mom with something she would want: a stunning piece of jewelry.

MOTHERLY LOVE. She's always put your wants first. Return the favor this Mother's Day and surprise mom with something she would want: a stunning piece of jewelry.

As it comes full circle now that I have become my daughter's first style influence, I look back—in a timely manner as Mother's Day is just around the corner—of the gems of style lessons my own mother imparted upon me: 

1. Look for soulful details.

This is especially true in jewelry. There are some pieces that simply speak to you, one that evokes good energy. When I first saw this necklace by Dear Isabella Larimar Jewelry Company in an adorable safety pin design, it called my name.

Perhaps it is because the brand itself is founded by a mother inspired by her own daughter so I felt a kindling connection with the brand's story. Dear Isabella, eponymously named after the owner's daughter, is one mother's way to celebrate her daughter, aside from honoring the treasures of her birth home, the Dominican Republic. The brand's classic collection pays homage to the unmistakable bond between mother and daughter and each fine piece honors this lifetime love and connection.  

MOMMY AND ME. When twinning with mommy is in order, accessorize with a piece of jewelry that your daughter could treasure for a lifetime.

MOMMY AND ME. When twinning with mommy is in order, accessorize with a piece of jewelry that your daughter could treasure for a lifetime.

2. Find timeless pieces.

Whether it's shopping for clothes or shoes, I tend to favor classic items that can last through multiple fashion seasons. This is also true in my choice of accessories. My mom, always the practical woman, taught me to invest in pieces that never go out of style, such as black dresses, white tops and precious gemstones.

CARIBBEAN GEM. Larimar, the Caribbean gemstone, ranges from subtle green to deep blue in color.

CARIBBEAN GEM. Larimar, the Caribbean gemstone, ranges from subtle green to deep blue in color.

The part that has drawn me most to Dear Isabella's collections is that it is made with a unique gemstone called Larimar. A rare blue variety of the silicate mineral pectolite, Larimar is only found in one place: in a little paradise island in the Caribbean called the Dominican Republic.

According to historians, when the gemstone was discovered in 1974 by Miguel Mendez and Norman Rilling on a beach at the foot of the Baroruco Mountain Range, Mendez named it Larimar after his daughter's name (Larissa) and the Spanish word for the sea (mar). Rightfully so, it is also known as the "Caribbean gemstone" for its color evokes the aqua blue Caribbean waters, although it could generally range from subtle green to deep blue in color.

Like many gemstones believed to exude positive energy, Larimar is thought to provide peace and clarity, radiating healing and love energy.

LESS IS MORE. Let an intricate jewelry shine by pairing it with a simple top.

LESS IS MORE. Let an intricate jewelry shine by pairing it with a simple top.

3. Embrace the anomalies in design.

In design, there's always that one beautiful imperfection that makes an item perfect. This is something my mom had shown me through her style choices, whether she was buying a local pottery or a piece of jewelry. 

You often get a little of that design anomaly in handmade creations, as no two items can exactly be alike when crafted by hand. When I look carefully to inspect Dear Isabella's necklaces, I can see how each piece is carefully handcrafted, giving every piece a unique craftsmanship that's fitting to become a treasured family heirloom a few years down the road. It is easy to tell there's much effort made in selecting the best possible gemstone. When it comes to Larimar, the general rule of thumb is this: The more blue the color, the higher the quality. 

SMALL BOXES, BIG SURPRISES. The best things in life truly comes in small boxes. Delight mom with a thoughtful gift enclosed in a lovely blue box.

SMALL BOXES, BIG SURPRISES. The best things in life truly comes in small boxes. Delight mom with a thoughtful gift enclosed in a lovely blue box.

4. Live in style, but make it look easy.

In a nutshell, this was my mom's style mantra: Live in style, but make it look easy. She always made it looked effortless to dress up appropriately, put on makeup and fix her hair like it's nobody's business. I try to live in her example by taking the time for genuine self-care and putting comfort as high as looking chic. 

To do this, I try to dress up with the mindset that less is more. If the print design is screaming, tone it down by wearing a simple jewelry. Unless you are the iconic fashionista Iris Apfel, it is difficult to get away with wearing layers and layers of chunky necklaces against a psychedelic print. 

BIG HEARTS. Nothing says "I love you, mom" more than a fine jewelry with a rare gemstone. 

BIG HEARTS. Nothing says "I love you, mom" more than a fine jewelry with a rare gemstone. 

As for this style shoot, the spotlight was on the stunning Dear Isabella jewelry, so I opted to showcase it with a bare neck and a simple black corset top. It can't get any more effortless than that.

Mother's Day or not, how do you plan to surprise the most important woman in your life? What style lessons have you learned from her? Let's share thoughtful ideas in the comment box below.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Dear Isabella Larimar Jewelry Co. All opinions are my own. To learn more about their latest launches, including on their upcoming bridal collection in June, follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Dear Isabella ships free within the U.S. and internationally for orders more than $75. Browse their collections today to find the perfect Mother's Day gift!

Old World Charm: 5 Ways to Wear a Bohemian Chic White Dress

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Realtor Brian Johnson | LOCATION: Ybor City | KID's OUTFIT and HAIR ACCESSORY: The Hair Bow Company

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Think of your little white dress as LBD's free-spirited little sister: less formal, casually easy like Sunday morning, hopelessly romantic like a hippie wild child yet equally classic at the same time.

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With the change in season and warmer weather creeping in, the little white dress is the perfect wardrobe essential for a lovely spring and summer affair. Oh, did we mention it's also versatile to wear? There are a million ways to style your little white dress, but this mommy-and-daughter duo's favorite is wearing it with a touch of vintage bohemian.

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To channel our inner boho spirit, we stepped into Ybor City, Tampa's historic district, which once thrived as a cigar industry town prior to the Great Depression. The place was named after Vicente Martinez Ybor, a prominent Spanish cigar entrepreneur who relocated his cigar-making business from Cuba and Key West to Tampa in the late 1880s.

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Today, Ybor City is named National Historical Landmark District and recognized as one of the "10 Great Streets in America." It continues to have a diverse blend of cultures, thanks to its first immigrant settlers primarily of Cuban, Spanish and Italian descents who brought with them their own unique food and traditions. 

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Ybor City has since been transformed as a favorite local spot among foodies, party night owls and art lovers, as evident by its unique fusion of international-themed restaurants, cafes, bars, theaters and street art.

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That being said, it served as the perfect backdrop for a vintage-bohemian fashion shoot. It's easy to be adventurous when wearing a little white dress, so let your inner child run wild and play with a few fun details. Here are five ways to rock the bohemian rhapsody style:

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1. When it comes to frills, poufs and laces, go big or go home.  

When shopping for your little girl's white dress, choose a baby doll silhouette like this flouncy dress by The Hair Bow Company. The pouf at the bottom makes twirling hard to resist and the silhouette gives the dress an ultra-fun and girly vibe. A touch of lace around the neckline is always a good idea as it makes the overall look romantic but mostly, whimsical.

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2. Wear white with gold.

Add an interesting element to take away the "blah" in basic white. For instance, gold adds a touch of elegance to white. A word of caution: Keep the gold element subtle, you don't want to look like you've just been cursed by Midas' touch. A gold belt or hair accessory should do the trick.

For this photo shoot, I opted to give my overall look with a metallic touch by wearing The Hair Bow Company's gold leaf headband.

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3. Pair it with a romantic head dress.

When it comes to a white dress in satin and lace, a little accessory goes a long way. Jazz up your little one's look with some floral and lace head dress, like the one shown on top and sold at The Hair Bow Company. It's not only a great way to pull the hair away from your little one's face and keep her day look neat, but it's a style piece that could effortlessly tie in the overall old-world, bohemian look.

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4. Have fun with a pair of gladiator sandals.

As far as vintage style goes, wearing the right pair of footwear matters. It's really amazing how shoes can single-handedly take an overall look from day to night. For instance, a gold pair of stilettos could make this white dress by Forever 21 "happy hour ready," while a classic pair of nude pumps could make it work-appropriate. For this style shoot, I slipped on a pair of gladiator sandals to complete the boho chic look. Hello, is that you, ancient Rome, calling?

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5. Keep the look organic by sticking to neutral colors.

Think of woodsy colors like forest green or caramel brown. These colors go well with a simple white dress in creating a very "chill" and Woodstock-inspired style. Let your individuality shine with your style choices, whether that means adding a mocha fringe messenger bag, a pair of feather earrings or some oversized bows. Ultimately, it's about embracing your free-spirited inner child!

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The Hair Bow Company. All opinions are my own. Follow them on Facebook or sign up to their newsletter to enjoy a five percent discount on your order.

Going, Going, Gone! How to Win on an Online Shopping Auction

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by tophatter.com. All opinions are my own.

Anyone who knows me would agree that I can sniff a good deal a mile away. It's a skill that has served me well now that I am a bargain-hunting mama, always on the look out for ways for the family to financially save and spend wisely.

Much of this value-hunting skill was developed when I worked as an editor for the shopping guide section of a local daily, hunting down bargain deals, writing about second-hand stores and profiling small-business owners.

Although I have a propensity to window-shop more than to sit in front of my Macbook and shop online (I always joked window-shopping is my "poor man's version" of a workout!), I always manage to control my expenses by staying away from impulsive purchases. So how in the world did I end up ferociously bidding on an online auction website if impulse-buying is not my cup of tea? 

Believe it or not, as I've discovered after my first-ever online auction experience on tophatter.com, auction websites can actually be a great way to save money—as long as you shop with a strategy.

1. Research the products offered on the auction website before placing a bid.

Think of it like you are going to war—you want to be armed as much as possible. In this case, being armed with product information is winning half of the auction battle. Browse the product gallery of the auction website and click on products to read more on product descriptions and specifications. This is very important when buying gadgets to ensure it is compatible with your other devices. 

2. Set a bid limit.

Similar to live auction events like Tophatter where you have less than 90 seconds to bid, it is easy to get swept in the moment and make the rookie mistake of overbidding on a product for fear of losing the bidding war. To avoid this, compare prices in other stores once you've determined the product you'd like to bid on. By comparing prices, you can wisely set a bid limit for yourself and ensure that you are always bidding with a mindset to save while shopping. 

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3. Sign up for bidding alerts and reminders.

Because products in auctions can easily come and go, set a bidding alert and reminder to ensure you get notified when products you are eyeing on are up for bids. For instance, I wanted to surprise the little one for her upcoming birthday with an old-school Mario Bros. handheld gaming device which was one of the featured products on the auction website. Instead of staying on the computer all day to wait for it to go on the live auction, I simply set up an alert. It was a smart strategy—I ended up winning that device as a birthday gift for the little one! 

4. Refrain from getting emotionally attached.

Easier said than done! It is expected that the competitive spirit will kick in when in the midst of a bidding war. It can get competitive fast and even personal at times, but the only way to truly win on an online auction is to detach yourself emotionally from the idea that you must win every bid, every time. In fact, in order to shop wisely, you must be willing to lose and walk away from a bid. There will always be another opportunity.

5. Study the bidding pattern.

Visit the auction website during different times of the day and be observant. Are there more bidders during the day? Are you more likely to get less competitors at night? Whatever that bidding pattern is, work it to your advantage. 

Eager to get into the bidding war yourself? Click HERE and enter CODE: a850f2 to receive a $10 credit when you sign up at tophatter.com . Happy bidding!

Gift Ideas, With Love: 20 Uber-Cool Valentine's Day Gifts for Him

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Ah, the day of hearts! Cupid has a way of sneaking up on us. In fact, it feels we've just barely caught our breath from the mad dash and last-minute holiday gift shopping for loved ones and here we are again, going through the same motion of online shopping for Valentine's Day. We feel your pain, it's never easy to find the perfect gift for a loving dad, husband or lover. Well, guess what? Amazon does have several neat gifts if you know where to find. Here are 20 uber-cool Valentine's Day gift ideas for every man in your life:   

1. StudBucket

What man doesn't need a stud bucket? Get him a gift set with a flask for his favorite bourbon, a sleek headphone, a 4-in-one bottle opener and a $10 Best Buy gift card.

2. Beats Solo3 Wireless On-Ear Headphone

Is he a music lover? Elevate his listening experience with this Beats wireless headphone that is as gorgeous as it is functional.

3. Bodum Pour-Over Coffee Maker, 34 oz.

Who's grumpy in the morning? You can help change your man's morning mood by getting him this elegant pour-over coffee maker so he can easily get his daily caffeine fix, whether at home or in the office.

4. Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App-Controlled Robot

Here's every Star Wars geek's fantasy: To have his own Star Wars droid. Indulge your man's adorable geeky side with this fun collectible that can roll around like a real droid using an app-controlled remote.

5. Mixology Dice

Is your man a fan of DIY happy hour? Make blending signature cocktails even more fun for your bourbon- or tequila-loving man with this Mixology Dice which comes with eight laser-engraved dice and an instruction booklet.

6. Ray-Ban Andy, 55mm non-polarized

What's cooler than a super dad? A super dad sporting a cool Ray-Ban!

7. Vintage Canvas Backpack

When it's time to retire your man's backpack, get him a travel rucksack that's equal parts classy and manly. Bonus nachos: It is waterproof and can fit a 15.6-inch laptop.

8. Yeti Vacuum Insulated Rambler Colster

The trusty Yeti---every real man needs one. This Yeti colster keeps his drink cool while football tailgaiting or camping outdoors because no one likes a warm beer. 

9. Wacaco Company MiniPresso GR Espresso Maker

Is he an espresso man? Surprise him with this MiniPresso so he may enjoy a cup of energy-boosting espresso while on the go.

10. Chemist's Spice Rack, 14-piece

Does daddy or your beau loves to experiment with new flavors in the kitchen? Get him his own spice rack so he can easily mix and blend sauces and seasonings of his own culinary creations.

11. Clocky Alarm Clock on Wheels

Is your man not a morning person? Give him a little more motivation in the morning with this wheeled alarm clock that runs away to persuasively get him out of bed.

12. YUMQUA USB Wireless Bluetooth Waterproof Roll-Up Foldable Keyboard

Is he often on the go with his job but also needs to stay connected? A foldable keyboard would ensure he packs light on his way to his next sales or business meeting.

13. RAVPower Luster Mini 3350mAh Portable Charger Battery

Nothing could be more frustrating than running out of mobile juice when you need it most. Be his hero and get him this elegant portable charger battery so he can stay connected anytime, anywhere.

14. ICE Portable Wireless Floating Bluetooth Speaker

Wow, talk about giving him one to talk about! A sure conversational piece, this wireless floating speaker makes a wonderful addition to his man cave and one that he can brag about to his friends. 

15. FRYE Logan Antique Flap Briefcase

In case your man needs to look sharper than usual, get him this antique flap briefcase in cognac color so he can always report to work looking like a boss.

16. LBFEEL Cool Watch Movement Cufflinks

The devil in the the detail. Get him a pair of watch-inspired cufflinks so he can accessorize in style the next he goes to a big business presentation.

17. OURAI 13-inch Laptop Sleeve Case and Notebook Carrying Case

Help your man take care of his mobile devices with these briefcase bag and carrying case that protect his gadgets while in transit.

18. Amazon Echo

YOU: Alexa, how do you make a man as happy as a kid in a candy store? ALEXA: Get him an Amazon Echo.

19. Crosley Ranchero Retro AM/FM Tabletop Radio

Looking for a gift for your dad or husband that may touch his soft, nostalgic touch? Let him walk down memory lane with this retro radio. Oh, so Mad Men!

20. Garmin Vivosmart HR Activity Tracker

Is he a health and gym buff? Motivate him to stay active with an activity tracker which records the number of steps he has taken, calories lost, activity intensity and distance covered. It also receives texts, calls and email or social media alerts so he could stay connected while working out.

Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. All content in here, however, are my personal and honest recommendations. 

Tights Season: Style Tips on How to Rock Them!

I've been in your shoesdesperately looking for the right opaque tights or fishnets to keep me warm as the season transitions, but still fashionable enough beyond wearing those good ol' boring black stockings. While there's no denying that black tights make the most versatile choice (especially if your closet is full of colors and patterns), choosing one with a little design may go a long way in creating a style statement. 

So how exactly should you wear tights this season? Two words: Own them!  

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1. If you must wear black, pick a designed fishnet.

Wearing fishnets is a proven-and-tested way to keep your look stylish and edgy. However, because there is a fine line between sexy and sleazy when it comes to wearing fishnets, tread lightly. To stay in the chic zone, avoid tight skirts with short hemlines or body-hugging dresses. Instead, opt for silhouettes like A-line or pleated skirts as well as slightly loose dresses. I prefer to wear fishnets with a leather A-line skirt that comfortably grazes above my knee and pair this with a crisp white shirt. The final look is often polished or preppy, but with a slight style edge. 

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2. Choose colors that are bound to stop traffic.

That's right, when it comes to your choice of the season's staple, take risks! While this is likely not a fashion tip for the weak of heart, selecting tights with fun colors make a great way to jazz up one's look, especially if you tend to pick neutral and basic colors for most of your clothes. Pair complementary colorsand as you may have already guessed by the look I've put together above, my favorite combo is purple and yellow! Because these winter essentials are both versatile and functional, it's certainly a great way to breathe new life to non-seasonal choices. For instance, because the Sunshine State's winter is far more forgiving compared to other places, wearing a pair of summer shorts is no longer a crazy idea as long as it's worn with trusty tights to keep the bare legs warm. 

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3. Have fun with prints and patterns.

While they undeniably serve a utilitarian purpose, wearing tights is also about having fun! If you must choose a solid color, choose one with a little pattern. I adore tights with polka dot printsthey're classic and easy to match with tweed skirts, but also look like an invitation to have fun with one's ensemble. 

There is no doubt that, when it comes to wearing tights, the right pair of shoes, sneakers or boots can make or break the overall lookso pay attention to every little detail and never feel stuck in a winter wardrobe rut ever again! 

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Style Trend Alert: Pink Will Reign Supreme

Spring may be months away, but the style trend is evident: Pink will reign supreme. In fact, at the Paris Fashion Week which previewed spring 2017, collections on the runway were apparently heavy with femininity and shades of sweetness. PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRIAN JOHNSON | LOCATION: HYDE PARK, TAMPA

Ariana's style: Ballerina pink and gold dress by Jenna & Jessie and pink Hello Kitty ballet flats by H&M.

Ariana's style: Ballerina pink and gold dress by Jenna & Jessie and pink Hello Kitty ballet flats by H&M.

Fashion powerhouse Balenciaga, for instance, featured a watermelon-pink turtleneck dress while the style house of Valentino showcased a knee-length cape hybrid dress in stunning Schiaparelli pink. Givenchy, on the one hand, featured a long-sleeved dress with coordinating fringes in muted blush. 

Mommy's Style: White heart-shaped top with pleat sleeves and fringe skirt in blushing pink by Express. Nude pumps by Nine West.

Mommy's Style: White heart-shaped top with pleat sleeves and fringe skirt in blushing pink by Express. Nude pumps by Nine West.

So what's all this fascination with pink? Haven't critics of the bubblegum color said enough about its "too saccharine" quality? The recent obsession with pink, it appears, can be partly blamed by the fact that one of Pantone's colors of the year is Rose Quartz. Ah, that explains it. Move aside vegan Greenery.

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The other part of it may simply be that the fashion gods want to rethink pink to slightly strip it of its "Barbie color" reputation. Thus, the runway was painted with shades that were deemed less sweet to the fashion taste. For a modern take, stylists have paired pink with edgier colors like sulphuric yellow and minty lime to slightly tone down its feminine appeal. 

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It appears the love of pink has spilled beyond the runway and into the red carpet as celebrities were spotted wearing various shades of pink in recent award shows. At the 2017 Golden Globes Award, Carrie Underwood wore a pink and ruffled Iris Serban gown, so did Felicity Jones and Zoe Saldana who both wore the feminine color to the award show.

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But what if pink is not in your list of favorite colors? Can you still look stylishly on-trend with spring's shade of choice? Our advice: Do it in small doses. Add a pink scarf, a fashionable criss-cross bag or a pair of pink pumps.

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If baby pink is too girly for you, consider a different shade of pink. A good rule of thumb is to find a shade that fits your hair color and skin tone. A blushing pink may wash you out if you have a fair complexion. Instead, opt for a hot pink dress to amp up your overall look. 

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Wear pink in combo. To give pink an edgier appeal, don't be afraid to shake it up. Limes and bright yellows have a jarring but pleasant appeal to pink. 

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Ultimately, whatever shade of pink speaks to you, remember the number one fashion tip: Keep it fun! For Ariana and I, when it comes to being playful with color choices, we say: "Yes, pretty, pretty pink please!"

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The Chill Effect: Dressing Up for Winter

A few weeks back, temperatures in the Sunshine State dipped and forced us to take out a few winter fashion essentials which, since we've moved here from the Bluegrass State, had been safely stowed away in a tote box in our closets. Don't get me wrong, we are not complaining. In fact, Ariana and I rather welcomed the brief change of temperature as we finally had our excuse to wear knits, vests and adorable leggingsminus the dreaded prospect of a two-foot snow.

How did we survive Florida's winter? Fashionably, of course. Here are a few fun tips to help you shop and level up your kid's winter style.

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1. Invest in a good knit dress that you can easily pair with a nice legging and a pair of adorable boots. I tend to keep my choices neutral as far as color and prints are concerned so I may have the option to jazz up Ariana's look with adorable leggings, many of which come in bright colors and prints.

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2. Shop wisely. Buy your kid's winter essentials close to the end of the winter season. This often means shops are getting ready for spring and are eager to get rid of their old inventory by offering deep discounts. Shop one age size in advance, I can't tell you how much savings I've had by simply shopping in advance in anticipation of the next season.

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3. Accessorize with stylish vests. This is the season to layer, so next time your are in the kid's section of your favorite children's boutique, don't ignore the vests. It's a great way to stylishly layer without wearing bulky winter jackets and pea coats all the time.

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4. Play around with leggings. In fact, mix it up with bright pinks, limes and purples. Don't shy away from prints which are adorable on your little ones but also invest in basic colors. They make the perfect pair with winter dresses that may be too glittery, adorned with too much sequins or simply too busy with holiday-themed prints. What has been your favorite winter look for your little one? Let's chat, share your comments below.

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Disney-Inspired Fashion: How to Dress Up Like Moana

Today, Ariana wants to be Moana. Yesterday, it was Queen Elsa. The other day, she needed to be Ariel so she could rescue her Shopkins at the bottom of the tub while taking a bath. Of course, the week before, she was the long-lost princess Rapunzel, which made for a strong case as to why we were not allowed to get anywhere near her with a pair of trimming scissors. This is what our days at home often look likeit involves magical days of living the life of a Disney princess.

With that, of course, it includes shopping for a princess dress, an exercise Daddy dreads because no princess dress is ever cheap! Thankfully, unlike Belle's over-the-top ball gown, Moana's "island girl" look is easier to craft at home. For a Moana-inspired fashion, I had been scouring the internet for inspirations when I came across Gladzy Kei's creative Moana look! When Ariana first saw her photos, the little one thought she just saw the real-life Moana and wanted to know more. Naturally, I probed deeper and found out that this highly creative sculptor and illustrator is a Filipina based in Alberta, Canada. Huh, small world!

In our interview with this "real-life" Moana, Gladzy Kei gives us a closer look at what sparked her love for cosplay, how she put together her Moana look and what it was like to shoot her now-viral Moana photos (one photo alone had more than 180,000 likes on her Instagram account @gladzykei) in paradise El Nido, Palawan.

Filipina-Canadian artist Gladzy Kei's Moana-inspired fashion became a viral hit for her spot-on and creative cosplay of Disney's Polynesian heroine.

Filipina-Canadian artist Gladzy Kei's Moana-inspired fashion became a viral hit for her spot-on and creative cosplay of Disney's Polynesian heroine.

The Gospel of Beauty: What sparked your interest in cosplay and performance art?

Gladzy Kei: My love for all things anime, movie and game characters inspired me to cosplay! 

TGOB: Among all the Disney princesses you've dressed up as a character, which one was your favorite? 

GK: Moana, for sure! It is because I was able to relate to her character so much and her story reminded me of my motherland, the Philippines.

TGOB: Walk us through your creative process. Did you have to create the costumes yourself and how long did it take you to do itfrom concept to execution?

GK: I created it with the assistance of my friend who measured me, and we only had literally one day to finish the costume before our photo shoot in El Nido, Palawan the next day.

One of Gladzy Kei's funniest moments during the photo shoot includes capturing a stock wave to create this amazing photo.

One of Gladzy Kei's funniest moments during the photo shoot includes capturing a stock wave to create this amazing photo.

TGOB: Describe how that photo shoot experience was for you?

GK: It was fun because I was with my entire family and, for most of them, it was their first time to see me in action while on a cosplay photo shoot. One funny moment was when we were trying to shoot the "wave hi-five" photo, and my cousin was basically splashing me in the face for our first few runs. After a few takes, we finally got the perfect stock wave and it was amazing!

TGOB: Were you surprised by your social media fans' comments after your photo went viral? 

GK: Definitely surprised! I thought it was a glitch at first (laughing out loud)!

This Moana-inspired photo shoot took place on the shores of El Nido, Palawan, recently ranked number one in Conde Nast Traveler's list of "20 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World."

This Moana-inspired photo shoot took place on the shores of El Nido, Palawan, recently ranked number one in Conde Nast Traveler's list of "20 Most Beautiful Beaches in the World."

TGOB: Is there another Disney character you plan to cosplay in the future?

GK: Moana, Moana, Moana! (Laughing.) I don't know yet, maybe some other characters from the movie, Te Fiti or Te Ka, or maybe both. 

TGOB: What's your advice to other young kids wanting to express their creative selves through cosplay or performance art?

GK: Do what you love and don't let anybody talk you down! Keep pushing forward!

Gladzy Kei left no no detail unchecked to recreate the Moana look, including the use of oars as photo shoot props.

Gladzy Kei left no no detail unchecked to recreate the Moana look, including the use of oars as photo shoot props.

TGOB: Where do you often go to cosplay? 

GK: I usually go to a lot of North American conventions.

TGOB: Who is your mentor or inspiration when it comes to dressing up creatively?

GK: There are so many, but I'd like to give a shout out to Kamui Cosplay, Alodia, Lightning Cosplay, and Yaya Han who have inspired me to live the dream! 

The cosplay fan flexed her creative muscle to put together her own Moana costume within a day.

The cosplay fan flexed her creative muscle to put together her own Moana costume within a day.

Like Gladzy Kei, there's no reason why you couldn't get creative and borrow Moana's "island girl" look. If DIY is not your thing, you're in luck! We've found a few style pieces to help complete your Moana-inspired look:

1. Grass Skirt, Amazon

2. Moana Hand-Painted Pendant Necklace, Amazon

3. Moana Women's Cosplay Costume, Amazon

4. Moana Kids Hair Wig with Plumeria Flower, Amazon

5. Moana Kids Costume, Amazon

Oh joy! Ariana in a happy mood after watching Disney's latest animation hit, Moana. Of course, she had to dress up the part and sported her pair of Moana boots. 

Oh joy! Ariana in a happy mood after watching Disney's latest animation hit, Moana. Of course, she had to dress up the part and sported her pair of Moana boots. 

Finally, keep in mind that the best piece of accessory to complete your look is confidence. Like Moana, we bold and embrace to live life to the fullest. You'll never know what adventure awaits you past the forbidden reef!

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4 Life-Changing Lessons to Learn from Moana

Nothing says mommy-daughter bonding than a movie date with the little munchkin. The long holiday break afforded Ariana and Mommy some much-needed time to hit the movie theater and watch Disney's latest animation flick, Moana. The little girl, who now knows every Disney princess at heart, has never been this excited to see another Disney movie since she first watched Frozen and was introduced to huggable Olaf and the ice queen, Elsa.

The reviews were spot onMoana is lovable! There are several reasons why the movie is a visual adventure for all ages. For one, it has a two-punch combo of a lush animation and an awesome soundtrack with songs co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creative mind behind the Broadway musical hit, Hamilton. The movie is also a historical moment for DisneyMoana is its first Polynesian princess. But my favorite part is its solid storytelling and how it deviates from the "prince saves the princess" storyline that has long been Disney's magical formula. Instead, the male protagonist in this film is a demi-god named Maui, funny, generous-at-heart but with a chip on his shoulder to prove he is all-powerful. 

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For a mother of a five-year-old "film critic" who can be brutally honest, the best part about the entire experience is the chance to share a conversation with Ariana on which important takeaways she has learned. Here are four of our favorite life-changing lessons from Moana:

1. Seek out your purpose, even when it requires you to sail beyond the reef.

Fear often holds us back from becoming great. We hear naysayers tell us not to do that, not to say this, or not to act this way. Don't leave the comforts of home, you're too young to be on your own. Don't audition, you are not good enough. Don't resign, you will never find a better opportunity.

But what's clear in this movie is that, when we find our purpose in life, it never stops calling our name, in the same way the ocean never stopped chasing Moana. In the end, despite dire warnings, we have to sail to fulfill our purpose, even if that means sailing beyond the reef and facing the rough seas. 

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2. Bang the drums.

That was exactly what set off Moana's adventure. She banged the drums and saw a glimmer of clarity on what she needed to do. Often, we simply have to be brave enough to take action. It takes a small step to make the full journey.

3. Find someone who can teach you to sail. 

At one point in our lives, we meet people who are generous enough to hold a torch for us in order to show us the way so we can shine brighter at what we do. We may call them different namesteacher, guru, leader or mentor. Like Moana, the only way to become good at something is to find a mentor. And like Moana, don't be afraid to ask for help and guidance, as well as be persistent until they finally see you worthy to be taken under their wings.

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4. Write your own story.

You have the power to write your own story. Your fate is not set, even Maui's tattoos of defeat, victories and history are not permanent. Be always aware that you are the master of your own fate. If things seem hopeless or meaningless, flip to another chapter. In your hand you hold the power to rewrite your happy endings. 

UP NEXT: Keep an eye out of our next post on Moana-inspired fashion. We promise you, you won't want to miss that!

Glitter & Gold: Ring in 2017 in Style

Hello 2017, we're all glammed up to welcome you! The New Year is every fashionista's excuse to wear glitter and gold, so Ariana and Mommy are not apologizing for bringing on the sparkle. Although head-to-toe glitz and glamour are more than welcomed this party season, this mommy-and-daughter duo opts to keep the golden touches subtle.

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Rather than wear gold all throughout, Ariana prefers to keep it minimal with a flowing pink dress with subtle glittery sequins on top. The dress is ultra-sweet and feminine, which suits this little girl's personality. To help teach her self-confidence, I allow her to make shopping decisions with me and guides her through style choices so she understands how to properly dress herself up. 

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By any definition, it was love at first sight the moment Ariana laid eyes on this princess dress on the racks of H&M. It's easy to understand why, I myself adore the tiny floral detail on topwhile the gold sequins add a regal and subtle sparkle.

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To ensure that her dress is the focal point, we kept the rest of Ariana's look clean and simple. She pairs this lovely dress with Hello Kitty ballet flats and the only accessory we added is an oversized white bow as an accent to her simple ponytail.

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For Mommy's New Year party look, sticking to the classic black and gold tandem is always a good idea. To add an edgier appeal to the basic black top, go for a sexier detail, like this season's hot style trend: cut-off shoulders. 

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A basic black top is a great way to tone down Midas' touch, but it also makes for the perfect contrast against any glitter or gold. For instance, this The Limited gold midi skirt shines brighter against H&M's long-sleeved top. To finish strong, pick a pair of edgy stilettosthey always scream for attention.

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If you must wear gold or sequins since it's after all New Year, don't be afraid to go all out. The trick to an "all or nothing" look is to keep it monochromatic so that, even if you are sparkling from top to bottom, it still looks stylishly coordinated and fashionably intentional.

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Another style tip is to boldly steer away from the expected black, white and gold color combination all together. Instead, be unconventional and surprise your party guests or hosts with an unexpected choice like bright yellows or punchy blues. Layer with a statement necklace to add a festive vibe to your overall look. 

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Gasp, while we are excited, we still can't believe we are about to say "sayonara" to 2016! Are you ready to ring in 2017 in style? Let us know in the comment box below how you are planning to make a style statement. Cheers to more sparkling style moments!

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A Feast for Three: Making Holiday Dinners Easy and Intimate

While Christmas is often a time for families to gather and for everyone to embrace the lovely chaos of having cousins, siblings and grandkids all at once, it's also wonderful to share an intimate dinner with family in which everyone can share stories at the dining table, where all the candles are lit, the fireplace is warm and a joyful Christmas music fills the air. 

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While I personally love the chaos having come from a large extended family back in the Philippines and where Christmas is celebrated as our biggest "national holiday" (we eagerly celebrate Christmas as soon as the "ber" months arrive and traditionally wait until past mid January to pull down the Christmas decor), I also welcome a lovely intimate holiday dinner for it allows us to create our own family tradition and truly reflect the meaning of the season. 

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To create a nostalgic dinner, set the right atmosphere. For us, this means lighting up the Christmas tree as well as setting up the table with glittery decor and vanilla-scented candles. Although we now live in a warmer climate where a fireplace is no longer a necessity, we still yearn the warm glow so we turned on Netflix's "Fireplace for Your Home" to help set the mood. A joyful Christmas music makes a whole lot of difference to add cheer while prepping for dinner. Make this experience a family affair so it has meaning to all. While Brian was in charge of the kitchen, Ariana and I baked caramel walnut cookies and decorated the dining table. 

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Make sure to add a centerpiece to the dining table. It doesn't have to be an expensive Pottery Barn decor, but a large candle on a gold oversized charger will do the trick. In fact, for this centerpiece, I simply used a silver tree ornament and recycled a wire pom-pom ribbon to add a little accent to an otherwise non-holiday candle. Glitter-dusted Christmas balls help finish off the overall look.

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Make every detail count. To help carry the gold theme throughout the dining table, I used gold chargers which provided a lovely contrast against a plain white plate. For a romantic touch, I wrapped the silver utensils with doilies and added a pine cone ornament on top.

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Although it's easy to get tempted to over-complicate the menu, make it festive but fuss-free by opting easy-to-fix recipes. A delicious soft Brie cheese appetizer topped with apricot jam and crushed roasted cashew nuts, for instance, makes a lovely wine pairing without the need for cooking. Plus, it's a wonderful prelude to the honey-glazed ham that is traditional during Christmas dinners.

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Ah, the desserts! Instead of store-bought pastries, Ariana and I decided to bake at home so we can have a bonding moment. Topped with ice cream, this Ghirardelli chocolate brownie with walnuts and caramel topping was the perfect way to finish off a lovely Christmas dinner!

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Finally, after an intimate family dinner, we've made another Christmas tradition by recreating Ariana's first photo by the Christmas tree. Oh goodness, it's crazy to see how time flies and how much our little one has grown! It reinforces the importance of creating a family tradition that we all can fondly remember as the years go by.

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How about you? What are some of your Christmas family traditions? While Brian thought a simple, candle-lit Christmas dinner was nostalgic of his own childhood, Ariana enjoyed the intimate family dinner really well. In fact, as I tucked her in for bed that Christmas night, her bedtime words were: "Tonight was the best night ever!" Hope yours was just as lovely. Happy holidays! 

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Cheers and Sparkles: Shopping for the Perfect Little Holiday Dress

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Oh, there's nothing more adorable than to dress up your little one for the holidays! I absolutely love the sparkly, sequined and velvety little dresses that adorn most of the shopping racks around this time of the year. I must admit, I get a little guilty spending a whole lot on children's apparel, but a lovely holiday dress is a once-a-year splurge so it can be justified even for a bargain-hunter mommy like me.  

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In shopping for Ariana's dresses, I tend to keep returning back to proven-and-tested shops I know I can rely on for adorable dresses. Two of my favorite mall destinations are H&M and Gap Kids. They can be on the pricey side, but if you know when to shop, you can get really cute but deeply discounted dresses. I suggest getting on the mailing list of your favorite children's shops so you'll be the first to get seasonal sale alerts.

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For this photo shoot, Ariana is wearing a sparkly Gap Kids dress in lime color. Although it's common to see holiday dresses with full skirts (Ariana adores them as they are perfect for a princess twirl), I love the minimalist look and structured silhouette of this dress. It's simple enough for weekend dressing, but elegant enough for a holiday party.

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Do not rule out online shopping. Many online stores carry a varied line of kids clothing. Even if I don't often shop online, I like to browse what's out there, so I sometimes stalk online shops like Thumbeline, Fawnshoppe, Sweet William and Shan and Toad

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Finally, to complete your little one's holiday look, make sure to add a few lovely accessories. Because we opted for a minimalist holiday dress, it was easy to add bead bracelets in holiday colors and a metallic multi-band headpiece to finish off Ariana's holiday look. The best accessory of all? A joyful face. Spread the holiday cheer by always leaving a trail of sparkle. From our family to yours, happy shopping and Merry Christmas to all!

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Holiday Shopping: Ultra-Cool Gift Ideas

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Oh goodness, it's nearly Christmas and you are hardly done with gift-shopping! I share your sense of mad rush. Like you, I have been scrambling while playing Santa and checking off the shopping list. Generally, I prefer the full malling experiencethere's something exhilarating about being surprised in every shop you step into and being able to smell a scented candle or touch a pashmina shawl. But have you seen the malls lately? Holy guacamole, good luck finding a parking spot!

So, in desperation, I turned to online shopping. Often, if I want some adorable gifts, I would visit Papyrus, Brookstone or AHAlife online. Imagine my surprise when I discovered ultra-cool gift ideas from Amazon! I've pulled some of my favorites in case, like me, you need last-minute holiday gift recommendations. Happy hunting for the perfect gift!     

Even for a non-coffee drinker like me, this one is super adorable! Like coffee and cream, this case cover makes for a perfect combo for your Starbucks-addicted friend's Apple iPhone 6. Venti latte with an extra shot of cuteness?

Sleep tight, sleepyhead! Nothing's cuter than an emoticon plush pillow. It's also a sneaky way to say: Sweet dreams, baby love!

Sure, we may no longer need a watch to tell time as we often have our multi-tasking smart phones to do that, but that doesn't mean we should no longer accessorize the wrist. If you have to delight a watch-loving hubby, do it stylishly with a unique, wooden watch.  

I have a pen. I have an apple. Pineapple! Shake off that viral song in your head and turn your attention to this chic Hawaiian Pineapple tumbler instead. Pina colada, anyone?

Ah, this one is as pretty as the blooming cherry blossoms! Surprise a tea-loving mother-in-law or aunt with a no-spill glass teapot.

Purrr...too cute! Nothing says cozy more than a pair of plush slippers while you sip a cup of hot chocolate by the fireplace. 

Ready, camera, action! Get your YouTube videos in HD with an ultra-cute Polaroid Cube camera.

OMG, I want one! Add humor by giving this Whatever Wall Clock to a friend or cousin who is notoriously late during after-five social meetings or family events.

Elevate selfie-taking with this INSTAX mini camera that instantly prints polaroid photos, which would later make for a lovely wall gallery.

Do you feel the force? Surrender to Master Yoda's wisdom and surprise a Star Wars superfan with this adorable Star Wars pillowcase. Now who's ready for Rouge One?

Black and White: In Perfect Harmony

There's power in black and whitethe contrast of dark and light, the energy force of yin and yang and the minimalist appeal that speaks of unmistakable chic. Like moth to fire, I often find myself drawn to black and white separates when shopping, simply because I treat them like an artist's blank canvas, you can be as creative as you want when pairing them with the right pieces.

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While I can't resist the adorable prints and colors when shopping for Ariana's clothes, I try to also invest in neutral-colored items like clean white shirts or basic black leggings because they are easier to pair with everything else adorable in her closet. A good style tip, however, is to resist the urge to keep it too basic. For instance, for this photo shoot, Ariana is wearing a white Gap Kids top designed with an adorable Peter Pan collar, giving it just the right amount of fun.

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I keep the same style rule when shopping for my own clothes. I like white tops that generally have a little fun surprise, like a tiny accent ribbon or an asymmetrical collar. Or, instead of a solid black skirt, I'd choose a lace skirt so it creates a polished yet slightly girly look.

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Because a black-and-white combo often says "safe," wear it with something edgy to take the "blah" off "basic." In other words: Don't be afraid to pull out those pair of high boots to add a punch to your overall look. 

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How about you? Do you adore black and white clothes as well? Or are you "allergic" to anything basic? If you love the minimalist look, how do you keep black and white chic?

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Mommy's Style: Kenar Long-Sleeved Zip-Up Shirt | The Limited Lace Pencil Skirt | Nine West High Boots

Ariana's Style: Gap Kids White Shirt with Peter Pan Collar | H&M Black Leggings | Cynthia Rowley Mary Janes

Location: Hyde Park and Downtown Tampa | Photography: Brian Johnson

SHOP BLACK & WHITE INSPIRATIONS BELOW:

Hello Kitty Love!

Oh, Hello Kitty, why are you too adorable to resist? It's safe to say the Hello Kitty obsession in our house is one that has been a generational hand-me-down. I have always adored Hello Kitty even when I was Ariana's age, and now that she is old enough to explore her expanding circle of imaginary friends, she has discovered my ageless feline friend after stumbling onto an old Hello Kitty TV series on Netflix. 

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So when Ariana wanted to know more about Hello Kitty, it was mommy's cue to do some spy digging. Do you know that Hello Kitty's real name is Kitty White? Meow, isn't that adorable? Although Hello Kitty was created by Sanrio, a Japanese company, our kitty friend is actually British as she was born in the suburbs of London. No wonder she is such a fine and proper lady. 

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Hello Kitty has not aged one bit. Who would have guessed she's now 42 years old? That's right, she was born on November 1, 1974 and lives with her parents and twin sister, Mimmy. The fact that she's petite as can be (five apples tall), she could forever pass as anyone's favorite third grader.

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In the Sanrio world, Hello Kitty is surrounded by her critter friends, including a squirrel named Rory, and a close childhood friend named Dear Daniel. In Ariana's world, Sparklya doggy purseoften tags along with her when shopping, like when we shopped for her adorable Hello Kitty peplum dress and ballet flats at H&M.

Watch Ariana's Hello Kitty Snapchat VIDEO at The Gospel of Beauty's Instagram PAGE.

Watch Ariana's Hello Kitty Snapchat VIDEO at The Gospel of Beauty's Instagram PAGE.

If you want the treasure trove of Hello Kitty finds, your next shopping stop should be at sanrio.com. This online store offers every Hello Kitty collectible you can imagine, such as the Hello Kitty cushion and Iolani x Hello Kitty Mini Tote: Gold Pineapple collection (shown above). Apart from toys and apparel, Kohl's is another place where you may find a few Hello Kitty surprises, including the Rechargeable Bluetooth Speaker featured here. Should you be near Orlando, stop by the adorable Hello Kitty Shop at Universal Orlando Resort, which opened just early this year. But if you happen to be the real-deal collector, take a peek at that precious Hello Kitty with heart Swarovski crystal. Purrr, we want one!

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Finally, don't just shop, but experience Hello Kitty. For one, we made it a tradition to stop by the Hello Kitty Cafe inside Incheon's International Airport in Seoul, Korea each time we head back home to the Philippines. Ariana's first stopover was when she was barely two years old. If you don't have any international trips planned anytime soon, catch the roving Hello Kitty Cafe when it happens to pop up in your city.

Winter Wonderland: Adorable Coats to Get Your Little One Ready for Snow

Ariana, nearly two years of age, was all bundled up while enjoying her first snow.

Ariana, nearly two years of age, was all bundled up while enjoying her first snow.

Now that we've relocated to a city with warmer climate, we no longer have to deal with snow and frigid temperatures. Expectedly, Mommy, who's built for sunshine, is happy. Daddy, whose idea of a happy place involves sunsets and tiki bars on the beach, is living his slice of paradise. But the little one, who once had a taste of the joys of playing in the snow, has forever protested at the idea of moving to a place without snowflakes or Frosty the snowman.

While I recalled how glorious it was to first experience snow and marvel at its beauty when branches were covered with fluffy flakes, I personally do not miss the shivering cold and the morning routine of defrosting the car windows before heading out to work. But if there's one thing I miss, it's the chance to wear the always-luxurious winter fashion. I miss the lovely winter coats, adorable scarves and pretty pair of boots, most especially on Ariana whose lambie winter hat and furry coat way back when were too adorable for words. 

So even when it's no longer required, I still browse through the winter essentials for kids to remind us of what we're missing and that winter, if only for its fashion, is not that bad after all.

 

Clockwise: Gray Hooded Cape | Pink Knit Coat | Long fleecy bomber jacket | photos and jackets by Zara

Clockwise: Gray Hooded Cape | Pink Knit Coat | Long fleecy bomber jacket | photos and jackets by Zara

clockwise: Nautical button 3/4 length coat | furry hooded coat | colorful faux fur jacket |  photos and jackets by Zara

clockwise: Nautical button 3/4 length coat | furry hooded coat | colorful faux fur jacket |  photos and jackets by Zara