LAST WEEK REFLECTIONS: New York, New York

My last full week in this amazing city is at a close. In my dreams, I'd be wearing a tutu, Manolo Blahnik's and running around fancy bars drinking Cosmos. In actual fact, I'm halfway through my last round of laundry, living off a mattress in an empty apartment and eating mega-size bags of mint M&M's (which I'm half relieved I've only just discovered and half devastated in equal measure). The biggest conclusion of living in New York: It's nowhere near as glamorous as you might think. Yet I fear I'm also a walking cliche...here's why:

Coffee
I'm sure the fact New York is known as the city that never sleeps is purely down to the amount of caffeine its inhabitants drink. Oh, and to be clear, for any New Yorkers reading this, I'm talking about "cwoffee" as you guys pronounce it. Having been a latecomer to developing the taste buds for coffee (tangent: I actually discovered it in Costa Rica two years ago when the tea I requested arrived as black coffee), I can't quite believe how much I rely on it to get through the day here. On my New York Bucket List, I had set out a search for "the best coffee of my life" and think I've settled with "the most coffee of my life". I anticipate shakes and headaches from the withdrawal - can someone remind me that's not an aversion to the UK when I'm back?

Neck Ache
The reality that I'm leaving is creeping in and I've noticed I'm looking around more as if to soak up the sights, sounds and smells (though some of which I'll be glad to leave behind, like walking through a doggy urinal twice a day...particularly a treat in the summer heat!). But with skyscrapers all around, working on the 16th floor in NoMad and living on the 23rd floor in FiDi, I can't imagine how flat the rest of the world will feel now by comparison. Having got somewhat lost in the day-to-day routine of life, I've forgotten until recently that I see the Empire State Building on the walk to work, have a view of One World Trade Center from my apartment window and walk to the gym past Lady Liberty herself. As much as I've moaned about the rental prices here, I am savouring every last glimpse out the window and commute to work to soak up that these incredible icons that I can, at one time, call 'home'.

THROWBACK: NEW YORK IN THE SNOW

F.R.I.E.N.D.S.
If ever there was an appropriate need to binge watch series one through ten, it seems now is my time to pay homage to Manhattan (shot in a studio in LA, I know but shhhh). I'm echoing Chandler and Joey in Season Four when they've had all their possessions stolen from their apartment and their living room contains nothing but a canoe. Instead of said canoe, I have a mattress and I've swapped Mr A for Rachel, Monica and the gang. Adulting at its best.

Let Go
In a desperate bid to be organised and prepare for a smooth transition back to life in London, we had our belongings collected for shipping at the beginning of February. Turns out a studio apartment would have been adequate all along (damn!) and the husband is now passionate about a minimal living space (this could end badly!). But "letting go" hasn't been an issue for our American household items thanks to a little discovery. Let Go is an app that allows you to sell your items quickly, with no service charge and no interaction with the US postal system required. The rules: (i) Only speak via the app (ii) Meet in public (iii) Pay in cash (it's less dodgy that it sounds, I promise). It has literally been a dream for selling on items we aren't shipping home... as a result, my last weekend here I have no kettle, plates or TV - how will this Brit survive??!
I have no idea when I/we'll be back to this city and I'm also curious how I'll feel about New York once I've left it behind after this experience. What I do know is that I am incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity and, more than that, a husband that has come along for the ride! How lucky am I that when I was mid-brushing my teeth and he was in the shower, and I blurted out "What do you think about moving to New York?" and he said, "Errr, yeah, okay!"

New York is not for the faint-hearted and I honestly couldn't have done it without him - and luckily I have his 12,000 photographs as memories of this awesome chapter in our lives. I also have new-found respect for owning a washing machine. *Waits for elevator*

HOME TIME LOOMSIt feels like only yesterday I was writing a similar post at the end of our five-month honeymoon. Did you catch it? What a lot can happen in a year! 

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Mrs A to B Review: Benefit Bad Gal Bang Mascara

A $20m influencer campaign, a gravity-defying formula and 26 hour full-blast volume - really?! How out-of-this-world can a mascara be?! Mrs A to B challenges this to infinity and beyond...or, instead puts it to the test of the working world of New York City. Same, same. First admission to make is despite a career in marketing, I was totally sucked into the hype around this product and found myself in a queue at Sephora behind a long line of women also jumping on the Bad-Gal bandwagon. With this review series, I like to delve into a little about the brand and the how the product has been marketed before getting stuck into the results - scroll down if you want to skip to the conclusion!

The Back Story
Raised 'brows everywhere thanks to Benefit, or at least that's what I know them to do best. Chuck in the Pore-fessional Primer and Hoola Matte Bronzer and you've got yourself some makeup bag heroes. A very trustworthy brand in the beauty arena with a loyal fan-base looking for something a little more premium than your Rimmel and Revlon of the world. What I hadn't known is the history of the brand until I came to writing this review...

The business was founded by twin sisters in San Francisco who flipped a coin in 1976 to let fate determine whether a beauty boutique or casserole cafe would be the girl's future empire. Lucky for us, the beauty gods were in our favour! The charm of the brand - then named 'The Face Place' - was its quick-fix solutions for beauty dilemmas. They launched with a lip and cheek stain now known as "Benetint" and remains their bestselling product, although it was first created for an exotic dancer who was in need of a nipple tint! Is that a raised eyebrow I detect?
The Promise
  • 36 hour full-blast volume...you know, for all those 36 hour benders you go on! Or maybe the idea is to last the entire weekend without reapplication? Marketing at its best peeps!
  • 90% saw dramatic volume
  • 94% said it instantly lifted lashes
  • 92% said it lengthened lashes
  • ProVitamin B5 known to fuel thickness & strength
  • Smudge-proof & flake-free
  • Water-resistant
Have I been living in a cave or does it seem that this brand has gone ALL OUT with its marketing claims? Not only have they gone to the four corners of the world with the glitterarti of influencers, they've gone beyond, quite literally into space, for the aero-particles in their formulation for some serious BANG to shout about.

The Application
For me, this is the best part. The application is fantastic - it's genuinely a great product to apply starting with the really ergonomic wand design which achieves great volume with just one coat. I have never known my lashes to look so defined! Plus, it still adds generous volume avoiding the pit-fall of clumping. The flexi brush head helps get to even the tricky corner lashes - I literally find the application mesmerising and *spoiler* that keeps me going back!
The First Impression
Wow. Are those my lashes? Love. Love. Love.

The Ongoing Impression
Now several weeks in, my previously owned and perfectly fine Lancome and Too Faced mascaras have been relegated to the bronzer-dust-covered bottom of my make-up bag and haven't seen the light of day since. However, I do have one complaint and that's the broken promise of "smudge-proof" and "flake-free" as I find myself with a five o'clock shadow under my eyes. Bearing in mind my eyes are shielded behind reading glasses, I find this rather disappointing! But come to actually wanting to remove the mascara and you'll find yourself with a 36 hour attempt to remove every trace! A dose of perseverance is required and despite my best efforts, and that of my eye-make-up remover, I still wake up looking like a panda! I'm quite certain that my first application of the week still resides on my lashes by Friday!
Would I recommend it to my best friend / sister / mother? 
I'd say try before you buy at a Benefit store to see if it's just my eyes/eyelashes that smudge.

Would I repurchase it?
I am slightly addicted so I have to say yes. Whilst my quest for utter smudge-proof daily mascara is ongoing, for definition and volume from this product is second to none. 

What product would you like me to road-test next?

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How to make a big decision

Waking up to twenty WhatsApp messages from a friend in need is how I woke up this morning. Promptly followed by an emergency FaceTime session. Said friend has labelled me "the wise one" - a wholly unjustified title for being her go-to sounding board. An ear to chew off. I love that my friends come to me for advice, after all, who doesn't love to help out a loved one and, as the saying goes, two heads are better than one. 

I realise that amongst my girlfriends, we have all made rather big decisions lately; accepting proposals, moving abroad, buying a house, changing careers, going travelling - to name a few! Some decisions are instinctive and take a split second to make - like for me atop Bath Abbey when Mr A surprised the hell out of me by going down on one knee - but other times I can't for the life of me make my mind up, frequently revolving around what to have for dinner more than anything!
But if you've read my post Living in New York, you will know I* have made a rather big decision recently having been at a crossroad of whether to stay in New York for another year or move back to London. It wasn't an easy decision or one that was taken lightly so I have some recent experience of deciphering various factors, battling my head vs. my heart, and also dealing with people who like to project their opinion on you without asking for it. Always a delight.

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw, “it got me to thinking...” How do you make a big decision? 

Over the years I have come to rely on a few mechanics to help me work out what to do. I'm sure most of it should be credited to motherly advice. My Mum is the ultimate "wise one" and is there for me on a daily basis as well as setting up her own Life Coaching business to extend her talent to more than just her daughters! But here goes with my unprofessional, yet friendly, advice for helping you make that decision and being happy with the one you make.

FOR & AGAINST
Playing to my love of stationary, pass me a notebook and let me draw up a 'Pros' and 'Cons' list. I'm a visual person so this can really help see how both sides of the argument weigh up against each other. Getting all those whirling thoughts written down in black and white can really help un-muddle your head. But it's not just a case of the side with the most items wins. With everything in writing, you can sort through each point on the paper and tackle the negatives to determine if they are deal-breakers. To pull on a light-hearted reference, do you remember in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. when Ross is torn between Rachel and Julie and, with Chandler and Joey's [terrible judgement and] encouragment, writes a list but all he can write under Julie's column is, 'She's not Rachel' (or 'Rachem' as the true scene plays out owing to Chandler's poor typing skills).

THE MIRROR TEST
"What would you do if you were me?" It's one thing to talk things through with a third party for an outsider's perspective but it's a very different thing to ask them to tell you what to do. That's a dangerous question to ask and usually it's never that simple for anyone to answer. Sometimes, even if opinions are given, I suggest you hunt out a mirror and ask yourself. Being honest with yourself face to face with your reflection will act as a filter for any bullsh*t - if you can't hold your own eye contact or you get a niggling feeling when you do (more on that later), you'll often find the answer staring you right in the face. It's a lesson I learnt as a teenager: if you can look yourself in the eye and know you are being honest then that's being true to yourself. Other people might not like your answer or agree with your decision, but if you can sit comfortably with the reflection in the mirror, you know you are on the right path.

GUT FEELING
We've all heard the saying, "Go with your gut" - the clue is in the title here and the answer lies in your stomach. Sometimes butterflies can flit around in there and other times it can feel like your stomach is lined with lead - these are pretty clear physical indications of how your body feels one way or the other. I've tried in the past saying out loud different answers and seeing how my body responds - is it heavy with dread or fizzing with excitement? I spoke to a friend of mine about this when she went wedding dress shopping and found herself torn between two dresses - I said put one of them on, close your eyes and see if you can envisage yourself walking down the aisle towards your Groom and wait for the feeling in the pit if your stomach. Then switch dresses and repeat. The result was a purchase and a very happy Bride.

THE REGISTER ✅❎
Sometimes you can feel like you're going around in circles - some days feeling certain that Answer A is the right decision and the next day you can do a complete 180! I've even spoken to friends about doing this when they've been in an unhappy relationship; at the end of each day, reflect on whether it was a good day or a bad day. Set yourself a date in the future and keep a log of ticks and crosses, happy or sad faces, sunshine or moons, whatever the symbol you get the idea! On that future date you work out if the positive or negative results take the majority. Life is too short to be unhappy. Similarly, when making a big decision such as deciding to change careers or move away, make a note of which decision you're veering towards on a daily basis and then take a look back at the general consensus.

To put all of these into context, when we were contemplating staying in New York, between us we could only write down three reasons to stay vs. the tens of reasons to move home and none of them could stack up against the pull of friends and family. I tried talking myself into staying of an evening whilst taking off my make-up in the mirror but I couldn't believe my reflection. Plus, the prospect of moving home literally filled me with excitement. Whilst my head told me to stick it out for another year, over a three week period, there were more ❎ against life in New York than ✅ and how could I sign up to a year full of more  than ? There was no surefire way of making that decision, we were both on a roller coaster - sometimes stopping at the same destination, other times making loop-the-loops in different directions but once we had verbally said to each other the case is strong for heading home, we started to feel at peace with it and the pendulum swinging came to a halt - that was the right decision for us.

Of course, these aren't foolproof mechanics for everyone or indeed every situation, but these have worked for me over the years and recent months. If you or someone you know is currently weighing up a big decision along the lines of whether to switch careers, relocate or dust off the backpack for an adventure or two, I hope this post may be of some help. If only it was always so simple as ‘Should I buy that pair of shoes?’ - that answer then is, of course, always YES!


*Funnily enough Mr A to B also plays a part in our decision making. That's one of the fun qualities of marriage but as the blog is called Mrs A to B, I like to pretend in this little corner of the Internet that I wear the trousers and call all of the shots around here.

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