March 30, 2015

My First IKEA Experience

Filed under: Shopping,Travel — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

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I’m not going to lie: I was dreading the trip to IKEA. Big, overwhelming, crowded and just generally too much — this is what I was expecting. It just looks intimidating when pulling into the parking lot. Oversized and intimidating. Amy was on a mission to buy some items for her salon, Red Beauty Lounge, and I was tagging along for the adventure. Turns out, I love IKEA and will definitely be heading back there when it is time to accessorize my home.

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The fact that Amy had been there before and was on a mission to retrieve very specific items definitely helped me not get too overwhelmed.

What? They have a childcare center in the store. And a restaurant. They are definitely expecting you to stay a while.

What? They have a childcare center in the store. And a restaurant. They are definitely expecting you to stay a while.

Amy was "experienced" with the process at IKEA.

Amy was “experienced” with the process at IKEA.

Ok, now we are ready.

Ok, now we are ready. Oh, and she matches the store colors.

With her long legs, I was practically running to keep up where her speed walk through the store. As we went, she explained how the system worked. Including the arrows that direct you through the store. Never veer from the arrows, says Amy.

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We had fun along the way, and I even found a few things to include in the shopping basket.

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About 10 minutes from Little Rock, Amy realized that she forgot to buy this chair. We will just have to put it on the shopping list for our next visit.

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My stuff.

My stuff.

We made it to the checkout line with a full shopping cart and a flatbed dolly.

We made it to the checkout line with a full shopping cart and a flatbed dolly.

Rather than driving the car around to the front to load up, Amy decided to walk the massive parking lot pushing our purchases on the dolly.

Rather than driving the car around to the front to load up, Amy decided to walk the massive parking lot pushing our purchases on the dolly.

Our IKEA haul. And the massive mirror fit in the back of Amy's car. I've never seen her more excited.

Our IKEA haul. And the massive mirror fit in the back of Amy’s car. I’ve never seen her more excited.

March 29, 2015

This Little Lady Went to Market

Filed under: Beauty,Culture,Current Events,Personal,Shopping,Travel — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

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Floors and floors of shopping. Miles and miles of walking.

For years I have heard people talk about going “to market” to see the latest trends for the upcoming season and buy for their stores. It always seemed so exclusive and exciting. So I jumped at the chance to go this weekend with my friend Amy Hester who owns Red Beauty Lounge, a salon that sells gifts. A road trip to Dallas for shopping and some girl time sounded perfect.

In the center of the #dallasmarket. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Market is overwhelming, to say the least. Especially for two market virgins like Amy and me. Spread across three buildings, the tallest of which had 15 floors made it hard to figure out where to start. But first there was the parking dilemma: we didn’t even know where we were supposed to go in, so we were having trouble figuring out where to park. As the navigator with Google at my fingertips, I discovered $8 valet parking. Best decision of the day.

I had envisioned a trade show-like set up. And while there were temporary stores that were similar to trade booths, most of the vendors were set up in shared showrooms, behind glass windows and doors like permanent stores. We were on the hunt for jewelry and cosmetics. While the map directed us to the seventh floor for jewelry, it wasn’t the artisan jewelry we were seeking. We found what we were really looking for in the temporary booths and buried within gift stores on other floors.

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Not what we wanted.

Found what we were looking for and Amy makes some orders!

Found what we were looking for and Amy makes some orders!

Over the course of the six hours that we made our way through the buildings and stores, we walked a mile and a half. Amy and I worked out a system where I scouted while she made orders, then led her to the next vendor that I thought she would like. It was a good system. One catch: I had a “courtesy” badge, so not all the vendors took me seriously since I wasn’t the one with the buying power. I wanted to go all Pretty Woman on them and say, “You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huge.” But I resisted.

Notice the "courtesy" title.

Notice the “courtesy” title. And Dean shouldn’t have an “s.”

Of course, I could be found sitting a lot while Amy shopped. I am still having some pretty bad back pain.

Feet up. In my current favorite sneakers and my new favorite camera bag/purse.

Feet up. In my current favorite sneakers and my new favorite camera bag/purse.

At the end of the day, we felt as if we had been successful. Though we learned a lot that Amy can apply to her next market trip. And we decided that the Dallas Market Center app could use some significant improvements to provide a better shopping experience.

We were exhausted by the time we got back to our hotel and had a little slumber party complete with wine, pizza delivery to the room and pay-per-view movies. It was perfect.

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March 28, 2015

Music Makes Memories

Filed under: Advertising,Marketing,Video — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

There are two commercials running right now — both for insurance — that I stop and watch every time they play. It is the music in both that initially drew me in, but it is the clever execution that keeps me watching and giggling every time I watch. Yesterday I was getting ready for work and I could hear the tv in the living room that my husband was watching. The UnitedHealthcare spot below came on and I heard him laugh when it was over.

I am not currently shopping for insurance of any kind, but I remembered the brand names associated with both of these commercials. When I heard one connect with my husband, I started thinking about why these two were so memorable to us:

  • Music. Both “Push It” and “Time of My Life” are songs from my teenage years. I remember them fondly. I could sing all the words to Salt-N-Pepa’s songs and I must have watched Dirty Dancing 300 times.
  • Clean Humor. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for dirty humor. But these commercials are funny without being stupid, silly or dirty. I don’t feel guilty smiling when I watch these spots.
  • Surprise. I haven’t seen Salt-N-Pepa in years. The Geico commercial would not have been as good if it was the song without the artists. The UnitedHealthcare spot wouldn’t have been as funny if the couple had not crashed on the table. It made it believable and something we could all connect with because it could happen. Making the perfect lift would have been funny, too, but not as memorable.

Having worked in the advertising business for 16 years, I have become jaded and cynical when it comes to viewing ads. It is nice to come across a couple of spots that can still connect with me.

March 24, 2015

Book Review: Better and Faster

Filed under: Books,SXSW,That's Just Cool — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

I experienced Jeremy Gutsche at SXSW this year. I say experienced because he was a performer and I was pleased to have been on the first row of this performance. I walked straight from his session to the SXSW bookstore to purchase his Better and Faster book. I read it cover-to-cover in one day.

Rather than espousing theory and principles for building businesses from ideas, Gutsche provides real examples that are not the overused Apple, Google and Facebook stories of success. Those brands are included, of course. But there are more stories about individuals with a solution to a problem that grew into a business than there are big brands that everyday people can’t identify with as a real opportunity.

The theme throughout the book is that change will happen and spotting trends on the horizon will keep you or your business relevant. The book provides charts, diagrams and steps for identifying business opportunity. I was inspired and making notes as I went along. And Gutsche’s Trend Hunter website is going to be a new regular read for me.

March 23, 2015

Book Review: #GIRLBOSS

Filed under: Books,Business,Entrepreneurship — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

I started and finished #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso in one sitting on a Saturday morning. Sophia is not only a great storyteller, but has a fascinating story to tell. She is honest, doesn’t try to be something she is not and her writing style makes her feel more like a friend than a CEO of a company she built by herself.

I am not a Nasty Girl customer, but will certainly be shopping there for my next purchases if for no other reason than I want to support a company that I like. The style is pretty awesome, too. At 36 years old, I’m just not always confident I can pull off some of those looks!

Though Sophia didn’t start out with aspirations to be a public figure and role model, she has embraced those roles for entrepreneurs of all types. She literally started selling clothes on eBay because she had a knack for finding vintage pieces and needed to make a rent payment every month. Startup stories like this are the best ones, in my opinion. It seems that the startup community is now too focused on technology, having a quick growth (and exit) plan, and quick frankly, too full of young, arrogant guys. Sophia bucks all these trends, plus many other “requirements” to start a new business, which is what makes her an inspiration.

At the core of the advice she gives throughout the book, the consistent message is work hard. This is so refreshing coming from someone who falls squarely into the “millennial” generation that thinks they should be given rewards rather than earning and seemingly eschews hard work and starting at the bottom to gradually make a way to the top, only if it is deserved.

This book was practical, but entertaining. It was proof that starting with nothing but hunger, a passion, and a willingness to work your ass off can lead to success.

March 22, 2015

Virtual Reality

Filed under: Culture,That's Just Cool,Video — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

I am not ashamed to embarrass myself, apparently. At the office on Friday, our digital team came together to experience Google Cardboard’s virtual reality for the first time. I never thought I would enjoy the experience, or really even understand it. I was wrong. Though still not perfect, the experience was pretty cool. And fun. While most of our digital team members were reticent to get too into it for fear of embarrassment (especially since we were livestreaming through Meerkat), I went all in.

Virtual Reality Dance from Emily Reeves on Vimeo.

March 21, 2015

A Small Bag of Perfect Makeup

Filed under: Beauty,Personal,Style — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

I am known to carry a lot of luggage because I want to be prepared for any situation. I have recently been working to lighten my load given back pain, shoulder pain and just the general feeling that my “stuff” is more of a burden than a resource.

It is for these reasons that I was so interested in the new makeup line, Stowaway. The tiny tubes are perfect for carrying around, tucking nicely into my bag. There are not too many choices, which makes shopping easy and keeps me from buying more than just what I need. On top of all those positives, the products are affordable. So I bought a kit and took it with me on a seven-day trip to Austin for SXSW.

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The Stowaway products did not disappoint. I used them everyday and only added loose powder, an eye shadow base, and a neutral nude-colored eye shadow from my full size makeup collection to complete my daily look. Now back from my trip, I am still using the products as my daily makeup. I feel like I am wearing less makeup and have a fresh and clean look.

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The products were created by makeup artists and it is clear they thought about exactly what is really needed, how to keep your skin healthy and creating sizes of products that you could actually use before they expired. I can already tell these are products that I will buy again and again.

March 20, 2015

I Take My Handbags Seriously

Filed under: Photography,Style,Technology — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

I don’t think I am alone in my search for the perfect travel bag. For the last 15 years, I have traveled for work and have purchased countless bags to hold my personal essentials plus work needs (laptop, cords, notebook, pens, etc.). And I have never been satisfied. I have tried two bags — one for personal, one for business — the right combination of bags can work, but the wrong combination can be disastrous. Putting everything in one bag was too heavy and the bag typically looked bigger than me (I decided if anyone commented on the large size of my bag, it was decidedly too big for me). Then, different types of travel require different needs from bags: business meetings, day trips, conferences, foreign travel, etc. Through all my purchases, travels, trials, sore shoulders, aching back and foul moods, I can confidently say I am an expert on purses and business bags for women’s travel. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I know a lot about handbags.

I can look at a bag and tell you if it will be comfortable on your shoulder for a long period of time – rolled vachetta leather is beautiful, but that stitched seam is going to dig into your shoulder eventually. If it will fit underneath an airline seat comfortably — too structured and it won’t slide under, too loose and everything slides around inside. If it will hold a 13″ laptop and all of your personal essentials without having to unpack the entire purse to get to one thing — getting it in can be a work of art, getting it out gracefully is quite another. If it is stylish and feminine. There are a ton of bags that are great for travel, but they are ugly. There are a ton of bags that are stylish, feminine and functional, but they are terrible for travel. It is surprisingly hard to find one that works for both. Many have tried. All have failed.

At this point, you might think I am leading up to revealing my perfect bag. But sadly, that is not the case. I have yet to find my “perfect for everything” bag. Instead, I have found a series of bags that have dedicated use cases. The perfect travel handbag, however, remains elusive.

The biggest challenge in my search for the perfect travel bag is self-inflicted, of course. I take an “always be prepared” approach to life. Which means that I carry a lot with me on a daily basis, and especially when I travel. Through the years, I have managed to cull the items I carry, and technology and innovation have helped as items have gotten smaller, lighter and have multiple functions now.

I am traveling back from Austin, TX as I write this post, so travel bags are top-of-mind. My carry-on bags surround me as I sit in the airport and they are most definitely less than ideal. I am carrying a slim Tumi black nylon backpack for my computer, notebook and purse essentials (this one isn’t exactly what I have, but close). For work travel when I need a separate bag for my computer, I am a big fan of this backpack. But it does not hold a lot.

The second bag I am carrying-on is a bag inside a bag. This is because the bag I chose as my second carry-on could not hold everything I needed, but I wanted it along as my conference bag (and I love it — the Kelly Moore Saratoga — more on it below). So, I put it inside a large canvas Landsend boat tote (and yes, my name is embroidered on it), then threw all the other miscellaneous items in on top. As much as I love the Landsend boat totes, they are not good for airline travel (in my opinion) and I would normally never have carried it this way. But I was desperate, tired from packing for a seven-day trip and it worked.

My requirements for the perfect travel handbag:

  • Big enough to hold a 13″ computer.
  • Structured enough so that things stay approximately where they are placed in the bag.
  • Internal pockets for easy access to phone and keys. And big enough to hold an iPhone 6+ securely.
  • Comfortable straps to wear over my shoulder like a tote. Optional cross-body strap that can really be used as a cross-body strap – strong, slightly padded, long and adjustable.
  • Zip top.
  • Lightweight, but durable.

Things my travel bag must be big enough to hold:

  • 13″ computer and charger
  • iPhone 6+ and charger
  • Wallet
  • Reusable glass water bottle
  • Notebook and pen
  • Snack (granola bar or small bag of nuts)
  • Sunglasses in hard case
  • Glasses in hard case
  • Make-up bag with: pocket-sized Kleenex pack, chapstick, lipstick x3, small powder compact, hand lotion, small pill box, small brush.
  • Kindle e-reader
  • Keys (3 sets: car, house, office)
  • Headphones
  • Mints
  • Koozie
  • Scarf
  • DSLR camera, sometimes
  • Tech accessories, anything from an iPhone tripod, to phone camera lenses, etc.

I will save myself the embarrassment of showing all the bags I have purchased and tried over the years. There are too many and entirely too much money has been spent on these bags. But for the right bag, I would pay more than a reasonable person should. I want a bag that works and get compliments. Is that too much to ask?

One purchase that accompanied me to SXSW and one that really feel good about is the Kelly Moore Saratoga camera bag in grey. I recently made a serious upgrade to my camera game and bought my first DSLR. I was looking for a bag to carry it in that wasn’t an ugly man-ish camera bag. Kelly Moore makes wonderfully designed, feminine and multi-functional camera bags. I love the Saratoga because it looks like a purse, and can actually be used as a purse when you remove the camera padding. The straps are cushioned and comfortable. It has a padded cross-body strap as a carry option. And when I learned that the company is based out of Ruston, Louisiana, I was sold (I am from Shreveport, LA so it felt like I was supporting my hometown because it is close-ish to Ruston!). While the bag wasn’t big enough to hold all my travel essentials, it was the perfect size for a day bag.

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I really can’t say enough good things about the Kelly Moore bags and website. They show pictures of the bags from every angle, being carried different ways by different models, with stuff in them and empty. It is an online bag-buyers dream site. I am seriously considering the Kelly Moore Ponder in black as my next purchase in hopes that it can be my ultimate travel bag.