Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cece's Curls: My First Blowout at Hair Rules Salon

Last month, when I found out I would be co-hosting an afterparty/cocktail with Curly Nikki (HERE), I knew I wanted to really jazz up my style with a fierce 'do. Since going natural back in November 2010, I had devoted myself to keeping my hair free of heat for an entire year to allow it to grow. Well, I made it! And to celebrate, I went to curly hair expert Dickey of Hair Rules Salon.

My inspiration for the evening was fierce natural diva Tracee Ellis Ross:
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Confessions of a Shopaholic: Top 5 Cyber Monday Deals

For those of you who ventured out at the crack of dawn (literally) on Friday for the in-store Black Friday frenzy, I tip my hats to you. I do hope that you didn't have to endure the grueling agony I experienced that day. Yes, I'm dramatic. No, I didn't lose a loved one. But I did lose some valuable merchandise and for that, I'm thoroughly disappointed. Sadly, a bag of my just-purchased goods was stolen from me on Black Friday. Blame it on being in a crowded mall at midnight when the masses were out. But those goods are long gone, and so is my once undying love for Black Friday. I'm now happily a fan of Cyber Monday. I'd much rather do my in-store shopping when the crazies aren't running rampant. With that, here's my Top 5 List of Cyber Monday deals I think you guys will care about:
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LoveBrownSugar's 2011 Holiday Wishlist

These are the goodies I hope I find under my tree this year. From Beyonce's smooth moves to Jimmy Choo's signature scent, here's all I want for Christmas besides my two front teeth...

1. Jimmy Choo fragrance, Saks.com, $70.00
2. Cambridge Satchel in Fluro Yellow, Cambridge Satchel, $155.00
3. Nikon 1 J1 Camera, Nikon, $641.95 
4. Elements of 4: Beyonce Live in Roseland DVD, Walmart, $14.88
5. Nars Blush in Orgasm, Sephora, $27
6. Combined Fur Waistcoast, Zara, $99.99
7. Messeca Charmene Flannel Cuffed Wedge Boot, ASOS, $409.05

What's on your holiday wishlist? Soundoff below!
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Talk That Talk: Top 5 Tips For Kissable Lips

Aside from my obsession with Rihanna's new album release Talk That Talk this week, I've been thinking about the importance of beauty tips that are catered specifically to the cold & harsh winter months. Considering the dead of winter will be upon us soon, now is as great a time as any to chat it up about winter beauty must-haves. Often overlooked in the winter beauty regimen, the lips are a focal point on the face and deserve a little extra TLC when the temperature decides to pop, lock & drop. Here are 5 important tips for maintaining kissable, pucker-worthy lips:

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

LoveBrownSugar Feature: Vixen of the Day

Special thanks to VIBE Vixen for featuring me as their Vixen of the Day today! I'm super excited and I'll actually be contributing as a VBlog contributor for them starting next week! Of course, you guys will be first to know when my stories are posted. In the mean time, feel free to check out my story on Vixen!

Photo Credit: Brandon Haynes
Dress: H&M, Shoes: Steve Madden, Bag: Elliot Luca, Ring: H&M

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kickin' It: Rachel Roy Beauty Launch

Last Thursday, I was invited to the Rachel Roy designer studio to celebrate the launch of her new beauty palette; the Rachel Roy Eye Shadow collection! Of course, I accepted the invitation with excitement and headed to the studio to see what Rachel has in store for her new collection. For someone with such a strong presence in the fashion industry, it's a major leap to to jump into the world of beauty. But thankfully, as Rachel Roy assured us, she's no stranger to beauty. She has a mean smokey eye and it paid off. Here's what I got into at the event:
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cover Girls: Olsen Twins for VOGUE + Bey & Solange Best Dressed!

I was all too excited to see this morning that some of my favorite style icons will be featured in VOGUE's Best Dressed Issue this year! First, I'm obsessed with the boho-chic Olsen twins.

I've always been huge fans of their style (yes, since the days of Full House!) and I'm actually surprised that this is their first ever VOGUE cover. Congrats to them! As stylish sisters and budding entrepreneurs, I truly look up to them. And they look faboosh on the cover!

Even better, this year's VOGUE Best Dressed theme centers around "Dynamic Duos" - basically the flyest & most fashionable siblings! Head to VOGUE.com, and you can vote for your favorite set of stylish sisters. Topping the list as the only siblings of color are my absolute faves Beyonce & Solange Knowles!

  They'll definitely have my vote. Here's the full list of nominees:

  1. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
  2. Elle and Dakota Fanning
  3. Claire, Virginie, Jenna, and Prisca Courtin-Clarins
  4. Ruby and Lily Aldridge
  5. Poppy and Cara Delevingne
  6. Bianca and Coco Brandolini
  7. Beyoncé and Solange Knowles
  8. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon
  9. Pippa Middleton and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
  10. Kate and Rooney Mara
Which set of siblings will have your vote?

Source: NY Mag
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ten Days in Ecuador: Day 10

I'm off to New York today. Before I left I had a great morning of sight-seeing. I got a chance to go shopping in downtown Guayaquil and really see the city. It's a holiday here plus it's Sunday, so everything opens up pretty late. I originally left the hotel with the intent of buying some Ecuadorian chocolate, but my cab driver really took me on a tour of the whole city.

 First, we visited the Parc Iguanas in Guayaquil. It's a small square in the middle of the city where some of the largest iguanas live and roam free. They're huge, seriously!

 I can tell just by looking around that there's so much more I haven't explored here. So many shops I haven't been to, and activities I haven't done. I guess that means I'll have to come back to Ecuador! Until, then I'll have my pics & blog posts to remind me of my amazing time here.

Ten Days in Ecuador sponsored by Latitude International & LAN Airlines. 
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ten Days in Ecuador: Day 9

9am: Today is my last full day in Ecuador! I'll be heading back to the states tomorrow afternoon. We'll visit two museums today and then start heading to Ecuador's largest port city - Guayaquil! I've been dying to get to Guayaquil, it's the biggest city in Ecuador. While here. we're supposed to take a trip to a cocoa hacienda to see how fresh chocolate is made - yum.

Museum Sumpa (museum of lovers)

11am: We just finished up at the Lover's Museum. I'm normally not a big museum person, but it was pretty interesting. I think my mind is more focused on getting to Guayaquil. Can't wait to see the city.

Tapestry at Lover's Museum
My friend wanted to take this tapestry home, but of course it's not for sale. It's a permanent fixture at the museum!

6pm: Tonight we're having dinner at the Hotel Oro Verde. It's an amazing luxury hotel in downtown Guayaquil. They have amazing service, and they're rated one of the best hotels in the world. I'm off to freshen up for dinner - it's my last one in the country!

Ten Days in Ecuador sponsored by Latitude International & LAN Airlines. 
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Monday, November 7, 2011

Ten Days in Ecuador: Day 8

9am: We're off to Isla de Plata today. It's supposed to be a mini version of the Galapagos Islands. We have to drive to the port then take a one hour boat ride out to the island. I'm praying to baby Jesus that it won't be canoes. If I see another canoe, I might cry. No seriously.

12pm: So it wasn't a canoe. I feel like it was worse though. We took a super bumpy ride through the ocean in a 17-passenger motorboat. It felt like a never-ending roller coaster at a water park. But without seat belts. On the bright side, we saw dolphins! They were the cutest thing ever. Just a-swimming along the ocean right near the boat. It was really amazing. Apparently our group is pretty lucky with animal spotting because these dolphins aren't supposed to still be here. They should've left in September according to the tour guide. *shrugs* Works for me!

3pm: *heaves in heavy & coughs up lung* Soooo they didn't tell us we'd be going on a 2 hour hike! I've officially burned off every bit of caloric intake from the last 7 days I've been here. Seriously. Anyway, outside of the fact that I almost fell off a cliff (not really, I'm dramatic in case you haven't caught it yet) - there were beautiful blue-footed boobies all over the island! They were amazing. These beautiful blue footed birds who nest on the cliffs of Isla de Plata. Now we're off to go watch sea turtles and snorkel at a coral reef. My fave activity - can't wait!

5pm: I went snorkeling! That might be my favorite vacay activity outside of eating & beach-side lounging. I love tropical fish. the water was actually warm, to my surprise. And I found Nemo! Wouldn't mind returning to Isla de Plata one day, it wasn't half bad.

Ten Days in Ecuador sponsored by Latitude International & LAN Airlines.
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ten Days in Ecuador: Day 7

8am: Just woke up for breakfast. This is the first day we're getting up post 5am. Praise baby Jesus. Today is a day of relaxation & pampering for us. We're headed to the prettiest beach in all of Ecuador - called Los Frailles! I cannot wait. That's why I came here - to lounge beachside, not to fight monkeys & tarantulas in the Amazon jungle. All is well again in my world.

10am: We've just arrived at Los Frailles. It is gorgeous here. There are mountains framing the sea on either side, with rocky cliffs. And in front of us is turquoise water and sand. The sun is intense here, but I love it. On top of it being beautiful, we spotted a whale! It was doing flips above the water and blowing water through it's blow hole. Not too far from where we were so we could see everything without binoculars. Absolutely amazing.

Next up, were headed to gourmet lunch and after that we'll be going to a sulfur lagoon to take a bath in the hot springs. So thankful for today.

1:30pm We're having lunch at this beachside restaurant called Magico Del Fin in Salango, Ecuador. The food is absolutely amazing. I can't even explain. This is some of the best seafood I've ever had. They just served us fried plantains, garlic shrimp, fried fish and langostini (which I believe is baby lobster). I literally licked my fingers. This restaurant is a must if you're headed to the Pacific Coast.

6:00pm: I'm at Machillala National Park! Yeah, I didn't know what it was either. It's cool. Apparently it's a national park where a number of Ecuadorian indigenous peoples live. Many of these folks live here & farm. They're supposed to be direct descendants of the Inca! While here we swam in this sulfur lagoon that's said to be really therapeutic and amazing for the skin. Smelled like rotten eggs, but it felt great! They also had this natural clay from the ground. So all of us smothered ourselves in this clay, waited for it to dry and then rinsed ourselves in the sulfur lagoon. Very cool. Now we're headed back to the hotel for dinner. I'm exhausted but refreshed. I'm glad we got pampered today.

Ten Days in Ecuador sponsored by Latitude International & LAN Airlines 
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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ten Days in Ecuador: Day 6

Today we're flying from Quito to the city of Manta to tour the Pacific Coast. First we're visiting this place called the Isla Corazon or Heart Island to see the mangrove trees that grow there. It's another nationally preserved area. We'll have to take a canoe ride to get there. Apparently, they give you a refreshing snack after your tour. I think I'm more excited about the fried shrimp than I am about the mangroves.

Next stop - Hotel Casa del Ceibo! It's a boutique hotel in the beachside coastal town of Bahia de Caraquez. We were greeted in the reception with warm towels and blackberry passionfruit juice. This hotel only has 18 rooms, and specializes in personal service. Ceibo is the type of tree that grows out front.

We're having lunch here today! Casa Ceibo is known for it's world-trained culinary specialists. Today's lunch special - grilled fish with yellow rice, potatoes and veggies. I told you they feed us alot! No complaints.

After lunch, we have an incredibly long ride along the mountains of Manta to get to our hotel. It's called Hosteria Alandaluz. Despite the 5 hour ride back to the hotel, I do love that this place is comfy and has no bugs inside. It's like a luxury lodge. Someone in the group said it looks similar to Disney's Polynesian Resort. I've never been there, but I imagine it does.

Most important, it's a beachside resort with a pool! Yes. Civilization. It's crazy how much roughing it without the normal luxuries will make you appreciate them when you get them back.

Ten Days in Ecuador sponsored by Latitude International & LAN Airlines
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Friday, November 4, 2011

Ten Days in Ecuador: Day 5

9am: We finally left the jungle. Goodbye and good riddance to the Amazon. It was fun the first day but...I prefer the concrete jungle! Today we're flying back from Coca to Quito. I love it there, it's such a beautiful city. Upon landing we're heading to this hilly village in Quito for lunch.

12pm: We're in Quito! I met a llama named Poncho (pictured above). The mountains in Quito are breathtaking. We're headed to the old city of Quito now to visit this place called the "Middle of the World", which is actually the exact middle of the world considering Ecuador falls on the equator line. There are gift shops there - can't wait to buy souvenirs. I must get a Panama Hat while I'm here.

3pm:  We're off to tour the Jesuit cathedrals downtown. One of them is apparently the oldest and most fascinating churches here.  The insides are paved in gold!

5pm: Finally, we're headed to the Swissotel in Quito to settle in for the night and get ready for dinner. They...eat a lot here. We've had at least 5 meals a day for the past five days - three course meals for breakfast, lunch & dinner then two snacks. Not complaining - the food is good. But I will clearly be living in spandex when I get back to the states.

Ten Days in Ecuador sponsored by Latitude International & LAN Airlines
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ten Days in Ecuador: Days 3 & 4

So I've decided to condense days 3 & 4 together. Why? Because they felt like one really long day. Where do I begin?

First off, the Amazon jungle is kinda like Disney's Animal Kingdom. But like, the real thing. I've seen everything from 50 year old tortoises to giant river otters and squirrel monkeys. It's kinda like that first trip to the zoo you took when your were 5 years old. But this time the animals weren't in cages. Or tranquilized. I even saw a 400 year old tree that looked like the Tree of Life. It was great!

Our tour guide Linea was super excited about everything involving nature. "Hay Dios Mio, squirrel monkeys!" She reminded me of a 25 year old Dora the Explorer. Complete with a sidekick named Boots. Ok maybe without the monkey sidekick, but you get it. It was great having an excited tour guide with lots of energy. Especially considering most of our days started at 5AM.

Aside from the jungle, our huts at the NAPO Wildlife Center were interesting. They were very spacious! And the turn down service was amazing. Every night after dinner, I had a fresh set of towels and my mosquito net pulled down for me.

But, the bugs? Not so much. So, the huts have thatched roofs made of palms and bamboo. Yeah, not much protection from the elements. On top of that, there are hidden holes so no matter how much you try to control bugs from getting inside, they always find a way in.

I'll put it like this, my bestie and I almost got eaten by a tarantula! (Yeah I know it's not big enough to eat both of us, but still...it's got hairy legs! And I'm not talking bout your old aunt Myrtle's hairy legs. These legs are poisonous.)

Overall, I'm glad I went. I can now say I've been to the Amazon jungle and I've gotten out alive. Next stop: back to Quito to explore the old city!

Ten Days in Ecuador sponsored by Latitude International & LAN Airlines
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ten Days In Ecuador: Day 2

11am: After a 30 minute flight to Coca from Quito, we're now on our way to the NAPO Wildlife Center where we'll tour the Amazon jungle. On the way up the steps to the bus, I saw a cockroach the size of a small mouse. When the tour guide tried to swat it away, it flew! I nearly fainted. This should be interesting...

12pm: We just arrived at the port of the NAPO river. Upon getting here, we've already spotted a beautiful peacock, a really really old tortoise and a mischievous monkey. He jumped up on someone's table while they were eating and interrupted their meal to get...french fries. Yes you read right. Papas fritas. Sounds like my little brother smh. Now we're off to cruise along the NAPO river for 2 hours until we reach the Amazon jungle. Stay tuned.

4:30pm: Finally we've arrived at the NAPO Wildlife Center lodge! It is absolutely breathtaking here. We're facing the NAPO river and we'll staying in huts for 3 nights...whoopeee! Upon arriving at the center, we were greeted by the llodge manager Miguel who served us glasses of Naranjilla juice (tomato tree juice?) I really hate tomatoes, but this juice is delish. On the way here we rode canoes through the Amazon and saw all different types of wild birds, monkeys and even a Black Cayman (this reptile that looks like an alligator)

5:00pm: After a quick debriefing and a few snacks, the lodge hosts have each shown us to our cabins. These cabins are massive! And we each get one to ourselves. They're set up like little huts, with mosquito nets and all, but fancier. Like...luxury huts or something. We each have our own porch with chairs overlookin the NAPO river. Even hammocks! Each hut has one king sized bed and a twin. Enough for a family of three.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm a little nervous about the mosquito situation. And the possibility that a wild monkey may find it's way into my cabin. But other than that, I'm super excited! Tonight we'll have catered dinner on the premises. And tomorrow we're off to explore the jungle. I'm so NOT the adventurous type but I'm here & I'm gonna have a good time, despite my fear of evil anancondas and blue-bottomed monkeys.

Ten Days in Ecuador sponsored by Latitude International & LAN Airlines
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