The London Sessions

Mary J. Blige is mixing up her special blend of hip-hop and soul with her new album, The London Sessions. Collaborating with some of this decade’s most celebrated UK musical talent – including Disclosure, Eg White, Emile Sandé, Jimmy Napes, Naughty Boy, SAM ROMANS and Sam Smith – Mary J. Blige creates music that feels like therapy for the soul.

Two of my favorite songs open the album. From the moment I heard “Therapy”, I fell in love with the moody lyrics, which seem tailor made for me during this gloomy time of year. “Doubt” is the anecdote to the blues that demand I play “Therapy” on repeat. Poignant but inspiring, “Doubt” is the song you play when you get out of bed and face another day.

Even with eight multi-platinum albums and nine Grammy Awards to her name, Mary J. Blige continues to evolve as an artist, pushing the boundaries of music.

”The London Sessions is, number one, the bravest thing, and number two, just so honest,” says Smith, who co-wrote lead single, “Therapy,” with Mary J. Blige and Eg White. Disclosure adds, “It’s the reason that people like Mary are so successful – they’re just not afraid to change what they do completely.”

The dozen songs that make up her new album add a beautiful new layer to an already impressive oeuvre. Just in time for Christmas, The London Sessions will be released by Capitol Records December 2nd.

 Pre-order The London Sessions on iTunes and Amazon.

I participated in the Mary J Blige The London Sessions album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided a free album to review but all opinions are my own.

Geeky Gift Guide

It’s hard to believe that holiday gift guides are already popping up. With Thanksgiving next week, the Christmas shopping frenzy is just around the corner. My brain is whirling with gift ideas for family and friends. There are so many fun options! Today’s gift guide is dedicated to geeks. Think Geek, Hot Topic, and even Modcloth are great stores to shop when looking for quirky presents. From a cheese slicer that looks like a camera to heated narwhal slippers, this list is full of surprises.

gift ideas for nerds

When do you start shopping for gifts?

What’s In My Bag?

Today is a snowy, gray day. It’s the type of day that calls for endless cups of hot chocolate or comforting tea. In other words, it is the perfect day for hiding underneath the covers.

kitty in winter

While I haven’t quite recovered from last year’s harsh winter, it only seems natural that we would get snow early this year since the holiday season seems to have arrived early, too. Since I’m long overdue for a vlog post, I decided that today was a good day to do one of my favorite YouTube tags: What’s In My Bag? It’s always interesting to see what people keep in their bags and is a fun way to discover cute new notebooks, wallets, key chains, etc.

Currently, I am using the Rebecca Minkoff Dexter Bucket Bag (c/o Shopbop), but I think this style is no longer available. I have a few different styles of Rebecca Minkoff bags, and so far, I am really happy with them. The leather is soft but durable, and with their mix of leather, zippers, and hardware, the bags feel very downtown chic.

Inside my bag, you will find the usually suspects: wallet, pens, and tissues. To find out what else I carry, you’ll just have to watch the video.

What’s in your bag?

In the Mood for Fall

There is a chill in the air, and snowflakes are making their appearance. Soon, a trip outdoors will require one to dress like the Michelin Man, but for now, a few layers will suffice. I adore mixing patterns and am constantly inspired by the cute pattern play featured on Respect the Shoes. Fall is the perfect time for mixing patterns since each layer gives you the excuse to add a new print.

fall outfit ideas

Lately, I find myself obsessing over stripes and plaids, and while my current spending focus is on experiences and not things, my wardrobe is begging me to add a few new pieces. I shall resist for now, but come Black Friday, all bets are off.

5 Ways to do Good This Holiday Season

giving and gratittude

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, today seems like a good day to talk about doing good things.

Give a Shoebox

In November, Operation Christmas Child collects shoeboxes filled with toys and supplies for children around the world. From dolls and yo-yos to pencils and calculators, Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful way to help a child in need. If you don’t have time to fill a shoebox this year, you can build one online.

Support Our Troops

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, and while the weekend sales are nice, shopping at the mall does not support our troops. Why not make a donation instead? The USO offers a range of programs that support deployed, wounded, and transitioning servicemen and women. Also, they put together goody bags for trainees who get to go home for Christmas, and I can’t tell you how meaningful that is. For other ways to support our troops, check out Charity Navigator.

Build a School

Okay, you might not have the money to do it all by yourself, but that is where Pencils of Promise comes in. I first heard about this for-purpose organization on MarieTV. If you haven’t seen this episode, you must watch it. I’ll wait… That was inspiring, wasn’t it? So is Adam Braun’s book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change. I recently finished reading it and am still in awe of the passion and commitment he has shown to educating children around the world. So far, Pencils of Promise has built 251 schools and served 29, 907 students.

Donate Your Party Dress

By providing free dresses and accessories, The Princess Project plays fairy godmother to California teens who cannot afford these prom expenses. You can donate gently used dresses and accessories at a community drive or mail a dress to Weddington Way and receive a store voucher.

Cut Your Hair

If you are thinking about getting a shorter hairdo, now is the perfect time to consider donating your hair to Locks of Love, which gives hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children who suffer from long-term, medical hair loss. Their hair donation guidelines are a good place to start.

For more ways to give back, check out last year’s list!

This entry was posted in Life.

Floral Friday: Native Blooms

floral bloggers

I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone.

You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.

-Oscar Wilde

Erica from Cat Eyes and Skinny Jeans posted this quote on Instagram not long ago, and it has stuck with me ever since I saw it. Even though I normally posted only three or four times a week, cutting back to two posts has left me with time to do other things. It feels awkward to not always be thinking about my next post. It seems strange not to spend every spare hour of my life on the Internet. But, I need room to breathe, experiment, and try new things. Lately, these new things have included going to a Halloween dance party and attending the circus. I kind of feel bad for neglecting my blog, and I’m hardly on Twitter anymore, but I don’t feel as guilty about this as I thought I would. Am I embracing the Slow Blogging Movement? I don’t know, but I like where this is going.

Today’s post is supposed to be about native flowers. I live in a subdivision. There is nothing native here. However, the last month has been full of mums. Chrysanthemums have popped up in neighbors’ yards and the grocery store, providing a cheerful splash of color on cloudy, gray days. These beauties are currently blooming outside by the garage door. They are actually a dark purple, but I couldn’t resist playing around with some filters.

Pom pom flowers call for a pom pom hat, and this cutie looks as snugly as a favorite sweater.

winter hat

Old Navy Womens Sweater Knit Pom Pom Hats

Floral Fridays is a monthly photography project with different themes each month. This series is about fun and taking time out to smell the flowers. To play along, please email Trishie (trishie@underlockandkeyblog.com) for next month’s theme.

If you are looking for another holiday swap, be sure to take a look at

Cat Eyes & Skinny Jeans’ The Great Holiday Blog Swap!

November Wish List

holiday shopping

The holiday spirit has hit me early. Already, I am listening to Christmas music, and in a few days, I hope to start putting out decorations. Since I’m in the mood for Christmas, it only makes sense to do a holiday themed wish list. This tulle skirt from ASOS begs to be worn to the Nutcracker, and a polar bear sweater is a cute alternative to the ugly Christmas sweater.

Shop the Look!

 

To get into the Christmas spirit, visit Chaotic Goddess Swaps and sign up for the 12 Days of Christmas Swap. Bloggers will send 12 wrapped gifts to their swap partners as a fun way to count down to Christmas. Sign ups end November 10, 2014.

What are you wishing for this month?

Halloween In Your Closet: Mer-Maid

For some reason, I have found blogging to be an uphill battle this year. I am not sure why because I still enjoy blogging and the community I have found through it. However, blogging is no longer the priority it once was. I need to step back a bit from my virtual life so that I can pay attention to my actual one. So, my posting may be irregular with one post one week and several the next. I have, also, fallen behind on commenting, and this frustrates me the most because I enjoy reading your blogs. I shall do my best to catch up. Things may be a little quiet around here while I try to find a more comfortable schedule.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

Halloween is Friday, and if you haven’t decided on a costume, it’s time to get started. When it comes to last minute costuming, there is no better place to start than your closet.

Mer-Maid Costume

easy halloween costume

I love a play on words. I admit I find them punny, and my corny wit soon led me to attempt to combine two classic Halloween costumes – the maid and the mermaid. The costume is simple enough. A simple black dress and a white apron are enough to channel the maid. This dress I got from Target a few years ago, and the apron is just a piece of white fabric I folded over and belted around my waist. To keep with the fishy theme, I layered black fishnet tights over seafoam green tights.

Mer-Maid Makeup

Halloween mermaid

What really makes this costume is the makeup. I was inspired by this fish makeup post. I used nylon hexagon netting to create the scales by placing a scrap of netting on my face, covering the swatch with a creamy concealer, and brushing on bright eyeshadow. When you lift the netting off, you are left with a scale-like pattern. The makeup was more vibrant in person, and I had to resort to awkward closeups in order for the scales to show up on camera.

Halloween costume ideas

Do you have any plans for Halloween?

Lost in Translation

book about untranslatable words

There is something magical about finding a word that can express exactly what you are thinking with only a handful of letters. Ella Frances Sanders’ Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World is just the sort of book every logophile needs. From boketto to ya’aburnee, Sanders’ whimsical illustrations bring to life over 50 untranslatable words from around the world.

I mentioned this book in my September Favorites video, and with the holiday season fast approaching, I highly recommend getting this book for any word lover in your life. It’s a lovely, little book to flip through and is full of fascinating words that make you wonder why there is no English equivalent. For instance, in Malay, there is a word for the time needed to eat a banana, and in Tulu, there is a word for the mark left on your skin when you wear something tight. If there were two things I could change about this book, I would want to add a pronunciation guide as well as have the words in alphabetical order; however, the book is still delightful just the way it is.

One of my favorite words from the book is the Dutch adjective gezellig, which “describes more than just coziness – a positive warm emotion or feeling rather than just something physical – and connotes time spent with loved ones, togetherness.” Isn’t that beautiful? If words were clothes, this one would be a snugly sweater.

This book was provided by Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review.