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My 2021 birthday wishlist

My birthday is next Tuesday, and it is kind of comically tragic to think that exactly a year ago, I left for a trip to London and Paris. This year, we are spending the upcoming weekend in Santa Barbara, which is about as glamorous as things get nowadays, but I'm very thankful nonetheless. Pandemic aside, the other big difference with my birthday this year is that while I always treat myself to something extra nice, I don't have anything specific in mind this year—yet. Maybe it's because last year's present has not exactly been put to good use (although I'm bringing it this weekend!), or maybe it's because the pandemic has made me realize that I already have everything I need. Kidding! I think it's more that I've been so busy with my new job, I haven't had a lot of time to think about it. But here are a few ideas I've been kicking around—let me know in the comments which one(s) you think I should get!

An honest review of all the Spanx pants

My honest review of Spanx perfect black pants continues to be one of the most popular posts here on Cheryl Shops, and since Spanx just sent me several pairs of their best-selling pants in navy, I thought it would be helpful to do a side-by-side comparison of their top four fits, especially since you can see the details even better. So think of this as a companion piece to my previous Spanx reviews, but please note that while I received these pants for free, the following reviews are my 100% honest opinion, with absolutely no feedback or editing from Spanx. So without further ado, here's my honest review the four most popular Spanx pants. 

How to make your home smell like Santal 33 (for less)

For the last year, I've been spending a small fortune on candles. For whatever reason, burning them—and being enveloped in a gorgeous scent—has brought me comfort. But I've also realized that I'm quite literally burning through money, and also that having an open flame in my apartment for 16 hours a day is probably not the best for one's lungs. We had received a diffuser as a gift (thanks, Christine!) a few years ago, but I've found that most essential oils are either too basic and/or not strong enough for my taste—until I discovered Santal oil from Doratelier on a tip from another blogger (thanks, Katwalk!). This tiny vial of delight has brought me so much joy that I couldn't wait to share all the ways I'm using it to scent my home. 

What to wear on an afternoon date

I recently came to the conclusion that I really miss making an effort to get dressed. My outfits have devolved into this sadly repetitive basic place, which is partly because it's winter but probably more because the days blur together and I feel like I'm in a much more mundane version of Groundhog Day. I miss getting creative with my outfits, and I miss wearing things that bring me joy rather than just comfort. So last Sunday, I decided not only to make an effort, but to wear a carefully planned outfit that made me feel good because I looked good. Yes, it was Valentine's Day, and we went to a fancy restaurant, and yes, I wanted to look good for Sean. But more importantly, I wanted to look good for me, because as big of a cliché as this is, truly you can't pour from an empty cup. So here's how I filled mine.

My favorite Amazon beauty products that you can't find at Sephora

That's a rather long title for a post, I know, but it's what this one is all about. Now, I love Sephora (and worked there for several years), so this is not a dig at them. But Amazon does carry a lot of great beauty products from harder-to-find lines, many of them international, and when you throw in free two-day Prime shipping, that makes them pretty much irresistible. Here are my favorite beauty products from Amazon that I love and use regularly. 

What to wear in February

It's only the second week of February, but it's the time in the season when I start to get bored with my winter clothes. I also tend to get into a big sweaters-and-jeans rut this time of year, and while that's what I'm wearing in these photos, I decided to lighten up my palette with some springier colors. The result was something fresher and more mood-lifting than anything I've worn in weeks. So just a reminder, especially to myself: just because it's dark and dreary outside doesn't mean your outfit has to be too. 

7 ways to wear leopard print

One of my favorite coworkers used to say "prints are personal," and they are—I love stripes, plaids, and the occasional tie-dye but have a hard time with florals, paisley, and anything abstract. But when it comes to animal prints, leopard is always a yes in my book. I joke that leopard is a neutral (it's made up of neutral colors, after all), but in my opinion, it's one of the most versatile prints around. Here are my favorite ways to wear it. 

OUTFIT DETAILS: Ganni coat | Everlane cashmere turtleneck dress | Cuddl Duds leggings (c/o) | Mango bag | Jimmy Choo youth boots 

What to wear on Valentine's Day

Happy February! After what felt like a years-long January, I'm happy for many reasons: I've started a new job, my birthday is now 28 days away, and restaurants and salons are once again open in San Francisco, which means unless something catastrophic happens in the next two weeks, we'll actually be able to go out to celebrate Valentines's Day. Now, normally I'm a cook-a--romantic-meal-at-home kind of person on Valentine's Day—when you go to a restaurant, the meal is usually overpriced, the service horrible, and I always end up seated next to a couple who's either fighting or not speaking the entire time—however, cooking at home is nearly all I've been doing for the last year, so bring on the prix fixe menu and the annoyed waitstaff. At this point, I'll eat a hot dog wrapped in paper as long as I don't have to cook it or clean up after myself. (And, yes, I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge that I am fortunate to be able to afford enough food to eat, much less be able to order it from a restaurant, and as much as I'm complaining right now, I am very thankful for everything.) Luckily we have fancy outdoor brunch reservations for Valentine's Day, so in a return to semi-normal, here's what I'll be wearing. 

Valentine's Day gift guide

You don't have to be in a relationship to celebrate Valentine's Day. In fact, the day has rather dark origins—in Roman times, it was a pagan matchmaking festival that followed a ritual animal slaughter, and also the day on which several men named Valentine were executed.  Now, who's in the mood for chocolates and romance? That said, I fully embrace the concept of love, whether that's the kind you share with someone else or just self-love. And while gifts are my least-favored love language, maybe that's because I rarely hesitate to treat myself. Here are some of my favorite options this year for you, for your significant other, or for both of you. 

What to wear with a sweater vest

I featured sweater vests in my fall trend report last year, and while I had meant to do an outfit post with one soon thereafter, it's better late than never, right? The other issue is that I was going to feature a sweater vest from. H&M—the cut of which I really love—but it started to pill like crazy after wearing it a couple times, and I didn't feel comfortable recommending something that was, to be frank, a piece of crap. The good news is that I found an even better option, and here's how I've been wearing it. 

Home things I've bought on Amazon that I love

As I mentioned in my inaugural Things I've bought on Amazon that I love post, I try to shop small and local when I can, but I'm only human and sometimes convenience wins out. Cheryl Shops is a judgment-free zone, so I feel safe sharing with you that I not only buy things on Amazon, but I thoroughly enjoy them as well. I've been making a bunch of upgrades to my apartment over the last several months, and here are some of my recent best buys. 

What to wear with a ruched dress

I tend to get into a winter rut of sweaters and jeans (and hoodies and leggings), and while we'll get back to that next week, I took advantage of the unexpected heatwave we've been having and wore a dress—with bare legs, no less! I should probably be alarmed that we're having 70-degree weather in January, but I decided to enjoy it now and go back to fighting global warming tomorrow. Anyway, this outfit is a little random, but so is life nowadays, and thus let's embrace it. 

Get the look: Jennifer Aniston's beige coat

It's been awhile since I've featured a Get the look post, but you all have definitely been busy pinning! The most-pinned look of the last few months from my Outfit ideas for ageless style Pinterest board is none other than America's Sweetheart, Jennifer Aniston, wearing a very seasonally appropriate look. Aniston has been accused of playing it safe on the red carpet, but clearly she knows what works for her and sticks to it. This is a casual yet classic look that could be several years old—and its timelessness makes it so good. Here's how to re-create it. 

What to wear with a cashmere coatigan

As I was going through a bunch of 10-year-old bills that I found in my storage space this weekend (don't ask why I kept them), it occurred to me how so much of our lives are digital now. I can't even remember the last time I got a paper bill; do you remember the last time you took a non-digital photo? This is a long way of leading up to the fact that we accidentally deleted the original photos of this outfit, which, when you're a blogger, is a devastating loss of several hours' worth of work that makes you curse everything digital and threaten to go analog. Thankfully we re-created the outfit with (hopefully) even better results, and this time I backed them up.