It is my favorite day of the week – Little Luxuries and today we get to hear from Mariah of Quite Continental – a blogger after my own heart. She has style and inspiration for miles and as always on today, she will be presenting you with her most valued Little Luxuries!

When I hear the term “little luxuries,” I immediately think of darling things that add luxury to my daily life without breaking my precious piggy bank.  Living in Manhattan is expensive, chèrie, everyone knows that, but the nice thing about luxury is that it is truly a state of mind.  Luxury is that delicious feeling that washes over you when you take time to indulge your senses and your spirit.  Luxury is an essential!

1) Fancy it up: When moving through my day-to-day routine, I can’t always take extra time for luxury — having to make a mad dash for the subway to get to work on time, will get in the way of any girl’s leisurely morning stroll.  That said, there are millions of ways to add a bit of indulgence about the edges.  In other words, fancy it up.

At home, I always make a point to drink sparkling water out of a wine glass.  Ma chère, I will admit that this came about because for a very brief time at one point in my life, the only glasses   owned were wine glasses.  How very Holly Golightly of me, non? The way you hold a wine glass is just — different — it feels more special than any old glass.  That feeling of “special” is luxury, hiding in your water glass.

I also want to point out that I did this almost subconsciously, for when a gentleman asked me once why I served myself in this manner, the first thing I blurted out was “…because it feels fancy!” and that was completely true.

If you’d like to start fancying up your water glass, I would recommend the Carson Wine Glass by CB2.  The Carson is sturdy, classic in shape and only $3.95.

2) Sweets for the sweet:  I am a bit of an odd bird when it comes to sweets.  I’ve never been one to go completely crazy for chocolate and I could really care less when Girl Scout cookie time arrives.  But there are still times when I find myself wanting a little sugar in my bowl, just like Nina said.  At those times, the perfect sweet is the ultimate indulgence.

I have strong connections to specific sweets from specific places, and so my perfect sweet hails from my hometown.  Born and raised in California, I grew up with See’s Candies, wonderful fruit for pies and cobblers, and the lovely flavors of Mexican desserts such as flan and the churro.  But what has emerged as the ultimate sweet of sweets for me, ma chère, is the Sprinkles Cupcake.

Sprinkles Cupcakes, the first cupcake-only bakery before there was a craze, was opened in 2005 in Beverly Hills.  At the time, I worked just down the street from the tiny sliver of a bakery with the extra-long line that always snaked out of the door and down the street.  I regularly stood in that blessed line — even when doing Atkins with the best of them.  Since moving to New York, I’ve tried to make do with what’s available here, but found it truly lacking.  Imagine my delight when I found out that New York will be receiving their own Sprinkles this May, on Lexington between 60th and 61st!

Of course, my favorite is the classic Red Velvet.  You can tell it’s also everyone else’s favorite because the Red Velvet is the only flavor to also be offered in gluten free and vegan form.  A cupcake from Sprinkles will only set you back $3.50, but that $3.50 transports you to a land of confectionary delights!

3.  Bossa nova bliss:  There is one kind of music that immediately puts me sumptuous state of mind.  Bossa nova, closely related to samba music, but much more languorous and without the accompanying dance steps of samba, is the kind of music that will make you feel like you have somehow slipped down a rabbit hole and ended up on a secret location.

The best place to start when exploring bossa nova music is with the first family of the genre – the Gilbertos: João Gilberto, Astrud Gilberto, and Bebel Gilberto.  Astrud’s voice is quite possibly my most favorite sound in the entire world.  Her voice is breathy, light and sensuous as it floats over João’s music – it sounds almost like a lazy, tropical river.  She is the most famous for “The Girl From Ipanema,” but you must explore her catalog a bit deeper than that, d’accord! The bossa nova sound is all class, sometimes sung in English and sometimes in Portuguese.  I completely prefer the older recordings, but Bebel, Astrud’s stepdaughter and João’s daughter, a contemporary artist whose trademark is electronic bossa nova, is also worth a listen.

For your first album, I recommend Astrud Gilberto’s Finest Hour.  Only $10.76 on Amazon, and that “Hour” can be played whenever you need to be transported to a sun-drenched, sumptuous place.

4.  Spoil your skin:  One thing my mother instilled in me at a very young age was that it was essential to take care of your skin – leaving aside her love of sun-tanning, of course.  (We’ve since smartened up and we all slather on the SPF, don’t you worry your pretty little head!)  A quick way to feel (and look) lackluster is to under-nourish your skin.  Truly, when was the last time you looked at a raisin and thought of opulence?

As I’ve gotten older, my skin has changed, and it has been necessary to change my skin care regimen accordingly.  Recently, I discovered a fabulous face moisturizer at Kiehl’s: Rosa Arctica.  While Rosa Arctica is an anti-aging and anti-wrinkle cream – which I definitely do not require just yet, d’accord! – it simply is one of the best moisturizer I have ever used.  Rich without being heavy and deeply moisturizing, I felt a difference in my skin in less than a week’s use.

I definitely recommend Rosa Arctica if you are in search of skin as soft as the finest velvet.  While priced at $60, this is the most expensive item on this little list.  If you feel the initial investment is a bit too steep for a product you’ve never tried before, remember that Kiehl’s is wonderful about giving free samples.  I’ll bet you $60 that you go back after giving it a go.  Small price to pay for a lovely bit of luxe!

Isn’t she so wonderful? Be sure to check out QC here!

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