How To Shop: My “Gotta Have It” Criteria

This picture was taken in the fitting room at Brandy Melville. I loved these high waisted denim shorts  and oddly enough, they got me thinking about my finances.image

These itty bitty shorts were fun to try on because they have a sort of ‘Spanx” affect but they were so tight and short that I could barely sit down in them and the store was sold out in a bigger size. Still, I contemplated buying them - wrong size and all - for a looong time. I came very close but decided to be a “smart shopper” and not buy something that didn’t make my “Gotta Have It List”. I’ve found that only buying clothes that meet all of the criteria on this list has helped me save a lot of money and build a wardrobe that I really like with items I actually WEAR! 

My Gotta Have It Shopping Criteria 

1. Perfect Fit

Clothes that don’t fit MAKE YOU FEEL HORRIBLE. Period. Even though it’s fun to be able to zip up a teeny tiny pair of shorts, they’re not a practical buy because you will never wear them. You might be able to convince yourself that you will in the store but the day will soon come when you’re standing in front of your closet and you’ve just had two bowls of cereal and you haven’t shaved your legs in a few days and for some reason THIS will be the day the shorts are choosen, held up to your bloated belly and promptly thrown to the back of the closet only to be replaced by your go-to leggings that cover your furry stems and stretch over your bulging midsection. And because of some kind of weird fashion-specific clause of Murphy’s Law, you will only ever see those shorts in your closet on those days. But let’s say a day comes that you do feel like slipping into those teensy shorts. I guarantee you will be forced to limit the day to “standing only” activities because we all know, wearing something that isn’t your size inevitably results in the ever-dreaded muffin top. So, no. Just no. I don’t care that they actually zipped. If you can’t sit down in them, or they are ill fitting in any way, you must put them back. Only buy clothes that really fit. 

2. Does it actually look good? Trendy does NOT equal flattering 

Shift dresses, MC Hammer pants, and leather overalls might look amazing on Kate Moss but it’s important to be realistic about your body. I am 5’9” and about 150 pounds. I have a long torso and long legs, making my fashion options very different to those of say, Eva Longoria. For example, my height allows me to wear maxi skirts, high waisted mini skirts and midi dresses but I am really not suited for shapeless bohemian  sundresses, Peter Pan collared shift dresses or itty bitty rompers (actually, rompers of any sort make me look like an oversized toddler who has long since outgrown her onesie. Shame.) Conversely, someone with my build can easily pull off a one piece jumpsuit or empire waist maxi dress, that someone smaller might appear to be swimming in, so it all evens out in the end. My point is, know your body and wear clothes that make your (amazingly beautiful perfect just the way it is) frame look exquisite. Don’t waste your time or money trying to be trendy just for the sake of being trendy. It’s kind of like being on a diet. Don’t think of what you can’t have, think of all the things you can! I’ll never look good in rompers. I’ve accepted it. You can too. 

3. You can almost always find it cheaper


Price is not always a sign of quality. Sometimes, I go “window” shopping in nicer stores and pay attention to details like color, fabric, fit, etc. Then I keep an eye out in cheaper stores like Forever21 and H&M to see if they have anything comparable. They often do. If it’s good quality, fits you perfectly and is (amongst) the cheapest of it’s kind, then go for it. If not, put it back and keep an eye out for a while. There’s nothing more annoying than splurging on a sweater from TopShop only to find a near exact replica at Target for a quarter of the price a month later. (True story) Pretend you’re on that show “The Look For Less”. Have an item in mind and make it fun to hunt for the “look for less”. Games people. Play games. Fashion is fun and finding a great bargain is inexplicably gratifying. The turquoise dress above cost 8 dollars. (Mmmhmmm) I got it last summer from Forever 21 after seeing a lot of brightly colored “bandage dresses” in a wide array of prices. This one doesn’t have the tight, sucking-in affect that the bandage material gives but it was a similar cut and color to the ones I’d been eyeing and for 8 dollars, I couldn’t say no! 

4. But do you NEEEED it?


I know, I know, it’s easy to “need” a lot of things, but do you really need it? I’m not saying this to sound mom-ish, I’m saying this to spare you the irritation that comes with a closet that is filled with a million pairs of 6 inch heels, neon off the shoulder tops, and countless identical bangles with NO everyday jeans, matching socks or layering tank tops. If you don’t have some sort of inventory of what you already have, then you won’t be able to remember what you actually need when you go to the store. You’ll find yourself buying things you don’t need, which is not only excessive but generally leads to a closet that doesn’t feel like “you” with items that never get worn because you don’t have anything that works with them. To ensure this doesn’t happen, keep a list in the notes app of your iPhone, keep a little notebook in your purse or utilize online sites like Pintrest and Polyvore to keep track of what your closet is actually missing and then fill in the gaps. That third red flannel might be “amazing”, but no one else notices that this one has a thin beige stripe and the other one is black. They’ll just think you wear the same shirt every day and judge you accordingly ;) Don’t buy doubles of what you already have. Buy what you need. 

5. Alright, alright, go for it.

Ok. Finally. I give you my blessing. Get it! IFFFFF, and only if, it FITS, is a great price and quality and is needed in your wardrobe. But don’t go crazy and buy the whole store. Buy that item, or a few items that you’ve really been wanting and bask in the incomparable joy of owning brand new, perfectly fitting, fun clothes that make you feel FANTASTIC! You will feel great knowing that you made a fabulous fashion choice AND respected your budget. Looking good really does make you feel good and that can make you want be good to yourself and others so…rock it and spread the good…ness. (*z snaps awkwardly*) 

Hope you found this helpful! Let me know what your”Gotta Have It” criteria is in the comments below and be sure to check out my YouTube channel and Instagram for more budget friendly beauty, health and fashion tips :)

My Food Philosophy


We’ve all heard people say that our bodies are “machines” and that food is “fuel”….but that is a really boring way of looking at the awesomeness that is the human body and the extreme pleasure there is to be had in eating delicious food. If food was really just fuel then we wouldn’t gather around the table to share it, or have memories associated with certain meals, or travel to new places to experience new food. Food is more than fuel, it’s also fun. That being said I do strongly believe in eating good, whole, clean foods. Not only are these kinds of foods delicious but they’re also good for you and that, in my opinion, is a win win. People tend to feel limited when they have to eat healthy because they’re thinking of food as fuel in the boring way. I on the other hand, find it incredibly fun to come up with new ways to enjoy clean, natural foods. For example salad can be dull, but this Asian Slaw has crunchy, peppery red cabbage, sweet, crisp Fuji apples, salty, nutty peanuts, tart lime and refreshing ginger. All of the ingredients serve a specific nutritional function, aside from being tasty. For example, apples have fiber, vitamins, and pectin. Carrots have beta-carotin and even just that little but of lime at the end adds vitamin C. It’s important to educate yourself on the nutritional value of the foods you’re eating. That way you can custom build dishes that fulfill your daily requirement of nutrients. And that becomes kind of fun too! It’s like putting together a puzzle. For example, the breakfast I made today: Oatmeal with strawberries, bananas, almonds and cinnamon.


I needed complex carbs to give me energy so boom: oatmeal (you can also use quinoa, farro or buckwheat). Then I wanted to sweeten it up a little: Hello, banana! Sweetness and the added benefits of potassium and magnesium. Then I wanted some vitamin C for my skin and to boost my immune system so I added some strawberries. Lastly, I knew I needed some healthy fats and protein to help stabilize my blood sugar and keep me full so I topped the whole thing with sliced almonds. And just like that, I have a DELICIOUS breakfast that has fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. High five. I used the same thought process when developing this salad. The one thing I would do differently is grate the cabbage and carrots because it makes a nicer consistency. Other than that, I love this salad and I love the complex flavors and major crunch! When you’re trying eat healthy, dynamic flavor and interesting textures go a long way in helping you feel satisfied.

Eating well is part of self love. Respect and love your body by giving it the nutrients it craves. For this salad recipe, some healthy breakfast ideas, and a recipe for my favorite kale smoothie, head to my youtube channel MissVranHalen :) Let me know if you try any of my recipes or if you have any video/blog requests! I love hearing from you guys!

"I think a change would do you good"

Change can be scary but I think it’s important to try new things and be adventurous. Sometimes becoming the person you want to be involves stepping outside of your comfort zone.image

Trust me, sometimes it feels like you’re merely baby stepping out of your comfort zone but those little steps add up. I promise. I think being in new, unfamiliar moments can show you how capable you actually are. You realize that you CAN because you DID and that is a really powerful feeling. It will probably even make you want to try MORE new things and eventually, after taking several of these little baby steps toward change, you’ll start to see that you’ve really learned a lot and hopefully, had a little fun in the process.

A new hair cut or trying to highlight your own hair means very little in the long run but if it’s something that scares you, maybe it’s the perfect little baby step to start with. Just try. You can always dye it back, get extensions, or wait for it to grow - it’s just hair- but you might find that a new style makes you feel refreshed…and that might make you feel a little more confident….and that might make you want to wear something a little cuter to work or school…and that might make you feel even more confident…and that confidence could lead to feeling comfortable talking to someone new….and that could lead to A LOT of things :) I dare you to just try. Do something small that scares you and LET YOURSELF BE SCARED if you need to but don’t let it stop you. Be brave and move forward even if you’re scared. You can’t grow and become your most awesome if you don’t try new things and push yourself. Start small, reflect on what you’re feeling and learning along the way and keep moving forward. I promise awesome things await you if you do!

Click the link below to watch my highlighting/ombre tutorial :)

What are you going to be brave and try? Let me know either here in the comments or on social media. I’ll leave links where you can find me below. Thanks for watching and reading and REMEMBER: you are awesome and capable. I believe in you. Now go be awesome <3 




Tomorrow by MissVranHalen
Tomorrow by MissVranHalen
Grey Sky Morning by MissVranHalen

I Don’t Need Breadcrumbs

I spent New Years on the roof of my apartment. I had just worked a hellish 11 hour day and needed to be up high, alone, with a beer, my thoughts, and a great view.image

I watched fireworks and listened to police sirens and reflected on the year, trying to remember what happened in each month. In January I started dating my boyfriend. In February, I started MissVranHalen, etc. 2013 taught me a lot about what I’m capable of. I learned how to discipline myself and get work done. It also taught me about overbooking and over stressing (subsequently, it was the year I developed anxiety). I thought about the best and worst parts of the year, reflected on where I went wrong and what I would do to be better in the next year. Sitting there on the roof, on the last day of December 2013, I could feel that 2014 would be one of those powerful years of change. The thought was scary before it was exciting. I realized that I often operate from a  place of fear and deep insecurity and thought about how incredibly stifling that is. I decided that in order to make the changes that I know in my soul I need to make in the coming year, I need to develop an unwavering trust in myself. I have really big dreams. I am a very ambitious girl but inspiration is often met with insecurity and doubt. I spent a long time thinking about what a complete waste of time that is.  Deep down I know that I have everything it takes to become the person I want to be (live the life, have the job, all of it).

Sometimes I feel like I’ve already accomplished all of my dreams because I have this intense feeling that I’m actually going to have all of the things I want. Like it’s just about following the trail of breadcrumbs, trusting that I’m headed in the right direction, and in the end, it will all be there, waiting for me. Sometimes though, the wind blows the breadcrumbs around and the right path is less obvious. I think the only way to get to where I want to be is to trust that I already know the path. I don’t need breadcrumbs.


Trusting myself means knowing that I already am the person I want to be and all I need to do is work hard and learn - read, see, do, taste, feel- as much as I possibly can so the machine that is Nicole can continue to grow and become better. I need to focus less on whether or not I can do something, or worrying about if I know enough and trust that I can (and if I can’t, I’ll learn because that I can do). Someone once looked me in the eye and said “You got this” with such effortless conviction, believing in me in a way that I couldn’t then. This year, I will be that person. 

What are your New Years Resolutions? And what did you do for New Years Eve? I’m nosey and want to know, so let me know in the comments :) Happy 2014 everyone. And for the record, I believe in you. You have also been given everything you need. Now go be awesome. 

3 Songs for Day Dreaming by the Window


1. Into The Wild by LP

This is the kind of song you float in. Literately. There’s a certain point - I can pin point it actually - when she says “how do we not faaaadde” and you have no choice but to let the music rise up inside of you. Your eyes close (themselves) and you just float in the gorgeousness (#realword). There’s something about the kickin’-up-dust feel of her whistling followed by the triumphant, rumbling chorus that just gives you chills. I’m not a doctor but I’m pretty sure a glass of wine, this song, and some time spent watching late afternoon sunlight turn to night is the cure for everything. Write that down. Cure for everything.

2. Jolene by Ray Lamontagne

Hauntingly romantic in a way that is both sexy and sad. This song sounds like what it would feel like to be held by the crush you’ve had for years who still doesn’t know you exist. Four minutes and twelve seconds of everything you’ve ever wanted mixed with that painfully delicious feeling of longing and the terribly romantic notion that it will end. Luckily, because of the invention of the repeat button, you can listen to this song for as long as your weird little heart desires while staring out of your window, dreaming. Which you will do because when this song is on, every conscious thought becomes a day dream.

3. Early Morning by Apollo Brown 

It’s just smooth. Sometimes that’s all you need. This song takes a bit of slow and soothing and mixes it with a walking-the-streets-of-some-cool-city-beat in a way that makes listening and staring out of your window a legit a-c-t-i-v-i-t-y. This is a “me, myself and I” type song. Definitely not intended for day dreaming about some unrequited love. This song makes me feel like there’s a whole world waiting to see what I will do and when it’s on, all I can do is plan and plot and smile. Put this song on repeat and sit for a while. By the time you get up, you will be more awesome than you were before. #getem


What are your favorite songs to listen to when you need to let your mind wander? Let me know in the comments :) Happy day dreamin’ 

Cave Dweller

When I lived alone I often referred to my apartment as my cave. It was my Cave o’ Creativity and it was perfect. The coffee table was hardly visible beneath the stacks of books, news magazines and abandoned, half empty coffee mugs. I always had some woodsy, smokey scented candle burning and the walls were inundated with posters of Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan. My cave was the place that twenty-two year old Me spent entire days reading, listening to music and staring out the window asking the ever-cliche exsetential questions those in their early twenties tend to ponder. 


   ~ Picture of a typical afternoon spent in my cave ~

My life has changed a lot since those days. I now work and go to school full time and afternoons spent lounging with a new book and an old record are long gone. Because of this, the last few years have been a bit of a struggle in trying to balance the new, more pragmatic woman I’ve become with the the young, artistic girl I was then. Part of finding this balance has to do with allowing myself the time and space to let the artist in me play. So whenever I feel too far removed from my inner wide-eyed dreamer, I recreate my cave to provide myself with a peaceful environment that stimulates my creativity. 

How I Make A Cave:

1. Set the Mood


I burn this Snow Day candle from Bath and Body Works, which fills the entire room with that sexy, cold-weather-woodsy smell that I love so much. The magicians at Bath and Body Works have LITERATELY figured out how to capture the smell of crisp, cold air and put it in a jar. I have no idea how they do it but it’s mesmerizing and earthy and within minutes the entire room smells like my beloved cave. 

2. Read

Allow me to clarify….REEEAAAD, a lot and without the joy stifling notion of time. By this I mean decide that there is absolutely nothing that has to be done right this minute, or even in the next several hours and that your only “job” is to throughly enjoy and absorb every word of a sensational book. My current fav is a memoir called Crazy Brave. Author Joy Harjo sees the world unlike anyone I’ve ever encountered. The epitome of an artist, she fully relishes every moment of life, good, bad, ugly and even, imaginary. 


The actual act of reading purely for the sake of cultivating pleasure has a way of untangling tightly wound mechanisms in my brain and creates clear passage ways for new ideas to freely flow. 

3. Listen to Music

Sometimes I get so busy that I just need silence. Until recently, I’d been driving in my car with the radio off to give myself a few minutes of peace. Which would be fine, if it was once and a while but it quickly became a habit and before long I stopped listening to music all together (which I think is a reflection of how cut and dry I was making my life). My cave always had music playing and sometimes I would just sit and do nothing but listen for hours. 


But my cave was not a place for just any music. There is a certain kind of music that really stirs my soul. Painfully beautiful, romantic songs like If I Had A Boat by James Vincent McMorrow are like a Call-to-Action of my emotions. My mind becomes flooded with whimsy, whirly, artsy thoughts and feelings and I have no choice but to close my eyes and float in the deliciousness of the song. Similar favorites are Old Dark Machine and We Don’t Eat also by James Vincent McMorrow. I also really love Holocene by Bon Iver and Decisions (Orchestral Version) by How To Dress Well (a song that is almost too beautiful).

And voila! Just like that, I’m in my cave and more importantly, in that old familiar head space in which I truly feel alive. 

Sometimes it really takes babying yourself into relaxing before you can truly get back to the artist that exists inside of you. Most of us live in a world where being practical and busy leads to a somewhat dull existence. It’s important to make time to rest, relax and let yourself throughly enjoy simple things like scent, pretty light, good music and a fantastic book.  

Pretty Little (2 dollar) Indulgence


It’s finally starting to feel like winter in Los Angeles. The skies are grey and romantic, cool rain slowly drizzles outside my window and there’s a stillness in the air that only this particular time of year can bring. 

"Gloomy", cold, drizzly weather like this is my favorite. It stirs something in my soul that makes me so happy, my creativity seems to wake. After a busy and productive Autumn, I now find myself reaching for books out of pleasure rather than necessity (ie. school text books), the music I’m drawn to is moody and soulful like Bon Iver and Etta James, and all of my free time is spent surrounded by warm, spicy candles and soft, cozy blankets. 

Though I thoroughly indulge in the grey, brooding days, I do like to add tiny pops of (seasonal) color. I found these deep yellow and rust colored flowers at the 99 Cent Store for…well, 99 cents and had to pick them up. I figured even they don’t last long, they would be a pretty addition to my bookshelf and for 99 cents, it was the perfect way to treat myself (exams and work have been grueling so I try to find little ways to pamper myself whenever I can).

Over TWO WEEKS later, these flowers are still alive! I’ve watered them occasionally but not enough to say that I’ve really been caring for them. Nevertheless, they are still around and lending their warm, holiday colors to my corner bookshelf. (I realize that this is very outdated at this point, but small victories like this still make me want to say WINNING!) (So…yeah..WINNING!) 

What are some of your favorite ways to treat yourself during this (glorious) time of year? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter ( or Instagram ( or Instagram (

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go open my windows, curl up on my couch and crack open the two new books I recently purchased. I have a feeling a new book review will be coming soon. Stay tuned!

Xo Nicole 

Ps. The wooden vase is from Tj Maxx and cost around 8 dollars :)


Sweater Weather

There’s something really wonderful about being home on a crisp Fall morning. I like to stay in comfy clothes all day (bring on the fuzzy socks!), open a few windows, brew some of my favorite coffee and light a cozy, Autumn themed candle. The mix of fresh air, homey scents and soft fabrics makes for an incredibly relaxing experience. image

Unfortunately, I don’t get as many days spent lounging at home as I would like, so I started using an hour or so of my morning to curl up with my coffee and a good book before starting my day. This allows me to ease into a busy day feeling relaxed and slightly pampered, which I really believe affects how the rest of my day goes. 

Another great way to recreate that wonderful Fall morning feel is with this Bath and Body Works Wallflower Plug-In in the scent Sweater Weather.


The scent is described by Bath and Body Works as a “blend of eucalyptus, juniper berry and fresh sage that celebrates the arrival of sweater weather”. I love it because it combines the comforting scents of the season while still being very fresh. It’s cozy and crisp, just like Fall. 

This scent comes in candle form as well as a room spray but I like the long lasting affects of the Wallflower (which retails for around $6 or mix and match 6 for $24).

Not every day can be spent at home in fuzzy socks but there are small ways to incorporate cozy moments into your everyday life. Try plugging in a Sweater Weather Wallflower and spend an hour of your morning doing something you truly enjoy, I guarantee you’ll feel relaxed and ready to take on another day. 

What are you going to spend an hour each day doing for yourself? Let me know in the comments or you can tweet me @missvranhalen :)