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Home

The past couple of weeks have been very busy, stressful, and overall exhausting. But thinking of spending my weekend here with my family immediately lowers my blood pressure. We moved into this house Spring 2001, married three years later, January 2009 marked the birth of Emerson and the completion of a major renovation confirming that this is not a starter house, this is our life home.

Last night Karl grilled steaks; I sat on a bench at the foot of the deck stairs outside those double doors and looked up into this living room all lit up and thought, THIS is my dream home.  The old couches that sag and creak, the mismatched wood furniture decorated with nicks and some crayon lines, the bookcases jammed full with no rhyme, reason, or color coordination.  Every square foot represents the three of us (actually four, can’t forget our dog Cindy!), and every square foot represents love.

Saturday mornings, I wake up before everyone, go for a walk and then and enjoy a cup of coffee and a chapter of my latest book in that crazy chair I bought from the Annapolis Mall Structure when it was closing.  The rest of the house wakes, Karl heads off to work and Emerson and I sit on the couch together and watch TV with our twin bowls of oatmeal, or lie in the hammock (that’s what that rope is to the right, the other part of the hammock is hiding behind a curtain) and watch the woods, pointing out birds and squirrels.  Later in the day day you can find us working on a craft at the coffee table or lying on the floor playing.  In the evening after Emerson is in bed, Karl and I snuggle on the couch and watch an episode of Vikings or Once Upon a Time (we’re catching up on Once, currently on Season 2 via Netflix so no spoilers please!). This room is called a Living Room for a reason.

I sometimes get caught up in the land of decor blogs and Pinterest, but a home is one of the most personal things in one’s life.  I like how it’s becoming more and more odd and mismatched and worn in, how there’s no real theme or concept except us.  When I start feeling off, I look at our living room and get grounded.  Home IS where the heart is!

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Thursday: Animal House

Cardigan: c/o Foxcroft
Tee: J. Crew via eBay (similar)
Skirt: Halogen (similar)
Bracelets: Ann Taylor (similar)
Shoes: MICHAEL Michael Kors
Trench: DKNY (similar)

Snakeskin AND leopard? At least I didn’t wear a zebra-print blouse or my spotted Vince Camuto pumps, THEN this truly would be an Animal House!

So I have been wearing Foxcroft shirts for a long time and have always loved the high quality, opacity, and great fit for my curves, but I didn’t realize they also carried sweaters! Foxcroft recently sent me this cardigan and I am in love. Like their shirts, they are cut generously for curves, and like their shirts, this sweater is very well made. With such a print, it jazzes up a simple cardigan, tank, and jeans look for the weekend and also dresses up nicely for the office!

With cold weather here in DC and many other places (and coming this way to other parts of the US), I want to try to share my outerwear as much as possible… even if I have my hands shoved so deep in the pockets it makes the jacket look weird.

While it’s super easy to throw on your dirty black parka every day, having a coat wardrobe can really complete your look. I often buy coats off-season for great prices, and try to choose classic silhouettes so they will still be stylish the coming year. This trench from DKNY I purchased last fall and it is one of the best outerwear buys ever. Even though I can get away with regular sizes for most clothing, I prefer coats in petite so they curve at the right part of the lower back and sit well on the shoulders. Coats are worth being altered for a great fit, but resetting shoulders and the waist is costly and sometimes impossible. Better to go for tall or short or whatever you are, go up a size, and then alter than try to recreate the wrong size (or just wear it too small or too large!).

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Dinner at our Friend’s House

My husband was babysat by the wife of this couple, the husband has been his friend since high school and once was his roommate. Can’t get more relaxed, honest and comfortable. It was a last minute spaghetti dinner while watching the concert/telephone for Katrina relief (and yes, we all have donated in many ways).

Wore the same “vintage” jeans from work the same day.

Green spaghetti strap top from The Gap that I got for a steal for $6.99. It’s made from tissue weight jersey, has three ruffled layers and is the best color of jade green.

Same silver hoops and silver cuff bracelet.

Solid black Reef “Sandy” flops. Simple silver toe ring.

Took a shower just before heading out. Left with wet hair, just added a bit of Marc Anthony Strictly Curls Defining Lotion which gave me beachy loose curls by time we arrived at our friends’ house.

Fresh pasta, homemade sauce and garlic bread, good wine, great salad, good music and a good cause. Great way to blow off steam from the work week.

My Home Away From Home

Four years ago, I changed jobs.  It was a scary change, but a really great one. While my last company was a good one filled with great people, it just was not a good fit for me. This current company really feels like a home away from home. As the company has grown, my office has moved around a bit – I am currently in my third location, but have been happily residing at this desk in this office for about two years. I share my office with this awesome woman who is a transcriptionist – she’s only here once a week so usually I have this room to myself.

The only thing bad about my office is that my back is to the window, and I have a pretty awesome view of a main street in the city. Unfortunately the way this room is configured, there’s no way to adjust that.

This is what I look at every day.  I usually have two computers up at all times – I need redundant Internet for work projects.  Always have headphones plugged in – either I am listening to Spotify, or I am editing audio recordings.  Have a headset for my phone for crisp audio when I need to speak on projects.

The lamp is from my college days – a cheapy $19.99 torchiere from Kmart or Target.   It still works great, uses a standard bulb and has three settings.  Proof you can get quality at any pricepoint!  The chart on the wall is a list of to-dos I have created for my team – we’re getting into some pretty quiet weeks before the new year and I keep adding randomness we can do now to be prepared for 2012.

Do you think I have enough beverages?  The reusable Starbucks cup was my morning coffee that I drank on the commute.  The mug (a super cute gift from my mom two years ago) is for when I don’t have coffee from home.  I usually spend the rest of the day consuming 2-3 refills of my Camelbak bottle, but because it’s been a crazy week, today I treated myself to a Diet Dr. Pepper.  And now you know the truth – most of my bracelets and earrings end up on my desk within an hour of arriving at the office.  It’s hard to wear headphones and type with them; I do put them back on when heading to lunch or a meeting!

It’s almost 2012 and I still rely on a Rolodex.  I have had this same Rolodex since 2001 and carry it with me from job to job.  While I do have an Excel spreadsheet with the same information, I find a Rolodex to be faster and easier.

The picture is of my husband and I in 1994 when I went up to Great Lakes for his Navy boot camp graduation.  We were at the Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago, both exhausted but happy.  The print on the wall is from Ork Posters – they have these in a variety of colors for different cities all over the world.

Above my desk is this board.  Tons of randomness – birthday cards from coworkers, pictures of my family, badges from conferences, etc.  The flowers are those decals you can put on windows – I had them up when my old office’s desk faced a window – it helped me recognize which office was mine from the street below.  The shoes are from my sister – in college she managed a shop near campus that sold them and I acquired quite the collection.  My coworker saw my collection and gave me the shoe keychains to the right to keep them company.  The blank space on the ledge is because two shoes have fallen behind my desk and I keep forgetting to go back there and retrieve them.

To the right of my desk is a tall bookcase and short file cabinet.  I have a second phone in my office for when I need to stream audio for a live web event.  A bit more Georgia O’Keeffe, a Picasso print that represents how I sometimes feel on busy days at the office, and a bit more plant life.  At my old job, a coworker gave me a small Christmas cactus; I brought it to this job and it’s still living.  I have broken off some of the long tendrils and put them in a vase to sprout roots – I need to bring in a larger pot and some soil to transplant them!

The frames are Liberty of London for Target – one picture is of me and my husband at Bonnaroo in 2008, one is of the three of us a year ago.  Two glass insulators (I have quite a collection of them at home).  The second shelf is a dust-covered pile of randomness – training manuals, HR binders, a vase from flowers my husband sent me almost a year ago… should be cleaned up.  Maybe I’ll do that next week when it’s going to be super quite in the office.  Maybe I would be able to find a smaller bookcase hiding at the office as only two shelves are really being used!

***

So now you know where I hang out from at least 9-5 every week day.  Where I gulp down Lean Cuisines while completing blog posts on my lunch hour, where I chat with you on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s a good place to be, surrounded by good people doing good things.  My home away from home!

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Casual Brunch and Errand Running… Became House Party!

I took a super quick shower to rinse the conditioner out of my hair, and quickly hit it with the hairdryer. My hair had this fabulous beachy look due to conditioner still left in it. I twisted around a few locks to make it more piecey, washed my face, applied only powder, mascara and lip balm.

My dear friend and I went to our favorite Greek diner for chicken souvlaki salads and water with lemon. I wore the same vintage jeans from the day before (jeans are better the second day), and a dark gray vintage CBGB tee shirt. Same black Reef flops. Left the purse at home, slid the license and check card in the back pocket.

After lunch, we hit Zips Dry cleaning so I could drop off the duvet and shams for their bi-monthly freshning. Then we hit Mecca for some necessities. I had been at the beach the weekend prior and forgot my toilitry bag and needed to refill in time for my next business trip. I purchased:
1. An off-white silk shade and a black matte finish metal base to make a new lamp for the living room. Compliments the leather couches quite nicely as that the black finish looks like dark brown. The shade looks nice against the curtains. Far better than the inherited ceramic vase-style lamp of prior.
2. A funky cherry red patent travel bag from Sonia Kashuk that holds a TON of travel sized things. I also got a second bag but in a floral print for all my makeup when I travel. My current cosmetic bag has met it’s maker.
3. For toilitries, I got shampoo and conditioner by Pantene (not every day, but a good small-sized substitute for trips), a mini shower gel by Dial (again, just for trips), toothpaste, shaving gel, contact lens solution, hairspray, a body buffer, and razor blades. I still had my travel toothbrush, body lotion, razor and brush. It’s so cool that it all fits in one case now!

My friend and I got home, just as my husband and his friend got home from martial arts class – they went to a workshop on using a knife for self defense. THey were starving so we went to our favorite margarita hangout. The guys got colossal plates of food covered in sauces and cheese, while my friend and I downed two large Top Shelf margaritas each and nibbled on some chips. We got up and realized we were feeling mightily buzzed.

The four of us went back to our house. The guys practiced their knife skills in the back yard and smoked cigars, while my friend and I watched one of my favorite shows on TV and opened a bottle of some of the best cheap wine there is. Two more friends came over bringing wine, beer and more cigars. We ordered thin crust pizza, popped in some movies, and I promptly fell asleep!

Go Big or Go Home

Shirt: Gap | Skirt: Etsy | Shoes: Miss Sixty via eBay (similar) | Bag: Banana Republic via eBay (similar)

I was on the hunt for a maxi wrap dress, and decided to check out Etsy. I didn’t find one I liked, but I found this skirt and I just couldn’t resist. At first, I thought my life didn’t NEED a big skirt like this, but I indulged and this is the third time I have worn it. I like it on weekends with an Old Navy vintage tee (white and charcoal) knotted at the waist, and think this summer will be cute with a tank, and maybe a different print scarf tied at the waist like a cummerbund. It has one pocket, the only think I don’t adore about this skirt is that there aren’t two. But reasonable price, looks just as it did online, didn’t have to wait too long for shipping. I definitely favorited this seller and may look to have her make that elusive wrap maxi dress for me this summer!

There is an historic Art Deco theater in my community that holds a lot of good memories for people in our community. I remember seeing movies there when I was younger, and we love being able to walk down to see an indie hit or an Oscar contender.  The Greenbelt Theatre is up to receive a $100,000 grant from Partners in Preservation and we’re in our last week of voting. We keep teetering between 4th and 5th place; I doubt we’ll be win (we’re up against the National Cathedral), but there’s funding for runner ups. I’d really appreciate it if you’d take a moment to vote for the Greenbelt Theatre. The login process is pretty simple, anyone across the globe can vote, and you can vote every day. I thank you in advance!

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Friday: Work from Home

Sweater: Rafaella c/o Gwynnie Bee
Tank: Caslon (similar)
Brooch: Ann Taylor (similar)
Jeans: Gap
Shoes: Ivanka Trump
Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Crush Begun

Friday I worked from home. While it’s tempting to stay in pajamas, I like to wear something appropriate so I can answer the door, say yes to a friend who asks me last-minute to lunch, or step out to run errands. On this day, I knew after work I would be heading out with my husband (and Emerson!) to photograph a friend for an upcoming True Fashionista post.

I decided to wear comfortable clothes that look put together; this ruffle-trim cardigan arrived in my most recent Gwynnie Bee box. This is NOT a color I usually wear but I always love. Good use for Gwynnie Bee – try out a new color! I ended up loving this color so much I bought another sweater in the same shade. This sweater is pretty awesome – it’s free of closures, so you can wear hanging open, belt it, or do as I did and cinch it with a brooch. I bought this pin at Ann Taylor a few years ago and love that brooches have come back en vogue so it can get more play!

This weekend was pretty crazy – we found out our hot water heater was slowly leaking so we had some major cleanup to do (and still do), and Sunday we helped my mom take down her 30-year old steel toolshed. But to make up for the weekend, tonight I am going with my friend to see Gossip at The 9:30 Club! Woot!

As a reminder, if you are interested in trying Gwynnie Bee (read more about it here), they are offering your first two months half-price!  Just mention Wardrobe Oxygen when signing up to get the promotion.  Deal valid until September 30, 2012.

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There’s No Place Like Home

One of the best parts of going on vacation is coming home.

A little over a decade ago, my then-boyfriend asked me to live with him in a town very close to where we both grew up. This was a town lovingly called “The Two-story Trailer Park” by locals because of the very small row houses. Our town is a co-op that was created as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal and most of the housing (my home included) was created only to be temporary housing for new families after the war. That was the ‘40s. The thing is, cheap manufacturing in the ‘40s seems to be more sturdy and higher quality than cheap housing manufacturing of today. We have hardwood floors, solid walls and foundation. The co-op maintains the roof, the gutters, and any repairs necessary to maintain the structure.

I wasn’t looking forward to living in the “Two-story Trailer Park” but it was all we could afford. We found that living there was actually cheaper than an apartment. We purchased a two-bedroom home that was around 750 square feet, smaller than my bachelorette apartment. No central air or heat (window A/C and baseboard heaters), tiny galley kitchen, dated bathroom, and closets that were probably small even by 1940’s standards. However it was an end unit that backed to woods so it felt pretty remote.

Over the years I have come to love our home. When we found out we were pregnant, we realized we would need to either move or put on an addition to accommodate an additional human being in the pad. We decided an addition would not only be cheaper, but it would be smarter as that the co-op will maintain the house, even the new part of it. We ended up doubling the size of the house, adding a master suite, a large living room, extended the kitchen five feet, and added a half bath/laundry room to the main floor. Though our home is still smaller than most (around 1,400 SF), it is now the perfect size.

We came home from Bonnaroo around 10pm on Monday night. Two of our neighbors shared the duty of dogsitting so we had a nice stack of mail on our dining table and three very happy and excited dogs there to greet us. The house surely smelled like dog (we washed them just before they left so it was a strong scent of clean yet wet pooch) but otherwise… coming home was amazing.

After almost a week away, I saw my home with fresh eyes. The Oriental rug I got cheap on Overstock didn’t look out of place but homey in the living room. The kitchen looked like something off a shelter blog. Our bedroom was a wonderful respite, and a great merging of our two personalities and décor tastes.

The next morning, we took our coffee out to the deck to enjoy the best part of our home. We really are blessed to live right on top of our Nation’s Capital yet live in a small town in the woods. My husband also felt inspired and decided to build a hay bale garden in our back yard. We had all our veggies in planters so he transplanted them so they could be happy and have plenty of space and nutrients.

I looked around at our yard, our trees, our plants and felt so at peace. I grabbed my camera and took a couple pictures. I know I usually write about fashion, but the longer I live here the more my home and my town are a part of me.

Our tomato and basil plants.  We made DIY Topsy Turvy pots last year from paint buckets, but the tomatoes didn’t do well.  This year we decided to do them rightside up and they are performing far better.  We kept them up high because with all the trees there are few places with lots of sunlight.  This way they get sun 80% of the day.  
(The cord hanging from the plant is my husband’s jump rope.)
Our new hay bale garden.  It’s hay bales as a frame, the center is filled with compost, and soil on top.  Again this is the only place in the back yard that gets a decent amount of sun.  We have a couple types of peppers and I believe squash growing.
These pics were taken from my deck chair so you could see exactly what I see from my back deck.  As you can see, I am a fan of old glass insulators and collect them at yard sales.  They decorate my deck, my office at work, and our living room.  The brown jars are from B&M baked beans; we put tealight candles in them for festive (and eco-friendly! Always great to recycle!) evening lighting.

Amazing that we live in such cramped quarters in this community, yet I can sit on my back deck and not see another soul and they cannot see me.  I will hear the occasional Metro bus or lawn mower, but the main sounds in my yard are woodpeckers, birds chirping, and squirrels twittering as they scamper up trees.  Ahhh, nature!

I really think one’s home is a reflection of its inhabitants; I will occasionally be sharing parts of my home on this blog. Don’t worry, this won’t become a shelter blog or even a general lifestyle blog. However, when I am inspired or do feel as though my home is affecting my sartorial choices, I will be sharing little bits of it.

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The Home of the Future… With a Wardrobe Consultant?

My friend Adam sent me this story and I wanted to share it with all of you. Pretty interesting! What will they think of next… a home that shops for you as well?

Disneyland Revives ‘House of Future’

GILLIAN FLACCUSAssociated Press Writer

Source: General Financial/ Business News
Date: February 13, 2008

ANAHEIM, Calif. Millions of Disneyland visitors lined up a half-century ago to catch a glimpse of the future: a home teeming with mind-blowing gadgets such as handsfree phones, wall-sized televisions, plastic chairs, and electric razors and toothbrushes.

The “House of the Future,” a pod-shaped, all-plastic dwelling that quickly seemed quaint closed its doors a decade later. Now Disney is set to open a new abode in Tomorrowland – this time in partnership with 21st century technology giants.

The 5,000-square-foot home scheduled to open in May will look like a normal suburban home outside, but inside it will feature hardware, software and touch-screen systems that could simplify everyday living. Lights and thermostats will automatically adjust when people walk into a room. Closets will help pick out the right dress for a party. Countertops will be able to identify groceries set on them and make menu suggestions.

The $15 million home is a collaboration of The Walt Disney Co., Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., software maker LifeWare and homebuilder Taylor Morrison. Visitors will experience the look of tomorrow by watching Disney actors playing a family of four preparing for a trip to China.

“It’s much different than a spiel that you would get at a trade show,” said Dave Miller, director of alliance development for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “We won’t get into the bits and the bytes. It will be about the digital lifestyle and how that lifestyle can help you.”

The actors will be in a flurry of cooking, packing and picture-taking designed to emphasize cutting-edge features in the home’s two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, dining room, study and back yard. Much of the project will showcase a network that makes the house “smart” and follows family members from room to room, even adjusting artwork, to preset personal preferences. When a resident clicks a TV remote, for example, lights will dim, music will shut off and the shades will draw as the network realizes a movie is about to start.

The system will allow residents to transfer digital photos, videos and music among televisions and computers in different rooms at the click of a button. Other applications still in development could include touch-screen technology built into appliances, furniture and countertops, said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s vice president for entertainment services. In the kitchen, for example, touchpad software on the countertop would be able to identify groceries and produce recipes and meal suggestions. Similar programs could turn a desktop into a computer screen, allowing residents to load photos, music or e-mail onto a cell phone by placing it on the desk. Mirrors and closets could identify clothes and suggest matching outfits, complimentary colors or track what apparel is at the cleaners or in the wash.

The home will also feature new uses for devices that many visitors may already own, as well as technologies that are still five or 10 years down the road, said Mike Seamons, vice president of marketing at LifeWare, which makes home automation software. “If people walk through there and say, ‘I don’t have anything in this house at all,’ then we’ve totally failed,” Seamons said. “We’re not waiting for robots to happen in order for it to be a reality.”

When it comes to aesthetics, designers decided to stray from the Jetsons-style House of the Future; an all-plastic cross design with four wing-shaped bays that appeared to float. The house was so tough that wrecking balls bounced off it when Disney ripped it down in 1967. The new home will be made of wood and steel and finished in muted browns and beiges, said Sheryl Palmer, president and chief executive of Taylor Morrison in North America. “The 1950s home didn’t look like anything, anywhere. It was space-age and kind of cold,” she said. “We didn’t want the (new) home to intimidate the visitors. We want the house to be real accessible to our guests.”

APviaNewsEdge

Inside Our Home: Our Kitchen

Next in the series of posts about our home is my favorite room in the house – the kitchen! To fully understand my love for this room, you have to see the “before” pictures of it:

When we did our home remodel at the end of 2008, not only did we add to the back of the house to create a living room and master suite upstairs, but we added five feet off the front to have a main-floor half-bath and extend the kitchen. As a reminder, the original house was just over 700 square feet so the kitchen was teensy. So teensy that the stove only had one large burner and I could never find a cookie sheet to fit in the oven. So teensy that when the refrigerator died a month after moving in, we had to custom order one small enough to fit in its place. When the old dishwasher died, we would have had to custom order it so we just used it as a dish drainer.  Not only was it teensy, it was cheap. Peeling laminate counters, pressed-wood cabinets that were sagging and pulling from the walls… I could go on and on. It all just made me love the remodel even more.

The new kitchen makes our house a home. I saw this in a boutique in Rehoboth Beach in 2009 and had to get it for our “new” home.  Little did I know that this “unique” sign was mass-produced and now every single townhouse in America has one like it, but at the time I saw this sign as a proper and unique representation of how our house had developed with our family.

The bulkhead shows where the house used to end. Emerson’s Rody keeps watch at the front window while looking tres festive.

Just five additional feet meant a full-size range, a full-size refrigerator, and a reasonable amount of counter space. We put the most thought into the kitchen – we researched appliances, cabinetry, and drafted up layouts multiple times.  The cabinets were an overstock – not our original choice but such a great deal (and now we ADORE them).  The floor was a must for me – my husband wanted to do something cheaper, we compromised, but then our contractor scored the very same tile I lusted after at a great price (it sometimes pays to have a small kitchen).  By purchasing our appliances through the company that provided the cabinetry (and the bamboo flooring we have in the bedroom and throughout the downstairs – also an overstock), we saved a lot of money.

Oh to no longer deal with drip pans on electric burners, to have a dishwasher that works, and a built-in microwave so the entire counter isn’t lost?  Heaven!

The paint was a sticking point for me.  I picked this color out before I was on full maternity bedrest.  We went to Home Depot and I decided I wanted a deep shade of berry, I could just imagine it with wood, brushed stainless, and the floor tile.  My husband thought it too crazy and wanted a cadet blue.  The contractor also found me crazy, and the painter found me annoying because I made them paint the room almost a dozen times to get the really deep hue I desired.  But it’s totally worth it – I have yet to tire of the color, and as soon as you walk in the house you see this amazing color.  I think it really fits our personality, and yes now my husband too loves the color!

I love our extra-deep sink.  And this kitchen comes with a garbage disposal!  So very 21st century!  You can see when we finished the kitchen, we still used paper towels – the paper towel holder is now a nice towel bar for our reusable dish towels (we keep a basket in the nearby half bath/laundry room for cleaning rags).  We also use reusable sponges (can find great ones on Etsy), and make our own foaming hand wash from a combination of Dr. Bronner’s and water.

When we moved into our house in 1999, I bought these canisters from Williams-Sonoma as a housewarming present for myself.  You can see my tastes in kitchen decor haven’t changed much in the past decade.  They hold regular flour, steel cut oats, and brown rice.

It’s amazing to have this much counter space! The French press is a recent addition to the home – a Christmas gift to my husband from my mom to replace our old press which was getting wonky. The Le Creuset artichoke holds sugar. Have to have music – we have iPod speakers in many rooms of the house so we can carry our music everywhere. The knife block is Henkels for Target, but there’s a real random variety of knives now residing in it. Most of our cutting boards were in the dishwasher at the time of this photo – the ones we use most often are bright colors like lime, orange, and turquoise.

The other housewarming gift I bought myself back in ’99 was this same Le Creuset teakettle in yellow.  Back then, I wanted a sunny yellow, blue and white kitchen and slowly collected a lot of yellow accessories.  That teakettle had an untimely death – I forgot about it, it boiled all the water out and melted the bottom.  By then, I was on a green kick (pretty clear from the kitchen I am still on that kick) and got a lime replacement.

Two years ago, our toaster kicked the bucket and I got this toaster oven for only $25 on Overstock.  We love it – we use it a lot so we don’t have to use a ton of energy to heat up the full-sized oven.  The coffee and tea pots belonged to my husband’s paternal grandparents – we use the teapot regularly.  And you can see Emerson’s bottle drying rack hasn’t gone to waste once she stopped drinking milk – we use it to dry her sippy cups and our travel mugs and Camelbaks.

Okay, finished with the pretty pictures – now to the nitty gritty and not so pretty.  We love our kitchen, and we use it a lot.  Here’s how we organize it (or attempt to organize it).  Starting with the cabinets closet to the window (the ones above and below the toaster oven):

The top cabinet.  You’ll soon see a pattern – things I use are on the bottom shelf, things my husband uses or I rarely use are higher up.  Bottom shelf are sippy cups and travel mugs, higher up are baking tools.

The drawer below the counter keeps a hodgepodge of spices, powder mixes, and leftover sauces from Chinese take-out. Probably not the best place (right next to and below a heating element) but we’re working with limited space.

The bottom cabinet holds our appliances and most of our cookware (we store cookie sheets in the oven, and the really large cookware in the drawer below the oven).

This cabinet is directly to the right of the microwave.  Bottom shelf holds our cooking essentials, while the top shelves hold baking supplies, coffee and tea.

First drawer below the counter holds our silverware and most-used utensils.

The next drawer holds bulkier utensils, tools we don’t use as often, measuring cups, and most of our dish towel collection.

The bottom drawer holds our reusable food storage containers.  We’d like to switch to glass, but it’s pretty pricey and not in our budget.  I found the idea of containers in a drawer so strange, but my husband was raised with a drawer for them and we have never had enough cabinet space to stack them on shelves.

Under the sink is typical under the sink stuff.  Above the sink are these five little drawers and a glass door that opens up.  My husband chose these details for the kitchen and I thought they were both really goofy; now I love them.  Obviously we use the glass cabinet as our liquor cabinet (also stores our olive oil which is too tall for the other cabinet); the little drawers hold things like beer cozies, toothpicks, drinking straws, and wine stoppers.

And here is where we keep all our plates and glasses.  Again, a few are in the dishwasher.  Our glasses are these from Williams-Sonoma – my cousin got them for us for our wedding.  The small square bowls are Crate and Barrel, the round ones are Anthropologie.  The plates are a mix – the dark ones are these from Crate and Barrel – they were on our wedding registry and while they are beautiful we hate them.  We recently inherited a gray stoneware set from my husband’s paternal grandparents that are far more our style – they have a navy brushwork pattern on them.  I think I’ll sell the C&B plates on Craigslist – I know many people love them and may need a few cheaply-priced plates or bowls to finish their collections.

The drawer below the counter is our junk drawer – pens, scissors, business cards, rubber bands, that sort of thing.  Below that is our trash can – this was a biggie for us with the remodel.  Ruckus used to be able to knock over and open any sort of trash can we ever got and this “trash drawer” is completely Ruckus-proof.  We use regular grocery bags for our trash – we compost so we really don’t have a ton of trash – maybe two or three bags max per week.  The grocery bags fit perfectly in the plastic can in the drawer.

And then we have the refrigerator.  The cabinet above it holds things like serving bowls and vases and lunch bags.  I was so happy to be able to get a brushed stainless fridge that was able to hold magnets – we have a pretty big collection of them and it makes our kitchen look more like us and less like a model home.  Your typical collection of baby announcements, family photographs, and receipts.  The white door is our pantry.  The pantry opening is very shallow and just has shallow shelves holding canned goods and pasta; below the shelves we store dog food and unopened bottles of wine.  The pantry then leads to a deep short space below the stairs – in there we store cans of paint, gardening tools, camping equipment, and a bin to collect cardboard and paper for recycling.  We use the slatted door to display birthday and holiday cards – usually I display Christmas cards in the living room but this year I was lazy so they ended up here!

That mishmosh to the right of the pantry has been part of our kitchen from the get-go.  It’s a dinner bell that my husband inherited.  After his first marathon, he slung his medal around it and the rest is history.  The “bar” is pretty much a catchall for keys, wallets, baby monitors and the day’s mail.

And that, my friends, is my kitchen!  All the nooks and crannies, the less-than-exciting parts (which I personally love to see myself which is why I shared), and the fun parts.  My happy purple and green favorite room in our home!

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Inside Our Home: Our Hallway

Our house was built in the 1940s; three years ago we decided to stay put and build an addition instead of moving to a larger home. The original home was a bit over 700 square feet – the size of a basic two-bedroom apartment but on two floors. After the remodel we are now around 1,400 square feet. One of the best parts of the remodel was the opening of the hallway. Originally where the banister is, we had a solid wall. That wall housed our entertainment center for the living room – now it opens to our dining room.

 

While this remodel was taking place, I was on bedrest for my pregnancy. Paint colors were chosen by my husband collecting a few paint swatches from Home Depot and asking me to pick which one I liked best. One color that I liked better in the swatch than in real life was the color for the hallway. I thought this color would be darker, but over time it has grown on me. If the bathroom and Emerson’s room doors are closed, the hallway can be quite dark; the light color opens it up.

Before the remodel we were so frustrated with the stair risers. When we moved in, they were dingy white and covered with globs of glue from having stained carpet removed. We tried painting them white but they still looked dreadful. I then tried to be creative and painted them French blue, which was just as horrible. I then painted them over with red, which was fun, but still not right. One of the best parts of the remodel was that they sanded them down, properly painted the risers, and refinished the oak stairs. I would like a runner, but don’t want basic beige Berber or an Oriental look and most runners I see are either out of my price range or not our style. Until I find the right thing, they stay bare.

 

As soon as we had the hallway redone, I knew I wanted to do a collage of frames along the wall. My husband’s dad died during the remodel and I wanted to display some great pictures of him, along with other great pictures of our family.

 

 

My cousin Arielle took this picture one summer and I just loved it so much I had it blown up and framed.  She totally captured the chubby cheeks and arms of that age, and how curious and newly mobile she was (she was examining a Slip N Slide at the time of the photo).

 

 

Me and my sister as kids, my husband as a baby, me and my husband with the groomsmen from our wedding making silly faces, a member of Kings of Leon (no not really, it’s my father-in-law but I think he would fit in the band perfectly!).

 

 

My husband and his dad, me throwing a temper tantrum as a toddler, my husband’s maternal grandfather (picture taken by my father-in-law).

 

 

We don’t have many wedding photos up, just the two in this hallway.  This is right after we were declared husband and wife, one of the only pics of the event where we were together.  Funny how a wedding is about the union of two people, but you get so busy greeting family and friends you often don’t see one another except at the ceremony, first dance, toast, and cake cutting!  I guess that’s what the honeymoon is for…

***

As you can see, I never finished this hallway project. In our home office I have a stack of black frames – ones I buy on clearance at Marshalls and Target or pick up when I stop by IKEA. I just haven’t had the time to pick the photos and put them up in the right place. Maybe this post will inspire me to finish!

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Inside Our Home – Our Bedroom

Many moons ago I said I would be featuring photos of my home. And then work got busy, my life got busy, and a tree fell through our bedroom. Well finally we got the bedroom back in order, and I captured a few images of it to share with you. This room is still a work in progress – we have more art we want on the walls, are in search of the perfect rug to fit the space, and still need to go through all the boxes under the bed that we inherited when my husband’s dad passed away. Even so, this is my favorite room in the house:

I bought this bed from IKEA in 1998 when I left college; I have been toying with painting it another color but can’t decide what shade.  The dresser on the left is from Hood College – when they replaced their dorm furniture my husband’s grandfather (who was a professor there) grabbed it; when my husband’s parents divorced my father in law got this chest for his new home’s bedroom. It was his bedside table for the almost 20 years he lived alone, when he passed away my husband took it for his nightstand.  My nightstand was my husband’s bureau from his childhood bedroom.  Curtains are from Target – we had this room created and painted while I was on bedrest for pregnancy; I bought the curtains on clearance online hoping they would be a gray that would complement the wallcolor, I couldn’t believe they were an exact match!

The cedar chest has been in my mom’s family for a long time; it stores my husband’s sweaters.  The quilt is from Overstock.  The two paintings on the wall are of my husband and his father, painted by his grandfather in the ’80s.

My nightstand – I always have a bottle of water, a couple of journals to write my random thoughts, and a book (I have been trying to get through Eating Animals for what feels like a lifetime – I won’t replace it from the nightstand until it is finished!).  The picture in the silver frame is one of my favorites of me and my husband – we even used it as the photo on the water bottles we passed out at our wedding!  Under it is a jewelry box that belonged to my husband’s grandmother.  The books next to it are old diaries of mine and Emerson’s baby book – by keeping it near the bed I remember to fill it out every so often.  The photo cube was a gift from an old coworker, the picture showing is of me and my dad at my high school graduation.  My cousin made the stained glass pencil holder, and the teddy bear is “Tina,” my teddy from childhood.  The framed record?  That’s my dad and his first wife on the cover – his friend was the photographer and needed models… some props and a red filter later and two Jews from Brooklyn became gypsies!

My husband’s nightstand – he’s always in the middle of 50 different books.  Right now he’s obsessing over The Devil in the White City, which was recommended by a neighbor.  The reading lamp belonged to his father.  The lampshades are from the Liberty of London for Target collection – I bought them back when the whole room was in shades of blue and gray.  I loved them so much I started decorating around them!

When we inherited many of the contents of my father in law’s house, we got his record collection.  Eight of these are ones from his collection that my husband remembers listening to (and loving) as a kid; the one in the lower left corner is Peter Frampton – my husband saw him in concert a couple years ago and was able to meet him and get his signature on the album.

The duvet and shams are from Marimekko for Crate and Barrel, the print body pillows and red sheets are from Target, the paisley pillowcase is from Lands End – we have the whole set (back from the original color scheme of the bedroom).

My dressing table is the bureau mirror and the desk from my husband’s childhood bedroom.  The bench is from the Shabby Chic collection from Target, the lamp is also from Target (both must be at least a decade old).

My dressing table is my little domain – my perfumes, my makeup (in the drawer organized in boxes), all my brushes in a coffee mug from my sorority days, pictures that mean a lot to me (framed picture of me and my sister as kids and me with my mom on our cruise to Bermuda in ’98, and then a photo of my husband the summer before I met him – reminds me of when we were high school kids).  I also have a vase full of perfume samples – when I was in high school we visited a family friend who had a fishbowl full of them in her hallway bath – I was inspired and have been casually collecting since.  Not sure what to do with them yet, but figure when I have amassed quite the collection I will do something crafty and fabulous!

The top of my husband’s dresser.  The glass bottles and the leather box belonged to my dad, the box still contains some of my dad’s cufflinks, tie tacks, and coins from trips to foreign countries.  The lacquer box was a gift from a friend who was stationed overseas.  The small Buddha statue I made in Sunday school back as a preteen – it has been through quite a lot, you can see it has had its head break off numerous times; I still find it to be good luck.  Tucked in the mirror is my husband’s really dreadful fake ID from high school – I found it while cleaning out his dad’s house and it just cracks me up so much!  The photos to the left are of my husband, and then me and my sister.  The picture in the frame is from our friend’s rehearsal dinner – we found out the next morning that we were pregnant.  It’s the last picture taken of us before we became a family and a great memory of an amazing time in our life.

This bookcase is the top of a hutch we inherited from my father in law – we have the bottom part in the living room as our entertainment center.  I don’t really like it in here, but am not sure where to put it elsewhere in the house.  As you can see, this has really become a catchall of randomness – books too tall for the bookcases in the living room and office, photos yet to be placed in albums (which is pretty much the past three years), CDs that we never listen to but can’t bear to get rid of, cigar boxes filled with odds and ends and change.  The statue my husband got me as a gift when he was in St. Maarten, the cameras we inherited from my father in law who was a photographer.

The frames behind everything on top of the bookcase used to hang in our old bedroom but they look weird in this larger space – the one behind the cameras are pictures of me and my husband in front of the Eiffel Tower in 1999, the one in the center has pictures of me with my mom and sister in Italy, the one on the far left are three pictures of my husband in front of Niagara Falls from our three trips there over the past two decades.

The chair… it is the BEST Freecycle score!  It’s the IKEA EKTORP chair and storage ottoman, we got it with shrinkwrap still on it, as well as two more  slipcovers.  When we went to pick up the chair, my husband commented on the woman’s new composters sitting next to her garage – she said she was going to Freecycle them as well so we took them!  I am forever in debt to the Freecycle Gods for these scores, and regularly give back to the Freecycle community.

A view from the back wall of the room to the entrance to the master bedroom.  The door to the left is the master bathroom, the door to the right is our closet.  You can see my jewelry armoire, above it is a shadow frame of our wedding invitation with flowers from the day – my best friend made it for us.  The two framed images next to the door are sand art that my father in law got when he was on a trip to New Mexico – one was a gift for us, the other was his that we inherited.

The view from the main windows (we have two on the back wall and one to the right of the dressing table).  If you sit in the chair you can see a view of beautiful treetops, from the bed you can see the sun rise through the trees.  The stained glass I made back in college.  The glass horse is one of two bookends from my husband’s childhood home (there is one on each sill).

There is still much work to do on this room – we have a huge painting from my husband’s grandfather that we need to pick up from his house – we plan to put it over the chair.  We have many concert posters we want to frame and hang up as well.  Slowly we are feathering our nest!

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Inside Our Home: New Bedroom Lamps

Almost a decade ago I complimented Karl’s Grandma on her living room lamps; I never thought she’d remember and gift me with them. Since that compliment, Karl’s grandparents moved from their home to an assisted living facility. Last year Grandpa passed away and Grandma moved into a smaller apartment. This year Grandma has had some health issues and moved into a different room that didn’t have space for the lamps. Grandma remembered how much I liked the lamps and gave them to us.

Our old bedroom lamps were… fine (you can see them here). The bases were brushed silver, a Target special we bought 12 years ago when we moved in the house. The old lampshades were from the Liberty for Target collection and while I ADORE them, one had broken and was being held together with binder clips. One of the old bedside lamps is now in the office in place of the old desk lamp (which used to be on my dressing table and has now returned to that location), the other base up in the attic for possible future use. I love how these new lamps are very tall and solid, making the airy bedroom look more grounded. We like how the lampshades give such a warm glow to the room.

While they’re beautiful looking lamps, they’re so special because they represent my relationship with Karl’s Grandma.  We didn’t really start off as best friends, but over the years we have gotten close. I love Grandma, and I love that her lamps are now in our bedroom and a daily reminder of the fabulous woman she is.

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Inside our Home – Main Floor Half Bath

It sounds strange, but one of my favorite rooms in our home is the half bath on the main floor. Before the remodel, we only had one bathroom; I begged to have a half bath on the main floor so we could keep our personal bathroom private, and have one for guests to use.  I also was adamant that the bathroom be orange.  Not pumpkin, not coral, not rust. Orange.  While this gave our contractors heartburn, my husband loved the idea and we have yet to tire of it.  The room is cheery, airy, fun, and so very us.

When we completed our house remodel in 2008, we added five feet to the front of the house.  This extended the kitchen (seen here), and also gave us room to make a bathroom on the main floor.  Previously, we had accordion doors in the dining room which hid our washer, dryer, and hot water heater.  We flipped all those appliances around so the closet for them would now be in the new bathroom, making it also our laundry room.  The location is perfect since it’s right at the front door and across from the kitchen, making it easy to wash up after playing or gardening outside, switching a load of laundry while cooking dinner, or tossing dirty napkins and dishtowels into the empty washer.

The sink, cabinetry, and light fixture are from IKEA – I desired very clean, simple lines that would be kid-friendly and provided a ton of storage.  I also wanted a really big sink so I could soak stained clothing or clean hand washables.  IKEA isn’t the best quality, but the pieces have held up and are easy to clean.  I also love that there is space under the cabinet – while it can collect dust bunnies and dog kibble, it’s also where I store my hand weights for those times when I am inspired to whip out an exercise DVD.

The trash can is from Target – it was the kitchen trash can in the old house and we always found it to be an awkward size.  It fits perfectly in this corner of the bathroom, and is small enough that we can use old grocery bags as the trash bags.

The floor is industrial-grade linoleum.  Budget-friendly, durable, comfortable, and doesn’t look like your grandma’s kitchen floor.  Seriously, even people who are standing on the floor are surprised when we tell them it’s linoleum and not tile.

And heck, I’d want to know what reading material is in another’s bathroom so I’ll share it with you.  No fashion magazines because Bazaar is upstairs and the others I finished and passed on to others.  Since the time of this photo, the latest issue of Elle is now residing in here.

On top of the medicine cabinet are two blue glass bottles my father-in-law gave me.  He attended a flea market on one of his travels and felt they looked like something I would like.  He was right!

This little shelf was a big reason why I chose this medicine cabinet.  Then I got home and realized how very small it is and how few things we owned that looked right in the space.  We started using it as a place to display cool rocks and shells we find on our travels.  Now that Emerson is old enough, she contributes to the collection (the biggest rock to the left is one she picked out on our trip last summer to Vermont).

We make our own foaming hand soap with one part Dr. Bronner’s to 10 parts water.  We just keep reusing these Method bottles, and give them a trip in the washing machine from time to time to keep them fresh.  It saves money, and reduces waste.

To the right of the bathroom door is our rag bin.  In here are old towels, dish cloths, cloth diapers, and cut-up receiving blankets and tee shirts that we use for cleaning around the house.  They work better than paper towels, are reusable, and easy.

This painting is by our neighbor and friend Barbara Stevens.  She had an art exhibit at a local cafe and my husband and I were both drawn to this painting.  A few weeks ago she gave it to us as a gift.  Some may find it strange to have such a painting in your bathroom, but I love how it looks against the orange walls, this is the sunniest room in the house, and a place where all visitors will be able to see and enjoy it.

I have had this poster of Georgia O’Keeffe since at least college, if not earlier.  O’Keeffe is one of my favorite artists, I wrote many papers about her in high school and college.  My husband once joked that Georgia O’Keeffe was my spirit animal.  I love this photo, showing how badass she was, not letting age hold her back from fun experiences.

The bathroom window is right at eye level at the front step so it needs some sort of privacy shade.  Problem is, traditional blinds would block the sun and that is one of the most appealing parts of this room.  The window is an unusual size, so we couldn’t find off-the-shelf plantation shutters to fit.  These are the ones from the old kitchen window, but they are a bit short for men standing at the toilet.  One day my husband was putting Emerson’s window crayons away and became inspired.  He did this crazy rainbow pattern on the windows and it has remained ever since.  Eventually we will have custom-made plantation shutters, but the rainbow is quite the conversation starter!

Hrm, looks as though a little potty training person lives in this house!  These are the doors to the laundry closet.  I was super budget conscious during the remodel, and freaked when I saw new doors up in this bathroom – where were the old, perfectly good ones?  The contractor had these leftover from a previous project so they were free.  And while the old ones were perfectly good, these were perfectly new and shiny and made of real wood!  And because I know you like to see what is inside closets…

The utterly glamorous inside of the laundry closet.  The washer came with the house, the dryer we bought a year after moving in.  We keep meaning to organize the closet with shelves and storage containers, but have yet to get around to it.  So instead we have a mishmosh of dog leashes, bike equipment, driveway chalk, hats, and such.  Emerson’s sand pails come in handy – one holds gloves, the other holds dryer lint (we add it to the compost).  You can also see our two dusty rolls of paper towels – both are three years old.  We never use paper towel, but when people dogsit we bring it out in case of accidents and because it seems to wig people out to wipe their muddy paws on an old towel.

Here’s all the cleaning supplies in the house.  Seriously.  There’s nothing we can’t get sterile and sparkling with a combo of white vinegar, Dr. Bronner’s, oxygen bleach and baking soda.  I’m a big fan of Biokleen products, which smell amazing, are reasonably priced, and seem to always be on sale at Drugstore.com (and if you use Ebates you get 6-12% cash back on your order!).  The Biokleeen spray bottle in front is just a vinegar solution we use to wipe down counters and mirrors.  Biokleen’s Bac-Out takes care of pet accidents and tough stains and smells with ease.  And Dawn liquid with peroxide is the BEST stain removal (see recipe here).

I didn’t show the contents of the under-sink cabinet or medicine cabinet because they are pretty standard.  Benadryl, Band-Aids, lightbulbs, cleaning buckets, extra toilet paper and hand towels.

And that’s it! Small, but bright and sunny and very much us!

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What to Wear When Working From Home

Many readers write to me, stating that my staples and many of my posts do not work for them because they either work from home, or are stay at home mothers or wives. As someone who never did work from home, I would always respond back that there is life outside of your house and you should be prepared; anyway you will feel better and be more productive if you are well turned out.

I often got responses back that I didn’t know what I was talking about; to be in your home comfort is key, style is not important.

Well I am now working from home, on semi-bedrest no less. As I type this I am in my bedroom, my laptop on a tray table. I have been like this for a bit and will be until my baby arrives. Once she arrives I have six weeks of maternity leave at home and a couple of transition weeks – working from home, part time working at the office until I return back as a full-time office employee.

As I type this, I am in black ponte trousers, a gray silky jersey empire-waist top, black socks and diamond stud earrings. My hair has been blown out, I am wearing tinted moisturizer, rosy lipstick and mascara. There is a good chance I will see no one but my dog and husband all day, and that the only time I leave this bed is to use the rest room or refill my water bottle.

However when I started working from home, I relished in the idea of not having to worry about my attire. I often worked the day in a variation of what I slept in – knits, sweats, garments better made for my Saturday yoga classes. It was fun, decadent to not put on a bra, not “do” my hair, and just be comfortable.

My schedule was one day working from home, next day working from the office. I started noticing that the days I had to go to the office, I was dreading them. I wasn’t dreading the office or the work, but the need to pull myself together and look professional. I started having more difficulty pulling together a decent outfit from the clothing I already owned and knew so well. The days I worked form home seemed to drag on longer than necessary – often because I would get distracted with a non-work Web site or the desire to do housework instead of payroll work.

I decided that each morning that I felt well, I would try to pull myself together. Shower, an easy wash-and-wear hairstyle (for me is letting the hair air dry with a tiny bit of product and then come back later to smooth the bangs for 5 seconds with a round brush and dryer), small bit of makeup to make me look alive (amazing what a quick swipe of blush and mascara can do for the face). As for clothing, well I wasn’t going to endure bedrest in constricting denim, but I could do it with dresses and leggings, and pants made out of knits.

My morning routine is less than ten minutes because for me, showering at night works better with my schedule. Those ten minutes each morning make me a more productive at-home employee, have less concern with having to leave the house last minute or sign for a package when the UPS driver comes to the door. With my exterior organized, my interior seems to be more organized as well. I feel less tired, less sluggish, and more receptive to visitors.

The easiest way to be polished at home, is to start with the purchases. Be careful with every purchase you make – can it handle time on the floor, in bed, and to be accidently tossed in the dryer by your spouse? Keep away from that which will fade, requires ironing or special washing instructions. Also keep away from that which resembles gym attire, sleepwear, or something that your husband would wear. It’s better to have less that is quality than more that is junk. As you find great durable and flattering pieces, donate those which aren’t up to snuff.

A few pieces I have found to be great while being at home:

Old Navy’s Stretch Ponte Mid-Rise Wide-Leg Trousers – I love love love these trousers. They look elegant, but they are made of fabric that is as comfy as sweats. The fabric is heavy enough to hide lumps and bumps and look work-worthy. They have a classic waistband and zipper, but they don’t dig into your tummy, even when sitting or reclining. They are machine washable – I usually hang them to dry, but they have also gone in the dryer when I have been in a rush and they haven’t pilled, shrunk or faded.

I usually despise slash pockets, but these lie pretty nicely. Best of all – they come in petite and tall lengths! $34.50, currently only available in black. Get yourself two pairs so you have some ready while the other pair is in the wash.

J. Crew Merino Sweaters – Their turtlenecks are cozy while looking elegant, the crewnecks are a stylish alternative to a sweatshirt, and the v-necks add femininity to your simple outfit. Unlike cotton, merino usually keeps it shape and color through many wears and washes. Unlike cashmere, it’s usually at a reasonable price point. The tight weave glides over curves, isn’t itchy like shetland and looks polished. Come winter, I often layer with a tencel, silk or fine jersey tee or camisole underneath (a silk undershirt is incredibly warm without bulk). Black and gray are always chic, but bright colors are always nice to see and wear. Consider a jewel tone that pleases your eye – it will go with black, gray, camel, denim and other neutrals just as nicely as a more subtle or predictable color. Though the sweaters usually say Dry Clean Only, I have always washed my merinos on the gentle cycle in the machine with Woolie or a gentle landry wash, and either hung them up on a padded hanger or lay them on a towel on top of the dryer to dry. This specific merino turtleneck has select colors on sale for $39.99 – not too shabby!

Wrap Sweaters – This one is from Target. Wrap sweaters are great because they offer the layer you want, but flatter your feminine shape far better than a sweater coat or hoodie. This could work over a nursing tank, a cami, a tee, a turtleneck all with ease and look elegant and feminine. Sweaters and tops that wrap to the side give the illusion of a smaller waist; lightweight sweaters add warmth without bulk to your frame, and again this is a great way to add a pop of color to your basic neutrals. This specific sweater is under $25; I have found great wrap sweaters at Gap, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and more usually under $50. Another ting – if the sweater is layered over a cami or tank, you don’t have to wash it as often. Have a Tide to Go pen at the ready, and you can get more miles between washes!

Mossimo Ultra Soft Long-Sleeved V-Neck Sweaters – I learned about this sweater from another blogger and agree that they are fab! They are super cozy and soft like cashmere, but far less in cost. They come in a good range of colors and seem to flatter a variety of shapes of women.

Very nice with trousers, jeans or even with a simple pencil skirt for church or dinner out. Layer with a cami or tee, dress up with a strand of pearls or a scarf tucked into the neckline. You very well may find that a sweater like this will get more wear and bring far more joy than your most snuggly fleece pullover!

Lands End Fine Gauge Twinsets – Lands End is awesome – they have the best selection of colors, most of their pieces are made of great quality and are easy to wash, their pieces run a bit big, they have an amazing return policy and their styles are classic without being dowdy.

A very easy way to look polished is by wearing a twinset – the shortsleeved crewneck and matching cardigan from Lands End is a great choice. I was mine in the wash on the gentle cycle and hang it up to dry overnight. The colors never fade, the shape maintains, and it dresses up or down nicely. Pair the set with capris in spring, wool blend trousers in winter, a pencil or a-line skirt for brunch, toss the cardigan over a sundress on breezy summer evenings, wear the crewneck alone with trousers and pearls for a simple Business Casual look. Again, consider a cheery color that will bring sunshine to a dreary winter day. Lands End carries most styles in petite, plus, and other extended sizes. The cardigan is $39.50 and I think worth every penny. Keep up with the site, Lands End often adds pieces to this line of fabric so you can get things like sleeveless shells or 3/4 sleeve cardigans come summer and turtlenecks come winter.

Merona Black Leggings – Okay, the leggings under the dress look is gone and done. It was hip for a season and now it looks pretty dated and desperate on most. The thing is, the look is pretty awesome when you are at home. Suddenly you can get on the floor with the kids, chill in bed, hang out at the playground and more without worrying about a breeze. A dress in knit or matte jersey with black leggings and ballet flats is still more chic than a velour jumpsuit or your husband’s favorite hoodie. If paired with a solid color dress that has a simple silhouette, the look can be artsy and elegant. I love wearing my black leggings with a dove gray dress and a long scarf at the neck; my friend’s weekend look is a black jersey dress with bell sleeves, black leggings, red ballet flats and a long silver necklace with red pendant. She looks polished, but is jsut as comfortable as she would be in her pajamas.

These leggings are less than $10 and get the job done. They aren’t miracle workers, but they will last you through a season quite nicely.

What to Avoid:
Memorable Prints – It’s hard to wear the same things week after week if they are so unique. Find creativity in your going out pieces, or your accessories. Choose great colors, flattering neutrals, and then detail piecves to add personality.

Bedazzlement - Just because a tee shirt has fake gems at the neckline does not mean it’s fun or cool. In all honesty, most embellishment (embroidery, jewels, grommets, patches, accent fabrics, ribbons) makes the garment look cheap, not more stylish. Again, find your style with actual accessories to have versatility, style and polish.

Logos – A woman of style NEVER advertises what brand she is wearing. Style comes from the garment itself, NOT the designer.

Anything that Sheds, Pills, Fades or Creases – This means most khakis, cotton button-downs, angora blends, low percentage of cashmere blends, some silk blends, and cheap knits. If the black jersey already has a slight tint of gray or green, you can be sure that it will head further int hat direction after a few washes. Knits with at least 5% of lycra or a synthetic are less likely to shrink thank 100% cotton.

Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have time to blow dry your hair after a shower, will you have time to properly iron that oxford shirt? If the answer is no, then don’t buy it in the first place. It won’t smooth out from wearing or if you pull it down and press it between you and the car seat. Stay with knits and synthetics if your lifestyle doesn’t give you the time for ironing.

Polo Shirts – Unless you have a very slight frame or a slightly athletic build, these shirts are NOT flattering on women. Yes, they make feminine cut ones, but they still are not as flattering as a basic knit. The collar shortens the neck, the sleeve rounds shoulders and draws attention to larger arms, the neckline makes a large bust look matronly and a small bust look more obvious. The cut is usually too boxy or too tight at the belly, and the length is more often than not at the worst part of a woman’s body (somewhere around the middle of her bum or right at the love handles). Want to get away from the tee with a creative knit? Try a wrap style, one with puffed sleeves and a scoop neck, one with lantern sleeves or a notched neck.

Cropped Cargo Chinos – These do not flatter a woman’s frame in any way; the shortened length makes calves look bigger and legs look longer. The extra pockets add bulk (and usually end up wrinkled after the first wash). Want the cargo pockets for day tripping at the park or in the woods? Go with a jacket or a full-length pant or even a small backpack or sling. Want the cropped look? Consider a heavy jersey, a ponte fabric or a synthetic in the same fabric as a jacket or cardigan for something just as comfortable but far more flattering.

Friday: Real Housewife

Tee: Armorlux (gift from reader)
Vest: c/o Karen Kane
Jeans: Jag
Boots: DUO Boots (similar)
Necklace: LOFT chain and pendant from eBay
Earrings: Vince Camuto
Bracelets: Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, Ralph Lauren, misc.
Bag: Sabina (similar)

My husband saw me in this outfit and said I looked like a Bravo TV housewife. I guess with the gold, the fur, the boots, it is a bit Real Housewives! When I left the house, I had straight hair, straight bangs, and felt I was channeling a bit of Patti Smith. Though the rain had stopped, it was still so wet and humid outside that by time I got to the sidewalk my hair had all curled up. By time I was at the Metro, I felt like Veronica Lake – my bangs had become part of the rest of my hair and I had deep waves. Lovely, but with a walk from the station to my job those waves just became a hot mess and now I am typing with a topknot. Oh well, it’s Friday!

Isn’t this vest fun? I want to sip cocoa at a ski lodge, wearing it with a cram turtleneck. Karen Kane always amazes me with their fashion – it’s a ton of fun yet translates well for real life. Their fall collection is pretty fantastic – sequins, leopard print, jewel tones, and more!

And I have to share the beauty which is these jeans. I have other pairs of Jag jeans and I really like how they fit, hold up, reasonably priced, and are pretty classic looking (no bling, logos, etc.). These have a smooth waistband – sort of reminiscent of maternity jeans but they curve to fit a woman’s body and give a smooth line under fitted knits. Comfortable and brilliant!

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My Little Housemate

When did this baby…

Become this kid?

I’ve been living with this person for almost three years, and time seems to be speeding up. I blink my eyes and suddenly she’s a kid, not a baby.  She has such definite opinions on what she wants to wear, to eat, how she wants to spend her time, what she wants us to read before bedtime.  She likes to do things like sit upside down or bridged across furniture (like above), she likes to sing at the top of her lungs and make up words and play pranks.  She has an amazing memory – she will meet a person once and three months later recognize them AND remember their name.  She notices when people get haircuts, even change their nail polish color.

Even though I don’t really encourage it, she’s extremely girly – loves to play with my jewelry and makeup brushes, believes a party isn’t a party unless she’s wearing a dress.  This weekend was awesome for her because she got to wear a tutu to a costume party.

Emerson in awe over her best friend Spiderman… I mean Ayden

She used to be very shy, but lately has become more outgoing and sociable.  She will go up to kids and say hi and try to start a conversation.  She will share with new people to encourage a friendship.  At her first swim class she wanted to be left alone and spent most of the session in tears, but now she’s playing with the other kids and having a blast.

She leaves half-empty yogurt tubs and sticky sippy cups all over the house.  She has terrible taste in television.  Her favorite word this day seems to be “NO!”  She has broken at least a dozen of my necklaces and I often find my bracelets under her bed, in her toy kitchen or shoved under the couch cushions.  Even so, she’s a pretty awesome housemate and I feel blessed to have her in my life!

Sorry for lack of outfit post today – early day and a busy one at that.  I will get back to fashion-related posts on tomorrow!

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Unlock the Perfect Cup this Holiday with TASSIMO™: Review and Giveaway

Looking at how often I write and tweet about coffee, you’d think I was a coffee connoisseur. Notsomuch. When I hit my local coffee shop I ask for it plain and big because all the –inos overwhelm me. At home, Karl is the master of the coffee domain. I have no idea how to use the French press so I rely on him to fuel my caffeine fix. Lately I have been working more early mornings and I have to stop by the local coffee shop or fast food drive-through to get my cup of Joe because I just can’t figure out how to make a decent cup of coffee. You know what would be a perfect holiday gift for me? A super simple single-serve coffee maker that would make a great cup of coffee every time.

Enter TASSIMO™, who was awesome enough to send me the TASSIMO™ T55 Single Cup Brewing System JUST at the perfect time. I was working a lot of long days and hated spending so much on take-out coffee or watching Karl make me a cup still bleary-eyed in dawn’s early light. No needing to wait until the holidays to become a coffee-making expert!

Place the T DISC upside down so that the INTELLIBREW™ technology can read the barcode. Snap the lid shut, press Start and in minutes you’ll be enjoying a perfect cup!

The TASSIMO™ Brewer is super easy to use too. Add water to the reservoir in back, insert your TASSIMO™ T DISC in the top, and press start. The built-in technology INTELLIBREW™ scans the barcode on each T DISC to identify precise brewing instructions with the exact temperature, water, and time duration, so each and every drink is perfect every time. This Home Brewing System isn’t just for a cup of joe–the TASSIMO™ can also make cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, tea, and more. One of my favorite features is how quickly it heats water; for little energy you can have a piping-hot cup of water for soup or tea in seconds.

TASSIMO™ sent me a few T DISCS to get started, and it’s fun to make hot chocolate, cappuccinos, caramel latte macchiatos, or espressos by myself and know it will be delicious. With well-known brands like Twinings, Gevalia, and Maxwell House partnering with TASSIMO™ for their T DISCS you know the quality and the flavor is great. I love that there are great limited edition flavors like Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha for the holidays!

Now I’m a pro at making fancy coffee house drinks from my kitchen counter!

If you’d like to unlock a perfect cup with TASSIMO™ this holiday season, they are offering some great deals on their site. With Cyber Monday code TACYMON3 you can get 20% off T DISCS; you also get 20% off Brewers and with each Brewer purchase, you will receive two free packages of T DISCS (valid in the US only on TassimoDirect.com. Cannot be combined with other offers . Limit one coupon redemption per customer. 20% T DISC discount limited to 6 T DISC packages. 20% Brewer discount limited to two Brewers. Offer only valid on 12/2/2013 until 11:59PM PST).

If you miss the Cyber Monday Deal, brewers and T DISCS are also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.

Giveaway
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My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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Tuesday

I tried to get to work today…

My sister and my offices were open and we had a lot of work to do so we headed to DC.  For those who don’t know, the DC area received up to 30″ of snow over the weekend.  Yesterday (and today) the Federal government was closed as were most school systems in the area.  Yesterday my office was closed; my sister attempted to go in but the roads were so bad she turned around.
We got almost to the DC border and gave up and turned around.  The roads were horrible and the drivers even worse.  We came back to my house and made a makeshift workstation at my dining table.
All the necessities – cell phone, external hard drive full of music, lip gloss and baby monitor!
Anyway, today I put on a black scoop tee from Old Navy that I have had for about two years, my gray Caslon ruffle-trim cardigan, a few different silver chain necklaces, my dark Gap Long & Lean jeans, and my DUO “Bern” boots in tan (my makeshift snow boots).  Black quilted coat from Lands End and berry colored scarf from Ann Taylor LOFT.
Hair was washed and dried pretty quickly.  Makeup is Stila Illuminated tinted moisturizer blended with Estee Lauder Doublewear Light foundation, Laura Mercier Secret Camoflauge and bronzer, Lorac shadow in Serenity, DiorShow mascara, Sephora lip gloss in Precious Pink, Tarte Indelible Wink liner.  It’s far easier to work from home when I feel slightly sassy!
They expect another 10 – 20″ in the next day or so.  I may be hanging out at home for quite a while.  In fact this attempt at going to work today (and a quick stop at Starbucks) was a welcome change for I was getting quite the cabin fever!